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About Kenny Lofton’s prolonged “Get off my lawn” moment

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He may have been a part of one of the best outfield units to ever grace the grass at The Jake, but Tribe Hall of Fame speedster Kenny Lofton is not making many friends with the current crop of Wahoos.

Lofton has long been a defender of his era, ensuring that Indians fans remember that, as good as times are today, they were way better back in his day. And, in a column filed by former Tribe beat writer Anthony Castrovince, several of the guys in uniform today have taken exception to Lofton’s words, taking things as far as nearly going to blows.

For a little insight into the pride and passion of this current Cleveland Indians club, consider a scene from the bowels of Progressive Field in January.

It was there, behind the backdrop of the otherwise peaceful setting of Fan Fest, that the Indians’ first baseman of the present confronted their center fielder of the past about some disparaging remarks the latter had made about the Tribe’s 2013 run. What followed was an intense exchange in which Nick Swisher and Kenny Lofton were, according to one onlooker, almost nose-to-nose at one point, like an umpire and manager arguing a call.

This was a verbal battle, a semantical struggle, all relating to the meaning of the word “playoffs.”

On one end, you had Lofton insisting, as he had done in a sitdown with reporters a short time earlier, that the 2013 Indians were not a playoff team, because, in Lofton’s eyes, one Wild Card Game dropped at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays does not a traditional postseason entry make.

“A playoff is a series, not one game,” Lofton had said. “It’s not the Super Bowl.”

And on the other end, you had Swisher, living up to the leadership role he signed up for as a free agent a year earlier in a manner that went beyond anything he contributes on the field.

When word spread of Lofton’s remarks, reliever Vinnie Pestano took to Twitter to say there was “no need to cheapen” what Cleveland had accomplished, adding the hashtag “SitdownKenny.”

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.

Per Castrovince, Lofton’s “up hill, both ways” demeanor has lost him a few friends in the team’s clubhouse. His last stay in Goodyear, Arizona was a short one as he isn’t received as warmly as some of his past teammates have been.

Lofton, nevertheless, won’t back down on the definition of “playoffs.” When reached for comment for this column, he, in a text message, stated that Castrovince should seek out others to “back him up.” To the former outfielder’s point, the Indians played in what was dubbed “postseason” baseball (as opposed to “playoffs”), as it was in October and, well, was in addition to the 162-game regular season. That said, the Indians had the fourth-best record in 2013 and would have qualified for postseason (or “playoff”) play regardless of the format which changed prior to last season.

Semantics being what they are, it appears that Swisher will get the final word on the matter.

“Rregardless of what happened to us in that game, that was something the city of Cleveland hadn’t had in a long time,” Swisher said. “So to just get that momentum and kind of get over that hump, it gave us a lot of comfort here. We take a lot of pride in that.”

(Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images)

  • Natedawg86

    Although it gives more teams opportunities, it is hard to win that playin game and then try to play a series with one of your best pitchers out the first game vs the #1 team.

  • TNB

    Kenny isn’t wrong, per se, but he also shouldn’t be saying it. A diminished Indians team only leaves irrelevance for previous generations teams and doesn’t bring in new fans to be told the lore of players like Kenny climbing the wall robbing homers and doesn’t lead to future great moments like the Thome statue. Kenny should realize this and if he doesn’t want to support a winning team, he could at least keep his comments slightly more vague and private as not to try and sour a good thing.

  • cmm13

    Note to Kenny …. If the year was 2012 and not 2013 that team would have been in a “series” as opposed to the “play in game”.

    #freakinrulechanges

  • boomhauertjs

    Kenny was always the surly type when he played, so it’s not surprising that he would make comments like this. This only makes me love Swisher more that he was so passionate about it, especially the “trying to build something here” comment. #Brohio

  • mgbode

    I have no problem with either side here. Kenny is fine to note that he believes the playoffs is still the teams that play in series (though he probably shouldn’t mention it when the Indians are the 5th after the loss). And, the current Indians are absolutely correct to defend the current team.

    In the end, let’s hope they use this as a motivational technique. Quick, someone photoshop on Kenny’s head:

    http://www.clevescene.com/binary/75ea/1373485741-major_league.jpeg

  • mgbode

    that is the whole point of the play-in game and the reason I like it. the wild card team SHOULD be at a disadvantage or divisions are virtually meaningless.

  • Abe

    Ever since we lost Rabid Robert Feller, we’ve been looking for a new “bitterman”. Thanks for filling the void, Kenny.

  • Garry_Owen

    Well, those days were way better . . .

  • Jason Hurley

    I remember reading in John Schuerholz’s book about building Atlanta’s team up in the 90’s that he thought Kenny Lofton was an a-hole (more about himself than the team) and likened him to Deion Sanders.
    I don’t see what upside Lofton has in downplaying what the Indians did last year, other than trying to trump up what his teams did in the 90’s. I don’t want to be an over-sensitive Cleveland fan – it’s his right to say what he wants. But, c’mon man, don’t pee in the punch bowl.

  • stryker1121

    Lofton’s not wrong..the play-in game may technically be the playoffs, but I in no way consider it the real deal.

  • I don’t consider the play-in games to be part of NCAA tourny – I don’t consider the one game play-in to be part of the MLB playoffs. I don’t think Lofton is diminishing anything by telling the truth, they didn’t make it to any sort of series.

