When the Indians signed Nick Swisher after a disastrous 2012 season, optimism was running high. His bubbly personality couldn’t help but rub off on his teammates. The Dolans were willing to open the checkbook (the four-year deal was $56 million, with a club option for a fifth year bringing the deal to a staggering $70 million, more than the Indians had ever paid for a free agent) and made the pitch for the Ohio native to return home.
Now that Swisher’s riding off into the sunset, announcing his retirement about a year and a half after the Indians decided they’d rather eat Chris Johnson’s salary than keep him around, we can close the book on him. (Insert Harry Doyle saying, “Thank God.”) Swisher’s signing was a bad marriage that actually might have held back the team’s success.
Swisher was 32 when the Indians signed him – an age typically regarded as being on the down slope of a player’s career. But there was no reason to believe he wouldn’t play – and wouldn’t produce. In each of the previous eight years, he’d played at least 130 games (and at least 150 in six of those years). His average wasn’t great, but he was good for at least 20 home runs.
Friday the Cleveland Indians officially introduced outfielder Michael Bourn to the Tribe in Goodyear, Ariz.
The Tribe agreed to a four year contract with the speedy outfielder on Monday, believed to be valued at $48 million, with an option for a fifth season if Bourn has 550 plate appearances in 2016. The contract gives the Indians one of the premier leadoff hitters and center fielders in Major League Baseball.
“In signing Michael we feel we have signed one of the best center fielders in baseball,” Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti said in video of the press conference. “He’s a dynamic player, exceptional defender in center field and can really impact the game on the bases.”
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”?
By Laurel Wilder
If there’s one thing an Indians fan knows how to do well, it’s support their team. Through all the heartbreaks and triumphs, Clevelanders possess a loyalty to the Tribe that never seems to falter. And, Tribe fans, Jonathan Levey is looking for you to pass that support onto him.
The 29-year-old Cleveland native and self-proclaimed “biggest Indians fan alive” recently was chosen as one of the top 52 finalists in the MLB Fan Cave 2013 Contest.
Out of the top 52 finalists chosen by MLB, 30 then are selected based on fan votes, the contestant’s ability to garner press and media coverage and MLB’s own opinion of how each contestant has performed in getting him or herself public recognition. These 30 travel to spring training, where they compete in a variety of challenges MLB organizes. MLB then makes the final decision as to which of these contestants are chosen as the final group of official Cave Dwellers. They must choose a minimum of three fans to be part of the MLB Fan Cave; last year’s group consisted of nine individuals. Eventually, MLB recognizes a winner at the end of the 2013 baseball season based on performance and participation as a Cave Dweller.
“I was definitely happy that I made it,” Levey said of his acceptance into the group of finalists. “I was very set from the beginning that my goal was to make the top 50.”
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 Christian Petrila
I was torn as to whether or not I should consider this player a “Flash.” However, seeing as how he’s returning to the Indians, I figured it was an appropriate time to look back at him.
This week’s Flash in a Pan is Ben Francisco.
Unlike Brady Anderson last week who ended his career with the Tribe, Francisco began his career with a Chief Wahoo patch on the shoulder. A fifth round pick in the 2002 amateur draft, the Indians let Francisco age in the minors like a fine wine. Despite reaching Akron in only his third year in the system and Triple-A Buffalo only a year and a half later, Francisco wouldn’t reach the MLB until 2007 after five plus years in the system.
Francisco made his MLB debut on May 1, 2007 against Toronto. However, one could make the argument that it could hardly be considered a debut, as he entered the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning and didn’t get a chance to swing the bat. After another stint in the minors that would keep him out of an Indians uniform until June 22, Francisco finally got his first at bat in the Majors. His first at bats came in two pinch hit appearances against Washington. He struck out both times. However, his next two games would turn out to be memorable.
By Steve Eby
Indians fans walked out of Progressive Field and the first ever Tribe Fest with all sorts of things.
There were bobbleheads, baseball cards, autographs and jerseys. There were also caricatures, free haircuts, photo opportunities and memories for fans young and old—all for the reasonable price of $10. What I walked away from Tribe Fest with, however, could not have a price tag put on it.
I walked away with hope and excitement for my Cleveland Indians.
