Sunday, October 29, 2006

Lazy Lazy

Has MLB replaced the NFL for parity?
That “On Any Given Sunday” credo may have more credence in baseball, which crowned its 7th Champion that had not won previously in the past 7 seasons. In those 7 Series, there have been 12 different teams to reach the World Series.

It’s a fantastic direction to see MLB going in, with more teams given the opportunity to compete and win, but when will this exciting trend reach the North Coast?

Call it unbridled enthusiasm because it's possible that I’ve read one too many Billy Mumphrey stories, but confidence is high here (again) that the 2007 Tribe will be able to compete and contend to become either the 8th new Champion, or at least another new participant in the Fall Classic since 2000.

It’s time for a little Lazy Sunday:
Fire up the “Welcome Back Wagon”, Terry Pluto has returned with his usual balance of insight and logic, hitting on Victor’s long-term future behind the dish, among other things.

Terry has been missed, as we’ve been forced to suffer through what constitutes a Plain Dealer “sports column” (and that term is used loosely) in his absence. The passive voice, dangling participles, and dreadful analogies that litter the musings of Livy and Shaw have become nearly unreadable.

Take Livingston’s column yesterday which, whether you agree with his premise or not (and there’s no way that more than 10% of intelligent sports fans ever do), puts his writing style on display. And…there’s no nice way to say this, he writes poorly.

Hoynes takes on some softball questions, but to expound on the question regarding Front Office salaries, here’s a little nugget – not to go all Roger Brown on you – Assistant GM Chris Antonetti just signed a deal to build a house for just south of 7 figures. So, he does OK for himself.

Between the lines of that transaction is the fact that Antonetti’s going to be in Cleveland for a while (remember, he’s building – not buying), which represents fantastic news for Tribe fans. Antonetti is a very highly thought of young executive whose name comes up every time a GM post opens up.

Heading down to the lakefront to witness the beginning of the Jeff Davidson Era, which hopefully washes the nasty taste of the Mo Carthon Era out of our mouths.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Desert Days

With the sun making a rare appearance on the North Coast today, it’s time to think about some fellas playing ball under the bright Arizona Sun. That’s right, cue the applause…it’s time for an Arizona Fall League Update!

A few position players have started very strongly for the Peoria Javelinas, whose hat could be the most repulsive piece of headgear seen since the old Expos multi-color lids, so let’s start there:

Super Joe Inglett has played primarily at 2B and continues to put up decent numbers, though power will certainly never be his strength as his 11 hits are all singles. He’s hitting at a .458 clip with an OPS of .958 in 24 AB’s. Truthfully, Inglett should thrive in this setting as he is 28 years old and likely figures to be a Big League utility infielder, barring a miraculous re-discovery of Hector Luna’s glove.

The Kouz has picked up where he left off, hitting .387 with an OPS (surprise, surprise) over 1.000 at 1.151. K2 has 22 RBI in 7 games and an amazing SLG of .710 thus far. He’s seeing some time at 1B, presumably to improve his versatility. One has to wonder why, with Garko at 1B and an unsettled OF, Kouzmanoff wouldn’t see some time in LF to see if he can handle the position. As evidenced by his continued success, his bat doesn’t seem to be the issue; his defense and health are the big question marks.

Trevor Crowe’s successful young career continues its upward trend, with him hitting .357 with an OPS of .869. He’s playing exclusively in the OF and hitting 3rd in most games, so there’s no doubt that Crowe is on the fast track. Crowe is very highly thought of in the organization, and, obviously throughout the AFL.

The final position player, Javier Herrera has seen only 10 AB’s in 3 games (the Javelinas have played 15 games), but has played well with a 2B and an RBI.

Pitcher-wise, Tony Sipp is the most recognizable name there and one VERY poor outing (how about 4 BB, 1 H, 3ER in 1/3 of an inning) has influenced his numbers as his ERA has leaped to 7.71. The organization has high hopes for Sipp, as he projects as that homegrown LOOGY that the Indians have never really had. Sipp will get a look in the Spring, but will likely start in the Buffalo bullpen with the rest of the reinforcements.

