Francisco Lindor's smile belongs in a museum. It should be pasted over the mouth of Mona Lisa, for improvement purposes. It should be framed, then hung on a wall inside The Louvre in its own room, surrounding by nothing, for any piece of art placed next to it would glimmer with inferiority.
Lindor's smile is as divisive as it is endearing. It somehow toes the line between being celebrated by both the game's conservatives and progressives, then despised at the very same time. For some, it is a sign of youthful exuberance, a 22-year-old giving his all and loving each modicum of dirt and grass he steps on each time he runs on the diamond. Baseball purists love this type of stuff, the running out a simple ground ball as if your life depended on it, the bringing your lunchpail to the ballpark because clockout time is more a suggestion, not a requirement. The new age fan of the game loves it too. Lindor's smile is a little showy, a little emotion in a sport long devoid it in fear of violating a rule written in invisible ink inside a book that doesn't exist.
But Lindor's smile has already caused a stir just a year and a half into what surely will be a brilliant career. In a game against the Kansas City Royals earlier this season, a team that won the 2015 World Series by doing the things that baseball purists fantasize about, Lindor caught flack for celebrating a double. He smashed his hands together and flashed his molars and upset those who treat emotion in baseball like the downfall of masculinity. Lindor's smile is two ideals rolled into one, strewn over his teeth like braces.
Of course, Lindor doesn't give a shit what you think of his mouth's position. He's preoccupied with hitting over .300 in his first full year as an Indian when everyone said it'd be years before his offense caught up with his defense. According to ESPN, Lindor's current WAR, or wins above replacement, of 2.7 is third amongst shortstops, high above 2015 Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa, who sits at 1.1. He's fifth in the league amongst shortstops with a .985 fielding percentage, gobbling up almost anything hit to the right of second base the likes of which we haven't seen in Cleveland since Omar Vizquel.
Lindor plays the game of baseball as if he were an extra in Zombieland who was told all he had to do was run around and whip zombie's in the head with the fake bat in his hand. He's having so much god damn fun swinging a bat and diving for ground balls in the dirt that he's most definitely inspired some downtrodden employee to walk into his bosses office and announce, "Fuck you, I'm out, and I'm taking your pens with me."
It's been a long time since the Indians have had someone the fanbase can idolize like they can with Lindor. Travis Hafner had a section of Progressive Field named after him, then promptly shriveled into a lesser, deflated version of himself. Grady Sizemore was a beacon of light until injuries broke his perfect body. Lindor, with his Under Armour endorsement deal and rolled up pantlegs, is a legitimate superstar, on a team that lost it's grip on the city it plays in after 2001 and is yet to get it back, sorely deserves. And he's just not going to stop smiling, even if you ask nicely.