Cleveland Indians: Whose Jersey Should You Buy?
Most real fans buy a jersey of their favorite team at some point, even if they feel goofy wearing it. Jerseys are like a badge of fandom. People (usually) don't wear jerseys unless they are a die-hard.
Buying a jersey can be risky business. Picking the right player is an art form. Do you want the wear the face of the franchise like everybody else? Or do you want the player that is up-and-coming, or a fan favorite, but not an all-star? For example, would a Cardinals fan rather have a Pujols jersey like thousands of others, or a Colby Rasmus jersey?
Do you buy the jersey of the hot rookie, the all-star, the veteran? Another example: Would a Vikings fan be wise to buy a Bret Favre jersey in 2010? No, that is only good for a year, if that. Would a 2010 Padres fan be smart to buy an Adrian Gonzales jersey, with the high possibility of him being traded?
So many things go into picking the right player (contract status, on-field actions, off-field actions, fan reactions), that it can be a confusing task to buy the perfect jersey that is great both in the present and for the future. Obviously, in this day and age, no player is a lock to stay with one franchise for a long period of time, but some are more so than others.
Here is the top 10 jerseys to buy as a Cleveland Indians fan in 2011. The Indians may be one of the most difficult franchises to do this for because of their recent history of trade deadline deals, but I will do my best.
10. Travis Hafner
Hafner has looked like the Pronk of old so far in 2011. He is hitting .347 with four home runs and 14 RBI. He has been a staple in Cleveland since 2003. He has "Pronkville" in right field, and even had "Pronk Bars" candy bars. In other words, he is a beloved Indian.
If you bought a Hafner jersey in 2005, it has served you well. With the exception of the down years in 2009 and 2010, he has been a regular in the heart of the order. But, buying a Hafner jersey in 2011 is a bad choice.
Hafner has had a history of injury problems and isn't getting any younger. While he does look healthy this year, an injury is still a concern.
His contract is up in 2012, with a team option for 2013. My guess is that unless he continues to hit around .350 for the next two years, which I doubt, the Indians will not shell out the $13 million they would owe him in 2013.
Hafner has been a loyal Indian and I have loved cheering for him. However, I don't think he has too many years left with the Tribe. I could be wrong, but, buying a Hafner jersey now, with his injury risk, age and contract situation isn't a very safe choice.
9. Michael Brantley
I like Michael Brantley. I really do. The problem is that I don't like him as much as the other two outfielders. Brantley, unless he hits .330, with a gold glove and 30 stolen bases, will probably never be as well-loved in Cleveland as Grady Sizemore or Shin-Soo Choo.
Brantley is finally looking like a legitimate Major League outfielder in 2011. He has been slumping lately, but is still hitting .287 on the year. His defense has also been very solid.
Brantley will probably be starting in the Cleveland outfield for a few more years, which is a good thing for jersey owners. The problem is that he may never be much better than a .290 hitter with a good glove and some steals. I certainly am not complaining about Brantley, because I like to watch him play and hope he continues to exceed expectations, but is he jersey worthy? I just don't know yet.
8. Fausto Carmona
Pitchers' jerseys are always a risky buy because they only pitch every fifth day. Wearing a pitcher's jersey on a day they are not pitching isn't very cool.
Fausto Carmona is the ultimate enigma when it comes to starting pitchers. He is either unhittable or awful. I am a Carmona supporter and think he gets way to much criticism for his bad games and not enough praise for his good games. He has pitched really well since the start of 2010, hasn't gotten much run support and has been controlling his pitches much better.
Carmona is the ace of the Indians, weather Indians fans like it or not. Wearing the ace's jersey would be cool on the days he is pitching (unless it is really cold out, because then Carmona will likely get hit around pretty good), but what would you wear the other four days?
7. Grady Sizemore
Grady Sizemore is one of my all-time favorite Indians. People who have soured on Grady and instead focus on his strikeouts and recent injury woes have obviously forgotten how well he played for this franchise from 2005-2008 or so.
Grady has returned from knee surgery in 2011 to look every bit like the player he was before the injury. The reason, and the only reason, I put him at number seven is because of the uncertainty surrounding his future with the Tribe.
Many have voiced opinions that the Indians either should or will trade Grady at the deadline. They Indians front office has said that they will not be "sellers" if they in contention. We, as Indians fans, know that we can never count out a mid-season sale by the Indians. I hope they stay true to their word and do not deal Sizemore, but that remains to be seen.
I myself own a Sizemore jersey, and I love it. I have enjoyed watching him play at a high level again this year as much as I have enjoyed anything since watching Cliff Lee pitch in 2008. I hope Grady stays healthy and keep producing, and keeps wearing an Indians jersey, but that remains to be seen. The trade risk makes the jersey a risk as well.
