Editor’s Note: Apologies for leaving you all without a “While We’re Waiting” for the last few Wednesdays. Life has ramped up substantially over the last few months, and allocating time to writing has not been easy. A huge thank you to all of the writers and editors here to hold things down while I’ve been unable to.
A chilly Tuesday night in Cleveland ended in a soccer-like 2-1 final score at Progressive Field, but the internal drama was such that it made up for a night where the only thing colder than the outside temperatures were the bats of the Indians.
Jason Kipnis, for all of his successes, has become the mid-summer equivalent of Kevin Love. A whipping boy by fans, Kipnis is the epitome of “playing the game the right way” only to have it fly back in his face when things do not go as planned. Much like Love’s early defensive struggles when he was moved to the center spot in Ty Lue’s offense, Kipnis continues to get the on-line lashings for items ranging from his batting second (Terry Francona’s decision) to being a bit of a disaster in the outfield (again, Terry Francona’s decision). He’s struggled at times while playing through injuries, and has had a very Lovian way of taking the brunt of debates surrounding compensation (fans love discussing how much players should make) and other players1
All of these moments came to a bit of an mid-game crescendo on Tuesday night where Kipnis, who is sporting an .098 batting average to go with a .318 OPS, had a pair of plays in the field that left all 450 fans in attendance2 scratching their heads. In the second inning, it was a tag up from Detroit’s Niko Goodrum where the fleet-of-foot third baseman tagged up on a fly ball to center fielder. To Kipnis’ defense, Goodrum pulled a hell of an okie-doke with his left hand, only to come around with his right as he slid in head first. To Kipnis’ detriment, Goodrum overslid the base—twice—but by the time the Tribe’s second baseman could place down a tag, it was too late.
In the seventh inning, with the Indians clinging to a one-run lead, it was once again Kipnis on the wrong side of a highlight. Detroit’s Victor Reyes, who had singled off of Kipnis’ glove into right field, attempted to steal second base. Roberto Perez fired the throw down to second with a little bit of a tail on it. Kipnis couldn’t handle the short hop and the ball trickled into center field.3 Reyes would score five pitches later.
The tweets, as you could imagine, were not kind.
The good news, of course, was that Kipnis was completely unaware and used the subsequent two-plus innings to be an absolute gamer in the field. Later in the seventh, the Tigers having the potential go-ahead run in scoring position, Kipnis slid in to what felt like shallow left-center field to snare a ground ball off the bat of Miguel Cabrera, flicking it to Yonder Alonzo to end the frame with the score knotted.
One inning later, Kipnis was at it again, this time on his side of the bag, to backhand a ball from Nick Castellanos.
The plays were beautiful and timely and the kind of plays that don’t get made if a player is too wrapped up in what transpired the innings before. In a game like baseball where outs are finite and the bats are invisible, providing this level of focus and execution is imperative. I could wax on about mind-over-matter cliches and mental toughness and what not, but this was a guy who went from the goat4 of the game to two Holy Shit moments that were very well-timed.
For a little added bonus retribution, the Indians would go on to win the game with a home run off the bat of Perez, the man credited with the error back in the seventh. Fireworks were launched, high-fives were had. The Cleveland Indians moved above .500 and sit atop the AL Central. All is well—for now.
In the grand scheme of the season, this Tuesday night in April may not mean all that much, but watching internal vengeance unfold over the course of a few at-bats is a pretty cool scene. The stadium didn’t exactly have that mid-October vibe despite having its weather. Good news is, these are transcendent skills and the bats will eventually warm up.
And now, some #ActualSportswriting:
- “The One Baseball’s Been Waiting For” by Tim Keown (ESPN The Magazine)
- “Wrestlemania 34 Belonged to the Women” by Jacqueline Kantor (The Ringer)
- “Rory McIlroy, Jordan Speith, and their two different Augusta Nationals” by Kevin Van Valkenburg (ESPN)
And finally, some #ActualNonsportswriting:
- “The Real Story of the Hawaiian Missle Crisis” by Sean Flynn (GQ Magazine)
- “The Nintendo King and the Midlife Crisis” by Justin Heckert (WIRED)
- “How Nashville Became One Big Bachelorette Party” by Anne Helen Petersen (Buzzfeed News)
- For Love, he’s the first player mentioned in potential trades. For Kipnis, he’s taking up a second base spot that forces a better defender in Jose Ramirez to his second-best position. [↩]
- Rough count. [↩]
- Perez was given the throwing error, but even if you ignore the fact that this was the wrong call, the ball should have been caught. [↩]
- Not to be confused with The GOAT. [↩]