Indians, WWW

The Indians’ offseason, and saying goodbye to Carrie Fisher and George Michael: While We’re Waiting…

Happy Wednesday, WFNY. We’re officially at the mid-way of Holiday Week. Unfortunately, it appears that 2016 had to take a few more folks from us, but before we get into the somber, let’s talk summer.

The Indians in the catbird seat…

With the Cleveland Indians making their big free agent move last Thursday, when Edwin Encarnacion agreed to a three-year, $60 Million contract with the club, Team President Chris Antonetti and General Manager Mike Chernoff can now relax on making any big moves to supplement their outfield. With a lineup that simply replaced first baseman Mike Napoli with a better player in Encarnacion, and with Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar set to return to the Indians rotation, and with Andrew Miller set to pitch his first full season in Cleveland, and with the potential of Michael Brantley returning in some form, and with solid prospects in Bradley Zimmer, Greg Allen and Yandy Diaz ready to make an impact in 2017, the Indians are clearly in the catbird seat both in their division, and with regards to making any future moves.

If you look at their current roster make up, their 25-man will likely look something like this:

Starting Pitchers: Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin (5)

Relief Pitchers: Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Dan Otero, Zach McAllister, Perci Garner, Ryan Merritt (7)

Catcher: Yan Gomes, Roberto Perez (2)

Infield: Edwin Encarnacion, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Yandy Diaz (6)

Outfield: Michael Brantley, Tyler Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, Abraham Almonte (5)

[edit–added Ryan Merritt to the relievers section, and fixed the adding]

Now, we know the variances of this line-up. It’s likely that Terry Francona will want a seventh reliever, so worrying about who the sixth guy is, when they’ll likely be a seventh guy is silly. Francona will be moving arms up and down throughout the year like normal, and could really blow things up with that new 10-day DL.

It’s also possible that Michael Brantley isn’t healthy enough to take up a spot on the roster, if you’re to believe your heart, and Jonah Keri’s recent statements regarding the outfielder’s shoulder health. It’s equally possible that if Brantley is ready, a guy like Yandy Diaz would be expendable, but the Indians would definitively need another utility infielder, which could make a player like Tyler Naquin (still with three options left) or even Abraham Almonte (one option left) as guys that could find themselves in Columbus. Why Diaz is interesting is because of his infield/outfield flexibility.

My point is less on specific moves the Indians will likely make between today and the beginning of the season, but more on the fact that they have plenty of really good internal moves they can make.

We all know that their outfield needs help, but the Indians can actually buy the type of time that’s needed to see if a guy like Bradley Zimmer can overcome his strikeout issues and make the club earlier rather than later. They can see if Greg Allen’s meteoric rise through the system continues, before bringing him up to become a full-time option in center. Edwin Encarnacion buys them that time, if you’re to believe that the rest of the line-up stays true to 2016, and there’s no reason to think otherwise.

I’m not big on projections, but Steamer still has Jose Ramirez as a 3.4 WAR player, Francisco Lindor as a 4.8 WAR player, Edwin Encarnacion as a 2.2 WAR player, Carlos Santana as a 2.5 WAR players, and Jason Kipnis as a 2.8 WAR player. Each of these projections are lower than their previous year, but in general Steamer (and most projection services) predicts regression. Even if this is true, those numbers showcase the type of core that should prove to be the best in the A.L. Central once again, and likely in the entire American League.

The outfield will have a full season of Abraham Almonte, as well as Brandon Guyer, which should fill in any outfield regression we see from players already out there in Lonnie Chisenhall and Tyler Naquin (Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan provides some interesting commentary on why Naquin may prove to be a bit of a mirage).

In a very general sense, this buys time for the outfield to sort itself out by the July trading deadline, in which we know the Indians will be buyers, if they have to be. As I’ve mentioned, ad nauseam, the Indians have every player they planned to deal in the Jonathan Lucroy deal (please don’t deal Greg Allen…PLEASE!!), and have some interesting Major League options they could offer up as well. But the time table is theirs.

They don’t have to do a thing, and they can still not only get to the World Series, but have a chance to win it.

Which allows the Indians’ front office brain trust to let teams come to them. That’s a nice situation to be in for a small market team that generally has to sign four, five and six million dollar players to fill in major holes.

