Over the years, I’ve never been impressed by Mark Reynolds. I saw him put up big power numbers in Arizona, but also huge strikeout totals and a mediocre batting average at best. I figured that Reynolds was just another Rob Deer, Dave Kingman, Carlos Pena or Russell Branyan.
Boy was I wrong.
Reynolds has been far better than advertised and is currently on pace to put up one of the more productive seasons in Cleveland Indians history. Through Thursday’s victory, Reynolds has played in 31 of 32 games, has a .291 batting average, a league leading 11 homeruns, a team high 29 RBI, 22 runs, 14 walks, 32 strikeouts and one stolen base. When these numbers are projected out over a 162 game season, it puts Reynolds in exclusive company.
Reynolds is on pace to play in 157 games while batting .291 with 55 homeruns, 146 RBI, 115 runs, 70 walks, 162 strikeouts and five steals. Obviously, these numbers are just projections and come with absolutely no guarantees, but this is currently the pace that he is on. If he were to keep hitting this way for the entire season, he would match Jim Thome’s 2002 club record for homeruns and would drive in more runs than anybody since Manny Ramirez’s club record 165 back in 1999. He would become the first Indian to drive in 140 runs since Juan Gonzalez back in 2001 as well.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the start to Reynolds season is that he is doing this largely without the aid of the Indians best table-setter, Michael Bourn. Bourn has missed nearly all but the first week of the season with an injury and will certainly add more RBI opportunities to Reynolds’ at bats. If Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera can get back to normal also, then Reynolds’ numbers could become even more outstanding.
The month and one half that Reynolds has spent on the shores of Lake Erie has been much more than just a pleasant surprise—it is so much more than what anyone could have expected and is also exactly what the Indians need if they want to contend deep into October.
I didn’t hate the signing of Reynolds when the Indians inked him to his one year deal back in December, but I certainly didn’t love it either. In my mind, Reynolds was just a guy that would keep first base warm until Jesus Aguilar was ready or until they traded for a long term answer at the position that has been largely disappointing since Thome left back in 2002. Heck, I was just glad that I didn’t have to watch Matt LaPorta anymore.
Reynolds has been and has meant so much more to this organization already, however. He, probably along with Carlos Santana, is the most feared hitter in the lineup and is the right handed bat that the Indians have lacked for so long. He hits monster homeruns, grand slams, plays solid defense and comes up with some big, clutch hits. Two of his blasts have been late game winners, beating Toronto in the second game of the season and then Houston a few weeks later. These are the types of actions that make players popular. These are the moments that make guys fan favorites. The only problem was, however, that these two moments came on the road. The moment—Reynolds’ shining star—thus far occurred on Monday against the Athletics and pitcher Jarrod Parker.
Two batters after the aforementioned struggling Kipnis and Cabrera hit back to back homeruns off of Parker in the first inning, the right hander’s 2-0 pitch sailed up-and-in and nailed Reynolds up near the head. Boos rained down on Parker and both benches were warned, but the irate Reynolds did not charge the mound. He decided to take matters into his own hands and exacted his revenge in the fifth.
Reynolds blasted Parker’s first pitch deep into the night as it landed just a few feet shy of the scoreboard behind the bleachers in left field. The ball traveled about 460 feet and Reynolds let the world know it as soon as he hit it.
Reynolds dropped his bat, stared out at Parker, spit into the dirt, took a few steps and then started his slow trot around the bases before the ball had even landed. “I normally don’t pimp anything,” Reynolds said in a Plain Dealer article by Dennis Manoloff, “but he hit me near the head. I don’t mind getting hit; it helps the on-base percentage. But when you come near the head…I’m hoping it was just a fastball he tried to overthrow and it got away from him. I was on a mission right there, to hit a ball as far as I could, as kind of payback for hitting me almost in the head.”
On a mission.
Mark Reynolds is a beast and Tribe fans have got to love it.
The Indians have a player that isn’t going to take any crap. He is the symbol of everything good that this team has shown so far and is taking the fans—or at least the few fans that attend the games—along with him on a whirlwind of excitement. It’s excitement that Cleveland hasn’t seen in awhile, and one that reminds me of an old Saturday Night Live sketch.
SuperFan: “Who would win in a fight, Mark Reynolds or a hurricane?”
All others: “REYNOLDS!”
SuperFan: “Hold on! Hold on! But what if the hurricane was named Hurricane Reynolds?”
All others: “Ohhh…”
Photo: Chris Young/Associated Press