Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Sounds of Summer

Opening Day is nearly upon us and since I realize that you’ve never come to this space to find a simple breakdown of the roster (and I’m certainly not going to start with this particular with this roster, which could change so quickly) before Opening Day, you may come here for something that’s become a bit of a tradition in these parts to lighten the mood before Game #1 – the annual suggestion of music to accompany each Indians’ player to the plate or to the mound. After an off-season of conjecture, a Spring Training of dissection, and before a season of heavy lifting, this little exercise in frivolity always serves to break up the tension and perhaps provide a little bit of “firing up” to those in need.

If you’d like, you can check out the history of this series in a series of links from suggestions from a few years ago (and even I’m surprised to see that I’ve been doing this since 2006) as well as checking out last year’s suggestions. Also, Castrovince provided last year’s actual songs, in case you’re interested, and his Bruce-centric suggestions for 2012 should be hitting in 3…2…1. . In the interest of brevity (for once in this space), I kept it to the lineup, the rotation, and a couple of members of the bullpen. Unfortunately, the untimely death of 107.3 has hindered my ability to really look “with it” in terms of current music, since it was the only way that a married father of three could even pretend to be up on current music and songs. Since the demise of 107.3, my listening in the car has veered towards podcasts and jazz piano, so since I’m not sure how many different Theolonius Monk songs are going to be appropriate to fire up the masses, I relied on some oldies (but goodies) and some of my favorite current songs to accompany YOUR Cleveland Indians to the plate or the mound.

With all of that said, let’s strike up the band and light this candle…
Carlos Santana – “Everlasting Light”, The Black Keys
Starting off, I’ll eschew (again) the obviousness of a Carlos Santana (guitarist) song for Carlos Santana (catcher) while acknowledging that a player that is known (in these parts) as The Axe Man needs a guitar riff to accompany him to the plate. Who better to provide that than Northeast Ohio’s own The Black Keys? Certainly, this isn’t the last time they’ll appear on this list (and not just because I own this shirt that the Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney has been known to wear), but listen to that opening drum beat and that riff and imagine Santana’s little strut up to the plate (and he does strut) to set the tone for the player that should be the Indians’ best offensive player this year. Throw the idea of the song title, “Everlasting Light” in the context of Santana’s bat perhaps being a beacon in an ocean of shadows in the lineup and The Axe Man has his walking music.

Casey Kotchman – “Betterman”, Pearl Jam
While Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” merited some consideration, given the credit that Kotchman’s improved vision has had in explaining his 2011 numbers at the plate, the choice for Kotchman is the song that accompanies the player like Kotchman that seems to occupy a spot on the Tribe roster every year. For whatever reason, this song usually ends up with 1B (Broussard was given this song in 2006), but once again, short of any real compelling option at 1B, the Indians will go with Kotchman (and his glove) because…well, because they couldn’t (once again) find a “Betterman” to hold down 1B.

Jason Kipnis – “Give it All”, Rise Against
Yes, Adele is the easy pick here given Kipnis’ vocal…um, stylings this Spring, but this outfit from Kipnis’ home town of Chicago provide the soundtrack that mirrors Kipnis’ hustle and effort on the field. Perhaps 2012 is the year that Indians’ fans become accustomed to (and enamored by) Kipnis’ “ability” to go from 1st to 3rd on a single, but a frenetic tune would certainly seem appropriate. It’s been written quite a bit this off-season (here and elsewhere) that the maturation and development of Kipnis this year is going to go a long way towards the Indians’ offensive effectiveness and that it’s not hard to envision his style of play becoming the embodiment of what this team can be and much of that is focused on exactly what Rise Against extols – to “Give it All”.

