"I had a friend was a big baseball player…"
By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
Opening Day is mere days away, so it’s time to take a look at the team the Indians have assembled and have a little fun in the process. Taking a cue (and responding to a challenge) from the abnormally astute Paul Cousineau of “The DiaTribe,” I’m going to attempt to mesh my two areas of expertise — the Tribe and Bruce Springsteen — with a very Boss blog entry.
The idea here is to go through the Indians’ Opening Day lineup and find one Springsteen song that best illustrates each player’s outlook for 2010. We won’t bemoan the losses of Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez here. And we won’t make further comment on what transpired last season. No, we’re here to look ahead, to familiarize ourselves with an Indians team that is “Working on a Dream,” even if it’s all-too-true when Bruce sings that “sometimes it feels so far away.”
Admittedly, this is an exercise that might not appeal to all of you “Castronauts” out there. But whether you’re a Bruce fan or not, consider this: Springsteen concerts last three hours, and MLB games last three hours (or longer, if Raffy Betancourt is involved). Furthermore, the guy who put this team together, Mark Shapiro, is a Bossaholic just like me. Besides, until I get one of those “Be the Boss” segments on E Street Radio, this is the best I can do.
So without any further ado, here’s the A lineup intersecting with E Street, complete with links to the songs and some notes on the performances.
1. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
“Man at the Top”
Comment: Pretty self-explanatory selection for the Tribe’s new leadoff man. And it shouldn’t be “lonely up there,” as Springsteen sings, because Cabrera has some pretty potent company following him in the next few spots of this lineup.
Bruce Nerd Notes: A nice acoustic performance of this “Born in the U.S.A.” outtake from near the end of that album’s tour, when Bruce, riding the wave of a record that sold 15 million copies and spawned seven Top 10 singles, really was the “Man at the Top.”
2. Grady Sizemore, CF
“You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)”
Comment: Easy, easy. This isn’t some comment on those famous photos plastered all over the ‘net. Get your head out of the gutter, people. This is in reference to fans of big-market ballclubs who are expecting the Indians to unload their Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner any day now. Sizemore’s under contract through 2012 and isn’t going anywhere just yet. And now that he’s healthy, hopefully he’ll get Tribe fans excited rather than making them “feel mean.”
Bruce Nerd Notes: I’m going with the rockabilly version of this song, from the unreleased “The Ties That Bind” album. A far superior version to the one that saw the light of day on “The River.”
3. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
“From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)”
Comment: The Indians got this guy for Ben Broussard. Need I say more? Broussard’s out of baseball and pursuing a music career, while Choo is billed as one of the best players in baseball that no one (outside of Cleveland and Korea) knows about (at least, not yet). He came to Cleveland in a pretty low-profile deadline trade. Now his career’s on the path toward one of those fancy Boras deals.
Bruce Nerd Notes: The only thing worse than this song getting left off “The River”? This song getting left off the “Tracks” boxed set of outtakes and B-sides. And then it was left off “18 Tracks,” too. It finally surfaced on the 2003 “Essential” collection, thank God. (Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for “Unsatisfied Heart” to see its proper release. Get on it, Bruce.)
4. Travis Hafner, DH
“Leap of Faith”
Comment: If I had to pick one for Hafner’s 2008-09 seasons, I’d have to go with “Your Own Worst Enemy” from the “Magic” album. Shoulder woes made a mess of the once-mighty Pronk, and the line, “Once the family felt secure, now no one’s very sure,” seemed particularly apropos. But it’s a different Hafner we’ve seen in spring camp, the kind of guy who could say, “The moon’s looking young, but I feel younger.” And it takes a leap of faith from Manny Acta to have Hafner remain in the cleanup spot. We’ll see if Pronk can deliver and be “sanctified.”
Bruce Nerd Notes: “I grabbed you, baby, like a wild pitch” is a much better baseball reference from the Boss than the regrettably inaccurate use of the term “speedball” in “Glory Days.” Great live version with the “Other Band” from the 92-93 tour here, complete with Springsteen doing some crowd surfing at the Meadowlands.
5. Jhonny Peralta, 3B
Comment: I had a hard time deciding on this one. I nearly went with “Don’t Look Back,” as the importance of Peralta finally letting go of his emotional ties to the shortstop position was stressed all winter and spring. But in the end, I’m sure the Indians would sign up for 99 RBIs from their No. 5 hitter, whose handedness makes him an important cog in a lineup loaded with lefties. It’s just too bad Bruce didn’t use the correct spelling of Jhonny. Not sure what he was thinking there.