6. Justin Masterson
Masterson is 5-0 and has looked like the end of 2010 was not a fluke and he has in fact turned a corner. He has always been very tough on right handers; it was the lefties that hit him hard. That is no longer the case.
A Masterson jersey would be great to have in 2011 because the fans have really gotten behind him. His dirty beard is not quite Giants bullpen-esque, but it is pretty sweet. If he keeps pitching like he has been, he will be an All-star in 2011.
The problem with a Masterson jersey is that he is a pitcher. Not only does he only pitch every fifth day, but he is still somewhat unproven. Just as i said his hot pitching isn't a fluke, he still hasn't been reliable for a full calendar year.
If he continues to pitch at this level into the summer months, then the jersey will become more attractive because he could be a solid starter every fifth day for quite a few years.
5. Asdrubal Cabrera
I've had a soft spot for Asdrubal since his final month or two of 2007. He has been great defensively so far in 2011, and his approach at the plate has improved, which is credited a lot to his double play partner Orlando Cabrera.
Asdrubal is easy to like because of the flashy plays he makes at short, and his surprising power at the plate. Is his jersey a good buy though?
The answer is yes. Asdrubal has been fairly consistent over the last few years and has shown signs that he could be a better number two hitter than some think. His defense isn't in question, just his hitting.
I truly think Cabrera has the potential to be the Indians shortstop for a long time, which makes his jersey all the more enticing. A hard working, scrappy shortstop is always a fan favorite. the question with Cabrera is the same question we ask of a lot of players: How long will he be an Indian?
The answer appears to be that he will be in Cleveland for a while, but that is assuming the Indians and Cabrera work out a new contract after this year. If he continues to hit in the upper .200's or hovers around .300, and hits for power (say, 20 or so home runs) he could demand more money. More money is never a good thing for the Indians.
4. Matt LaPorta
The key piece of the C.C. Sabathia trade is finally looking the part. He is only hitting .258 on the year, but followers of the Indians know he has been looking really good in the last couple weeks.
LaPorta plays a good first base, and has good plate discipline, which accounts for his .333 OBP. He should be the first baseman in Cleveland for at least the next few years.
If LaPorta can finally get comfortable at the plate, as he has looked lately, he could be one of the key components of the Indians for years to come. LaPorta has the potential to be an All-Star first baseman, and if he hits like he has at all of his other stops along the way, he will be.
3. Chris Perez
Everybody loves the closer with the long, wild hair. Chris Perez is the modern day version of Rick Vaughn in Cleveland.
In one of the Tribe's better trades, they sent Mark DeRosa to St. Louis for Perez. Perez has become the best closer the Indians have had in a long time. Perez is 10 for 11 on save opportunities in 2011.
The closer has the potential to pitch on any given night, and often has to get the three most important outs of the night. Perez is as exciting of closer as their is in baseball not named Brian Wilson. A Chris Perez jersey (and perhaps a fake beard and wig) would go a long way to getting some fan cred.
2. Shin-Soo Choo
Choo is "the man" in Cleveland right now. Or, at least he was until his recent DUI. Sports Illustrated's player poll recently listed Choo as the most underrated player in baseball.
His batting average is only .225 this year, well under his career .292 average, but that is of little concern. I have faith that he will get hot soon and get that average back up.
Choo has a cannon in right field and has gold glove potential. He hits for power and for average (usually). He also wears a double-ear-flapped helmet, which is awesome.
The "Choo Crew" in Cleveland can always be heard yelling "CHOOOOOOO" whenever Shin-Soo comes to the plate. A Choo jersey would be a great purchase for any Indians fan, as Choo is expected to be a very good outfielder for a long time.
Need more reason to choose Choo? He got out of his Korean military service by playing for the National Team. So in other words, you won't have to retire your jersey for two years or worry Choo will be injured in battle. Just driving.
1. Carlos Santana
Carlos Santana comes in at No. 1 on my list of best Indians jerseys to buy. Why, you ask?
Santana is only hitting .218 on the year, and is still considered one of the best catchers in the game, which shows how most experts feel about him. Santana is the total package at the plate. He can hit for power and average, much like Choo.
Santana is off to a slow start, but it feels like only a matter of time before he snaps out of it. Defensively, Santana isn't great, but isn't bad. He plays a position that is always in high demand.
If I had to make a prediction, I would guess that Santana's bat gets very hot sometime soon and the hype maching starts whirring again. Santana has the tools to be the face of the Indians franchise for years to come. With Sandy Alomar Jr. there everyday to mentor him, he could be one of the best catchers in franchise history if he puts it all together.
Santana's jersey is a safe investment. He is a power/average hitting catcher, which is hard to find. He could be around and in the middle of the order for a long time. Buy a Santana jersey now, and you could be making a very sound long-term investment.