If Anderson Varejao was a baseball player, he’d probably look like Cleveland Indians outfielder Josh Naylor.
From the free wheelin’ hair that spends every second trying to escape the confines of Naylor’s cap, to the awkward, clunky movements their bodies make that makes you wonder how they reached the highest levels of professional sport, to the can’t-teach trait of giving 1,000 percent–Varejao was an all-time Cleveland fan favorite and Naylor is on the course to become one.
While the can-do and will-do attitude is what drew attention to the Wild Thing (Varejao’s nickname long before James Karinchak), the way in which Naylor plays the game is drawing attention. Of course, production matters, too. Fortunately, Naylor, who was acquired in the 2020 summer trade for Mike Clevinger, is starting to heat up.
Naylor hit what turned out to be the game winning home run against the Angels Tuesday night, helping the Tribe snap it’s four-game losing streak.
Cleveland Indians: Josh Naylor Heating Up
Naylor started the season off slow. In April he hit .250 with a .637 OPS. He didn’t homer, which was a huge area of concern.
With the calendar flipped to May, though, things have started to change. In May, Naylo’rs batting .283 (.845 OPS). His four bombs have been spread across 64 plate appearances,
Naylor won me over in Seattle, when he went into the stands to catch a foul ball. It’s a wonder there wasn’t a pile of rubble left behind after Naylor was finished with the wall. Plus, he doesn’t take himself so seriously that he can’t have fun with reporters, as he did with Cleveland.com’s and future Hall of Famer Paul Hoynes, who apparently has some trouble with the mute button on Zoom calls (Hang in there, Paul!)
Naylor was a big piece of the Clevinger trade because he came to the Tribe as an MLB ready player who still had room to improve. He intrigued us all with his 5-for-5 performance against the Yankees in the final game of the Tribe’s short-lived postseason appearance.
The Tribe doesn’t need him to be Earl Averill, rather, Naylor needs to be what we’ve seen this month. Drive the ball to the gaps–some will leave the park. Play hard and make the plays in the field.
And, if he keeps hustling, and there’s no signs he won’t, he’ll hit cult status in a city with a million t-shirt companies that would love to put his mug on some apparel.