It's Oscar Night at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario
Things are just steamrolling forward here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, as the first full month of baseball has officially begun. While the North Coast ponders whether or not the Indians have done enough to take the next playoff step, the Tribe themselves are already busy playing games in Goodyear, Arizona. It’s that time of year where baseball fans are comforted with the fact that opening day is right around the corner. It’s also that time of year where the ridiculous can sometimes become fact in the minds of a few.
The Indians lost their first Spring Training game to their Goodyear-mates, the Cincinnati Reds, and statements of their demise began rolling through the social circuits immediately. I’ll be honest. I didn’t pay one lick of attention to the games numbers, and instead looked at Bauer’s arm slot, as well as just basking in the green of the outfield grass and the blue of the Arizona sky. You really can’t learn much from one game.
I certainly didn’t look too much at the fact that Lonnie Chisenhall started the game at third and in the clean-up role. It’s not hard to figure out that Terry Francona didn’t wake up in Mid-February thinking, “I really believe that not only is Lonnie going to figure things out, but he’s going to fill the four-hole in the lineup.” More realistically is the fact that he’s place-holding that spot to one Carlos Santana, who will be alternating games there with Chisenhall for the time being, before likely taking over the position full time by Mid-March.
Bauer walked a couple of hitters, and while that certainly isn’t a great sign for the oft-out-of-control-top-prospect, it also doesn’t mean his offseason tinkerings weren’t a complete an utter failure.
It’s the beginning of March, so it’s tough for me to get too concerned about anything that doesn’t involve the fact that the current temperature is a degree or two north of 10° here in Cleveland. Like last year at this time, things are not in clear focus yet, and we may not have a clue of what this team ultimately looks like until sometime in July.
Remember, last year at this time, Scott Kazmir wasn’t a lock, Danny Salazar wasn’t a thought, and Ryan Raburnand Yan Gomes weren’t big factors either. The bullpen was the Indians strength, and the rotation was the Indians weakness. Brett Myers was the #3 starter for the Tribe, and Mark Reynolds was supposed to fill the power void for the entire season.
That’s why when I heard the reports from Indians’ MLB.com reporter Jordan Bastian that Terry Francona was ‘taking it easy with Danny Salazar,’ I was hardly concerned about his future with this team. As a matter of fact, I felt better about his potential 2014 season. The Indians realized when they signed him back in 2009 that he was something special. After he had his Tommy John surgery in 2010, they have handled him with kids’ gloves. It’s been frustrating for me in that I’ve seen his special “stuff” since he returned “full-time” in 2012.
Looking back, what they’ve done is fairly brilliant, and gives me hope that the Tribe has finally figured out how to build and develop starting pitchers going forward. They have taken their time with their most valuable commodity, and are building his arm strength so that he doesn’t run into arm troubles going into the future. It worked last year when he nearly pitched 150 innings last year.
Here’s what I know about Terry Francona: he’s smart. Having a healthy Salazar in September is a whole lot more important than having Salazar pitch a full gambit of games in March. While I don’t think the Indians will have him on much of an innings-limit heading into April, I still think that it could be an unwritten possibility.
In other words, if he struggles even a bit after the fifth or sixth inning, Francona may decide to pull him out of the game, rather than ponder and debate it. It’s hard for me to believe they just completely open things up for Salazar after his two-year “slow-burn” heading to Cleveland last season.
Don’t worry too much about anything right now, as long as everyone stays healthy. That’s my only concern in March, and a guy like Francona is fairly easy to read in that regards during his spring pressers.
A case in point of this was the move the Indians made an hour or so ago with the trade for Justin Sellers, a middle infielder that can play second, third or short. Immediately, talk shifted to whether or not the move signified the Indians trying to move Asdrubal Cabrera.
Cooper was DFAed, and while he has an interesting bat, there are legit questions about whether or not he would ever stick around Cleveland past spring training. He’s a nice player to gamble on, but the Indians are clearly trying to solidify the middle infield in the near future.
It’s a minor move, and he’s likely a player that someone in the organization really likes. Could there be more to it? Sure. But, it may just be what it is, and nothing more.
Now onto some more serious banter.
I meant to get this Academy Awards piece up on Wednesday during my normal Corner slot on Wednesday, but thanks to an ever growing schedule, I just didn’t have time to finish. Thankfully, it actually fits quite a bit better here on Sunday, since the Oscars happen to be tonight. I suppose that I should preface all of this with some background before I go any further.
- I will not be talking about the actual Academy Awards other than few cursory mentions of some movies and some actors in some veiled reference to whatever I happen to be talking about. If you hopped on here hoping that I’d be critiquing the red carpet like Joan Rivers or analyzing Ellen’s second Oscar performance, it’s just not going to happen.
