Jason Kipnis: the Face of the Cleveland Indians Franchise
Cleveland Indians All-Star Jason Kipnis has been the best second baseman in baseball the last two months. He is young, has an engaging personality, hustles every time out, takes the blame for his bad days and has been a huge reason for the inspiring play of the Indians lately. But does he get as much credit as he deserves?
Look, I live in Iowa. I don't necessarily have my thumb on the pulse of Cleveland, or any of Cuyahoga County, or any of Ohio for that matter. So realistically, I am in no position to chastise local Indians fans for their lack of support. That's not my intent at all.
I watch nearly every single Indians game on my MLB Extra Innings package, and I have noticed a lot more Swisher, Santana and Cabrera jerseys in the park. Those guys deserve all the adoration given to them by Tribe fans, but it has just seemed to me that Kipnis is not getting the national love he deserves. Let alone the cult hero status most players having the kind of year he is having would historically get from the diehard Cleveland fanbase.
Let's look at the raw numbers (all stats from ESPN.com/MLB/stats). Among second basemen in all of Major League Baseball, Kipnis is fourth in batting average, third in RBI, home runs and doubles and second in steals and slugging. He is also second in both OPS and WAR, trailing Robinson Cano .888 to .883 in OPS and 4.8 to 4.7 in WAR.
Maybe Cano has been a hair better since Opening day, but since June, it has been Kipnis' time to shine. He posted a .419 batting average in June. This great article by Jordan Bastian of Indians.com outlined his June and had some great quotes from Kipnis that show both his sense of humor and his appreciation of the history of the game.
He also made his first All-Star appearance and drove in a run with an RBI double over the left fielder's head. It wasn't the most exciting All-Star game ever, but take away the sentimental MVP trophy Mariano Rivera received, and Kipnis may be your 2013 All-Star Game MVP.
I am not arguing Rivera didn't deserve it; I am glad he got the award and loved his moment running in from the bullpen to an empty field. But in an All-Star game devoid of any signature moments on the field, Kipnis may have had the biggest hit of the night.
If you have read this far and are into baseball enough to watch games in late July, before the pennant races heat up, you are a baseball guy (or girl). And what do baseball guys typically do in 2013? Fantasy baseball.
Look at ESPN's "Player Rater" for second basemen: http://games.espn.go.com/flb/playerrater?slotCategoryId=2. That's right. Your top second baseman in fantasy baseball by a large margin is Kipnis.
Look, I know Nick Swisher is a wild man and has a magnetic personality. I realize that Michael Bourn has been a star for a few years and that Asdrubal Cabrera is a fantastic shortstop whom we all love watching at the plate and in the field. But it may be time to reevaluate who the face of the Indians franchise is moving forward.
Kipnis might be the cornerstone of the Indians over the next few seasons if they want to overtake the Tigers as the powerhouse of the AL Central. We all love the other guys on the team, but if I were a betting man, I'd bet we see a lot more No. 22 jerseys roaming around Progressive Field and all of Cleveland in the coming months and years.
Appreciate it now, Wahoo Maniacs. It's not often the Indians have locked up an All-Star who seemingly enjoys playing in Cleveland.
To steal from the viral hashtag all Indians fans on Twitter have seen: #WeAreAllKipnisses.
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