CLEVELAND: It was a night to say goodbye to an Indians season that took its toll on a manager, a pitching coach, the credibility of the front office and ownership and ended with a 9-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field.
Pitching coach Scott Radinsky, dismissed during the team’s August collapse, and manager Manny Acta, fired a week ago, aren’t the only ones who will be missing from next spring’s gathering of players and staffers at Goodyear, Ariz.
“It feels weird when the season ends,” manager Sandy Alomar said. “Every day, from the beginning of spring training to the end of September or beginning of October, you come to the ballpark and go through the same routine.
“It’s your job, what you do best. Then you have to wait four months to go and do something you love.”
Alomar, the Tribe’s interim skipper, will be interviewed for the permanent job today, one day before former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona undergoes a similar interview.
“This was a wonderful experience for me,” Alomar said of his six days as manager. “I’ve learned what managing is all about in six days.”
Travis Hafner, a tenured Tribe player since 2003, isn’t likely to return as designated hitter. Beginning in 2008, Hafner’s body began rebelling, and since then he’s probably spent more time on the disabled list than the active roster and knows the club won’t exercise the $13 million option on his services for 2013.
But Hafner had his moments, hitting 42 home runs and amassing 117 RBI in 2006. On Tuesday night, he pinch hit in the eighth inning and whacked the second pitch he saw into the bleachers near the right-field line for his 12th homer of the year.
“It was nice to hit that one and help the team win,” he said after Wednesday night’s game, “but I really wanted to hit one tonight. I was trying. It wasn’t in the cards, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.”
Hafner doesn’t know what his future holds, but he is keenly aware that the Tribe is not interested in paying him $13 million.
“No, they won’t pick up that option,” he said.
If there is a chance he is wanted back, Hafner doesn’t know about it.
“I have no idea what they’re thinking,” he said. “I think it will be a month or two before I know anything.”
Looking back on his post-2008 career with the Tribe, Hafner said: “It’s been very frustrating. I felt that when I was in there, I could play at a high level and help the team. The frustrating part is that I’ve worked really hard to stay healthy; I spend a lot of time doing that. Then you slide into second base and get hurt.”
There were moments when Hafner was rehabbing his back, his toe, his oblique, his shoulder, or recovering from a concussion that exasperation almost turned to desperation.
“There were times when I’d think, ‘Just give me one whole healthy season,’ ” he said.
At age 35, he might finally be at that point, but it’s probably too late to keep his job with the Tribe. He singled in the seventh inning, and when he popped out to the shortstop in the ninth, he received an ovation from the crowd, as he trotted to the dugout.
“I’ll never forget that,” he said. “It was special moment. The fans have always been great to me, the city, too. So many people here have been like family to me.”
Asked about special moments, Hafner said: “The playoffs in ’07 were a great time. But there are so many memories.”
Hafner’s single was more of an achievement than it might appear, considering that White Sox starter Gavin Floyd allowed only three hits in seven innings. At the other end of the spectrum, Dan Johnson hit three home runs and amassed five RBI all by himself.
Johnson, 33, is a veteran first baseman who has played only 95 games in the big leagues since 2008.
The Indians ended the season with a 68-94 record (fourth in the Central Division), their worst since 2008 (67-95). Final attendance was 1,603,596, which ranks 29th of the 30 major-league clubs. Only the Tampa Bay Rays finished with a lower total.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.