- I will not be dancing, singing, taping any videos or doing any monologues. Seriously, nobody wants to see that. If you do, check out or vid casts throughout the week. I could always work on something for those that just need a bit more than Indians’ baseball. During the 2012 season, it certainly would have had more entertainment value than the team had. I don’t think it will be the same this year.
- What I will be doing tonight is using tonight’s awards categories as a review/preview to the 2013/2014 baseball seasons. While it’s true that I’m not a big fan of projections, it’s always fun to throw out some ‘what ifs?’ before the stats and numbers of the actual season bog us down to some fixed reality. Right now, the Indians are 2-1 in preseason, and the world is at their feet. I plan on having some fun with that.
- There were no awards last year. I know what the remaining three readers are now saying to themselves, “Well Jim, then why did you mention last year’s winners?” Because I’ll be making those up too.
In the end, I’m just trying to have a bit of fun here. With spring baseball underway and a month to go before we know the full 25-man roster, the health situation, and have something truly to hope for and worry about, let’s stop worrying about press conferences.
We have a three-hour time-limit here, so I need to get started, and remember, if the music starts playing, get off the stage.
Best Original Screenplay: This award is given to the Cleveland Indians’ story that’s the most original, and Hollywood sounding.
The 2013 winner of best original screenplay went to Danny Salazar, who beat out the Indians’ storybook September run to win last season’s award. Salazar started the season off in Double A Akron as a talented and gifted arm, but one that many doubted would make it to the rotation last season, if ever. There was even some speculation from Tony Lastoria that while he could be a starting option for the Indians soon, that the Indians could move him to the bullpen if “he struggles with developing the consistency of his slider and durability issues continue to crop up.” By July, Salazar had made his first start with the big league Indians, and by August, he was a regular starting option for the team. In that first start, he touched 100 MPH and struck out seven in six innings. In his follow up on August 7th, he struck out ten Tigers through 7 2/3 innings before giving up a home run to Miguel Cabrera in a no decision against the Tigers. He had struck out Cabrera three times prior. This rags to riches story was the easy winner in a year in which the Indians had many big-time stories.
And the 2014 winner for the Cleveland Indians Best Original Screenplay is….Carlos Santana. Carlos Santana made an impromptu move to third base during the Winter Leagues, and it really paid off in a big way for the Indians in 2014. Not only did Santana find a comfort zone as a third baseman, but the respite it provided him by not having to catch allowed his best offensive season yet. Santana nearly won the 2014 MVP award after some big numbers, and while this wasn’t a surprise to most knowledgeable Cleveland Indians fans, MLB fans just didn’t see this one coming. Santana really looks the part of superstar heading into 2015.
Best Adapted Screenplay: This award is given to the Cleveland Indians’ story that needed the most work to get where it got.
The 2013 winner of best adapted screenplay was a runaway winner, and went to another Cleveland Indians’ starter,Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez entered the 2013 season as my most reviled player, and the player I never thought in a million years would do anything worthwhile on the baseball field, ever again. After an April through Mid-July in which he littered his gamelog with 100 pitch, five-to-six inning games, I still felt the same way. Throughout the entire spring training and early season, manager Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway were working with Ubaldo on the rhythm of his delivery. It finally clicked in August and September, in which he started 11 games, striking out 88 in 70 1/3 innings, while walking only 20 batters. He was his old, dominant self, and while he won’t be with the Indians in 2014, he certainly can thank his adaptations to his be four-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles.
And the 2014 winner for the Cleveland Indians Best Adapted Screenplay is…Trevor Bauer. Trevor Bauer hopefully learned a lot from watching Ubaldo Jimenez in 2013. Their stories share a lot of similarity in that both spend a lot of time overthinking their delivery to help “improve” their performance. While Bauer does things a lot more analytically then does Ubaldo, the results tend to be the same. The more moving parts there are, the less likely they are to be successful. With help from Mickey Callaway, the Indians were able to point him in the right direction, and Bauer came on strong to end the season for the Tribe. He wasn’t as good as Ubaldo in 2013, but boy, it sure was fun watching him grab that spot in the Indians’ rotation after finally figuring out that simple is easy.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: This award is given to the Cleveland Indians’ player that has either the best makeup, or best hairstyle.
Justin Masterson made a run at this in 2013, but was outdone by the winner of the Best Original Screenplay. Danny Salazar’s Mohawk was stylish. It was provocative. When he added the beard, he made all the Cleveland girls swoon.
And the 2014 winner for the Cleveland Indians Best Makeup and Hairstyling goes to…Zach McAllister.McAllister may have slipped between the cracks in 2013, but thanks to a stellar performance on the mound, people noticed his 70’s-style, shaft-like naturally curly locks. He held off Salazar’s 2014 ‘hawk, as well as “bald is beautiful” from both Masterson and Francona to take home this award.
Best Costume Design: This award is given to the Cleveland Indians’ player(s) that shows the most achievement in costume design.
