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If you don't like Michael Brantley, you don't like baseball
April 25, 2014 - Zach Baker
Michael Brantley never seemed to get too much respect.
He wasn't a top prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers' organization.
He wasn't the main piece in the CC Sabathia trade that brought him to the Indians.
As recently as 2011, "Baseball Prospectus" finished its capsule on the then-24-year old this way:
"He's not a failure so much as a nice fourth outfielder being asked to do too much by playing every day."
Hey, "Baseball Prospectus" wasn't the only one thinking that. Most everyone viewed Brantley as a "throw-in" in the Sabathia trade. At best, he was an OK player; a bench player.
Up until last season, I thought Brantley was a good player, not a great one.
OK, not everyone thought that about Brantley. A friend of mine, Andy Barch, was an announcer for the Brewers farm club where Brantley was playing in 2008. Officially, Brantley was the "player to be named later" in the Sabathia deal.
"Zach," Andy said, "if Brantley is the guy the Indians get, it will be a great deal."
Brantley wasn't supposed to be the big get in the Sabathia trade. It just happened that way because Matt LaPorta never panned out.
He wasn't supposed to be the Tribe's starting left fielder. It just turned out that way because everyone the Indians plugged in the outfield didn't produce.
And Michael Brantley isn't supposed to be the Indians best player.
He just is.
Brantley had a breakout season of sorts last year with 10 homers, 73 RBIs, and 17 stolen bases. He hit a solid .284.
Good stats. But the thing about Brantley is the stat sheet doesn't tell the whole story about this kid. You need to watch him play.
Michael Brantley does everything well, and does everything with a slick confidence. As a fan, he's the one you want the ball hit to. He's the one you want on base with the game on the line.
He's the one you want up with guys on.
Andy Barch knew this because he watched him every day. And this season, the stats are catching up with the skills.
Three weeks into the season, and Brantley has a team high four homers and 19 RBIs. On Thursday against the Royals, he gunned down a runner trying to take an extra base.
He does everything, and now he's doing the impossible:
He's making that Sabathia trade seem like a fair deal.
Look, I'm not making the argument Brantley has (or had) the value of Sabathia.
But here are the facts:
Sabathia hasn't thrown a pitch for the Milwaukee Brewers since George Bush was president.
Michael Brantley is only getting better, and he just signed a four-year deal with the Indians.
The man who does it all, does it well.
Brantley is the present and future of the Indians.
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