“I can hear the wild wind blowing”
Well, this is what happens when you hesitate or procrastinate or otherwise elongate what ought to be a prompt procedure. You end up writing an introductory paragraph on top of an introductory paragraph, and you get another life lesson about the value of striking while the proverbial iron is hot (and we’ll just have to save the lessons about using clichés and misusing the word “proverbial” later).
What I’m trying to say is I’ve had this file called “DQ DAVE” sitting on my desktop for the last couple weeks, and it was an intended blog post about the vast value of mere effort, of approaching life with even the slightest hint of panache and pizzazz. But — perhaps ironically — I’ve let that file sit there, half-written, because all the little moments, both magical and mundane, that make up the holiday season kept getting in the way of me finishing it off. And then on New Year’s Day, I woke up and the first tweet I read was from the ever-brilliant Joe Posnanski, linking to his latest blog post about this very topic. And his includes a review of a Springsteen concert, naturally, making the fact that I essentially got scooped on a philosophical thought all the more frustrating.
So anyway, let’s just acknowledge that Posnanski nailed it, and no matter what I write from this point on it likely won’t involve mention of Little Steven’s guitar solo on “Cover Me” so, really, there’s not much to see here. But I do still want to tell you a little bit about DQ Dave.
You see, one of my many guilty pleasures is Dairy Queen. I love Dairy Queen. Back in high school, my friends, the Paoloni brothers, worked at a Dairy Queen on Mayfield Road. It was one of those old-school, shack-sized Dairy Queens, since torn down and rebuilt to better incorporate both the “hot eats” and the “cool treats.” Needless to say, I liked the old one better. When I go to Dairy Queen, invariably for a Blizzard, I prefer the person taking my order be focused firmly on the “cool treats.” I don’t want their mind wandering or gravitating toward the “hot eats.” I feel this can somehow detract from the Blizzard experience. And the best thing about having friends working at Dairy Queen in high school was that my Blizzard experience was always top-notch. They would not let you walk out of there with a Blizzard that wasn’t thick enough to break the red plastic spoon. (They also let you get creative with your order. I would hope my friends would attest that, in 1999, I invented what is now known as the “Cookie Jar” Blizzard, and my inability to properly cash in on this invention is yet another in a long list of regrets caused by hesitation.)
Well, time marches on, and the Paoloni brothers did not, in fact, make a lifelong career out of their Dairy Queen employ. This has worked out wonderfully for them, but not as much for me, because, as is too often true in life, good help and good service are hard to find. Even at Dairy Queen.
But in the last couple years, a wonderful thing has happened. The Dairy Queen in our neighborhood, I’ve come to discover, has an employee named Dave. And Dave is like a Paoloni brother reincarnated. Or something. Point is, he’s wonderful at what he does. If we go to get Blizzards, we cross our fingers and hope DQ Dave is working that night, because nobody this side of the Mississippi can mix a Blizzard quite like DQ Dave can.
I know next to nothing about Dave, aside from the fact that his name is Dave. I don’t know what his hopes and dreams were or are. I don’t know if he runs the DQ or seeks to one day own a DQ. I don’t know if DQ is, for him, a step on the so-called career ladder or a final destination. I just know that, when it comes to mixing Blizzards, Dave has a job that many people would wearily plod through, a job that any pimply faced teen trying to make some gas money can probably do with very minimal effort or intensity. But Dave is different. Dave does his job with flair. He takes pride in his Blizzards. He ensures that you get your money’s worth when it comes to the portion size of your toppings.
And this is the brilliant part… after the mixing is complete, Dave returns to the counter, Blizzard cups in hand. He turns them upside down to reveal to you that these wondrous creations of his are so thick and so perfectly congealed that there is no danger of them spilling out, even at this 180-degree angle. It is this awesome little detail that makes you momentarily forget you just plopped down $4 to get a little bit fatter.
This, ultimately, is the essence of a life fully lived — taking pride, and not in some boisterous or obnoxious way, in what you do and how you do it. Unfortunately, not all of us are blessed with the skill or the luck to ascend to some prominent and well-compensated position in our work lives. Not all of us have the intellect to cure diseases or the financial flexibility to change lives. But we all have the ability to make this world a little more special, a little more satisfying, a little more interesting for ourselves and those around us. Let’s all remember that as we begin a new year.
