The Cleveland Indians technically made the MLB playoffs in 2013, though they only got the chance to play one postseason game. The Indians were one of the two Wild Card teams the MLB’s new format supports, and they wound up losing to the Tampa Bay Rays. Because they were one-and-done, Cleveland legend Kenny Lofton does not consider the 2013 Indians a playoff team.
“A playoff is a series, not one game,” Lofton said when the Indians’ season ended last year. “It’s not the Super Bowl.”
As you might expect, some members of the team disagreed. One of them was veteran outfielder Nick Swisher, and he was not shy about letting Lofton hear know. According to MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince, Swisher went “nose-to-nose” with Lofton at the Tribe’s Fan Fest in January.
Swisher took it a step further. He sought Lofton out at the event, got in the grill of the member of the team Hall of Fame, and told him, in so many words, that the Indians are trying to build something special, and that if Lofton didn’t want to be a part of it, he ought to board the first flight back to Los Angeles.
Lofton spent nine-plus seasons with the Indians and is a member of the team’s Hall of Fame. Swisher is one of the best clubhouse guys in baseball and happens to be one of the leaders of a Cleveland team that won 92 games under Terry Francona last season after winning just 68 in 2012.
“That was handled,” Swisher later said when asked about Lofton’s remarks. “We handled that.”
Last month, Lofton visited the Indians’ spring training facility in Arizona. He was reportedly ignored by multiple members of the team and did not stay long. Despite that, he has not softened his stance on the 2013 Indians not being a playoff team.
“Maybe someone else can back me up on how it’s not a real playoff series,” Lofton wrote in a text message to Castrovince. “U guys need to put in there on what’s the definition of playoffs, and that should answer Swisher’s comments.”
While they only play one game to determine who advances to the next round, both Wild Card teams are playoff teams by definition. The Indians, who had the fourth-best record in the American League last year, would have been the only Wild Card team and had a spot in the ALDS under the old format. Lofton can either get on board with that or risk alienating a fan base that thinks very highly of him.
H/T Hardball Talk