August 1, 2014

Tigers sign Miguel Cabrera to record-setting contract extension

Someday it will stop snowing, and someday Mike Ilitch will die.

But until then, the Detroit Tigers are going to spend money without regard to their (or anyone else’s) reality.  After failing to extend Max Scherzer last week, the AL Central rival Tigers decided to make two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera the highest paid player in the history of baseball, with an eight year extension through the 2023 season valued at $292 million.

But Jon, you say, eight years would only take Cabrera through the 2021 season! You’re a stupid person at numbering and counting things!

Touche, kind sir or madam.  But this deal is a contract extension that doesn’t even kick in for another two years–until after the 2015 season.  This may remind you of the Ryan Howard debacle of an extension from a few years back.  It reminded me of someone else entirely:

This contract may end up biting Detroit in the rump–in fact, it probably will.  There was little reason to lock up a player at a premium price when there was still two years to determine whether Cabrera’s body would age like a Cabernet or a Cabriolet.

On the other hand, the best team in baseball–who just happens to be a division rival–just locked up it’s best player until I turn 42 years old. It’s pretty hard to feel anything but disgust with that sentence.

While We’re Waiting… Browns smart to wait for coach

While We’re Waiting is a space on the WaitingForNextYear website where we share links every day. We’ve been doing it for about four years or so. Denny Mayo used to be much more amusing with his intros, if you recall. You know the drill: Email us with suggestions at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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Well, this is moderately encouraging: “I don’t even care if it’s an intentional display of patience on their part, or in reality a byproduct of not being able to give the job away, I’m still convinced the sometimes clueless Cleveland Browns are taking the right approach when it comes to conducting their latest head coaching search. By taking their time. Yep, I just typed the words ‘right approach’ and ‘Browns coaching search’ in the same sentence. It stunned me, too.” [Don Banks/Sports Illustrated] [Read more...]

Notre Dame College adds Travis Hafner to baseball staff

Travis HafnerFormer Cleveland Indians slugger Travis Hafner will be joining the Notre Dame College baseball staff this coming season.

Hafner, 36, had been rumored to take the assistant coaching position under head coach Len Barker if he was unable to find an MLB job for the 2014 season. His wife, Amy, is a cheerleading coach at Notre Dame College. On Wednesday, the school confirmed the move in a press release.

Last season, the aptly nicknamed Pronk batted just .202/.301/.378 in 299 plate appearances on a one-year deal with the New York Yankees. While he hit 12 home runs, the defensively limited hitter seemed to be out of luck for his playing future.

Acquired in a minor trade with the Texas Rangers in December 2002, he had his best seasons in 2005-2006. Those two years, he averaged 36 doubles, 38 homers and 112 RBI with a .306/.423/.626 hitting line. Somewhat surprisingly, despite two top-8 MVP voting finishes in those seasons, Hafner never was an American League All-Star.

The Indians signed Hafner to a four-year $57 million extension halfway through the 2007 season. In his final five years with the team, from 2008-2012, he averaged only 86 games played and a .259/.353/.436 line. The contract is regarded as the worst in franchise history.

Barker also is a famous former Indian, most well known for his May 15, 1981 perfect game, the last Cleveland Indians individual no-hitter. The two certainly could be recruiting powerhouses in the region for the new Division II school known as the Falcons.

[Related from April 2012: The Final Year of the Travis Hafner Era]

Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer

Yankees 6 Indians 4: Pronk and CC help sweep Tribe out of the Bronx

Mike AvilesSeth Greenberg, former head basketball coach at Virginia Tech, now an analyst on ESPN once said after a blowout loss “sometimes you’re the dog….sometimes you’re the tree.” Well your Cleveland Indians were the tree all week as the Yankees took turns battering the Wahoos into submission.

The Indians had hoped to stop their 4-11 skid on a sunny afternoon in the Bronx, but things just got way out of hand far too quickly. Corey Kluber entered the game pitching as well as any Indians starter. In the first inning, the Yankees hit a couple of rocket shots. One of them was a fly ball towards the gap in right center off the bat of Robinson Cano. Center fielder Michael Bourn ran a long way to get the ball and did everything put make the catch. The ball bounced off his glove for an error, giving the Yankees an extra out. Of course, they would capitalize.

