Everything is Awesome: 2014 Year in Review
Despite missing the playoffs, everything is awesome in Cleveland in 2014
Another exciting year has come and gone in Cleveland, with plenty of highs and lows at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
There was a Cy Young Award winner on the mound and two big offseason signings going dud.
There was an MVP candidate in the outfield and a former ace getting hurt and eventually traded.
All in all, while 2014 did not end in a playoff berth like 2013, it was still a special year, one which saw Cleveland record back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2000-01.
And in 2014, we will use The LEGO Movie to remember everything that happened in Cleveland baseball.
Quotes are from IMDB and Wikipedia.
Everything is awesome.
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team
Everything is awesome when we’re living our dream.
The big song from The LEGO Movie, “Everything is Awesome,” really does epitomize a lot about Cleveland baseball in 2014:
Michael Brantley signed a four-year, $25 million extension in mid-February, a move that has already worked out spectacularly for Cleveland. The outfielder immediately went out and finished third in the MVP voting and looks to be a key building block for years to come.
Yan Gomes may not have finished with any MVP votes, but he also made Cleveland look smart for giving him a six-year, $23 million extension in late-March. He followed up 2013’s breakout with a 2014 that saw him rank as arguably the best catcher in the American League.
Trevor Bauer bounced back from a down 2013 season and Danny Salazar pulled himself out of a rough start to 2014, with the two becoming key cogs in Cleveland’s potentially elite, definitely low-cost starting rotation.
The bullpen ended up pitching well, with Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw offering plus results from the right side and Marc Rzepczynski, Kyle Crockett, and Nick Hagadone giving Cleveland a solid basis of left-handed relievers for the foreseeable future.
And finally, Terry Francona signed a contract extension of his own after the season, giving the manager a guaranteed contract through 2018 with club options for 2019 and 2020. There will always be quibbles with the way any manager runs the club, the placement of hitters in the order, etc., but Francona is clearly one of the best in baseball. And he is committed to bringing a winner to Cleveland.
Have you heard the news, everyone’s talking
Life is good ‘cause everything’s awesome
Lost my job, it’s a new opportunity
More free time for my awesome community.
Hitting a few more lines from “Everything is Awesome” before moving on to quotes from the movie, the last two lines perfectly describe Carlos Carrasco’s 2014 season.
Carrasco started the season in the rotation, was booted by the end of April, and found himself not trusted in the bullpen. The right-hander started finding success as a reliever, however, and eventually earned another shot as a starter. This time, Carrasco stuck in the rotation, and after posting some of the best numbers in the majors down the stretch, looks to be a significant contributor in 2015.
Other players “losing their job” in 2014 include Brandon Moss and Gavin Floyd, given that Oakland and Atlanta respectively chose not to bring the two back for the upcoming season. Each has received a new opportunity in Cleveland, however, and will hope to do as well with it as Carrasco did with his over the past year.
Carlos Carrasco (Photo: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Emmet: Isn’t there a good cop?
Bad Cop: [Changes to good cop] Hi buddy! Want a cup of water?
Emmet: Yeah, actually.
Bad Cop: [Changes back to bad cop and smacks water away] Too bad!
Moving to the quotes, we start with Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) being interrogated by Bad Cop (voiced by Liam Neeson).
Not everything went well in Cleveland in 2014, with repeated injuries to Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher coming at fans like the cup of water being smacked away from Emmet. Each time it looked like Bourn or Swisher was healthy and ready to go again, another injury seemed to come and set them back.
Hopefully 2015 will hold better injury luck for the pair and fans can avoid having their water smacked away in the coming year.
Batman: [while under attack] To the Batmobile!
[the Bad Guys shoot at the Batmobile, blowing it up]
Batman: Dang it…
Wonder Woman: To the Invisible Jet!
[the Bad Guys shoot at an empty space next to the Batmobile, causing an explosion]
Wonder Woman: Dang it…
While under attack, Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) and Wonder Woman (voiced by Cobie Smulders) both see their vehicles blown up in quick succession.
Thus was the feeling watching Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera in 2014. Masterson and the team could not get an extension done in spring training, followed by the right-hander struggling, getting hurt, and ultimately being traded to St. Louis at the trade deadline for James Ramsey.
Cabrera, on the other hand, played decently, but still was not back to the level he was at in 2011 and 2012. The shortstop was also traded at the deadline, heading to Washington in return for Zach Walters.
