“To stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart”
On Twitter: @Castrovince
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.
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.