When the Cleveland Indians inked free-agent Nick Swisher back in 2013, they were confident that they were getting a player who would not only supply power in the lineup, but also a player who would supply energy and leadership to a team that was getting a new World Series-winning manager in Terry Francona.
Swisher was coming from the New York Yankees, a city that scrutinizes its players more than any in baseball both on and off the field, so coming to Cleveland should have been easy for a player like Swisher. Instead, 17 months into the relationship between Indians fans and Swisher, it appears that the honeymoon is over.
Indians fans gave Swisher a break in Year 1 of four, giving him some leeway when he was fighting through a shoulder injury, and when he got hot in September, fans cheered him as loud as any player on the team. He wrapped up 2013 with a .246 average with 22 homers and 63 runs batted in.
His average was 26 points lower than the season before, but the power was close, hitting just two homers less with 30 less RBIs. Fans and the team seemed confident that with an offseason to get healthy and his shoulder back to form, he would be back better and ready to go for 2014.
Instead, less than two months into the season, it’s been a complete nightmare. Fans have been super critical of Swisher, who has landed on the 15-day DL with a knee injury. His average sits at just .211 with just three homers and 19 runs batted in. He’s not pushed his average over .214 since May 1, and the power numbers simply are not there. In May, he hit just one homer in 71 at-bats, and it looks like at 33, his bat is slower and it will take a lot to get it back.
So as Indians fans continue to blast Swisher, the team is faced with a decision on what to do with him. Francona has already moved him lower in the lineup, but will it be enough for him to finally find a way to get back on track. The Indians will owe Swisher $30 million over the next two seasons, and there’s a $14 million vesting option for 2017 if he has 550 plate appearances in 2016 and passes a physical.
The relationship between Swisher and Indians fans have a long way to go. The fans have every right to be giving the Columbus, Ohio native the hardest of time for his low average and even lower power numbers, and Swisher supporters should be ready to respond with how well he finally played late in 2013.
How the story will play out in 2014 is anyone’s guess. For now, it’s a slippery slope as to what reaction Swisher will get when he comes off the disabled list. As long as he starts hitting, fans will give him the love that he felt the day he signed with the team. If not, it’s going to be a long two and half years left on a deal that the team could wind up seriously regretting.