Monday, July 31, 2006

The Smoke Has Cleared

Welcome to the rest of the 2006 season as the dust has settled after the Trading Deadline has passed and the Belliard move was the last one. Now that the Belliard trade has had a chance to settle in, the performance of Luna over the last 2 months is going to determine whether this trade can be deemed a success or the addition of just another middling middle infielder.

I suppose there’s no harm in playing Luna, though it tells you that the Front Office has no intention of playing Joe Inglett on an everyday basis next year. Much in the same way that the acquisition of Big League Choo ($1 to serial poster Rodells) is an indictment of where the Indians think their upper-tier OF are (Frank the Tank and Brad Snyder who were thought to be ML-ready going into next year), the Luna addition almost certainly relegates Joe Inglett to the super-utility role next year. That role probably suits Super Joe the best, just as long as Luna proves that he can be a legitimate 2B in the Majors. We shall see…

The lineup for the opener in Beantown is a harbinger of what the rest of the season should look like:
CF Grady Sizemore
LF Jason Michaels
DH Travis Hafner
1B Victor Martinez
RF Casey Blake
SS Jhonny Peralta
2B Hector Luna
C Kelly Shoppach
3B Andy Marte

Throw in the occasional inclusion of the BLC instead of Blake in RF (but instead of Shoppach in the lineup) and these are the players we’ll be evaluating. The less of Mr. Laura Cover and Dutchworth that we see can only be seen as a positive (that is unless they’re shown congratulating players in the dugout or putting a reassuring arm around the likes of Marte).

We’ll find out if any of these players can become the complementary players to the core of SuperSizemore, Le Pronque, Vic, and Jhonny or if the Indians need to look outside of the organization for those suitable complements.

If tonight’s game is any indication (albeit against a 350 lb. pitcher fresh off the DL), this lineup should be able to put up some runs. Of course, the positivity was oozing out of the Jake after the Mariners’ opener, only to have it squashed by a consistently inconsistent team.

Outside of the lineup, we can expect to see the rotation, as it stands now, finish the season intact (injuries notwithstanding) and the bullpen to remain an open audition.

Fausto Carmona would be the only reliever certain to be on the squad in 2007, though his role as the closer is no certainty. The likes of Fernando Cabrera (please can we see him in some crucial situations), Jason Davis (who has hidden Jason Dangerously from us for the last couple of outings), Rocky Betancourt, Brain Sikorski, Tom Mastny, Edward Mujica, Rafael Perez, and probably Andrew Brown, Brian Slocum, Jeremy Guthrie, and maybe Tony Sipp will all get a chance to show off their wares to the team in an attempt to make a good impression going into 2007.

Enjoy Spring Training 2006, Part II…the one that you don’t need a ticket to Florida to see.

Allegedly, Jason Johnson is starting for the Sawx tomorrow.
Even I'm licking my chops.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Jelly Rolls No More

The Tribe, unable to parlay Friday night’s exciting win into a series win, dropped the final 2 to the Mariners.

It’s true that there are going to be growing pains as these young players mature and find their way in the Majors, but the inclusion of Boone and Hollandsworth in these games continues to baffle.

After the game, the team moved their short RF Ronnie Belliard to the Cardinals for… middle infielder Hector Luna?!?

For those unaware of who Luna is, let’s do a little bit of player association:
The Cardinals’ starting 2B Aaron Miles proved to be an inadequate starting 2B in the Majors. The Cardinals acquire Belliard to replace Miles in the lineup. In return, the Indians get the player incapable of displacing Miles at 2B for the Cardinals (remember that whole Miles being an inadequate starting 2B?).

Where does Luna fit in this whole thing? Is he going to take AB’s away from Joe Inglett this year? Is he going to enter 2007 as the starting 2B? I hope not.

Luna, by the way, was originally in the Tribe farm system, but exposed in the Rule V draft, where he was plucked away by the Cardinals. In the years that followed, he's done nothing to distinguish himself as more than a utility IF.

This is a tremendous disappointment as Belliard seemed to be the Indians’ biggest bargaining chip who didn’t fit into their 2007 plans. With multiple teams looking for a 2B, or even a 3B, you would think that the Tribe would be able to get a decent return for Jelly.

Unfortunately, the team netted more for Broussard and, arguably, Perez.

How does this not look like a pure salary dump?

Maybe Luna proves that he’s a decent 2B when given regular time, but isn’t that what we’re trying to determine with Inglett?

Why wouldn’t the Indians just hang onto Belliard for the compensatory draft pick if they were going to get no more than a utility IF for him?

The Front Office will say that moving Belliard to another team allows them a bigger window to sign him in the off-season (remember how Kevin Millwood needed to be signed before a certain date, or the Indians were unable to negotiate with him). I don’t think that the argument holds much water, though, as Belliard will likely command a 3-year deal on the open market for about $4M to $5M annually. At that price, I don’t think that Belliard was in the plans, regardless, and somewhat rightfully so (money can be better spent elsewhere).

That all being said, Luna gives some insurance in case Inglett is not capable of manning 2B next year. The amount of insurance that it gives the club, though, is not much.

This just doesn’t seem like a very good fit. It seems like the dearth of MI’s in the system could suddenly become a glut of middling middle infielders (pun intended).

After having seen the logic to all of the moves made thus far, even the Wickman one, this one (if this is it) is a big letdown.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Put This One in Permanent Ink

I hate AAA games, particularly when I'm sitting front row on the first base side.

I mean, who needs some Korean guy in RF, with some skinny LHP throwing innings for a ML team?

Me, that's who.

Unbelievable start by Sowers and a solid overall game by the Tribe.

2 straight shut-outs by a rookie, allowed by his manager to finish tonight's contest?

If the rest of the season is an audition for next year, let me play Simon Cowell:
"Jeremy, you don't even belong in this audition process...see you in Hollywood."

I'm going to put Sowers' name for the 2007 rotation. Any objections?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

What Went Wrong?

Sitting in Pronkville on Wednesday with my buddy TC, we were trying to figure out what's gone wrong with the Indians. Citing the fact that the Indians roster of 2006 was nearly identical to that of the 2005 team (which won 93 games) with the obvious changes in LF (Michaels for Crisp), the rotation (Byrd for Millwood, Johnson for Elarton), and the bullpen (namely Mota for Howry), we wondered, “How is this team this bad?”

How do those changes, which don’t scream, “downgrade”, translate into a truly disappointing season? There’s a lot of questions, without any concrete answers; but let’s take a look at some of the things that have gone wrong and how this team sets up for 2007, which I still argue is pretty well.

The infield defense has been abysmal, but that infield remained unchanged, as did the catcher position – so how did ALL of these players suddenly regress defensively to such a degree that the Indians’ defense became painful to watch? It’s true that Boone was never a great defender, and it does look like Peralta’s range has lessened – but Broussard suddenly became a HUGE liability at 1B, and Victor (who has been, by all accounts, a competent backstop) allowed teams to run all over the Indians and lacked the energy that he once brought to the position.

Could Peralta have gained weight in the offseason, affecting his agility? Did Broussard decide to mail it in when the Indians didn’t give him the 1B job outright, instead bringing in Perez to form our good friend Benuardo? Is Victor nursing some injury, not serious enough to merit a trip to the DL; but one that limits his defensive ability? If you’ve seen Victor run the bases this year, he is notably slower than he was last year. He’ll never be mistaken for Ichiro on the basepaths, but he was thrown out at 1B on Wednesday AFTER the runner at 2B was safe on a potential GIDP!

Is it all on the defense? No chance. It certainly didn’t help, but you can’t blame a lost season on infield errors.