If both Masterson and Cabrera had played up to their ceiling, Cleveland would have held on to the pair of them and just might have made the playoffs. But that was not the case and both ended the season in different uniforms.
President Business: Must be weird. One minute you’re the most special person in the universe. The next minute, you’re nobody!
Though President Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) is mocking our hero Emmet in the movie, he also could be speaking to Jason Kipnis and Vinnie Pestano.
Kipnis inked a six-year, $52.5 million contract in early April, seemingly locking himself in as the most special person in the universe (or at least Cleveland). But injuries and underperformance led to an uncertain future for Kipnis, with many fans interested in seeing Jose Ramirez ultimately end up with his job.
The downfall was even worse for Pestano, who completed his descent from “closer of the future.” The right-handed was demoted early in the season and ultimately traded to the Angels in return for Mike Clevinger, ending his tenure with the team and flaming out after a promising 2011 and 2012.
Jason Kipnis (Photo: Getty Images)
Emmet: Whoa, are we inside my brain right now? It’s big. I must be smart.
Vitruvius: I’m not hearing a whole lot of activity in here.
Hindsight is 20/20, and given the ability to see how 2014 turned out, the front office would likely not sign David Murphy nor make the Josh Outman trade.
Murphy’s contract is not overbearingly bad, and he actually hit decently in 2014, but his defense was particularly bad and his on-the-field results were replacement level, at best. He may or may not play on the team in 2015, and while he is a decent bounce back candidate, he still hurt more than he helped in 2014.
Giving up Drew Stubbs -- who played better than Murphy last year and hits right-handed -- to save a little money and acquire left-handed bullpen depth in Outman turned out to be a bad move as well. Just leaving Stubbs on the roster, not trading for Outman, and not signing Murphy would have likely been worth a couple wins to the roster. These moves made some sense at the time, but turned out to be trying to do too much.
Emmet: What if there’s such a thing as a bunk bed but as a couch? Introducing the double decker couch! So everyone could watch TV together and be buddies!
Wyldstyle/Lucy: That’s literally the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
Vitruvius: Please, Wyldstyle, let me handle this. That idea is just the worst.
But while the Murphy and Outman additions ended up hurting Cleveland, I would agree with Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman) in saying that, in the end, the signing of John Axford was just the worst.
In order to get back to his 2010-11 elite form, Axford needed to see his SO/9 go over 10.0, his BB/9 be within shouting distance of 4.0, and his HR/9 hang out around 0.5.
The strikeouts were there while Axford was in Cleveland, but the walks were even worse and the home runs kept flying out of the park. The organization eventually let him go to the Pirates straight on a waiver claim, willing to just walk away from Axford and wash their hands of the whole affair.
Lucy: You’re not the Special! YOU LIED TO ME!!!
Not all of the bad results from 2014 were completely bad, however. Lucy (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) accuses Emmet of not being the Special, much like how Lonnie Chisenhall’s second half slump has him potentially out of a job.
But much as how Emmet turns out alright, Chisenhall’s season was pretty decent overall. It was not all like June 9 -- when Chisenhall hit three home runs, had five hits overall, and drove in nine runs, an accomplishment only managed four times in the past 100 years -- but there were times the third baseman was the Special.
The same goes for George Kottaras, who came up from the minors and immediately hit two home runs in his first game. He may not have been the Special in the end -- ultimately playing in the majors on three different teams in 2014 -- but he was still a positive addition overall, especially thanks to his May 4 debut.
Lonnie Chisenhall & Nick Swisher (Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)
Bad Cop: [To Emmet] You’ll live. You’ll be fine.
Bad Cop: [To President Business on the phone]: I have him right here, sir. yes, we’ve told him he’ll live so he doesn’t try to escape. But… we’re lying to him.
Sometimes 2014 had the organization lying to the fans, however, like when we were told Jason Giambi was going to be fine. Unlike in 2013, when he managed to spend most of the season on the active roster, the idea that Giambi was going to be healthy in 2014 turned out to untrue.
Though his experience is clearly something valued by the organization, age finally caught up with the soon-to-be 44-year-old, who was Cleveland’s only free agent following the 2014 season.
Vitruvius: Well, Junebug, I really prefer the word “experienced!”
Age did not catch up with everyone in Cleveland in 2014, however, with Scott Atchison coming out of nowhere to become a key member of the bullpen.
