Rosenthal: Rangers’ secret is out: Adolis García is a superstar and ALCS MVP | ET REALITY


HOUSTON – Corey Seager of the Texas Rangers isn’t one to gush, but he came out off base when I asked him what he thought of Adolis Garcia’s performance in the American League Championship Series.

“He’s a bad man, isn’t he?” Seager responded. in his postgame interview on FOX.

More than an hour after Game 7, Astros manager Dusty Baker sat in his office and agreed with Seager’s assessment and then some.

Garcia is a really bad man, Baker said.

“And it’s getting worse,” the manager lamented after Garcia almost single-handedly destroyed his team, going 4 for 5 with two home runs, a stolen base and five RBIs as the Rangers defeated the Astros, 11- 4, to achieve his first victory. World Series since 2011.

Just days earlier, Baker had described his own star, José Altuve, as “one of the baddest guys I’ve ever seen in my life.” Garcia may not be on Altuve’s level, but he’s now in the upper echelon, approaching virtually any superstar you can name. His performance in the American League Championship Series was that special, monumental moment.

Start with Garcia’s 15 RBIs, the most in a postseason series. Thirteen of them came in the last four games, in which he hit five home runs. Nine of them came in the last two games, when the Rangers needed them most, after returning to Houston trailing three games to two.

“I know a lot of people may not know Adolis Garcia yet,” Rangers veteran Brad Miller said.

“I don’t think baseball understands how talented and special he is,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said.

The Astros understand it. Anyone who watched Garcia hit a grand slam after striking out four times in Game 6 and then deliver his signature career performance of utter joy in Game 7 will surely understand that, too.

After Game 6, several Rangers said they couldn’t remember a player being booed as loudly as Garcia at Minute Maid Park.

Game 6, of course, followed the tumultuous Game 5 in Arlington. The one in which García hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead. The one in which he was hit by Astros reliever Bryan Abreu on the next pitch he saw, immediately confronted catcher Martín Maldonado and became what crew chief James Hoye described as “the aggressor” in an incident that emptied both the benches and the bullpens.

Abreu was suspended two games for intentionally throwing at García, a sanction that was confirmed Monday by John McHale Jr., MLB’s executive vice president of administration, but postponed until next season. Several Astros believed Garcia should have been suspended as well. A rival American League coach, who was granted anonymity in exchange for his candor, noted in a text message Monday that Garcia put his hands on Maldonado and then used capital letters to add: “AND THE REFEREE ”.

“If Garcia just walked to first base, there’s no chance Abreu would be ejected,” the manager said, referring to Abreu’s ejection. “García dictated the entire situation.”

García’s reaction, however, was understandable. Maldonado acknowledged: “I think every hitter in baseball would have taken it the same way.” However, the moment could have defined Garcia negatively, if he had struggled throughout the rest of the series.

That outcome seemed likely when Garcia struck out in his first four at-bats of Game 6, and the boos grew each time he stepped up to the plate. Instead, he brought about a change that reflected the resilience of his team and the perseverance he showed in his own personal and professional journey.

García, whose father, José, and older brother, Adonis, also played baseball professionally, spent five years with Ciego de Ávila in the Cuban National Series. He then traveled to Japan with the permission of the Cuban government and, after an unsuccessful season, defected on the return flight, during a relief in Paris.

The Cardinals signed him, but designated him for assignment in December 2019. The Rangers traded for him, but designated him for assignment in February 2021. No team claimed Garcia off waivers, so he remained in the Texas organization. Two months later, he made the majors and then made his first All-Star team while playing for a Rangers club that would lose 102 games. This season, he made his second All-Star Game, finishing with 39 home runs and 107 RBIs.

In the ninth inning of Game 6, he hit with the bases loaded, one out and the Rangers leading, 5-2. His grand slam, with a 110 mph shot into the Crawford Boxes in left field, silenced the crowd.

“It was such a great moment, something he’ll remember for the rest of his life,” Rangers outfielder Robbie Grossman said afterward.

Garcia had produced the same kind of moment with his go-ahead three-run shot in Game 5. He spoke to the media that night, about his passionate celebration of the home run, about his incident with Abreu. But after Game 6, he refused to address reporters for one of the few times in his career.

“I was just focused on Game 7. That was all I had in mind,” Garcia said. “And honestly, I didn’t want to say or do anything that would lead me astray.”

People may not remember, but Garcia nearly hit three home runs in Game 7. In the first inning, he singled against the left field wall, standing at the plate to admire the shot, thinking it was going to come out. He finished at first instead of possibly second, a mistake that, had the game evolved differently, could have proven damaging and embarrassing. Undaunted, Garcia proceeded to steal second place, quickly making up for his mistake.

Former Rangers infielder Michael Young, now a special assistant with the club, marveled at the comfort with which Garcia played in the most hostile environments, at the most critical moments.

“Those who really dig deep, lean into the moment and enjoy it are the ones who have the most success,” said Young, who played 14 seasons in the majors. “In these last two games, there is no one who has had more fun than Adolis. He enjoyed every last pitch. And it was obvious.”

Garcia’s grand slam after his four strikeouts in Game 6, Young added, was the mark, “not just of an impactful guy, but of a true star-level player. It’s always the next at-bat, the next moment. And he looks what he did after that. He just took over the Series.”

The boos? Ian Kinsler, another former Rangers star turned special assistant, noted that Altuve played brilliantly while he was booed loudly during the three games in Arlington. Altuve, no stranger to road taunts, was 6 for 14 with two home runs in those games, including his go-ahead three-run shot in the ninth inning of Game 5.

“Sometimes, as a player, that can be motivating. That can really motivate you,” Kinsler said. “It’s almost like trying to prove people wrong.”

García did not put it that way. But he more or less said the same thing.

“In these types of games, when there are a lot of emotions, the fans support their team, that motivates me,” he said.

Garcia celebrates with teammate Josh Jung after hitting a home run in the third. (Thomas Shea/USA Today)

On the final weekend of the regular season, I asked veteran Miller about Garcia. Miller, who travels with the Rangers but is not on their postseason roster, immediately responded that Garcia is one of the best teammates he has ever had. Other Rangers share that opinion and are equally effusive in their praise.

“Everybody loves him,” second baseman Marcus Semien said. “He is a great teammate, a good leader for Latinos, a good leader for our entire team.”

What makes Garcia so popular with the Rangers? His smile. The energy of him. His work ethic. His empathy.

Rookie third baseman Josh Jung said Garcia exudes a quiet confidence and is “flawless” in the clubhouse. Young, the Rangers’ general manager, said Garcia’s rise to stardom is partly a consequence of his strong makeup.

“I can’t believe the player he’s become,” Young said. “He speaks of the person’s character.”

Fans unfamiliar with Garcia might have gotten the wrong impression of his character when he broke down after being hit by Abreu in Game 5, or when he spent too much time admiring his near-home run in the first inning of Game 7. But fans players, always know.

They know which teammates sincerely care about others and which ones care about themselves. They know which ones are overhyped and which ones are real stars.

Garcia, the Rangers say, is the genuine article.

He was something of a secret, overshadowed by Seager, Semien and others, at least among fans outside of Dallas-Ft. To worth. But in his record-breaking American League Championship Series, he emerged as a central figure in the game, an astonishing five-tool talent who can no longer be ignored.

“You have to appreciate what he’s doing,” Miller said. “She is a superstar in every sense of the word.”

(Top photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

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