April 2012

“Too high or too low, there ain’t no in-betweens”

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

On Twitter: @Castrovince

Growing up, I was a big Billy Joel fan. And in a related development, I was made fun of quite a bit — moreso, even, than the present day.

Anyway, I distinctly remember Opening Day in the Euclid Boys’ League in 1990, when me and my teammates on the Action Auto Body Astros — the class of the 9- and 10-year-old division — took the field in Memorial Park, with tunes — glorious, galvanizing tunes — blaring from the press box speakers. It all felt so professional. This was the first — and, as it would turn out, last — time the dude running the scoreboard would go the extra mile and play some songs between innings. And so, when I came to bat to lead off the second, a song greeted me as I stepped to the plate.

And that song just so happened to be “I Go To Extremes” by Billy Joel, a sweet cut off the Storm Front cassette (yes, cassette, of course).

Now, I’m not saying that if I had the opportunity to choose my tune at that point that I would have necessarily gone with “I Go To Extremes.” But I’d say it’s a safe bet I probably would have dropped some Billy Joel on the crowd. Maybe “Only The Good Die Young,” which would have taken on added prominence and profoundness if the opposing pitcher beaned me in the head and I fell to the turf, or “You May Be Right,” with that opening sound of glass shattering a fitting accompaniment to my ensuing foul ball (because Lord knows I didn’t hit many fair ones).

But “I Go To Extremes” would have been just as appropriate a selection as any, and so its placement at this point in the program caught me by pleasant surprise. I think I might have even been inspired enough to rip a base hit, though I’d have to check Baseball Reference to find out for sure.

The point is that music moves us, takes us to higher ground, and that’s why at-bat music has become such a blaring presence at your local big league ballpark.

And as has become tradition here at CastroTurf, I am here to share with you the list of songs the 2012 Cleveland Indians have selected for the speakers when they step into the batter’s box or on the mound.

Thanks, as always, to scoreboard operations manager Annie Merovich for the list. Note that active players not listed here simply instructed the scoreboard crew to play whatever they want.

Michael Brantley: “Hustlaz Ambition” by Young Jeezy, “Wherever I May Roam” by Metallica.

Asdrubal Cabrera: “Super Estrella” by Don Miguelo, “Bachata en Fukuoka” by Juan Luis Gerra, “Hasta Abajo” by Don Omar.

Lonnie Chisenhall: “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne.

Shin-Soo Choo: “International Love” by Pitbull.

Aaron Cunningham: “Bright Side of Life” by Rebelution.

Jason Donald: “Get On” by Third Day, “Ain’t Talking About Love” by Van Halen (NOTE: Hey, I’m all for switching things up, but Donald used to come up to “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” by The Stones. This is a downgrade).

Shelley Duncan: “Dragula” by Rob Zombie.

Travis Hafner: “Burn It To The Ground” by Nickleback (NOTE: Really, Pronk? Really?), “The Game” by Motorhead, and Brock Lesnar’s intro song from WWE. (Yes, folks, this is the first time Hafner is coming to the plate to anything other than Rammstein).

Nick Hagadone: “The Night” by Disturbed.

Jack Hannahan: “Just Can’t Get Enough” by the Black Eyed Peas, “The Show Goes On” by Lupe Fiasco, “Untouchables” by John Cena, and, of course, an Irish jig.

Roberto Heredia (formerly Fausto): “Stronger” by Kanye West.

Ubaldo Jimenez: “Rie y Llora” by Celia Cruz, “Run This Town” by Jay-Z with Rihanna and Kanye West.

Jason Kipnis: “Sweet Child of Mine (remix version)” by Guns ‘N Roses, “L’Amour” by Bingo Players.

Casey Kotchman: All that’s listed for Kotchman is “silence.” Now, perhaps that refers to some band or song named “Silence” of which I’m not aware. Or maybe Kotchman really just wants a little peace and quiet when he comes to the plate. But he used to come up to “Till I Collapse” by Eminem, and he’s currently hitting .140. So silence works just as well. UPDATE: Kotchman has updated his entrance music to “Boom” by Snoop Dog, featuring T-Pain.

Derek Lowe: “Turn the Page” by Metallica.

Lou Marson: “All Mixed Up” by 311, “She’s An Easy Lover” by Phil Collins (NOTE: Yes!), “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen.

Justin Masterson: “Bingo” by Still Trill Christians.

Chris Perez: “Firestarter” by The Prodigy.

Rafael Perez: “Scoreboard’s choice.” And as readers of this blog should know, that choice ought to be silence.

Vinnie Pestano: “Welcome Home” by Coheed and Cambria, “No More Sorrow” by Linkin Park.

