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Tribe Happenings: Masterson might be wise to sign now

Tribe Happenings: Masterson might be wise to sign now
January 27, 2014
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Some news, notes and thoughts from my Indians notebook…

Masterson could break the streak

The Indians have not had a player go to arbitration since 1991 when Greg Swindell won and Jerry Browne lost. It has been 23 years since the Indians have had to go through that difficult process which can get nasty between player and team, but it appears their long streak of arbitration peace may be coming to an end after GM Chris Antonetti hinted last week that “it's very likely that we will end up with at least one hearing this year.”

The Indians still have four unsigned arbitration eligible players: Justin MastersonMichael BrantleyVinnie Pestano and Josh Tomlin. Tomlin is asking for $975K and the Indians have offered $800K, but the gap is small and both parties should come to an agreement before an arbitration hearing.

Brantley and Pestano are a little trickier. Brantley is asking for $3.8 million and the Indians have offered $2.7 million, and Pestano is asking for $1.45 million and the Indians have offered $975K. It is possible the gap with both is large enough where either could end up in an arbitration hearing with the Indians, but both are expected to sign in advance of an arbitration hearing. Especially Pestano since he is in a battle for a roster spot and the last thing he would want is for a nasty arbitration hearing to affect his standing this spring. Not that it would, but these things have found their way into personnel decisions for teams in the past.

But the most likely candidate for an arbitration hearing is Masterson. He is requesting $11.8 million while the Indians have offered $8.05 million, a difference of $3.75 million. That gap is the largest in all of baseball for arbitration eligible players still unsigned, and it is one that might be too hard to bridge before an arbitration hearing sometime in the first two weeks of February.

Masterson made $5.7 million last season, but he and his agency are looking to more than double his salary from last year to this year based on his very good 2013 campaign when he went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA and career high 9.1 K/9 and 2.57 K/BB. He also made his first All Star team and is no doubt the ace of the Indians staff.  Among qualified starters last season, Masterson ranked 11th in all of baseball with a 9.1 K/9, 1st in groundball percentage (58.0%), 18th in xFIP (3.37) and 31st in WAR (3.3).

But the big reason for the gap between Masterson and the Indians likely ties into his inconsistency over the past four seasons:

  W L ERA GS IP K/9 BB/9 BABIP FIP xFIP WAR
2010 6 13 4.70 29 180.0 7.0 3.7 .324 3.93 3.87 2.1
2011 12 10 3.21 33 216.0 6.6 2.7 .302 3.28 3.64 4.3
2012 11 15 4.93 34 206.1 6.9 3.8 .309 4.16 4.15 1.9
2013 14 10 3.45 29 193.0 9.1 3.5 .285 3.35 3.33 3.4

Looking at the numbers over his four full seasons as an Indian, Masterson’s performance has been up and down for such a high dollar and talented pitcher. The fluctuation of his ERA from year to year is staggering, and even looking at his performance through more advanced stats like FIP and xFIP pretty much shows the same thing. While wins and losses are something that I myself don’t pay much attention to, even those have been very erratic year to year. Most of all, his .285 BABIP from last season was decidedly lower than previous years. Yes, his stuff and overall pitching ability took a major step forward last season, but what if some of his command issues of the past resurface, and is that lowered BABIP sustainable?

Those questions and others along with his inconsistency are what is creating the large gap between the Indians and Masterson, and why it looks like he just might be heading to arbitration with the Indians. That is something I myself thought they might get beyond even a week ago, but based on Antonetti’s recent comments it looks like something they reluctantly are ready to fight in arbitration.

Masterson vs. Garza

Another thing to consider in this arbitration process with Justin Masterson is the four year $50 million deal that Matt Garza just signed with the Brewers.

Garza has been better than Masterson in just about every important pitching stat over their careers. Garza has also been more consistent in his performance as from 2007 through 2013 he has posted an ERA between 3.32 - 3.92 and an ERA+ between 100 – 119.  In his eight year career Garza has made 191 starts, compiled a 3.84 ERA and 108 ERA+, topped 200 innings twice and 180 two other times, and owns a career 1.28 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9 and 7.6 K/9. In his six year career Masterson has made 150 starts, compiled a 4.03 ERA and 100 OPS+, topped 200 innings twice and 180 innings two other times, and owns a career 1.36 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9 and 7.5 K/9.

Obviously, the two things that probably equal the playing field with both is Masterson is 15 months younger than Garza, the other being that Garza had the elbow injury that had an effect on his last two seasons.  Masterson also dealt with an oblique issue last season, although of course an oblique injury is hardly as alarming as an elbow or shoulder injury for a pitcher.

