Finding The Indians An Exploitable Quirk For 2014


The Boston Red Sox proved last season that to win a World Series in the 21st Century, you need a quirk, a calling card, something for the team to rally around. I speak of course of the beard, and how it spread from Jonny Gomes to Mike Napoli before metastasizing across the clubhouse, even briefly tickling Clay Buchholz, even if it was unable to find purchase.

Without these beards and the camaraderie and mystic powers they brought with them, the Sox wouldn’t have been able to out-moxie the Rays, out slug the Tigers or out-class the Cardinals. Surely we’ll see a host of copycats this season, whether it’s the A’s and a reboot of the Finley moustache days or sideburns in the Bronx, but it must be realized that to win, you must catch the next wave, and it’s not facial hair.

The baseball gods smiled on that once. Not again.

Oct 10, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (left), catcher David Ross (middle) and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (right) during a team workout in preparation for the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Indians need to find their niche, that piece of curiosity to gather behind and ride to a title, because this team is right on the cusp.

For instance, what if the team issued merkins to everyone? Admittedly it would be a violation of MLB uniform rules and more importantly public decency statutes if they were in any way visible, but it would certainly be a curiosity. My only worry is that in the summer months it would become overly itchy and possibly restrict the movements of fielders. Not to mention how uncomfortable viewers would get if the Indians were in their road greys and the sweat stains started expanding. On second thought, merkins might be a bad, bad idea.

Maybe something groomable –  what if the Indians all stopped clipping their fingernails? I can already think of the bonus – nobody would want to steal  a base because of the horrifying blades jutting from the fielders’ glove (which would have to be custom made), threatening to fillet them like a fish. It’d likely take some getting used to for the pitchers, grips and whatnot, but maybe they’d discover some crazy new pitch leading to a three-way tie for the Cy Young, all Tribesmen. And if they got long enough it could act as a second glove, even adding inches to actualized leap at the wall to rob home runs.

The only issue I can think of would be batting. If you’ve ever let your nails go a bit more than normal, you know holding a pen or making a fist can suddenly get a bit stabby. Imagine that extended by months – guys wouldn’t be able to hold the bat without bleeding, and suffer a major power drop-off.

It could lead to a wave of endorsement deals from nail salons across northern Ohio, though. Just think how fabulous they could be.

Is body modification out of the question? I saw a guy with big gauges in his ears at a concert the other night, and it struck me that this could be a neat thing for the guys to do.

One of the fun parts about the Red Sox’ beards was seeing them grow and take shape throughout the season, like greasy topiary. It’d be cool to see the team get piercings in spring training, make a whole team building thing out of it even, and see the gauges grow progressively larger through the summer. Shoot, I bet one of them, probably that wild Brazilian Yan Gomes, would go with one in his lip. Just imagine having to see a big hoop behind the catcher’s mask every pitch – it would be disgusting. Might be a little distracting for the pitcher, too. If they went this way, the decision might have to be made after any free agents join the team, since this could be a deal breaker.

Sep 4, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Chris Perez (left) and first baseman Nick Swisher (33) celebrate a 6-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

In the end, it might have to be something borderline normal. In high school, all the freshmen on my school’s swim team had to get odd haircuts before they shaved their heads. Things like checkerboards, mohawks on the side of their heads, handprints or panther paws shaved into their heads, and one time a penis.

That last one kind of put the kibosh on the tradition for a bit.

The Indians might have to go this way. BUT, like the Sox and the beard pulling after homers and whatnot, someone could lurk in the dugout with some clippers and when the homer-er isn’t looking carve a swath into their hair!

Just think if Jason Kipnis went on another tear like last June. The guy would look like he’s going through chemo. Yeah, I think a rogue clipperman would be a great little thing, and the fans would get to enjoy it. I can only imagine Rick Manning carrying on about it. It might actually wipe that unsettling rictus from his face.

I love what the team became last year, it’d be nice to see that energy manifest itself even more into a bit of ridicularity. Who knows, maybe absurdity is the new market inefficiency, allowing teams to play measurably looser and more relaxed. Being able to laugh at oneself is important for self-esteem, and with all the young guys on the team trying to find their way in the game it could mean the difference in big games and critical at-bats. The psychology of the game cannot be overstated.

So here’s to a long summer of bad haircuts and boatloads of wins. It’s just a shame Tito gets a free pass.