November 30, 2021

Hamstrung: The Michael Bourn Conundrum

Remember back on February 15, 2013 when Michael Bourn signed with the Indians.  Those were good times, fans and players were in a frenzy.  To the fans, it signaled that the ownership was finally willing to spend money to bring in free agents, and to the players, it signaled that the team had expectations to win now.  Michael Bourn came to the Tribe at a time when he was considered one of the best center fielders/lead off men in the game.  Now, all fans see is an aging center fielder with a reoccurring hamstring issue and is still owed $39.5 million over the next 3 years.  How did it all come to this?

Let it be known, that I am one of Bourn’s biggest supporters.  I couldn’t believe the Tribe signed him, I want him to do well.  From 2009-2012, Bourn averaged 153 games played, 93 runs, 28 doubles, 10 triples, 54 stolen bases, a .280 batting average, and a .348 on-base %, to go along with a WAR (wins over replacement) of 4.9.  A WAR of 4.9 means that for a 4 year stretch was playing at an All Star level.  He was a 2-time All Star and 2-time Gold Glove winner in that 4 year stretch and even got some MVP votes in 2012, he also led the NL in steals from 2009-2011.  After the 2012, the Braves decided not to give Bourn a long-term deal, and instead offered him the dreaded qualifying offer (a 1 yeas deal worth $14 million), Bourn declined and decided to test the free agent waters.  However, any team that would sign him would have to give up a  1st round pick.

Which brings us to the Indians, the Tribe had already signed Nick Swisher to the largest free agent contract the Indians have ever given out.  Swisher also declined a qualifying offer from the Yankees, but since the Tribe fell in the top 10 in the draft, they had their 1st round pick protected and only had to give up a 2nd round pick.  With Bourn, teams around the league worried about giving up that 1st round pick and also worried how his legs would hold up at the senior citizen age of 30.  With Bourn still sitting unsigned on the 15th, the Indians were able to swing a deal with Agent Scott Boras on deal that ended up being much cheaper than what Bourn originally sought, but with the season quickly approaching Bourn jumped at the first opportunity.  You can read all about the signing and the details here:  http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/8938263/michael-bourn-gets-4-year-deal-cleveland-indians

The 2013 season started and Michael Bourn seemed to be the elite lead off man the Tribe signed, as in his first 10 games he hit .333, with 7 runs scored, 4 doubles, and 2 home runs.  However, in that 10th game, Bourn dove to first to try and beat the pitcher (which he succeeded in doing), but got cleated in the hand and had to be put on the 15-day DL with a lacerated finger.  Bourn ended up missing a month of action, but didn’t seem to miss a beat once he return and by the end of June had number that looked like this: 56 games played, .299 batting average, .347 on-base %, 33 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases.  The stolen bases were way down from his career averages, but that could be attributed to getting used to the AL pitchers.  Then the calender turned to July and things started to go down hill fast.  Over the next 74 games in which Bourn played in his stats looked like this: .232 batting average, .292 on-base %, 42 runs scored, 12 stolen bases.  Michael Bourn finished the 2013  season WAR of 1.9, a far cry from 2012 when his WAR was 6.1.  Statistically speaking it was Bourn’s worst season since 2008, when he first started playing full-time with the Astros.

The Indians made it to the Wild Card game against the Tampa Bay Rays; earlier that week it was said that Bourn was having some hamstring problems, but would be good to go in the game, the Indians would end up losing 4-0 to end their season.  In the next few days it was discovered that Bourn had surgery to repair a torn hamstring.  Fast foward to spring training, fans were hoping that the surgery and time off would mean the hamstring problem was a thing of the past, but is never that simple when it comes to hamstrings.  The hammy began bothering Bourn down in Goodyear, and he started the 2014 season on the DL.  Bourn didn’t start the season till April 14th.  Bourn was on pace to best last season number’s until on July 5th, his hamstring problems showed up again and he was placed back on the 15-day DL where he is expected to miss another 2 weeks.

The Indians need a healthy Michael Bourn if they want any chance of playing in October, while he may never steal even 30 bases again, he still must be considered a threat on the base path.  With Bourn in the lineup it also gives the Tribe depth, pushing Mike Aviles back on the bench and Michael Brantley back to left field (where he can gun down base runners).  Michael Bourn came to Tribe as the best defensive center fielder in the game, but has played mediocre defense at best.  There are many players who hold the key to the Tribe’s season.  When you look at the Indians and realize that the 4 highest paid players are either injured, having down years, or both, it is a miracle that they are a .500 team.  The 2nd half of the season is about to start and the Tribe needs everything to come together for a playoff run, and it starts with the lead off man.

–Chris Sladoje (CST_Doje)

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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