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Indians Indians Archive View from the Porch: The Kids Are All Right Edition
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

HRPorchViewWhile watching Lonnie Chisenhall break back to the bag Thursday night on a line drive hit by Lou Marson, which, I’m pretty sure I have never used Lou Marson and line drive in the same sentence before, all I could think of is the scene in Field of Dreams where “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, played by Ray Liotta, shakes his head and mutters, “Rookies.”

In theory, this baserunning faux pas could have cost the Indians the game. At the time, it was the fifth inning; the Indians were down 4-3. Marson slashed a single to right field that Carlos Guillen might not have even caught six years ago when he was operating without a walker in the field. Chisenhall, rather than freeze, broke back to the bag (if Guillen catches it, he’s out regardless) and was thrown out by Magglio Ordonez, who, like Guillen, may have a handicap parking pass hanging from his rearview mirror.

Rather than have first and second nobody out, and a supposedly good bunter at the plate in Ezequiel Carrera, the Indians were left with a runner on first and one out. Carrera and next batter Jason Kipnis both struck out.

Unfortunately, we are stuck with these occasional rookie mistakes because injuries, front office incompetence, and baseball economics put us in that position. Carrera has been a blunder-waiting-to-happen in CF, whether it is taking a bad route, dropping a pop up, or making an ill-advised throw to a base. If Cord Phelps’s Major League performance was a term paper, it would have been covered in red pen.

chiz_catchThen, there’s Lonnie “Calphalon” Chisenhall. We all knew defense was his issue. He’s proved that. From the eye test, you can tell Chisenhall needs a lot of work at 3B. He is slow out of his ready position. His first step to the ball is often delayed and unconfident. I call him Calphalon because of the frying pan he wears at third base.

Jason Kipnis has fumbled with his fair share of routine plays, and, luckily, to this point, they haven’t made much of an impact on the game. Take Tuesday night’s game, however, to see that Kip gets it. He lazily went after a slow ground ball and gave a half-assed effort to Roger Dorn it on the way by. On the next hitter, he made a spectacular diving play to rob Victor Martinez of an RBI single. He got up excitedly, almost if patting himself on the back, and then sprinted off the field. He gets it. He’s a player.

The hardest jump to make in professional sports is from baseball’s minor leagues to the prime time. Some players may hit their way out of mistakes. It’s rare to find a kid that comes up and plays flawless defense because, by and large, guys who play great defense are Jack Hannahan types who struggle to hit above .230. John McDonald waves hello from Toronto.

Within the same game on Thursday night, we saw promise of what Chisenhall can be with the bat. To get on before his screw up on the basepaths, Chisenhall worked a full count on Verlander and then slapped a 96 mph fastball up and away to left field for a base hit. If he tries to pull that ball, he fails miserably and takes the walk of shame back to the dugout. By taking what he was given, he got a single. This is an excellent sign. Part of the reason while I refrained from a profanity-laced tirade about his huge mistake on the line drive.

You take the good with the bad. You have to. These kids coming up in a pennant race are going to make mistakes. And plenty of them. The difference is that theyare better hitters than what is available. For Manny Acta, it’s a tough spot to be in. You just hope that the mistakes come at convenient times where they can be learning experiences that don’t cost the team runs, or worse, the game. It’s basically a leap of faith. There’s no way to learn in the majors unless you are playing. Every player, at one time or another, made those same mistakes. They become magnified in the situation that the Indians are in. There’s no way around it and no alternative.

Let’s compare the Opening Day roster with the current roster:

Opening Day

C: Santana, 1B: LaPorta, 2B: O. Cabrera, SS: A. Cabrera, 3B: Hannahan LF: Kearns, CF: Brantley, RF: Choo, DH: Hafner, BN: Buck, BN: Marson, BN: Everett, BN: Duncan

SP: Carmona, SP: Carrasco, SP: Masterson, SP: Tomlin, SP: Talbot, RP: C. Perez, RP: R. Perez, RP: Pestano, RP: Durbin, RP: Sipp, RP: Herrmann, RP: Germano


C: Marson, 1B: Santana, 2B: Kipnis, SS: A. Cabrera, 3B: Chisenhall, LF: Brantley, CF: Fukudome, RF: Choo, DH: Hafner, BN: Carrera, BN: LaPorta, BN: Donald, BN: Hannahan, BN: Duncan

SP: Masterson, SP: Jimenez, SP: Tomlin, SP: Carmona, SP: Huff; the bullpen is the same except swap Smith for Germano

santanaconfusedInexperience and having to learn on the fly is not usually a recipe for success. Baseball’s hard enough without having the game speed up on you. Occasionally, the game is speeding up on our rookies. So, we will have to live with mistakes and try to overcome them.

All that said, given that I’m focusing on Kipnis and Chisenhall, the Carlos Santana situation needs to be brought up again. There are basically three points of view on Santana. 1. He is lazy defensively and doesn’t care. 2. He is still learning 1B and C having been a converted 3B. 3. He is simply too short to play 1B. All of these, in my humble opinion, are correct.

I am firmly entrenched in the lazy camp. Behind the plate, he is a disaster. He seems unwilling to get down and square his body to the pitch. Really, to me, I think he’s afraid of pain. He has shied away from any and all contact at the plate since the Ryan Kalish incident in Boston last year. He looks pissed off on any foul ball that hits him, where Lou Marson appears to laugh it off. He’s far from a gamer. I don’t like guys who aren’t willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team. Neither do his teammates. Ask Asdrubal Cabrera how he feels.

At first base, he just seems to not care. He doesn’t want to overextend himself. Jason Kipnis glared at him after Santana caught a pop up that is clearly the second baseman’s ball on Wednesday night. He did the same thing to Orlando Cabrera earlier in the year. In San Francisco, after misplaying a squeeze bunt, he seemed to almost shrug his shoulders as three runs scored and Carlos Carrasco began throwing things in the dugout after the inning ended.

There’s also the notion about point two up there, he is still learning both positions. He is and I will grant those with that mindset as much. However, he is learning incorrectly. He is learning his own way. With a wealth of catching experience in and around the ballclub, he has regressed at both positions. He does not call his own game when catching. He appears to have little rapport with the pitching staff. After watching himself struggle, you would think that he would try to get some help and results would improve. To me, he has gotten progressively worse all year. It speaks of being unable to be coached. In one ear and out the other. As Brian McPeek said in his Catching Up article, to Carlos Santana, defense is the time between at bats.

And, yes, Carlos Santana is way too short to play 1B. The reason that most first basemen are 6’2” or 6’3” and taller is because they are too awkward to lumber around at another position. It’s not a good thing to be 5’11” and be so awkward in the field that you can’t handle another position. I’m beginning to see why the Dodgers were willing to trade such a gifted hitter. He’s a future (maybe current) DH. In the National League, that’s not helpful.

On some level, part of the problem with baseball is that the young players care too much about hitting and not enough about defense. This is why guys like Omar Vizquel, Scott Rolen, and others continue to play everyday. Teams will suffer through mediocre plate results to get good defense. There are only 14 DH spots available in baseball. And, as evidenced by Carlos Santana, not every bad fielder can play first.

With young players, we have to live with this and just hope that it isn’t the difference between winning the division and finishing second or third.

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