Opinion: Encarnacion signing proves Indians are all-in


opinion 12/23

Henry Palattella

On Oct. 4, I sat in my dorm room and marveled at the power of Edwin Encarnacion.

Encarnacion had just hit a walk-off home run to win the American League Wild Card Game for the Toronto Blue Jays, and I was just flabbergasted. He stepped up to the plate with the weight of Canada on his shoulders, and nonchalantly launched a baseball 350 feet to win the team a playoff game.

But 10 days later, my wonderment changed to worry.

Encarnacion’s home run sent the Blue Jays into a divisional round matchup against the Texas Rangers in a series that the Canadian team won in three games. Which meant that they’d be going up against the Cleveland Indians — the team I’ve loved since before I could field a ground ball.

“Don’t worry about the Blue Jays,” people told me. “Their pitching isn’t that good and they can’t hit when they’re not in the Rogers Center (Toronto’s domed field).”

Those words fell on deaf ears; I was still nervous that Encarnacion would send a back-breaking, late-inning home run into the bleachers, which would be followed by his home run trot around the bases in which he sticks his right hand up in the arm as if a parrot was perched on it (I guess it’s a ritual). He had, after all, hit two more home runs in their series with the Rangers and was coming into the series batting .417 in the postseason.

The Indians went on to beat the Blue Jays in six games to secure a berth in the World Series, and Encarnacion didn’t put up much of a fight, managing only 4 hits in 19 at-bats against Cleveland. But I still held my breath every time he stepped into the batter’s box, knowing that he had the potential to knock one out at any time.

And I was jealous of that.

Sure, the Indians had the potent offensive combination of Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez, but none of them had an offensive game that was built around mashing the ball to the moon.

The Indians best power hitter throughout the year was first baseman Mike Napoli, but he only managed to bat a paltry .173 in the postseason. So, there were times throughout the World Series where I found myself cuddled in a ball anxiously watching the Indians bat, wishing that they had someone like Encarnacion who could change the game with his swing no matter the inning.

Well, I got my wish Thursday: it was reported that the Indians signed Encarnacion to a three-year, $60 million deal, which (if it stands) would be the largest deal in Indians history.

And it’s worth it.

While $60 million is a lot to give a player who is over 30 years old and has almost all their game tied to their power, it still is a relatively cheap deal in today’s MLB landscape. Albert Pujol’s albatross of a contract (10 years, $240 million) has strongly hindered the Los Angeles Angels’ chances at winning, even though they have MVP Mike Trout on their team.

Cleveland fans tasted victory when Kyrie Irving’s hit his championship-winning shot, and the Indians’ near-victory in the World Series only made that appetite grow. So, no matter how badly the Browns finish, Cleveland sports fan will want wins.

Indians fans have long complained about the stinginess of their ownership in regards to big-name signings.

That is no more.

The Indians opened their checkbook for Encarnacion, and they’ll look to reap the spoils of that signing.

But in the meantime, I gotta go. I hear the Browns play on Saturday.

Henry Palattella is the sports editor, contact him at [email protected].