The bullpen was an obvious disaster as nobody could fill the Howry set-up role, even adequately. Mota, Betancourt, and Cabrera all came out as unmitigated disasters and, from that night in Baltimore, when Matty Miller and Rocky Betancourt hit the DL in the same INNING – it was all downhill. The bullpen became an open tryout for the likes of Guthrie and Slocum. In the meantime, the “savvy veterans” Graves and Sauerbeck proved themselves to be no longer of the ML-quality variety. That’s just about the whole bullpen blowing up, with the exception of what was the biggest preseason question mark, the Sticky One.

By the time the bullpen sorted itself out, with Carmona dominating, Brian Sikorski being picked off the scrap heap to contribute, Cabrera re-capturing his 2005 success, and even Jason Dangerously contributing – the season was done.

Sure, it could have played a role, but can the bullpen be fully blamed? No, teams with lesser bullpens have succeeded.

By the way - on Carmona - while watching the Miami Vice pilot last Saturday, I decided that Fausto's entrance music should be Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” because no song builds up anticipation that delivers with that first drum roll like that one.
Picture it – Collins’ voice comes over the sound system, “I can feel it coming in the air tonight, I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life” as the bullpen doors open.

But I digress.

Back to the matter at hand, it’s true that the offense has been inconsistent, but it’s been solid. It seems that they’ll score in double digits, and then go into hibernation for a few games. But you can’t argue with their overall numbers.

Same with the starting pitching – it’s been inconsistent to a degree, but solid overall.

What’s the conclusion? Unfortunately not much, outside of the fact that the 2005 Indians weren’t as good as their final record indicated and that the 2006 Indians aren’t as bad as their record indicates. The folks at Baseball Prospectus seem to agree with their statistically-driven Power Rankings on Monday, saying that the stats dictate that the Indians should be winning at a .524 clip, not losing at a .440 rate (the difference being a 53-48 record and a 44-56 record).

Who knows what it really is, as we can sit here and cry over the spilled milk on the table for the next two months.

Rather than doing that, I’d rather focus on the fact that I don’t think that this team is too far away from getting back to the results of last year.

Jim Leyland, who is enjoying his current status as baseball genius, said that his Pirates had a year similar the 2006 Tribe in 1989 when things just didn’t go right for a young, talented team. He said that the team used it as motivation to rattle off three straight divisional titles, then went further to say that the Indians have that kind of young talent. Could it have been a Lou Holtz-esque sound bite, where you praise your opponent? Sure, but Leyland doesn’t strike me as that kind of guy, huffing heaters in the tunnel, mostly looking like the crazy skinny guy you see at the end of the local bar, sucking down PBR cans, that you would NEVER mess with.

As we’ve said, the question marks for this team for next year are at 2B (where Belliard could be re-signed, or Super Joe Inglett could force his way into the plans like Coco did, just don’t count on it), a corner OF position (where with the addition of SSC, or as serial poster Rodells called him Big League Choo, has another ML-ready player to pick the right mix from; and a FA signing is still a distinct possibility), and the Bullpen (where the open tryouts will separate the wheat from the chaff).

That’s it. There aren’t as many holes or question marks as some people would have you believe.

Sizemore, Hafner, Martinez, Peralta, C.C., Lee, and Carmona are all still going to be the core.

Shoppach, Marte, Gutierrez, Inglett, Sowers, Cabrera, Mujica, Perez. Sipp, Choo, Garko, and those bullpen arms are all youngsters who have opportunity to develop into core players in some form.

Blake, Westbrook, and Byrd are all scheduled to be back to contribute their veteran leadership.

I also happen to believe that the money being saved with all of these moves WILL translate into some money being spent in the off-season, maybe not on Carlos Lee, and maybe on our own guys (like Lee or Pronk) – but the money will be spent.

The way that this team is being constructed is allowing greater flexibility with Blake and Inglett forming a stronger bench for next year and allowing the young core another year to mature.

I’m not sitting here with rose-colored glasses – the current incarnation of the Indians is painful to watch, trust me - I know that.

But to me, the future is still bright for this team (maybe not so bright that I have to wear Timbuk 3’s shades), but bright enough that I can still see the light at the end of tunnel.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Benuardo...Reunited At Last

Benny Broussard has strapped his 6-string on his back and is headed to Seattle to try to capture some of the magic of Jimi Hendrix in his music career. Oh, yeah – he’ll be playing baseball a little as well, alongside his old platoon-mate Eduardo Perez (though likely as a DH platoon).

The Indians were able to move Broussard (a strict platoon 1B due to make $5M to $6M this year in arbitration) for a legitimate prospect in Shin Soo-Choo, a Korean corner OF who has good OBP numbers, good speed, and could translate into a nice addition to this lineup for next year, or even this year…as well as another prospect, who will arrive by August 31st, with indications it will be more than just a throw-in.

At first glance, the one thing that stands out about Choo is that he has terrific number against RH pitchers, while his numbers against LH pitchers are underwhelming.

So, Choo hits RH well…wait, doesn’t Michaels hit LH pitching? Can someone smell a platoon in LF next year with Casey moving around from 1B, RF, and anywhere else on the diamond?

Looking deeper, the way that Choo’s numbers look in the minors (and they are just minor league numbers), he could translate to a leadoff hitter who settles in at RF, due to his strong arm. Acquiring a player who, right now, represents an upgrade over Gutierrez (particularly for Broussard) is nothing short of a coup for the Indians.

Before the local media decries the continuation of the “Fire Sale”, let’s make a distinction:
Trading Josh Beckett for prospects constitutes a Fire Sale; shopping Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell constitutes a Fire Sale. Moving 2 part time 1B and a closer who’s going to retire at the end of the season is not a Fire Sale. As we’ve said here before, this is a Rummage Sale – the Indians are hoping that their pieces that are no longer useful can pull them in a decent return.

The fact that the Tribe received AstroCab (a 20-year-old SS at AAA) and an ML-ready OF in Choo for Benuardo is nothing short of remarkable. Spin it any way that you want to, but Broussard (like Perez and Wickman before them) was not going to be a part of the 2007 Indians (even at the beginning of 2006), so how is it bad that they received productive players for 2007 and beyond for them?

Another aspect of this deal is money-related, but not how the Dolan-bashers think. The Indians save $5M-$6M that Broussard would’ve been rewarded in arbitration and can move that money into giving Cliff Lee a deal, or extending Pronk, or going after a RF in the off-season. Would you rather throw that money at Broussard, or put it towards a legitimate “core” player?

I’ll get into this more tomorrow, but this team is not as bad as its record indicates. Seeing how these players fits into the 2007 plans is what’s becoming crucial – so add Choo to the list of Inglett, Sowers, Carmona, the bullpen arms, and (hopefully soon) Garko and Marte to evaluate over the last 2 months of the season.

Interestingly, Broussard may be in Seattle’s lineup on Friday night at the Jake. I just landed tix behind the Visitors’ Dugout, so I’ll let you know what the reaction is to Benny in a new uni.

My guess is not very much. It would be comparable to a Paul Sorrento return. If it weren’t so recent, the prevailing reaction would be, “Remember when Broussard was on the Indians?”

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Trying to keep an even keel (not getting too low on the this disappointing season) also means that you can’t get too excited about isolated incidents or players without having a grain of salt handy.

That being said, Jeremy Sowers’ performance against a scorching Twins team (a complete game 4-hitter in which no Twin advanced past 1B) was about the most encouraging thing we’ve seen all season. If Sowers has the ability to do that out of the 5th spot in the rotation, it bodes pretty well for next year’s rotation, which will likely mirror the current rotation.

Sowers was in complete control all night, getting ahead of hitters, keeping his pitch count to a minimum, and getting out some tough LH hitters (whom he has struggled against).

The biggest thing that can be taken out of Sowers’ night, though, is the confidence that he’ll take out of the experience. Oftentimes, when a player is promoted to the Majors for the first time and struggles, he starts to question his talent and ability, causing a never-ending quest for the feeling that they truly belong. Once that player has that success, though, they gain that confidence to trust their ability and just go out and play baseball. A perfect example of this is Jake Westbrook’s performances a few years ago out of the bullpen against the Tigers when he absolutely dominated them, and parlayed that confidence into a full-time spot in the rotation.

