September 30, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
63°F
test

Kenny makes Tribe better – Commentary

When the Indians first started talking about bringing Kenny Lofton back for a third tour of duty, I was far from down with it.
To me, it didn’t make much sense to go out and get someone that improved your team by an incremental quotient, with so many other players out there that would have improved it by leaps and bounds — i.e., Miguel Cabrera or Mark Teixeira.
But after seeing what the Indians had to give up to get the somehow-still-productive Lofton — pretty much nothing in minor league catcher Max Ramirez — I’m on board.
Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro essentially traded Bob Wickman (to the Braves for Ramirez) for the stretch run last year, when the team was out of contention and didn’t need the veteran closer, for Lofton for the stretch run this year, when it looks as though they might be in the race and could use some extra offense.
That’s a good deal any way you slice it.
Though Lofton is far from the player he once was — heck, he’s 40 years old — he does make the Indians a better team. The guy can still hit, run and play the field on a better-than-average basis. He immediately becomes their second-best outfielder to Grady Sizemore.
Lofton is no Jermaine Dye or Ken Griffey Jr. — big-name players that are reportedly available and would have looked better in a Cleveland uniform — but he is a nice addition with plenty of postseason experience, should the Indians get to that point.
And what a great public relations move. Anyone in the park on Friday felt the energy he brought, something that hasn’t been seen or heard in some time. Lofton’s name, announced after Sizemore’s in the lineup, brought more of a cheer than Grady’s, and there were plenty of the center fielder’s ladies in the crowd.
If you were a Clevelander that watched those dominating Tribe teams of the mid to late 90s, clubs Lofton starred on, you couldn’t help but get caught up in the moment.
Still, before we get too wrapped up in this K-Lovefest … Lofton has been a serviceable piece contending teams have added to their roster for the playoff push over the last five or six years. But it’s not like he’s carried his club to a world championship, well, ever.
Ooo-eee-ooo-ah-ah
Getting all giddy over the “Witch Doctor,” aka Indians reliever Rafael Perez, a
25-year-old, left-hander who started the season in Triple-A Buffalo’s rotation, and might just be the answer to the Indians’ late-inning relief worries.
With a top-shelf slider, Perez has been a godsend while filling in for injured lefty specialist Aaron Fultz, entering Saturday with a 2.03 ERA in 19 games and lefties batting a miniscule .091 off him.
For now, Perez is an effective left-handed specialist who appears destined for more in the relief department. But imagine if he could maintain his stuff in a starting role, like he did at Buffalo.
Why the “Witch Doctor?” Because he’s real skinny, has a unique (some would say, scary) look and a baffling arsenal that puts the voodoo on opposing hitters. Plus, it’s a great nickname.
Crowd control
Indians fans deserve a big round of boos for their performance during a recent four-game series with the Boston Red Sox at Jacobs Field.
A glance at the attendance figures shows that the home team drew some pretty respectable crowds (around 30,000-plus each night) for what was a big series for the Indians.
Only problem was, half, if not more than half of the fans were rooting for the Red Sox.
Boston fans essentially took over Cleveland’s home park, drowning out Indians fans with chants of “Let’s go Red Sox,” and “You,” when first baseman Kevin Youkilis did anything.
Oh, sure, Tribe fans booed Manny Ramirez, who responded by torturing the team’s pitchers, but they offered little resistance to the hostile takeover from the invaders from Beantown otherwise.
A handful of the hometown faithful started up a “Let’s go Tribe” chant that lasted about seven seconds.
C.C. Sabathia called it embarrassing, and it was.
Rant of the week
Why does it always seem like when the Indians trade someone that looks like a stiff, he ends up going somewhere else and making them look bad?
Why is Jeremy Guthrie pitching well for the Orioles when he couldn’t get anyone out during his career in Cleveland after inking the most lucrative signing bonus for a draft pick in franchise history?
Why does Brandon Phillips pout his entire stay in Cleveland, show little and then go to Cincinnati and play like an All-Star?
And Ramon Vazquez? Are you kidding me? How is this guy in the majors, let alone producing for the Rangers?
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.