Indians owner: Timeline for eliminating Chief Wahoo has accelerated

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Earlier this year Major League Baseball changed its stance on the Indians logo, Chief Wahoo, shifting from a position in which it merely acknowledged that some people find Wahoo offensive to having a clear desire for the Indians to chuck it. In the wake of Rob Manfred and the league voicing its opinion on Wahoo, team owner Paul Dolan acknowledged that Wahoo would likely be gone “within a couple of years.” It was not a decision Dolan said he was pleased about, just one that he felt that was inevitable due to league pressure.

Dolan continues to not be pleased about it, and continues to note that it’s the league, and not the club, moving this. Indeed, he says that the team and the league are in disagreement about it. At the same time, however, he appears to have revealed that the timetable for getting rid of Chief Wahoo has accelerated. From Ohio.com:

Dolan, speaking to 1590 WAKR’s Ray Horner as part of their speaker series at St. George Fellowship Centre in Fairlawn, indicated that the Indians and the commissioner’s office continue to work down the path of finding a “middle ground” regarding the usage of Chief Wahoo.

According to Dolan, they have not yet found it, but it won’t be long.

“We’re not exactly aligned on its future,” Dolan said. “But we will come to some understanding some time relatively soon, meaning before the start of the 2018 season and maybe sooner than that.”

Deadspin and other outlets passed along these comments yesterday, mostly with the angle that the team is resisting MLB’s plans for Wahoo and searching for a “middle ground.” That may be true, but it seems more to me like this is an epic game of good cop, bad cop, with the league willing to be the heavy while the club takes whatever opportunities it can to appear to be fighting it in order to keep from alienating fans. Which may, in fact, be the team’s actual sentiment on the logo. But the key takeaway here, I feel, is that the timetable for moving Wahoo just leaped forward a year, from “a couple of years” just this past spring to “the start of the 2018 season and maybe sooner than that.”

I can’t help but think that this is being orchestrated on some level. If so, it’s pretty deft orchestration, with the club being allowed to remain the good guys and, perhaps, depending on what “middle ground” means, being allowed to continue to sell merch with Wahoo on it to Wahoo-loving fans, with the added sheen of rebellion or underground cred to it.

Which is not the worst thing in the world. Sure, ideally, the team would cease any and all associations with Wahoo. Realistically speaking, however, people were going to continue to wear their old Wahoo stuff once it was eliminated as an official logo and bootleg manufacturers were bound to step in to fill the demand. It was never going to be possible to scrub Wahoo’s existence from the face of the Earth. The key goal is for a racist caricature to no longer be an official mark of a Major League Baseball team. Particularly for it to no longer appear on the team’s uniforms and marketing and promotional materials.

Reading between the lines in Dolan’s comments, that’s happening faster than first expected.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.