It’s easy to look too far into Sowers’ performance and get overly excited (remember that Billy Traber once threw a one-hitter against the Yankees); but, even with that grain of salt in tow, it provides some optimism for the future.

The other players who have impressed since being promoted (other than Sowers and, obviously, Carmona) have been Super Joe Inglett and Kelly Shoppach. Inglett provides a spunky attitude to the team, seemingly out to prove everyone who’s ever told him that he’d never see the Majors with each at-bat. Whether he’s the long-term answer at 2B (or even at a utility spot) remains to be seen, but that’s what this next 3 months has boiled down to. By the same token, Shoppach has impressed in his limited time with the Tribe. He’s shown some pop and looks more in control of the game defensively than Victor does (watch the energy that Shoppach brings behind the plate, namely in his footwork). With him, again, it’s time to figure out if he’s a part of this team for 2007.

Time to go around the horn on a Lazy Sunday:
Terry Pluto weighs in on the possible move of Jhonny Peralta to 2B and his perceived lack of focus.

Paul Hoynes examines the trading deadline environment.

Sheldon Ocker expresses his view on why Aaron Boone remains in Cleveland, and may for the rest of the season.

Expect Andy Marte very soon (maybe this week or just before the next road trip which starts, ironically, in Boston on August 1st) as the service time that he will accumulate for the rest of 2006, when combined with the service time from his time with Atlanta last year no longer would make him a Super 2 player in terms of arbitration eligibility.

Ken Rosenthal mentions that the Brewers are now looking more and more like sellers on the trading market, which could explain why they weren’t willing to give up too much for Wickman. Remember, according to various reports, Wickman was willing to waive his no-trade only if he was going to a team that he would immediately close for – with the Brewers and Braves being the only 2 teams in that category.
By the way, further proof that the Reds-Nats trade was the exception, not the example for this year’s trade market on relievers – the Padres got Scott Williamson for two Single-A pitchers, each of whom has an ERA over 5.00.

The final wrap-up appears in the last post’s comments with Jerry Crasnick’s article on the Indians that appeared (courtesy T-Bone) on

Finally, Jerry “The King” Lawler presented Pronk with a wrestling belt prior to Saturday’s game, producing one of the greatest pictures I’ve ever seen:

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Wick is Out

The dominoes have started to fall and the Tribe started with Fats Domino (that’s said with love, Bobby). Wickman was dealt to the Braves, a team in desperate need of bullpen help.

Here’s the official release to the press:
The Cleveland Indians today announced the club has completed atrade with the Atlanta Braves, sending RHP BOB WICKMAN to Atlanta in exchangefor C MAX RAMIREZ.

Ramirez, 21, has spent the entire 2006 season with the Class A Rome Braves where he has hit .285 (76-267) with 17 doubles, 9 homers & 37 RBI in 80 games and was selected to the 2006 South Atlantic League All-Star Game. He has also scored 50 runs and walked 54 times in 80 games. The 5-11 right-handed hitter ishitting .396 (36-91) with 3HR & 13RBI off left-handed pitching and has appeared in 53 games batting in the clean-up position.

In 2005 he was named the Co-Most Valuable Player of the Appalachian League after hitting .347 (83-239) with 19 doubles, 8 homers and 47RBI in 63 games. He led the Appy League in hits, was 2nd in the league in average and was 3rd in RBI, doubles and total bases (126). He was named to the Post-Season All-Star Team and after the season was ranked by Baseball America as the 5th best prospect in the entire Appy League.

The native of Venezuela was signed by the Braves as anon-drafted free agent in October of 2002. He spent the 2003 campaign at the club's academy in the Dominican Republic and 2004 in the Gulf Coast League where he was named the GCL Most Valuable Player by the Braves organization.

Wickman has compiled a record of 1-4 with 15 saves and a 4.18ERA in 29 appearances for the Indians (28.0IP, 29H, 13ER, 11BB, 17K). He departs the Indians after parts of 7 seasons and is the club's all-time career saves leader with 138.

It’s true that we would have liked to see the Indians get a little more for their closer, but Wickman is not exactly a lights-out, slam-the-door closer and he’s truly a 2 month rental as there’s no chance he’s going to stick around in Atlanta (or anywhere else) next year.

Because Sticky is a 10-5 guy, he could’ve vetoed the deal, so give the Big Fella credit for accepting a trade that allowed the Indians to get a prospect.

Ahhhh, the prospect.
After the Nationals fleeced the Reds for two middling middle relievers, anything less than a ML-ready player was going to be a disappointment. But a Single-A Catcher?

Realizing that the organization is devoid of catching prospects after Kelly Shoppach, who’s still an unknown quantity, it makes sense to get a catcher. Ramirez is rated the Braves 6th best prospect by John Sickels, has proven that he can hit if he’s not too flexible in the field, and will report to Lake County – so he’s not some middle-of-the-road prospect.

Prospects are prospects – there’s no way to predict the future for anybody, but Ramirez looks like a solid prospect with ML-potential. But that’s all it is right now: potential. We’ll see in 2 years where Max Ramirez is at (add MaxRam to AstroCab as in-season acquisitions over the last month), so like any other deal it’s too early to really judge.

You would think that more pressing needs existed (MI, OF), but only the Indians’ Front Office knows what players were offered for Wickman.

The Reds-Nats deal set the bar too high for any trade that’s going to happen for the rest of the season, which is unfortunate for all other GM’s on the selling side of things because the inevitable “the Nationals got 2 starters for middle relievers” card will be played until August 31st.

Another factor in the decision has to do with the 40-man roster and the off-season decisions facing the Indians. It’s a complicated scenario, but the Indians have to add players like Kevin Kouzmanoff to the 40-man roster at the end of the season or they are exposed to the Rule 5 draft. By acquiring a younger prospect, the Indians avoid another difficult 40-man decision. Still think it’s easy to be a GM with cut-and-dry decisions?

More moves are coming, but right now this means that Carmona will be given an opportunity to close for the rest of the year. Who pitches the 8th and how the rest of the bullpen shakes out will be an interesting development to keep your eye on.

For now, we bid a fond adieu to the Indians’ All-Time Saves Leader – a man who seemed more likely to be sitting in the stands sipping a tall frosty one than actually trotting out of the bullpen with the game in the balance since 2000. It won’t stop me from sporting the Wickmans’ Warriors at the Jake for years to come.

Who’s next? Boone…to San Diego (or the waiver wire)? Broussard…to San Francisco? Hollandsworth…to New York? Mota…to…who knows?

The trade winds have started blowing. Just sit back, open a cold beverage, and let the breeze take you away…perhaps to a happier place.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Early Free Agency Preview

After examining where the holes exist for the 2007 Tribe (2B, OF, Bullpen, Leadoff Hitter, RH Power), here’s what is available in the Free Agent Market (I didn’t include EVERYBODY, just the players that would be legitimate options…and I use the term legitimate loosely) for the positions of need:

Sean Casey
Nomar Garciaparra
Scott Hatteberg
Shea Hillenbrand
Travis Lee
Doug Mientkiewicz
Kevin Millar
Phil Nevin
Todd Walker
Craig Wilson
Dmitri Young

Assuming that the Indians are unlikely to want to pay Ben Broussard $3M to play ½ of their games, the Indians need to make a decision on where Victor Martinez fits into their plans for next year. Most know that I’d like to see a combination of Martinez/Shoppach/Garko to play C & 1B next year, and hopefully we’ll get to see Garko for an extended period of time before the year is up.

That being said, if Garko is not seen as a long-term option and Martinez is going to stay behind the plate next year – this is the group to choose from, FA-wise.

