Spotting any Major League Baseball team a 6-0 lead is never a good idea. When it is the New York Yankees and their ace, C.C. Sabathia, it is even more ill-conceived.
That is exactly what Cleveland did on Wednesday afternoon, falling behind 6-0 through two innings at Yankee Stadium. Though they gave it a good effort, the Indians could not dig out of that early hole. The Tribe fell 6-4 and was swept in the three-game series. The Indians have now dropped four in a row and is now 30-29, two and one-half games behind the Tigers, who play this evening, for the AL Central lead.
The ovation Travis Hafner received when he was introduced as a Yankee before Monday’s home opener was as well-deserved as any.
For 10 seasons, Hafner was a fixture in the Indians lineup as the power-hitting designated hitter. Unfortunately, as was the case for many Indians after 2007, injuries plagued “Pronk” and reduced his effectiveness.
Hafner, 35, was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 1996, but didn’t make his Major League Baseball debut until 2002. The Indians decided to trade for him after the season, acquiring him for Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese.
It was one of the most lopsided trades of the last 15 years.
By Bob Toth
The signing of Travis Hafner by the New York Yankees on Friday effectively signified an end to what should have been a period of glory and high accolades in the history of the Cleveland Indians.
Hafner was part of a collection of players who will forever be remembered in Cleveland for falling short of the lofty expectations placed upon them. After the team’s impressive run at the end of the 1990’s, Hafner and his teammates of the mid- to late-2000’s were thought to have the potential to be perennial playoff contenders, maybe even being able to reach the great heights of the World Series and bringing home the coveted World Series Championship that has eluded the city since 1948.
Instead, Hafner and his peers left the organization and its fans wondering, “what if”?
On this week’s Wahoo Watch Podcast, Erik Pinkerman, Ronnie Tellalian and Mike Brandyberry discuss Indians’ signing and Spring Training invitations to Ben Francisco and Ryan Raburn, along with the invitations issued to five of the Tribe’s minor league players. Then …
By Bob Toth
The Cleveland Indians have addressed nearly all of their off-season roster concerns and have managed to do so quickly and, for the most part, quietly. The roster itself has a brand new face.
The starting rotation was bolstered for the present, with the signing of Brett Myers, and the future, with the trade for Trevor Bauer. A lack of offensive production from the corner infielders has been filled with free agent signee Mark Reynolds. Holes in the outfield have been plugged by Nick Swisher and Drew Stubbs. Acquiring Mike Aviles has given the bench a versatile veteran presence.
Despite all of the roster moves, the designated hitter position is noticeably void. While the front office seems open to considering adding a left-handed bat with some pop to balance out the lineup, free agent retreads like Jim Thome and Travis Hafner are not the answer.
By Bob Toth
The Cleveland Indians have had a productive offseason. While they have acquired outfielder Nick Swisher and infielder Mark Reynolds via free agency, Trevor Bauer as a rotation piece of the future, and Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw to further solidify the bullpen, one position on the team has gone noticeably unfilled – the spot of the designated hitter.
There has been plenty of speculation on who the team would look to fill the role with. Could the team bring back veteran Travis Hafner on a performance-based contract, hoping he could finally stay healthy long enough to contribute for a full season? What about another return of Jim Thome to the roster, the 42-year-old slugger who seems unwilling to allow the Indians to begin construction of his eventual statue near Heritage Park at Progressive Field? Could the team look outside of those familiar faces and sign a Delmon Young, Carlos Lee, or Carlos Pena type of player on a similar short-term deal on the cheap, sacrificing hits, strikeouts, or age for a defensively limited or incapable player with a little pop?
A greater likelihood may be that Cleveland does not acquire a DH at all.
After a disappointing 2012 Cleveland Indians season the organization is at a crossroads to decide how to progress with the organization, not just for the 2013 season but several seasons to come. Decisions involve ownerships, the front office, managerial and coaching decisions and the players. For the month of October, we’ll look at how the Indians ended up in their current predicament, but most importantly, Where Do the Indians Go From Here. Today we analyze one of the three players who have team options for next season. The Indians must decide to pick up their options within three days of the end of the World Series.
For his first five seasons in a Cleveland Indians uniform, Travis Hafner represented everything good about small market baseball. A shrewd trade of a veteran, bringing in an unknown rookie who produces far above anyone’s expectations is something all teams on a budget hope to have happen any time.