“He chased it down and just didn’t catch it,” Manager Terry Francona said. “He went a long way and he got to it, but it didn’t stay in his glove.” [Read more...]

Cleveland Indians talk – trying not to talk attendance, Swisher’s intangibles, Francona and Ubaldo and more with TD – WFNY Podcast – 2013-05-09

WFNY Podcast LogoWe did talk briefly about the attendance, but really not much at all. We’ve both agreed that it shouldn’t dominate the headlines a second year in a row.

  • Lackluster attendance and how tired we are of talking about it

  • Bud Shaw’s article about the long-term project

  • TV ratings and how far they’re up year over year

  • You can’t get the pulse of casual fans that stopped going

  • Nick Swisher truly has intangibles

  • LeBron dancing and picture-taking vs. Nick Swisher’s mugging and dancing

  • Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner while great guys and decent players weren’t electric personalities

  • Mike Aviles throwing sunflower seeds at Terry Francona during in-game interview

  • Francona setting his own bar so very high for himself in Boston

  • Jonathan Papelbon and how purely hateable he is

  • Theo Epstein and how he’s disappeared into the Cubs job

  • Brett Meyers, Daisuke Matsuzaka and the also-rans in the system

  • Ubaldo Jimenez and how Francona is managing him [Read more...]

WFNY Podcast – Scott Raab talks Tribe, Mike Rice and Roger Ebert

WFNY Podcast LogoBig news in the podcast world. Scott Raab has agreed to be a regular weekly guest. So other than a few exceptions, I’m sure, we will have Scott’s perspective on a weekly basis. I can’t tell you just how happy it makes me that he wants to contribute every week. Please consider subscribing on iTunes.

  • Indians home opener
  • Ubaldo Jimenez
  • Travis Hafner
  • John Sterling
  • Free agency and MLB
  • Swisher and now appreciating his “bro dude” attitude
  • Replacing the guy who replaces the guy
  • First Energy Field
  • Making money on bad teams
  • Byron Scott and silence from Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert
  • Shaq and his bloated contract
  • Rutgers and Mike Rice’s firing
  • Putting a mic in front of the mother of a player
  • Roger Ebert and the online reaction to him
  • Journalists worshipping journalists
  • The meaninglessness of apologies
  • The word police send Scott a letter

[Read more...]

Yankees 11, Indians 6: Home Opener interrupted by the Pronk Show

Travis HafnerOpening Day is all about the pageantry of the grand old game. Fireworks and balloons. A fresh start with fresh faces. It is a chance for a team to capture the city’s imagination for at least one day. Here in Cleveland, with a new era of baseball upon us, the Tribe welcomed a packed house of fans decked out in Wahoo Red, White, and Blue.

With a city full of apathetic baseball fans, you get one chance to make your mark in front of a sellout crowd. There were 41,567 people inside of Progressive Field yesterday. Of those, probably a third of them will go to this game and make up their minds if they should go back based on this one game. Right or wrong, the Tribe gets that one opportunity to bring in that casual fan.

With that chance, manager Terry Francona turned to Ubaldo Jimenez, the team’s number two starter in name only. Look, we all know what Ubaldo is at this point, yet here we are on year three of hoping that he finds his old Colorado form. His first start in Toronto last week was encouraging, but then again, so was his first start in 2012 where he had a no-hitter going into the seventh. The problem with Ubaldo is that you never know which guy is going to show up. Fausto Carmona post-2007 was the exact same way. But when you are counting on a guy to be a top of the rotation starter yet he really is a fifth starter, it is going to present issues from time to time. Sometimes it is there, sometime it isn’t. [Read more...]

Travis Hafner bombs and so does John Sterling

I personally wish Travis Hafner the best. I was obviously disappointed in how his Tribe career worked out, but I think he was too. I think he always wanted to do well for himself and for the team. With that, I wish him nothing but the best even as he now plays for the New York Yankees.

However “the best” are not words I’d use to describe John Sterling’s shticky homerun calls that he incessantly shoe-horns into broadcasts whenever a Yankee hits a home run. Hear how he called Travis Hafner’s first bomb as a member of the Yankees.

