Sunday, February 21, 2016

Goodbye Goon Squad (and a few others)

the non-roster invites and new player signings seem to be done, and almost everyone who's supposed to be in Goodyear with the Cleveland Indians has reported to Arizona for spring training. sadly though, unlike in years past, there are a few faces missing. normally, i write goodbye blogs for players who've been with the team for a significant amount of time and then are traded. in this case, we lost some Indians to free agency this offseason and i would like to say some formal goodbyes to them.

Tribe flashback: remember the Goon Squad? yeah, that's officially defunct now because they've all moved on/moved up. ain't nobody left. Jason Giambi ended his 2-year tour with the Tribe after 2014 (however, he will make a brief appearance in camp this week as a guest instructor); Yan Gomes got promoted from a bench guy to a starter in 2014; and Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn were not re-signed after 2015. so the Goonies are over. c'est la vie.

okay Mike Aviles, i'm starting with you. let me get this outta the way, how could you sign with the enemy? our division rivals, the Detroit Tigers? seriously? ugh. Aviles first came to the Indians in November 2012 (with fellow Goon Squader Gomes) from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Esmil Rogers. "Handsome Mike" was
a super utility player who saw time practically everywhere on the field minus pitcher, catcher, and 1st baseman. he was a part-time player who usually faced left-handed pitchers and filled in for injured players. his signature helicopter swing made him interesting to watch (and/or imitate, a la Trevor Bauer). he never set the record books on fire, but his versatility made him a valuable member of the team for the last 3 seasons. i really believed the Tribe would re-sign Aviles for at least one more season, especially considering the warmth and compassion they showed him and his family this past year.

2015 was undoubtedly one of the hardest of his career as one of his twin daughters, Adriana, was diagnosed with leukemia. Aviles was away from the team for a while and when he came back, several Indians players and people in the organization shaved their heads to support Adriana. later on in the season, she threw out the first pitch, along with her twin sister Maiya, before a game and seemingly had the time of her life. the Indians did not want to worry Aviles or disrupt Adriana's chemotherapy treatments at Cleveland Clinic, so they let him know that they would not be trading him during the season's trade deadline. therefore, it seems kind of strange that the two parties wouldn't engage in talks to keep Aviles here. i do have my suspicions though that the Tribe wants to try and turn Jose Ramirez into the utility man that Aviles is, and since Ramirez still only costs the league minimum, that swap would lower the payroll total. it always comes down to money with this team. on the bright side, it was announced on February 18 that Adriana is now cancer-free. she found a bone marrow match and had a successful transplant over the winter. you go, girl! #fuckcancer

Aviles was always sweet to his fans and pretty much always had a smile on his face. i got his autograph 2 times in 2014, once before a game along the 3rd baseline, and another time before a game when he'd just arrived at the players parking lot. i know he was very thankful for all the well wishes and support from fans for his daughter. i want nothing but good things for him, his wife Jessy, daughter Kyla, twin daughters Adriana and Maiya, and newborn son Madden in the future. may they have lots of good luck and even better health.

like Aviles, Ryan Raburn also spent the previous 3 seasons with the Tribe. after a poor, injury-riddled year with Detroit, he was signed by the Indians to a minor league deal in January 2013, and then received a 2-year contract extension with a 3rd year option in the summer. because the Indians weren't ready to pick up his $3 million option three days after the 2015 World Series ended, he became a free agent. as of this post, he remains unsigned.

during his first 2 years here, Raburn didn't exactly wow us. conversely, he did really well last year in a platoon role playing against mostly left-handed pitchers. once properly used, he proved to be very productive, so i was a bit disappointed that the team wouldn't re-sign him for 2016. and honestly, i'd rather have him platooning in the outfield corners again over some of the question marks we've brought into spring this year (ex. Rajai Davis, Collin Cowgill, Joey Butler, Shane Robinson). yeah, i'm bummed we let him go.

i remember the two times he took the mound as an emergency reliever while here. those were classic. the first time it happened, he pitched a perfect inning in 2013, even striking out one batter. it was crazy but i loved it. shortly after that impressive display, he was asked by a fan (my father) in the players parking lot when he was going to pitch again. Raburn's reply was something along the lines of hopefully never, because if he's pitching in a game, that means we're not doing good lol

in contrast, his second appearance on the rubber was a different story. in 2015, Raburn came in to pitch in a game against the Chicago Cubs when the Indians were getting blown out, 10-0. he walked the leadoff man, got a flyout, gave up a single, and got a lineout before Terry Francona took the ball from him. those two runs later scored when another emergency reliever (David Murphy) received his call to the mound.