The Indians had that dream scenario pop up in December 2002. At the time, it was an unheralded trade with the Texas Rangers. The Tribe unloaded a pair of young players, with little upside in catcher Einar Diaz and starting pitcher Ryan Drese. In return, Cleveland received the equally unknown Hafner.
Hafner had played 23 games for the Rangers in 2002, but did not show any of the power that was about to make him a hero on the shores of Lake Erie. The player known as Pronk, showed his hit muscle over 92 games with the Indians in 2003, blasting 14 home runs in that stretch. Adding 40 RBI and a .254 batting average helped Cleveland management make Hafner the team’s regular designated hitter and part-time first baseman in 2004.
Well, that didn’t go as planned.
When the Cleveland Indians left Goodyear, Ariz., at the end of March, expectations were high. The team was coming off an 80-82 season in 2011 that could have been much better had injuries in the second half of the season not taken their toll. Now, with a healthy team in place and a young group of players with a season of contention under their belts, 2012 was supposed to be a season to compete for the playoffs.
Six months later, those predictions of playoff baseball all seem foolish now.
After a good start, the Indians found themselves 37-33 after 70 games and a half game in first place. The plan seemed to be working.
But 71 games later, the plan had been exposed, the wheels had fallen off the tracks and the Indians were in last place. It’s one of the fastest falls from the top spot to the bottom in baseball history. At 68-94, the Indians narrowly missed being only the third team in baseball history to finish in last place after leading the division at the 70-game mark.
Chris Antonetti’s plan to resign Grady Sizemore, sign Casey Kotchman and entrust left field, third base and first base to a collection of veteran journeymen or stars past their prime didn’t work. The offense faltered, most notably against left-handed pitching. The team hit .235 against southpaws for the season and was only 18-36 when a lefty started against them.
“I can tell you I’m accountable for those decisions,” Antonetti said last Thursday. “Certainly many of the decisions we made haven’t worked out as well as we hoped.”
By Evan Matsumoto
There was no dog pile on the infield; there was no champagne flowing in the clubhouse. After Wednesday night’s game against the White Sox, fans quietly filed out and the lights went dark on another season in Cleveland.
And as they say in Cleveland, there’s always next year.
Cleveland sent David Huff to start the game against Chicago’s Gavin Floyd and ended up on the losing end of a five-homerun, 9-0 game. Huff started on the mound for the Tribe. Heading into the night’s game, he was 3-0 in six appearances, boasting a 2.86 ERA.
Chicago’s Dan Johnson kicked off the scoring in the second inning with a two-run shot to the centerfield seats to give the Sox an early 2-0 lead.
By Mike Brandyberry
All good things come to an end, and whatever this is too.
Tonight, the Indians officially conclude their season that unfortunately ended a long time ago. After contending for 99 games, the Tribe fell a part in the final 63 and quickly eliminated themselves from the American League Central Division race in August. On July 26 the Indians were just 3.5 games in back of first place, but 11-game and nine game losing streaks buried the team by August 24.
The drop in the standings eventually cost Manager Manny Acta his job last week. The skipper for the last three seasons was informed last Thursday he would not be retained for the 2013 season. Yesterday, Indians closer Chris Perez spoke candidly about Acta and felt his laid back attitude did not work with a youthful clubhouse and a more hands-on manager could make a difference.
“August wasn’t baseball, it was pathetic — in all aspects,” Perez said. “I’m not saying that a change earlier would have done anything, but sometimes we pressed the panic button. Why? A lot of things left you kind of scratching your head.”
By Mike Brandyberry
Sometimes good isn’t good enough.
Jake Peavy pitched eight strong innings, but two pinch hits—including a Travis Hafner home run—helped tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning for the Indians and Jason Donald’s two-out base hit in the 12th inning gave the Indians a win, 4-3. The late inning heroics stole the game and foiled a well-pitched game by Peavy.
“It was a good game,” Interim Manager Sandy Alomar said. “The bullpen did an excellent job. These extra inning games are taking a toll on them, but they keep doing a good job.”
By Bob Toth
In a normal season, the return of Travis Hafner would have created some excitement for the Cleveland Indians’ fan base.
This season has been far from normal.
A September return by Hafner, the senior member of the Tribe in terms of years of service with the club, time in the major leagues, and age, instead cuts into the playing time of call-ups Russ Canzler, Ezequiel Carrera, Lonnie Chisenhall, Matt LaPorta, Thomas Neal, Cord Phelps, and Vinny Rottino.
What point does it serve playing Hafner at this point, anyways?