Asdrubal Cabrera – “Just Got Paid”, Johnny Kemp
Since there is an (unwritten) rule that a song from the old “NBA Superstars” video has to be used in this compilation…because “NBA Superstars” was a “fusion of music and sports like never before”, Droobs gets the song that accompanied the video montage of Kenny “Sky” Walker winning the 1989 Dunk Contest (with a cameo of Ron Harper sporting the ol’ Blue and Orange as a participant) that is apropos in light of the news of Cabrera’s extension. Since the details haven’t been completely revealed yet, I’m waiting to see if there are any options on top of the 2-year contract that runs through 2014. Earlier in the off-season, a possible extension was the subject of a lengthy post and linked to the original idea from September that the Indians could extend Asdrubal and pay Cabrera a guaranteed salary of $24M through 2014, with some club options and guaranteed dollars to refuse those club options. If you add Asdrubal’s 2012 salary (via arbitration) to dollars in the 2-year extension that’s being bandied about, it looks like Cabrera will earn about $21M for the next 3 years ($4.55 in 2012 and the $16.5M extension)…now, how he plays having “just got paid” is another topic altogether.

Jack Hannahan – “Roll Away Your Stone”, Mumford & Sons
If he can come up to Gaelic Storm’s “Kiss Me I’m Irish” last year, we’ll stay on that island with Mumford and Sons’ romp. Though I could pull the old snarky Wilson Phillips “Hold On” (the old “Ryan Garko Memorial Award”) as Hannahan attempts to stay the everyday 3B as long as possible, I’m going positive here and if you’re wondering why this song applies, check these lyrics out after the ol’ STOMP on the kickdrum mid-song, leading to Marcus Mumford shouting out thusly:
Stars hide your fires,
These are my desires
And I will give them up to you this time around
And so, I’ll be found
with my stakes stuck in this ground
Marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul

To me, the “stakes stuck in this ground / Marking the territory” line is great in light of Hannahan’s history in MLB and this representing his chance to lay his claim on the hot corner in Cleveland. While I may not be fully on board with Supermanahan as the everyday 3B, the chorus is pretty apropos for a surprise everyday player at the age of 32, looking to mark his “territory”.

Shelley Duncan – “I’m Still Standing”, Elton John
Though I thought I’d be including “The Comeback Kid” from Brett Deneen for one Grady Sizemore in this slot, Duncan finds himself in the Opening Day starting lineup…and not for a lack of trying to find other options by the Indians. Despite giving MANY others ample opportunity to take Duncan’s spot and even entertaining the idea that Bobby Abreu represented an upgrade (and he may have, if the Angels had picked up the tab), Duncan finds himself as the only player still standing in a LF “scrum” that could only be described as “messy”. While I’m sure that a ditty by Elton John (and the outfits he wears in the video make this worthwhile) is not what Duncan would consider to be apropos for his 1st Opening Day start in MLB (at the age of 32), perhaps his sense of humor allows him to recognize the situation for what it is and no song more accurately depicts Duncan’s current standing in the lineup…tenuous as it still may be.

Mike Brantley – “How Soon is Now”, The Smiths
While it is true that may not be good karma to give the song that I suggested for one Matt MaTola last year for the other principal player received in return for our former aCCe, Brantley is now 25 years old and if he’s ever going to project as anything much more than a “poor man’s Coco Crisp” (in that most people see him as a high-OBP, high SB guy…when he just hasn’t been to this point), this is the season that he’s going to have to assert himself. Oh, and he’s going to have to prove that he can stay healthy for a whole season as the “arrival” of the Mike Brantley that many anticipated having already happened would be a welcome surprise in 2012, or else Brantley is going to find himself in a diminished role going forward.

Shin-Soo Choo – “Don’t Forget Me”, Red Hot Chili Peppers
As steady as The BLC was from mid-2008 to the end of 2011, most are discounting him returning to form for the 2012 season – a development that would go a long way to meriting some confidence in the Tribe’s offense this season. While RHCP slowly build up to the middle of this song (and this video is from their show at The Q, the guitar solo in the middle is worthy of some walking music for a player that’s looking for the folks in Cleveland – and around MLB – to remember who he was before his nightmarish 2011 season.

