“If you think it’s your time, then step to the line”
I think those of you who have frequented this blog (even as its entries have become much less frequent) know that if I had my way, every player would use a Bruce Springsteen song as his at-bat music at the ballpark. (Also, every fan would keep score, nets would be extended down the lines and organists would be brought back, but those are all separate arguments.)
That’s why my buddy Paul Cousineau, esteemed purveyor of the excellent DiaTribe blog, challenged me last year to come up with a Bruce tune for each member of the Tribe lineup, and that’s why I responded with this CastroTurf classic.
And because Paul, who has made at-bat offerings an annual part of his preseason posts, challenged me again (and I’m a sucker for tradition), it is time once again to mesh those two great American sons — the Boss and baseball — to come up with a list that is Opening Day appropriate for the corner of Carnegie and E … err… Ontario.
Like Bruce in “Bobby Jean,” sending a long-distance shout-out to a friend who hit the bricks, the Indians have bid “good luck, goodbye” to many a prominent player the last few years. What we have now is a hodgepodge of baby faced ballplayers that the Tribe is counting on to provide “Living Proof” that the trades, drafts and developments all have this club pointed in the right direction.
With that in mind, last year’s theme in this entry was “Working on a Dream,” and, uh, yeah… they’re still working on it. But after finishing dead last in attendance last season, I think a particularly appropriate theme for 2011, as the Indians pull out all the marketing stops, to try to win back a fan base that no longer has a playoff-bound Cavs team and might not have the Browns to distract them, is this one:
With that in mind, here’s the likely Opening Day lineup and the Bruce tunes to go with it, along with a few bonus selections — none of which, sadly, were ever mentioned by Manny Acta as a “song of the day” in his spring Twitter feed.
1. CF Michael Brantley — “Good Eye”
It was Brantley’s “Good Eye” at the plate in the Minors that led some prominent members of the Indians’ front office to believe he might end up the most impactful player acquired in the CC deal, even though he was merely the player to be named in that swap. Brantley has a career .388 OBP in the Minors, including a .395 mark in 67 games at Columbus last year, thanks to impressive walk rates. But that success hasn’t yet translated to the big leagues, where Brantley has largely turned his “good eye to the dark and his blind eye to the sun.” It’s all part of learning, of course, and the Indians hope Brantley can up his OBP to make better use of his speed on the basepaths this season and become a viable leadoff hitter.
2. SS Asdrubal Cabrera — “Prove It All Night”
“You gotta prove it all night, every night,” is how Bruce used to introduce this song on the ’78 Darkness tour (and this is a particularly scorching version). We’ve been touting Cabrera as a potential superstar ever since he broke into the big leagues in a big way during the 2007 AL Central title run, but health and consistency have simply not been his strong suits in the years since. Last year, he was done in by a broken arm suffered when he collided with teammate Jhonny Peralta (and a couple months later, we all sang “Johnny Bye Bye”). So give Cabrera a mulligan for 2010, I suppose, but this would sure be a fine year for him to prove he can stay on the field and be a force in the lineup.
3. RF Shin-Soo Choo — “All That Heaven Will Allow”
It’s an unfortunate factor of modern sports economics (and a particularly apropos ailment in Cleveland) that fans in small markets often find themselves dreading the day their star players will reach free agency, even if that day is <i>three full seasons away</i>, as is the case with Big League Choo. Obviously, and perhaps undoubtedly, Choo can be expected to take his talents elsewhere (probably not South Beach… or South Korea, for that matter) after the 2013 season, but that’s long enough away that Tribe fans have plenty to appreciate in the here and now. The Indians’ hope is to build a winner around Choo and make the most of the time they have with him. And yes, they want all the time… all that heaven (or Scott Boras) will allow.
4. C Carlos Santana — “Crush On You”
Tribe Fan fell in love with Victor Martinez, and the end of that relationship was painful for both parties. But then along came this other switch-hitting, sweet-swinging Latino catcher that had been dumped by the Dodgers, and Tribe Fan began to feel those old, familiar butterflies in his belly. The first date went really well, then Santana played hard to get and ran away with the athletic trainer for a few months. Now, he’s back, looking “c’est magnifique” and ready to knock Tribe Fan off his feet.
Anybody else as creeped out by that paragraph as I am? OK, good. Let’s move on.
5. DH Travis Hafner — “Missing”
“Tell me baby, where did you go? You were here just a moment ago.” Yep, that pretty much sums it up. Hafner, as is well-documented, pretty much vanished not long after signing an extension that stands as the largest contract the Indians have ever given a player. Besieged by chronic shoulder woes, he became a shell of his former self, and it would be foolish to continue to hold out hope that the Tribe will see a return of the 2006 form of Pronk. That said, “there’s nights I still hear your footsteps fall.” Hafner still has his moments where he’ll rip a double the other way and demonstrate that he’s enough of an offensive weapon to get consideration in the scouting report. He’s still a viable Major League bat on some level. But that other guy? The former MVP candidate? He’s “Missing” and presumed dead.
6. 2B Orlando Cabrera — “The Price You Pay”
The Indians rushed Brandon Phillips to the big leagues, ran out of time developing him within his option years, opted to keep Ramon Vazquez over him on the 2006 roster (Vazquez went on to play just 34 games that season) and shipped him to Cincinnati, where he became a star. They’ve been paying the price at second base ever since. Granted, this isn’t all the Indians’ fault, as the mercurial Phillips, through his play and personality, didn’t do much to inspire the Indians’ confidence in him, but the end result stands. Josh Barfield was a bust, Asdrubal Cabrera was solid but wrongly cast as a second baseman, Luis Valbuena was a one-hit wonder and, if the Indians’ maneuvering is any indication, Jason Donald is a utility man in training. So until Jason Kipnis (a converted outfielder) comes along, it’s Orlando Cabrera plugging a hole. And the price the Indians will pay for this stopgap is $1.3 million.