Now, I believe on the open market Masterson would probably command more money than Garza and that Masterson is probably a better pitcher; however, how much more he could get and just how much better he is than Garza is not significant - at least to me. With Garza signing that deal I wonder if it has any ramifications not just on what happens with Masterson’s arbitration situation and the potential for a long term contract extension being reached with the Indians, but also his market next offseason as well.

If the Indians and Masterson are unable to reach a contract extension this season, then the Indians would be wise to keep him all season and not trade him. In addition to his impact on the 2014 season, the value they would get from him in compensation next offseason with a first round pick and extra bonus pool money as well as a significant leg up in contract negotiations is more than enough to risk keeping him around.  If anyone has been paying attention, this offseason and last offseason have proven how much players with qualifying offers have had their market severely limited and resulted in much lower multi-year contracts than anticipated going into the offseason.

If Masterson declines the qualifying offer from the Indians next offseason (they will no doubt offer it), he runs the risk of not getting what he wants and limiting the pool of teams he can negotiate with because of the qualifying offer which has proven to be a scarlet letter for most free agents. A lot of teams refuse to talk to any player with a qualifying offer because they value that draft pick and most importantly the bonus pool money that comes with it too much to lose for a free agent signing – no matter how good they are.

Masterson and his representation could learn a thing or two from what has happened this offseason with the likes of Garza and ultimately what happens with Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana. At one time I felt Masterson could eclipse the $100 million mark on a contract, and although that could still happen if he has a huge 2014 season, the new compensation process is proving to really bog down the market for so many of these players where some are getting half the total contract they might have received under the old system.

Knowing that, it will be interesting to see how this Masterson storyline shakes out this season. Hopefully he and the Indians can come to an agreement on a long term deal because I believe they both need each other a lot. Otherwise, it could be another long, drawn out offseason for him and the Indians much like the Jimenez saga this offseason.

Becoming a believer in Santana

In Around the Farm on Saturday night I noted that Carlos Santana has done an amazing job this offseason in his transition to third base and also provided a video showing some of the strides he has made defensively. The reports have been very positive in what he has done over the last two months in the Dominican Republic and he privately has the Indians excited about his potential at the position for this season and beyond.

I will admit, I was quite skeptical of the position switch when it first came about, and I felt that it was only being done to give him 20-40 starts at the position this coming season and add to his versatility. But the more and more I follow this position change with reports coming out of the Dominican Republic and also talking to people I trust, the more I am becoming a believer that maybe, just maybe, he can become an adequate option at third base for the Indians in the very near future.

I still believe that the Indians should give Lonnie Chisenhall every opportunity to make the team out of spring training, but I also believe in competition and having Santana in the mix at the position might be the spark to help light the fire and get Chisenhall’s career going at the major league level. If Chisenhall does what is expected of him this spring he should open the season as the regular third baseman, but if he struggles and Santana continues to excel, I could see a scenario where Chisenhall opens the season at Triple-A Columbus and Santana is the regular at third base with Mike Aviles also getting time there.

A lot still has to come to pass for Santana to open as the Indians opening day third baseman.  He has to prove it toTerry Francona and the rest of the major league field and front office staff. He will get that opportunity this spring over the six to seven weeks the Indians are in Arizona, which is more than enough time for the Indians to test him in every way possible in drills and in games, and to coach him and make necessary corrections and see how his performance evolves.

If Santana does all of that he will have cemented himself as a legit option at third base this season for the Indians. There are other variables in the equation which will determine whether or not he is the regular third baseman or not such as the health of Yan Gomes, whether the Indians believe Santana can be their primary backup at catcher even while handling regular third base duties, and the health and performance of Chisenhall.

Beyond the contract drama surrounding some players this winter and spring, the “Santana Third Base Watch” might be the most intriguing storyline to watch right now.  And I am already becoming a believer that this experiment might indeed succeed.

No thanks on the Thome statue

One of the bigger announcements that came out of Tribe Fest this weekend was that on August 2nd the Indians will be unveiling a statue of Jim Thome at a yet to be determined site in or around the ballpark.

Thome was drafted, signed and developed as an Indian and spent 13 years in Cleveland as a player. He is also the organization’s all-time home run king with 337 career homers as an Indian. But he also spent 12 other seasons with five other teams and hit a combined 275 home runs with them. In other words, while Thome spent the majority of his career in Cleveland it was just a little over half his career, and the seven years he spent with the Phillies and White Sox from 2003-2009 are arguably as good or better than the last seven years he spent with the Indians from 1996-2002.

