HOUSTON — The Texas Rangers’ Corey Seager isn’t one to gush, but he stepped out of character when I asked him what he thought of Adolis García’s performance in the American League Championship Series.
“He’s a bad man, isn’t he?” Seager replied in his postgame interview on FOX.
More than an hour after Game 7, Astros manager Dusty Baker sat in his office, agreeing with Seager’s assessment and then some.
García is indeed a bad man, Baker said.
“And getting badder,” the manager lamented after García almost single-handedly wrecked his team, going 4-for-5 with two homers, a stolen base and five RBIs as the Rangers routed the Astros, 11-4, to reach their first World Series since 2011.
Just days before, Baker had described his own star, Jose Altuve, as “one of the baddest dudes I’ve ever seen.” García might not be at Altuve’s level, but he’s in the upper echelon now, closing in on pretty much any superstar you can name. His performance in the ALCS was that special, that monumental moment.
Start with García’s 15 RBIs, the most ever in a postseason series. Thirteen of them came in the final four games, in which he hit five home runs. Nine of them came in the final two games, when the Rangers needed them most, after returning to Houston trailing, three games to two.
“I know a lot of people might not know Adolis García 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. Anyone who watched García hit a grand slam after striking out four times in Game 6, then deliver the signature performance of his career with utter joy in Game 7, surely understands, too.
After Game 6, several Rangers said they could not recall a player who was booed as loudly as García was at Minute Maid Park.
Game 6, of course, followed the tumultuous Game 5 in Arlington. The one in which García hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead. The one in which he was drilled 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 benches and bullpens.
Abreu was suspended two games for intentionally throwing at García, a penalty that was upheld Monday by John McHale Jr., MLB’s executive vice-president of administration, but deferred to next season. Several Astros believed García should have been suspended as well. A rival American League manager, granted anonymity in exchange for his candor, noted in a text Monday that García put his hands on Maldonado, then used capital letters to add, “AND THE UMPIRE.”
“If García simply walked to first base, there’s no chance they throw Abreu out,” the manager said, referring to Abreu’s ejection. “García dictated the entire situation.”
García’s reaction, though, was understandable. Maldonado acknowledged, “I think every hitter in baseball would have taken it the same way.” Yet, the moment could have defined García negatively, if he struggled the rest of the series.
Such an outcome appeared likely when García struck out in his first four at-bats of Game 6, the boos crescendoing each time he stepped to the plate. Instead, he produced a turnaround that reflected the resilience of his team and the perseverance he showed in his own personal and professional journey.
García, whose father, Jose, and older brother, Adonis, also played baseball professionally, spent five years with Ciego de Ávila in the Cuban National Series. He then went to Japan with the permission of the Cuban government, and after one fruitless season defected on the flight home, during a changeover in Paris.
The Cardinals signed him, but designated him for assignment in Dec. 2019. The Rangers traded for him, but designated him for assignment in Feb. 2021. No team claimed García on waivers, so he stayed in the Texas organization. Two months later, he reached the majors, 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 team, finishing with 39 homers and 107 RBIs.
In the ninth inning of Game 6, he batted with the bases loaded, one out and the Rangers leading, 5-2. His grand slam, on a 110-mph shot into the Crawford Boxes in left field, silenced the crowd.
“It was such a cool moment, something he’ll remember the rest of his life,” Rangers outfielder Robbie Grossman said afterward.
García had produced the same type of moment with his go-ahead, three-run shot in Game 5. He spoke to the media that night, about his impassioned home-run celebration, about his incident with Abreu. But after Game 6, he declined to address reporters for one of the few times in his career.
“I was just focused solely on Game 7. That was all that was on my mind,” García said. “And honestly, I didn’t want to say something or do anything that would get me off track.”
Most RBI in a single postseason, all-time:
◽️ 21 — David Freese (2011)
◽️ 20 — Corey Seager (2020)
◽️ 20 — Adolis García (2023)
García still has at least four games to play.
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) October 24, 2023
People might not remember, but García nearly hit three home runs in Game 7. In the first inning, he smacked a single off the left-field wall, standing at home plate to admire the shot, thinking it was going out. He wound up at first instead of possibly at second, a miscue that, if the game had evolved differently, could have proven both damaging and embarrassing. Undaunted, García proceeded to steal second, quickly making up for his mistake.
Former Rangers infielder Michael Young, now a special assistant with the club, marveled at the comfort with which García played in the most hostile of environments, at the most critical of times.
“The ones who really dig in and lean in to the moment and enjoy it are the ones who have the most success,” said Young, who played 14 seasons in the majors. “These last two games, there is nobody who had more fun than Adolis did. He enjoyed every last pitch. And it was obvious.”
García’s grand slam after his four strikeouts in Game 6, Young added, was the mark, “not only of an impactful guy, but a true star-level player. It’s always next at-bat, next moment. And look what he did after that. He just took the Series over.”
The booing? Ian Kinsler, another former Rangers star turned special assistant, noted Altuve played brilliantly while getting booed heavily during the three games in Arlington. Altuve, no stranger to jeering on the road, went 6-for-14 with two homers 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 drive you,” Kinsler said. It’s almost like trying to prove people wrong.”
García didn’t put it quite like that. But he sort of said the same thing.
“These types of games, when there’s a lot of emotions, the fans out there rallying for their team, it fuels me,” he said.
The final weekend of the regular season, I asked the veteran Miller about García. Miller, who is traveling with the Rangers but not on their postseason roster, immediately responded that García is one of the best teammates he has ever had. Other Rangers share that view, and are similarly effusive in their praise.
“Everybody loves him,” second baseman Marcus Semien said. “He’s a great teammate, a good leader for the Latin guys, a good leader for our entire team.”
What makes García so popular among the Rangers? His smile. His energy. His work ethic. His empathy.
Rookie third baseman Josh Jung said García exudes a quiet confidence and is “impeccable” in the clubhouse. Young, the Rangers’ GM, said García’s ascent to stardom is in part the byproduct of his strong makeup.
“I can’t believe the player he’s made himself into,” Young said. “It speaks to the character of the person.”
Fans unfamiliar with García might have gotten the wrong impression of his character when he snapped after getting hit by Abreu in Game 5, or when he spent too long admiring his near-homer in the first inning of Game 7. But the players, they always know.
They know which teammates sincerely care about others and which ones are out for themselves. They know which ones are overly hyped and which ones are true stars.
García, the Rangers say, is the genuine article.
He was sort of their secret, overshadowed by Seager and Semien and others, at least among fans outside Dallas-Ft. Worth. But in his record-breaking ALCS, he emerged as a central figure in the sport, a jaw-dropping, five-tool talent who no longer can be ignored.
“You have to appreciate what he’s doing,” Miller said. “He is a superstar in every sense of the word.”
(Top photo: Carmen Mandato / Getty Images)