April 23, 2014

Remembering just how good Travis Hafner was all over again

Over the last few years I’ve almost forced myself to forget just how much of a monster Travis Hafner was from 2004 to 2006. 

It was easier for me to accept the fact that he fell off the face of the baseball earth after getting locked up long-term for major dollars that way.  Easier for me to accept the fact that immediately after he was paid like a core player, and one of the best hitters in baseball, he stopped being both of those things entirely.  

In my mind Hafner was essentially the poster-boy for all that ailed the Indians over the last few seasons.  I blamed him in part for losing that Boston series in 2007, and I blamed him for being injured for most of the last three years too.  Probably not entirely fair of me to do so, but I did.  

Nor was it probably fair for me to blame the Indians organization for investing in what turned out to be an injured DH who couldn’t play the field, while cutting guys like Victor Martinez loose.  How were they supposed to know back then, I guess.

I didn’t totally realize I had forced myself into thinking this way about Travis and his career here in Cleveland until last night either.  As I watched him launch that walk-off shot into the Cleveland night, I began to remember how good he was all over again. 

I began to remember why fans like me were so frustrated by the injuries that besieged him over the last few seasons.  I reminded myself why it was so great to have this guy doing what he does in the middle of this line-up.  And I began to think that maybe he’s just getting started, all over again.

He didn’t look like an old, beat-up, injury riddled hitter to me anymore for the first time in a long time last night.  He looked like the old Travis Hafner, and I can’t help but think that just maybe he is all the way back.

During that three-year run just prior to him signing the extension in 2007, Hafner batted for an average of .311, .305, and .308.  He drove in 109, 108, and 117 runs and hit 28, 33, and 42 HR’s respectively.  So far this season he’s hitting .340 with 16 RBI and 5 HR’s in 30 games. 

Those power numbers extrapolate out to 70 RBI’s and 22 HR’s, so it’s easy to look at that and say no. He’s not what he once was and never will be again.  He probably isn’t either, but .340 is .340.  I know we’re only 37 games into the season, but at the same time that’s just about a quarter of the way through, right?   Who knows what happens to his power numbers if he continues to feel more and more confident at the plate.  Moments like last night have to do wonders in the confidence department too I’d imagine.  It did for me when I played whiffle ball back in the day at least.

Whatever Hafner’s numbers end up looking like at the end of this season is besides the point for me though at the moment.  For now, it’s just great to watch Hafner be a key reason why the Indians have the best record in the AL this morning.  It’s great to see him be the reason the Indians celebrated at home plate last night, and it’s exciting to know that he’s giving fans a reason to start believing in him again when he walks up to the dish. 

Fans like me, who gave up on him three years ago.  Keep proving me wrong Travis, its much more fun this way.

  • http://jeffrsabo.wordpress.com/ Jeff Sabo

    When Hafner struggled during the injuries he had a few seasons ago, I’ll admit I was one of those fans who gave up on him. I no longer saw the power that made him a dominant designated hitter in the Indians lineup prior to the injuries and wondered if the Indians made a mistake signing him to that extension. During the time of his injuries, Hafner rarely played, did not produce much and I wondered if we would ever see him dominate the Indians lineup again.

    This season has changed my perspective on him. Hafner seems to be hitting more consistently and has come up with clutch hits at key times. Hafner seems motivated to do well and help the Indians lineup win ballgames.

    Last night’s home run he had reminded me of the days when he first came up to the Indians. The Indians had lost Jim Thome to free agency not too long beforehand and having a strong bat life Hafner’s in the lineup was a sigh of relief at that time.

  • theherd10

    It is very apparent based on the numbers that Travis v.07080910 was not the same as Travis v.040506. And I knew that the numbers he had been posting the last few seasons did not justify the big contract he got. But, I’ve got a soft spot for Travis, and it has everything to do with my ten-year-old, soon to be eleven-year-old, son. You see, he and Travis share the same birthday, June 3. On June 3, 2006, my family and I were listening to the radio as the Tribe took on the Angels at The Jake. Travis came up in the bottom of the sixth (my son’s sixth birthday – coincidence?) inning with the bases loaded and jacked one into oblivion. My son had already kind of adopted Travis as “his” guy, but the grand slam on their birthday sealed the deal. They went on to win that day 14-2, as Travis drove in six (again, coincidence?) runs. A color, framed 8″x11″ photo of Travis in the batter’s box and a Travis Hafner pennant grace my son’s bedroom wall. My son also has an Indians shirt with “PRONK 48″ on the back. I tried to casually talk him out of buying it last summer at The Prog, based on the way things were going. I thought Travis would be gone sooner or later last season. I am so glad I failed. For me, it is all about a boy and his hero. It was a thrill for me to see my son’s hero snatch victory from the jaws of defeat last night. My son decided he wanted to go to Progressive Field for his birthday this year, so Friday, June 3, against the Rangers, we will celebrate eleven years with my son as he and his baseball hero share another birthday. I am hoping for an unforgettable night for both birthday boys. I am pulling and will continue to pull for #48. Thanks, Travis. Go Tribe.

  • ragarcia

    It is a shame that Hafner was injured the past few years as the lineup is definitely a better one with him healthy.

    Same thing applies to Grady.

    Having said that, I never blamed either of them for their injuries, but I did think the Indians did not handle the injuries very well or aggressively enough.

    In both instances they tried to let the players work through the injuries instead of fixing them as quickly as possible.

  • Stinkfist

    “I blamed him in part for losing that Boston series in 2007, and I blamed him for being injured for most of the last three years too.”

    I blamed Branyan

  • Believelander

    #BlameBranyan

  • Pat18970

    Hafner fell so far I was able to buy one of his jerseys a few weeks ago for $10.

  • gabriel

    i’m not sure you’re correct on what “those power numbers extrapolate out to”…

    but either way, that monster home run at Safeco field in the second week of the season showed me just what a healthy Hafner is capable of… he nearly touched the third-deck!! there are very few players in the major leagues that can crush the ball that far..

  • bridgecrosser

    In his really prime seasons, he reminds me of Tony Gwynn. He gets a hard drive on the ball nearly every time he makes contact. Outfielders play him insanely close to the walls and he still gets a lot of doubles.

    If anybody can tell me of a player in MLB who gets shaded deeper consistently, it would have to be pretty good company.

  • Steve

    I blame the people who couldn’t see the value Hafner actually did provide in 09 and 10. No, it wasn’t Pronk of old, but it was a .366 OBP in what suddenly became one hell of a pitcher’s park. His 126 OPS+ over those two seasons put him just a tick ahead of Victor Martinez. Yes, I understand the difference in positional value and the ability to play a full season, but the bat was still pretty good. People wanted to cut Hafner and eat the rest of his contract to play the likes of Jordan Brown. How foolish do they look now?