There’s no debating that with the signing of Nick Swisher the Indians are banking on a huge return on the field. From day one his name will written in permanent marker out in right field and fourth or fifth in the lineup. He’s kind of a big deal. After all, it’s not every day that the Indians put a four-year, $56million dollar investment in a player.
However, the meaning of the signing goes further than that. Swisher’s full impact for this team goes beyond how many home runs hit hits and how many runs he drives in. While his potential success or failure as a signing will ultimately be determined by those numbers, it is impossible to overlook the impact he will have for the team off the field.
In Nick Swisher, the Indians instantly have a marketable player. That’s something they haven’t truly had since Omar Vizquel was manning short stop back in the mid-90′s. Yes, the Tribe has had players they could market since then, the most notable of which was Grady Sizemore. But his marketability was little more than above-average looks that the ladies just seemed to love and a personality that most of the time seemed a bit stiff and rigid.
As for the current roster, it’s not much better. Justin Masterson, Jason Kipnis and Vinnie Pestano have shown they have personalities that the fans can get behind, but who else is there? We don’t know enough about Lonnie Chisenhall other than his affinity for strange facial hair, Chris Perez keeps trying to push us all away with his inflammatory comments, you would barely know Michael Brantley was in the same room as you if he walked in, and fairly or not the language barrier with Hispanic players can, at times, be too much to overcome.
That’s not the case with Swisher. He has an infectious personality and an ear-to-ear smile that’s hard not to fall in love with. You can tell from how he plays that he legitimately enjoys doing what he’s doing and he enjoys each and every moment of it for what it is. The good, the bad and even the ugly.
Case in point, when Andy Marte struck him out back in 2010. Swisher didn’t sulk about it. Instead, he had a laugh at his own expense and took it for what it was: a comical moment that he could appreciate. Sure, he was going to get an earful from his teammates and live in infamy on the internet for the rest of eternity, but so what? What’s worse, laughing at yourself or breaking a bat in two and pouting like a toddler? Swisher took the high road and as a person with a self-deprecating sense of humor, I love that.
Ironically, Swisher lived that same experience from the opposite point of view just over a year earlier when he pitched a scoreless inning on opening day against the Rays. You can tell from his postgame interview that he legitimately enjoyed the experience for what it was and at the same time showed he was willing to do whatever he could, even at his own expense, to help the team get back on track. How could fans not love that?
That’s the key to why Swisher is such a good signing. He gets it. With Swisher leading the way, this team can finally have a personality that goes above and beyond just nine guys taking the field to play a baseball game. This team might actually be fun to watch. Will we be reliving the rally pies from the 2007 season? Probably not, but would anyone be surprised if they made an appearance every now and then? I wouldn’t.
Fans have been complaining for years that the Indians don’t give them anyone they can fall in love with. Either the players aren’t very good, they have the personalities of a pet rock, or they’re terrified that as soon as they let their guard down said players will be shipped out for the next batch of young prospects only to have to grow reattached to a new group of players. It’s a vicious cycle. We don’t have to worry about any of that right now. The Indians have placed a four-year investment in Swisher and barring a disaster of epic proportions he is going to be here for the long haul. He is a very large part of the plan moving forward to mold this team into a winner.
If the Indians play their cards right they can maybe even create a decent advertising campaign that focuses on the present and where this team is going in the future rather than on the past. Swisher isn’t afraid of being goofy for the world to see. He let’s his personality be on full display as seen here, here, here, and God help us…even here. The Indians need to think outside of the box and capitalize on a player who is willing to put himself out their not just to put butts in the seats, but to generate interest in the game of baseball as a whole.
As an added bonus, he’s also one of us. Swisher was born in Columbus and went to Ohio State. He is a Buckeye through and through. Now he finds himself playing in front of the largest contingent of Buckeye fans in the nation outside of Columbus. I implore the Indians to find a way to use that to their advantage. Bring in Urban Meyer, Thad Matta and Brutus Buckeye for commercials. Jim Tressel literally works down the road in Akron. Find a way to tie all of this together and make an advertising campaign that draws interest in this team again.
Will the Indians take advantage of this opportunity? That remains to be seen. The ink is barely dry on Swisher’s contract so there hasn’t been ample time to plan out exactly how he will be used by the marketing department. But, let’s hope they see the asset they hold in Nick Swisher and can find the best way to use him to reignite the burning fires of love this city once had for the Indians.