Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Time to shutter Pronkville

Cleveland Indians v Toronto Blue JaysIt’s time to start renovating Pronkville as the final link to the Cleveland Indians last playoff appearance was officially severed on Friday, with news that designated hitter Travis Hafner has agreed to a one-year deal with the New York Yankees.

The contract will reportedly pay Hafner $2 million with $4 million in incentive bonuses.

Hafner batted just .228 with 12 home runs and 34 RBI in 64 games for the Tribe last year and injuries have limited him to just 86 games a season over the past five years.

It’s good that another team signed Hafner as that takes away the temptation for the Indians to bring him back. The Indians are not a team that can afford to tie up payroll with a player that is strictly a DH (and often injured) – Hafner hasn’t played in the field since 2007 – and the urge to hang on to players for PR purposes has too often proved irresistible to the Tribe front office. (In fact, GM Chris Antonetti has been negotiating with Hafner’s agent. Hopefully Antonetti loses the phone number for Grady Sizemore’s agent).

The Yankees, of course, don’t have the same payroll constraints as other teams, as the Hafner signing brings their payroll to a reported $208 million for 18 players.

There’s no doubt that Hafner’s contract weighed down the Indians the past few years as his injuries hurt his production. Over the past three years Hafner only totaled 38 home runs while batting .267. But Hafner earned that contract by averaging 34 home runs and 111 RBI from 2004 through 2006 while never batting below .305.

All told, Hafner spent 10 years with the Tribe, arriving as the powerhouse teams of the late 1990s were coming to an end, and leaving as the team continues to morph into a reincarnation of the 1970s Tribe.

Hafner never came across as someone who dogged it and while injuries are disappointing, they are part of the game. So while we’re glad the Tribe is moving on from Hafner, we don’t wish him ill now that he is moving along to the Yankees.

It seems hard to believe that Hafner was the last Indian on the roster from the ’07 season, when the Tribe won 96 games and came within one game of making the World Series. And after watching the Indians lose an average of 89 games a season since then, five years never felt like so long ago and the playoffs so far away.

Even more than his home runs, the one lasting memory we will always have of Hafner is his game-winning hit in extra innings against the Yankees in Game 2 of the Divisional Series in 2007.

In a nice twist, Tribe fans will have the opportunity to say goodbye to Hafner as the Indians first home series of the season comes against the Yankees on April 8-11.

Good luck to Pronk and thanks for the memories.

 

 

 

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