Reid Santos has had the best showing of any Tribe pitcher, throwing relief innings in 5 games without letting up a run. Santos pitched out of the bullpen in Kinston last year and as a lefty, like Sipp, could always be fast-tracked as a LOOGY if success comes quickly. He made the transition from being a starter in Lake County in 2005 to the bullpen in Kinston and figures to play the role this year in Akron, and possibly Buffalo, this year.

Kyle Collins, like Santos and Sipp, has pitched out of the bullpen in the Tribe organization and has done so in Arizona, with mixed results. He’s been up and down, with 2 awful outings, that have led to the 9.00 ERA through 5 IP. With Collins, the Indians are trying to give him some extra innings, under their watchful eye, to determine where he slots into the future of the bullpen.

Jake Dittler has been asked to leave the team, and has been replaced by another prospect. After getting outrighted off of the 40-man roster and clearing waivers, it’s not been a good 2 months for the 23 year old former #1 pick.

By the way, for those inquiring minds in the group, here’s what a Javelina is.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Quick Lazy Sunday

Not too much in the way of Lazy Sunday today, with attention focused squarely on the World Series, the Browns, and the Cavs, but here’s a quick run-down:

Paul Hoynes mentions that there could be some Asian flavor to the Indians’ roster next year with Japanese 3B/2B Akinori Iwamura getting permission to play in MLB next year, as well as the possibility that there could be some bullpen help in the Pacific Rim.

Iwamura looks to be a power-hitting, slick-fielding player who strikes out quite a bit.

Interestingly, here’s a picture from earlier this year on his website that shows him at Chain o’ Lakes Park with…Tribe Bench Coach Jeff Datz!

If anyone who speaks Japanese wants to translate his website for the common good, it would be greatly appreciated.

That’s it for local print, but here’s a few more random thoughts:

Hopefully, if this Paul Byrd to Atlanta idea has any legs, it happens at a time when Bob Wickman is sitting up in a deer stand in Northern Wisconsin. The deer stand may have his shotgun and a cooler full of High Life tall boys, but a cell phone is unlikely. So when John Schuerholz calls for Sticky’s blessing on acquiring Byrd, Wickman is unreachable to discount the accomplishments of his sparring partner. Schuerholz will pull the trigger, Byrd will return to Atlanta, and maybe bring some protective headgear in anticipation of a reunion with his one-time sparring partner.

The PD announced some cuts in their newspaper staff and, while you never want to see anyone lose their jobs, Mr. Swerb over at Swerb’s Blurbs captures the feelings on this news very eloquently.

Finally, and having nothing to do with the Indians, I’ve recently been introduced to a website, Pandora Internet Radio, which allows you to listen to music (for free) while online. The site asks you to create your own “radio station” by identifying your favorite musical group or song, and then plays similar music along the same genres. If a song plays that you don’t like, you simply click on “thumbs-down” for the song and the site records it in your personal profile and attempts to find more songs to your liking.

It’s completely free to sign up (as long as you can put up with a banner ad on the side of the page), and you can even ask not to receive newsletters, e-mails, etc. It’s an amazing way to find out about new artists in your musical wheelhouse that you would never have heard about otherwise, and provides great background music to anytime that you spend online.

As the DiaBride said, “I don’t know how this benefits anybody, but us…and I’m all for that.”

Take some time to check it out, particularly if you like music and spend a good deal of time online.
You can thank me later.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Indians in the Outfield

The OF situation for 2007 is an area that has not gotten the attention, or ink, that 2B and the bullpen have received. However, it projects to be just as interesting in the off-season, in that there are multiple options that the Indians can explore - both in-house and from elsewhere.

There’s Sizemore in CF, and that’s a good start. SuperSizemore entered some rarified air in 2006, establishing himself as one of the elite players (not outfielders) in all of ML (not just the AL). What Grady’s capable of, who knows, but watching Carlos Beltran play for the Mets, one realizes that he is what Grady projects to – a perennial 30-30 guy who anchors a team.
And that’s on the low end of Grady’s potential.

The fact that Sizemore is locked up until 2012, when the Tribe holds an $8.5M option on the 29 year old (in 2012) is absolutely staggering and should bring a smile to your face every time you remember that nugget.

