Look at this swing.
Now this one.
When you’re done, this one.
One more time.
What do they all have in common? No, you’re not hallucinating and this isn’t a trick question, they all do in fact involve Mark Reynolds. Reynolds is one of the newest residents of Chief Wahoo’s longhouse (a teepee can’t fit a 40-man roster) and as I’ve already written, I’ve quickly come around to him. He doesn’t play defense anywhere above average, he doesn’t run the bases well, and he strikes out by the handful every series, but he swings the bat like it’s going out of style. He’s no Griffey, but the man can club the ball.
That kind of bat has been a rarity in Cleveland for a while now. Jim Thome came back a couple years and made us smile, and Carlos Santana has shown flashes. But Reynolds is something else. Cannon shots abound, when he’s not striking out 15 times in a week. It’s not even like I get too mad over all the strikeouts, at least not in the long run. He’s a boom-or-bust kind of guy, and that’s exciting. Perhaps it’s in part because of my childhood dream to be an oil baron, but I like the Joy of Victory and Agony of Defeat in my sports—it mirrors the kind of life I want to live.
When you watch Reynolds really connect on one, the power he pours into the swing seems almost accidental. His homer in Tampa earlier this year looked almost like he was just swinging defensively, then 408 feet later the Indians led 4-0. His grand slam would have been a pop up for a lot of guys. But he will have none of that. Maybe he studies jet streams and wind patterns, and part of his hitting style involves hitting it seemingly thousands of feet straight up in the hope he’ll catch a draft or drop it on a sparrow’s back. Or maybe he heard “swing hard in case you hit it” and thought it was a valid strategy to consistently adhere to.
There’s no art in Reynolds’ swing, only savagery. To watch him take batting practice, where the balls land further and further up the bleachers with each pitch, then arcing higher and higher as he works on other things (bombs versus lasers, obviously), it’s horrifying and awesome, like a train derailment of bottled lightning. Or a plane crashing into a propane tanker. That one would be neat. Even when he misses, you can’t help but utter an “Oooohh,” and you can almost see the pitcher sigh in relief.
Sabermetrically, Reynolds checks out as officially pretty good or maybe just alright. His defense at third being as dreadful as it was during his time in Arizona and early on in Baltimore, his highest WAR output was 3.3 in 2009, and that included a very good 4.4 oWAR. Besides that the most he’s hit is 0.9 in 2011, when he produced 3.3 oWAR. His career .242 ISO puts him at seventeenth over the last five-plus years (the length of his career), ahead of Josh WIllingham, Jay Bruce and Nelson Cruz. He walks a decent amount adding up to a .332 OBP, and imagine if he could bring that K/BB ratio a little more even. He could go from one-and-a-half trick pony into a legitimately very good player with two decent tricks, like Adam Dunn three or four years ago.
Humanity, even in our assumption of an advanced civilization, is inherently drawn to the savage, the brutal in life. Look at any pitchfork-carrying mob or riot—we get caught up in the energy of the moment and celebrate in the breakdown of society. As Conan the Barbarian said, the best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women. Watching Reynolds swing is pretty close to that, he’s already made a lot of people gnash teeth and lament their life.
If it sounds like I think we’ll all get caught up in Reynolds at the plate and it will lead to the downfall of civilization, you’re right, that’s what I’m insinuating. I feel like we should only worry about it if he has a 45-plus homer, .250/.360/.540 kind of a season. I’d rather have a .230/.330/.600 line more, that would be just silly.
Reynolds seems like one of those guys that would do well if you transported him to 1250 and tossed him a broadsword, kind of like if you handed Dunn a cudgel or mace and sent him back to 1066 and gave him to the Anglo-Saxons. I just don’t think the Normans would have been successful, which means Dunn could change history. Though he has trouble with the high fastball, so I wonder how it would translate to his cudgeling. Not many baseball players have the “ancient warrior” vibe going for them, and that fear of God they put in non-elite pitchers is a nice psychological edge. And who knows, what if the team plane flies through a vortex and appears back in time. You need some brawlers. When you think about it that way, Reynolds at $7.5 million is a steal.
Chances are it won’t be for long since he’s only signed for this season, but I’m going to appreciate Reynolds being around. As Jay-Z said, live is for living, and you live through your emotions. This dude will make us feel the whole spectrum. People might not like how he goes about his business with the strukeouts and lack of speed and no realistic flexibility on defense, but the moonshots are just too much fun. Mark Reynolds is excitement incarnate, something we as fans needed this year.
What the heck—here’s one more.