Cord Phelps: “It’s A Long Way To The Top” by AC/DC.

Carlos Santana: All it says here is “Spanish songs.” He used to come up to “Chambonea” by Omega.

Tony Sipp: “Man On Fire” by Big K.R.I.T.

Grady Sizemore: “John” by Lil Wayne.

Joe Smith: “My Kinda Party” by Jason Aldean.

Josh Tomlin: “I Use What I Got” by Jason Aldean, “Good to Go” by Jason Aldean, “Runnin’ Down A Dream” by Tom Petty.

Dan Wheeler: He’ll come out to “any classic rock,” thank you.

Also worth noting:

When the Indians win, the scoreboard blares “Cleveland Rocks” by Presidents of the USA, “My Town” by Michael Stanley, “Again Tonight” by John Mellencamp, “I Love This Town” by Jon Bon Jovi or “When It’s Over” by Sugar Ray. After daytime wins, Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” is added, and after night wins, it’s “Rock & Roll All Night” by Kiss.

When the Indians lose, it’s “Lost” by Coldplay or “Just One Victory” by Todd Rundgren’s Utopia.

And sadly, nobody uses “I Go To Extremes.”

~AC

“To stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart”

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

On Twitter: @Castrovince

Bruce Springsteen is back on the road, promoting a beast of an album, and the Cleveland Indians are back on the field, ready, they hope, to tangle with those beasts in Detroit.

It is time, then, to once again marry two of my loves — The Boss and baseball — for the annual Springsteen setlist doubling as an Indians lineup. (And for a similar concept not settled solely on Springsteen, check out Paul Cousineau’s annual at-bat music entry over at The DiaTribe.)

By now, you know the drill. I’ll go through the projected Opening Day order and pick out a Bruce tune that seems an appropriate play for the player in question. Last year, I used “Back In Your Arms” as the theme for the season, because the Indians were desperate to win back their fan base after finishing last in the AL in attendance in 2010. Thanks to a 30-15 start, they did just that, but injuries helped bring the “Wrecking Ball” to the Tribe’s playoff hopes.

For this year’s theme, we turn to the last tune on the new album. Everybody and their mother is picking the Tigers to run away with the Central. The Indians, though, are banking on the belief that they if they get and stay healthy, they can duel with Detroit. They’ll attempt to stand up and remind us, “We Are Alive.”

Here’s the lineup:

1. Michael Brantley, CF – “Soul Driver”

Brantley is a big, big X-factor for this lineup, especially in light of the Grady Sizemore situation. We already know how the Matt LaPorta element of the CC Sabathia trade turned out, and the simple fact is that Brantley will be cast aside as similarly disappointing if he can’t stay healthy and can’t deliver the good eye and the stolen-base skills he’s showed at the Minor League level. If Brantley shines, this lineup could do the same. If he flops, well, you get the picture. So he’s a driving force here. And for whatever reason, “Soul Driver” seems like an apropos title to attach to a man known in the Progressive Field press box as “Dr. Smooth.”

2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS – “Eyes on the Prize”

UPDATE: I wrote this last week, before the Tribe completed the Cabrera extension. But here’s hoping he keeps his eye on the prize, anyway.

 

The Indians didn’t make much effort to lock Cabrera up for the long-term in his first round of arbitration, and he responded with a breakthrough season from the power perspective, hitting 25 home runs after hitting 21 combined in his first four seasons. You know the guy is gunning for that big contract, be it here or elsewhere, and if he stays hungry (uh, not literally), he can make it happen. Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.

3. Shin-Soo Choo, RF – “Gotta Get That Feeling”

There was a time not long ago when Choo’s five-tool potential seemed limitless. He hit 20 homers, stole 20 bases, batted .300 and got on base at a .401 clip in 2010, and that’s a pretty special combination of stats. He plummeted to the depths of DUI and disrepair in 2011, and so he enters 2012 trying to “get that feeling back again.”

(Note: Another acceptable entry, for the man who compared himself to a frog last season, would have been “Froggie Went A Courtin’” from the Sessions disc.)

(Note Part 2: This video’s from the last public performance with Clarence Clemons. Just felt that was worth mentioning.)

4. Carlos Santana, C – “Break Out”

This is a “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” outtake. I have absolutely no idea what the words are. They’re indecipherable. But the tone of the tune fits the implications of the title, and I think it works for the “Supernatural” Santana. His batting average aside, the kid showed some serious star potential by belting 27 home runs and 35 doubles while drawing 97 walks last season. He could break out in a big way in 2012 (even though I think the Indians should have given more serious consideration to making him a first baseman).

