CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Nothing says ‘Spring is here’ quite like Opening Day.
With a new season, hope springs eternal.
Optimism is everywhere and dreams of October baseball fill the air – at least for a day.
The Cleveland Indians will celebrate their 19th Opening Day at Progressive Field since the ballpark opened in 1994 and with it will come the usual pageantry.
“It’s our 13th opening day and as always we’re very excited,” Indians Chairman and CEO Paul Dolan said Wednesday after announcing a $1 million donation from the team to the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland.
In 2011, the Indians came out of the gate swinging – literally by racing out to a 30-15 record and on the cusp of becoming the cover story in baseball.
But injuries took their toll and mid-season trades for Kosuke Fukudome and Ubaldo Jimenez didn’t provide the spark that general manager Chris Antonetti was hoping for.
They faded quickly and finished the year at 80-82.
Despite the disappointing finish, Dolan hopes that the first half of the 2011 season will be what fans can expect throughout the entire 2012 campaign.
“We’re excited about the team this year,” Dolan said. “We saw what can happen last year and we know that this team is better positioned than last year’s team to succeed. The questions will always be ‘Will they be healthy? Will they play up to their expectations?
“If they do, we have every reason to expect this team will compete and possibly to compete into October.”
If they don’t fans will cry about payroll – as they do annually. The Indians will open with a payroll of approximately $64.085 million (not including Roberto Hernandez/Fausto Carmona) – an increase of nearly $15 million from a year ago.
The talk of baseball this week was the mega 10-year contract given by the Cincinnati Reds to first baseman Joey Votto.
10 years and $225 million.
“I know the Cincinnati Reds people very well and I wish them luck,” Dolan said. “We’ll see how it plays out for them.”
Dolan has been there before himself – on a much smaller scale.
In April of 2007 Jake Westbrook signed a three-year, $33 million contract extension. In July of the same year Travis Hanfer signed a four-year, $57.5 million contract extension.
Westbrook would miss significant time after undergoing Tommy John surgery and hafner has been crippled by a shoulder injury. His contract, which pays him $13 million this season and includes a $13 million club option with a $2.75 million buyout has been more painful for Dolan and the Indians because of the length.
After signing shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to a 2-year extension worth a total of $16.5 million ($6.5 million for 2013 and $10 million for 2014) is he willing to do more long-term deals?
“There’s always risk,” Dolan said. “There’s risk on the organization’s side there’s risk on the player’s side when making a decision about whether or not to enter into a multi-year contract. We know the risks. That doesn’t mean that we won’t consider multi-year contracts.
“We’ve considered a lot of them sometimes we’ve gotten them done and sometimes we won’t get them done.”
As for Hafner specifically, Dolan feels pretty confident the Indians are in for a big payoff.
“Travis Hafner is going to have a great season this year and make his contract look great,” Dolan said.
While there are no guarantees in any sport Dolan offered a prediction for the upcoming season, “Lots of great and exciting baseball.”
If fans see that in 2012, no one will say a word about contracts or payroll because the jubilation felt on Opening Day will carry throughout the season and hopefully into October as well.