Indians, Podcast, WWW

The Brilliance of Brantley, the middle infield conundrum, and Van Halen III: While We’re Waiting

michael brantley indians spring training

Yeah, they gave me the keys again. After my last romp with ‘While We’re Waiting,’ way back in early January of this year, Craig, Andrew and Scott clearly had enough of me. After a stern lecture at the downtown WFNY offices, they took my keys, melted it into marble, and rolled it into Lake Erie. But thankfully, there are days of desperation, and in said desperation, they needed a warm body for today’s WWW, and here I am! Basically, everyone is sleeping, and I’m the only one awake. But luckily, we’re in the middle of the WFNY Cleveland Indians’ preview, and luckily, I just happen to write about your Cleveland Indians. So the hell with the Browns, and let’s save the LeBron James warning to Lavar Ball to our outstanding Cavs crew. Instead, let’s dive into something really special that’s happening in Arizona.

You see, amidst talk of injuries and inflammatories, there’s this certain quiet dude who is knocking on the door of the 2017 season, and he’s doing it without shoulder and bicep pain.

You know…baby steps…and I promised to keep this around 500 words. I know, sometimes you have to tell little white lies to get your foot back in the door. I’ll keep it around 1,000, promise.1

Like I said: Baby steps…

Who’s that guy wearing No. 23?

There is a Twitterer shouting at his screen right now, wondering why I keep talking miserably about Michael Martinez, and bashing his or her head against the wall at my incessant discussion of the potential brilliance of Yandy Diaz. There’s a lifelong Indians’ fan blankly staring at the wall, wondering why the world is crashing around them, because Jason Kipnis has a shoulder injury, and Cody Anderson’s elbow is mush, and Carlos Carrasco’s has been enflamed. It’s what happens when there isn’t much to talk about. It’s what happens when your American League Champion Cleveland Indians are coming off a near World Series Championship.

But in the middle of the random “chaos” that tends to develop in the cavern known as Spring Training, a steady and quiet constant has returned. The Indians calm-and-cool collector of hits has returned to the batter’s box. The stoic demeanor has returned to his perch in left field. And while the past 18 months have been anything but easy, you could really call this return, well, smooth.

Michael Brantley is back.

No, nothing is for sure in baseball. Brantley has played in one baseball game. Since the beginning of last April, he’s played in exactly 23 Major League, Minor League and Spring Training games.2 No, nothing is a given.

But guys and gals, Michael Brantley is back.

It’s easy to forget what he’s meant to this team throughout his career. In between great Brantley and his one 2017 Spring Training game, the Indians were good…really good. Without Brantley, the Cleveland Indians won the division, then the ALDS, and then the ALCS. Without Michael Brantley, the Indians almost won the World Series. They did it without Michael Brantley, and with a guy named Jose Ramirez whose numbers looked an awful lot like…well…Michael Brantley.

But seeing Michael Brantley swinging a bat, and looking like a big league baseball player again, brought back the warm and fuzzies, didn’t he? In those short few seconds in which Dr. Smooth stood outside the batters box, swinging his bat with the firm, calm glare that Indians’ fans have been watching over the past eight seasons. In those scant seconds, memories of the offensive version of Corey Kluber’s ice man was back, and ready to deliver his team leading offense once again.

You see, baseball is a funny game. And while we all debate metrics vs. old school thinking, or 30 home runs as myth or reality, there are these really special feels that we all get when something special happens. No, we don’t know if Michael Brantley will be ready by opening day. No, we have no clue when Michael Brantley will play in back-to-back games and stay healthy. But today? None of that matters. What really matters is that for one day, Michael Brantley looked ready. He hit two singles, and drove in a run, and while he had some adventure out there in left field, he was back.

We have to temper this return, because we all remember what happened last year around this time. Brantley returned, and looked fantastic, and even hit a home run, if I remember correctly. So one game does not make a season. But unlike last year, there seems to be optimism. Last year, manager Terry Francona took the heat for perhaps giving Brantley too much, too soon. This year, there was none of that to be found.