  • Harv 21

    This is probably part of one package: the arrogance that let him score from second on a wild pitch and fearlessly battle Randy Johnson, lefty v. lefty, in the playoffs doesn’t disappear just because the game forced his retirement. Some guys are pass-it-on Jason Giambi-types. Some are not.

  • Steve

    Except when the wild-card team has a better record than a division winner or a division is so weak to begin with.

  • Steve

    I feel that many former players downplay the current generation. It’s a habit that is tough to break – “back in my day”. The upside is that Kenny gets to to promote his accomplishments.

  • Cleveland Chick

    Back in the day, I was a huge Lofton fan. Now, he is just a grumpalump. Feller was cranky, but you still wanted to pay your ten bucks for his autograph. He would at least talk to you. After Lofton’s behavior toward the current team and at TribeFest, he can exit, stage left.

  • mgbode

    but, that is the point. if you are going to have divisions, then they should mean something. I don’t care if your division is the 2005 NL West, the winner should get a bigger award than a team that didn’t win their division.

    otherwise, just make the AL all together in the standings and let the top5 teams in (which is pretty much what the NBA does now – how many people look at or care about division standings there?).

  • saggy

    “future great moments like the Thome statue.” Excuse me? That’s going to be the biggest mistake in Indians history.

    Jim Thome’s statue…I hope birds poop all over that thing. At least Belle and Ramirez didn’t pretend it wasn’t about the money.

  • saggy

    did he get bitten by a squirrel or a mad dog or something?

  • saggy

    yeah, that jerk Deion Sanders. He’ll never amount to anything. He’s an a-hole. nobody wants to play with an a-hole.

  • woofersus

    It’s almost as if Kenny is intentionally lighting a bit of a fire, and Swish is intentionally taking exception to it in an exaggerated way to stoke said fire. Hmmm…..

  • saggy

    to each his own. Feller always rubbed me the wrong way. especially when he turned me down for an autograph when i was about 9 years old.

    Kenny was super nice and I used to chat with him during BP.

    But, of course, those are one person’s memories and associated feelings.

  • mgbode

    Ssshhhhhhhhhhhhh

  • Steve

    The point of divisions was to make it easier on travel for many teams, and to create some stronger rivalries, not that there was something inherently valuable about being the best NL team that plays in the Pacific or Mountain time zone.

    Sure, I guess the logical thought that would follow would be to just abandon divisions, but I’d rather make sure I’m rewarding the best teams. I like divisions as they create stronger rivalries, and I think you give enough to their existence by just simply allowing the winner to make the postseason.

  • mgbode

    I like that they create rivalries. Now, rivalries only matter if there is a prize to be fought over. That prize needs to matter. At least for me.

  • Steve

    And, as I said, I think a playoff spot is enough of a prize that matters. Don’t punish better teams simply because of geography.

  • Mike Stein

    Hey, look, Indians played in the postseason: http://espn.go.com/mlb/statistics/_/seasontype/3

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    OY VEY! Another to-do over a non-story. Both sides have their points IMO I mean Lofton is defending his teams (why I have no idea was anyone discounting them?) while Swisher is sticking up for what his team did a year ago. I don’t have a problem with that at all. Seems like you just had two passionate Indians squaring off over nothing.

  • davelb87

    Lofton’s point is a fair one that I don’t necessarily disagree with, but it all comes off as sour grapes re: the way the organization handled his departure following the ’07 season.

  • TNB

    Oh please. Thome is going into the hall as an Indian. He’s a phenomenal player and well liked by everyone in the entire league. Squash your sour grapes and move on.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    92.3 sure loved it they had something to talk about ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL DAY!

  • Steve

    There are more than a few HoF Indians who were also phenomenal and well liked. Not all have a statue.

  • Abe

    Bob got into it with Mike Junkin at the Auto Show celebrity signing table in 2001! ;o) (Rabid vs. Rapid by design. Bob’s bitterness took on an increasingly virulent quality in his later years).

  • Garry_Owen

    With the clarification, you have now earned yourself two up-votes. Don’t spend them all in one place.

  • Garry_Owen

    But did they play in “playoffs?” See, therein lies the rub.

  • No problem with Lofton’s stance here. At all. The NCAA may have slapped the round one designation on their play-in games, but no one outside of the schools that play in them thinks of them as actual tournament games. Same with this. The stats may count as postseason, it may be called the playoffs, but it was one game for the right to play in a playoff series. It was exciting to have a shot, no question. But the playoffs started after that game.

  • Steve

    The problem with Lofton’s stance should not be about whether or not it should count as playoffs or not

    It’s about denigrating the team’s success (even slightly) when he’s expected to be kind of an ambassador for the franchise, at a time when every bit of good PR is necessary, all for the sake of what exactly? Making himself feel better about his accomplishments?

  • Steve

    MLB seems to almost solely use the term postseason, for any postseason/playoff games, and the team was awarded almost $1M worth of postseason shares to split up as they liked. So I’d say they made the “playoffs” as much as anyone else did in October.

  • bupalos

    Swisher et al thinking that an instant exit from the postseason is an honor worth fighting for is much the worse side of this nothingburger.

    Kind of seems like Swisher is really good at attitude and keeping his gums flapping. Kenny may be turning grumpy old man, but at least he was really good at something with more substance.

  • bitterman

    Swisher should shut his tobacco stuffed hole. He can’t hit and is a mediocre fielder. His career will never come close to Lofton. And Lofton is a bitter asshole.