Got some controversial news you’d like to take cover from? How about letting it slip on Hall of Fame induction day? That seems to be what is happening here:
As Lukas notes, visually, this is not a big deal. We’re still going to see Wahoo all over the place. But make no mistake: this is a big deal. It’s a significant move which comports pretty nicely with what I have long suspected: Indians management’s desire to slowly, slowly marginalize Chief Wahoo with an eye towards his eventual elimination.
I first floated this idea a couple of years ago when I noticed that, at the Indians’ spring training facility in Goodyear, Arizona, Chief Wahoo is hard to find. The buildings and signage all feature the block C logo and the block C cap is worn far more often during spring training than in the regular season. With the introduction of the Indians’ alternate uniforms in the past few years — alternates that are worn far more often than most teams wear their alternates — my suspicions along these lines have increased.
Of course, the Indians have denied that they are phasing out Wahoo. As I probably would too if I were in their position. They have a large and loyal fan base who has been wearing that odious red-faced mascot on their caps and shirts for decades now. The team doesn’t want to make an abrupt change, with an attendant announcement, which effectively says “hey, fans? You all are racists in our eyes now, ok?” They also don’t want to lose merchandise sales. And to be clear, Wahoo still exists even on the alternate jerseys in the form of a sleeve patch and apparently still will even now that the official logo has changed.
But this fall the Indians surveyed fans about Wahoo. And the heat being brought to bear on the Washington Redskins for their racist name and iconography is no doubt being noticed on Ontario Street up in Cleveland. And, even if they once again deny it today, it’s impossible to see this move as anything other than a further marginalization of Chief Wahoo. One that, in my view, will inevitably lead to his elimination at one point in the not-too-distant future, even if it’s done without a press release or official announcement.
And good for the Cleveland Indians for doing so.
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.