Not a great-looking group, with the usual suspects that are all very similar. Casey might be a player to watch in that his wife is from Cleveland and he and Shapiro have a relationship. I don’t think that he’d be a good fit at all, but he’s a name that will be thrown around. Nomar has priced himself into a long-term deal with his year, and the rest of these guys are short-term options, at best.

Ronnie Belliard
Miguel Cairo
Luis Castillo
Mark DeRosa
Ray Durham
Damian Easley
Mark Grudzielanek
Adam Kennedy
Jeff Kent
Mark Loretta

With Ronnie Belliard pulling a hammy today, we should get a good long look at what Joe Inglett can do every day in the Big Leagues (unless Wedge inexplicably puts Vazquez in the lineup). I don’t know the extent of Belliard’s injury, but it makes it unlikely that he’ll get moved and hamstring pulls are generally the injuries that take a while to get back from.

Unless Joe Inglett pulls 3 for 4’s with BB’s to boot everyday, the Tribe will look elsewhere for a 2B. These guys are mainly utility players (Cairo, Easley,Kennedy) or aging players not worth a look (Durham, Grudzielanek, Kent) or players that will be in demand (Loretta, whom the BoSox will try to lock up, Castillo, and Belliard)

To me, that gives us the option of re-signing Belliard to a 2-3 year deal, which still scares me for some reason, or trying to get Castillo out of Minnesota. It would take a significant amount of money and years, but it would also solve the problem of 2B, a leadoff hitter, and team speed. Since we’ve talked ad nauseum about the lack of a legitimate 2B prospect in the minors, I’d be OK with giving Castillo the contract he’s looking for.

Juan Castro
Royce Clayton
Alex Cora
Craig Counsell
Alex Gonzalez
Julio Lugo

With the “Move Jhonny Peralta to 2B” Movement gaining steam, look at the list of what is available for a SS. The only player that is intriguing would be Lugo, who could fill the same holes as Castillo and probably for less money and years (though with less production). Lugo could be moved by the trade deadline and may be in demand in a weak SS market, as the Red Sox will likely try to re-sign Alex Gonzalez (the only other remotely attractive name on the list), so his situation could change in the next two weeks.

David Bell
Mark Bellhorn
Geoff Blum
Aaron Boone
Vinny Castilla
Pedro Feliz
Aubrey Huff
Joe Randa

The importance of seeing Andy Marte grows with each passing day. If Marte comes up and (please God, no…but it needs to be said) looks completely overwhelmed at the plate, the Indians need to look at another 3B. Again, nobody on this list will blow you out of the water, and hopefully the Indians won’t need to explore this option (or Mark Shapiro will have to eat a lot of crow) but Marte is still an unknown quantity. That’s why getting Marte up here now for evaluation is becoming important as the games remaining on the schedule dwindles.

Mike Cameron
Jim Edmonds
Darin Erstad
Steve Finley
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Torii Hunter
Kenny Lofton
Gary Matthews, Jr.
Juan Pierre
Barry Bonds
Frank Catalanotto
David Dellucci
Cliff Floyd
Luis Gonzalez
Todd Hollandsworth
Ryan Klesko
Carlos Lee
Jay Payton
Dave Roberts
Alfonso Soriano
Shannon Stewart
Rondell White
Preston Wilson
Eric Young
Moises Alou
Jeromy Burnitz
Jermaine Dye
Jose Guillen
Trot Nixon
Gary Sheffield

The Indians (with Sizemore, Blake, Michaels, and Gutierrez) are set in the OF…on paper. In reality, the Tribe needs to stregthen this position by adding a corner OF, allowing Blake and Gutierrez to battle it out for the other corner position, and letting Michaels slot into the 4th OF position. Acquiring a RH power hitter that can hit behind Hafner and force teams to pitch to him would complete the wish list.

Players like Cameron, Matthews (though he’s a CF who’s having a career year in his walk year), Lee (who will command a huge deal in the off-season), Soriano (who will get more than Lee), Moises Alou (who is getting old), Dye (it would be nice to pry him away from the White Sox), Jose Guillen (for those who want a headcase in the locker room full of nice guys), and Sheffield (who seems suddenly fragile with the new drug testing) would be the obvious options.

All of these players is going to be getting a good amount of money, so it may break down to seeing what Gutierrez can do (can he play RF and let Blake play LF), and what Marte and Garko can do (are they decent RH bats) in the next two months to figure out a direction.

Have I mentioned that I think that the Indians should call up some of the young guys to see what he have on this roster right now and how it affects our off-season decisions?

Mark Buerhle
Tom Glavine
Ted Lilly
Jamie Moyer
Mark Mulder
Andy Pettitte
Mark Redman
David Wells
Randy Wolf
Barry Zito
Miguel Batista
Adam Eaton
Orlando Hernandez
Cory Lidle
Greg Maddux
Jason Marquis
Gil Meche
Mike Mussina
Tomo Ohka
Sidney Ponson
Jason Schmidt
John Smoltz
Jeff Suppan
Tim Wakefield
Jeff Weaver
Woody Williams
Paul Wilson
Kerry Wood

Barring any moves, the Indians rotation next year should be identical to how it appears right now. Westbrook could be moved in the off-season, and with this weak FA class, could bring a player that would fill a need. If Westbrook goes, the Tribe would have to decide if Carmona would come back to the rotation, if Guthrie deserves a shot, or if they dip into the FA market for a replacement.

Just to float a “what it” scenario out there, Mike Mussina has said that he wants to finish his career close to home (he’s from PA) with a contender that will give him a shot at the postseason. He’s said that money will not play as much of a factor as comfort as he’s made over $120 million in his career.

I don’t see that much happening, rotation-wise, but the list is there.

Eric Gagne
Mariano Rivera
Bob Wickman
Eddie Guardado
Ray King
Steve Kline
Denys Reyes
Scott Schoenweis
Mike Stanton
Ron Villone
Joe Borowski
Chad Bradford
Francisco Cordero
Octavio Dotel
Keith Foulke
LaTroy Hawkins
Dustin Hermanson
Dan Kolb
Jose Mesa
Guillermo Mota
Jeff Nelson
David Riske
Justin Speier
Tanyon Sturtze
Mike Timlin
David Weathers

Feeling lucky? Bullpen arms, as we found out from 2005 to 2006, seem to be like throwing dice. You give it your best roll and hope for the best. Sometimes your reclamation projects work out (Howry), sometimes they don’t (Graves).

If you don’t think it’s that easy, why are the Yankees and Red Sox, with their HUGE payrolls, always looking for another bullpen arm? There are years when you catch lightning in a bottle, other years when you look like that guy from the “Great Outdoors” who had a white streak in his hair from being lightning-struck.

I don’t know enough about these pitchers (most of whom are generally obscure and could be great this year, only to be horrible next year) to say, “Look out for this guy”. That’s what scouts are paid for.

But, again, it’s important for the Indians to know how the young players that they have fit into the 2007 bullpen (Carmona, Mujica, Davis, Slocum, Brown, Sipp, Mastny, Perez) to know how to approach the FA bullpen market.

We've seen how a bad bullpen can derail a season, first in 2004 and again this year - so I would expect the Indians to pay more attention (and more dollars) in the bullpen for next year.

Where does this exercise leave us? Full of more questions.
But questions need to be answered before November before the final Off-Season/Free Agent Wish List is finalized.

If you want the full list, here’s the link.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Is It March 2007 Yet?

With 2006 in the can, let’s take a look at what this team is going to look like for 2007, without taking into consideration any off-season moves. I’m coming up with this under the belief that Belliard, Boone, Broussard, Wickman, and Mota are gone.