Raburn never received a proper nickname that stuck, but some often used his last name as a verb to describe baseball plays. the term "Raburn'd" was regularly used when he hit home runs. it could also refer to when he did something not so enjoyable, such as striking out, or making a horrible throw from left field, aka the Spike Heard 'Round the World. (that was SO bad! lol smh)

he may not have been the best player on the team, though he could hit bombs against Chris Sale like they were nothing, but Raburn was still a nice guy. i had several encounters with him after games in the players parking lot and got his autograph 2 times--one he even personalized to me. i hope he lands himself with a team soon and wish him, his wife Suzanne, and daughters Taytum and Raelyn Grace well.

now let's move on from the former Goon Squad members and say goodbye to a few other players.

Nick Hagadone spent parts of 5 seasons with the Indians and while that might sound like he'd reached veteran status with the team, "Hags" never really evolved into a reliable reliever in the big leagues, spending a lot of time in Triple A. in 2015, injuries plagued him. while rehabbing in Columbus in July from a back strain, he fractured his elbow and had season-ending surgery. maybe what most fans remember about Hagadone is when he allegedly punched something in the dugout after a bad outing in 2012, consequently injuring his left hand and later undergoing season-ending surgery. he was optioned to Columbus the day after the incident and eventually filed a grievance against the Indians in order to receive his lost wages. let me just say, if you're most known for things that happened off the field or for having numerous injuries, you might want to reassess some stuff. on a personal level, my autograph experiences with Hags were quite pleasant. he was kind enough to sign for me on 2 separate occasions after games in the players parking lot.

Hagadone initially came over to the Indians as part of the deal that sent Victor Martinez to the Boston Red Sox in 2009. in December 2015, the Indians non-tendered him and he elected free agency. shortly after, Hags signed a minor league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. it would be sadder to see him go after all this time if he'd made more of an important contribution to the team. maybe a change in scenery is what he needs to get his career back on track. i wish him, his wife Pesarakphorn, daughter Haylee, and son Oliver luck.

these last 2 guys were only with the Indians in 2015, but i'll give them a proper farewell anyway.

Ryan Webb signed with the Indians last April once the season had already begun. he went straight to Columbus but only stayed there for 2 weeks before becoming a mainstay in the Tribe bullpen. i thought the Indians might bring him back because he was one of the most dependable arms in the pen, and we all know Tito loves to keep his bullpen stocked. it's possible that money once again had something to do with the decision to let him go. he very recently signed a 1-year, $1 million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays as pitchers and catchers began reporting to spring training. Webb was cool in my book. i got his autograph once after a game in the players parking lot. good luck to him and his wife Lauren.

Gavin Floyd was also only with us for 1 year--picked up as a reclamation project in December 2014--but it definitely seemed like less. Floyd spent the majority of 2015 on the DL recovering from elbow surgery. he fractured the olecranon bone in his right elbow in March during spring training and didn't pitch in a big league game for the Indians until September. he made 7 total appearances out of the bullpen and wasn't half bad. once the season ended, he'd said that he was open to re-signing with the Tribe, but i think we all figured that wouldn't end up happening. he was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason, no doubt thanks to their new president and CEO, former Indians president, Mark Shapiro.

i have nothing but positive things to say about Floyd. he was very kind to the fans. i saw him interacting with fans a lot in September, having conversations with people, signing autographs (including one for me on the final day of the season), and taking photos with kids. he's a really likable guy and i hope he can make a comeback for himself with the Blue Jays this year. all the best to him, his wife Leanna, and son Jax.

so thanks for the memories (and the autographs!) everyone. i'm sure we'll see most of you again someday when you come back to Progressive Field with your new "squads" lol

and to those reading this, if you have any special memories of these 5 players, leave your stories in the comments below!

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