The second player almost certain to be in the mix somewhere in the outfield next year is Casey (the K is gone after 2006) Blake, whose ability to play both corners as well as 3B and 1B (with Marte and Garko the likely starters for 2007) nearly ensures the fact that he’ll be in Cleveland.

Before the AAAA player comments start flying, consider what Blake’s 2006 numbers project out to with 550 AB, instead of the 400 that he got - 26 HR, 95 RBI, .835 OPS. Why is that production not acceptable for a corner outfielder? Plus, his 2006 compares closer to the 2004 season that led the Indians’ contract offer and not his 2005 season that made them re-think the same offer.

Blake’s a solid defender, a smart base runner, and doesn’t take plays off. There’s a lot worse that the Indians could have at $3.75M, especially with his versatility that protects the Indians if Marte or Garko REALLY struggle out of the gate.

With 2/3 of the outfield spoken for, it’s time to evaluate our good friend Michootierrez – the three-headed monster that the Indians need to squeeze one quality outfielder from.

Unfortunately for the Indians, this isn’t like Voltron, where the sum of the parts is greater than individuals. Instead of getting the “Defender of the Universe”, combine these three and we’re stuck with a ballplayer with a perpetually wet mullet who wears a batting helmet with two flaps and left his power stroke (and limitless potential) somewhere in Vero Beach, Florida.

Jason Michaels proved in his first season as a full-time player that…he’s not a viable full-time player. The Phillies were onto something when they only played him in a platoon, and the Indians learned that Michaels is effective as a platoon OF, not as a regular. The fact that he’s due to make multiple millions of dollars in arbitration in the off-season makes it all the more unlikely that Michaels will be part of any platoon in Cleveland in 2007.

Michaels might be able to be moved for a reliever that needs a change of scenery, much like Arthur Rhodes did last year (how did the Phillies get him again?). Some NL team, like the Pirates, might be interested in Michaels as a stopgap until their next “prospect” emerges. If the Tribe could pry Damaso Marte from Pittsburgh straight up for Michaels or even package him with some cheap, young arms (like Guthrie, Brown, or Davis) to get Mike Gonzalez into a Tribe uniform, one would hope that Shapiro makes that trade the moment the World Series ends.

Of the 3 options, the BLC offers the most complete package of speed, defense, arm, hustle, and approach. Choo’s downfall thus far in his career has been his inability to hit LH pitchers (a .225-point difference in Slugging % vs. LH & RH), but there’s more to work with and room to grow. Where Michaels has proven over time that he plays better in a platoon, Choo has not yet been given that full go at attempting to hit all pitchers in the Bigs.

Choo, because of his arm, projects into more of a RF and would likely play there if given the job on a full-time basis. Playing Choo in RF and allowing Blake to play LF improves the outfield defense dramatically from 2006 edition.

And, finally, there’s good ol’ Frank the Tank. The perpetual prospect has yet to recapture his power numbers that he enjoyed in the lower levels of the minors, due in part to his swing shortening to cut down on strikeouts. Gutz, with all of his speed, doesn’t project into a leadoff hitter now, or seemingly at any time. Though he’s considered by most the best defensive outfielder in the system, his lackadaisical approach to line drives and bloops and his predilection for throwing to the wrong base do not bode well for his long-term prospects with the parent club.

Ideally, Gutierrez would fill the role of the 4th OF, capable of pinch running or spelling Choo against the wicked LH pitchers tend to face (see Santana, Johan). If another team becomes enamored with Gutz, the Indians may be able to fill another need and move Ben Francisco into the 4th OF role for 2007.

The wild card in the mix for 2007 remains Trevor Crowe, whose 2B Experience is over so he can concentrate on developing his offense. Crowe is the homegrown answer to who can bat leadoff, improve team defense, team speed, and allow the Indians to not overpay for a Juan Pierre-type player.

If Crowe blows away the Minors this year, he can move into CF (or LF) and let the Tribe either move Blake into the super-utility role (if Choo is thriving) or move Blake back to RF (if Choo is struggling).

Put Blake in LF, St. Grady in CF, Choo in RF, and Gutierrez as the 4th OF…and let it ride.

The bottom line on the outfield is, sure, it could be upgraded. Free Agents like Carlos Lee and Mike Cameron are an immediate upgrade and players like Pat Burrell can be had on the trade market.