Here is YOUR 2007 Tribe:
Victor Martinez
Kelly Shoppach
Ryan Garko
Joe Inglett
Jhonny Peralta
Andy Marte
Ramon Vazquez
Grady Sizemore
Franklin Gutierrez
Casey Blake
Jason Michaels
Ben Francisco
Travis Hafner

C.C. Sabathia
Paul Byrd
Cliff Lee
Jake Westbrook
Jeremy Sowers

Fausto Carmona
Edward Mujica
Rafael Perez
Rafael Betancourt
Fernando Cabrera
Jason Davis/Tom Mastny/Brian Sikorski
Andrew Brown/Tony Sipp

Where are the gaping holes? OF (or more specifically a corner outfielder that allows Michaels to become the 4th OF and Blake to a super-utility role), 2B (a huge need, and not just because it also allows Inglett to become the utility IF instead of Vazquez), and veteran relievers, preferably ones not named Graves, Karsay, or Sauerbeck.

With that roster, the lineup and backup roles would break down like this:
2007 Lineup

4th OF – Michaels
Utility – Vazquez
5th OF – Francisco

Again, the holes are obvious at the top of the lineup and in the inexperience of these players. Acquiring a 2B who can hit at the top of the lineup takes Inglett out of the lineup (and Vazquez off the team) and moves Gutierrez down to the 9 spot.

Getting a corner outfielder that can protect Hafner (and not GIDP at an alarming rate) wouldn’t hurt. Make him RH, while I’m making up a wish list.

More than most, I’m comfortable with giving a long look to Gutierrez, Shoppach, and Marte in this lineup. Of course, it would help if we could see these players NOW rather than seeing a lineup full of Hollandsworths, Boones, Broussards, and VAZQUEZ night after night.

Of course, these needs can change pretty significantly if the Tribe makes moves in the next two weeks involving Westbrook, Lee, Byrd, or makes a deal for a young outfielder or middle infielder.

Regardless of what happens over the next two weeks, trade-wise, can we at least see an end to this dreadful lineup that’s being trotted out every night?

Although it allows me to sleep more while the Indians are on the West Coast (does anyone else see the lineups and just lose interest?), it’s time for the Front Office and Wedge to use some honesty with the Cleveland fans.

How can they say that Andy Marte’s not ready, or not a legitimate upgrade over Aaron Boone?

How can they continue to play Todd Hollandsworth over Gutierrez?

The fans deserve better than to be steamrolled on this one, because the product that’s on the field tells a much more complete story than any comment coming out of Jacobs Field.

Up next, we’ll (finally) take a look at the 2007 FA class with an eye towards a 2B, corner outfielder, and veteran bullpen arms. Any other glaring needs I’m missing?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Thinking about Twinkies

Some thoughts while watching the Twins’ series:
Does anyone else watch Joe Nathan and think of what Jason Davis could be? Although Jason Dangerously has found some recent success in Buffalo closing games, he still hasn’t been able to translate to the Bigs. Nathan was a “failed” starter in San Francisco who made a spectacular transition into the bullpen once he got to Minnesota (along with Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser for A.J. Pierzynski…WOW). Every time I see Nathan, I want to give JD another chance; I wonder if the Front Office still has the patience to see if JD can ever get there?

Joe Mauer is a stud. There are no two ways around it. He’s 23, playing for his hometown team, hitting .373 in late July with a .974 OPS and Gold Glove caliber D. As if that’s not enough, he’s dating a former Miss USA.

I have some friends who have employed Joe Mauer’s mom for the last 20 years and grew up with his dad in the Twin Cities. They have known Mauer since he was a kid and coached him in Little League (at age 7, he played on a traveling team for 12-year-olds with his older brother – and was the best player on the team…think about a 7-year-old you know to comprehend the ridiculousness of that) and said he’s the nicest guy they’ve ever met.
His two older brothers, who were Twins’ farmhands live in Florida in a condo where the Twins have Spring Training to take care of “Joey” while he’s down there during the off-season.
During the season, he lives in an apartment with Justin Morneau in downtown Minneapolis (Mauer hates Morneau’s head-case girlfriend), and according to my friend, “Mauer pulling Miss USA has nothing to do with his swing.”

It will be fun to watch Mauer (and Morneau) develop in the Central for the next couple of years, along with the unbelievable young talent in the Central (Grady, Liriano, Verlander, etc.)

After seeing what the Nationals got for 2 relievers and Royce Clayton (Felipe Lopez and Austin Kearns, who promptly batted 2nd and 4th for the Nats in their first game), does anyone else think about what the Tribe could get for Wickman, Betancourt, and even Mota? Too bad the Reds already made their deals if this is what they’re willing to give up for middle relief.
How bad have the Reds been ripped for this deal? It’s completely appropriate, but I can’t remember such universal outrage over a deal since the Kazimir-Zambrano deal, and we all know how that worked out. Kearns might be a name to watch in the off-season as Shapiro has come close a couple of times to pulling the trigger on a deal that would bring Kearns to the North Coast.

Friday’s game illustrate why the Tribe might shop their veteran relievers, as the 3 of the 4 pitchers who worked the 8th, 9th, and 10th for the Tribe are 22 (Carmona), 24 (Perez), and 22 (Mujica). Although Mujica gave up the go-ahead run in the 10th (the first ER he’s given up ALL YEAR…it’s July 15th), it’s obvious that Wedge has developed some confidence in these youngsters and will continue to put them in challenging spots to expedite the maturation process.

Speaking of Carmona, is he everything that we thought Fernando Cabrera would be this year? Carmona, as Mike Hegan said last night, has a “presence” on the mound that projects confidence that he’s in complete control. With every jam he gets out of (remember the one against the Yanks with the bases loaded and HGHiambi up) or every 3, 4, 5 hitter inning that he has (he’s done it the past 2 nights), the confidence grows and lends more credence to the idea that he is a very viable option to close games in 2007.

How would Luis Castillo look manning 2B and batting leadoff for the Tribe next year?
What about Shannon Stewart in LF?
Both are FA at year’s end and could be worth consideration for the Indians, more so Castillo.

Finally, we know what the Tribe’s going to do with the center field picnic area (formerly the Davey Tree Picnic Area). I like the idea of making a Hall of Fame to honor Indians greats not quite good enough to have their numbers retired.
I wonder who the 1st Tribesman from the 1990’s juggernaut will be? My guess – Chuck Nagy, though AB is clearly the most deserving.

Enjoy C.C. and Johan tonight.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Look Back, A Look Ahead

Just in time for the second half, let’s take a look at the Tribe – position by position – to see what’s happened so far and what we’d like to see for the rest of 2006:

Victor’s offensive production continues, but his defense has regressed (more than just his CS percentage) to the point that he needs to either re-dedicate himself to the tools of ignorance, or grab himself a 1B glove.
Except for the inexplicable presence of Tim Laker for a short time, Kelly Shoppach has served as the backup, playing when Victor mans first. Shoppach hasn’t looked bad (other than that StL pop-up drop) and may see more time.

Second Half: I’d like to see Shoppach catch against LHP, allowing Victor to move to 1B to spell Broussard (or eventually Garko). The only way that the Tribe can find out if Shoppach is a ML Catcher is by playing him this 2nd half. If his bat doesn’t translate, the Front Office needs to make a decision of whether Vic stays behind the dish or they look for another C, while Vic heads up the line.

Benuardo is no more…he is now just a pleasant memory. In a season where not much has gone right, the combination of Broussard and Perez surpassed most people’s expectations of production from 1B. But, Perez is gone for a kid named AstroCab (a trade that Shapiro said would’ve happened regardless of the Tribe’s record) and Broussard has repeatedly drawn the ire of the Atomic Wedgie. Vic has taken his stick to 1B and has performed adequately. The issue is that Victor’s numbers are GREAT for a catcher, but merely average for a 1B; so that will likely factor into what happens at 1B.

Second Half: Broussard could easily be moved, as he’s eligible for arbitration again and may pull a salary in the range of $3M. There’s no way the Indians will pay a platoon player that much (and rightfully so). We’re likely to see a rotation of Broussard (vs. RHP) and Vic (vs. LHP) until Garko takes Benny’s spot in that rotation. Like Shoppach, the Indians need to see if Garko is a viable 1B, particularly defensively, to see where they go for 2007.

