Ian Kinsler has been a part of the Detroit Tigers organization for only three years, but it seems like he has been with the team for his entire career.
In those three years, the Detroit Tigers fans have come love Kinsler. And, it appears the feeling is mutual.
Of course, it would not be prudent for any baseball player to treat his team with contempt. But, there is something about Kinsler that just fits so well in Detroit.
I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it is that makes Ian such a representative of Detroit and I think I’ve got it. Bear with me…
Grit and Grind
In the mid- to late-1990s, the Detroit Red Wings were one of the best teams in all of sports. That 1996-97 team changed the way the US looked at hockey. One of the reasons was “The Grind Line” – which included no-nonsense players like Darren McCarty, Kris Draper, and Kirk Maltby. These guys would go on the ice and do their jobs like no other. They were the fourth line in a team that included Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman, and Brendan Shanahan.
Ian Kinsler is his very own Grind Line. He is pure grit and no-nonsense determination. Maltby, McCarty, and Draper had a distinct chemistry and they seemed to know where each other was at all times. They were not afraid to pull punches and get dirty.
This is Kinsler.
We’ve seen him rub dirt on a bloody finger, tell an umpire to “Do your ***** job!”, and get in the craw of Chris Sale like no other with his “binoculars”. He doesn’t hide his feelings. He plays for real. All of the time.
The Grind Line never took a rotation off. And neither does Kinsler. The Grind Line would change the momentum of games. So does Kinsler, and he reminded us all of it tonight in the World Baseball Classic finals.
Game Changing Ability
Keeping in mind that prior to the 1990s, the Red Wings were a floundering team in a sea of forgettable hockey. Kind of like the USA teams in the World Baseball Classic. No ‘big names’ were playing for the 2017 team. No Max Scherzer, no Clayton Kershaw, no Justin Verlander. No Mike Trout or Josh Donaldson. None of the household names.
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But, the USA team has managed to grind it out with the help of gritty players like Ian Kinsler. Eric Hosmer, Christian Yelich, Jonathan Lucroy – all have that same type of grit that makes them beloved on their own teams but hated by the opponents. Even Jim Leyland is about as gritty as you get.
MVP of WBC?
Kinsler could become the MVP of the USA team. After his two-run homer and scoring off of Yelich’s hit, his grit is what could overtake the finesse and style of the Puerto Rican team. The game is still in process as I’m writing this – so things could change. But, that all-in Detroit-style of play is not something that the Puerto Rican team is used to seeing on a regular basis.
While I’ve enjoyed watching Kinsler show that grinding, gritty Detroit spirit of play in the WBC games, I’m ready to see him get back to the Tigers. His leadership is contagious. If the USA wins tonight, it is safe to expect that Kinsler will bring that no-nonsense determination with him back to Detroit. Fortunately, winning is just as contagious as his leadership. There is no better Tiger to represent baseball in the WBC finals that Everyday Ian.