Well, this is an Indians blog. I think. So I’m going to somehow relate the above to the Cleveland Indians.
I like this Indians offseason. Not because I think the Indians have set themselves up to be dramatically better in 2013. Frankly, it remains difficult to view them as a legit contender in the coming year. But this offseason, much like a visit to DQ Dave, has been just a little more interesting than recent offseasons past, and the Indians’ competitive chances both in the immediate and the long-term have improved. Tribe fans deserved at least that much.
When last I wrote in this space, all too many moons ago, I advocated a trade for Asdrubal Cabrera. Asdrubal Cabrera, you might have noticed, is still around. Perhaps that’s a matter still subject to change. I would still argue that you can get by on a steady dose of Mike Aviles, waiting for the kids to ripen in the upper levels of the farm system, and get back a nice haul for Cabrera. But in the meantime, the Indians did something I didn’t think was all that possible — they eked out a satisfying trade return for one year of Shin-Soo Choo’s services. And while Trevor Bauer, the key acquisition in that swap, comes with a reputation that was soiled especially quickly in Arizona, he represents the kind of risk this organization has no choice but to entertain. He has a high ceiling, so his arrival to an organization loaded with pitchers whose ceilings are an injury risk to your head is a welcomed one.
The Tribe essentially gave up one year of Choo for nine years of Bauer and Drew Stubbs, with a couple relievers tossed in. It is impossible not to like that trade from the Indians’ perspective. I particularly liked the way Chris Antonetti seized upon Kevin Towers’ particular (and some D-backs fans would call it peculiar, considering what he gave up) fascination with Didi Gregorius to orchestrate the swap after direct discussions with Arizona (discussions that involved Cabrera) bore no fruit. It’s difficult to pull off a trade in this game, and it is exponentially more difficult to pull off a three-team swap. A real understanding of the worth of your assets and the desires of your fellow GMs is a prerequisite. Antonetti met it.
We’ve discussed here, once or twice, that Antonetti’s tenure as GM has been about as smooth as Ubaldo Jimenez’s delivery, which is to say it hasn’t been smooth at all. But in a winter in which the Indians had plenty of reasons to strip things back down to the bone, they’ve surprised a lot of people in the industry with their aggressiveness. That all began, of course, with the move to bring in Terry Francona, and the aggressiveness in free agency has been made possible by a sudden influx of TV money, both national and local.
Look, the Nick Swisher signing, the Mark Reynolds signing and now the Brett Myers signing… are these moves enough to put the Indians in the same class as the Tigers? On paper, probably not, and we have plenty of time in the coming days and weeks for further analysis and soon-to-be-obliterated predictions. But suffice to say there is risk in giving a 32-year-old Swisher the largest free-agent contract in club history and adding Reynolds’ 32.6 percent strikeout rate (then parlaying that with Stubbs’ similarly frightening strikeout tendencies) and converting Myers back to starting work (in the AL, no less).
But if you’re an Indians fan, you certainly have to be encouraged to see them doling out some dollars to take those risks, rather than orchestrating another major rebuild just three years after the last rebuild didn’t really build much. Fact is, this is not an ownership/front office group that has ever punted on, say, a five-year window in order to save money and reap draft picks, as some other small markets have been prone to do. And while STO was not exactly a YES-like revenue-generator, we can certainly see, in retrospect, how it worked out for the Dolans, squeezing a major monetary commitment out of FOX Sports about six or seven years after negotiations over a renewal with FOX didn’t go where the Indians wanted them to go.
No, the Indians’ payroll isn’t really going to jump into a new stratosphere, and the difficulties that come with being a small-market club situated in the general midst of three other MLB clubs and in a town that has seen major population declines aren’t going away. But Indians fans have to at least appreciate the way the last few months have played out, for they’ve seen the Tribe do things in a new way with some new voices on the front lines and new money in-hand. “New” does not always equate to “improved” (see my above feelings on the DQ on Mayfield Road), but we can all agree the Indians had every reason to shake up their way of doing business, to do things with a little more flair, to make this winter a little more interesting for a frustrated (and, if attendance is any indication, shrinking) fan base. They’ve done that, without hesitation or procrastination.