When is a slump just a slump? That is a key question in both sports and in picking stocks.

Most stocks and all players in every sport go through rough patches. It's a fact of life and it's part of the game -- there's no way around it.

There are bundles of cash at stake with today's big-time players' contracts, and the front offices want to make sure they are getting the most bang for their buck. However, the key for the owners and management is determining whether a player's downturn is just a slump, or if there is more to the story and reason to be concerned.

The Cleveland Indians sat one of their big guns, Travis Hafner, in their Wednesday night match-up vs. the Seattle Mariners. Known as Pronk (a nickname that is a combination of the names "The Project" and "Donkey"), Hafner is batting a painful .210 this season. He has just seven hits in his last 51 at-bats and none in the last dozen.

Clearly the underperformance is a disappointment to the organization and to Travis, who is making more than $8 million this season. Hafner is the Tribe's No. 3 hitter, but the team's manager was noncommittal as to where Pronk will bat when he returns to the lineup and just when he would step in the batter's box next.

Hafner, one of the biggest threats at the plate in the Majors the last few seasons, is hardly the only player struggling. Aside from several of his current teammates, there are plenty of other big-leaguers riding the pine.

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