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1.04.2013

Offseason Rundown: Are You Not Excited Now?

Nino Colla | Friday, January 04, 2013 | | | | | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips
I was tempted to go through the entire Nick Swisher press conference and count the number of times that the man said the word "excited". It was like Tim Tebow sitting up there after being traded to the New York Jets. He's just so darn excited to be here!

No really, he's REALLY excited.

I think that is the word that athletes go towards when they're in a situation they probably didn't see themselves in. Tebow did not ask to be traded to New York. He wanted to be in Denver. He was all of a sudden thrown into a situation where he was going to be playing for a new team and they already had a quarterback, at least one that was starting.

So what else could he say? He was excited! (And MLB.com's Zack Meisel did the legwork, 16 times!)

Now please, do not think I'm going to start off by comparing Nick Swisher to Tim Tebow or say that Swisher is in a situation he doesn't want to be in.
Photo - Chuck Crow via Cleveland.com

I'm simply saying that Swisher is in a situation he probably did not expect to be in a month ago. And his press conference was rather similar to the Tebow one with the Jets in that he said the word excited so many darn times.

It did not come off as fake. But to me, I kind of now see Nick Swisher in a unique light.

I see him as somewhat of a hired gun. A hired gun with a big smile.

"It's going to be great, man. It's going to be super exciting," said Swisher, who erupted in a grin so wide that laughter filled the room. "I can't help it, man. I'm pumped. I'm excited. I feel like I'm smiling a lot."

Just in that quote, he said the word excited a lot. Is he really THAT excited? Is he really that pumped and amped to be a Cleveland Indian? Or is he just excited to have a big fat contract, a team that really wanted him, and to be in a situation with a manager that is clearly a players manager? 

Hey, those are great reasons to be excited. I'm glad he's excited, but please, I'm not ready to buy into Swisher really wanting to be a Cleveland Indian above any other team. Let's not fool ourselves. This is about money and recruitment. The Indians rolled out the red carpet for this guy. They knew his wife is expecting in May, so they had an baby Indians Jersey on hand for the couple. They knew Swisher is a big Buckeye, so why not bring in the Sweater-vest and the Urban Legend?

"We were walking out of here like, 'Man, these guys did it right," Swisher said. "It was just an amazing situation to be in. They tugged on the right strings, man. ... All the places we visited, it was nothing compared to this."

The Indians offered the best deal for him. Maybe it wasn't ALL money, but when you take money into account, the manager... Look, this is a great situation for Swisher. He should be excited to be here because this team has already made him the face of their franchise. They're going to plaster his mug all over the town. To them, he's an Ohio kid. Yeah he was born in Columbus, but he didn't grow up here. He did go to College at Ohio State, but again, that's Columbus. He is not a Cleveland-guy because as much as you can come to me and say "it's the same thing!", it's not. So stop it right now.

When you have a mess of fans who are Ohio State supporters and Pittsburgh Steelers fans, you can get out of here with that argument. I know, you have the die-hards that are All-Ohio, All-the-time. If that's you, and because of the venue I write to, I'm guessing that is the majority of you, that's great. Go for it, I'm happy for you.

But do not sit there and try and tell me that this is all the same. It's all the same! Cleveland is Ohio! Ohio is Cleveland! Columbus is Cleveland! So therefore, he's a hometown kid. He isn't. Jensen Lewis is a hometown kid. 

Am I acting a little crabby when I should be as excited as Nick Swisher? 

Maybe, but I'm just trying to temper things. I'm excited. This team was able to nab the perfect fit. He's excited to be here! What's to be down about?

I'm not down. I'm rather up, but I was struck with an odd chord after watching Swisher's introduction to Cleveland. It was refreshing, but peculiar. 

Nick Swisher, with a smile as wide as wide can be said he was excited to be playing in Cleveland. He came to Cleveland. Yet, he did so in a rather "I'm just here for the food" type of way. I'm not saying he was genuine or anything, but to me, it came off as very hired-gunish. The Indians wanted Swisher more than Swisher wanted the Indians, it was clear when he said at some point, you just have to stop denying it. 

Denying what? Cleveland is a place you can play?

