Russell Branyan has been playing for Tijuana in the Mexican League this year. For reals. He has 19 homers for them. He’s still listed on their roster, actually. But now the Cleveland Indians have him, as they signed him to a minor league deal for the rest of the season.
Branyan hasn’t played in the bigs since 2011. It’s doubtful he’ll actually play in the bigs this year. The Clippers are in the International League playoffs — I have tickets for their game against the Durham Bulls next Thursday! — this may be more of a ringer-on-a-softball-team move than something designed to help the big club. Of course, if he hits well for the next week or whatever and the Indians want a power bat on the bench when rosters expand, that’s not a bad thing either.
In other news, between Jim Thome’s one-day/retirement contract, Jason Giambi and now Branyan, the Indians are assembling all of my favorite toys this year. If they sign Jack Cust or trade for Adam Dunn, I’ll be in heaven.
Prior to tonight’s game against the Mets, former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was inducted into the Wall of Fame, which is behind the batter’s eye at Citizens Bank Park. Manuel is the 36th Phillie to receive the honor, following starter Curt Schilling last year and catcher Mike Lieberthal in 2012.
The ceremony began with current inductees walking to a podium on a red carpet from the dugout, one at a time. They included Jim Bunning, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa, Darren Daulton, and former Phillies manager Dallas Green. Green introduced Manuel with a brief speech, and Lieberthal presented Manuel with his Phillies Wall of Fame jersey. Roy Halladay made an appearance to present Manuel with a miniature Wall of Fame plaque to take home, and Jim Thome — Manuel’s favorite — unveiled the actual Wall of Fame plaque.
A brief video montage played at Citizens Bank Park before Manuel stepped to the podium to address the crowd. He was effusive in his praise of everyone he ever worked with, from his coaches to the training staff to his players. He said that he never intended to be a World Series-winning manager; he just wanted to teach and be able to show up at the ballpark to take batting practice. Lastly, he thanked the fans for not allowing the team to ever quit.
Manuel wrapped up his speech, saying “I’m going to shut up because I want to see the game.” Before departing, he yelled the four words for which is most famous: “This is for Philadelphia!” after the Phillies won the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. The speech was typical Charlie: positive, charming, and funny.
Manuel managed the Phillies for nine years from 2005-13, leading them to five consecutive NL East titles from 2007-11. He was at the helm when the team ended its 13-year playoff drought in 2007, ultimately being swept out of the NLDS by the Rockies. After winning it all in 2008, the Phillies lost the World Series in six games to the Yankees in 2009, fell in six games to the Giants in the NLCS in 2010, and suffered a Game Five loss to the Cardinals in the 2011 NLDS. Manuel went 780-636 overall with the Phillies. He was fired after 120 games last season, when the team was 53-67. Former Phillies prospect Ryne Sandberg took the reins in his place.
Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports that former 1B/DH Jim Thome has signed a one-day contract to officially retire as an Indian. It coincides with the organization’s unveiling of a Thome statue at Progressive Field.
Many former Indians showed up at Progressive Field to help honor Thome, including managers Charlie Manuel and Mike Hargrove, GM John Hart, and infielder Carlos Baerga. Manuel and Thome, as expected, were effusive in praise of each other:
Thome played parts of 22 seasons between 1991-2012. He retires with 612 career home runs, which ranks seventh all-time behind Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey, Jr. He wore the uniforms of the Indians, Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, Twins, and Orioles.
Hall of Fame voting has been wonky as of late, so one hesitates in calling Thome a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he certainly is in a just society.
Every year during the All-Star break there’s a “Legends and Celebrities Softball Game” and MLB just announced the participants for this year’s event at Target Field in Minnesota.
The list of “legends” is an impressive one: Rickey Henderson, Andre Dawson, Rollie Fingers, Mike Piazza, Jack Morris, Fred Lynn, Ozzie Smith, John Smoltz, and Jim Thome.
And then there’s a solid group of local star athletes from other Minnesota teams: Adrian Peterson, Kevin Love, Maya Moore, and Zach Parise.
But then here’s the complete list of “celebrities” signed up for the game: Andy Cohen, James Denton, Chris Distefano, Jennie Finch, Melanie Iglesias, Fat Joe, Charlie McDermott, Nelly, Dylan O’Brien, Rob Riggle, Sway, and Andrew Zimmern.
Woof. Not listed: Jon Hamm. What a travesty.