The hump day to beat all hump days, folks. Our lord and savior Michael Brantley will hit the on-ramp and merge onto the road back to major league baseball tomorrow afternoon. I’m still tempering my expectations, because Cleveland, but this is better than great news. The sooner we have our PhD back in the three hole and roaming the green grass in front of our brand new scoreboard, the better.
Thankfully, it hasn’t necessarily been all crabgrass in the outfield in his absence. In his pursuit of being our center fielder come April 4th, Tyler Naquin has slashed a manly .417/.440/.667 and is second on the team with 10 hits so far this spring (2 doubles, 2 triples.) Jose Ramirez, who made his debut in center a few days ago, is the only player on the Indians who has more hits than Naquin (11.) The others (Grossman, Cowgill, Butler, Robinson, Davis) have been rather yawnish, although Davis did have a three hit game yesterday. And Lonnie’s not not 1 for 21. So, yeah, the sooner the better for Smooth.
I’m still not expecting The Return until late April, but at the rate he’s been going, he’ll be available to pinch hit later this afternoon.
KEEP THE CHIEF
Well that’s certainly not ideal.
Heading into an offseason where adding an outfielder seems to be a priority for the Tribe, the team announced Monday they’ll be down (a big) one for 5-6 months thanks to a weak-minded labrum that couldn’t hold on any longer. Michael Brantley apparently tore his on this play in Minnesota late in the year:
He was shut down for the season shortly after that. Apparently the decision was made to go under the knife after a couple weeks of unsuccessful rehab.
I would obviously prefer for our best hitter to not tear his labrum and not miss the beginning of the 2016 season. But let’s talk silver linings here folks. First off, it’s not his throwing shoulder. Rehabbing the right shoulder for a left-handed hitter that almost always follows-through with one hand on his swing won’t be a cakewalk but I’ll take that over a throwing shoulder any day. Also I don’t blame them for not doing the surgery right away. Labrum issues don’t always require it, and with the recovery time associated with a procedure it should always be a last resort. I’d much rather him have this done now and miss some time at the beginning of the season than have him try to fight through it and end up having the surgery in June anyway. Stuff like that can set careers back.
So who’ll be patrolling the green grass in front of the bleachers come opening day? With very little financial wiggle room, the new front office will almost certainly look to fill the void Brantley leaves in left or find an upgrade over Almonte in center (or both) internally or via the trade. Options that have been whispered about include:
- Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins
- Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Jorge Soler, Chicago Cubs
- Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays
- Alex Gordon
- Gerardo Parra
- Alejandro De Aza
- Nori Aoki
- Will Venable
- Zach Walters
- Jerry Sands
- Michael Choice
- Jose Ramirez
(not on 40 man)
- Tyler Naquin
- James Ramsey
For a team that has been plagued by slow starts in recent seasons (seriously, like the black death), this is one hell of a first test for our new front office structure.
KEEP THE CHIEF
(from the Brantley shut down blog last season)
Well that’ll do it folks. We’re still not mathematically eliminated but you and I, and apparently the team, know the 2015 Cleveland Indians campaign is all but over. Shutting our best player down with just six games to go might be a reward more than anything for Brantley, who played through multiple injuries all year. And he deserves it. His ranks among all big-league outfielders:
- Hits – 164 (T-10th)
- Doubles – 45 (1st among all players)
- RBI – 84 (T-9th)
- Strikeouts – 51 (3rd)
- Avg – .310 (10th)
- K% – 8.6% (1st)
- OBP – .379 (4th)
- wRC+ – 136 (7th)
He also chipped in 15 bombs and 15 swipes.
Not bad for a player-to-be-named-later. Thanks, Mark Shapiro! (And Dale Sveum)
Below are some clips and highlights from Smooth’s 2015 season. In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. But one thing is certain – when I stumble up to the bleachers in 187 days to watch the Tribe take on the Boston Red Sox on Opening Day, #23 will be taking the field in front of me and hitting third in the lineup.
Also h/t to YouTube user JLTRAIN233 for doing the lord’s work all year with his video highlights featuring Tom Hamilton’s calls.
HR on 5/5
Game-tying HR on 7/22
Walk-off single 8/11
Second HR of the night 8/25
Two go-ahead HRs 9/10
And for good measure…
Hammy making fun of Pittsburgh
KEEP THE CHIEF