Jimmy Haslam, Michael Brantley and the band Mansions: While We’re Waiting

Jimmy Haslam Cleveland Browns
Scott Sargent/WFNY

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Jimmy Haslam isn’t out of the woods…

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Jimmy Haslam wanted to sell Pilot Flying J to Warren Buffett. That’s exactly what happened early in October as Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway holding company acquired a 38.6 percent stake with plans to acquire more than 40 percent more by 2023 to control the Haslam family company. Jimmy Haslam took the company to its huge size in the 1980’s and 90’s, and his father started the company in 1958. It’s hard to imagine that the timing of the Buffett deal was incidental with Pilot Flying J employees starting trial at the end of October. Is it a sign that Jimmy Haslam had concerns about the value of the company on a forward-looking basis under his control? Is it a sign that Jimmy Haslam has concerns about his availability to run the company on a forward-looking basis because he could get caught up in the trial?

On Wednesday, the headlines were pretty ugly for Jimmy and I’m not just talking about the Cleveland Browns. A “star employee” from Pilot Flying J testified her opinions on what Jimmy Haslam knew about the illegal scheme designed to defraud less sophisticated customers.

Janet Welch, an inside account executive at the Knoxville headquarters who dealt directly with the outside reps carrying out the deceit, said, “I assume that Jimmy Haslam knew. He was at the sales meetings at times and he is a totally hands on manager. He knew the numbers.”

Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, who represents former Pilot CEO Mark Hazelwood, asked, “Are you aware of anything that was going on in that company that he (Haslam) was unaware of?” She replied, “No.”

She wasn’t finished there, saying “They were so close to the sales guys it is hard to have anything going on that they would not be aware of.”

That’s not a smoking gun, but it doesn’t sound good. It’s hinting at the kind of information that could be coming as the trial continues. It could be information that Jimmy Haslam also knew was coming when he decided just weeks before the trial began to sell the company that’s synonymous with his family’s legacy to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

As always, we’ll wait and see and we’ll find out what this has to do with the Browns. Despite my #SellTheBrowns motto, I’ve got no rooting interest in this case. I don’t know if it will make me feel better about Jimmy Haslam if he ends up not getting caught up, but if he is caught up I’ll wonder what the NFL feels about it.

The Michael Brantley Extension…

In a vacuum, you can justify the Indians picking up Michael Brantley’s option for $12 million. One of the arguments that I’ve made about the Indians over the years is that the organization has trained fans to think a lot about finances. Throughout the Mark Shapiro years, it was always top of mind because of the exploding salaries and free agency arms races that would take place every off-season. The Indians made their bones trading away excellent players like C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee instead of just losing them as they did with Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome. If you want a cup of coffee at Starbucks, you have to be ready to pay far more per cup than if you brew it at home. We know this. MLB players have big contracts, especially in the free agent market. Again, we know this. From that generic perspective, a $12 million flyer on Michael Brantley isn’t that big of a deal. At least it shouldn’t be that big of a deal in Major League Baseball in 2017. Maybe it’s a hangover from the Shapiro years, but I just can’t help worrying about it.

The Indians might have already eliminated themselves from contention for keeping Carlos Santana based on conversations with his agent. The Tribe did make the qualifying offer of $17.4 million to Santana and Terry Pluto – who’s as plugged in as anyone – says the Indians would be delighted if he would accept it. If a market develops for Santana where there are three years of at least $17 million, it’s hard to imagine the Indians ponying up that amount for their 31-year-old. It’s hard to shake the feeling that it wouldn’t be much more likely to figure that out if they could also cover the first $12 million by allowing a beloved, but oft-injured Michael Brantley step away.

None of this is to mention Jay Bruce. There’s no need to dive into him as well, except to say that his potential return to the Tribe is another question that felt like it was answered by the Michael Brantley option. Maybe that’s not the case and the Indians still have some bullets left in the gun. You can hardly blame the fan base – even a year after they went all out for Edwin Encarnacion – for being a little bit wary and paranoid. It’s the training we received for the better part of the last 20 years.

New music from Mansions!

I’ve been a fan of Mansions for a number of years now. I once drove to Pittsburgh by myself on a Sunday night in December to see them play live after they released their album, Doom Loop. It’s a band that has dominated my ears as much or more than any other in the last four years. They just released a new six-song EP and I’ve already listened to it all the way through at least 10 times since it came out a week ago. I like the whole thing, but I think High Numbers is my favorite song. I love how Chris Browder’s vocals go way up in his range at the end of the chorus and also how they hit the chorus one last time toward the end of the song.

Check it out.

Podcasts! Listen up!