Here's ultimately what it is.

Nick Swisher is the perfect fit for the Cleveland Indians. Maybe the Cleveland Indians are not the perfect fit for Nick Swisher, but that isn't the priority here.

Because the Indians can give Swisher everything and anything he ever dreamed of, not that he wants much.

To me, Swisher seems to be the type of guy that wants to play baseball. He could care less where he does it, what uniform he's wearing, or who he's doing it with. He just wants to play and he wants to be himself. He can be that in Cleveland.

"That's just Nick," said his father. "He loves the game. He knows he's blessed. He knows every day is not perfect day, but he knows that you must respect and love the game every day."

The money is nice, the manager is cool, the team wants him. What's not to love? But let's not kid ourselves. Nick Swisher did not pick Cleveland. Cleveland picked Swisher and Swisher said, why not?

Why not with 56 million dollars. Why not with a manager that is going to hit him smack-dab in the middle of the lineup? Why not with a team that is rather close to his family with his first kid on the way? Why not with a team that clearly is set to make him their guy.

What did Nick say?

Front and center?

"I never thought I'd be part of a press conference like that," Swisher said with a laugh. "I was front and center. Front and center."

Front and center...

Is this all bad?

No, it's not. Please do not think I'm dogging Swisher, the Indians, or anything. I'm stoked to have a guy that fits this team as well as Swisher does. 

"It's hard to envision a better fit for our team," Antonetti said. "For anyone who's watched Nick play, it's not only about his ability, but how he plays the game. His passion, his enthusiasm, his energy, you'll see it from the very first day."

In the last Rundown I talked briefly about something Vinnie Pestano said, and I must bring it up one more time with a little bit more discussion.

Pestano said that the team did not have a clubhouse presence. There was no one to calm the storm that was the downfall in August. You think a guy like Nick Swisher will let that type of stuff happen? The man that flashed that $56 million dollar smile all day on Thursday would let a losing streak like that fester and ball this team up in a pile of baseball garbage?

Absolutely not. This team didn't just need a switch hitter who could produce a boatload of runs. They needed someone like Swisher to basically be the guy that supported the message Terry Francona is trying to transmit. That is why Francona of all people should be as thankful as he is to have Swisher on board.

"The hard part for me was letting him go without getting him signed," said Francona. "It's a bad feeling because you know he's going somewhere else."
Photo - Chuck Crow via Cleveland.com

Yup, there it is. Francona knew what Swisher could to for his own cause. He knows that if he can get someone like Nick Swisher on board and on his side, what he has to accomplish here is going to be a whole heck of a lot easier. Swisher is a franchise changer, not in that he is an Albert Pujols-like free agent with mega production. But he's a player that fits what Cleveland needs offensively, position wise, that has the ultimate upside in terms of what he brings to a club in terms of his intangibles. 

Swisher is a baseball player. He's a play the game for the love of the game type of guy. The money is nice for his family, but I'm almost sure he's the type of guy who'd play the game for a cheeseburger and a Pepsi if push came to shove. He's electric, energizing. He's that type of player and person on the field.

So as sour as I sounded at the beginning of this long winded response to his introduction, how excited do I sound?

That's the two things that I took away. As I said, I found some of the things he said peculiar and intriguing. He sounded almost robotic. Yet his smile and his enthusiasm would tell you otherwise.

I think it's just that though. It is who he is. He's excited about playing baseball and you can mix that into the fact that he has a nice contract and a good situation, and well, does any of it matter? The contract was the best, the pitch was the best, that is why he is here. Don't make mistakes, this has nothing to do with Ohio or Cleveland or anything of that. He got the sweetest deal from this team.

But he's just a guy who loves to play the game and you can't blame him for being excited about the situation he's in, even if it wasn't the one he envisioned or expected to be in.

I really am on board with this move. Anthony Castrovince penned it perfectly in that he's a franchise-changer. 

But there is no mistaking that the culture in the Indians' clubhouse is changing, and perhaps the perception of this club around the industry will change with it.

