Ian Kinsler Finding Sweet Success with Tigers After Bitter Rangers Departure

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2014

Detroit Tigers' Ian Kinsler (3) celebrates after hitting a solo home run in his first at bat that came off of Texas Rangers' Colby Lewis in the first inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, June 24, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. The game is the first appearance by Kinsler in the ballpark since being traded to the Tigers for Prince Fielder. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Some breakups are amicable, some less so.

File Ian Kinsler's split with the Texas Rangers firmly in the "less so" category.

When Texas traded Kinsler to the Detroit Tigers for Prince Fielder this offseason, the second baseman and three-time All-Star had some choice words for his former club.

"I hope they go 0-162," he told ESPN The Magazine

In the same piece, Kinsler called Rangers owner Jon Daniels "a sleazeball." Bridge officially burned.

"There was no remorse from the Rangers," Kinsler said of the decision to cut him loose after eight productive seasons. "They did not care."

Kinsler showed no remorse on Tuesday night in his return to Arlington.

Playing for the first time in front of his old home crowd, where he was greeted with a mixture of cheers and jeers, Kinsler sent the third pitch he saw from Texas starter Colby Lewis over the left-field wall.

How much did he enjoy the moment?

Put it this way: Cameras caught Kinsler waving in the direction of the Rangers' dugout as he rounded the bases, possible future chin-music be damned.

Kinsler wound up going 2-for-5 with three RBI in his much-anticipated homecoming. More importantly, the Tigers won 8-2 and extended their lead over the surprising Kansas City Royals to three games.

The win was, no doubt, especially sweet for Kinsler. After a bitter exit from Texas, he's found plenty of sweetness in the Motor City.

Entering play Wednesday, Kinsler is hitting .295 with nine home runs and 38 RBI.

Plus, he says, he's content with his new team—and at peace with the way his Rangers tenure ended.

"I'm over it. I'm past it, I've moved on," he told ESPNDallas.com. "I'm a Detroit Tiger and happy to be where I'm at." (He added he has "nothing to say" to Daniels, indicating a reconciliation is not in the cards.)

Surely, though, it must give Kinsler some extra pleasure, some share of schadenfreude, to witness the Rangers' plight.

Entering the season, Texas was a favorite to win the American League West, due in no small part to the Fielder acquisition. 

Yet here the Rangers sit, 35-41, 11.5 games out and on a six-game losing streak.

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Mostly that's due to injuries, including Fielder's season-ending neck surgery. No player wishes harm on anyone—that's just tempting the baseball gods—but as of now the Kinsler-for-Fielder swap is working out in Detroit's favor.

Interestingly, Kinsler's former and current teams have each recently suffered multiple gut-wrenching World Series defeats. 

In fact, the Rangers (2010 and 2011) and the Tigers (2006 and 2012) have been on the losing end of four of the last eight Fall Classics. 

Taking his new club to the promised land after narrowly missing twice with Texas would, obviously, be the ultimate revenge for Kinsler. The cherry on top of his schadenfreude sundae. 

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

In the meantime, he's focused on contributing. Kinsler dropped weight in the offseason, hoping to regain the form that saw him hit 32 home runs in 2011. And he has been hitting the ball with authority, particularly of late.

After batting .331 in May, Kinsler has hit .360 with a pair of home runs over the past week.

Said Detroit skipper Brad Ausmus of his new player, per the Dallas Morning News:

Kins has been a breath of fresh air. I’ve really enjoyed having him around. He’s a blue-collar player, a baseball rat. He never takes a day off, mentally or physically. If you ask his teammates, they love having him on the team. If you ask the pitchers, they love having him behind them on defense. And they all love having him in the lineup. He’s endeared himself to the team with both his play and his personality.

More than anything, Kinsler seems to be benefiting from a change of scenery.

"In Texas, it was almost like my team," he said in his controversial ESPN The Magazine interview. "I go to Detroit, and it's [Miguel Cabrera's] team, it's [Justin] Verlander's team. I'm just a ballplayer. I can just go play and have fun." 

If fun is waving ironically at your old teammates after a round-tripper and rubbing it in your former GM's face, Kinsler is having it.

The breakup may not have been amicable, but so far the rebound relationship is working out well.


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