The sun sets on a blistering night in Texas. Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton are sitting together in the clubhouse, watching some TV and cracking jokes. The Texas Rangers have won another game, and their future looks as bright as their now.
It's these two superstars who propel the Rangers in their climb to the top of the vicious AL West. In a division where frugal Billy Beane scours the market for today's latest bargain, and Angels owner Arte Moreno showcases an unrivaled desire to win with every move he makes, these hotshot Rangers could be a flash in the pan.
With their two stars, will they be? Naw.
They're more. Much more.
Kinsler and Hamilton are among an elite brand of ballplayers, blessed with all the five tools that scouts look for—contact, power, speed, arm, and fielding. They have taken drastically different paths to be stars on this club, but have ended up the same. As soon as the words "Play ball!" are yelled, Hamilton and Kinsler are the cornerstones of the franchise.
In the tough AL Central, where a game in the dog days of July could end up being the difference between playing in October or golf reservations, Kenny Williams is on the phone, discussing potential moves. The Tigers' Justin Verlander battles a hitter to regain respect as a top hurler after a year to forget. Mark Shapiro of the Indians goes over the budget again with top executives.
And Joe Mauer chases .400. A pure contact hitter? Naw.
He's more. Much more.
Mauer is also part of this "elite brand", combining his ability to put the ball in play with rapidly developing power, good speed, a respectable reputation as a catcher, and an even better arm. Joe Mauer leads the Twins as they prepare for their next series. The calm, laid-back catcher is ready for another day at work.
Then on the east coast, in the bustling city of New York, a sea of pinstripes is visible in the Bronx, as grown men and women alike show support for their Bombers. Go a bit north and you'll find Boston, a city known for its sports passion. A certain Canadian outfielder patrols the hallowed left field of Fenway Park. Jason Bay.
He is glad to have the chance to compete, finally, after spending many years with the lowly Pirates. The two fours on his back tell only a part of the story. Why must it be four? He is a five-tool player.
Epstein acquired him last year from the Pirates in a three-way deal that sent Manny Ramirez packing for Boston. And while Ramirez lingers as the big name from that deal, Bay has done nothing but produce while keeping a low profile—a welcome thing to Boston management after the Manny saga.
But a player who punches the clock and shuts up? Naw.
He's more. Much more.
This year, Bay bats .286 with 19 home runs and 69 RBI. His speed doesn't show much on the bases, but does in the plays he makes look routine in left field. Bay, along with scrapper Dustin Pedroia and speedster Jacoby Ellsbury, leads a Boston massacre that has been slightly weakened by a slumping David Ortiz.
Call them spark-plugs if you'd like, but these consistent ballplayers are models of how the game should be played. It isn't much different in the NL. Players like Russell Martin, Corey Hart, Carlos Beltran, and Nate McClouth showcase their various skills everyday on the diamond.
They are the new wave. It's good to see that power isn't as important as it was, and that Mauer's pursuit of .400 is more interesting than gaudy hot streaks in power by some players. The five-tools make or break a player, and the good ones have them all. The new wave of players—Tate, Rasmus, Wieters—look to continue the trend.
But is this special set of abilities, just a trend to be continued? Naw.
It's more. Much more.
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