3.15.2007

"Wow, So They Haven't Gotten Rid of Chief Wahoo Yet. That's Kind Of Embarrassing": Cleveland Indians 2007 Season Preview

I blame Bud Selig. Sure, there are probably a bunch of other folks more responsible for the perpetuation of Chief Wahoo's "boy do I love scalpin' those whiteys!" toothy grin, but I blame Bud Selig because he's Bud Selig. He's everyone's favorite scapegoat, and not without good reason (way to go on that whole DirecTV deal, Bud!).

I'm not going to dwell on the politics of why it's unconscionable to keep using athletic symbols like Chief Wahoo, Chief Illini, and the Washington Redskins, no matter if the majority of people--even those people portrayed--don't seem to care (there are any number of websites out there that address this). I'll just say that it's akin to using Cletus the slack-jawed yokel to represent the entirety of the white race. Except, you know, there's that small issue of Native American genocide. So it's probably more like using Aunt Jemima or Sambo. Enough already. Even the Atlanta Braves, despite the continued mildly offensive and incredibly annoying tomohawk chop, have jettisoned all organizational reference to ridiculous Indian images (see Gage's Atlanta preview for a lovely racist Brave depiction), adopting the incredibly benign Homer as their mascot. Anyway, on to baseball.

The Cleveland Indians win my award for the most disappointing team in all of baseball in 2006. After an up-and-down 93 win season in 2005 when they gave the White Sox a huge scare at the end of the regular season with their lights-out play, they absolutely tanked in 2006, finishing with a record of 78-84. Not surprisingly, a lot of folks are picking the Indians as their sleeper team this year, sure to rebound with all their young talent after a disappointing hiccup last year. But are they really going to give the Tigers, White Sox, and Twins something to worry about this year? I'm not so sure...

That skepticism has little to do with the lineup, though. Somehow Travis "Pronk" Hafner remains one of the best kept secrets in baseball--as much of a secret as a guy who hits 42 homers and drives in 117 can be. It's absolutely absurd that Hafner, who has finished in the top 10 in the MVP voting the past two years, has yet to get to an All-Star game. He really got screwed last year by the White Sox bias--after David Ortiz, Thome and Konerko were the reserve first basemen/DHs. And the fans stuffed the ballot box for AJ Pierzynski to get the last spot over a much more deserving Hafner. Hey, maybe Hafner will hit 50 homers and drive in 140 this year just to prove that, behind Ortiz, he should be the most feared lefty in the AL. That would not bode well for the White Sox and the rest of the AL Central.

And Hafner's only a fraction of Cleveland's offensive firepower--Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore, and Casey Blake are no slouches. I'm going to be really interested to see how the oft-traded, highly touted Andy Marte performs this year, in what is essentially his rookie season (he was the main prospect in the deal that sent Edgar Renteria to Atlanta in 2005, then Coco Crisp to Boston last year). Jhonny Peralta isn't much of an offensive threat, but he does have a mysteriously placed "h" in his name which could easily confuse opponents. But it's not the offense that's got me thinking the Indians might not see a resurgence this year. It's that pesky pitching staff.

CC Sabathia is good, and Jake Westbrook and Cliff Lee are competent starters behind him. But after that is Paul Byrd--quite possibly the ugliest man in baseball--and a rookie, Jeremy Sowers. Yeah, you might skate by with those guys, sure... but when your closer is Joe Borowski, regardless of his 36 saves last year, you can't feel too comfortable. Can you? I wouldn't, anyway. As scary as the thought is, I'd rather have Bob Wickman closing games. That, and 42-year-old Roberto Hernandez was their big set-up bullpen pick-up to help out the magnificent self-destructing Fausto Carmona. It's been exactly a decade since Roberto last played for the ChiSox. Wow.

So, maybe that's not the most convincing argument in the world, but I just have a feeling about the Indians. And that feeling is that they're just not as good as people would like to believe--they'll be fighting with the Twinkies for third in the AL Central this year instead of competing for a division title.

14 comments:

Notorious B.O.B. said...

Ugh, Brian, I am quite disappointed that you are one of those who agree with this whole movement to make all our sports mascots completely PC and lovable. It's a FUCKING MASCOT!

I'm not gonna try and debate this because you're smarter than me and you'll win, but I just can't even think of a more pointless cause than getting rid of a guy because he does an indian dance during half time of a game.

Mascots are characters and do not represent reality. And I'm confident in saying that all spectators know this while watching a sporting event.

