Two players. Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Rougned Odor. Both were coming off sub-par seasons. Both were trying to turn around their careers. Both worked hard in spring training and then the ensuing summer camp. Both put up great numbers in exhibition games, hitting the ball hard nearly every at-bat. Both declared this was for real, this will sustain, they ready for the season.
Then the bell rang. And instead of intra-murals, it was varsity ball.
Two players. One answered the call. The other dropped his meat in the dirt. Again.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa forced his way into the Rangers starting lineup. He forced the Rangers to move Todd Frazier across the diamond from third to first. He forced his way to the number two hole. He forced his way into the equation by hitting. By producing. After the sweep of the Angels, Kiner-Falefa is batting a nifty .333 with an OPS+ of 140, meaning he is producing 40 percent better than the average player. He’s leading the league with four stolen bases. He’s leading all of baseball with two triples.
The only thing Rougned Odor has forced is for everyone to have to make excuses for his failures. “He works hard.” “Nobody brings more intensity to the game.” “Nobody gives more effort in practice.” For his grit and gumption, he can barely punch through wet paper. He’s hitting .114 with an almost unfathomable OPS+ of 22. One hundred is an average player. He is so far from average it would take a search party to find it.
He just very well might work harder than anyone. He might bring an intensity unlike any other player. He might square up the ball. But he doesn’t get results.
Yet the more he fails—and it’s often—the more he gets treated with kids gloves. The general manager, the manager, the talking heads, all make excuses for him. And the rare times he produces, they celebrate his most minor of accomplishments like he was an infant taking his first wobbly steps. “He walked! He walked!”
He’s like the kid who is a royal screwup but his parents refuse to see it. So they keep enabling him. Rougned Odor is on the entitlement program.
Kiner-Falefa and Odor. A tale of two players. One does. One tries.
In a franchise where accountability doesn’t exist, failure is rewarded. Thus, the Rangers head into their fourth season in a row of ineptness.
Dustin Dunn (0-1, 6.43) vs. Kyle Gibson (0-1, 2.45)