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.