Indians owner says name won’t change in 2021

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CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians are changing their name – they just don’t know to what or when.

Expressing that “it’s time,” owner Paul Dolan said that after months of internal discussions and meetings with groups, including Native Americans who have sought to have the team stop using a moniker many deem racist, the American League franchise is dropping the name it has been known by since 1915.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Monday, Dolan said: “The name is no longer acceptable in our world.”

Dolan said the team will continue to be called Indians until a new name is chosen. That “multi-stage” process is in its early stages and the team will play – and be branded – as the Indians at least through next season.

“We’ll be the Indians in 2021 and then after that, it’s a difficult and complex process to identify a new name and do all the things you do around activating that name,” Dolan said. “We are going to work at as quick a pace as we can while doing it right.

“But we’re not going to do something just for the sake of doing it. We’re going to take the time we need to do it right.”

Dolan said the team will not adopt an interim name until choosing its new one.

“We don’t want to be the Cleveland Baseball Team or some other interim name,” he said, adding he hopes the new name “will hopefully take us through multiple centuries.”

Cleveland’s move follows a similar decision by the NFL’s Washington Football Team, previously known as the Redskins.

“It was a learning process for me and I think when fair-minded, open-minded people really look at it, think about it and maybe even spend some time studying it, I like to think they would come to the same conclusion: It’s a name that had its time, but this is not the time now, and certainly going forward, the name is no longer acceptable in our world,” Dolan said.

As Cleveland considers new names, Dolan said Tribe, the team’s popular nickname for decades, has been ruled out.

“We are not going to take a half-step away from the Indians,” said Dolan, acknowledging Tribe was an early choice. “The new name, and I do not know what it is, will not be a name that has Native American themes or connotations to it.”

The decision was welcomed by Native American groups that met with the club.

“The team made a genuine effort to listen and learn,” said Cynthia Connolly, executive board member of the Lake Erie Native American Council in the Cleveland Indigenous Coalition. “We hope this serves as a blueprint for other professional teams and the 200-plus high school teams in the Ohio area. If there is a school or team that truly cares about fighting racism, these mascots cannot coexist.”

The name change by the Indians is the latest by an organization reacting to a national movement, which gained momentum in the wake of widespread civil rights protests last summer, to have prejudicial names and symbols removed.

Across the South, Civil War monuments were taken down, and in some cases names were taken off buildings.

Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker agreed with the decision.

“I spent a lot of time with the Native Americans, especially the Cheyenne tribe in Montana, and I grew up with a lot of Navajo kids in Southern California,” he said. “And so I think I think that it’s apropos. And it’s as good for the times and it’s been a long time coming.”

Dolan said his “awakening or epiphany” came following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while being arrested by white Minneapolis police officers this summer.

Cleveland’s announcement was praised by Washington NFL coach Ron Rivera, who said his perspective changed after reading “The Real All-Americans,” a novel about a Native American football team.

Rivera said he received angry letters from Washington fans who were upset with the name change.

“But I’ve also gotten some notes from Native Americans that have said thank you for doing that and for respecting our wishes,” Rivera said. “The one thing I hope is that we don’t forget them. We don’t ignore them. We start paying attention to their plight and do right by them. They are Americans that do deserve the respect of us.”

Dolan knows there are plenty of Indians fans who disagree with the decision.

“I consider myself a fifth-generation Clevelander,” he said. “It’s in our blood and baseball and the Indians are synonymous, and that goes to the whole intent versus impact thing. Nobody intended anything negative by our attachment to the name Indians, but the impact has been tough.”

Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. grew up in the Cleveland area and has always followed the Indians. He said the change is overdue.

“To me if the Native American people don’t appreciate that name, then it’s time to go,” Nance said. “I’m not just a fan of the Cleveland Indians, I’m a fan of Cleveland baseball. If they change their name to whatever it may be, the Spiders, the Guardians, whatever it is, I’m still going to be a fan.

“Just because they changed the name doesn’t mean I stop loving the players, stop loving the manager. If it makes a group of people feel less marginalized, then I’m all for it,” he said.

It was only hours after Washington’s decision in July that Dolan announced a thorough review of Cleveland’s name. In recent months he met with fans, business leaders and researchers focused on Native American culture and issues.

Dolan called those conversations “both enlightening and challenging.”

He added there’s a delicate balance between moving ahead and looking back.

“We’re not walking away from our past,” he said. “We’ll be the Cleveland Indians of 1915 to whatever year is that we ultimately change. We will always celebrate that. I don’t think we have to ignore it.”

Cleveland’s name change comes on the heels of the team removing the controversial Chief Wahoo logo from its caps and jerseys in 2019.

The team has never stopped selling merchandise bearing the grinning, cartoonish figure, but Dolan said any profits from future sales of Wahoo items will go to Native American organizations or causes supporting Native Americans.

Dolan’s family bought the Indians in 2000, and even then he knew Chief Wahoo “was problematic.” It was only after this summer’s unrest and in educating himself on Native American issues that he recognized Indians in the same light.

“There is definitely some pain in this. It’s the end of an era or the beginning of an era. But accompanying that is the recognition and maybe even excitement that we’re going on to do something that is better. It will be better for the community. It will be better for our team. And it will be something hopefully that unites everybody. It’s not anything that we have to feel any kind of reluctance about expressing,” he said.

“It’s going to take some time for everybody to embrace but I think when they do, we’ll all be better off for it.”

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Free-agent ace Jacob deGrom and the Texas Rangers agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner leaves the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

Texas announced the signing Friday night after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

“We are thrilled that Jacob deGrom has decided to become a Texas Ranger,” executive vice president and general manager Chris Young said in a statement. “Over a number of seasons, Jacob has been a standout major league pitcher, and he gives us a dominant performer at the top of our rotation. One of our primary goals this offseason is to strengthen our starting pitching, and we are adding one of the best.”

Texas went 68-94 last season and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco, as its new manager. The Rangers’ six straight losing seasons are their worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

This latest blockbuster move comes just before baseball’s winter meetings, which begin early next week in San Diego. The Rangers said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson University, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his professional career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons.

New York won 101 regular-season games last season, second-most in franchise history, but was caught by NL East champion Atlanta down the stretch and settled for a wild card.

After declining his 2023 option, ending his contract with the Mets at $107 million over four years, deGrom rejected a $19.65 million qualifying offer in November, so New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation. Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.