The Man That Got Away

December 5, 2012

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.

9 Comments

  • Drew says:

    Well said and great analogy. I am not sure if it still a popular thing to do on the east side of Cleveland on Friday nights, but I too would attend Friday night skate. It was a great activity before high school hockey games.

    As for Shane Victorino, I am glad that the Indians offered the $11M/yr for 4 years, that was a respectable offer. And $5M is a lot of money to any athlete. He just turned 32 and will be 35 when this contract ends. There is a big difference between a 35 and 36 year old OF who relies on speed and I think he has a better opportunity to sign a fatter deal in 3 years than in 4 years, and it may be $5M of difference. I really think the only loser here is the Boston Red Sox, because $13M a year for his services is steep, not ridiculous but above market for sure.

  • Susan Petrone says:

    Drew, I suspect you’re correct as far as Boston overpaying for Victorino’s services. That’s a lot of dough. On the plus side, if the Tribe really has $44 million to play with on the free agent market, perhaps we could do some interesting things.

  • Swift says:

    “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.”

    LoL

    Actually, be the pessimistic Cleveland fan, the more likely scenario is that years from now, Cleveland will be on the rebound after an ugly romanace, see Shane in the grocery, convince ourselves he is still cute, and throw ourselves into his arms, not realizing, till it is too late, that he is a washed up bum, and was probably a bum even when we had a crush on him years earlier. ;)

  • The Doctor says:

    At 31 going on 32, at which point a player’s skills are already in severe decline, paying almost any price for a guy who hit .255 with 11 home runs last year would have been a terrible decision. There will be at least 75-100 quad-A players who the Indians could sign for the minimum, plug in right field, and get the same (or likely better!) production from. Hell, I’d bet with a full season, even LaPorta could exceed those numbers. A couple of years ago I really used to think Shapiro and Co. had it together what with their savvy trades, but every winter meetings when I see all the FA’s connected to the Indians, I start to wonder a little more if they’re even looking at the numbers or just watching ESPN and then going after whoever Jim Bowden says is a good player.

  • Susan Petrone says:

    But @Swift, my scenario actually happened. :)

  • Stephanie Liscio says:

    Keith Law had a piece on Victorino and mentioned his stats against right-handed pitching. They were not good. Now I know the Indians need someone that can hit left-handed pitching, but you’re offering all that money to someone who will essentially be a platoon player sooner rather than later. I think having Victorino for 4 years at that price would have been a disaster…especially when the Indians’ funds are so limited.

    And I agree with The Doctor…it’s like they’re watching ESPN or the MLB Network and just chasing “popular” players. I wouldn’t have minded Victorino, but nowhere near that price. In the long run, Boston will be mocked for this and the Indians can be thankful that they’re not the ones being made fun of. His numbers aren’t so astronomical that they can’t be nearly replicated by much cheaper options.

    • The Doctor says:

      Thanks Stephanie. I can’t tell you how disgusted I was to hear we were after him, and then how relieved I was when we failed to sign him. Even from Boston’s flush-with-cash perspective, this deal makes absolutely no sense (and here I was thinking the Pagan deal was absurd!). Why spend the whole second half of last season getting out from under long, bloated contracts to declining players, only to go out first thing and sign 2 new declining players to long, bloated contracts?

      • Stephanie Liscio says:

        I said the exact thing yesterday! Then I joked that they’ll just trade him back to the Dodgers pretty soon anyway.

  • Stephanie Liscio says:

    It’s like the popular guy has the clap and we just haven’t realized it yet because we’re young and innocent.