Instead, Brantley has moved frustratingly slow. What many took this as a negative sign, including myself, is starting to look like a team that has learned his lesson. To move his rehabilitation to the next step, Brantley had to meet certain standards, and it just didn’t happen as fast as the timetable that was originally written.

In the end, none of that matters. As I stand here today, I can’t help but ponder, for the first time based in reality, a line-up that could include Michael Brantley in the line-up, and he just might be back. You remember Brantley, right? He’s that guy that has a lifetime .330 average with runners in scoring position, and finished third in MVP voting in 2014.


EHC the Podcast, felt sorta complete this week…

The latest EHC Podcast here at WFNY was a lot of fun. Of course, Mike Hattery joined me as always, but our other cohort, Jeff Nomina joined us as well, and we ranted and raved for a solid 35 minutes. What did we talk about?

We wondered how the hell Brantley is healthier than Jason Kipnis or Cody Anderson, and equally wondered why the Indians have such a hard time getting injuries right. We also deep dived on what’s going to happen with Kipnis out, including some odd moves, the move they should make, why Michael Martinez is the worst player ever, and what’s likely going to end up happening.

Yeah, we even say some things about Lonnie Chisenhall. Probably not good things. But things.

Van Halen III, 19 years ago this week…

On March 17, 1998, Van Halen released their first, and it turns out, their only album with former Extreme front man, Gary Cherone. If you were a Van Halen fan, it was a weird time. I mean, Gary Cherone sang “More than Words,” and while Extreme was certainly more than a love ballad song, I mean, this was Van FREAKIN’ Halen. Sure, Cherone led a throng of 100,000 at Wembley in 1992 to a fantastic Queen medley at the Freddie Mercury concert…BUT THIS WAS VAN FREAKIN’ HALEN!

Of course, the story of VH and front men goes way-way back, and to get into it all, would be a four-day long, 15,000 word opus. The short story goes something like this: In 1985, David Lee Roth quit (was fired) Van Halen at the height of their career. In 1985, Van Halen hired Sammy Hagar. In 1996 Van Halen fired Sammy Hagar. In 1996, Van Halen puts out their Best of, Vol. 1 with two new David Lee Roth songs, and the band implodes on the MTV Music awards. In 1996, Gary Cherone is hired as the new lead singer.

Oh, there’s more, but I’m going to stop there, because that leads us to that strange Cherone album, that turned 19-years old this very week. The long and the short of it is that Cherone was the first lead singer that actually wrote songs before Eddie riffed, and a sober Ed was more than excited. Other than the lyrics, this turned into an Eddie passion project, and is as close to a solo album as you’ll ever get from Eddie. He played some of the bass tracks, and even a “scratch drum track,” according to Cherone3, to go along with keyboard, piano and of course, lead guitar. He even took the mic for the ill-fated ‘How Many Say I,” which was…well…interesting.4

The album flopped5, and to this day, is the least selling of the albums. As a Roth-era fan, I’ll always be thankful to Cherone for simply singing Roth-era tunes that hadn’t been heard live since 1985. I attended their 1998 show at The Gund,6 and they opened the show with ‘Unchained,’ arguably the best VH tune in their catalog, and hadn’t been played live since Roth’s last VH tour.

I actually didn’t hate the album, but I didn’t love it either. It just sorta made me scratch my head. Here’s a tune and video I actually liked from the album, “Without You,” but why did I like it? I honestly don’t know, so go ahead and scratch your head with me. Yeah, Yeah…I know, they’re taking my new key away, aren’t they.

  1. Ed. Note: It went 1,500. []
  2. Okay, a few more than that, because he played in some minor league spring training games too. []
  3. regular bassist at the time, Michael Anthony, only played on a couple of songs in studio []
  4. really, really bad, even if Eddie does sorta sound like Roger Waters []
  5. by VH standards…it’s certified gold, but is the only VH studio album that isn’t platinum []
  6. it was the first VH show I ever saw that was clearly not close to a sell out []