Way back in the dark ages, when I was in 5th grade (back when we had mimeographed tests in school, manual typewriters at home, and card catalogs in the library), I had a terrible, hopeless crush on a boy named Jimmy. The hip thing for all the cool kids in my class (as well as the nerdy book girls who liked baseball) was to go ice skating on Friday nights at the Cleveland Heights skating rink. I went every week, and every week when they announced “Couple Skate,” I would try to maneuver my way near the object of my affection to try and get him to skate with me.
It never happened. He skated with the popular girls. I sat on the sidelines until it was time for “All Skate” again. And that was pretty much my night.
The Indians pursued Shane Victorino at the Winter Meetings with an ardent intensity that put my 11-year-old self to shame. They reportedly offered him four-year contract worth more than $40 million, with incentives that would have brought it up to $44 million and made him the Mayor of Bay Village if we made the playoffs two years in a row. I have to give the Indians’ front office credit for making a big, fat, juicy offer. I wasn’t sure they had it in them. Alas, Victorino chose to sign with the Red Sox for three years at $39 million. Once again, the most popular boy chooses one of the popular girls.
How much of an impact would Victorino have had on the 2013 Indians? At his best (2011) he had a 5.2 WAR, which is higher than any other player we had on the roster last season. Would we have made the playoffs next season just because of him? Probably not. Not unless we can also make a deal for some starting pitching, but he would have been the start.
Here’s the thing–the Indians have been a desirable team for free agents before, and they will be again. While Cleveland may never be regarded as one of the cool kids, someday, years from now, Shane Victorino may see us in the grocery store. He may stop us, tell us we look great, and do the ring check to see if we’re available. We won’t be. And that will be okay too.
At this point, I’m just happy to see that the front office made a serious, legitimate attempt for an impact player. Rather than focusing on my fan experience at the ballpark, I’d rather see them focused on putting solid players on the field. So while Indians fans may be channeling Judy Garland today, there are other free agents in the sea.