Bruce Nerd Notes: The live version from the first two legs of last year’s “Working on a Dream” tour was a scorcher. Some great locomotive interplay with Little Steven around the 5:10 mark.
6. Matt LaPorta, 1B
“This Little Light of Mine”
Comment: The man who operates under the Twitter handle “Gator4God” asked his followers to come up with suggestions for his at-bat music this season. This was the best I could come up with for the Christian slugger. And lo and behold, Springsteen covered it on the Seeger Sessions tour in 2006. In LaPorta’s case, the “light” he needs to let shine every day is that right-handed power bat that this lineup sorely needs.
Bruce Nerd Notes: You know, having spent my formative years in Catholic school, I’m admittedly biased, but this is one of my favorite Springsteen covers. I actually loved the energy and enthusiasm of the Seeger Sessions shows and hope Bruce can get that 18-piece band back together in some capacity at some point (though I wouldn’t turn down another E Street tour, either). Cindy Mizelle’s contribution at the 1:52 mark of this clip is spectacular.
7. Luis Valbuena, 2B
“Tomorrow Never Knows”
Comment: The uncertainty of the title and ambiguity of the lyrics speak well to Valbuena’s situation as the Tribe’s starting second baseman. The team made a well-documented pitch to Orlando Hudson over the winter, despite not having a great deal of money to work with in the free-agent market and despite Valbuena’s strong second half and surprising pop last season. So that speaks volumes. Valbuena remains the man at second, for now, but he had a rough spring. And if “no more thunder sounds” from his bat, then the position might not be his for long.
Bruce Nerd Notes: An opening reminiscent of CCR’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” gives way to a tender, almost plaintive, little number from the “Working on a Dream” disc. Springsteen churns out so much material that songs like this sadly get lost in the shuffle.
8. Lou Marson, C
Comment: This is what the Indians are essentially asking Marson, a Cliff Lee trade acquisition, to do for them behind the plate for a few months. They have top prospect Carlos Santana opening the season at Triple-A Columbus. But if Santana is as good as advertised, he’ll be up here in a hurry. We’ll see what would happen with Marson at that point. He could end up becoming trade bait himself. In that scenario, another Springsteen song would apply. It’s called “Spare Parts.”
Bruce Nerd Notes: Had to go with the version from the Giants Stadium finale last fall, when Bruce and the band played the entire “Born in the U.S.A.” album in sequence. My dad and I were there on the floor, just outside the pit, after spending the day checking out Springsteen’s old haunts in and around Asbury Park. Awesome day, awesome show.
9. Michael Brantley, LF
“Livin’ in the Future”
Comment: This guy was supposed to be opening the season in Triple-A Columbus, with a big-league promotion in the second half. But thanks to the Russell Branyan injury, Brantley’s in the big leagues, his cleats “clickin’ like the barrel of a pistol spinning ’round.” The future is now. But when Branyan gets healthy, will we hear the sound of “something righteous goin’ under” (or, more accurately, going down to the Minors)?
Bruce Nerd Notes: Didn’t always translate well live, but this song smokes on the “Magic” album. The E Streeters in fine form.
RHP Jake Westbrook
“Light of Day”
Comment: It’s been a long crawl “out of the woods” for Westbrook, who hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since May 28, 2008. But he’ll finally see the light of day on Opening Day. The Indians will be leaning on the veteran sinkerballer to lead a rotation filled with question marks. Hard to say what the Indians can expect from Westbrook after such a long layoff. But considering he’s made just five starts over the last two years and the Indians are coming off a 97-loss season, “Things can’t get any worse, they gotta get better.”
Bruce Nerd Notes: This song closed the main set every night on the Reunion tour in 1999-2000. I’ll always have a soft spot for that tour, because I was an 18-year-old kid getting to experience the E Street Band in concert for the first time. Just watch Bruce work the band and the crowd. The preacher schtick that begins
around the 4:10 mark will come off as corny to most. But if you truly understand “the majesty, the mystery and the ministry of rock ‘n roll,” it speaks to you.
There you have it. I don’t know how well the lineup will perform, but that’s a decent little setlist right there. And just remember, boys, they’re not booing you, they’re just saying, “Bruuuuuuuuce!”
(Well, who am I kidding… sometimes they will be booing you.)