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The Yandy Watch Epilogue

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The era never really started, did it?

MLB: Cleveland Indians-Media Day Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the meeting, friends old and new. I’d like to take a moment to review the journey we have all taken.

Before the 2017 season I started a somewhat tongue-in-cheek series of posts about Yandy Diaz, the growing support for his inclusion on the Indians’ roster, and Timbits. Diaz posted strong numbers in spring training and certainly as a result of our efforts broke camp with the team. We logged his progress together using a goofy four quadrant chart and rooted for him to climb closer and closer to its upper-right corner.

The day never quite came. Now if it does, it will not happen in Cleveland.

The Indians traded Yandy Diaz to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of a three-team deal that you are likely familiar with by now. While all of us here at this meeting hope that the trade works out well for the Indians, it is bittersweet at best. For something like two years many of us shouted #FreeYandy. We hoped his release would happen in Cleveland and that he might fulfill the prophecies we dreamed up for him. It was not to be; the playing time here never materialized. Now, in Tampa, he will almost certainly see all of the playing time he wants.

In a lot of ways Tampa is the perfect place for him. One, Tampa is known for being creative in their approaches to roster construction and management. That Diaz rarely lifts or pulls the baseball may not matter much to them in light of his overall run production. He can also man a few different positions, another trait that they value. Two, fielding a grounder mashed off of the bat of Diaz at Tropicana Field will be like catching a skipping stone.

If he flourishes in Tampa I will be both proud and upset. I want him to be great. I think the reason that many of us are here is because Diaz is a unique baseball player with a captivating story. His father left Cuba when he was young to pursue a career in baseball and never quite made it. Diaz defected himself, climbed his way to the majors, and has stalled at the brink of being an everyday player. The strength with which he hits the ball suggests that swing adjustments would lead to the kinds of home runs that end up as souvenirs to those walking past the stadium. He fought the belief that he was bad defensive third baseman, though that myth seems to be as persistent as the chupacabras.

For me, there was something about rooting for Diaz that resonated with why I love baseball. He’s a kid that came from nowhere and wants to make a name for himself. His inability to find everyday playing time made him a perpetual underdog. At times it felt unjust, and there is a wonderful intersection of baseball and broader American culture where we complain about injustices while those with the power to fix them don’t. Or worse — they are blind to them.

More to the point, there is an untapped potential in him that allowed me to wonder, What if? What kind of numbers might he post if he joins the launch angle revolution? What would it mean for the Indians’ journey toward a World Series title? What if he just got the time to prove what he is capable of without worrying about another trip down I-71?

Baseball provides the most fertile soil in all of sports for, What if? And, Maybe next year. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to it. There is a perpetual hope in this game that greatness rides the wake of the next pitch, or the next game, or the next season. There is an infinite mine of questions to debate, whether comparing players from different eras or projecting a player’s career if a certain injury had never happened. Maybe those bloom on the baseball field because they distract me from my inability to reckon with these questions in my own life — my own seasons, my own injuries, my own injustices.

I won’t be happy if we meet in a bar somewhere years from now and mutter, “Man, can you imagine what the Indians could have done if they’d never traded Yandy Diaz.”

Still, I hope that we have that conversation someday.