If you ask most people how the Cleveland Indians got their name, they will tell you it has something to do with Louis Francis Sockalexis, a Native American who played 94 games across three seasons for the Cleveland Spiders at the end of the 19th century. The story goes that the team was given that name in honor of Sockalexis, as he was allegedly a fan favorite or fun-loving or something like that.
It’s total bunk, by the way. The Indians own media guide notes that sportswriters at the time — 1915 — surveyed fans for a name and the Indians stuck, most likely because the 1914 Braves were seen as a surprising and inspiration team and others wanted to ape them to some degree. There’s also the little fact that Sockalexis hadn’t been associated with the team in any way and that he died in his early 40s as a very sick and mostly forgotten alcoholic two years before the name was changed.
But it sure is a nice story. Sort of like the Abner Doubleday baseball-creation myth.
Except the Indians, at least in some instances, still believe it. Or else want fans to believe it. What else explains a letter from the team to a fan who wrote them complaining about Chief Wahoo and the Indians’ use of Native American iconography. You can read it over at Cleveland Frowns, who keeps close track of all Chief Wahoo-related things.
If the Indians want to keep their name and their mascot and everything that goes with it, there is nothing that can stop them. They are a private business and they can do whatever they’d like. If they actually believed that the choices they made in this regard were good ones, however, they wouldn’t resort to blatant lies in order to justify them.
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.