Mac Engel

Rangers winning because their Elvis didn’t leave the building

Elvis Andrus is enjoying the best season of his career, leading the Rangers in batting average and on-base percentage.
Elvis Andrus is enjoying the best season of his career, leading the Rangers in batting average and on-base percentage. AP

The contract will forever be asinine, which is not his fault. There is nothing he can do about his infamous Game 5 in Toronto, which was his fault.

But whatever you think about Elvis Andrus the man merits a long slow clap for a season that many of us thought would never happen.

Much like Tony Romo and his infamous bobbled ball on the field-goal attempt in the 2006 NFL playoffs in Seattle, Andrus took his bad case of the bobbles and has followed it up with the best season of his career.

Andrus won’t win the American League Comeback Player of the Year and he is not the Rangers’ team MVP (another one for Adrian Beltre), but this team is not the best in the AL without Elvis Andrus.

He is no longer a liability at the plate, and he has been a model of professionalism in what has been a harmonious clubhouse.

After he bobbled away Game 5 of the American League Division Series last fall in Toronto, the popular sentiment was to make sure our Elvis left the building. Trade the man and his eight-year, $120 million contract. For anything. A bucket of batting practice balls, a fungo bat and a rake felt like a good haul in return.

Elvis Andrus is batting .298 with 26 home runs, six triples, five home runs and 60 RBIs.

Elvis was somehow the problem.

Nothing can change the reality that he had two key errors in Game 5, but he was not the problem. What he had to be was a bigger part of the solution, which he has now become.

We would all prefer Elvis to be the next Jeter, but since that is preposterous we will gladly settle for good — which is what he has been since the first day of the regular season.

“It’s not really relief, but you feel good to have a good season and help the team every single day,” he told me last week. “Whatever happened last year, it helped me to become the person and the player I am right now. I was really glad I was able to turn the page and just concentrate and stay focused on the next season.”

Andrus leads the Rangers in batting average — two points under .300 — stolen bases (21), triples (six) and on-base percentage (.356) entering Wednesday.

And his 14 errors, while not the best in the league, puts him right around the middle for MLB shortstops.

“[Batting .300] that’s the biggest thing for me this year and I am going to keep pushing,” he said. “I know I can do it. If I stay healthy, I’ll do it.”

Other than stolen bases, Andrus should achieve career marks in every other major offensive category this season.

Show of hands who thought this season was going to happen after watching Andrus commit two errors in the decisive seventh inning of Game 5 in Toronto?

Show of hands who thought this was going to happen after watching Andrus strike out swinging in the top of the eighth inning in Game 5 with two runners on in a 6-3 game?

He said this season is a result of simply going back to an original approach at the plate. He no longer tries to show the world how strong he is by pulling every pitch into left field. Now he’s simply about seeing more pitches and being satisfied hitting the ball up the middle or to the right.

“I got away from my strength,” he said. “Just let the ball travel. Get on base more. Once I did that, it worked.”

This is what Andrus should have been doing immediately after he signed that monster extension in April 2013. But he didn’t, and the team feared that all of that money had changed him. How could it not? It’s generational wealth.

Andrus signed an eight-year, $120 million extension in 2013.

“Sometimes you try to over do stuff when you get your contract. You try to do more than you are capable of doing and get out of yourself on the field. I learned that lesson,” he said. “It took me a little bit of time. Now I’m in a great stage of what I can do on the field and what I can do to help the team. It has taken a lot of pressure off me.”

Now, can you and the Rangers be content with what he is doing this season as the ceiling? If this is Elvis Andrus for the next four or five years — he’s only 27 — is that enough?

Yes.

Because the Rangers promoted Andrus to the Rangers in 2009 when was not even old enough to legally drink, the expectations for him have been Jeter-like. He’s obviously not because few men are.

Elvis is a top-tier shortstop and an integral part of the Rangers’ foundation.

Nothing can change that contract or his Game 5, but no one should want our Elvis to leave the building.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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