Indians

Francisco Lindor’s odyssey: Two Homers and an Error

There are things in life that make as little sense as Francisco Lindor making an error that gives up the lead. For example, why does a circular pizza get put into a square box, and get cut into triangles, and why do hot dogs come in packages of ten, while buns come in packages of eight?1

While we can get into the semantics of the Lindor error last night, and the true “comedy of errors” that actually took place between Lindor’s decision-making2, Jose Ramirez’s pull-up3, to Edwin Encarnacion’s lack of having any clue of what was happening over at second4, the focus of this piece is to look at the repercussions of that error. And heaven help Major League Baseball, because Francisco Lindor went into full-on beast mode… and we’re already talking about a 6.3 fWAR player from 2016.

Before we get to Lindor’s response to the error, it’s important to note who Francisco Lindor actually is. Lindor is one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. He loves playing baseball, loves being on the field, and equally loves being around the guys. While I don’t know Lindor personally, covering him for a season in the minors gives you some insight into his life as a baseball player. In many ways, it’s his life. You can see it when he’s on base, joking with opposing players. You can see it when he’s laughing with JRam or Jason Kipnis, up the middle. You can just see it. Baseball is clearly joy for Lindor, and he lives it on the field.

But what manifested last night was a new chapter to the public life of Lindor.

On one hand, we saw a maestro at work at second base. What seemed an easy play from the outset, likely turned complicated because of who Lindor is. With two outs in the fifth inning, Lindor fielded a ground ball up the middle. He could have easily thrown the ball to first base, ending the inning, but in that split second, Lindor thought second. He likely first thought “JRam will be there, but the shift had him over too far, and Ramirez, sensing he couldn’t beat Joey Gallo, pulled up. Then Lindor likely thought, “I can beat him,” but didn’t. At wits end, Lindor rifled the ball to the unsuspected Encarnacion, who was just sorta standing there. The ball beat the runner, but Encarnacion’s brain didn’t, and the ball bounced away from him. Encarnacion wasn’t on the bag either, so it wouldn’t have mattered.

As I mentioned, it was a comedy of errors that should have been a routine out, keeping the lead with the battling Danny Salazar. Instead, after a follow-up single, the Rangers turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead, and right or wrong, it was all on Lindor.

Then something happened I didn’t suspect. While I was focused on Salazar’s reaction to the errors, I didn’t think to wonder what Lindor might be thinking.

It turned out… that calm, easy, fun demeanor had shifted into some netherworld of darkness that has yet to surface. The fresh-faced and bushy-tailed wunderkind has a gear that he keeps in the hidden recesses of his soul.

A half-inning later, Lindor stepped to the plate with one-out, and nobody on. After staring at a first pitch strike from starter Cole Hamels, the Rangers starter left a fastball up and over the plate, and Lindor launched a 411-foot bomb over the left field wall, and there was no doubt about it. Lindor’s demeanor is what’s important here though. As his bat met the ball, he quickly watched it, knew it was gone, put his head down, and with an expression I’ve never seen, rounded the bases as if on a mission. He cost Salazar the game, and now he was going to single-handedly make up for it. There were no smiles, no bouncing around… just pure business.

It was scary.

It was fun.

But it was one home run. I had this brief thought that I put away quickly. “What if Lindor played pissed off all the time? Would he be a power hitter?” I quickly laughed it off. Certainly Lindor doesn’t have that sorta skill-set, to just set about hitting home runs like that, right?

In the top of the eighth, Lindor walked to lead off the inning, and with the meat of the order up, this looked promising. Then Michael Brantley struck out, and Encarnacion flied out to center on one pitch. Lindor, sensing things were going south, then stole second, before JRam struck out, ending his chance to get another run on the board.

I felt sad that Lindor likely wouldn’t get another at bat. When he stole that base, the message was simple: “if you aren’t going to get me home, I’m going to find a way to do it myself.”

But the Indians, as they’ve proven already, early in this 2017 season, weren’t close to being done. Down 6-4 in the ninth, they went to work. Yandy Diaz and Tyler Naquin singled to start the inning. After a Yan Gomes strikeout, Abraham Almonte walked, followed by a Carlos Santana walk, both scoring a run, and keeping the bases loaded.

And up walked a pissed of Francisco Lindor. I don’t know if Lindor was looking for a specific pitch. I don’t know if Lindor was just trying to “hit a fly ball,” as he said in his interview. What I do know is that after taking another strike, and watching a ball, Lindor stared down Rangers’ closer with a look straight from the dark side of the moon. Dyson then threw what appeared to be a fastball with a bit of sink on it that stayed up and in, and Lindor launched a long fly ball, this time to right field, that was clearly gone from the second he hit it. When it wrapped itself around the foul pole, giving the Indians a three-run lead, there was never a smile from Frankie. He shouted, and pumped his fists, but he was clearly exonerating the demons of the fifth inning debacle.

There are these rare players, that live with hype for much of their lives. They have fantastic numbers that are too hard to ignore. They have intrinsic gifts that are too hard to measure. These are players that are considered “can’t miss.” They are rare.

Francisco Lindor is one such player. For years, he’s been the face of the Indians, even before he was on the big league roster. From the second he was drafted, until the second he stepped in the dugout after his game-winning grand slam, he’s carried the burden of being the franchise player.

But it never looked like a burden.

He wore it with graciousness and pleasure, because he was born to lead a baseball team, with his fantastic blending of fantastic defense, high baseball IQ, and just plain joy to play the game he’s loved since being a boy playing on the fields in Puerto Rico.

But last night we saw it manifest into something else. Yesterday, he dropped the ball, then instead of picking it up and “aw shuck-ing” it, he picked the entire team onto his shoulders, as a leader does, and won the baseball game.

It wasn’t even business, it was personal. He cost Salazar the lead, and put an L in his column. That wasn’t OK. There was a lot of discussion last night regarding “flipping the switch,” and most of that conversation involved the Cavs dismantling of the Celtics.

That’s true.

But Lindor flipped his own switch last night, and heaven help Major League Baseball if it’s permanent.

The (Lindor) List

  1. Waking up–Frankie was slumbering at the plate early in the season. I guess that was the alarm.
  2. Pissed off?–Is the attitude why Lindor leapt yesterday, or is it just Lindor’s Next Gen?
  3. The error–Have you ever wondered how many things go through Frankie’s in the split second of every play? I think we saw that manifested last night. While it was a comedy of errors, I think he saw four different ways to end the play at once, and tried them all. Funny thing is, had any of the other players involved thought as fast as Lindor, the inning ends.
  4. Thankful–I’m sorta glad he had an error.
  5. What’s Next–I hope this becomes a Lindor thing…where we see this amalgam of happy Lindor, and rip your head off Lindor5.
  1. George Banks gave us all the answer to that last one. []
  2. he could have just thrown to first []
  3. he was shifted over for sure, but still pulled up shy of the bag instead of charging completely over []
  4. he must have thought what we all did…you know, Lindor []
  5. props to West Wing for What’s Next []