It is great that the Indians are going out of their way to connect with a former fan favorite and one of the best players to ever wear an Indians uniform, but I just don’t believe a statue was necessary.

Seven years ago, I wrote a piece detailing the shenanigans Thome pulled during his free agent tug of war between the Indians and Phillies. Now, that was written some time ago and some of the information in that article is outdated, but the principle of the matter remains intact with how he used the Indians in a back and forth endless charade to get the last dollar. Time has healed a lot of those wounds left from Thome’s departure, and when he returned for his swan song with the Indians in late 2011 a lot was forgiven.

But I just don’t understand how the Indians can give him a statue even though he spent just roughly half of his major league career with them and also spurned them as a free agent. It doesn’t make sense to me. Sure, he’s a “good guy” and he is no doubt one of the fans most favorite Indians players of all time, but I just wonder if the statue is in good taste.

What about Kenny Lofton? He played 10 seasons with the Indians, his 452 stolen bases are most all time for an Indians player – by almost 200 – and he won four Gold Gloves as an Indian. What about Omar Vizquel? He spent 11 seasons with the Indians and won eight Gold Gloves as an Indian. What about Sandy Alomar Jr? He never accomplished any extraordinary statistical feats, but he played 11 seasons with the Indians, his 1997 season was magical, and he was the unquestioned leader of those teams in the 90s. All of them eventually left as free agents like Thome, but the difference is the organization made little attempt to resign them and did not want them back.

What about Larry Doby? He was the first black player in the American League and spent 10 of his 13 seasons in Cleveland and racked up some impressive numbers over his career as an Indian. I’m also sure fans of Rocky ColavitoLou BoudreauEarl Averill, and Mel Harder are wondering why Thome got a statue over one of them.

Bottom line, Thome is no doubt at or the near the top of the class as far as true Indians greats go. But Bob Fellergot a statue because he played all 18 years of his career with one team – the Indians – and continued to be an ambassador for the team until the day he died. He also is no doubt the best Indians pitcher of all time and is considered by some the best right-handed pitcher of all time in Major League Baseball.  And of course the man was a war hero.

Thome does not live up to those qualifications as set by Feller – though who does – but to me giving him a statue cheapens the statue given to Feller. A statue is something that is special and extremely rare and only for the true greats of an organization. The days of one player staying with a team for his entire career like Feller did are long gone, but for a player as great as he was and what he did for his country, that is the kind of legacy both for a team, city and country that statues are made.

Tribe Fest!

The Indians staged a great Tribe Fest event over the weekend at Progressive Field. Fans braved the cold and some treacherous weather to pack into the confines of the stadium and got to meet and greet several present, past and future Indians greats, tour the clubhouse and stadium facilities and so much more.

The event drew 7,000 fans, up 25% from last year which is amazing when you consider how bad the weather was both days.   The event went over much more smoothly than last year’s inaugural event thanks to some new autograph options and such, and I am sure that the Indians learned a lot from this year’s event to improve it for next year and beyond.

I think one of the most exciting parts of the whole event was the inclusion of so many former Indians greats from the 90s. For a great many of us those teams and a lot of those players have a special place in our hearts, and while the focus should be on the current rendition of the Indians, we should also embrace the past. And this was something I saw the Indians do this past weekend which was exciting.

For me personally, I would love to see even more promotional type events and such during the season tying in former greats from those 90s teams. I would also love it if the Indians can find a way to get some former players like Albert BelleCarlos Baerga and even Sandy Alomar Jr involved in future Tribe Fest events. When Omar Vizquel, Charlie Nagy and Kenny Lofton were on the main stage, the area surrounding the stage was packed with fans fondly looking on as their former heroes talked.

And it doesn’t have to stop there as there are numerous heroes from the 80s, 70s and on down that have such a strong connection to the Indians fan base. The event can be so much more, though I understand there are a lot of logistics and such to consider with getting so many people involved.

Ultimately, that is the draw of Tribe Fest which is to connect with the Indians past, present and future.  Having the heroes from the 90s there was great. Having so many of the stars of today there was nice as well. And of course having some of their top prospects in attendance was a nice touch. It gave fans an opportunity to experience it all. And that is what such an event is all about.