Atchison pitched so well in 2014 that Cleveland signed him to a contract extension while the season was still in process, locking in the 38-year-old for 2015 (and maybe 2016, if his team option is exercised). The right-hander is continues to cheat Father Time, and a season after being one of the better relievers in baseball, he will attempt to run it back in 2015.
Unikitty: Any idea is a good idea except the non-happy ones. Those we push down deep inside where you’ll never, ever, ever, EVER find them!
Unikitty (voiced by Alison Brie) had the strategy of pushing down dark thoughts and never letting them out. Sometimes that just does not work, however.
Not all of Cleveland’s minor league signings worked out, with two notable ones going awry. One was due to injury, with Nyjer Morgan making the roster, but ultimately getting hurt and being released.
With Bourn on the disabled list to start the season, Morgan put up some impressive stats, looked good in the field, and started to look like a cheaper version of Bourn himself. It was not meant to be, however, leaving the question of what might have been.
Nyjer Morgan (Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Unikitty: So why did you come back?
Metalbeard: This be-doubled land couch. I watched Lord Business’ forces completely overlook it. Which means we need more ideas like it!
Emmet: [Excited] Oh, thank you.
Metalbeard: Ideas so dumb and bad that no one would ever think they could possibly be useful.
Emmet: [Dejected] Oh. Thank you.
Metalbeard (voiced by Nick Offerman) articulates the hindsight feeling of letting Aaron Harang go before the season started.
The minor league signing of Harang could have worked out well -- you can never have too much pitching and the right-hander ended the season with 204.1 above-average innings -- but he did not make Cleveland’s roster out of spring training. At the time, it did not seem like a big deal (like Emmet’s excited “oh, thank you”); minor league signings often do not work out.
But like Emmet’s dejected “oh, thank you” following Metalbeard’s insult, in retrospect, Harang would have been a useful pitcher to keep around.
Emmet: [to the Master Builders] I have no experience fighting, leading, or making plans. Or having ideas in general. In fact, I’m not all that smart. And I’m not what you’d call the creative type. Plus, generally unskilled. Also scared and cowardly. I know what you’re thinking: He is the least qualified person in the world to lead us. And you are right.
Swamp Creature: This is supposed to make us feel better?
Though they were not minor league signings, fans could be forgiven for thinking “this is supposed to make us feel better?” when watching some of the lineups Cleveland ran out during the race for the playoffs.
Chris Dickerson played in 41 games from July 7 through September 5, posting numbers roughly at replacement level.
Chris Gimenez was trusted with eight games down the stretch from September 8 through September 23, not getting a hit.
J.B. Shuck appeared in 16 games from September 6 through September 28, in which he posted a .077 on-base percentage without hitting a single extra base hit.
Though none of these players were expected to do much, seeing them on the field so frequently for a contending team was far from inspiring.
The Man Upstairs: You know the rules, this isn’t a toy!
Finn: Um… it kind of is.
The Man Upstairs: No, actually it’s a highly sophisticated interlocking brick system.
Finn: But we bought it at the toy store.
The Man Upstairs: We did, but the way I’m using it makes it an adult thing.
Finn: The box for this one said “ages 8 to 14”!
The Man Upstairs: That’s a suggestion. They have to put that on there.
Plenty of other developments were inspiring, however, including Roberto Perez taking a huge step forward and becoming a major league option. Prospects without much hype who enter the season at 25 years old coming off of a .510 OPS in their first experience in Triple-A are not supposed to be impact major leaguers, yet that is what Perez was in 2014.
The catcher is not likely to continue playing like a borderline All-Star when he is on the field (which is how well he played in the majors in 2014), but Perez has now established himself as a viable backup catching option to Yan Gomes for years to come.
Roberto Perez leads the postgame handshake line (Photo: David Richard/USA TODAY Sports)
Emmet: That’s the signal, but the shield is still up.
Batman: Then I guess we’ll just have to wing it.
Batman: That’s a bat pun.
Another young player who became a legitimate major leaguer in 2014 was Jose Ramirez, who took the starting shortstop job after Asdrubal Cabrera was traded and ran with it. Though some regression is quite likely, Ramirez looks like a solid major league shortstop, which has now started something of a shortstop controversy heading into 2015.
Francisco Lindor is still the shortstop of the future, and given his strong 2014, the future is not all that far off. While Lindor does not have any major league time -- and struggled a bit at the plate after being called up to Triple-A -- the 21-year-old should still make his debut in Cleveland this year.