Travis Hafner – “Best of You”, Foo Fighters
In what will almost unquestionably be Travis Hafner’s final season in an Indians’ uniform, this introspective anthem reminds us that we’ve seen Hafner at his best, his worst, and sometimes not at all. As Hafner’s extension ends after this season, it’s hard to remember that Hafner’s extension was for FOUR years and in light of these 10-year deals being meted out to players in their late-20’s/early-30’s (at MUCH higher annual salaries), it is amazing how Hafner’s deal was just for four years. Regardless and through it all, Hafner has soldiered through major injury in attempts to contribute to the best of his ability, with the results evoking both feelings of anger (that this stuff only happens in Cleveland) and sadness. As he takes his curtain call all season, let’s hope that we get the “best” of him more often than not.

Justin Masterson – “Steady, As She Goes”, The Raconteurs
As strange as it is to realize, given the uncertainty surrounding Masterson’s best “role” going into 2011, he emerged from the 2012 as the rock at the top of the rotation, relying on a “steady” diet of two fastballs. While hitters know that one of those two pitches is coming (and please let’s not have the “Masterson threw only TWO non-fastballs in a game” stories this year since he throws two different fastballs), Masterson remained effective at the top of the rotation. For the Indians to succeed in 2012, Justin Credible will have to stay just as “steady” at the top of the rotation, particularly given the “unsettled” state of the spots that follow him.

Ubaldo Jimenez – “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, U2
If Ubaldo seemed like a man adrift last season, the events of this past weekend put into clearer focus a player that not only is searching for the pitcher that he once was, but is allowing petty elements of his past to affect him in the present tense. While this whole Ubaldo v. Rox “issue” seems childish at best (“he hit me”…“he called me a name”) in which nobody really looks good, Ubaldo really looks the worst, a point that AC nailed pretty succinctly. Regardless, approaching the 2012 season, Ubaldo finds himself not only looking for who he once was – the pitcher that strode to the mound in that magical 2010 season – but also wondering who he now is. With so much riding on Ubaldo’s right arm for the Tribe’s 2012 campaign, let’s all hope that the finds what he’s looking for in short order.

Derek Lowe – “Turn the Page”, Bob Seger
The veteran hurler gets a song from his fellow native son of Dearborn, Michigan as Seger sings, “Here I am / On the road again / There I am / Up on the stage / There I go / Playing the star again / There I go / Turn the page”. At this point in his career, Lowe has seen most, if not all, of what an MLB player is going to see and experience and if this feels like Lowe’s last chance to be out “one the road again” and “up on the stage”, realize that it probably is. Whether Lowe has the staying power of Seger and his Silver Bullet Band (particularly in a town like Cleveland that can’t “Turn the Page” in terms of music, where 98.5 WNCX still spins Seger on a more-than-regular basis) remains to be seen, but at least the Michael Stanley Band fans will enjoy the dulcet tones of Seger as Lowe warms up while telling everyone around them that MSB was/is just as good as Bob Seger, who (they’ll tell you) was/is Dearborn’s Michael Stanley.

Josh Tomlin – “The Underdog”, Spoon
For years, Josh Tomlin toiled in obscurity in the Minor Leagues, overshadowed by players that threw harder or looked more imposing and had a more obvious path to MLB. For ½ of a season in 2011, Josh Tomlin emerged from those shadows to be a cog in the rotation for a 1st place team and while his 2nd half caused some of the questions that have always existed about him to bubble to the surface, it would seem that Tomlin would almost prefer it that way – with him filling the role of the underdog, overlooked and underappreciated.

Fauxberto Hernandez – “Man in the Mirror”, Michael Jackson
Since Castrovince placed early dibs on Bruce’s “Brilliant Disguise”, I’ll go with another introspective song about identities as #55 probably had more than a few moments in the past few years looking at the “Man in the Mirror” and now that he’s been caught, it certainly is time for him to “make a change”. Whether that “change” involves becoming a better pitcher or harkening back to those halcyon 2007 days remains to be seen…as does when that answer is even going to come on the North Coast.

