Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pronk staying. What of C.C.?

It looks as if Travis Hafner is going to sign a long-term extension with the Tribe. Various reports (including have him inking a 4-year, $57 million deal through 2012. Now that Pronk has been stowed away, what does this mean for C.C. Sabathia when his contract expires after the ’08 season? Did the Indians empty their proverbial coffer (or blow their proverbial load, if you want to be crass) for Hafner a bit too hastily? Should they have waited to see how the market plays out for both players before making any moves?

I don’t think so.

It was critical for this franchise to sign at least one of these two. Wait and you may lose both--it's wise to knock out the "easier" signing (Pronk) now and worry about C.C. later--in the meantime ownership can use the Hafner deal to show fans that it's serious about contending. Dolan can't afford to give a finicky fanbase, one still pining for the days of Manny, Kenny, Thome and Omar, another reason not to show up.
People love hating on the Dolans. Larry Dolan made a big mistake by telling fans that ticket sales will determine how much dough he spends on free agents. You can’t hold fans hostage, particularly in an economically depressed region where disposable income is not exactly at a premium. This is not the ‘90s...the Browns are back (I think) and casual fans are spending money to see LeBron & Co. Even so, the Tribe can fill the summer sports vacuum by continuing to win and making a splash before the trade deadline. As for the timing of Hafner's deal, the frugal Dolans saw a chance to strike while the iron is...slumping. Perhaps Pronk is one of those players who needs to feel secure in order to perform. I heard Ron Jeremy is the same way. (You can use that.)

Of course, I would rather have C.C. signed long-term over Pronk.--I imagine most Cleveland fans would prefer keeping the left-handed ace who seems to be coming into his own this season. But unless Sabathia takes the dreaded “hometown discount” (Lord how I hate that phrase—nobody has taken the sodding “hometown discount” in this town), it’s going to be damn near impossible for the Tribe to re-up the big man. You’re talking $17-$20 million a year over six or seven seasons...thank you very much San Francisco for setting that idiotic precedent by giving Barry Zito seven years and $126M. I would love to see the Dolans ante up somehow...but it’s likely that C.C. will end up back home in Cali or maybe with one of the cash-bloated East Coast juggernauts.

It’s pointless for Tribe fans to worry about that now. The Hafner signing is a positive move all the way...he’s been down so far, but the man has a track record and I expect a second-half surge from him to help propel the Woobas into the playoffs. And because the AL was able to put aside its differences and band together for last night’s critical exhibition game, the Indians will have home field once they make the World Series.