Up to yesterday, the Cleveland Indians had been having themselves a heck of a weekend. They had been convincingly thrashing the Los Angeles Angels while the Detroit Tigers hit a cold streak. As a result, the Tribe gave itself some breathing room, extending its two-game lead in the AL Central to five.
However, this hardly made yesterday’s update on one of the Indians’ best players any easier to take.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona announced Saturday afternoon that Michael Brantley will undergo surgery on his bum shoulder next week, officially ending his 2016 season. It was a tough pill to swallow for both the team and fans who were crossing their collective fingers in hope for a miraculous return from an injury which has limited him to just eleven appearances on the year.
Obviously the news that a team in first place will not end up getting its best hitter back this season isn’t pleasant. That said, this doesn’t change the fact the Indians are making the right call in ending Brantley’s comeback attempt.
All the news had been positive regarding Brantley leading into this past week. Based on everything coming from the team, he was just a few back-to-back minor league appearances away from being activated.
However, when it was announced this past Tuesday that he was still feeling pain in his shoulder after swinging the bat, the writing was on the wall. Though Cleveland indicated other routes would be considered in terms of getting him back to 100%, the most logical solution was getting him under the knife.
This is essentially due to how long Brantley has been dealing with his shoulder injury. As mentioned, he’s only played a handful of games all year. He hasn’t been able to consistently swing the bat without issue at all this season. When this latest setback was announced, we were told he was dealing with symptoms of tendinitis.
The fact that the pain kept flaring up made it difficult to believe Brantley could ever really return to full strength this year on rest and rehab alone. Even if he did make it back to the active roster, there’s been zero indication you could reasonably expect him to stick around long.
As a result, Cleveland shutting him down for good was the only legitimate option. If Brantley kept attempting to swing without pain deeper into the year, he greatly increased the odds of his shoulder ailment becoming a lingering issue.
Sure, finding a way to get Brantley back in the lineup late in the season would be a major boost for the Indians. However, what would happen if he returned around October just to end up feeling pain again? At that point, he’d likely go in for surgery around the same time he underwent his first procedure last fall, pretty much starting this entire process over again. Clearly, Cleveland realized this and decided not to risk running into such scenario.
If there’s any positive to Brantley’s season coming to an underwhelming and upsetting end, it’s the fact the Indians’ playoff hopes don’t hinge on him whatsoever.
This would be an entirely different situation if Cleveland was lower in the standings and hoping for any help it could get to desperately try and clinch a postseason berth. If that were the case, you’re forced to wonder if the front office would postpone Brantley’s surgery praying for a miracle.
Instead, the Indians currently have a good grip on a potential playoff spot, seemingly navigating out of last week’s funk and getting themselves back on track. The team has been surprisingly strong offensively, somehow generating the third-highest run differential in the majors without Brantley in the lineup. Because of this, Cleveland can afford to take the logical route with his injury and ensure he can be ready for next year.
Again, hearing Brantley won’t be making any more appearances this season is not good news whatsoever. At the same time, the Indians couldn’t afford to only think about the present. They had to consider Brantley’s future, as well.
In order to ensure that future involved returning to the lineup in 2017, the Tribe made the smart move and got him the surgery he needs.