“Ha ha Hafner” was the best he could do? Ew. Thank goodness the Tribe has Tom Hamilton.

[Related: WFNY Podcast – 2013-04-03 – TD talking Tribe after 2-0 start]

Cleveland Indians makeover is fun, but will it work?

Nick SwisherDespite all the additional questions surrounding the Cleveland Indians, this has to be one of the most exciting off-seasons in memory. It isn’t just about the higher profile signings that the Indians have made either. This team feels fresh and new, from manager Terry Francona all the way to the guys competing to sit on the bench like Jason Giambi. I have no idea if it is going to work or not, but I’m trying to enjoy the ride. Excitement isn’t always a precursor for good things, but it is almost undeniably beats the alternative, right?

Giambi isn’t the slugger he once was, but nobody’s asking him to be that either. Indians fans don’t even need him to be as good as Eddie Murray was for the Tribe in the 90′s. If he can make the team, be a good citizen and come off the bench and find 10 homers in his bat over the course of 60 to 75 games, that would be good enough, presumably because he also brings something extra to the table in terms of leadership. It just feels funny to say that, because minus the experience and leadership, isn’t that what Shelley Duncan did for the Tribe last year?

Similarly, Mike Aviles isn’t a world beater either, but he is a backup with a career .277 average and an ability to play in the field. He’s replacing guys like Brent Lillibridge, Jose Lopez and Jason Donald. While I don’t dislike those guys, I do expect Mike Aviles to bring a higher level of play and consistency to the plate and the field when he’s out there. [Read more...]

Hafner Heads East…..PEACE

travis-hafnerTravis Hafner…Travis Hafner….Travis Hafner…. adios my friend. Twitter was abuzz yesterday when word came down that our old friend Pronk had finally found a home. I fully expected him to end up in either Oakland or Tampa Bay, considering their recent history of DH’s. But instead, Hafner will sign a one-year, $1.1 million deal with the New York Yankees.

The New York Yankees?

Yes, that same franchise that has 27 World Series titles is continuing their collection of past their prime, mid to late thirties, big bats. They are like The Duke’s – trying to corner the market. But unlike in the classic movie Trading Places, nobody wants to “get in on it.”

No George Costanza is not behind this move. GM Brian Cashman has signed off on this one himself. I’m not sure what it is about the Indians that Cashman is so enamored with, but between Hafner, Russ Canzler, Thomas Neal, and Jerad Head, Cashman is collecting Tribe scraps. You know what they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. [Read more...]

MLB News: Travis Hafner close to inking deal with New York Yankees

(Update: Hafner has reportedly signed a one-year, $1.1 million deal with the Yankees)

While he was rumored to be in the mix for the Cleveland Indians’ vacant designated hitter job, it appears that long-time Tribe slugger Travis Hafner could be rocking a half-buttoned pinstrip jersey for 2013.

WEEI’s Rob Bradford followed up on an earlier report from CBS Jon Heyman, both with terms going undisclosed.

Hafner hit free agency after the Indians chose a $2.75MM buyout over a $13MM option earlier in the offseason. The 35-year-old provided a slash line of .228/.346/.438 with 12 home runs in 263 plate appearances for the Indians in 2012. Hafner, a left-handed hitter, has a career batting line of .287/.391/.534 against right-handed pitching. As WFNY’s Jon wrote earlier this week, outside of the 2008 season, Hafner had never had a wOBA below .340 and never slugged less than .440.

While Hafner may not come near 150 games played, his swing is perfect for the short porch at Yankee Stadium. Where this leaves the Indians with regard to the designated hitter position remains to be seen.

[Related: The Case for a Designated Hitter. Yes, That Designated Hitter]

MLB Rumor: Indians could add Hafner, Thome as DH

As the Cleveland Indians continue their search for a designated hitter, two familiar names continue to creep back into the fold: Travis Hafner and Jim Thome.

As reported earlier this week by CBS’ Jon Heyman, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer piles on by adding team-specific insight — when the Indians didn’t exercise Hafner’s $13 million option for 2013 this past fall, general manager Chris Antonetti said he was still open to bringing Hafner back to Cleveland for less money. While other teams continue to scoop up designated hitters, pitchers and catchers do not report to Goodyear, Arizona on February 10.

