When people first started asking me what I thought about Cleveland retiring the name “Indians,” without hesitation I said, “I don’t root for them because of the name.”
I meant it.
I’m not from Cleveland, so it has nothing to do with the city for me, either.
To be completely honest with you, I saw the movie “Major League” when I was far too young and that was when I first started gravitating toward them. It probably sounds like a bizarre beginning, but not everyone has a story about how their dad took them to Jacobs Field as a kid. We like the teams that we like, for whatever reason, and we stick with them.
Even when they trade your favorite player, right?
For the moment, that’s not a rhetorical question. Because as you know by now, Cleveland has traded Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to the New York Mets. While I am sad but not at all surprised to see Lindor pack his bags, I am devastated to see Cookie walk out that door.
Because I adore Carlos Carrasco.
His story is one of the best in baseball. He came to Cleveland from Philadelphia in the Cliff Lee trade in 2009 and had a rocky start to his tenure, to say the least, culminating in a 2011 ejection for throwing over the head of Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler after surrendering a grand slam to Melky Cabrera. If his struggles on the mound weren’t enough to derail his career, his temper seemed likely to seal the deal. He ended the year with Tommy John surgery and didn’t return to the mound at Progressive Field until April 2013.
Six years later, he is one of the best and most consistent pitchers in baseball.
In those six years, he did two things that should endear him to Cleveland fans forever. He signed a team-friendly contract extension in 2018, signaling his desire to remain in Cleveland for the foreseeable future, and he battled his way back from leukemia, earning the AL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2019.
I get emotional thinking back to that moment at the 2019 All-Star Game when Cookie was lined up outside the dugout, fighting back tears, with manager Terry Francona and a group of his teammates as part of the game’s Stand Up To Cancer moment.
What makes me emotional is that Carrasco, by all accounts, seems like a genuinely great person. His teammates love him. He has never been anything but friendly to fans, both in person and on social media. And he seems like an absolute joy to be around. Who can forget when he stole Andre Knott’s microphone and conducted interviews around the dugout during a game in 2017?
This is what keeps me coming back to Cleveland every year. Players like Carrasco. Because at the end of the day, for me at least, the name on the back of the jersey is a lot more important than the name on the front. Imagine what the sport would be like if teams were populated by faceless and nameless players with no personalities.
It’s players like Cookie who get us to make the emotional investment.
But it’s a business, I’m reminded. Players get released or traded all the time. I should be used it by now, especially after watching Victor Martinez sob as he was being interviewed in 2009 following the news that he was being traded to Boston.
Because it’s a business, the fact that Cookie did everything right means nothing to the front office and team ownership. He was a paycheck, and one they weren’t willing to foot the bill for anymore.
Cookie deserved better, and I’m not sure if or when I’ll ever forgive them.