  1. Editor’s Note: Couldn’t agree more. Thank you. []

  • mgbode

    three years of at least $17 million

    If Santana signs for 3yrs/$51m & it is not w/ the Indians, then I will not be happy.

  • Sam Gold

    “It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Jimmy Haslam wanted to sell Pilot Flying J to Warren Buffett.”


  • Steve

    “You can hardly blame the fan base – even a year after they went all out for Edwin Encarnacion – for being a little bit wary and paranoid.”

    Paranoid that they don’t have have enough money to win free agent bids? I wish we could afford Santana and someone better than Bruce as well, but paranoid?

    Besides, the roster as is, is projected to be the second best in baseball next year, behind only the Astros. Big market teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Nationals, and Cubs are certainly within striking distance, but the Indians, even without Santana and Bruce, already have enough to toss their hat in the ring for 2018. Paranoid is the last thing this town should be about the Indians. They’re in a good position.

  • Steve

    I thought I valued him more than anyone else. And then the ZiPS FA projections came out. Santana should be getting a lot more than $51M.

  • mgbode

    I agree, which is why it makes this so tough. If I was Santana, I’d be looking at a 5 year deal near top dollar per year (instead of top dollar on a 3 yr deal). The QO is the biggest deterrent here for other teams. Well, that and that some people still think Hosmer is better.

  • mgbode

    Yeah, like I said in the “Indians who could leave” article, the threat of players leaving doesn’t hurt 2018 as much as 2019 and beyond (though it doesn’t help our October chances even in SSS).

    I’m still holding out hope that either Bruce or Santana gets left in the cold in the initial round of FA and we get another Christmas present this year (about the time EE signed last year).

  • jpftribe

    I don’t think the smart money is going to chase Hosmer, that’s why the Red Sox landing him makes sense. Cashman going after Santana is my biggest fear.

    3/50 for Carlos and 5/90 for Bruce sounds like extreme ends of the spectrum for both. Feels like NFL pre-draft / FA hype. Santana is not a one dimensional Trumbo, he’s going to have significant market value.

  • Steve

    I’m holding out hope that the Red Sox want Hosmer badly. That could leave the 1B market a bit thin. Both NYs and Seattle could be in, but Boston is the only other team without an option there.

  • Steve

    We lose some guys following 2018 and 2019, but I’m not all that sure we’ll be hurting more than anyone else. Five starters and six starting position players are locked up through 2020. A top prospect in Mejia is banging at the door.

    I do wonder if hes a trade candidate to bring in an above average starter at a corner. Three catchers is a surplus, and we could really use another piece over these next couple years if Santana is gone.

    We’ll need to retool the back end of the bullpen, but this team seems to do a pretty good job finding pen arms.

  • MartyDaVille

    “On a forward-looking basis.” Is that the latest corporate jibberish buzz phrase? Me not like.

  • Sam Gold
  • MartyDaVille

    Touch points.

  • Sam Gold

    “There is no primer for being an NFL owner. It’s a learn as you go.”

  • MartyDaVille

    The learning part seems to be taking an inordinate amount of time.

  • Sam Gold
  • mgbode

    Took the Rooneys 37 years

  • Sam Gold

    Many, many, many Browns fans:


  • CBiscuit

    I think paranoid may not be the right word. More like skeptical…skeptical of someone who ripped your beating heart out of your body, showed it to you, put it back in, and then did the same thing later. Too dramatic? I was going to go with beating, bloody heart and toned it down.


    Serious question: can the NFL force a sale of the Browns even if Jimmy were convicted? Would ownership just default to Dee?

  • mgbode

    I am unsure of the bylines the owners have signed in their contracts to own a team, but there should be some type of legal ability of the NFL to remove an owner who has damaged the league’s reputation with outside acts (see: Sterling, Donald w/ the NBA). There would be many lawyers, of course.

  • tsm

    “many lawyers” – ah yes, the silver lining!

  • Steve

    I agree that paranoid is not the right word. But still, skeptical about what? The idea that they have a bunch of money waiting to sign one of the best free agents? Is anyone portraying them as having that kind of money. A guy like Santana, who may be in line to get $20M a year, leaving is old hat at this point.

    At this point, I’m talking myself into Ohtani just as much as Santana. Reports out of Japan are that he doesn’t care all that much about the money, and he’s looking for a challenge, and I’m not seeing a better challenge out there than breaking the longest streak without winning the World Series.

  • CBiscuit

    Hey, I’ll take it if he’s willing to come on board. We need some breaks and bargains if we want to stack up talent with our budget. And I’m not a huge Santana fan, but talking myself into paying him $15-17 for 3 more years. $20M sounds steep, but we shall see, I guess, what the market bears…