Belliard, despite defensive lapses (but he’s an Indian infielder…so what did you expect), has actually been a pretty steady presence on the team. He’s recently been moved to the 3 hole in the lineup, an obvious sign that Wedge has a good deal of confidence in the Jelly.

Second Half: Belliard could be dealt, as he’s a Free Agent at the end of the year, but the lack of 2B options in the organization (John Farrell went on the record to say that Joe Inglett is not a viable option as an everyday 2B now…or ever), don’t be surprised if the Tribe holds onto Belliard and tries to lock him up in the off-season. The ATROCIOUS 2B Free Agent class will play a part.

Jhonny, the feel good story of 2006, is off the tracks – both offensively and defensively. His offensive numbers are way off (he’s been dropped in the lineup) and his defense has regressed (less range, no sense of urgency, lazy throws) to the point that there have been rumblings about whether he can play 2B, or even 1B next year.
I don’t think it will get to that point, as I think Jhonny is going through a pronounced sophomore slump. By year’s end, I think that Jhonny’s numbers will be there, but his defense has to improve significantly as a SS to quiet the critics. It doesn’t have to be spectacular, just steady.

Second Half: Peralta will take the majority of innings at SS, and should prove again that he is a supremely talented player capable of anchoring a lineup. His defense will be the thing to watch, as I get the impression that if his defensive performance continues Wedge’s twitches in the dugout may become reminiscent of Dreyfus, twitching uncontrollably while trying to control Inspector Clousseau in those Pink Panther movies.

There’s not much that hasn’t been said in this forum about the shocking deficiencies of Aaron Boone. Offensively, defensively, whatever…Aaron Boone does not deserve to trot out to the Hot Corner every night. I don’t care if he’s a great guy, a great clubhouse presence, or a veteran that people look up to.
I don’t care if he acts like Phil Connors in Punxsutawney at the end of “Groundhog Day” on his off days – performing random acts of kindness and selflessness.
The Aaron Boone Era in Cleveland could not end soon enough.

Second Half: Unleash the fury, Andy. Unleash the fury. Unleash the fury, Andy. Unleash the fury. Unleash the fury, Andy. UNLEASH THE FURY!

Jason Michaels came to Cleveland as a platoon player/4th OF who hit LHP hard, but struggled against RHP. Guilty as charged. Michaels looks like a nice complementary player who plays hard and gives nice AB’s against LHP, but not much more.

Second Half: If Todd Hollandsworth is dealt and Frank the Tank comes back topside (he was sent to Buffalo today to make room for Casey), I wouldn’t be surprised if Blake takes over in LF, the Panzer division patrols RF, and J-Mike (the worst nickname in Cleveland) becomes the 4th OF, probably for good.

Can anyone believe that SuperSizemore won’t turn 24 until August 2? He’s turned into one of the better players in the AL and should only improve. He’ll also be wearing the Chief until 2011. There are bright spots, people. Lighten up!

Second Half: More Grady being Grady. I’d like to see him moved to the 3 hole, obviously once a suitable replacement is found for the leadoff spot to allow him some more run-producing opportunities. Outside of that, I’ll just take more 24.
Speaking of 24, if they’re not going to show Grady in a cape, could they at least show some scoreboard video playing off of the “24” TV Show with a Grady montage?
Why am I the only person who thinks of these things?

Casey Blake dropped the K from his name early on and didn’t look back, until the strained oblique muscle. Blake has outperformed expectations and has (along with Broussard) left the fraternity of the Filler B’s (hey Aaron – “One is the Loneliest Number”). A brief appearance by Franklin Gutierrez, who came up in Blake’s absence, was spotty at first. But, as he grew more comfortable, one could see why the Tribe is high on the 23 year old. He has nice speed, is a plus defender, and looks to have improved his hitting for contact. Some of that contact improvement may have lessened his power stroke, but I’ll take a leadoff hitter with intermittent pop than the next Alex Escobar.

Second Half: Once the Tribe makes some moves with their veterans (read: Dutch Hollandsworth), Gutierrez will get another chance to show whether he belongs in the Tribe’s immediate plans. The versatile Blake could move to LF or could begin what will likely be his role going forward, that of the super-utility player.

The portion of the team that carried the 2005 Tribe has been maddeningly inconsistent. C.C.’s injury, Lee and Jake’s inconsistency, Byrd’s slow start, and the abomination that was Jason Johnson has put undue pressure on a bullpen that simply hasn’t been able to handle it.
As frustrating as the starters have been in their inconsistency (outside of Johnson’s consistent dreadfulness), there are starts when these guys just cruise. Starts that make you think, “This is it. It’s turning around for him.” Then 2 starts later, they lay an egg.
The promotion of Jeremy Sowers (albeit too late) solidifies the rotation and gives the Tribe a look towards the future. While he’s probably not a Franciso Liriano/Justin Verlander, he’s a LHP who knows how to pitch. Those don’t fall off of trees; so let’s see what the kid can do without calling him the next Tom Glavine just yet.

Second Half: The rotation is set and should stay the same through the end of the season and into 2007. Of course there could be injuries (in which case Jeremy Guthrie would join the parent club) or a veteran (Byrd) could be moved, but I think it’s unlikely. If the Tribe can get the consistent starts that carried them in the 2nd half of 2005, this team could get some serious momentum and confidence entering 2007.

Matt Miller got hurt. Sauerbeck and Graves are gone. Mota, Cabrera, and Betancourt have all underperformed. Does it look like this is a train wreck? With Wickman, that’s the bullpen that broke camp with the Tribe.
Cabrera was, of course, demoted after a matter of days. Mota and Betancourt can’t re-capture their success and the team has suffered as a result. After stints by Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Slocum, and Jason Davis, the Tribe has thrown their youngsters out there to see what sticks.
So far, Fausto Carmona has impressed (with a 1.19 ERA in the bullpen), as have Rafael Perez and Edward Mujica (though both have only pitched 8 innings each).

Second Half: The young arms should continue to move up the ladder in the pen as Carmona will likely be given the 8th inning role, and could be seen as the closer of the future (or the present if Wickman is traded). Perez and Mujica will be given expanded roles if they continue to succeed.
If Carl Willis has fixed Mota, let’s have him take a long look at Cabrera to see why he falls off of the mound after every pitch when he’s struggling. Is he watching Jason Davis video saying, “I like the way he does that…I think I’ll try it and see what happens”?
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tribe explored moves for Betancourt and brought up the likes of Slocum, Davis, Andrew Brown, Tom Mastny, or even Tony Sipp to see if these guys can be part of the 2007 bullpen or if help is needed from elsewhere.
The one constant, unless he approves a trade or has a heart attack on the mound (remember when Chris Farley used to have constant heart attacks on Da’ Bears – “That makes a bakers’ dozen, Bob”), will continue to be the Round Righty at the back end.

Bottom line is that the Indians need to take a long look at their youngsters to find out what they have for 2007 and what they will need for next year, so we’re not in the same situation at the All-Star Break next year. At the same time, I think that the talent that they will bring up (if it comes as advertised) shouldn’t be a huge drop-off from what we see every day, which means that an over .500 season is still plausible.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Dominican Dandy

In case Aaron Boone didn't have his toiletry kit packed yet, Andy Marte won the AAA Home Run Derby.

Be sure to click on the link above, then watch the video, and fast-forward to about the 2:55 mark to see Marte's 2nd round, when he was absolutely crushing ball after ball.

As the announcers said, he has "easy power" and a "natural stroke".

Tell me again why STO doesn't show this kind of stuff to give their prospects some exposure and hype?

Monday, July 10, 2006

To-Do List

Rather than focusing on the negative things that have happened in the first half, let’s take a look at some pro-active moves (not trading veterans for prospects) that the Indians can make to get some momentum through the second half and into 2007.

