They say the former Braves pitcher learned a lesson, now Cleveland should benefit from the trade.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- Will the John Rocker trade become the highlight of John Hart's legacy or merely the swap that showed the retiring Cleveland Indians general manager to the door?
A few Mahoning Valley Scrappers fans voiced their opinion on the player exchange Saturday before the home opener.
Rocker (2-2, 3.09 ERA), a relief pitcher who was disciplined by Major League Baseball two years ago for voicing his opinions in a Sports Illustrated article, was traded by the Atlanta Braves for Steve Karsay and Steve Reed.
"It's an asset to Cleveland," said Tom Cayavec, a Scrappers usher.
"The guy can pitch; he's a closer. That's what they needed."
Cayavec didn't care about Rocker's publicized racial comments.
"Forget what he did down there. It's a wonderful move. Rocker is going to do a wonderful job here."
Gary Bercini was born on the south side of Pittsburgh, but has been an Indians fan for 25 years.
Time will tell: "The jury is still out," Bercini said. "Cleveland needed the left-handed closer. The question is, can he be consistent enough up here?
"It might be good for both. He's only 26 and he's been to the big time."
Bercini was asked if Rocker's feelings mattered.
"With the athletes today, they have to watch their steps. It's really tough, especially for a young guy. They have to learn the proper ways to speak."
The Indians, a team that embraced Albert Belle while he played here, has always been willing to forgive and forget. Belle's problems were well-documented.
Cleveland traded for Robbie Alomar and Will Cordero, two other bad apples who matured into fine players.
Gail Drushel said, "I think we still need Steve Reed. We don't have a sidearm pitcher like Steve."
Unfortunately, he's gone.
"I understand he is good," Drushel said of Rocker. "He can pitch."
Also in the crowd was Gino Van Meter, who wore his Pirates shirt.
"I think it was kind of stupid," Van Meter said. "If he was that good, Atlanta wouldn't have traded him."
Eddie Wolcott and her friend, Phyllis Savelle, sat together and watched Wolcott's husband of 47 years work on the field prior to the game.
"I think it's great, they are trying to improve their team," Wolcott said. "They're doing all they can."
She thinks Rocker has matured.
"I hope he's not bringing that with him," she said of his baggage.
Drushel is willing to forgive Rocker, who has 19 saves in 23 chances this year.
"I'm not sure what he said, I didn't pay attention."
Bercini also spoke about Rocker's past.
"He learned a lesson and he survived it. This is a good move for the Indians."