It changes, first and foremost, with the presence of Francona, a great recruiter in his own right. And it changes with the particulars of a newly-signed TV deal with FOX Sports Ohio, which has afforded ownership a little more financial flexibility and the ability to reel in Swisher, Mark Reynolds and Brett Myers in recent days. Toss in a Shin-Soo Choo trade that looks like a win for Antonetti, who acquired high-profile pitching prospect Trevor Bauer and center fielder Drew Stubbs as the keys to the three-way deal with the D-backs and Reds, and suddenly a Tribe team largely expected to spend this winter in rebuild mode does look a little more frisky.

That's not to say the Indians are slam-dunk contention candidates. But they're moving forward, certainly, at a time when they could have retreated.


There you have it. This culture, this franchise, this approach is all changing. Swisher marks that ultimate step towards that change as he is what the Indians are trying to do. Last year's August when Pestano said the club was "wandering around aimlessly" is something that needed to be addressed and that is exactly what Swisher addresses. He's also pretty damn good at this sport, so there's that too.

[RANDOM RUNDOWN]

Swisher was added to the roster officially, which means the Indians had to make a corresponding move. Naturally they designated an outfielder to clear that spot. Thomas Neal was the victim and he'll likely clear waivers as he is still someone who may be a year away from being a viable major league option, if he is at all. He has been designated before though, so he has the opportunity to refuse his assignment. Neal had a bounce-back year in Akron and if he puts in another year in Triple-A of the same kind, he could be knocking on a big league door for real. He's got some stuff to still prove though.

I was downright shocked when the Indians decided to designate Russ Canzler to make room for Mark Reynolds a few weeks ago. I didn't think they'd do that as Canzler was the one guy who the Indians got a strong look at in September and he showed he may be in the running for some DH time in 2013. Apparently Chris Antonetti shocked himself too as he said he regretted making the move when he did.

So when he got the opportunity to correct that, he did as Toronto designated the slugger from their 40-man roster, the opportunity arose to reclaim Canzler.

Crusty is back!

The Indians then decided to designate Jeanmar Gomez, something they probably should have done the first time around with Trevor Bauer in the fold, Carlos Carrasco on the rebound and other arms like Kluber and McAllister higher in the pecking order.

And even more so now that the Indians signed Brett Myers to slot into their rotation. Not to mention you have Scott Kazmir on a minor league deal and, hey it wouldn't shock me to see them DFA David Huff to make room for Myers. Something they'll need to decide on soon as Myers has passed his physical and his deal is official.

Speaking of Myers...

"He's not good" and "He's a terrible human being". Quotes from Keith Law on the latest ESPN Baseball Podcast. Strong words from someone, but that whole "hitting your wife thing" can't be ignored. Law said his number aren't really that good, but he seems to counter that argument with numbers that are decent enough to help the team. I can understand his judgment being clouded though. If you feel strongly about a player and really do not like the past of what he did, I can get it. I wouldn't sign that either.

And I don't like the fact that he had that past. He helps this baseball team though and gives them more of what we talked about earlier with Swisher, only for the pitching staff. Hopefully he checks his baggage at the door and has changed for the better, but don't think for a second the Indians haven't done their homework. They're an organization that compiles good people and they'll have a huge problem if Myers is a headcase in Cleveland.

A minor move to take note of is that the Indians signed infielder Matt Antonelli to a minor league deal. 

Honestly, he's a two T for two L trade away from being Antonetti, so, there's that. Really he's another depth guy, someone they'll need in Columbus or in spring as a guy to play. Heck, with the Indians potentially having the space open, he could fight for a utility spot. He's a former first round pick and really injuries have been the thing that has held him back the most. He was in the Washington system after fizzling with the Padres, put up decent numbers in Syracuse and then went to Baltimore and New York last year. He struggling in both their Triple A clubs and only played in 44 games.

So we'll see where that goes, if anywhere. He joins infielders Nate Spears and Luis Hernandez as depth guys for the spring.

And in case you are waiting for another shoe to drop, like signing Marcum, it probably will not happen. Antonetti (no Ls) said that the Indians have used up most of their monies signing the guys they've signed. They could still make some moves, but nothing that would cost a whole heck of a lot despite what we may have hoped for. Remember there are still salaries to hand out to current players that are not accounted for quite yet.

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