A few suggestions:
Sign Lee to a long-term deal
With all of the talk that the Dolans are unwilling to spend money, why not give Lee a 3 to 4 year deal to lock him into the 3 spot in the rotation for a while? He’s arbitration-eligible at the end of the season and, with his record over the past 3 years, he’s in line for a BIG raise.

As surprising as it was that the Tribe didn’t lock him up last off-season, I’d be just as surprised if the Indians didn’t try to create some good pub and some goodwill by approaching their young lefty before the end of the season.

Sign Belliard to a multi-year deal
With the dearth of 2B in the organization, and in the off-season FA market, Belliard is looking better and better. He would be likely to stick around if the Tribe offered him 3 years in the vicinity of $12M to $15M and there’s no better option here, there, or on the horizon.

Signing Belliard to a long-term deal (relatively speaking) would answer a big off-season question early and would mean that the Indians have one less position to figure out for 2007.

Extend and rework Hafner’s contract
Right now, he’s locked into 2007 to the tune of $3.75M with a 2008 club option for $4.75M. How’s that for a value? Consider that David Ortiz (another DH whose numbers are comparable to Pronk) starts on a 4 year-$52M contract next year, and Hafner looks even better at that price.

Well, seeing that Hafner has established himself as an elite hitter (and just seems to be getting better), what’s the harm in approaching him about re-working his contract? If the Dolans want to send a message that they’re willing to spend, particularly on their own stars, this is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Hafner has connected enough with Cleveland that this would be a respected move by ownership that would have a positive effect on the clubhouse, the fans, and league-wide perception.

And, from the A Man Can Dream, Can't He? Category:
Trade for Carl Crawford
How good would Crawford look at the top of the Indians’ lineup, in LF? Who says that if Crawford’s on the block that he has to go to a contender? He’s signed through 2009 with a club option for 2010 (at $10M), so it’s not like he’s a rent-a-player. So what could Tribe offer the Rays to pry Crawford out of the crowded Tampa OF?

How about Garko, Guthrie, and Kouzmanoff – that gives them a ML-ready (and cheap) 1B, starter, and a 3B to replace Aubrey Huff when he leaves the Sunshine State. The Devil Rays would likely want A LOT more than that, but his speed and overall game would allow the Indians to move Grady to the 3 hole, Hafner to the cleanup spot (with the way that Pronk hits LH, it doesn’t matter that both he and Sizemore are both left-handed).

Some of these moves involve some cash, but Wickman, Boone, Mota, and (presumably) Broussard coming off of the books before next year – there should be some wiggle room. Those 4 made about $14.5M this year, not even counting the $6.25M that Johnson, E. Perez, and Sauerbeck were scheduled to collect.

This team (to me, at least) is still unquestionably talented; it just needs some tweaking and determination of whether the youngsters (Gutierrez, Marte, Carmona, Mujica, Perez, Sowers, Garko, and Shoppach) are competent enough to fill holes in 2007 – or if those holes need to be filled in other ways.

Next, we’ll take a look, position-by-position, at what we saw in the 1st half, what to expect for the 2nd half, and into 2007.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Lazy Sunday

Time for a round-up of all of the Sunday happenings in print:

Terry Pluto says that Victor will remain the Tribe’s catcher next year because the offensive production he gives the team from C (as opposed to what they get from 1B) far outweigh the defensive shortcomings. He also asks why Marte won’t get brought up until the beginning of August. The answer: If he comes up any earlier, he’ll be arbitration eligible a full year earlier (after the 2009 season, as opposed to after the 2010 season if they wait).

On the 1B/C situation for next year – how about playing Victor/Garko against RHP and Shoppach/Victor against LHP in some kind of convoluted platoon. Garko has earned a look, and my get one this year if Broussard is moved (to the Giants?).

On the Boonie front, there was a great post on Let’s Go Tribe (in one of the comments section) that said that Boone should invest in a Japanese-American dictionary. Boone hasn’t just been deemed unworthy of playing for the Tribe in some people’s eyes…he’s off of the continent. I think that's fantastic.

Paul Hoynes intimates that Ozzie Guillen passed over Travis Hafner for the AS Team based on the fact that Hafner said he would be “in the bathroom throwing up” during the WS Ring Ceremony in Chicago on Opening Day (I can’t find the link). Personally, I’d say it has more to do with the game being in Putzburgh (sic) and the fact that there’s no DH, but it’s an interesting line of thinking.

Shelly Ocker addresses when it’s time to sell, which is…not yet.

Andy Call of the Canton Repository touches on why there is so much frustration and anger toward the 2006 Tribe, and how it relates to the Cavs and the Browns.
Bill Livingston had a similar article last Sunday, which blended rationale and objectivity – all in one column. I'm surprised the PD printed it, though it was on page 6 rather than page 1.

Finally, can I make a reservation for LeBron Jersey Retirement Night at the Q, say 15-18 years from now? I’d put the jersey up now (Larry Nance’s jersey is retired, for crying out loud), but that’s just me. I’ll also be purchasing a LeBron jersey (t-shirt, I can’t pull off a full-blown jersey) as the chances of me eventually burning it have decreased dramatically.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

It Doesn't Get Much Better

Everyone, let out a big sigh of relief...LeBron's staying.

Take that ESPN talking heads!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Trading Post

Despite a nice stretch here by the Erie Warriors, it’s time to be realistic about their playoff shot and see what some of these young players (Marte, Garko, Gutierrez, Carmona in the closer role) can do at the Major League level. Here’s the players that could be classified as “On the Block” as their future with the Indians beyond 2006 is in question and they may be more useful to a team not playing in Jacobs Field over the last 3 months of the season:

Aaron Boone
Assuming that the Tribe can find a taker for Boone, they’ll probably move him (eventually) to make room for Andy Marte – most likely at the end of the month because of the way that Marte’s arbitration clock was started by logging 60 days in the Majors with Atlanta last year. The other option, if the Indians can’t get anything for Boone, is that Boone slides over to the Utility spot when (not if) Marte is promoted.

You would have to think that Boone has some value, particularly to some teams that have 3B that are (amazingly) underperforming Boone. The likely suitors would be the Padres (who are relying on Vinny Castilla and Geoff Blum) and the Dodgers (who are still missing Bill Mueller). Both locales would allow him to play closer to home, something that I would think Shapiro would factor into the equation.

Benny Broussard
With the Victor Martinez Experiment at 1B in full swing and Kelly Shoppach seeing some games behind the plate, the odd man out would be Broussard. The brief promotion of Ryan Garko foreshadowed the replacement plan for Broussard, whose value as a LH bat and decent 1B would have to be pretty high right now. His numbers thus far (.327/10 HR/38 RBI/.884 OPS) look attractive, particularly to a team in need of a LH bat off the bench or even in a 1B platoon situation.

Some possible destinations would include the Giants (with Lance Niekro struggling) and the Diamondbacks (with Tony Clark, their LH 1B REALLY struggling).

Wedge’s calling out of Broussard recently, the fact that he can go into arbitration again this off-season (how much do you want to pay a platoon player…he made $2.49M this year) and the need to look at Garko at the ML level would dictate that this one is likely to happen.

Jelly Belliard
Although (as we all know) there’s no viable alternative at 2B for today or tomorrow, Belliard is a FA at the end of the season and would be an attractive chip to some playoff contenders in need of a 2B. The Mets, Giants, Cardinals, and A’s would all be possible destinations as they could use Belliard’s production in the lineup for the stretch run.

I’d be more inclined to hang onto Belliard until the deadline; particularly with the way he has filled the 2 hole in Michaels’ absence (only to get bumped back to the 6 hole tonight). With so many teams looking for a 2B and the market not exactly saturated, Belliard might bring a nice return. I’m not sure if I can take 2 months of Joe Inglett (or Aaron Boone) at 2B, but if Belliard won’t be here next year (which IS NOT written in stone) and the playoffs are a pipe dream, this is the move you have to make.

