I, along with some portion of America, watched with varying degrees of disbelief, revulsion, and admiration, as miserable human Kenny Rogers mowed down the St Louis Cardinals in a brilliant (no, really) performance in last night's World Series Game 2. Thanks to Rogers' sheer pitching genius, the Tigers won the game 3-1 and evened the series at one win apiece.
I've gone on record before with my disdain for Rogers. I think he's a jerk of the highest order, a big Southern dummy, selfish, and unreliable to his team and their fans. I take back none of this.
I will give him props for turning marginal physical talent into a long, reasonably successful major league career. This post-season aside, he's been, chronologically, young and wild, mid-30s and erratic, and veteran and reasonably crafty. He's recently had a track record of moderate success in the regular season and no opportunity in the post-season. His MO with the Rangers was to disappear when the team was poised to make a run, but, lets face it, he's hardly the only Ranger with that MO recently.
So now, here he is on the national stage, having one of the greatest post-seasons in baseball history. He'll probably get one more turn (this one's going six or seven) with the chance to cement his place in the lore of the game.
What's different? What has changed for the dude who previously made his most noise by knocking over a TV cameraman?
I think a couple of things (and please remember, I am no canny observer of baseball, nor do I keep up with the day-to-day doings of the Detroit Tigers; I'm just a casual fan):
1. He's playing for a manager who knows a thing or two about building a winning atmosphere. I think Jim Leyland knows how to minimize distractions and allow his guys to just play, whereas Buck Showalter (Rogers' most recent Rangers' manager) was quite the opposite.
2. He's got WAY more confidence in his grasp of pitching than he did during his previous swims through the post-season with the Yankees and Mets.
3. There are no expectations in Detroit. The Tigers have been so bad for so long, and the result is the fan base is shocked and blissfully amazed at where they find themselves. Throughout the year, there's been zero pressure on the team, as they have been far exceeding expectations since April.
I'm pulling for the Tigers, for a variety of reasons. Kenny Rogers is not one of them. Obviously, if the Tigers are going to win this thing, Rogers is going to be a big part of it. If miserable human Rogers getting a ring is the price to pay, I guess I'm ok with it.
Like that matters.
A couple of other World Series notes:
1. Craig Monroe is setting himself up to be the #2 hero (after Rogers) of the Series. Up until last year, he spent each spring fighting for a roster spot and usually platooning in left. Dude is on a one-year contract right now. Think the cash register is going to be ringing for him after this year?
2. Ivan Rodriguez is in his second World Series since being dumped by the Rangers. At the time, Rangers brass told us he was in physical decline, he was going to start getting hurt, he'd need to play first base, and he couldn't handle a pitching staff. As far as I can tell, in the four years since he left here, exactly none of those prediction have come to pass. Um, whoops?