5. Travis Hafner, DH – “It’s A Shame”

What more can be said about this guy and this contract. It’s a shame for all involved. This organization invested in the man known as Pronk in a way it has never, before or since, invested in a player, and all the Indians have to show for it are an average of 103 games played over the last five seasons with an OPS of .804 in that span. Mercifully, the contract comes to its conclusion at year’s end, and it will be interesting to see if Hafner is still on board by year’s end or moved elsewhere. In the meantime, the Indians would be wise to utilize him almost solely against right-handed pitchers, because he can still be a productive piece in those situations.

6. Casey Kotchman, 1B – “The Little Things (My Baby Does)”

The Indians imported Kotchman on a one-year, $3 million deal to do the little things. His position might traditionally provide power, but they’ll be happy if he just gives them the stellar defense he’s come to be known for as well as the on-base ability he showed last season (.378 OBP). This was obviously not a sexy signing, but sometimes the little things go a long way.

7. Jason Kipnis, 2B – “You’ve Got It”

Kipnis wasted absolutely no time becoming a fan favorite last season (as the “We Are All Kipnises” signs demonstrate), and Manny Acta is already calling him a “cross between Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley.” That’s a pretty bold comparison on Acta’s part, but I actually get part of what he’s saying there. Certain players just have a swagger to them – a confidence on and off the field, with leadership potential, to boot. I’d be lying if I told you the Indians have produced a lot of players who have that swagger, but Kipnis has got it. Now he has to translate it to an impactful first full season in the Majors.

8. Shelley Duncan, LF – “I’ll Work For Your Love”

This guy arrived to Cleveland two years ago, a Yankee castoff nearing 30 and looking for his first legit Major League opportunity. He’s worked his you-know-what off to put himself in good standing with this organization, and he’s about as good a teammate and as quality a competitor as exists in the game. With injuries hampering the outfield, Duncan, at this moment, figures to get regular at-bats here at the outset of the season. Perhaps he’ll build on the base he created in the final two months of 2011, when he posted a .915 OPS, and perhaps not. Either way, he’s endeared himself to the Tribe and he figures to retain a role on this club in some fashion.

9. Jack Hannahan, 3B — “Jack Of All Trades”

His name’s Jack, so… there you go. While Hannahan opens the season as the regular third baseman, the Indians have to hope Lonnie Chisenhall rakes in Columbus and earns his way back to the big leagues. And at that point, Hannahan can shift back to the part-time role that seemed to suit him well in the second half last season. With his glove, Hannahan can probably plug in at second and first, as well. With Hannahan, the Indians can “use what they’ve got, and learn to make do.”

RHP Justin Masterson – “The Rising”

A highly spiritual song for a highly spiritual guy. The doubts (expressed here and elsewhere) that he’d ever amount to much of a Major League starter because of his struggle against left-handed hitters must have hung on him like a “60-pound stone.” But Masterson rose up in a big way last year, establishing himself as the ace of the rotation. And now he has the Opening Day starting nod to show for it.

Others:

RHP Ubaldo Jimenez – “The Price You Pay”

The price the Indians paid for this guy was unquestionably steep, and no reasonable person would chalk it up as a price worth paying at this point. Jimenez was dreadful when he was needed most — against Detroit — down the stretch last season. But the Indians still have two more years of contractual control to get him right. They were encouraged by his conditioning this winter, if not his results this spring. He still has tremendous upside, of course, and so the Tribe will continue to work with him and ensure they get adequate and, they hope, exceptional value out of the price they paid last summer.

RHP Roberto Hernandez – “Brilliant Disguise”

I made this connection before, when the news about Robby Hernandez first came out over the winter, but it bears repeating – Fausto told a lie, and it was a successful one, given that he likely wouldn’t have had the same opportunity to rise through the Indians’ system and make millions of dollars if he had remained true to his age. It was a brilliant disguise, but now the mask has been removed. Will be interesting to see what the artist formerly known as Carmona has left in the tank after another typically inconsistent season at the ripe old age of 31.

RHP Derek Lowe – “Rocky Ground”

An appropriate title for a groundball specialist coming off perhaps the rockiest year of his long Major League career. The Indians don’t need Lowe in his prime (though that would be nice). They are hopeful he can eat up innings in the back end of their rotation while lending an experienced eye to the rest of this decidedly young staff.

Closer Chris Perez, setup men Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith, Tony Sipp, et al. – “Atlantic City”

It only stands to reason that a song with such overt organized crime references and implications should be used for the group known as the “Bullpen Mafia.”

