When Bud Selig and the rest of the baseball community decided to pull their collective heads out of the sand concerning steroid use in baseball the players once again lost their athletic ability at a non-superhuman rate. Shortstops began to lose some of their range as they entered their 30s. Second baseman like Chase Utley went from sucking up grounders like Dyson vacuums to more like a vintage Dirt Devil as they got older. The deterioration of a player’s abilities is inevitable, and that is alright.
What is not alright is when baseball players let their pride get in the way of the team’s success. The most recent example of this is taking place in Texas where the Ranger’s infield has become crowded.
Shortstop is manned by the capable Elvis Andrus and second base is covered by often injured All-Star Ian Kinsler. Waiting in the wings at Triple A Round Rock is Jurickson Profar, the number one prospect in all of baseball. The trouble is there are only two middle infield positions. Between the two current major league infielders Andrus is the superior defensive talent, while Kinsler is more known for his bat. Profar meanwhile is thought in even higher regard than Andrus when it comes to defensive skills.
Meanwhile first base is being played by the sub-par Mitch Moreland. The solution to the middle infield log jam seems simple enough. Move Kinsler to first base, insert Profar at second base and the Rangers will then be able to put their best team out on the field. As an added bonus by playing Kinsler at first base he’ll be less likely to sustain a critical injury and will have fresher legs by playing the less demanding position of first base.
Alas, nothing is ever simple in baseball though and that doesn’t end at position changes. Before the season when Ranger’s management approached Kinsler about a move to first he balked and the discussion was dropped. With Josh Hamilton now in Disneyland Kinsler is the most recognizable face of the franchise, so avoiding a public fight with your star player is preferable.
However in just about any other sport when coaches or management ask a player, even an aging superstar, to change positions for the good of the team it is met with minimal resistance, and is hardly ever a story. Kevin Garnett moved from the 4 to the 5 to help the Celtics. When Charles Woodson began to slow down he moved from his natural cornerback position to free safety, because it made the Packers a better team.
In baseball though asking a player to change positions is treated as if the manager had requested the player turn over his first born child to compete in the Hunger Games. Ian Kinsler is just the latest example. So instead of shifting to first base in order to improve the team and even potentially lengthen his career Kinsler has told management to “talk to the hand,” because he will not move off HIS second base.