But what have we learned is the key to creating a consistent winner – one that wins games, divisions, playoff series, and World Series championships? PITCHING, PITCHING, and more PITCHING!

Spend the available money to fortifying the bullpen or upgrading the bullpen, not an outfield anchored by Grady. If, come July, a big bat is available to make a push to the playoffs, so be it.

But, off-season, let’s stick to adding arms.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Trying to Catch Up

With a trip to Wisconsin (and another UW football game) in the rearview, let’s catch up on some happenings since the end of last week:

John Sanders is out as announcer for STO’s TV broadcast and will be replaced by Matt Underwood, who joins Rick Manning in the TV booth (except for the WKYC games, which Jim Donovan will do). Mike Hegan will remain with Tom Hamilton in the radio booth, as the Tribe’s 2-man broadcasting booths are set.

Sounds good to me – Sanders never added much to the broadcasts, constantly deferring to Manning, and with good reason. Actually, this is a very good idea, but where oh where have I heard this before. It’s familiar; it must’ve been somewhere. Thaaat’s right, the same 2-man booth idea (without Sanders) was suggested last February when the creation of STO was announced.

Paul Hoynes has thrown some gas on the “Marcus Giles to play 2B for the 2007 Tribe” idea. Would the Braves take Paul Byrd (remember that Byrd did pitch for Atlanta in 2004) to return him to the NL and allow the Tribe to better use our 5th starter Byrd’s salary by filling 2B?

Hoynes also mentions that John Farrell is in the running to be the Red Sox pitching coach (which did come to fruition today), which leads to the question: How many executives/coaches are floating around baseball that cut their teeth in Cleveland? Off the top of my head – Dan O’Dowd, Josh Byrnes, Bud Black, Charlie Manuel, and Tito Francona.

Farrell will be missed in the Front Office and we wish him the best, hoping that he has some thick skin as the pitching coach in Boston.

After the Wisconsin-Minnesota football game, the Badgers ran around Camp Randall with Paul Bunyan’s Ax to a raucous ovation. It was a phenomenal scene and one that got me thinking:

What would be wrong with teams in the same region (say the Great Lakes) to take their season records against the other teams in the region and have the team with the best record win some sort of trophy?

Follow me on this – the Tribe, White Sox, and Tigers play each other all season with the team that finishes with the highest record against the other 2 winning some arbitrary object (like an ax, or a Little Brown Jug…or a huge anchor). The players can champion the object to their adoring fans and keep it at their facilities until next year. How fantastic would it be to see Pronk lead the team around Jacobs Field holding a giant anchor?

Is it hokey? Absolutely, but give the players some incentive. The players from the winning team all get a $100,000 bonus from the corporate sponsor.

This year, the Tribe went 17-21 against their Great Lakes counterparts; the Tigers and White Sox both went 20-18, with the tiebreaker going to the White Sox, who went 12-7 against the Motor City Kittes.

It would never happen, I know, but it’s time to bring some emotion back to the sometimes-sterile pro game and accentuate the natural rivalries that exist between teams in close proximity to each other.

Is anyone else getting the sense watching the playoffs that the Indians HAVE to get to the playoffs to throw their rotation against ANYBODY? After watching retreads like Oliver Perez, Steve Trachsel, Jeff Weaver, Woody Williams, and Jaret Wright get playoff starts makes me long to see the Tribe throw C.C., Westbrook, and Sowers up against any team out there. If the series runs long, I’ll take Lee on a full rest over ANY 4th starter or another pitcher on short rest.
That potential playoff pitching lineup, again, shows the dispensability of Paul Byrd and how his salary can be better spent on this team.

Next, it’s time to take a look at the quandary in the corner of the OF where Blake, Michaels, Choo, and Gutierrez need to be massaged and kneaded into 2 legitimate corner OF.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Putting Some Ink in the Pen

As the ALCS begins, it’s time to take a look at the Tribe’s options for fixing the bullpen. It’s been said that the Indians will likely fill 4 slots from current players, with Betancourt and Cabrera being the only “for-sures”. The other 2 will come from Davis, Miller, Mastny, Mujica, Lara, and even Carmona.