Bob Wickman
Assuming that Wickman accepts a trade (he’s a 10-5 guy), his value would be pretty large on a trade market bereft of proven closers. Since most teams that have established closers still are in the playoff race, the list of available closers is short. Wickman could go somewhere to bolster a bullpen, with the Reds (newly acquired Eddie Guardado isn’t the answer as a closer) and the Cardinals being the 2 teams fighting for a playoff spot most in need of bullpen help.

Since almost every ML team could use another bullpen arm, Wickman (along with Belliard) would be the most sought after Indian. Like Belliard, this is a tough one as Wickman has established himself as the Indians career leader in saves and has developed a bit of a following. Like, Belliard, though this is a move you have to make.

Todd Hollandsworth
Hollandsworth is the type of 4th OF, spare part player that teams like to acquire to bolster their bench and pinch hitting depth for September and beyond. Since Hollandsworth doesn’t have a future in Cleveland and, because his recent play has helped his value, there may be a market out there for him.

Teams in the NL particularly, like the Mets, Rockies, Brewers, Diamondbacks, and Padres would benefit could all use a players like Hollandsworth. It certainly won’t be a blockbuster, but allowing Hollandsworth to block Frank the Tank would just be a disservice to the 2007 team.

Other guys that could be moved would be Guillermo Mota, Paul Byrd, and Jake Westbrook, but I think they’ll likely finish the year with the Tribe.

None of the players above would be considered “core” players and moving them wouldn’t affect the team too much for 2007 (or 2006 for that matter), but if the Tribe can get something in return (like getting AstroCab for Eduardo Perez) in their Rummage Sale – Let’s Make a Deal.

I've looked through the 2007 FA (which are very thin at our positions of need - 2B, 3B, Closer), but I'm going to wait until we get past the All-Star Break, at least, to make the rundown.

In case you haven’t seen, Pronk finished 3rd in the All-Star Voting, behind A.J. Pierzynski (who will be in Pittsburgh) and Francisco Liriano (who should be on the team outright ahead of Mark Redman).

All of this despite an usher named Roy in the Mezzanine scoring me a “Vote Pronk” button during the 19-1 joyride.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Hitting the Links

If you haven’t voted for T-Haf for the All-Star team, do so now. Vote early and vote often. The “Vote Pronk” atmosphere has taken over Jacobs Field and I love it. I haven’t been able to secure a “Vote Pronk” button from one of the ushers, but there’s still time.

If we, as Indians fans, allow A.J. Pierzynski to take a spot that is rightfully Pronk’s – we have no one to blame but ourselves.

While we’re in the voting mood, how about some feedback for a nickname for Franklin Gutierrez (who seems to be getting more comfortable at the plate). The options thus far are Frank the Tank (with the obvious Ferrell video montage on the big screen) or Frankie Gutz (which sounds like a gangster from “GoodFellas”). What do you think?

A very impressive showing by Sowers last night, strangely reminiscent of another young lefty’s gem against NY – Billy Traber’s one-hitter a few years back. As excited as everyone was about Traber, multiply that enthusiasm by about 10 for the expectations surrounding the Vandy Dandy. After last night, it looks deserved.

Best anti-Yankee shirt last night? Brokeback Jeter, which brings to mind a YouTube favorite.

Don't forget to vote for the Sykestown Slugger!

Vive Le Pronque!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Big Picture

Despite 2 heartbreaking losses on the 6-game road trip, the Tribe took 2 straight series and went 4-2. Granted, it could have (should have) been a 6-game winning streak, but I’m encouraged that this (suddenly much younger) team was able to bounce back from some horrible 9th innings. As much as Wednesday and Friday hurt, you have to realize that this team has not given up.

It’s true that I was in Cincy for the Friday night meltdown, but ATTENDED the victory on Saturday, so maybe the DiaJinx is a figment of the imagination. Tribe fans made a nice showing at Great American Ballpark on Saturday, evident when Le Pronque turned his one at-bat into the turning point of the game, a no-doubt-about-it Granny to center.

Reds’ fans were much more into the game than I ever remember at other games in Cincinnati; but as my friend mentioned – Cincinnati is a HUGE bandwagon town. If the Reds drop off the pace, the fans of Cincinnati (who inaccurately consider themselves on par with Cardinal and Red Sox fans for their knowledge and passion) will disappear.

Interestingly, on the drive North today, we caught the first couple of innings listening to the Reds’ radio announcers. When introducing the “Question of the Day”, which had to do with which incumbent President was the first not to be re-elected (how that has anything to do with baseball is beyond me), Marty Brennaman said, “Since most people know Cleveland as the ‘City of Losers’, we’ll stay with the loser theme for our question”.

Is this the same town that counts the Bengals and Reds as its only professional sports teams? It’s true that the Reds had the Big Red Machine and won the title in 1990, but this revisionist history of the Bengals is baffling. Everyone seems to forget that the team didn’t have a winning record for something like 15 years. Going back to the comments from Thursday, people in Cincinnati REALLY think that Cleveland is their archrival, where the Bengals would probably fall between the Ravens and the Broncos somewhere down the list, football-wise, and there’s simply not a rivalry in baseball. Detroit and Pittsburgh are both closer.

Sounds like I touched a nerve by questioning the Indians’ nickname (and so demeaned everyone by giving them some background on the process of the Indians being named thus, which probably 3% of Tribe fans TRULY know) and the Chief. All I’m saying is that it seems that the organization is so afraid of being un-PC that they simply don’t embrace the nickname, which is frustrating. Embrace it or move on, that’s all I’m saying.

Look for the Chief (who needs his body back, like the 1970’s version of him) somewhere at Jacobs Field on a permanent sign and let me know where he is. Where is our old Chief from Municipal Stadium?

I would have no problem with the Indian nickname if it were something that the organization was proud of, not afraid of. This organization has a proud history with that name, but you would never know it from the 2006 version of it.

Back to the field, the Rummage Sale (note that this team is not involving itself in a Fire Sale) has continued with Eduardo Perez going to Seattle. I use the term Rummage Sale because this is basically like identifying the parts of your house that are no longer useful to you and could find a better home elsewhere. If you get something in return – it’s better than throwing it away.

It started with Johnson (2 months too late) and continued with Perez, who will platoon in Seattle with Carl Everett. For a platoon player for 3 months, the Indians got the Mariners’ 6th best prospect in Asdrubal Cabrera, a 20-year-old SS who is one of only three 20 year olds in all AAA!

This is not a low-level minor leaguer; this is a AAA shortstop, who is by all accounts a great defender who could very easily play 2B. He won’t turn 21 until November, which means he’ll play a full AAA season at age 20, which is 1 year ahead of wunderkind Andy Marte.

Cabrera was blocked by Yuniesky Betancourt and Jose Lopez in Seattle, so this is a good move for both teams. The Mariners get a veteran bat to try to win the West and the Tribe gets a slick-fielding middle infielder for an organization bereft of middle infield prospects.

Cabrera won’t help this year, but could certainly come into play next year with Jelly Belliard a FA at year’s end. For more on Cabrera, Terry Pluto (welcome back) has some information – probably from the Tribe’s Front Office on him.

As Pluto also points out, Perez’s departure also allows Ryan Garko to come up to Cleveland. It would be nice to see him get more AB’s than Broussard (maybe in situation involving Victor and Shoppach) as Broussard almost certainly won’t be back next year and the Tribe should figure out what they have in Garko (and Gutierrez and Inglett and MARTE…for goodness sakes).

I’ll take a look later this week at what other players may be dealt in the coming weeks (Wickman, Broussard, Boone, Belliard, etc.) and also what the 2007 FA Class is shaping up to look like.

Prior to that, it is time to roll out the unwelcome mat for the Spankees for a 4 game set. Attending 3 of the games with the inevitable Yankee fans in the house means it could be an interesting week.