CLEVELAND -- Dan O'Malley stood underneath an array of jerseys on Monday afternoon at an Indians Team Shop as he tried to figure out which player would be the best long-term investment. With the confirmation earlier in the day that ace CC Sabathia had been traded to the Brewers for three prospects and a player to be named later, O'Malley needed a little confirmation of his own before finally settling on a Victor Martinez jersey.
"You think he'll be here for a while?" O'Malley asked a nearby worker. With a nod of approval from the worker, O'Malley bought the No.41 Martinez jersey. It didn't, however, cover up the disappointment left by the departure of No. 52. "It's very unfortunate," O'Malley, who is a resident of Strongsville, Ohio, said. "He's been very productive for us. But it's understandable when you look at it from a business aspect." Yes, the "business aspect," is an area that Tribe fans have become all too familiar with since Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome left the club for bigger paychecks. So, while seeing the 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner get traded to Milwaukee comes with a certain amount of disappointment, it is viewed by many fans as a necessary and somewhat beneficial move, considering that the Indians actually got something for Sabathia. "You always want to do what's best for the team," said Orrin Tolliver, a worker at the Tower City sports merchandise store The Locker Room. "If there are no benefits in keeping him until the end of the season, you have to do it." That type of reasoning doesn't fly for Cleveland native Josh Evans. "It's not like we're getting equal value in the trade," said Evans, wearing a throwback Indians cap in similar fashion as Sabathia once did. "If anything, they should have waited until the last minute, so his stock could get higher. "If you can't get equal value, then why make the trade?" The value from the trade likely won't be seen for a couple years, with top prospect Matt LaPorta still at the Double-A ranks and pitcher Rob Bryson only at Class A ball. So, what hope, if any, should a Tribe fan hold in the short-term?
Plenty, general manager Mark Shapiro said. Just look at the turnarounds the White Sox and Twins have pulled after disappointing 2007 campaigns. "It was not long ago, obviously, that we were on our way to 96 wins, and the bulk of that talent is still here," Shapiro said. "It hasn't just all gone south at the same time. It may feel that way in this moment, because of the emotion, because of the competitiveness we all feel and the frustration we all feel for where we are. "Good times are coming ahead, and I firmly feel that this team has a chance to come right back next year and compete for the division." For now, though, as the Tribe sits a season-high 14 games back in the AL Central, all that can hold some fans over are their favorite memories of Sabathia. Working at a different clothing store, Tolliver had the opportunity to meet Sabathia and his wife, Amber, while the couple was on a shopping trip. Since then, Tolliver has been more impressed with Sabathia's character than his 97-mph fastball. "He was a gentleman the whole time," Tolliver said. "That's important when you reach the status he has achieved." And while Sabathia may not have won the fans over as much as Vizquel did, O'Malley certainly doesn't see fans booing the hefty lefty as they have for Ramirez and Thome. "He'll get cheered," O'Malley said, "because everyone knew he'd be out of here at the end of the season anyway." But maybe his days as an Indian aren't completely over. In a press conference Monday at Progressive Field, Shapiro did not rule out the possibility of pursuing Sabathia in the free-agent market this coming off-season. That didn't go unnoticed by Strongsville resident Sue Naumann. "Shapiro is very intelligent," Naumann said. "And, I don't know if I was the only one, but I saw something working there that we might be able to get him back. "Who knows? Crazier things have happened."
Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.