If Thome were signed, it would be his third stint with the team. With plans to erect a statue in his honor, the Indians are waiting for their current franchise leader in home runs to call it a career; there would undoubtedly be some nostalgia involved in his return.

In 2012, Hafner hit .228 with 12 home runs and 34 runs batted in. Thome, who played for the Phillies and Orioles last season, hit .252 with eight home runs and 25 runs batted in. The two sluggers, both left-handed, played 66 and 58 games, respectively.

Hoynes adds that the Indians are not, however, in talks with another former Indian in Manny Ramirez. Ramirez has a history with current Tribe manager Terry Francona, but is not under consideration for the vacant designated hitter spot.

[Related: Thome or Travis? I Choose Neither]

Thome or Travis? I Choose Neither

Jim ThomeHere’s a piece I never thought I would be writing again, let alone in 2013.

With Indians roster all but set, there is still one spot that is wide open as we sit here on January 23rd. Designated Hitter.

For years, the Indians have had the position held down with a big bat who plopped themselves in the spot and didn’t move. From Eddie Murray in 1995, to David Justice in 1997, to Ellis Burks in 2001, to Travis Hafner in 2004 all the way through 2012, the Tribe has been set in that spot in the way the position was originally designed. When you think of the DH spot, the poster boys of the last 20 years have been Seattle’s Edgar Martinez and Boston’s David Ortiz. These are two fringe Hall of Famer who consistently hit in the middle of their respective lineups, came up with big hits time after time, and couldn’t play the field (though Ortiz moonlights during interleague play as a first baseman). [Read more...]

TD’s Ten For Thursday

Norv TurnerIts Thursday….Im bored….We need some topics for discussion….So lets do this….10 for Thursday

1. The Browns have officially named Norv Turner as their new offensive coordinator. While people will probably gloss right over this, I happen to think bringing Turner to Cleveland is a coup. The Browns have put it out there that one of the reasons new head coach Rob Chudzinski got the job is because of his ability to put together a strong staff. In other words, bringing old friend Norv with him was a major feather in Chud’s cap.

Nobody questions Turner’s OC credentials. He was the man behind two of the Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl offenses in the 1990′s, and in between head coaching stints in Washington, Oakland (I seriously have zero recollection of this, but it happened), and San Diego led offenses in Miami and San Francisco. Chud worked with him in San Diego and they share the same love of the vertical passing game. Their scheme is perfect for Brandon Weeden’s strengths. If Weeden can’t succeed under Chud and Norv, then the Browns will be looking for another QB….again. [Read more...]

The culture and roster have changed, so what’s the Tribe’s next move?

It has been quite the offseason for the Indians. From the day Manny Acta was fired, the Dolan Family Ownership pushed forward with a new era for their downtrodden organization. Many scoffed (me included) when it was decided that Team President Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti would stay on board to oversee the changes that were about to come. Just over three months later, Antonetti has come through with a vengeance.

The hiring of Terry Francona changed everything for this organization. He was quoted as saying he only took the job because of the the opportunity to work with two men who would be his bosses, Shapiro and Antonetti. It was never said, but it is widely assumed now that Francona received some sort of assurances from ownership that there would be money to spend to upgrade the roster. Armed with Tito’s sterling reputation as a manager everyone wants to play for, the Indians began the transformation.

[Read more...]

While We’re Waiting… Francona brings swagger to Cleveland

While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

“There is a new feeling around the Cleveland Indians. It isn’t a feeling of cockiness, but confidence. It’s a feeling of pride in what has been accomplished since the end of a 94-loss season in 2012, and also a focus on the work that is left to be done. It’s a feeling of comfort and trust, while starting so many things different and new. However you try to describe the feeling, it is one created by new Manager Terry Francona.” [Mike Brandyberry/Did The Tribe Win Last Night?] [Read more...]

Why Missing Out on Victorino is a Good Thing

You should be happy this morning, Indians fans.

In case you missed it, veteran outfielder Shane Victorino chose the Boston Red Sox over the Tribe last night and signed a three-year, $39 million deal with the AL East beast. It had been widely reported that the Indians went to four years and $44 million on the man they call “The Flyin’ Hawaiian.” To me, the offer to Victorino has many layers to break down.