The Miller trade and the Encarnacion deal prove that the Indians aren’t playing small market baseball anymore, and it will be interesting to see if a deal falls into their laps prior to the beginning of the season.

Here’s the WFNY Podcast No. 570, in which Mike Hattery discuss Encarnacion:

May the force be with you, Carrie Fisher…

If you’re my age, than Carrie Fisher was your first love, it’s really that simple. If you didn’t fall for her in her flowing white dress and hair buns in Star Wars, or her form-fitting Hoth bodysuit, vest and braids in Empire Strikes Back, then you were absolutely floored when she donned her gold slave bikini in Return of the Jedi.

I’m not trying to objectify Carrie Fisher here, because while the clothes (and lack thereof) and her beauty were certainly alluring for the 6-to-13 year old version of myself from 1977’s release of Star Wars, through the 1983 release of Return of the Jedi, it was her sarcasm, and a dark wit that was so different from any film character I had ever seen before, that launched off the screen.

As I was sitting in a dark theater yesterday afternoon, set to watch Rogue One, my phone started exploding with texts right after the movie started at 12:30. Somehow, finding out that Carrie Fisher had passed away while I was sitting at a Star Wars movie that sets up the original trilogy, helped add levity to the news, that another one of my pop culture touchestones had passed away. As I showed the texts to my kids sitting next to me, and in particular, my daughter, her tears cemented the long-lasting legacy that Carrie Fisher, and really, Star Wars has on all of us Generation X kids that grew up loving the movie.

For my son and daughter, they were saddened at a loss of a character that I had brought into their lives by force feeding them the original trilogy, and who Fisher herself had brought back to life in last year’s Star Wars: A Force Awakens, and will once again in Star Wars: Episode 8 (her scenes were all completed already)

For myself and many others who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, gone is our first sex symbol, and the first strong female character in a movie that was more than just how she looked and what she wore, but how she acted.

I couldn’t really say it any better than Kevin Smith, who wrote the most poignant and dead-on tribute to Carrie Fisher yesterday on Instagram.

“…whose spirt-like The Force-will be with us always. Goodnight, Sweet Princess…”

George Michael’s Last Christmas

I was a rock and roll kid growing up. If you walked passed my house, you’d likely find me outside shooting hoops or playing wall ball while listening to AC/DC, Queen, Guns & Roses or the David Lee Roth incarnation of Van Halen.

But you couldn’t get out of the 80’s without listening to the pop side of things. It just wasn’t possible. The 80’s were filled with perhaps the greatest pop era of all-time, with Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna often topping the charts. Sometimes lost in that shuffle was George Michael, for several much more complicated reasons than just his music.

While at the time, I would have never admitted to it, Michael’s first album, Faith, was one of my favorites. The 80’s were an odd time, but for Michael to throw out the single, “I Want Your Sex” as the first release was a bold statement, even then. The song was chastised by all who were sanctimonious, and Michael had to preface the video promoting monogamous relationships.

“Faith” was another pop-driven rockabilly song that had everything you could possibly want in a pop song, including the visuals of George Michael doing his best Elvis Presley impression.

If you were dating, and breaking up (I plead the fifth), “One More Try” or “Father Figure” likely was on your play-list, but regardless, Michael dominated the charts in late 1987 and 1988, and was easily the biggest star of that year. Remember, this was the era of Michael Jackson and Madonna, and the fact that Michael carved out an entire year of dominance really says it all.

And holy hell did I love his hair. I may or may not have worked really hard to get my hair to look like his “Faith” look, along with the five o’clock shadow, ripped jeans and leather jacket.

Michael left the United States market after a run-in with his record company, Sony, and while mired in controversy over the years for a variety of things, his music career maintained its strength outside of the U.S. While Michael hasn’t been relevant as a performer for years here. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call him a superstar everywhere else.

What may have been lost in all of Michael’s pop persona and controversy was the fact that he really could sing, and for one blazing year in the 80’s, George Michael had left the bubble gum pop of Wham, and had become the biggest pop star in the world. Another touchstone gone far too soon.

Here’s George Michael at what he’s always considered his best performance of all time, performing Queen’s “Somebody to Love” at the Freddy Mercury Tribute in 1992.

I’m also going to include Michael’s practice session video, which is worth the watch, simply for the fact that David Bowie was caught watching the performance from the sidelines.