Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Are there any players Cleveland fans would not root for?

harrison cheap shotWhen the New York Yankees traded for Roger Clemens in 1999, Yankee fans were faced with a dilemma:

How do you root for a player that you despised when they played for a rival team?

Mike Lupica, writing in The New York Daily News, came up with the perfect phrase for Yankee fans to justify embracing Clemens through his steroid-aided years in the Bronx – Clemens was a player who was now “our guy, their jerk.”

We were reminded of that last week when the Cleveland Indians were in Boston playing the Red Sox. During Thursday night’s game, David Ortiz hit a no-doubt home run off of Zach McCallister and stood at home plate admiring his work (as batters are wont to do). That led friend of the program Brian McPeek to criticize Ortiz with this tweet.

After pointing out to Brian that Tribe fans pretty much gave up the right to criticize any other player the day the team signed Nick Swisher, we started to wonder: has there ever been a player that Cleveland fans simply would not have accepted on one of the local teams?

We would like to think the answer is yes, but the more we pondered the question the more doubt started to creep in. After all, we rooted for Albert Belle as long as he hit home runs; it wasn’t our thermostat he was smashing.

Sure, Browns fans disliked Ray Lewis, but if Art Modell had never moved the team and the Browns had drafted Lewis in 1996, would we have cared about all his extra-curricular activities?

It seems like a Pittsburgh Steeler would be an obvious choice – with Hines Ward and James Harrison easily coming to mind – but if either of them wore Orange and Brown, the first time that Ward or Harrison took out a Baltimore or Pittsburgh player with one of their cheap shots the Dawg Pound would build a statue before the game was finished. Plus Harrison played at Kent State, which would have earned him bonus points.

What about the Tribe?

Sure, Clemens was one of the biggest me-first players in the history of baseball, but if he would have had the balls to sign with the Indians in 1997 instead of Toronto, there’s no doubt the Tribe would have a couple of World Series trophies decorating the lobby at Progressive Field. And would anyone have cared about all the baggage that came along with Clemens?

Pete Rose, maybe? After he ruined Ray Fosse’s career with a meaningless cheap shot in the 1970 All-Star game, it would have been hard to see him come up I-71 to Cleveland. But those Indians teams were really bad in the 1970s and Rose may have been able to hit his way out of any lingering animosity. (Although we like to think that Cleveland fans wouldn’t be as dumb as Cincinnati fans about the whole betting on baseball thing.)

How about the Cavs?

There have been several players over the years that have been particularly irritating. From Rick Mahorn’s elbows, to DeShawn Stevenson’s “rivalry” with LeBron James to pretty much anyone who has ever played for the Boston Celtics, there are plenty of players we would like to think we wouldn’t want to see in Wine and Gold … but the reality may be a different story.

So what do you say, Cleveland? Is there a player that you simply could not see yourself rooting for if they wore a Cleveland uniform? If so, who and why?

Let us know and, if we get any responses, we’ll post them in a future column.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

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