The rest of the bullpen will be filled with guys like Steve Kline or Mike Stanton as the LOOGY and Octavio Dotel or Justin Speier as the 8th inning RHP. All of those players have closing experience and can be had in the FA market.

None would project as a bona-fide closer, but they would add some veteran leadership to a bullpen badly in need of some. These type of veteran arms don’t come cheap (each would cost between $3M and $4M per), though, so that’s where a good deal of budgeted money should go to.

As for that “bona-fide” closer, expect him to come via trade with the Astros’ Brad Lidge or the Pirates’ Mike Gonzalez being the most likely targets who closed last year. Other options would include Scot Shields, Scott Linebrink, Salomon Torres, Brandon League, and Dan Wheeler or Chad Qualls, though they’ve mainly been a set-up man in their careers.

Personally, I’m pulling for Chad Qualls…mainly because I loved his brother DJ in “Road Trip”.

Expect the Tribe to acquire one of those “closer” types, but to surround him with veteran arms in case of emergency or meltdown. Don’t be surprised if Shapiro loads up the bullpen with arms for Spring Training as he doesn’t ever want to be reminded of 2006, when he thought the bullpen was in decent shape coming out of the Spring, when in reality…well, you know the rest of the story.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Bronx Zoo on a Lazy Sunday

Has there ever been a more vivid illustration of how October baseball is won than the Yankees getting taken out by the Tigers? The Yankees, with their “Greatest Lineup in History” and an All-Star at every position were knocked out by a team that starts Marcus Thames and Brandon Inge every day because of…(cue the trumpets)…PITCHING!

No matter how good of an offense can be put in the batter’s box, good pitching beats good hitting more often than not. If the last week wasn’t enough to illustrate that point, ask John Hart how many WS rings he has using a similar strategy in the mid-90s.

The Yankees lost because their high priced arms (Unit, Mussina, Wright) were no match for the TALENTED, not expensive arms, of Verlander, Zumaya, and Bonderman.

You would think that with $200M to spend that the Yankees would be able to send someone other than Jaret Wright out to try to salvage the series (paging Carl Pavano…oh, that’s right), but the Yankees have spent their money in the rotation on items whose expiration date has past or is rapidly approaching.

To bring the relation to Cleveland, it emphasizes the importance of this franchise’s emphasis on starting pitching and how, with a vastly improved bullpen, this team (despite its detractors) is NOT far away from pulling off a playoff run.

If you don’t think that the bullpen is an important piece to this puzzle, consider this, here are the top 5 bullpen ERA’s in 2006:
Twins – 2.91
Mets – 3.25
Padres – 3.42
Tigers – 3.51
A’s – 3.60

The Cards, Dodgers, and Yankees come in 14th, 15th, and 16th; but you get the point.
The Indians 2006 Hellpen was 24th of 30 teams.

The starting pitching (with or without Byrd) is more settled than most teams, so a revamped bullpen could go a long way.

With that off the chest, let’s take a whirl at a Lazy Sunday:
Paul Hoynes has a superb (and that term is not often used in regards to PD Tribe coverage) recap of the season, offering both an insider’s look (in particular B-Phil dressing down John Farrell in the Bisons’ locker room in 2005) and a look to the future. Take the time to catch the whole piece online if you’re out of town, as it is worth a read.

Terry Pluto takes one last look at B-Phil and examines the Wedgiro dynamic.

Socker gets Shapiro’s wish list and (surprise!) revisits the Phillips situation.

Everyone’s favorite optimist, Jim Ingraham, is back with his Indians’ 2006 grades. If you want to save yourself the rise in blood pressure, he gives C.C. a B+, mainly because C.C. hasn’t reached #1 status.
Any time you start to wonder where Tribe “fans” get their sour outlooks, visit the Ingraham archive.

Andy Call reports that Kevin Kouzmanoff will play 1B in the Arizona Fall League instead of Michael Aubrey, who remains injured. For Ryan Garko’s sake, the hope is that K2’s trial at 1B is only to see if he can play at 1B to add that feather to his cap, or to show other teams that Kouz can play there. Also, Trevor Crowe will stay in the OF for the Arizona Fall League, so the Band-Aid approach for acquiring a 2007 2B is not an option.