Parting shots

Former fan favorite Charles Nagy has agreed to return to the Indians in a special pitching coach advisor role. The specifics of his new role are still being ironed out, but he is expected to be a roving minor league instructor working with several different pitchers in the minor league system. He was the Triple-A Columbus pitching coach in 2010 and spent the last three seasons (2011-2013) as the pitching coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks. … The Indians have signed right-handed pitcher David Aardsma and catcher Luke Carlin to minor league deals with an invite to major league spring training camp. Aardsma will compete for one of the last few bullpen spots and Carlin is in camp as an extra backstop to help with bullpens and should be at Triple-A Columbus this season. … The Indians have also signed infielder Elliot Johnson to a minor league deal with an invite to major league spring training camp. ... The Indians have extended major league spring training camp invites to several of their minor league non-roster players including shortstop Francisco Lindor, catcher Jake Lowery, outfielder Tyler Naquin, catcher Roberto Perez, second baseman Joey Wendle and catcher/infielder Tony Wolters.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

Hermie13
January 29, 2014 - 2:12 PM EST
Like I said...Giambi is not a lock to make this club. Francona said he has to be healthy...something he was not last year coming out of spring training....and has to show he can still do what he did last year...which at a year older is obviously no sure thing.

I do think he brings something to the team and think he can make the club....but I'm not that confident he will (or should). His OBP dropped to .282...a 90pt drop from 2012 and 60pts lower than any other season in his career. At 43 it may be too much to ask for him to improve, or even maintain his level of play...again, hope I'm wrong and he can rebound (has done it before), just think it's premature to pencil him onto the 25-man roster.

And yeah, I expect to see an 8-man pen...just think it's pretty dumb to do in April. During June, July, and August when the season can start to grind on you and double headers start happening, sure an extra pen arm can help and makes sense. But in April when everyone is fresh, there is really no need for 8 guys in the pen.
Tony
January 29, 2014 - 11:36 AM EST
Francona did not say it was a lock for Giambi, but pretty much said if he is healthy and shows this spring that he can still do what he did last year, he will be on the team. Said it plain as day this past weekend. Also that he wants as many pen arms as possible....which implies that he will once again go with an 8-man pen. We will see.
Hermie13
January 29, 2014 - 11:31 AM EST
IF Santana is really slated to catch 40 games then I agree on not carrying another catcher. I just think Santana should only catch in an emergency.

I also think Giambi is far from a lock to make this squad.
Joe Chengery
January 29, 2014 - 12:20 AM EST
Last comment: Should be "stellar defense" and "His much his offense" should be "how much his offense."
Joe Chengery
January 29, 2014 - 12:17 AM EST
Hermie13, I know other teams will carry a catcher to carry a catcher, but I'm not sure the Indians would be able to do it, as unless Giambi completely tanks and shows nothing in ST and/or tells Francona that he has nothing left, he's virtually a lock to make the ballclub, and his pinch-hitting ability, especially with power does have some use. (Without him, the Indians likely play a one-game playoff to get into the postseason, and probably don't host the playoff game either).

Yes, a 7-man bullpen would be nice, but the question marks surrounding the rotation, and the bullpen too, they'll probably go with an 8-man bullpen.

Does that put us at 24? In that case, you could go with a backup catcher; I'm just not sure the Indians will want to go with three catchers on the roster if Santana is doing any catching, especially if that third catcher doesn't provide offense or isn't a stellar defender. Perez might qualify- most accounts say he's a stellar and can shut down the run game, plus I'm not sure his much his offense will improve. He can draw walks at the Minor League level, along with the occasional double. I wouldn't mind seeing him being the third catcher on the roster though he may be behind Carlin and anyone else in the pecking order in Columbus for call-ups because they have ML experience, whereas Perez does not.
Hermie13
January 28, 2014 - 3:16 PM EST
I don't get the "you don't carry another player if he can only catch" thing though. I mean, if you're deadset on Santana catching 40 games then ok, but if you're moving Santana to 3B, having a Backup catcher on the roster that only catches...will simply be doing what the other 29 teams in baseball do, have a guy that catches on the bench.

As things stand now...Tribe only has two locks for the bench: Aviles and Raburn. So even if you only go with a 3-man bench I think it's fair to ask is having true backup catcher on the bench better than a guy like Giabmi, Adams, Cooper, or Johnson? I can see arguments either way. Personally would love to see a real 4-man bench and only a 7-man pen, though have come to accept that we'll most likely carry 8 guys in the pen (sadly). Unfortunately not a lot left in free agency for the catcher spot...think a John Buck or George Kotteras would have been great fits. Could still look at the trade market....really think a guy like Jose Lobaton could be a nice add. Was actually pretty solid last year as a part-time catcher. He's out of options and is behind Hanigan and Molina in TB...may not cost much to get.