By Bob Toth
The Kansas City Royals were hitless through eight innings. Francisco Lindor had given Justin Masterson and the Cleveland Indians a 4-0 lead after sending a pair of triples into the right field corner. In control, Lindor eyed the competition, cracked a smile, and said, “bring back the kid, you can’t hit me.”
Three pitches later, a seeing-eye single just under the glove of Indians’ second baseman Jason Kipnis ended Lindor’s no hitter. A brief sigh of disappointment escaped his lungs as he let go of the controller and took a temporary step away from the Playstation 3 “MLB 12 The Show™” display at Day One of Tribe Fest, having just fallen short of virtual immortality. Lindor’s five or so young challengers, who combined to control the Royals for nine innings, were only able to muster that one lone hit.
Lindor was just one of more than a dozen attractions at Progressive Field on Saturday afternoon as the Indians played host to thousands of their fans for the first-ever Tribe Fest.
Friday the Indians agreed to contracts with six of their seven arbitration-eligible players, leaving only Mike Aviles as the lone road block to keeping the Tribe’s record of avoiding arbitration since 1991.
Cleveland settled on one-year deals with Drew Stubbs ($2.825 million), Chris Perez ($7.3 million), Justin Masterson ($5.6875 million), Joe Smith ($3.15 million), Matt Albers ($1.75 million) and Lou Marson ($1 million). Arbitration figures were reported by Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. Most settlements were for slightly more than what was projected for the player by MLBTradeRumors.
After the 1 pm deadline passed the Indians and Aviles exchanged arbitration figures, with Aviles reportedly asking for $3.4 million, while the Cleveland offered $2.4 million. The two sides have until mid-February to reach a contract on their own or an independent arbiter will decide between one of the two submitted figures. Aviles hit .250 with 13 home runs, with 60 runs batted in last season in Boston. It was his best year as a big leaguer and only as a full-time starter. Cleveland plans to use him as a utility player, giving rest to Lonnie Chisenhall, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis.
By Mike Brandyberry
Children have skipped school or ditched class in the spirit and love of baseball for generations. However, it isn’t often that a college student is inspired to skip classes in the name of the game and patriotism.
“In college, the first (World Baseball Classic) team for the USA practiced at our field,” said Vinnie Pestano, a Cleveland Indians relief pitcher who attended California State University – Fullerton. “I remember skipping class with a couple teammates to watch them practice and take BP. I never thought I would get a chance to be a part of something like this. You have so many hurdles and obstacles in your way at that time just to get to the Major Leagues, let alone play for a team of that caliber.”
In 2006, Pestano was a 21-year-old closer for Cal State – Fullerton, ditching class to watch Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones and Roger Clemens work out and prepare for the biggest international baseball tournament in the world. Today, Pestano is 27-year-old relief pitcher selected to the same team he once envied.
He was announced officially this morning as a member of Team USA in the World Baseball Classic (WBC). Pestano will join Indians’ teammate Chris Perez, along with Ryan Bruan, Adam Jones, Ryan Vogelsong, R.A. Dickey and others as members of the American team slated to compete in March in the 16-team international tournament.
By Mike Brandyberry
They are very much alike and in 2013, their roles in the Cleveland Indians’ lineup could also be very similar.
Despite taking different roads in their career over the last couple years, Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis look to each take their game to the next level. Their increased offensive production could result in the Indians lineup becoming a better offensive unit.
Kipnis, a left-handed hitting, 26-year old selected in the second round of the 2009 draft has converted from an outfielder to a second baseman. After making his debut in late July 2011, he became a regular in 2012, hitting .257, with 14 home runs, 76 runs batted in and 31 stolen bases. Kipnis was nearly an All-Star after a great first half of the season.
by Bob Toth
The Cleveland Indians have shocked many in the baseball world by being aggressive since the end of their disappointing 2012 season. They inked new manager Terry Francona, infielder Mark Reynolds, and outfielder Nick Swisher in the few months that have passed since the final out of the World Series. They have been linked to countless others.
While a new calendar for 2013 may have been in order, the recent free agent spending spree has continued on into the new year. On Friday, the club formally announced that it had come to terms with free agent pitcher Brett Myers on a one-year contract with a club option for 2014.
The Myers acquisition addresses yet another weakness of the Indians current roster. After Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, neither of whom wowed anyone on the field last season, the rotation was composed of many young question marks.