We were hoping against hope that Michael Brantley’s shoulder was fine when he was activated from the disabled list at the end of April.
Unfortunately, history was not on our side.
When Brantley came back, manager Terry Francona said the outfielder would play two days in a row, then get a day off. This course of action was followed until the Detroit series last week, when the skipper wrote Brantley’s name in the lineup four straight days and in five of the six games on the homestand.
It was after the plan was altered that soreness we appeared in Dr. Smooth’s shoulder, which resulted in putting him back on the disabled list yesterday.
Again, we were hoping that Brantley recovered sufficiently from his surgery to allow him to have a normal season, but recent history should have taught us something different.
In 2014, Jason Kipnis pulled an oblique muscle on April 29th. He was coming off his first All-Star Game appearance in 2013, and although his batting average wasn’t great at that time (.239) he had an OPS of 763, thanks to a .360 on base percentage.
The second baseman made it back to the lineup on May 28th, and struggled for the most part the rest of the season.
The highest his batting average hit the rest of the year was .261 (his career mark is .272) and he wound up hitting just .240, with 6 HR and 41 RBI. He knocked in his last run of the season on August 29th.
And yes, he did play regularly in September.
Yan Gomes was coming off a year where he won a Silver Slugger Award as the best hitting catcher in the American League when he injured his knee on April 11th.
Gomes was struggling at the plate to that point in the season, but the campaign was only five games old.
The catcher returned to the lineup on May 24th, didn’t hit a home run until his 10th game back, and wound up hitting just .231 for the season with 12 HR, a drop from 21 the year prior.
His numbers prior to the All Star Game were 234/327/560, while after the break, they were closer to his career norms at 289/435/725.
Were both players rushed back too soon?
First, we are sure both players said they were ready. We do not think the Indians’ front office and training staff pressured either Kipnis, Gomes, or Brantley to get back in the lineup.
All three are the team’s leaders, and probably feel obligated as leaders to get back on the field.
Since those players are keys to the Indians’ offense, having them out there at less than 100%, or let’s say 80% doesn’t allow them to hit like they normally do, and that creates even a bigger burden on the ballclub.
Wouldn’t it be better to have them take an extra two weeks to get even more rehab and more healthy before putting them right back in the starting lineup?
Let’s say the Tribe waited an extra couple of weeks with Brantley, had him get more at bats in minor league games and activated him on May 15th (today). Could he play the rest of the year like Michael Brantley? And wouldn’t the Indians be better off if he could?
We will never know, but it behooves the organization to get the leftfielder back to 100% when he does return, because his bat is so important to the team.
They say those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it. The Indians aren’t learning from the mistakes of the past.