Vinnie Pestano – “Runnin’ With the Devil”, Van Halen
Everything about this song screams bullpen intro song…
From the build-up of what sounds like car horns to the boom-boom-boom-boom opening bass line that almost sounds like a knocking on a (bullpen) door to drums and guitar kicking in, it’s hard not to imagine the bullpen door bursting open as David Lee Roth issues his primal scream while Vinnie Pestano begins his sprint to the mound. If they could somehow edit out the goofy lyrics and just go with the music and the chorus, this is a song that could become Pestano’s own as he (perhaps) grows into a future closer.

Chris Perez – “Howlin’ For You”, The Black Keys
Since we started with the Black Keys, we’re ending there as well as the pride of Firestone High School belt out this anthem that can accompany the Tribe closer from the bullpen. Without getting too deep into the idea that the hirsute Perez looks a bit like a werewolf, I’m going with this one because if the bass line from “Seven Nation Army” can take over college football stadiums from time to time, imagine a packed Jacobs Field singing along with Dan Auerbach in the “da-da-da-DA-da / da-da-da-DA-da” as Perez warms up. It may not be “Wild Thing” from the movies, but that sing-along chorus and the fact that the second verse is “Throw the ball / To the stick / Swing and miss and a / Catcher’s mitt / Strike two” gets this into the rotation.

So there you have it, bookended by The Black Keys, some music to provide the score for what is (hopefully) a summer to remember on the North Coast. And though I know it’s another tradition to lay out the season predictions in a massive missive and in excruciating detail (here’s last year’s effort), realize that there are just too many variables to even take an educated guess at what is about to happen, with the season at our doorstep.

If pressed to venture a guess, I think that the offense is going to struggle, the bullpen is going to be leaned on too heavily early on because of uncertainty in the rotation (and particularly in the back-end) which could cause the bullpen to falter down the stretch, and that by the time the reinforcements (Chiz, Hagadone, CC Lee, Barnes, maybe Austin Adams, etc.), the Indians are going to be hoping that they’re not about to be lapped by the Tigers in the AL Central.

A season around .500 (and maybe a little above it) looks about right with the Indians making a 2nd half push, prodded on by their young talent starting to settle in, but with the Tribe ending the season attempting to hold off another team whose young talent looks to be settling in (the Royals) for 2nd place in the AL Central. In the end, I think that they’ll hold off the Royals and retain 2nd place in the division, finishing out of the money for the Wild Card berths (both of them), but playing meaningful baseball games (because of those 2 Wild Card berths) through Labor Day.

The curtain is rising on the 2012 season…it’s time to sit back and enjoy the show.


Al Ciammaichella said...

This article is one of my favorite rites of spring. Thanks Paulie.

Keenej said...

No full season prediction as usual this year?

Cy Slapnicka said...

well done, but i am truly disappointed by the lack of arcade fire. how bout "month of may" for grady when he comes the month of july.

Paul Cousineau said...

After watching my last couple full-season predictions fall by the wayside by mid-April (and knowing how much time went into them), I'm passing on it this year.

As I said, my "with it" factor in terms of current music has never been lower. If you're looking for someone to sing some songs from "Word World" or "The Muppets", I am your man.

Adam said...

Vegas has the Indians' over/under win total at 79 right now. They expect a sub-500 year. I think we get to .500, but fall well short of the Tigers. It will be interesting until July and then their offense will just overwhelm us. I think we'll beat up on Minny, Chicago, and K.C. which will help our win total and push us into second place. Here's my prediction for the Central:

1st -- Tigers -- 91-71
2nd -- Indians --83-79
3rd -- Royals -- 78-84
4th -- Chi Sox -- 76-86
5th -- Twins -- 72-90

Michael said...

Still no "Maneater" by Hall and Oates? What gives?