CF Grady Sizemore – “We Take Care Of Our Own”

Sure, the Indians could have let Grady walk and ply his trade elsewhere. But to see him overcome his injury ailments and reclaim his star status in another uniform would have been painful, and he was, sadly, the most attractive outfield option on the open market. So better, it seemed, to plunk down $5 million for Sizemore, even though all that $5 million has bought the Indians so far is the right to continue monitoring his rehabilitation. They’ll be taking care of this guy for another six months, at least.

Manny Acta – “Local Hero”

Getting to know Acta in his initial days as the Indians’ skipper, you could just tell his attitude, energy and enthusiasm would win people over in these parts. I think that’s happened, thanks in no small part to his entertaining tweets and, of course, the Tribe’s early season success last year. Cheesy as it sounds, Acta helped get the Indians believing in themselves last season, and they started out 30-15. With injuries already impacting the outlook, he’ll have to direct them down the same path right from the get-go in 2012. And if this club is as successful as Acta believes it can be, he’ll truly be a local hero.

~AC

“You’re on the wrong side of the street”

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

On Twitter: @Castrovince

ImageSo to recap: In exchange for their top two pitching prospects last summer, the Indians received a No. 2 starter who has delivery issues and can’t control his emotions.

Yikes.

Ubaldo Jimenez is the bad guy here. There’s no getting around that, and nobody’s buying his claim that he wasn’t “looking for trouble.” Rockies manager Jim Tracy called Jimenez’s obviously intentional plunking of Troy Tulowitzki on Sunday “gutless.” It was also senseless and selfish. Jimenez deserves a suspension for his actions, and a suspension would force the Indians to juggle their already thin rotation at the start of the season.

All because Jimenez is still feuding with a team whose decision to trade him looks wiser by the day.

The Rockies didn’t rework Jimenez’s contract after his outstanding 2010 season. Jimenez pouted. Then he struggled. Then he got dealt.

In the aftermath, there has been a bit of back-and-forth between Jimenez and the Rockies. Ubaldo called the Indians organization “heaven” and said he felt unwanted in Colorado when they offered more lucrative contracts to Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.

All this served to make Jimenez look petty at best and delusional at worst.

When you sign a contract, as Jimenez did before the 2009 season, you are bound to that contract. Just because you have an excellent season in the midst of said contract doesn’t mean the team should tear it up and agree to give you more money. By the same token, one wouldn’t expect a player who has a poor season in the midst of a long-term deal to agree to tear it up and take less money.

By commenting on it all, long after the fact, Jimenez opened old wounds and prompted a response from his old mates.

“If someone doesn’t want to be here,” Tulowitzki told the Denver Post, “we always say, ‘Please, go up to the manager and tell him you want to leave or that you don’t think this is the best place for you.’ That was kind of the case with him.”

Rather than sticking it to his old team with a prime performance on the Spring Training stage (his only opportunity, given that the two clubs don’t face each other in Interleague this year), Jimenez took the cheap and classless way out. Tracy was right to call him out on it, and the Commissioner’s Office (Bud Selig was reportedly in attendance) would be right to suspend him.

I’ll say this for Jimenez: His rift with the Rox has managed to take some of the attention away from his disconcerting spring performance. He posted a 7.43 ERA with 30 hits allowed and 15 walks in 23 innings, his velocity has been slow to come and his ability to efficiently put big-league batters away is still very much in question.

Jimenez can explain away his 2011 decline by citing his thumb and groin injuries and the fact that he didn’t build up arm strength by pitching winter ball. Fine, whatever. But he simply didn’t deliver for the Indians in the home stretch of the season, and he’ll be effectively out of excuses once the 2012 season proper starts.

Fact is, between his on-the-mound issues and now this incident Sunday, Jimenez has done little to endear himself to his new surroundings. Trades of this magnitude are best judged with the benefit of time, of course, but one important element of this acquisition (the late-season race with the Tigers last year) can be chalked up as a loss, and all the Indians have learned about Jimenez in the last eight months is that he’s an unpolished, unfinished project, not an ace. And now his maturity is being called into question, as well.

Jimenez — and only Jimenez — can alter that reality. He can make the Indians look wise for acquiring him and make the Rockies rue the day they dealt him. But the only way to do that is to refine that complicated delivery, harness those raw emotions and recapture that 2010 form.

Unfortunately, that guy who took the mound Sunday did not appear ready to do any of those things. Here’s hoping it’s a different guy on the mound in-season.

~AC

UPDATE: Jimenez has received a five-game suspension and been fined an undisclosed amount for intentionally hitting Tulowitzki with a pitch. Manny Acta told Jordan Bastian that Jimenez will appeal the suspension.

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