In My Ohio

On Finding Michael Bourn

Darren C. Demaree
​Michael Bourn used to be a professional baseball player.
He was a dynamic centerfielder (2 Gold Gloves), a solid contact hitter (hit .303 for the Astros once) and a fox on the base paths (311 steals in 10 seasons). When the Cleveland Baseballers signed him to one of the largest free-agent contracts in franchise history, I was thrilled that they were finally willing to spend money on a player that could be that missing piece in a World Series run.
He was going to be our new Kenny Lofton, and Kenny Lofton was the most dynamic player we had during our great run in the 1990s.
The reality of Michael Bourn as a Cleveland Baseballer has been crushing. He has never been healthy or anything close to productive. His fantastic defense has gone from Gold-Glove level, to average, to below-average, and now he’s flailing around out there.
His solid (though never powerful) bat has dropped just as fast. He hit .303 for the Houston Astros in 2011. Since then he has hit .278, .274, .263 (his best for Cleveland), .257, and this year he is hitting .228. He’s a leadoff hitter who has struck out 30 times in 139 at bats. His on-base percentage is .307, which is roughly the same number that Bob Feller’s widow could pull off, because older women, you know, they have a small strike zone.
His most dynamic quality, his speed (which obviously affects his defense as well), has been halved by hamstring injuries. He once stole 174 bases in three seasons (2009-2011), but in the two and a quarter seasons he has been in Cleveland he has stolen only 35.
Terry Francona, the smart man and champion that he is, has started playing Michael Brantley in centerfield more (which is solid, but not great), and moved Bourn into the depths of the lineup. They still owe him real money through 2016 (with a vesting option for 2017), so what can they do other than bury him on their bench? This is his last real contract, and he is not going to take a buyout (something small market teams don’t do anyway, because it’s empty dollars).
So, Cleveland fans, what we need to do is roust up a lifeboat for Michael Bourn. We need to find him a great job somewhere else. Does your uncle own a car dealership in California? How about a friend that owns charter-fishing company in the Florida Keys and is looking to expand? Could President Obama install him as a Dictator somewhere in Eastern Europe or South America? The best I can offer him is an internship for a web series on cooking and the arts, but I feel like we need to do better than that if we’re going to convince him to give us that jersey back. Think about it and get back to me. Please. Pretty please. I feel like we all need to take a week off of work and form a think tank on this one. It’s that important.