As for what that means for Ramirez (and maybe Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, and even some outfielders if you want to move Ramirez to second base, third base, or possibly the outfield), like Batman, we’ll just have to wing it.
Vitruvius: The only thing anyone needs to be special is to believe that you can be. I know that sounds like a cat poster, but it’s true.
Tyler Holt started 2014 in Akron, marking his third season in Double-A, seemingly the sign of a stalled prospect.
But Holt took off in 2014, started hitting better than ever before, which combined with his plus defense in all three outfield spots, got him a callup to the majors.
Like Perez, Holt was not a top prospect entering the season. But after never giving up, he is now a solid fourth outfielder option and should see some more major league time over the course of the upcoming season.
President Business: All I’m asking for is total perfection.
When someone shows an ability to be a great player early in their career, but then settles in as a good one instead, it often feels disappointing. Such is the case with Carlos Santana, who has been a very good player over the course of his time in Cleveland, but never the great one he looked like in his 46-game debut in 2010.
But despite never producing like the perennial All-Star he looked like in his debut season, Santana has settled in as a consistently above-average player, which has considerable value to a major league club. After moving out from behind the plate and not succeeding in his third base audition, Santana seems to have a home at first base and should produce well this year.
Mike Aviles is also someone who is flawed as a player, but despite not achieving total perfection, has value to Cleveland. Though he is roughly a replacement-level player, his ability to play every position except pitcher and catcher gives teams roster flexibility and the ability to carry someone like Jason Giambi or an extra reliever on the team. He will never impress when he is on the field, but the fringe benefits of Aviles add something to a team beyond the box score.
Unikitty: Here in Cloud Cuckoo Land, there are no rules: There’s no government, no baby sitters, no bedtimes, no frowny faces, no bushy mustaches, and no negativity of any kind.
Lucy: You just said the word “no” like a thousand times.
Unikitty: And there’s also no consistency.
One player who did not have any benefit in the box score or beyond it in 2014 was Ryan Raburn. Like Cloud Cuckoo Land, Raburn has shown no consistency over the last four years.
In that time, has bounced from 0.9 to -1.5 to 2.4 to -1.1 WAR. Anyone who tells you what to expect from Raburn in 2015 is lying to you. The best answer is who on Earth knows?
What we do know, however, is this clip from July 24 will never get old.
Lucy: [about Batman’s song] That’s real music, Emmet. It’s dark and brooding.
Emmet: Hey, I can be dark and brooding too - Guys, look, a rainbow!
Zach McAllister’s 2014 season, when viewed by how it started and his 5.23 ERA, seems to be dark and brooding. But McAllister’s peripherals were much better, and down the stretch, the right-hander looked much better.
It is possible McAllister will pull a 2014 Carlos Carrasco in 2015 and make the team as a fifth starter due to being out of options before fully establishing himself in the rotation. Given the way his peripherals paint the picture of a consistently solid pitcher, it would not be surprising if 2015 was the end of a rainbow for McAllister.
Emmet: No, let’s not let Emmet try! I haven’t had any training!
Despite his plea to not let Emmet try, Emmet ultimately succeeds despite not having any training. Such was the case with two Cleveland left-handed rookies who saw significant playing time in T.J. House and Kyle Crockett.
Though Cleveland’s depth in starting pitching options will probably push House down to the minors to start the season, during his time in the majors last year, the left-hander was a solid-average pitcher. Solidly average pitchers do not grow on trees, and when Cleveland inevitably needs to replace some starters in the coming year, House will be an excellent option to have waiting in the wings.
Crockett has a better shot at making the team out of spring training, but even if he does not, the first player from the 2013 draft class to make the majors has already made an impression. At worst, Crockett was an average reliever at the major league level roughly one year removed from pitching in college. Crockett moved quickly through the system, paying immediate returns on his fourth round selection.
Vitruvius: Of course he won’t be, not if you keep telling him that. He needs to see that he can.
Not every rookies hit the ground running in 2014, with Bryan Price, Austin Adams, and Nick Maronde struggling once they got to the major leagues (in Maronde’s case, the struggles came while he was still with the Angels).
But rookies are supposed to go through an adjustment period, and instead of burying these three, we will let them grow. They could become major league contributors or they could fail; we will find that out in the future. For now, they need to be given a chance to establish themselves and succeed.