It also means that Crowe, a natural CF, may eventually push Sizemore to LF…and before you spit your coffee out on the keyboard, consider the fact that Sizemore’s daredevil antics in CF are awfully entertaining. But, ask Darin Erstad and Aaron Rowand how easy it is to go through a season unscathed playing CF like a strong safety. Sizemore’s bat is too valuable to have him extended periods of time to the DL, like Ken Griffey, Jr. did when he broke his left wrist in Seattle making a phenomenal catches.

Lastly, back to the playoffs (where my Twins-Dodgers WS is now laughable), here are a few players no longer playing who could figure into some Tribe offseason plans:

Mike Mussina – Would the Boss pick up a $17M option on him, or would that money be better used to sign a Schmidt/Zito AND a solid set-up guy. Mussina’s a PA native (Montoursville to Cleveland is about a 4 ½ hour drive) who may take a short contract to pitch close to home to close out a stellar career. He would really fit into the Tribe rotation, as he wouldn’t be counted on to be an ace, but would be an obvious upgrade over Byrd and would allow the Indians to fill holes by moving Byrd.

Nomar Garciaparra – His 1-year deal with the Boys in Blue is done, and he played well enough to merit a long-term deal. Is he healthy enough to play SS again? Would a promise to play SS full-time be enough to lure him to the North Coast. How would he look between Sizemore and Hafner?

Greg Maddux – He hits the FA market again and, while he certainly is not what he once was, he may provide the veteran leadership that Millwood provided a year ago. This is a long shot at best, but worth mentioning. Again, signing him would allow the Tribe to move Byrd for a reliever/2B/corner OF.

Gary Sheffield – This, too, could be a pipe dream. But, he fits the profile of a RH power-hitting corner OF, assuming that his body hasn’t been ravaged by flaxseed oil. He may end up playing 1B in the Bronx next year, but all bets are off for what the Yanks are planning for 2008 if they feel their Fantasy Baseball approach isn’t working.

Why do I get such pleasure out of the knowledge that the Yankees will be watching the ALCS and the WS from the same place as me…the COUCH!

Friday, October 06, 2006


It’s true that a lot of question marks exist and the possibilities for player movement are seemingly endless, but there are some things that the Indians can do to set the team up for success in 2007 and beyond.

Here’s the short list:
Priority #1)
Add 3 years to Pronk’s deal through 2011, even if you have to rip up his current deal to add the years. David Ortiz’s contract (4 years/$52M) signed this past April is probably a starting point. If those numbers look big, they are – and rightfully so. Hafner’s numbers the past few years justify the contract and giving those dollars to a player who has worked his way into becoming a fan favorite would be a perfect way to show the fickle Cleveland fans that the Dolans are willing to spend money. Ensuring that Hafner’s bat will be anchoring the lineup when all of these young players (Grady, Marte, Garko, Peralta, Crowe) are hitting their peaks isn’t going to hurt run production in coming years.

Priority #2)
Add 2 years to C.C.’s current contract to keep him under Tribe control through 2010. This, like Hafner’s, isn’t going to be cheap as he’ll be 28 when his current deal ends at the end of 2008. The fact that his maturation as an ace may be even further along at that point will make C.C. the top FA pitcher on ANY market. He still has not had a serious injury and continues to rack up IP, regardless of the constant criticism about his body type. The bottom line is that power LH studs don’t grow on trees, so when you have exclusive negotiating rights with such a player, you take advantage.

Priority #3)
Add 3 years to Jake’s current contract to keep in Cleveland until 2009. Pulling that off, with C.C. and Lee, keeps these 3 and Sowers (and Carmona and Miller and Lofgren…you get it) on the club until 2009. If starting pitching is what wins championships, an innings-eater (over 210 IP for the last 3 years) that’s going to average 15 wins a season is a nice #3 starter for a playoff team. Seeing as how Westbrook would hit the open market after this year (to much fanfare, particularly to teams with superb defensive infields), it’s not going to a contract done on the cheap. Noticing a trend here?

If Shapiro does lock up C.C. and Westy, with Lee and Sowers, there’s a surplus of starting pitching, right? Um…there are worse things to have a surplus of. If Fausto/Miller/Lofgren turn into what we hope they can, it allows the Indians the luxury of dealing from a position of strength to fortify weaknesses.

