Derek Holland: Arlington’s Dark Knight?
“…he’s the hero [Arlington] deserves, but not the one it needs right now.” – Commissioner Jim Gordon, The Dark Knight (2008).
When Derek Holland started warming up with long toss in right field before his 2015 return, Chuck Morgan played his old warm-up theme – “Papercut” by Linkin Park. As I sat, six rows from the field, watching Holland throw to Bobby Wilson, I thought that was a nice throwback. Holland, who hadn’t thrown a pitch since April 10th, an outing in which he threw nine pitches and then realized something was very wrong with his shoulder. The throwback theme was a nice idea – flash it back to last year, when Holland only pitched for a month on a contender-less Texas Rangers team; a month that, for the big picture, meant nothing, but for Derek Holland meant so much. He started five games and pitched to a 2-0 record with a 1.46 ERA. The buzz around local media and among the fan base was that if we got that Holland, we’d be golden. We needed a throwback Dutch Oven.
Good ol’ Chuck announced our 2015 Texas Rangers and Elvis Andrus skipped out of the dugout, leading the position players to their places, and Adrian Beltre made like he was going to fire a baseball at Felix Hernandez at point blank range. The light-hearted nature of the club was not an unfamiliar sight. Holland scraped the dirt across the rubber with one toe and as he got set to throw his warm-up pitches, a different song started forth from the Public Address system.
I was entertained at first, but the more I thought about it, I grew annoyed. Holland’s propensity for goofiness is well-known throughout the baseball world, and with such an important start, not just for this year’s team (which is contending), but for him, he had actually decided to use a dramatic sounding movie soundtrack for his start. While I’ll never know what was in Holland’s head when he decided to use this theme, one could almost see it playing out. Holland, envisioning himself as a savior, a hero for the 2015 Texas Rangers. With the New York Mets’ Matt Harvey already taking the moniker of “The Dark Knight” (and playing to it quite well, with the themed shirts and bats), our Dutch Oven had decided to turn Arlington into his Gotham, a city he could save.
How dare he, I thought. Here was Holland, who was gone for three-quarters of last season because he tripped over his dog, and then threw nine pitches this year and departed the city again. In a way, I felt, and maybe fans felt, abandoned. Where did this guy get off, saying he was going to save us?
Then, Holland went to work. He buzzed through the first inning, got himself into and out of trouble in the second inning, blazed through the next two innings, took a body shot in the fifth on the Mark Trumbo homer, and escaped with a light jab from a run-scoring double-play grounder in the sixth. His fastball didn’t top out at higher than 92 MPH, and it took him a couple of innings to establish that pitch – but it was his off-speed stuff – the slider, curve and change-up, that guided him through and kept the Seattle Mariners off their game. After every time he got out of trouble or executed a Shutdown Inning, Chuck Morgan would play the swelling anthem of the modern era Caped Crusader as Holland calmly walked off the field, and Seattle baserunners, bats and batting gloves burned around him (not quite). Gone was the pretentious silliness that could have easily been associated with a comic book character. The Derek Holland that strode forth from the mount after each half-inning had purpose, confidence, and the demeanor of an ace.
He wasn’t brilliant, but he pitched into the seventh inning, took on the pressure of the situation, giving this team exactly what they needed. His team ensured that his 93-pitch effort did not go for naught, with back-to-back-to-back homers, a Bat Cannon shot from Delino Deshields, and a series of grass-cutters from Keone Kela, Jake Diekman, and Sam Dyson, culminating in Mark Trumbo doing his best Mr. Freeze impersonation on a called strike three. Holland had picked up his first win of 2015.
Cole Hamels might be the hero that the clubhouse deserved. He instilled confidence, and his acquisition let them know that the front office recognized their hard work and was rewarding them.
Derek Holland, however, is the hero that Arlington needed. He is our Dark Knight. And he will Rise.