This is a winter of changes for Cleveland baseball fans. The team confirmed Monday that it will be dropping the Indians nickname after more than 100 years. But there are some more immediate changes coming. WKSU’s sports commentator Terry Pluto says while the name change isn't a surprise, it's one of many reasons fans will feel a lot of loss in the coming year.
Back in July, the Cleveland Indians issued a statement that they were exploring a name change. It followed a spring and summer of racial unrest following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Pluto wrote then that a name change was coming.
"When [the Indians] put the tweet out early in July, and they did it 30 hours after Washington's football team dropped the Redskins nickname, you knew right there they're changing the name. It's just a matter of when and how they're doing it," Pluto said.
The team is going to keep the Indians nickname for 2021 and will likely have a new name in 2022. Pluto says there's a lot that goes into making a change like this, including branding and licensing.
Meanwhile, there are more immediate concerns for Cleveland's baseball team. President Chris Antonetti announced back in September that the team is facing "tens of millions of dollars in losses" because of the pandemic. And that means the team will be cutting payroll and saying farewell to key players. Most notably, Francisco Lindor will likely be traded before the 2021 season. He's in the final year of his contract, and the Indians won't want to let him walk without getting something in return.
"He's turned down a number of contract extensions over the years, and he's going to make about $20 million this year and that's way too expensive. I think their payroll is going to drop from $90 million last year to $55 million this year. And they don't want one guy to take up $20 million on that and then leave," Pluto said.
The Indians also saw free agent Carlos Santana sign with the Kansas City Royals, the team owned by former Indians minority partner John Sherman.
"Their two biggest payrolls in 2017 and 2018 are when Sherman invested I'm guessing around $200 million in the franchise. The long-range plans were for Sherman to eventually become the Indians majority owner," Pluto said.
He says Sherman, a Kansas City native, had long wanted to buy the Royals. The team suddenly went on the market last year, and he bought it for $1 billion dollars.
"[The Indians] started cutting payroll soon after Sherman bought the Royals," Pluto said.
Pluto said the bright spot for Cleveland fans is the front office.
"You have a front that has never had a real high payroll and has put a team on the field the last eight that has had winning records and five of those eight years they've gone to the playoffs. And they have really good, young starting pitching," he said.