Last night as a whole was one great, big, extended moment of redemption for Ryan Dempster, who was thwacked for eight runs in two of his first three starts in Texas, dinged for another run in last night's first inning, and then took complete charge of the game from that point onward. He probably didn't have to go eight innings (tied for his longest start of the year) or 111 pitches deep (his second-highest pitch total of the year) after Matt Harrison breezed through eight innings himself the day before, but it greatly simplified matters to just turn him loose, and he'll roll into his next start looking to preserve his streak of 11 consecutive batters retired for as long as he possibly can.
For whatever last night's game boasted in efficiency, though, it lacked in controversy or really perceptible tension or come-unglued-from-your-seat moments -- the Rangers fell behind early, retook the lead for good by comboing some singles and walks during the fourth inning, and were never subjected to another legitimate threat to that lead on the night. It was a fun affair and a relative cakewalk in the end, but if you can call a win 'boring' (and I don't necessarily mean that in a negative way), that was a good one to tag with that label.
I say that, though, knowing full well that there was a signature moment during the three-hour proceeding, a moment where Elvis Andrus yet again challenged the boundaries of expectation from the shortstop position -- and, no, I don't believe this replay from the telecast (awesome as it might be) or the racuous crowd reaction conveyed over the air truly captured the magic of this play, because I think it truly was something that you had to be in the stadium to fully appreciate:
It was the quintessential Elvis play, one where he converted what at first seemed to be a next-to-impossible defensive chance into an out with a certain grace and effortlessness, and I suppose the really flooring takeaway from this particular play was that this wasn't a three-sigma event, or something so improbable and so far removed from our mean expectations that we shouldn't expect to see it again anytime soon. No, this sort of play is the norm with Elvis. He's not infallible in the field, but he has firmly entrenched himself within baseball's elite defensive echelon, and at the age of 23, he boasts what is easily the best triple-slash line (.299/.368/.395) of his career to date.
Which is why I continue to have so much trouble wrapping my head around the notion of moving Elvis in the off-season. I've previously stated -- both here and on Twitter -- that, from a long-term value-maximizing standpoint, the smartest strategic play may very well be to move Elvis during the off-season for a corner-outfield power bat (thereby allowing you to turn Josh Hamilton loose in free agency without being crippled by the fear that the Rangers won't be able to even approximate his lost production) or a similarly valuable asset, leave Ian Kinsler where he is now, and bestow the full-time shortstop position upon Jurickson Profar beginning next spring. It's not a perfect plan by any means, but, again, just from a value-maximizing standpoint, it may be a plan that makes more sense for the Rangers than throwing gobs of money at Elvis and arranging the rest of the pieces around him.
And, in general, we're going to end up being on board both logically and emotionally with the plan that offers the best on-paper risk/reward combination down the line. I think there's a pretty decent case to be made that the trade-Elvis, summon-Profar plan is the one that offers that ideal combination ... but, emotionally, I cannot force myself to get on board with that idea, nor do I even want anything to do with that plan. You should hate the living daylights out of this idea as a baseball fan. You can buy Profar as a transcendent baseball talent and future All-Star all day long, but you simply cannot take any modicum of pleasure from the idea of watching Elvis play baseball elsewhere.
That, I think, may be what ends up stressing the fan base over the next 4-5 months nearly as much as the post-season which looms about six weeks out -- the inevitable procession of Elvis trade rumors, the daily back-and-forths over how the Rangers should play this, and, perhaps above all else, the impatient waiting for the outcome on this "problem." No, it certainly isn't a problem in the sense that the Rangers have too many good shortstops ... but I strongly suspect that the manner in which this ends up playing out will emotionally drain us and burden us as fans to such a degree that, sooner or later, this actually will end up feeling like a huge problem.