7. 1B Matt LaPorta — “Blinded By The Light”
The pressures placed upon LaPorta in his young professional career have been slightly extreme. He was a high-profile prospect after the Brewers took him seventh overall in 2007, and his profile was raised all the more when the Indians made him their key acquisition in the 2008 CC Sabathia trade. When he got his first extended exposure to the bigs last season, LaPorta indeed looked “Blinded by the Light,” turning in a .668 OPS that did not portend to him being the middle-of-the-order threat the Indians imagined him to be. LaPorta, though, never seemed to let his struggles affect him on a personal level, and he had all offseason to get in baseball shape after spending the previous winter rehabbing from surgery. So if the song holds true, “he got down but he never got tight. He’s gonna make it all right.” I guess we’ll see.
8. LF Austin Kearns — “All I’m Thinking About Is You”
No disrespect to Kearns. He’s a valuable veteran who is good for the occasional big knock. But his status as a placeholder in the outfield until Grady Sizemore is back from surgery is clear. Tribe fans will appreciate Kearns for what he is, but, as long as he has an everyday role in this outfield, all they’ll be thinking about is, “When’s Grady coming back?”
9. 3B Jack Hannahan — “Wreck on the Highway”
This is not so much a comment on Hannahan as it is on this position, a veritable black hole for the Tribe, until Lonnie Chisenhall makes his move up the ladder. In the second half last year, it was the abominable combo of Jayson Nix, Louie Louie Valbuena Valbuena and Andy Marte forming a three-headed monster at the hot corner. “There was blood and glass all over,” just like Bruce sang. Now, it’s Hannahan holding down the fort, presumably until Jason Donald’s hand heals or the Chiz Kid comes aboard. So Tribe fans will just have to “lay there awake in the middle of the night,” thinking about this wreck and waiting for the future.
SP Fausto Carmona — “Man’s Job”
Carmona might not have reclaimed his 2007 dominance, but at least he reclaimed his command in 2010. Now, he enters 2011 as the undisputed ace of a not-so-sterling starting staff. There’s a responsibility that comes with this role. It is, indeed, a “Man’s Job.” In terms of stuff and stature, Fausto isn’t your typical No. 1, but if he can pound the strike zone, get a ton of groundballs and avoid any major mechanical or mental malfunctions, the Indians will consider it a job well done.
RP Frank Herrmann — “A Night With The Jersey Devil”
I know Herrmann doesn’t yet hold a prominent role in the ‘pen, but this is a Bruce-themed blog entry and this dude’s from Rutherford, Jersey, right in the heart of Springsteen soil. This song has absolutely nothing to do with Herrmann, who is one of the nicest, most genuine players I’ve had the pleasure of covering and certainly no devil. But it’s probably Bruce’s best video (unless you’re into “Dancing in the Dark” for its comedic value or the “Born to Run” live clip from ’85 for its unending ability to raise your heart rate), so… here you go. It was either this or a clip of Joe Piscopo doing his “Joisey guy” schtick.
SP Carlos Carrasco — “Don’t Look Back”
…and see another home run clearing the fence. If Carrasco can keep it in the yard, he could be in line for a breakout season. If not… yikes.
SP Josh Tomlin — “Surprise, Surprise”
Raise your hand if, one year ago, you predicted Josh Tomlin would be in the 2011 Opening Day rotation. Yeah, that’s what I thought. And hey, that’s what happens when you throw strikes.
(Side note: Bruce doesn’t have a video for “Surprise, Surprise,” so I’m linking this… interesting… take on the tune.)
RP Raffy Perez — “Code of Silence”
If you’ve followed along with this blog, then this one’s self-explanatory. Paul went with “The Sound of Silence” for the media mute Perez, which also works well.
3B Lonnie Chisenhall, RHP Alex White, 2B Jason Kipnis — “Outside Looking In”
But the wait is almost over, boys.
Closer Chris Perez — “I’m a Rocker”
If the Indians are “hanging from a cliff or tied to the tracks,” at least they know they have a reliable closer to parachute in. And he’s got that rocker hair for the role, to boot. Now if only he had a few more save opportunities…
Manager Manny Acta — “Better Days”
An optimistic tune for one of the more optimistic men I know. Acta’s club might be “halfway to heaven and just a mile out of hell,” as the song states. But when you listen to the skipper talk, he always sounds like a guy with a “new suit of clothes and a pretty red rose,” and that’s a good thing for a young club that needs to believe in its abilities.
CF Grady Sizemore — “Wrecking Ball”
The way I see it, two outcomes are possible for Sizemore in 2011. Either this is the year he bounces back from a particularly challenging surgical procedure and slowly builds himself back up to being a 30-30 caliber player for 2012 (his contract year, by the way), or this is the year that continuing medical setbacks finally lead us to believe that the Grady Sizemore we once knew is never really coming back. Former Tribe catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. had microfracture surgery twice in his career and compared it to an arthritic condition, in that you simply don’t feel the same every day. He felt his career was never quite the same afterward. Sizemore is facing a similar challenge, but his personality is one that fits the tone of this tune: “Take your best shot, let me see what you’ve got. Bring on your wrecking ball.”
And bring on the 2011 season.