Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I can't figure out why you still love Thome more than Shapiro

For the record, it was 12:34 a.m., Eastern Time on Monday morning.

That was the moment, I started to hate Jim Thome. It wasn't the home run. You could see that coming a mile away. Anyway the homer came a minute earlier.

No the hate showed up when he left the White Sox dugout and tipped his cap to those puke fans. But it was another group of puke fans celebrating in their own way that really made me sick to my stomach.

Thome is now the enemy.

I guess I knew that. But there was a part of me that wondered if I would cheer for him the first time I saw him at the Jake. I still cheer for Manny. I am sure I would stand for Omar. I never even booed Albert. I loved that team-- the team that made baseball fun again in Cleveland.

But now I hate Jim Thome. And it really isn't his fault.
Because to me, Jim Thome is a symbol for those fans who don't understand what the Indians have accomplised since he left.

Thome leaving us for more money was the best thing to ever happen to the Indians. His contract would have hamstrung the club's flexibilty. There would be no Hafner. There would have been no Millwood deal last year. Who knows how many other smaller deals would have been scrapped? I doubt Belliard would be affordable. Some of the veteran bench guys and bullpen help would not be here. I am sure some of the long term contracts given to the youngsters couldn't happen.

It would have been a huge roadblock to Mark Shapiro's plan. We would still be losing games and the park would be empty. But we would still have Jimmy.

No, Jimmy taking the extra year and extra cash from Philadelphia was a blessing. I have written all that before and given stats both baseball and finanicial. Thome gone is a good thing.

The day he left, I placed my Jim Thome bobbleheads in a drawer along with my white Indians baseball cap that I had worn for so many years, it is now more of a sweat color. I saved them until the day he returned. I figured it would at the end of his career for a cup of coffee, to retire an Indian.

How stupid and sentimental am I?

But I never hated him. Until now.

His homer will give the uninformed a lot of ammunition. Why is he a White Sox? Why did we let him leave? Twist it with C.C. Sabathia leaving the game with an injury and the bullpen walking everyone in sight and surely the sky is falling.

And that group was just waiting for a rallying cry.

The big daily paper has this spot on page A2 where they ask readers questions. On Saturday, the question concerned how would the Indians fare this season. And an unnamed Westlake resident said "With the Dolan family and Mark Shapiro running the show, the Indians have no chance."

Let's start with the obvious, that person is a not fan and has not been paying attention. News flash if you think the Indians can't be good because Omar Visquel isn't the shortstop or Jim Thome isn't the first baseman, you are no longer a fan either.

Yes, the Indians used to have an All-star at every position. But you can't win that way in Cleveland. Not anymore. Not when the Yankees and Red Sox have blank checks. And not when you need pitching.

What Mark Shapiro and his staff and Eric Wedge and his coaches have accomplished is amazing. In several stadiums across this country, Opening Day means more than it does in Cleveland because that is the last time their team has a chance to win.

You remember the division championships in the 90s. Have you forgotten the 70s and 80s?

We have a team filled with budding stars who are younger, nearly as productive and yes more finanically sound that those teams you worshiped in the mid-90's.

And that doesn't mean Dolan is cheap. Just because they haven't overpaid for someone the fringe fan has heard of, that doesn't mean they are not spending money. Just ask Baltimore Oriole fans about signing big names to big contracts and how that has worked out for them.

The Indians are spending money and they are doing it wisely. They invested it in the minor leagues and now it is paying off. They used scouting to find the best young talent and are taking care of them one by one, locking up a core unit for the next few years. Grady Sizemore's contract's guaranteed amount is the largest given to a pre-arbitration player in Major League history. Do you know whose record it broke? That would be Victor Martinez. And Jhonny Peralta's deal is not that far behind. The Indians also rewarded Travis Hafner with a new deal before they had to. The promise of this club was enough for C.C. Sabathia to give up the first years of his free agency and hopefully Cliff Lee will have a deal to do the same in the next few days.

Not only are the Indians young and talented, the roster at Buffalo is filled with major league ready talent. The Indians are deep and ready to become among the elite. That is a reason why the White Sox couldn't stand pat, it is why they had to take the gamble that is Jim Thome's 40-million dollar back.

The Indians may not win the World Series this year or maybe even ever. But they are now in a position, despite not having the Yankees or Red Sox's budget, to have a chance every year. How many cities in America can say that?

So if you hate Dolan and you disrespect Shapiro-- don't watch. We don't want you at the Jake and we don't want to sit next to you at the bar. This year is going to be a fun ride. Every day the Indians will have a good chance to win.

And that is all you can ask for.