Nick Swisher seems happy to be with the Cleveland Indians.
That may be the understatement of the new year if his actions at a press conference Thursday are any indication.
What can only be described as an “ear-to-ear” grin plastered his face throughout the session. He greeted each questioner as if they were an old college buddy, smiled away as they asked their question and then kept on grinning as he replied. Invariably almost all of his replies ended with him saying that he can’t wait to get his Indians’ career started.
Some might say that anyone would be happy knowing they are going to be paid $56 million over the next four years. But this seemed much more than that. There was genuine joy in his expression as he talked about coming home to Ohio to play the game he loves.
Much of the focus on the Indians’ somewhat surprising signing of the veteran outfielder-first baseman has been on where he will fit into the batting order. A consistent power hitter — at least 20 homers in all eight of his full seasons in the majors — Swisher also is a patient hitter and a productive RBI man. He can fit most anywhere in the middle of the lineup.
Probably of more importance will be his effect in the clubhouse. Swisher has a reputation as a hard worker and one who pays attention to detail. He understands how much work is necessary to succeed in the game.
Part of that probably stems from the fact that his father, Steve, is a former major leaguer. Sons of major leaguers who make it to the big leagues themselves generally are seen as guys who do things the right way. They usually have good work ethics, understand the fundamentals and respect the game.
Swisher’s attitude and its effect on two players in particular — Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana — could end up being more important than any runs that he drives in or homers that he hits.
Cabrera and Santana are both talented players who sometimes forget what it takes to play the game correctly. They can get lackadaisical, they get impatient at the plate, their work ethic lacks or they get home run-happy with their swing.
Prior to Swisher’s arrival there was no one in the Indians’ clubhouse to counsel them. Anyone with more experience invariably was less talented and didn’t have the status to lecture the pair. Cabrera and Santana, along with Shin-Soo Choo, were the most experienced among the core group of players, and therefore the clubhouse leaders.
If those two can be encouraged to pay attention to detail, understand situational hitting, hustle all the time and do all the other little things, they can go from potential superstars to the real thing.
That could end up being more important than anything Swisher does on the field.