I know the Tribe/Francona like versatility..but it doesn't mean every guy has to be versatile (Giambi wasn't). Plus, Reynolds was versatile..but he stunk once we started moving around a lot. Raburn was versatile...but we hardly used him on the infield. Gomes was versatile...but we kept him only behind the plate. Adding a catcher-only to the bench doesn't hurt your versatility at all really. Still have Raburn and Aviles on the bench. Still can use Santana at DH, 1B, and possibly 3B. Having a catcher only on the bench wouldn't be worse than having DH only Giambi on it...or having Gomes there and only catching.
matt underwood
January 28, 2014 - 3:13 PM EST
Thome at least was not as big of a racist compared to bob feller
Joe Chengery
January 28, 2014 - 11:48 AM EST
Hermie13, I agree with you on Santana- I don't think he should be switching positions much, certainly not playing both C and 3B, as both are demanding positions. Sparingly, perhaps, but I think 3B/1B or C/1B (and DH of course) would be best. I'm not sure how that would change the constitution of the team, since most think Chisenhall will be on it, though, as the regular 3B, and Gomes does need some time off.

I don't think you'd carry another catcher just to carry another player if all he can do is catch and not much else. Who would be lopped off- Chisenhall? Giambi? Last bullpen pitcher?
Hermie13
January 28, 2014 - 10:52 AM EST
@Tony

If you're only comparing them in regards to what Masterson will get in an extension "next" offseason, then Masterson being "15 months younger" than Garza is kind of irrelevant as next winter Masterson will only be 3 months younger than Garza was this winter...and for the season coming up after signing as a free agent, would be the same age...

For 2014 (first year after signing free agent deal), Garza will be 30 for the whole year...

For 2015 (first year after signing free agent deal), Masterson will be 30 for the whole year...

If you're only comparing them in regards to what they'd get on the open free agent market, these are the ages that should be considered, not what age Masterson is now before he reaches free agency.


Reason I didn't think this was the case was because you said "With Garza signing that deal I wonder if it has any ramifications not just on what happens with Masterson’s arbitration situation..."

I'm saying it shouldn't have any ramifications, because they are totally different scenarios....agree that it could impact Masterson's value next winter though.
Tony
January 28, 2014 - 10:33 AM EST
The Masterson/Garza comp is to compare what Masterson might get for a long term deal next offseason (or an extension this offseason). Not what Masterson should get this offseason in arbitration or to avoid it. That's obviously an apples/oranges thing.
Joe Chengery
January 28, 2014 - 10:30 AM EST
Johnny,

Still would say Vizquel and Lofton, at least, deserved it before Thome.

Vizquel should also be a HOFer, Lofton is a borderline case. Vizquel was also on all of those teams and really didn't fall off as Thome did in the late 90s, 2000-2001 offensively, never mind the fact he was a difference-maker defensively too, So was Lofton until the shoulder injury in the '99 postseason; as for his not being here in '97, he was traded away. You can partly blame him for not signing the contract right away, but he did resign with the Indians, showing more loyalty to the Indians than Thome did.

Personally, I think it's a slap in the face to the other teammates who did as much, if not more, than he did. Thome should have been much further down the list. Omar has been as much an ambassador to baseball as Thome has, and Lofton has done quite a bit of work too. I know many players who are- Sabathia does quite a bit of work with RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities), so Thome's hardly the only one.
Hermie13
January 28, 2014 - 10:26 AM EST
Also....I'd love to hear what Charles Nagy thinks of Trevor Bauer....
Hermie13
January 28, 2014 - 10:25 AM EST
I also still think the absolute worst thing the Tribe can do this year is play Santana at 3B, 1B, and catcher. I still can't find a good example of a team taking their best offensive player and making him a super utility player. Pablo Sandoval did play some 3B, 1B, and catcher...but his first full season in the bigs say him play 3 games behind the plate...that's it. And that was the end of his career back there. If that's all the Tribe plans on using Santana back there I'm fine with that, but anything more and he shouldn't be expected to play 3B then.

I don't get how someone can say using Gomes at 3B is a bad idea because he needs to focus on catching....yet then think it's an ok idea to take a worse defender and play him at 3B, catcher AND 1B....and then expect him to be your cleanup hitter on top of it. This is a disaster waiting to happen. Either pick 3B and 1B or Catcher and 1B. Playing all three IMO is just asking WAY too much of Santana. I mean sure, if his bat wasn't anything special I'd say go for it, maximize his value...but Santana's value is maximized when his bat is doing the damage. I would love to be wrong here but I just can't see Santana's bat improving to the levels it's capable of while playing three different positions, one of which is pretty new and another the most demanding position on the diamond.

