By Stephanie Storm
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: Charlie Nagy doesn’t have details yet, but he’s thrilled at the prospect of being back with the Indians in an unspecified role that begins next month in spring training.
Nagy, 46, happily revealed his return to the organization he spent 13 of his 14-year career with during Saturday’s Tribe Fest at Progressive Field.
“A role will be defined at some point in spring training on what I’m going to do during the season,” said Nagy, a right-hander who was a three-time All-Star and won a career-best 17 games for the Indians three times. “I told the Indians I’d do anything they need — rub balls and catch bullpens — whatever.”
Nagy was fired in October after three seasons as the pitching coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, in that role he learned how much he enjoyed teaching the finer points of his craft to young pitchers.
“It’s baseball,” said Nagy, who won 129 games — all with the Tribe between 1990-2002. “[I enjoy] getting to work with the kids, teaching and still being a part of the game. It’s what I know. It’s what I love to do.”
Former Indians first baseman/designated hitter Jim Thome was one of baseball’s big hitters during the Steroid Era, bashing 612 home runs during his 22-year career.
But he was never connected to Performance Enhancing Drugs like so many other sluggers of the time.
“[Steroids] were never presented,” Thome said when asked about staying away from the rampant PED scene. “It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, you can do this’ or ‘we have this.’ Maybe I was naïve, I just played the game. I didn’t seek, nor did I ever seek, to do that. It was never around.
“How people do it, I don’t know … the path that leads them to that point is their personal thing. At the end of the day, I think what makes you most proud is that you can stick your chest out and look in the mirror and say, ‘I did what I did.’ Not every guy in that era did [steroids].”
We’re talking playoffs?
Former Indians outfielder Kenny Lofton was just speaking his mind Saturday. In a 25-minute question-and-answer session with local media at Tribe Fest, the outspoken Lofton was asked about last season’s one-game playoff that ended the club’s postseason drought since 2007. As Lofton is apt to do, he ruffled some feathers.
“People look at it as a playoff game, [but] it wasn’t a playoff game,” Lofton said of the Indians 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay in October. “A playoff is a series, not one game. It’s not the Super Bowl.”
It didn’t take long for Lofton’s comments to hit the social media circuit. After reading Lofton’s quote on Twitter posted by MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, Tribe reliever Vinnie Pestano promptly defended his team’s accomplishments last season, which included winning the last 10 consecutive regular-season games in order to reach the one-game playoff at Progressive Field.
Through his personal Twitter account, Pestano replied: “Last year’s team played past 162, that’s Postseason. To see the atmosphere that was there that day, that’s Postseason. No need to cheapen that.” The fiery Pestano also re-tweeted Bastian’s original tweet that quoted Lofton, adding the hash tag comment: “#SitdownKenny.”
Lofton on HOF voting
Former Tribe speedster Lofton also sounded off Saturday about another debatable subject dear to his baseball-loving heart: the art of base stealing — and his take on how little love it gets.
That’s why Lofton said he never appreciated the phrase “Chicks dig the long ball.”
“That quote came out and it took guys like myself — speedsters who were very important — it took us pretty much out of the game,” said Lofton, who ranks 15th with 622 stolen bases. “… Everybody is looking for home run hitters.”
Lofton even went as far as to suggest that his 17-year career was overlooked by the writers with hall of fame votes because they were too preoccupied with the debate over what to do with the game’s power hitters whose names were tied to PED use.
“I just felt like they were concentrating on cheaters instead of concentrating on players who were legitimate,” said Lofton, who received 3.2 percent of the votes on the HOF ballot — 5 percent is required to stay on the ballot. “That was the main focus: ‘Should I vote this guy in or out?’ That’s what reporters were probably thinking about.
“If you cheated, you shouldn’t even be considered. But that wasn’t the case. So, you’re telling people it’s OK to cheat and you’ll still have a chance to be in the hall of fame … But now [I] get off the ballot [my] first year, and it’s like [I’m] just kicked to the curb now.”
Swisher’s spirits revived
Weary of seeing her husband mope around the house the day after the Indians’ wild-card loss that abruptly ended the Tribe’s exciting late postseason push, JoAnna Swisher suggested to husband Nick Swisher they go for a walk near their Westlake home to help clear his mind.
But it wasn’t the expected peace and quiet of the couple’s walk that did the trick. Instead, what cheered up Swisher were the 15 to 20 fans that approached the couple as they strolled around the popular Crocker Park area.
“I was really down,” admitted Swisher, who hit .246 with 22 home runs in his first season with the Indians. “We’d worked so hard to get to that game. I was really bummed out … Then these people come up to me and said, ‘Hey, thank you so much for an amazing season because there are going to be so many great things to come.’
“Last year wasn’t even about me. It was about the resurrection of the organization … If you won a World Series around here, you know how amazing it would be? This place would go crazy.”