By: T.J. Zuppe
Sure, the Indians went a little over the top in their efforts to woo free agent outfielder Nick Swisher in his recent visit to Cleveland. Okay, a lot over the top.
Short of having the Ohio State marching band come play "Hang On Swisher" while dotting the "I" spelling out Swisher on the infield dirt, the Tribe pulled out all the stops in trying to land their biggest free agent target.
And this is an issue because?
Let's be honest, Cleveland cannot sell opportunity the same way the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox can. There is a certain perception around baseball about the Tribe and free-agency.
Quite frankly, players have avoided the Indians like the plague - unless of course that player has warts of his own... say, coming off of an injury, is aging or just has experienced poor production.
Simply bringing Terry Francona into the fold or attempting to spend more money will not change that perception over night. You have to start somewhere.
So, guaranteed winning is a tough sell. Why? Well, for one, it will be difficult for the Tribe to contend in 2013 without catching enormous breaks along the way. Possible? Sure. Likely? Debatable.
So, what can Chris Antonetti and the front-office sell - other than money and opportunity?
This is where the pageantry comes into play... finding ways to connect to a player that others cannot - in this case, his ties to Columbus.
You are damn right. Their attempts look desperate. They are desperate. And maybe it is about time they started acting like it.
For the last several years, the fan base has been critical of the ownership and front office for showing a lack of urgency. So, showing a bit of a pulse - even if it comes off a bit hokey and corny - oh well.
This is just the reality of free-agency in Cleveland. The roads of the city are paved with free-agents who were pandered to and courted but never signed their John Hancock on the dotted line.
This is nothing new. It would be amusing to calculate just how much money Cleveland has made players and coaching candidates over the years - as the city was used as leverage.
Wait, scratch that, it might actually become more depressing.
In this instance, it is hard to be critical of the Tribe courting Swisher as if he were a hot high school recruit looking at different college universities. What else would you have them do?
Or is "they are trying too hard" the new "Dolans are cheap?"
They have targeted a player that fits what they covet. If they truly want him, they have got no choice but to go all out. Changing that negative perception happens but a step at a time.
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