People keep comparing Santana to Miggy Cabrera as well, pointing out how he moved to 3B so Santana can too. Sure, I can buy that...but again, the Tigers moved Miggy to 3B completely. He didn't even play 1B. He didn't have to worry about a 2nd position...let alone a 3rd position as demanding as catcher. Miggy can play LF, so why not play him out there as well as 3B and 1B and "maximize" his value? Because the Tigers knew that Miggy's value was in his bat. Pick a position,k even one he's not the best at, but leave him there and just let him do what he does best, hit. Pick a position for Santana...either catcher or 3B and let him hit.
Hermie13
January 28, 2014 - 10:15 AM EST
As far as Masterson vs Garza...I don't think looking at what Garza got this winter is what we should be looking at in regards to Masterson in 2014. Look at what he got in 2012 in arbitration. Not a direct comparison as Garza was a super two (Masterson was not) but 2012 was Garza's 3rd trip thru arbitration, just like Masterson this winter. Garza was coming off his best season to date, a near 5 win season according to fangraphs. He made $5.95M in 2011....he got a raise to $9.5M. Masterson did not have his best season and was over a win worse than Garza's 2011 season...Masterson made $5.6875M last year....

Garza did ask for $12.5M and the Cubs countered with $7.95M...the settled well under the midpoint. I don't see any way Masterson can win his case and get nearly $12M. Garza had yet to have any signifcant injury issues (Masterson missed time last year, albeit nothing serious) and was better leading up to his case. Honestly, $9.5M is pushing it for Masterson IMO. Closer to $9M is fair.


As far as what he'd be worth next winter on the open market...$100M always seemed way too much. Anibal Sanchez only got 5yr/$85M and he was much better than Masterson leading up to free agency. Unless Masterson has the best year of his career, he won't even get that money, and probably struggles to find a 5th guaranteed year due to inconsistency. Masterson just isn't an Ace and really only Ace (or Ace-like guys) get $100M deals in free agency. Obviously there's more money in baseball now than ever before but still haven't seen many $100M pitcher deals. Just don't see how Masterson can expect that at this point.
Tony
January 28, 2014 - 10:02 AM EST
Thome said it at Tribe Fest over the weekend.
Hermie13
January 28, 2014 - 9:46 AM EST
@Matt

Where did you see that Thome said he'd choose to wear an Indians cap? I only ask because the new rules changed it to where the player does NOT get to choose his own cap, the Hall of Fame does. So most likely Thome said that since he knows he doesn't get a choice, but more saying that if he did get a choice, he'd choose Cleveland. Wouldn't take it as there was "doubt' he'd pick an Indians cap.


And I agree with James, you can't keep comparing everyone to Bob Feller. Yes, he played his entire career with Cleveland and stuck around and was truly Mr. Indian. But he hasn't played in 50+ years and sadly has passed away. Young Tribe fans and the generations to come hopefully will learn and remember who Feller is....but you need to embrace guys from a more recent time. Can't keep holding on to the past (something Cleveland fans love to do I know).

I understand why someone would point to Kenny, or Omar...or Sandy as a guy to give a statue to....but Thome was the best of that bunch. And as I said in the other article, he is the one lock to make the Hall of Fame, and not only is he going in, but he'll go in with Chief Wahoo on his cap. Sure I do think Omar eventually gets in and maybe even Kenny...but Kenny will have to wait til the Veteran's Committee gets around to him (if they ever do) and Omar likely sits on that ballot for 10 years or so. Thome will get on one of his first ballots. His #25 will and should be retired shortly thereafter. Tribe has retired non-Hall numbers (Mel Harder) but that's more the exception. Can't really give a statue to a guy that wasn't good enough for the Hall or good enough to retire a number now can you?

Yes what he did was bad and IMO hurt worse than when Belle or Manny left....but again, if you stop at giving statues to great players that left you're simply never going to be giving out statues. We aren't going to see guys staying in Tribe uniforms for 18 years anymore. Hell, even 10 may be a stretch.

Thome ended his career with 72.8 rWAR....that's higher than Derek Jeter is currently at, and only players that played any significant time with Cleveland that are higher are Tris Speaker, Napolean Lajoie, and Gaylord Perry (he and his whopping 3.5 seasons with the Tribe).


