Every time Josh Willingham sees Wahoo Red, White, and Blue his eyes light up like a kid on Christmas morning. Every time Josh Willingham delivers against the Wahoo Red, White, and Blue, GM Chris Antonetti must want to throw up.
I am not saying the decision made by the Tribe’s embattled front office captain was the one that changed the entire course of the season, but it certainly didn’t help matters.
“He’s done it in the past,” Tribe manager Manny Acta said of the one that got away. “In Florida and in D.C. and last year in Oakland. He didn’t have that type of protection last year, and he still put up pretty good numbers. He’s a very good hitter and a professional on the field.
It has been well documented that the Indians were deep in the running for the right-handed power-hitting outfielder this winter. But as we all know by now, giving him a third year at a reasonable $7 million was the sticking point for a club looking to keep as much financial flexibility as they possibly could. You look back on that decision now and all you can do is laugh. Knowing they had zero right-handed, middle of the order, home run threat to speak of, they let a guy like Willingham go essentially because of one extra year and seven million freaking dollars. The Indians are paying Grady Sizemore $5 million for a season long vacation (OK, that’s probably not fair of me to say, but I said it anyways) and Travis Hafner $14 million to play 65 games.
Willingham has worn the Indians and their fans out this season. It is bad enough that we know he went elsewhere on a club friendly contract, its worse that he has been exactly what the Indians offense is missing, but its just flat out aggravating that he has killed them on the field in the process.
Last night was just the latest in a season-long line of instances where Willingham pounded Tribe pitching. Somewhere inside the bowels of Progressive Field, Antonetti was saying “uncle.”
In his first at-bat, he singled. In the third inning with the scored tied 1-1 Willingham’s RBI single put the Twins on top. In the fifth, with the score tied 2-2, he hit a two-run bomb, his 35th of the season. In the sixth, his two-out RBI single extended the Twins lead to 6-2.
So in case you are scoring at home, that was four hits and four RBIs. Today is the last time these two teams will meet, but heading in, Willingham has four homers and 19 RBIs against the Tribe. For the season, he has 35 homers, 110 RBIs, and an OPS of .901.
“He’s really been a bright spot this season,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s been out there pretty much every day and has driven the ball for us, gotten big RBIs. Kind of what we hoped for when we signed him.”
Nah, we didn’t need him. Who needs him when you have a left field platoon of Johnny Damon and Shelley Duncan (neither of whom were picked up by anyone after the Indians DFA’d them)?
Meanwhile, the Indians made a winner out of Liam Henricks, a pitcher who entered the game 0-7 in 14 starts. Naturally, he held the Tribe to two runs on two hits in six innings.
I mean, how much worse can we get here? There is nowhere lower to go in the AL Central now, as the Twins put the Indians all alone in the cellar of the worst division in baseball. Our Wahoos, who held first place for 40 days earlier this season, now have the worst record in the American League. But hey, look on the bright side, at least the Tribe will most likely have a top five pick in next year’s MLB Draft!
Want more good news? Now was the time the Indians decided to bring back Travis Hafner for one last time. Scott will have much more on this at 11, but to me, trotting out ole’ Pronk for the last two weeks makes absolutely zero sense and proves nothing. He is not part of the future. We’ve seen all we need to see of him.
Don’t fret Tribe fans, there are only two and a half weeks left of this miserable season.