Wednesday, June 30

The Glass is Half-Full at FCF

Well, the entirely thinkable finally happened: Rusty Branyan has been traded. Regular readers of this site, of which there are roughly six, know that it's been something of a mission of mine to defend and promote Rusty this season, because I find the relentless invective heaped upon him to be incredibly personal in nature as well as reflective of a lack of baseball acumen on the part of the writers. But now that Rusty's gone back to Seattle, I'll have to find a new quest for my fandom of the 2010 Tribe, other than, you know, following them actively and wanting to win games.

But first, one last pitch for Rusty. People HATE this guy, and I think it's largely unfounded. Allow me to, for the final time, offer a few rebuttals on his behalf.

His deal was a terrible free-agent signing
A $2-million, risk-free, 1-year deal with a mutual 1-year option was a terrible signing? By way of comparison, have you seen Kerry Wood's contract? We ended up paying Rusty for half a season of rather productive batting (we'll get to that), then flipped him for a couple of prospects and got Seattle to take on the second half of his salary. That's not a bad deal.

But he was blocking Matt LaPorta from getting every day at-bats
Indeed, but LaPorta was, according to management, still something of a question mark after off-season surgery, and was a black hole at the plate (OPS+ at 67 after last night's game-winner) when he did appear in the lineup. Rusty was an insurance policy, and one that paid nice dividends. And now Rusty is gone, LaPorta is back in the lineup and evidently feeling better, and all is well.

Branyan strikes out too much
A favorite criticism leveled by those who still haven't grasped the fact that a strikeout is, for the most part (I recognize the exceptions), no different than any other out. Consider the line he put up over 190 plate appearances in 2010: .263/.328/.491. That's good for an OPS+ of 124. Perhaps you be interested to learn the complete list of players who have exceeded that figure for the Indians this year so far:

Shin-Soo Choo (136)
Carlos Santana (216) (!!!)

That's it. He's productive! Bashing Rusty for his propensity to strike out is shortsighted and, in many cases, willfully ignorant. Yes, he strikes out, but the upside of that is that he collects a high percentage of extra-base hits. Most people can readily understand this, but Branyan's critics either can not or will not.

He's a slow baserunner and a poor infielder
Agreed. He's never been a complete player, and no one's pretending that he is. Somehow, though, a lot of people think this reflects poorly on his character, which is a classic mistake made by some fans: conflating performance with personality. Some guys really aren't good citizens off the field, and it's fair to criticize them for that, but attacking a fellow personally for shortcomings on the field never appealed to me much. I've never met the guy, and I don't recall him having been arrested or getting in dugout fights, so what reason would I have to lob personal attacks against him?

So, to summarize: goodbye for now, Rusty. You made the first half of the Indians' 2010 season more enjoyable, and FCF, at least, recognizes the value you brought to the plate.

Brian McPeek, writer of The Weekend Wrap, however, decidedly does not, evidenced by some parting (cheap) shots he took at Rusty in his latest column. Let's line-by-line it:

P.S. Good bye (for the third freaking time) to The King of Swing (and a miss) Russell Branyan.
Ha! Strikeout jokes. I think I covered that above. Also, third time? I'm looking at his career numbers on, and it seems he was an Indian 1998-2002, but it doesn't appear that he was in Cleveland between then and now. I count two.

I can't say I hardly knew you, because you kept coming back like untreated genital warts.

But I can say I hardly liked you.
Double zing!

Take your big timing, big swinging, little production out to Seattle again.
This one needs broken down even further.

Take your big timing
?????? Either this is alleging arrogance or making fun of the timing required by Branyan's swing, probably the former. Big timing?

big swinging
If there is one bad quality a baseball player can have, it's a big swing, especially one that has deposited 174 big-league home runs. Better he shortened that up and slapped singles, regardless of whether or not that fits his skill set.

little production
This is factually and intellectually dishonest. It's wrong, it's unfair, and I will not let it be used to buttress the "point" being made. If you think Branyan's work this year was "little production," then you should take more time to try to understand how baseball works.

And when it's all said and done and you look back on your career, take a second to consider why it was always really rotten baseball teams that had a spot for you.
He was never an elite player, and I'm sure he'd admit as much, but in large part, it was bad luck. Cal Ripken and Barry Bonds each only went to one World Series.

I'll give you this Russell, your big swings and occasional contact
Rusty Branyan career OBP: .331
Rusty Branyan career OPS+: 113

earned you a living and a pension most of us can only dream of. So congrats on that anyway.

The rest of McPeek's article is similarly negative, whining about the Indians, Browns, Cavs, and even the US Soccer team. Consider this paragraph:

The Indians had lost ten of their last eleven games at press time, the full-blown LeBron-a-Palooza hasn’t even started and yet we all have agita over where a 25 year-old kid will dribble a ball next November and the Browns are still a month away from working out in shorts and shells twice a day.

I guess I don't understand why a sports fan would want to wallow in negativity to this extent, let alone take the time to write about it. If it ever came to the point for me where I was this negative, bitter, and resigned (to use McPeek's own term) about the sporting world, then I would stop contributing to this blog and quitfollowing the teams I follow. The whole point of the fan experience is for it to be fun - to support your teams, to make friends and have shared experiences, and to enjoy fully the triumphs of your clubs. Look at the Indians; would I rather focus on their 29-47 mark so far, or would I rather appreciate their three-game winning streak, get excited about Carlos Santana's next trip to the plate, and look forward to tonight's game, which I'll be attending live? Obviously the latter grouping.

I'm not a cockeyed optimist; I've experienced enough tough losses as a 20+ - year Cleveland fan that I know what it's like to lose, and it's not always easy. But you have to enjoy the whole package, and look to the future, and take whatever successes come your way. Now, to be fair, McPeek is far from the only Cleveland fan with a generally dour outlook, and I really wish our fan bases would remember why we got into this in the first place: because we love the games and love following our clubs. Go Tribe.

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