My only real complaints with the statue is how the went about it (unveiling the location/what it'd look like while he was still playing) and how quickly they are putting it up. I'd have waited til he got into the Hall of Fame, then announced the statue and had it erected the following year or shortly thereafter, similar to what the Orioles did with Eddie Murray....

Speaking of Murray....comparable situation to Thome IMO. While he was traded by away from the Orioles instead of leaving in free agency, he was traded after he demanded a trade after issues arose between him and the team owner. Reportedly put himself on the DL at one point and was called out for lack of committment to the team. Finally got his wish after the O's really started struggling in 1988. Is asking for a trade better than leaving in free agency? Fans turned on him just as bad than we in Cleveland did to Thome. But like Thome, time eventually healed things and he was welcomed back in 1996 (before leaving again for 1 last year before retiring...sound familiar?).


Only in Cleveland would fans cry foul for a statue of one of the greatest hitters the team has ever had, and arguably the best since World War II.
Johnny
January 28, 2014 - 9:16 AM EST
I'll be the first to admit I hated Thome when he left, and continued to dislike him literally until it was rumored the Tribe was bringing him back in 2011. I was at "Jim Thome Night" that year and it was magical. Seeing that bomb he hit to center that night, his last HR as an Indian, still gives me chills.

Here is why Thome gets a statue
- Franchise Home Run King
- Played for the all the beloved holy grail teams of the 90's
- Was on both 95 and 97 WS teams, Lofton was not
- Ambassador for the game
- Played 13 years as an Indian, never happen again
- Hall of Famer, no other player from those 90's teams are
Robert
January 28, 2014 - 12:38 AM EST
I could really care less who gets a statue, that's Shapiro and Antonetti's decision, but as I said in another thread, the more the better. Would love for there to be one for all of Omar, Kenny and Albert.

A thought on a different topic: one possible reason that Ubaldo and Santana may still be unsigned (besides them having too high hopes and 1st rd draft pick tied around their necks) is that the Tribe might be in trade conversations re Masterson with the same teams that would be on those the free-agents. One year of Masterson at ~$10m is a lot different (and for some, a lot more attractive) than 4/$52m (which is what I imagine they are still asking for, if not more).
Joe Chengery
January 27, 2014 - 11:15 PM EST
One more thought in regards to Lofton: He was traded before the '97 season for Justice and Grissom because of a fear of losing him in FA, yet Lofton chose to return to Cleveland in '98, showing loyalty to the organization that helped to build him. More reason why Lofton would rank higher on the statue list than Thome (tied with Omar or just behind Omar in my opinion).
Joe Chengery
January 27, 2014 - 11:11 PM EST
Thinking more about the Thome statue, I, too, am not fond of it, and think this was not a great move by the Indians' FO. Both Lofton and Vizquel deserve it more than Thome. Dare I say, even Albert Belle deserved it more than Thome, and, yes, Belle doesn't have Thome's nice personality, but let's face it, Lofton and Belle both helped to turn the Indians around playing at old Cleveland Stadium; outside of a brief call-up in '93, I believe, Thome had no connection to the Indians before Jacobs Field. Even Sandy Alomar deserved it more on those grounds alone, and as long as he played with the Indians and the many injuries and issues he had to work his way through. Heck, he nearly carried the Indians to a World Series, largely by himself, in 1997, while playing, arguably, the most demanding position on the field. Meanwhile, Thome fell off in consistency in terms of hitting BA-wise, focusing more on power, jacking up the strikeouts around 1997, then between 1998-2001, rebounding a bit in 2002 before leaving.

Speaking of Omar, here was a guy who showed his heart and soul throughout his career, especially in 1995, and then in 1997 when we lost that heartbreaking World Series and he couldn't attend the parade because he was distraught over the narrow loss- that was passion right there. Never mind the fact that Omar never really left Cleveland- he moved on only when Peralta was to be the heir apparent at SS. Personally, I think he was the one who was the best choice among the 90s Indians to get a statue next, with Lofton right behind him, more so than Thome.

Thome wasn't being forced out; he chose to leave because he felt he had a better chance to win that ring (more on that in a moment). I'll also never forget his infamous statement: "You'll have to rip the shirt off of my back (to leave Cleveland)." Well, someone obviously did, as he wound up in Philly. Wound up he did no better (maybe worse) when he left, as I don't think he got back to the postseason until he joined the White Sox years later, after they had won a World Series, and after he had left Philly, they won a World Series. Who knows- if he had stayed here, maybe he would have come closer and would have won a World Series. Then, perhaps, he would be one of several to deserve a statue, but the way it turned out I don't think he was the best choice for the second statue ever at Progressive Field.