A case can be made that such an environment exists right now, with the strength of the team being pitching. Can any of those arms be moved to fortify the bullpen, 2B, or a corner OF? If so, Byrd would be the first candidate, then Westbrook (but only if they can’t extend his contract) – and it would take quite a bit to give up Jake.

Assuming that the team simply adds years to these deals and doesn’t completely re-negotiate them, none of these moves adds to the 2007 payroll as all are under contract for next year. These moves, though, would go a long way to showing that the ownership will “lock up their own” and spend money on homegrown talent.

While PR should be the last thing on any team’s agenda when making moves, none of these moves will be criticized and they wouldn’t hurt the team’s image, not to mention ticket sales.

By the way, the Brewers picked up Francisco Cordero's option today, so cross another potential FA closer off an already pitiful list.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Young and Restless

Last Friday night, serial commenter T-Bone was down at the South Side in Tremont with some friends when SuperSizemore made his appearance around midnight, bellying up to the bar with another guy. After our buddy Dozer cozied up to Grady’s friend (in town from Seattle for the last weekend of the season) to work the angle of becoming friends with the celebrity to no avail, the night quietly came to an end.

That is, until bar time, when Sizemore and his buddy stuck around – conceivably to hang out with the improbably hot South Side wait staff. T-Bone’s sister-in-law’s sister then suddenly put up a fuss that Grady could stay, while nobody else could; so much so that she was carried out of the bar as Sizemore looked on.

T-Bone was mortified, enough so that he refused to yell, “Grady, see you at the South Side tonight for the Seahawks game” from the bleachers during Sunday’s finale, for fear of being recognized as being with “that girl” on Friday by Saint Grady.
Trust me, he was asked to get Sizemore’s attention. Again, to no avail.

It led to the bleacher discussion of what a life this 24-year-old must lead, barhopping, famous and ridiculously rich on the North Coast. Granted, Manhattan it’s not, but it’s not a bad racket. Anyone who’s been to the South Side knows that even if Sizemore ended up with the lower rung of employees, he did OK for himself on a Friday night.

As if his partying around town (not in the Jaret Wright sense, more in the “catch a ballgame and a beer” sense) wasn’t enough to move Sizemore into the upper echelon of favorite players (his numbers aren’t bad either), his intro music during the final 2 weeks was Warren G’s “Regulate”.

Personally, I’d like to think that he went to the Tribe brass saying that he wanted to come out to Dre’s “Nuthin’ But A G Thang”, but they were unable to find two consecutive lyrics that don’t refer to something that most season ticket holders took offense to. They settled, then, on Dre’s stepbrother and the impresario of the “G-Funk Era”.

Maybe that’s what Sizemore sees himself as – the innovator of his own G-Funk Era.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Middle Infield Options

The off-season has started with the Tribe picking up the options for Jake Westbrook and Casey Blake and declining Aaron Boone’s option. If you’re surprised by any of that…well, you haven’t been paying attention.

With all of the possible moves that the Indians can make, one seems to be a certainty – the Indians need to add either an everyday 2B or move Peralta to 2B and acquire an everyday SS. With that in mind, this is the list of available players (or possibly available players) that we’re working with:
Ronnie Belliard
Jose Castillo
Mark DeRosa
Ray Durham (FA)
Marcus Giles
Orlando Hudson
Adam Kennedy (FA)
Mark Loretta (FA)
Brian Roberts
Jose Vidro

Alex Gonzalez (FA)
Bill Hall
Julio Lugo (FA)
Jack Wilson
Michael Young

Obviously, the players without a (FA) after their names would need to be acquired via a trade, with the costs ranging from minimal (think Jose Castillo, who may not be that much of an upgrade over Inglett/Luna) to steep (think Michael Young, who would bolster this lineup and infield in innumerable ways).

If you’re looking for the defensive whizzes to help out Peralta and the groundball pitchers on the staff, Hudson and Roberts are the best at 2B, while Gonzalez, Wilson, and Young are all superb defenders.

While it would be nice to have the pick of the litter of these players, this off-season for the Indians for the Indians will not happen in a vacuum. The Red Sox, for instance, will be looking for both a 2B and a SS if they don’t re-sign Loretta and Gonzalez. Not to mention the Mets, the Cardinals, etc.