Benny [Suddenly appears] Hey, I’m Ben! But you can call me Benny! And I can build a spaceship. Watch this.
[starts building a spaceship]
Benny: Spaceship! Spaceship! Spaceship! Spaceship! Spaceship!
Lucy: No! You can’t. The skies are surrounded.
Benny: That’s okay, I didn’t really wanna build a spaceship anyway. That’s cool.
[kicks his half built spaceship and it falls apart]
Price, Adams, and Maronde were not big names expected to make a major league impact; Jesus Aguilar, on the other hand, was.
Like Benny (voiced by Charlie Day), fans were excited every time Aguilar was called up, looking to him as the right-handed power option missing from the major league lineup. That never happened, however, with Aguilar only being given 38 plate appearances while up in Cleveland.
There is a chance Aguilar can continue to grow and develop and eventually become a major league contributor. In 2014, however, his time in the majors did not pan out.
Jesus Aguilar (Photo: Brittany Chay)
Vitruvius: Ah, we gotta write all that down ‘cause I’m not gonna remember any of it.
Another young player who did not establish himself in 2014 was C.C. Lee, who made the travel up and down I-71 throughout the season.
Down to Columbus on March 24; up to Cleveland on April 2; down to Columbus on April 3; up to Cleveland on April 9; down to Columbus on May 17; up to Cleveland on July 18; down to Columbus on July 22; and up to Cleveland to stay on August 7.
Like Vitruvius said, we gotta write all that down ‘cause I’m not going to remember any of it.
Emmet: Great. I think I got it. But just in case… tell me the whole thing again, I wasn’t listening.
Shaun Marcum signs a minor league deal with Cleveland, coming off of an injury-riddled season, looking to make good in the upcoming season.
You can be forgiven for thinking you have heard that story before, because you have. Marcum was supposed to be 2014’s version of Scott Kazmir, but the right-hander never got fully healthy and ready to go. He signed another minor league contract after the 2014 season, however, and will look to run the whole thing back again in 2015.
Vitruvius: I liked Emmet before it was cool.
With Vitruvius’ hipster statement surrounding Emmet, we get to the minor leaguers who took big steps forward in 2014.
First off, the players who were added to the 40-man roster in November are certainly one step closer to the ultimate goal. Shawn Armstrong, Ryan Merritt, Giovanny Urshela, Tony Wolters, and Cody Anderson are now one call from the majors, no 40-man roster move needed.
Additionally, players like Clint Frazier, Nellie Rodriguez, Shawn Morimando, Mitch Brown, Paul Hendrix, Adam Plutko, Eric Haase, Yu-Cheng Chang, Tyler Naquin, Jeremy Lucas, Joe Colon, and Will Roberts all had big seasons in 2014, and while not all of them will make the majors, some of these players will likely ultimately play roles in Cleveland’s future, whether in the future or in trades.
Emmet: Uh, guys? We’re about to crash into the sun.
Batman: Yeah, but it’s gonna look really cool.
Speaking of the uncertain future of the major leagues, most of Cleveland’s picks from the June draft will not make the majors; such is the nature of the draft.
But while we wait for many of them to crash into the sun, the successes still look really cool along the way. Bobby Bradley and Bradley Zimmer found immediate success on the field, Justus Sheffield, Mike Papi, and Grant Hockin have tons of upside, and plenty of picks from below the third round could develop into much more.
The final step may not major leagues for every draft pick, but while they are all prospects entering their first full professional season, the sky is the limit and anything is possible.
Stepped in mud, got new brown shoes
It’s awesome to win, and it’s awesome to lose.
Finishing up the list by returning to “Everything is Awesome,” while the ultimate goal of every season is to win the World Series, it will never happen every single year. If we cannot enjoy a season where Cleveland does not win a championship, then everything will be miserable.
I would rather be happy. It’s awesome to win, but even though I would rather Cleveland never lose, it can be awesome to lose too.
Just so long as it doesn’t happen too often.
Happy New Year everyone!
If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.
Lot's of really great memories from last year. I agree w you about having to watch Dickerson, Gimenez and Shuck as we went down the stretch...ughhh, that was tough. I don't agree w you about Drew Stubbs though. There's absolutely no way we would have been better with him than Murphy. (for proof see his away from Coors Field line of .211/.283/.333/.616...)