That said, they should totally make the Indians change their logo because I hate the fucking Indians.

joe said...

ah, racism...

i love how it still seems perfectly acceptable to openly and shamelessly portray native americans in any number of derogatory stereotypes, but should one accidentally make any type of remark viewed as remotely belittling of blacks, gays, jews or any other minority, he or she must then profusely apologize through all media outlets and immediately enter some type of substance abuse rehab program...

take-home message: kids, you should stay away from drugs because they apparently cause gross intolerance...

if you honestly think using racial pejoratives as nicknames and mascots is not objectionable, imagine the beltway's baseball team as the washington n----s, with a bunch of crackers in blackface prancing around during the seventh inning stretch wearing overalls, eating watermelon and drinking hooch... yet somehow our nation's capital feels it is perfectly acceptable to disparage the people whose land we stole and ancestors we annihilated

joe said...

one further thought:

could the demographics of the aforementioned district play any part in the acceptability of the washington redskins, but not the washington n----s... perhaps, but the fact that i can type the name of the football team, yet not that of the proposed baseball team, makes me think otherwise

joe said...


This
shows the racial breakdown of the city...
60% vs. 0.8%

trout said...

I think the minority's political clout and group identity/awareness has anything and everything to do with it--not just the racial makeup of the city where the team resides.

African Americans have asserted themselves through a long tradition of resistance--black power and black nationalism being the most potent forms of it--while Native Americans political power, whether because of population size or a history of assimilation and conciliation through treaties and the like, is virtually nonexistent despite radical movements in the '70s (see Vine Deloria, et al) akin to black power.

I was personally shocked at that link I posted about Native Americans themselves not being offended at their portrayal in sports mascots. This attitude surely gives those who argue for the inoffensiveness of the mascots license to continue to not see anything wrong with them--but it shouldn't obscure the vision of people who, really, should know better (or at least get paid to know better)--athletic league commissioners, politicians, and the like.

Lastly, this might be a sort of half-assed accomodationist stance, but it's not the name "Indians" I have so much of a problem with--I may be completely wrong, but I don't know that the Native American community has much of a problem with it either--it's just the image of the grinning Indian that I find particularly offensive. While the term "Indian" itself doesn't carry an inherently pejorative connotation, I think the grinning, red-faced, lone-feather-wearing Indian does.

joe said...

that link really surprised me, too... i wonder if the community's opinion of wahoo (which to me, seems more offensive) is any different...

i also agree that it's definitely the stereotyped portrayal that is offensive, not the accidental misnomer 'indian'

Jason said...

If we're going to get rid of every team name that references humans, Notre Dame should drop The Fighting Irish from their sports teams. Everyone knows that Irish people are stereotyped as fighters and that red-haired leprechauns continue the sterotypes.

I agree that disparaging names like the Redskins should probably go, but I think the reason these names were chosen in the first place was to represent the courage, honor, and camaraderie in native americans culture.

trout said...

Jason-I completely agree about these mascots being initially adopted to purportedly (at least according to legend) to observe some sort of courage and honor: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_Wahoo.

Your point about the Fighting Irish is an compelling one, but I would argue that there is something to be said for the fundamental difference between white ethnic minorities (not to sound like an academic, but check out "whiteness studies" on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiteness_studies) and minorities of color. The Irish, despite facing much discrimination in assimilating to "American" culture in the late 19th/early 20th century, are, for all intents and purposes, white now. In other words, they're not really a minority anymore. The same can't be said for Native and African Americans.

joe said...

as to the marginalization of the irish in american society, as many as 16 u.s. presidents claim irish descent

i am not aware of any who claim ancestry of the non-caucasian ethnic minority variety

Gage said...

You anti-Irish fucks can go suck on a Lemon. I'm gonna punch your faces in! Woooohaaa!

Tittle500 said...

baseball!

joe said...

two irish guys anti-irish? my mcmonigle predecessors were apparently just pussies, ashamed of their rich cultural heritage

Jason said...

I think activists should push for using these team names as a conduit for cultural understanding. By erasing the names and symbols we continue to cover up our past.

Instead of saying, lets change the name of the Indians, say you can continue calling yourselves the Indians but include real native american culture into the team branding.

Another comment, can a black or brown person ever become white? White culture would much rather move away from the colored people then integrate. If done correctly, having team names that represent minority parts of our culture force the white season ticket holders to deal with that culture to a small extent.

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