Thursday, 5 January 2017

Indians Officially Sign Encarnacion

It was the Christmas present every Indians fan wanted. We all wrote it down on our list:

Dear Santa,

Please sign Edwin Encarnacion for the Cleveland Indians.


Suitably-excited Tribe fan

And guess what? Our wish came true, and just before Christmas Day Edwin agreed to join the American League pennant winners in their battle to once again reach the World Series, and go that one step further and win the damned thing.

In a morning press conference today at Progressive Field, the Indians officially announced the signing of first baseman Encarnacion to a three-year deal, the biggest free agent acquisition in recent memory.

It's positively unheard of to see a small-market club like the Indians make such a splash in free agency, but splash they did on Edwin. He has been handed the largest contract in franchise history, reportedly raking in $65 million in guaranteed money. His contract also includes a $5 million buyout clause for a fourth-year team option worth $25 million. If that option were to be picked up, Encarnacion's contract could reach as high as $80 million in total.

That's a lot of money for a 34 year-old slugger (his birthday is this Saturday), but the Indians did just add one of the most powerful right-handed hitters in the game. In 2016 Encarnacion had a battling line of .263./.357/.529 (BA/OBP/SLG) with an outstanding OPS+ of 133. The Dominican Republic native clubbed 42 home runs, drew 87 walks, scored 99 runs and 127 RBIs last season for the Blue Jays. He spent close to 8 years in Toronto altogether, and his slugging percentage didn't dip below .500 in the past 5 years; he also hit at least 30 homers in that time span, topping the 40 homer mark twice.

Encarnacion will likely split time between first base and DH with Carlos Santana (who will stay in Cleveland after his $12 million team option was picked up for 2017). Our new number 10 (Yan Gomes has swapped to number 7) will replace Mike Napoli as the team's premier power hitter.

Some might view this acquisition as a risky move for the Tribe but given that the deal is only for three years, it's not as risky as it could have been, especially considering Encarnacion's offensive output in recent years. The acquisition of Encarnacion was made with the "win now" mentality in mind and the Indians have every right to adopt this approach coming off the back of an incredible 2016. I can't wait to see him in Spring Training and together with Santana, Lindor, Kipnis and a healthy Brantley, the AL Central should be very afraid.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Indians Add Chris Colabello

The Indians have signed a first baseman from the Toronto Blue Jays but he's probably not the one fans wanted. During the winter meetings the name on many fan's lips was Edwin Encarnacion but the Tribe have opted for his teammate Chris Colabello, signing him to a minor league deal today.

Colabello is a 33 year-old right handed first baseman who will add some depth to the position, rather than solve the problem outright. In 2015 Colabello had a very impressive start to his career in Toronto, slashing .321/.367.520 (BA/OBP/SLG) over 101 games, with 15 home runs. It was good enough for a 138 OPS+ but things came crashing down in 2016.

Early into the season, Colabello was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Was this the cause behind his breakout 2015 campaign? Possibly, although Colabello himself adamantly denies ever taking PEDs.

Speaking to Sportsnet, Colabello said: “I would never, have never and will never compromise the integrity of baseball. Ever. In my life. And whether that means taking a performance enhancing supplement—I just wouldn’t do it. I don’t do it. I haven’t done it. I won’t do it.”

On his return to action following his suspension, Colabello was sent to the minors and never recaptured his 2015 form, slashing .185/.254/.293 over 45 games between A+ Dunedin and AAA Buffalo. It was not a triumphant comeback to say the least, and did nothing to sway his critics.

The sceptic in me thinks Colabello won't match that 2015 output, not playing clean anyway. However, now he's been given another chance in Cleveland and by all accounts he comes across as a good locker-room guy and well-liked player. I'm hoping he can turn things around and if it's going to happen, it might as well be in Cleveland. The Indians have had some recent success resurrecting the careers of fading veterans, giving them the chance to shine one more time. Maybe Colabello can add his name to that list.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Let Chief Wahoo Go

Chief Wahoo is a divisive topic among Indians fans, and fans of baseball and all-around taste in general. For a while now the grinning cartoon upon our team's caps and jerseys has caused all manner of controversy. It was brought to the fore once again during the postseason. And now the Chief is back, but with a much bigger bang.

It was reported last week that the Indians had taken the decision to finally retire the controversial logo once and for all. This turned out to be incorrect and in actual fact the logo was only being taken off the caps that go with the alternate navy uniforms. The Chief was alive and well for a little bit longer, but the news triggered another round of debate nonetheless.

Look, I'm not from Cleveland. I didn't spend my early years with this team, I didn't grow up with them. I came to baseball relatively late in my youth, in 2007. So I don't have any personal connection to Chief Wahoo. Honestly, it kind of put me off when I first chose the Indians as my team. As a Cavs fan since 2003, when I got into baseball I wanted to keep my Cleveland connection but the Chief very nearly made me choose someone else (I won't tell you who, but they're from New York... shhhh). It wasn't even because I hated what it stood for, or the connotations connected with it. I simply thought it was an ugly logo.

And I fully understand that there are a great many fans who love the Chief, especially if you grew up with that successful nineties team. I'm sure the uniqueness and longevity of the logo may even be financially beneficial to the franchise in some way.

But guys, the logo isn't cool anymore. I mean, it never was to begin with!

And it's racist.

A very large group of people find it offensive and rightfully so. I more than anybody love and value the tradition and history associated with baseball, but there are times when change can be a good thing.

I think Matt Lyons said it best at Let's Go Tribe when he wrote, "Whenever we talk about the Cleveland Indians removing their controversial Chief Wahoo logo from their merchandise, the most frequent analogy is ripping off a bandaid. There’s going to be backlash, it’s going to hurt, but in the long run it’s for the better. You don’t want to leave that bandaid on your wound until it festers, and you don’t want to leave an antiquated logo festering on your franchise for the next millennia."

I for one really like the block C design on the caps, particularly the navy edition, although I know that's not a popular opinion. I also found it strange and a little bit puzzling why the team insisted on the Wahoo caps in every playoff game recently.

It's safe to say the Chief has had it's day. As we enter 2017, the world is very different to how it was in 1947, when Wahoo was created. It's time to bury the Chief and let him rest.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

World Series - Game's 6 & 7 - You Already Know How It Ended, Why Hurt Yourself?

They say a picture tells a thousand words and in this case, it's going to have to. After an epic World Series comeback by the Cubs that the baseball media will eulogise for god knows how long, I don't feel particularly motivated to analyse how the Indians lost. I'm proud of this plucky underdog team, who knocked out the big bad Red Sox and Blue Jays, and so very nearly got the best of the Cubs, who were undoubtedly the best team in the majors this year.  But I can't lie and say it's not incredibly disappointing to fall at the final hurdle.

Nevertheless, the Indians will retool over the winter and look for revenge in 2017. The Cubs will celebrate and they deserve to do so, everyone knows they've waited long enough. Cleveland fans had their moment of glory in 2016, their own epic comeback to remember forever (thank you again Cavs). Now Chicago have theirs. But it would have been nice if Cleveland could have had two parades this year.

Thank you for reading and enjoy the off-season.