Baseball fans must adapt to changes, good or bad
It was just a few short months ago when I used this newspaper space to question how loyal Cleveland baseball fans would remain if and when the major league baseball team’s owner dropped the team’s name, the “Indians.”
We’re about to find out.
Owner Paul Dolan announced Monday the team would drop the name that has existed in Cleveland for 105 years.
While it’s been debated for years, the review process “officially” began in July, only hours after the NFL’s Washington team dropped its controversial name.
Last week’s announcement did not sit well with some fans. A few readers were not shy in voicing disapproval by “sounding off” for this newspaper’s Saturday opinion page. Plus I’m married to a die-hard Indians fan who already is contemplating a protest that might include sacrificing our routine treks to Progressive Field during the dog days of summer.
He already was feeling glum enough over the team’s removal of the lovable Chief Wahoo mascot. As much as he hated to see him go, though, he acknowledged he understood that decision to remove the goofy-looking Indian viewed by many as disrespectful to Native American heritage.
But removing the “Indians” name itself? Indeed, many will find that harder to swallow.
If fans are looking for some consolation, at least it appears the team won’t end up nameless like the Washington Football Team did after it quickly relinquished its name this year, leaving that team without a name and a mascot.
Dolan last week told the Associated Press that Cleveland will remain “Indians” through at least the 2021 season, and that it would not adopt an interim name until a new one is chosen.
But before fans get their hopes up, Dolan also was clear that “Tribe,” the team’s popular nickname favored by many fans for the new name, is not an option. Going forward, Dolan says, the club will step completely away from anything with a Native American connotation.
Tribe fans will view that as just another punch in the gut.
And while we’re at it, here’s another one that many local Indians fans are lamenting — the loss of the connection between our beloved Mahoning Valley Scrappers and the Indians organization.
Kind of ironic, isn’t it? The Tribe team stays but loses its name. And the Scrappers loses its farm team affiliation, but the name stays.
But let’s take a look at the brighter side.
The thing is, if you love baseball, you love baseball.
And given the choice of losing an organized high-quality team in Niles, this is a much better option. Frankly, I’m thrilled to know our Mahoning Valley Scrappers will stay put, albeit with a different affiliation.
And, to be clear, the players taking to the diamond in this new wooden-bat league likely will have raw talent and, no doubt, they will be playing their hearts out in hopes of catching the eye of an MLB scout.
In true Terry Francona fashion, the Indians manager also kept a positive outlook about the changing identity.
Last week, he complimented the team’s decision to drop its name after 105 years, saying it will signal a new beginning for the American League club.
“I am proud of the fact that we are going to do something that is correct,” Francona said, noting it also doesn’t mean the team will disassociate itself with its history.
“That’s not the idea behind this,” Francona said. “I just think by simply saying, ‘Hey, we’ve always done it this way, so we’ll just continue to.’ Shoot, if we did that, Jackie Robinson may have never played in the game of baseball.”
Now, that’s a unique way of looking at it.
Francona understands it may take time for some people to embrace the change.
“What’s important for people to understand is what we’re really proud of is the first name of our team, which is ‘Cleveland,'” he said. “I hope you’ll never hear a player say something that’s contrary to that. And maybe in the next year or so, the fans and people can have some fun with something moving forward.”
I suspect, however, with the passage of time, loss of the Indians name, too, shall pass — sadly, much like the loss of a well-loved family pet or, perhaps more appropriately, like the trade of favorite player. The team already bid farewell to first baseman Carlos Santana this off season. And I’m sorry to dwell on the negative during what’s supposed to be a season of joy, but let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time until fan-favorite Francisco Lindor rides off into the sunset with some other MLB team.
All I can say is, geez, let’s pray it’s not the Yankees!
Still, let’s keep our chins up.
Until we know what else to call them, I’ll just say go Tribe.
And go Scrappers.