In his uproariously funny tell-all of his experience covering the 1973-75 Rangers, Mike Shropshire recounted a time when the old Arlington Stadium press box was equipped with open bar access, when he often required liberal quantities of Jose Cuervo to overcome his recurring case of writer's block, and when such imbibing might result in a standard-fare and wholly insignificant Dick Allen homer being described as "a celestial comet, streaking across the night prairie sky while earthlings in the cheap seats quivered with reverence and awe."
The backdrop on Sunday didn't dovetail with Shropshire's vivid imagery, as the setting was an overcast afternoon draped over a sparsely attended Progressive Field rather than a starry night in North Texas (idle thought: I wonder if the real diehard Indians fans ever embraced the overtly corporate "Progressive" moniker over "Jacobs"), but that's the passage that immediately sprang to mind when Jurickson Profar went yard in career plate appearance No. 1 yesterday. It wasn't a just-enough fluke that whizzed just above and beyond the outfield wall. It was a photogenic, soaring hammer shot, on a middle-in fastball that Profar attacked with aplomb and purpose.
It was, for the lack of a better term, a "celestial comet" that rebounded off Profar's bat, wielded by the kid with a future as bright as the baseball that streaked across the Cleveland sky. I realize I'm lathering on the hyperbole pretty thick here, but if you're not going to overreact to the No. 1 prospect in baseball clubbing a gorgeous home run in his first major league plate appearance (and doing so as the second-youngest player in recorded baseball history * to homer in his first plate appearance), well, when the hell are you supposed to overreact? You might as well burn through your right to be totally and unabashedly irrational sometime, and right now is as good a time as any.
[* Incidentally, per Baseball Reference, there have been 14,273 players from 1901-present who have obtained at least one major league plate appearance, and, therefore, had at least one chance to homer in their very first time to the plate as a major leaguer. Only 528 of those players debuted at the age of 19 or younger, however. Per ESPN Stats & Info, Profar is also the youngest player to homer in any major league game since Adrian Beltre in 1998, the youngest player to hit a homer and a double in any major league game since Andruw Jones in 1996, and the youngest Rangers player ever to homer in any major league game. You know, just in case you cared.]
And, of course, as I just mentioned in that fully italicized paragraph, Profar also looped an opposite-field double in his second major league plate appearance, then whacked a couple of 1-0 fastballs for fly outs in his third and fourth plate appearances to round out a massively successful debut where he exhibited the look and poise and two-way skills of a future superstar. Those last three batted-ball outcomes aren't what we'll remember when we look back upon this day some years down the line, either. What we'll so fondly remember is Profar murdering a 1-0 fastball off an unsuspecting Zach McAllister, and his enthusiastic half-sprint around the bases, and the unmistakably giddy response of a dugout that is clearly ready to embrace him as one of its own, and the million-dollar smile:
What does this one game change? Well, realistically speaking, not a whole lot. Profar doesn't start yesterday if not for Ian Kinsler being a late scratch with lower back stiffness, and, in all likelihood, Profar goes back to riding pine far more than his growing legion of fans would prefer; I said a few days ago that Profar might get 2-3 starts in the field over the final month of the season, and I don't know that it would be especially wise to back off of that guess right now, seeing as how the Athletics are still lingering just three games back, and seeing as how Ron Washington is going to want to continue putting what he believes to be his best lineup on the field until the division is won.
But, on the flip side of that, you also realize that Washington -- and probably every other manager who has ever lived -- is open to changing his preconceived notions/position on a player if that player can hit the ground running and produce right from the outset for him. He hasn't exactly been afforded the consistent playing time that might have been necessary for him to really get comfortable and enter a groove, but Mike Olt (.160/.281/.200) hasn't done a whole heck of a lot with his sporadic opportunities, and that isn't going to inspire much trust from the manager when the team is in the position that it's currently in. The hour is still incredibly early with Profar, but he's producing early, and if he can keep producing in this microscopic early sample, that's going to buy him some much-needed capital that he'll end up cashing in sooner or later.
Profar is here, and Elvis and Kinsler are also here, and, at some point, you figure that one of the latter two will be gone. I've grown less fond of the notion of moving Kinsler to a corner outfield spot as time has progressed, and Profar isn't going anywhere, so if you're out on the idea of shuffling guys around to ensure that all three have a position in Texas, that leaves you with the options of (a) dealing Profar, which isn't going to happen for a whole bevy of reasons, (b) dealing Kinsler, which could conceivably happen but probably won't happen, or (c) preparing your good-byes for Elvis, be it via trade in the next 16 months or free agent after 2014. And if it's (c), that's absolutely going to kill us.
Right now, though, it isn't so much about Profar. He's the hero this team deserves, but not the one it needs right now. They don't have to ride or die based upon whatever Profar contributes in the next two months, nor should they have to. His day will come, and I'm even more excited about it arriving today than I was yesterday, but the next couple of months are going to be much more about the present than they will be about the 19-year-old future of the franchise.