In 2013, this was a team design, as the Tribe pulled out all the stops in their Harlem Shake video. We had an Ohio State football player. We had a hopping bunny. We had green man. We had Dumb and Dumber. We had an Egyptian pharaoh. We had a mummy. We had a penguin. We had Gumby. We had a parrot. We had another bunny. In other words, we had special…well…except for the song itself.
And the 2014 winner for the Cleveland Indians Best Costume Design goes to…Jose Ramirez. While Jose Ramirez is one of the most quiet players you will ever find with regards to the media, he showed off something special in both 2013 and again in 2014. I have two-words for his win: fur coat. That is all.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: This award goes to the Cleveland Indians’ player or coach that may not be the star, but was critical to the team’s success in the given year.
In 2013, this award could have gone to any number of players, and the running was tight between Yan Gomes, Ryan Raburn, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Corey Kluber, Scott Kazmir or Jason Giambi. In the end, the choice came down between Gomes and Raburn, and Gomes won out by the thinnest of margins. Gomes had a spectacular year both offensively and defensively, and on top of that, had a fantastic relationship with the starting rotation, which too often gets overlooked with their transformation down the stretch. Gomes ability also has allowed the movement of Carlos Santana to third and first, and if he continues to excel, could be up for Best Actor roll in coming years.
And the 2014 winner for the Cleveland Indians Best Actor in a Supporting Role goes to…Yan Gomes. Gomes was more of a regular in 2014, but still wasn’t asked to be the main star, with so many others stepping into that star role. Gomes put up really solid numbers again, locked down the catcher role for good, and proved that his “sophomore slump” was a minor dip. Big things are expected in 2015. Many put Jeff Francoeur into this slot prior to the season, but he proved to be adequate and nothing more, as the season progressed.
Best Actor in a Leading Role: This award goes to the Cleveland Indians’ player or coach that broke out in star fashion in the given year.
In 2013, this award went to Terry Francona, who unquestionably brought in an entire new culture to the city and more importantly, to the clubhouse. You could argue that Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana did what was needed on the field to win the award. You could equally argue that Jason Giambi and Nick Swisher did what was needed in the clubhouse to win the award. All were extensions of the manager. I got into a couple of arguments prior to the season about this very thing. Rarely do managers make a difference, but my case prior to the year was that in a vacuum, the strongest personality often shapes the team. Bad teams often have bad focal points. Francona is exactly the opposite. He was able to get free agents to sign. He was able to get the clubhouse to trust him. In the end, he was able to win, and win a lot.
And the 2014 winner for the Cleveland Indians Best Actor in a Leading Role is…Carlos Santana. Prior to 2013, many said that Santana’s only value was at the catcher position. Many slammed him (I would never) for not hitting for enough power. Many said he’d be devalued as a first baseman. Most said he shouldn’t hit clean-up. In other words, there were a whole lot of Indians’ fans that though Carlos Santana was overrated. My, how things have changed. Santana exploded in 2014 as the Indians heart-of-the-order bat, and was the starter at third for the All-Star game. He never had the dip many thought he would, and was top ten in homers, RBI, WAR and extra-base hits. He led the league in walks for the first time. Santana broke out, and while he didn’t win the MVP award, his top five finish opened up some eyes going forward. Jason Kipnis was right there as well, but Santana’s massive break-out season gives him this award for the first time in his career.
Best Motion Picture: This award goes to the Cleveland Indians’ moment that stands out the most in any given year.
In 2013, many pointed to the day the Indians clinched the playoffs. Believe it or not, the clincher was the third choice for most of the voters. In second came the biggest hit in Cleveland in many years, when Jason Giambi hit pinch-hit, two-run homer that beat the Chicago White Sox on September 24th. Neither even competes with the Motion Picture event of 2013. On October 2, 2013, playoff baseball returned to Cleveland, and it was beautiful. For one night, it felt like the 90’s. For one night, there was nothing more important in Cleveland than baseball. For one night, it was magic.
And the 2014 winner for the Cleveland Indians Best Motion Picture is…
This is where I have to draw the line. In my head, I have the picture I want to present. In that picture, the stadium is full, the crowd is electric, and playoff baseball is bounding through a chilled Cleveland fall night. In my head, the national anthem is being sung by someone famous, and a really important game is about to be played. It’s optimistic. It’s not likely. But it would surely win best picture.
I’m not optimistic that the Indians have a team that can take them to the World Series, but I didn’t think they had a 90-win team last season either. They battled through roster issues and health problems, and went through stretches of baseball in which they just weren’t all that good.
They ultimately ended 21-6 and made it into the wildcard round of the playoffs. They won 92 games, and sold out playoff game.
So maybe there’s more to this 2014 season than meets the eye. Why worry about that now though.
It’s only March 2…we have six more months to worry about everything else.
Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.