Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Game 23: Yo Adrian!

Rangers 5, Indians 3

By combining statistics from our games in Texas and Cleveland, Rangers third basemen Adrian Beltre is 7 for 8 with a home run, three doubles, a walk, and six RBI.  None of what you just read was a typo.  Even his lone out was a hard-hit line drive that required a diving effort from Indian's left fielder Jason Donald.  For some players this line could be written off as an anomaly, but with Beltre it's further evidence that he is one of the best hitters in the majors.  Earlier this month,  he hit for the cycle and had a three home run game with only a day separating the two games, joining Joe DiMaggio as the only two players in history to do so in the same week.  In August he hit .385 with 7 home runs and 21 RBIs and has forced his way into the American League MVP conversation.  He accomplished all this while also playing Gold Glove level defense at third as evidenced by an excellent diving stop against the Rays and an athletic charging play on a bunt in Cleveland.  At the moment, he is undoubtedly one of the best position players in the majors.

As a Seattle fan, I have a unique perspective on the Texas slugger.  As some of you may know, Beltre is a former Mariner.  He signed a huge contract in 2005 after finishing second in National League MVP voting with the Dodgers.  Seen by most as a budding superstar, Beltre disappointed us all by hitting only .266 and slumping in every other statistical category.  He was then re-energized in 2010 by signing with the Red Sox and spending a year in hitter-friendly Fenway Park.  Now at the age of 33 he has regained almost all of his former luster and is a standout in the heart of the Ranger batting order.

With every screaming line drive off his bat or exhibition of defensive mastery at third, I feel a set of conflicting emotions towards Adrian Beltre.  I am very happy that an entertaining player and overall great person was able to defy conventional wisdom and raise his level of play after turning 30.  With his excellent glovework and trademark ferocious swing, he is a human highlight reel who can singlehandedly make a baseball game more fun to watch.

On the other hand, I am incredibly frustrated that he was not able to produce at this level wearing the colors of my team.  Many statisticians and metrics experts point to an unfavorable home park to explain his five year downturn.  While I accept that Safeco Field is very much a pitcher's haven, something tells me this is not the whole story.  The Adrian Beltre saga fits well with an underlying inferiority complex felt by Seattle sports fans.  There exists a sentiment within many of us that, try as we may, a championship will be forever outside our grasp.  For example, in my lifetime I have witnessed a 116-win Mariner squad fail to beat the Yankees in the playoffs, a Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl effort undone by highly questionable refereeing, a Rose Bowl-winning Washington Huskies football team suffer through a series of horrible coaching hires en route to a 0-12 season, and a Huskies basketball team fail to reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament even once, despite playing in three Sweet Sixteen games and once earning a 1-seed.  On top of all that, our only professional team with a championship, the Seattle SuperSonics, relocated to Oklahoma City and has since made the NBA Finals.

As bleak as the Seattle sports scene has been, the entirety of the Adrian Beltre story can actually provide us with some hope for the future.  Written off by some as a contract-year fluke, Beltre proved critics wrong and regained his All-Star caliber play.  A year ago he was an out away from his first World Series title and will again be in position to win one this season.  Maybe the lesson here is that after years and years of disappointment, a hardworking player, or a steadfast city, can finally find success.  After all, the Mariners have a scrappy young squad that has quietly played very good baseball in the second half, Pete Carroll's Seahawks and Steve Sarkisian's Huskies seem primed to take the next step in the NFC and PAC-12 respectively, and Lorenzo Romar just signed a long term contract extension with Washington's basketball team.  There are even rumors that we will acquire an NBA team with the construction of our new arena.

Above everything else, I wish Adrian Beltre the best.  I hope he has a productive and illustrious remainder to his career (except against my Mariners of course).  His tale speaks to players and teams everywhere that for one reason or another have been counted out.  As a fan of a city who is perennially on the outside looking in, Adrian Beltre's career renaissance serves as the vindication that we as fans hope to receive for our perseverance and unwavering support.

Games watched: 23
Games to go: 7
Thuuz score: 37
Stadium: B, A simple no frills stadium with modest views of downtown Cleveland and a well laid out scoreboard. The best takeaway was the center field Hall of Fame area enshrining former Indians greats.
Fan Atmosphere: B-, Apathetic fans seemed to stick around not for the potential Cleveland comeback, but instead for the post-game fireworks show.
Concessions: B+, Reasonably priced ballpark food coupled with excellent desserts made for a good overall fare. Beer selection was broad but lacking in higher quality options.
Quote of the Day: "When I saw you holding a sign I thought it would be something stupid, but that's actually really cool" words of support from a passing Indians fan after reading our 30 in 38 poster.
Tim Kurkjian Award: After striking out for the third time that evening, Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz splintered his bat by slamming it on the plate in frustration. He was immediately thrown out of the game by the home plate umpire. Without even a word of protest, Cruz trudged back to the dugout as if he simply wanted the rest of the night off.
Total Miles Traveled: 11,126 miles
Miles to Next Game: 1,240 miles (Mets @ Marlins, September 2, 1:10 pm)
Click "Read more" for photos from the day

Outside the Stadium

Center field Hall of Fame

Sunset at Progressive Field

Ubaldo Jimenez

Cleveland Skyline

View from the Concourse

Left field scoreboard

Ian Kinsler at bat

Fun loving third baseman

Post-game fireworks

1 comment:

  1. Yo Adrian indeed. Great post. Thanks for a well written description of the frustrations and hopes of the sports fans in the Northwest.