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Travis Hafner is a Playoff Hero in the Minor Leagues ... Bush League?

Sep 7, 2008 – 8:30 AM
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Minor League Spotlight is the MLB FanHouse's look into baseball's minor leagues. But you probably figured that out already.

Travis Hafner hasn't played a major league game since May 25th. You would think that if he was healthy enough to play in the majors he'd be up ... either that or the Indians would think it pointless to bring him back to a lost season.

Apparently the Indians went with option C: let him play in the AA playoffs with the Akron Aeros, and help eliminate the Bowie Baysox. Wait, what?
Hafner, who has been on the disabled list since May 31 with a right shoulder strain, hit a two-run shot in his first at-bat Saturday that sent Akron on the way to a 5-1 victory over Bowie. In Game (3) on Friday, he smashed a grand slam in the Aeros' 6-2 triumph.

Hafner spent a half-hour in the trainer's room before joining his new teammates in celebration in the home clubhouse that was plastered in clear plastic as players sprayed champagne and beer at anything that moved.

"Hafner! Hafner! Hafner!" went the chant while the giddy Aeros shook the remaining bottles of bubbly over his head. When they ran out of the good stuff, they went to beer. And when that ran dry, someone brought chocolate milk out of the nearby refrigerator to ensure the party continued.
But, predictably, not everyone was giddy.

"That's not the first time to do it over here," said Bowie manager Brad Komminsk, a former Aeros skipper. "We did it with Greg LaRocca way back in the day. It didn't sit good then and it really doesn't [now]."

LaRocca homered in a 4-3 loss to Altoona in a 2003 playoff series on the road to the Aeros' first championship -- with Komminsk in the dugout.

"This time of year, [short-season] Mahoning Valley is still playing," Komminsk added. "I know [Indians farm director] Ross [Atkins] said they want to put him at the highest level, but for me, the highest level is the big leagues. And for a team that's 10 games out and has no chance of winning, he could have done it just as easily there."
I gotta say, this is bizarre. What, the Indians wanted to get Travis some playoff experience? The American League playoffs weren't enough? They wanted him to see easier pitches to hit to start out ... a batting practice machine isn't enough?

I'm sure the fine people of Akron are excited about the Aeros going to the next round of the playoffs, and I'm sure the team is stoked if they're pouring chocolate milk on each other ... and that's wonderful. Far be it from me to minimize the joy that everyone is feeling. But Travis Hafner in the AA playoffs, after already playing seven games at AAA Buffalo, is ridiculous. Send him to the majors if he's healthy, or shut him down until next year. But don't make him play minor league playoff games if he needs thirty minutes of treatment after games so that he can hit game changing home runs against the Bowie Baysox. Because what exactly is the point of all this besides providing a small boost to the Akron economy?
Filed under: Sports