So Travis Hafner is out for six weeks after needing knee surgery and Grady Sizemore’s return from back surgery seems to be nowhere in sight. Stop me if you have heard something like this before. Decades from now, these two former cornerstone guys will be looked back on more for what they couldn’t do than for what they actually accomplished. I long for the days of 2005, 2006, and 2007 when Pronk and Grady were All-Star type players who played every single day and delivered the goods at the plate.
The incredible thing about Sizemore was not just his amazing play both with the stick and with the glove, but his durability. During his peak four-year stretch from 2005-2008, Grady missed just nine games TOTAL, which included a streak of 382 consecutive games played. Now we look at him as if he were Mr. Glass from the 2000 M. Knight Shyamalan movie “Unbreakable.” Six surgeries and two bum knees later, Sizemore has become a lost cause that the Indians continue to sit and wait on.
Speaking with the media earlier in the week for the first time since the Spring, Sizemore sounded like a beaten man when asked about the home-run saving catch that current Indians center fielder Michael Brantley had made in Chicago.
“Those are the things I used to be able to do.”
Grady still thinks he can come back and contribute, but the “early to mid-June” timetable just isn’t realistic and never was. This is back surgery we are talking about here. “I tried (coming back early) last year, and it didn’t help me at all,” Sizemore said. “I ended up just putting myself in a worse position. What I’ve gone through is why we’re taking it slow now. It’s important to not just feel good, but feel really good, great.”
I think we all realize that the Grady Sizemore we once knew and loved no longer exists. Even if he manages to somehow miraculously come back and contribute this season, you don’t take the punishment he has coupled with all of the surgeries and return to your peak form. I took for granted just how good Sizemore was in that four-year stretch while it was happening. Now that he has become an injury prone shell of his former self, its easy to admit I didn’t appreciate it enough at the time.
Just for old time sake (not to depress any of you or anything), just take one last look at his numbers before the injuries took over:
2005 – age 22 – .289/.348/.832/22 HR/81 RBI/22 SB/111 runs
2006 – age 23 – .290/.375/.907/28 HR/76 RBI/22 SB/134 runs (led league)/53 doubles (led league), All-Star
2007 – age 24 – .277/.390/.852/24 HR/78 RBI/33 SB/118 runs, All-Star
2008 – age 25 – .268/.374/.876/33 HR/90 RBI/38 SB/101 runs, All-Star
Grady’s body began to fail him at 26. 26! He exploded onto the scene at 22, despite being considered the “throw-in” with Brandon Phillips and Cliff Lee in the Bartolo Colon deal. Incredible. Now he is a 29-year old who may be at the end of the line.
His middle of the order running mate was Hafner. The man they called “Pronk” was the power middle to Sizemore’s speed and versatility at the top. He was a hitting machine who used all fields. His size and strength made you think of a younger version of Jim Thome (not the beanpole version, but the mid to late 90′s guy). Like Grady, Hafner had a four-year peak which we all sat in awe of. Here was our next great slugger. But also like Grady, the Indians continued to count on him year in and year out, but his body had other plans. The Tribe extended him in the middle of the 2007 season for four more year and $57 million, a deal that wouldn’t kick in until the beginning of 2009. “Why not,” We all said. The guy had been great over the last four years, was 30 years old, still in his prime, the Indians were contending, and Hafner had been for the most part durable, outside of a couple of fluke injuries coming from being hit with pitches.
We all know how that all went.
OK, time to depress you again. Take a look one last time at Hafner’s numbers from 2004-2007.
2004: age 27 – .311/.410/.993/28 HR/109 RBI
2005: age 28 – .305/.408/1.003/33 HR/108 RBI
2006: age 29 – .308/.439/1.097/42 HR/117 RBI
2007: age 30 – .266/.385/.837/24 HR/100 RBI (extension signed mid-season)
With the latest news of the Sizemore rehab not going as well as we had hoped and Hafner going to the DL for sixth time, all we can do is sit here and wonder would would have been if these two had stayed healthy. Obviously Grady would have priced himself right out of Cleveland and the Tribe brass would have been put in a similar position to that of the CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Victor Martinez impending free agency situations. Hafner has always had the immovable contract, but you would glady pay that money for the production he had to earn such a paycheck.
Instead, we’ve essentially seen almost five years of disappointment from the two centerpieces of the Indians offense.
photo via Rob Carr/Getty Images