And, if I recall correctly, wasn't that statue part of the package to keep Thome here in Cleveland and away from Philadelphia? It didn't work, so why should he get the statue now? In my opinion, it's a slap in the face to Kenny, Omar, Albert, Sandy, and Manny; they had as much to do with the 90s Indians, if not more in some cases, than Thome did. I think it was a very poor decision by the Front Office; they had the right idea to celebrate the 90s Indians and connect or reconnect fans with that era, but did not choose the best person for it in my opinion.

Oh, never mind the fact of the Indians' greats from past eras like Doby, Harder, and Colavito and others. They probably should have had statues before any of the 90s Indians. Then, I would put it in this order: Vizquel, Lofton, Alomar, Nagy, Belle, Ramirez, then maybe Thome. No way, in my opinion, did Thome deserve it second in franchise history. Of all-time Indians' greats to deserve a staute, he's not even in my Top 10.
Matt
January 27, 2014 - 10:20 PM EST
I love Thome and will always consider him an Indian, but the statue is a joke. Thome was a great player, and I associate him with the Indians, but he is not statue worthy. I was a little put off to hear that it had to be said that Thome would choose to enter the hall with an Indians cap if elected, but the fact that it was in question alone should ensure Thome doesn't get a statue. Imagine if Jordan had to clarify that he would enter the HOF as a Bull instead of a Wizard.
yourtribe
January 27, 2014 - 8:52 PM EST
Tony, Richard Justice on mlb.com said he thinks Jimenez will be back here. Not sure on the one year or a multiple year deal?
James
January 27, 2014 - 8:44 PM EST
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Nobody, NOBODY will look good if you compare him to Bob Feller
yourtribe
January 27, 2014 - 8:20 PM EST
I know you said at one time you thought this, but 100 mil. for Masterson seems crazy. Thats 20 per for 5 yrs! Never, even before the QO stuff. As you say, he doesn't have the track record. Even with a good '14.

I would give Masterson the deal Garza got.

Would love to see them lock up kipnis and Brantley. Would send a great message to the fans.

I've said this before. If Carlos is just avg at 3d, its a no brainer he starts everyday. 3d has been a gaping hole for too long.

Agree on thome. Would rather have done it for lofton.

Tony, what do you think of S. Baker? I would like to add him.
Tony
January 27, 2014 - 7:41 PM EST
Brian, yeah, ultimately I think Santana splits his time at 3B, 1B and C....which is where he brings value defensively as a backup or primary option at either position. I just wonder how well he can play 3B if he is only playing there once or twice a week....or at catcher twice a week. Not focusing on a specific position day in and day out and playing it can have its drawbacks.

Tommy, as for Thome.....I see no problem with loving Thome. Shoot, I myself love his time with the Indians and consider him an all time great. But it's just a huge reach to be giving the guy a statue. Statues are for players who had a huge impact on a fanbase and city for a prolonged period of time. Feller played all 18 of his seasons with the Indians and then spent the next 50 or so as an ambassador for the team. Thome spent 13 years with the Indians and 12 with everyone else. Great player? Yes. But a great legacy? No.

Also, yes, he ultimately got a lot more from the Phillies.....but as I illustrated in that linked article it was not as much you think. Also, it was the way he handled it...constantly asking the Indians to match the offer only to get a match or something he liked and then go shop it to the Phillies and then come asking the Indians for more time and time again. Eventually the Indians just drew a line and he went to Philly.
Tommy
January 27, 2014 - 7:14 PM EST
No love for Jim Thome! I remember being at a game when Indians fans booed Jim Thome and I was pretty surprised, though I just expect people to chase dollars. This is the USA.

I wouldn't underestimate the role of the MLBPA Jim Thome's negotiations. The Phillies did offer Thome nearly 30% more money -- its not like he spurned the Indians for a couple million. He obviously had to be convinced to leave, and the Phillies paid up big.

As Mr. Chi-City would say, "Get money, get paid"
BrianM
January 27, 2014 - 6:52 PM EST
Tony,

I'm hoping Santana can handle the backup catcher role along with being our primary third basemen. However, if this scenario occurs, I would prefer he stuck to those two positions and was left out of the equation at first base. If Santana is out at first, we would be left without a backup to Swisher, and I like the idea of having Swish DH once a week. Would you consider having Brantley field some balls at first this spring in hopes that he could be our backup first basemen this year? He's played the position before, and I really don't think Santana should be jumping around the diamond.

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