Brantley rides smooth style to All-Star Game
Outfielder embraces moniker, set to represent Tribe at Midsummer Classic
MINNEAPOLIS -- The 2014 All-Star Game was paging Dr. Smooth and Indians outfielder Michael Brantley was more than ready to answer the call.
Brantley, the Indians' lone representative to the American League All-Star team, had the numbers that made him a lock for the selection. He is batting .322/.382/.519 with 15 home runs and 63 RBIs in 91 games this season. He is a first-time All-Star after being elected on the player ballot by his peers.
"He is better than his stats, which is a big compliment," Indians manager Terry Francona said on Monday. "He's a very good baserunner, a very good outfielder, a very good teammate, a very good leader. He's kind of what you're looking for in a player if you have a model. He respects the game so much, respects people and tries to play the game right all the time. You don't manage him. You just send him out to his position and let him play."
Here are four more things you should know about Brantley:
1. Brantley's home run total for the first half has already equaled the season career high of his father, Mickey Brantley, a former outfielder for the Seattle Mariners from 1986-89 who hit 15 homers in '88. Michael's 73 RBIs last season surpassed his dad's career high of 56.
"He's probably the biggest influence on my career," Brantley said of his father. "He's here to have this with me, this experience. Without him, I don't know if I could be here right now at this level. He taught me a lot of what I know. I still use him for information today."
2. A Cleveland newspaper reporter, Dennis Manoloff, coined the "Dr. Smooth" nickname for Brantley a few years ago. When Brantley gets a hit at Progressive Field, Sade's "Smooth Operator" song plays and the image of a beeper appears on the scoreboard with the words "paging Dr. Smooth." There are even T-shirts with an image of him with the name Dr. Smooth written like the Dr. Pepper logo.
"It doesn't bother me. As long as the fans like it, I like it," Brantley said. "They say I run smooth and have a smooth swing. That's the name of the game for Dr. Smooth. I embrace it. The fans really enjoy it. They yell a lot about it but at the same time, it's fun."
3. Among AL qualifiers, Brantley's 8.2 strikeout percentage in 390 plate appearances this season is the lowest among outfielders and the fourth lowest in the league. Former Indian Victor Martinez leads with a 6.2 percent strikeout rate. His 3.7 wins above replacement number (WAR) is ranked third among all AL outfielders.
"I'm getting older, and getting smarter," Brantley said. "The game of baseball is changing. I'm making the changes at the right time. Every day I have a good game plan. The pitchers, I've faced more than one time and I'm using that to my advantage."
4. On Oct. 3, 2008, Brantley arrived to the Indians from the Brewers as the player to be named later in the July 7 trade that sent CC Sabathia to Milwaukee. Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson and Rob Bryson had already gone to Cleveland in the deal. The player-to-be-named situation stipulated that infielder Taylor Green would go the Indians if the Brewers did not make the playoffs with Sabathia. Because Milwaukee reached the postseason, the Indians had their choice of either Green or Brantley. Obviously, they chose Brantley.
Brantley is definitely pleased with how everything worked out with the Indians.
"I don't know if it helped me [reach the Majors faster] but at the same time, Cleveland made it easier for me to come in and feel like I'm part of the family," Brantley said. "The organization as a whole makes you feel comfortable. It's easier to make that transition."