Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Can You Go Home Again?

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame …” – Thomas Wolfe

Now that Travis Hafner is on the disabled list with an injury to his right foot – “Travis is going to be out for a little while,” general manager Chris Antonetti said – the Indians find themselves in the market for a designated hitter.

As luck would have it, the Twins reportedly put Jim Thome on waivers on Monday.

“Today, I know nothing really about that, so it’s hard for me to answer your questions right now when I don’t know any of that stuff. I think that’s safe,” Thome said. “Out of respect to the organization and all that, the best thing is not to comment, really, to be honest.”

Could Thome come home to Cleveland and, like Kenny Lofton in 2007, help the Indians as they try to get back into the playoff race?

At first we thought, no way. Thome is a 41-year-old part-timer; surely he wouldn’t be an improvement over Hafner?

But then we looked at the numbers. Since the All Star break:

Hafner is batting .220, with a .642 OPS, 3 homers, 14 RBI and 31 strikeouts in 118 at bats.

Thome is batting .300(!), with a .971 OPS, 6 homers, 21 RBI and 27 strikeouts in 90 at bats.

Looks like an upgrade to us, at least on paper.

The good news is, if the Indians do bring Thome back, it would be because they think he can help for the rest of the season, and not just as a PR move. As Terry Pluto pointed out in his column in the Sunday PD, ticket sales are up 45 percent on the season and TV ratings are up nearly 100 percent.

Seems like the Tribe should at least kick the tires on Thome.

***

Switching to the NFL, Pro Football Talk reports that there is more bad news for members of the 2009 NFL Draft class.

Last week, of course, the Bills cut linebacker Aaron Maybin, the team’s selection at No. 11 in that draft. And the Bengals decided not to pick up the option on tackle Andre Smith (selected No. 6), reducing his rookie contract from six years to four.

Now the Seahawks have done the same with linebacker Aaron Curry, the fourth overall pick.

Throw in Jason Smith, taken No. 2 by the Rams, Tyson Jackson (No. 3 to KC), Darrius Heyward-Bey (No. 7 to Oakland) and Michael Crabtree (No. 10 to San Francisco) and that draft starts to look pretty ugly.

The Browns of course selected Alex Mack in that draft. When you play in a division where you have to go against Casey Hampton and Haloti Ngata twice a year, it was a solid pick.

And looking at what the Browns could have ended up with, the pick just looks that much better.

***

Finally, Peter King shows the Browns some love in this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback column.

King writes that:

I think if you look at Cleveland’s schedule — the Browns play the NFC West this year — you can see them winning eight games. At least I can. I mean, you look at the schedule in the first 11 games and you think: Somebody at 280 Park Avenue is very fond of Randy Lerner.

The slate includes one team, Indy, with a winning record in 2010: 1. Cincinnati, 2. at Indianapolis, 3. Miami, 4. Tennessee, 5. at Oakland, 6. Seattle, 7. at San Francisco, 8. at Houston, 9. St. Louis, 10. Jacksonville, 11. at Cincinnati.

Not saying they’ll go 10-1, and you gotta think the other teams are looking at Cleveland on the schedule and thinking it’s an eminently winnable game. But the point is, no other team in the league has the kind of chance to start strong and stay strong as Cleveland has. The problem with the first 11 weeks for the Browns is the season isn’t 11 games. It’s 16. And the last five games include two with Baltimore and two with Pittsburgh. But when you face one strong returning playoff team in the first 11 games (Seattle, at 7-9, will forever be asterisked, even with the decisive win over New Orleans), you think it might just be your year.

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