The notoriously cheap poor Dolan Family ownership just threw money at a big free agent. A year after refusing to give a third year for OF Josh Willingham and being burned by it, ownership signed off on a four year deal for Victorino. Like it or not (I didn’t), the front office is showing that they are serious about wanting to build a winner right now. Terry Francona is their trump card, and they are playing it. Tito was said to be putting on the full court recruiting press with Victorino in efforts to get him to Cleveland.  However in the end, the free agent chose a shorter deal at money money per year to play for a perennial contender. I can’t say I blame him.

But trust me when I tell you, this was a major dodged bullet for the Indians. [Read more...]

MLB News: Indians pick up option on Jiménez, decline Hafner and Hernandez

The Cleveland Indians today announced the club has exercised the 2013 club option of right-handed pitcher Ubaldo Jiménez. Also today, the Indians declined the 2013 club options for designated hitter Travis Hafner and right-handed pitcher Roberto Hernandez (formerly Fausto Carmona). 

Jimenez, 28, went 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA in 31 starts for the Indians in 2012 (176.2IP, 190H, 106ER, 95BB, 143SO).  For the season he averaged 7.3 strikeouts per 9.0 innings pitched, 16th among American League starting pitchers and tops on the Tribe pitching staff.  He recorded his 12th career double-digit strikeout game on August 9 vs. Boston (10SO) and over a 16 start stretch from June 10-August 31 he fanned 94 batters in 91.1 innings of work (9.3SO/9.0IP). His best month came in June, recording an ERA of 2.78 in 5 starts (32.1IP, 25H, 10ER).

As WFNY’s TD wrote earlier this week, the Indians have invested so much in Jiménez; giving up on him now would not be prudent. “$5.75 million is well worth giving him another shot to turn things around under a new pitching coach, yet to be determined,” penned TD.

Hafner hit .228 (50-219) in 2012 between two stints on the disabled list while Hernandez was limited to 3 August starts (0-3, 7.53ERA) in 2012.  Hafner and Hernandez are both eligible for free agency.

[Related: The Tigers Get Swept, Your Boy Rejoices, And The Tribe Decisions Three Days Away]

The Tigers Get Swept, Your Boy Rejoices, And The Tribe Decisions Three Days Away

It is funny to me how once the World Series rolls around, most people I know are all but done with baseball. It is almost the exact opposite of the NBA and NFL where the sport becomes even more popular at the end. In case you missed it, the San Francisco Giants used their incredible pitching, great defense, and clutch hitting to dispose of the big bat lineup of the Detroit Tigers. On the east side of Cleveland, as the clock struck midnight, your boy was lying in bed with a smile.

The free-spending Tigers desperately wanted to win a World Series for owner Mike Illitch (and his hair). Illitch, Dave Dombwoski, and Manager Jim Leyland thought they were built for this title. They had their pitching lined up the way they wanted it and came in smokin’ hot off a sweep of the New York Yankees. The Giants, who faced  six straight elimination games and won them all heading in, seemed to be the big underdog. Their best two pitchers wouldn’t go until games three and four and they were sending Barry Zito up against Justin Verlander in Game One.

If you had the Giants sweeping four straight with all of that factored in, then you are either a liar or you had a copy of “Grey’s Sports Almanac.”

If anything was learned in this series, it’s that once again great pitching always beats great hitting. Two years ago the Giants did the exact same thing to the Texas Rangers and their All-Star laden lineup. Need I remind you of the 1995 World Series? [Read more...]

Mercifully, Its Over…..But The A’s Are Still Playing!


Game 162. Regarding our beloved Cleveland Indians, it seems like this last two months has taken two full years, hasn’t it? I can’t remember a season that I wanted to end more than this one. Its crazy to think that I feel that way, considering as of July 26th, the Indians were right there in the race for the AL Central crown.

On the same day the Indians were finishing out the string and getting housed by the White Sox by a touchdown and a safety, the Oakland A’s were finishing off a historic season where they roared back from a five game deficit in just over a week ago, to win the American League West with 94 wins. At one point this season, both the A’s and the Indians were 44-42.

Last night’s Tribe loss? Their 94th. [Read more...]