A lot of these possibilities are going to hinge on how Trevor Crowe performs in the field at 2B in the Arizona Fall League. He struggled in Akron in his limited time there and if he does so in Arizona, the Indians will look for a more long-term solution. If he proves to be proficient in the field, he could join the Tribe at some point in 2007, meaning that the Indians will look only for a Band-Aid until he’s ready.

Taking a cue from the Air Force, it’s time to Aim High – so here’s the wish list:
#1) Michael Young
It would likely take a package of 2 (maybe even 3 top prospects) to pry him out of Texas, where he’s reportedly not happy with Buck Showalter. He’s scheduled to make $3.5M in 2007, with a $4M club option for 2008, so he’s VERY affordable. His RH 200-hit seasons would absolutely nestle into that 2 hole between Grady and Pronk, but he’s not going to come cheap. The Tribe would have to give up one of the big 3 pitchers (Carmona, Miller, Lofgren), another prospect close to the Majors (Gutierrez for example) and a lower level pitcher to get him. If he was coming though, Peralta could be part of the package.

#2) Brian Roberts
Like Young, Roberts won’t come cheap. With Orioles’ fans fed up with Peter Angelos as an owner, you would think that they’d like their team built around guys like Roberts, not see him moved. But with Angelos exerting absolute power, anything is possible, even absolute madness. Roberts is a grinder-type of player that Wedgie seems to prefer, so he could be on the radar. He could, like Young, slot into the 2 hole and be the situational hitter and table-setter that would complement the top of the lineup very well.

#3) Orlando Hudson
If you’re looking for a defensive wizard to be the glue of the infield’s defense, the O-Dog is your boy. The fact that his OPS is .820 this year doesn’t hurt. The D-Backs would look for quite a bit in return (they’ve always loved Jake Westbrook), but they have a top prospect in Alberto Callaspo (isn't he the Spanish bullfighter that Elaine Benes once claimed to date?) in AAA in case they part with Hudson.

#4) Jack Wilson
Place Wilson at SS and suddenly, a very suspect infield defense becomes palatable. He’s a decent #2 hitter in that he’s a contact hitter who doesn’t strike out too much; but he hits for very little power (.675 career OPS). Also on the “negative” side of the ledger, he’s also due to make $5.25M in ’07, $6.5M in ’08, $7.25M in ’09, and an $8.4M club option for ’10, so he’s not cheap. As an aside, if you’re still wondering how the Pirates are perpetually awful - they give contracts like that to a slick-fielding SS to pacify their fans when signing deals like that are absolute killers on a small-market payroll. Like Hudson, he would dramatically improve the infield defense, which is a priority in the off-season. But can you accept his scatter-shot single approach at the plate to get his glove in the field?

#5) Adam Kennedy
Kennedy would appear much higher on this list if he WEREN’T the top FA 2B; yes, if he weren’t. With the Cardinals, Mets, and Red Sox (just to name a few) in need of a 2B this off-season, Kennedy is going to be that vastly overpaid middle infielder whose contract has too many years and too many zeroes on it. It will be the type of contract that a team like the Red Sox or Mets can absorb when he’s making $9M a year in 2011, when his currently underwhelming stats become putrid. He would fit the Tribe’s needs at 2B, but not at the price that some poor schmuck’s going to pay.

Honorable Mention:
#6) Ray Durham – Nice pop, but palatable only with a short-term deal
#7) Marcus Giles – Numbers have fallen significantly off (loss of 100 pts. in OPS) in 2006
#8) Mark Loretta – Great glove and pivot in the DP, but BoSox may throw $ his way
#9) Jose Vidro – OPS has dropped every year since 2002
#10) Ronnie Belliard – Only as a last resort for the Jelly

Before you say that Julio Lugo would solve the problem, in that he’s a solid glove and would be a nice addition to the top of the lineup, realize that there are reports that his agent is looking for a 4 year-$40M deal (yes, you read those numbers right).

The other line of thinking floating in the wind is to bring Omar back to play SS in his last contract year, allowing Peralta to play 2B, and to pave the way for AAA SS Asdrubal Cabrera. As long as Omar, and the Tribe Front Office, can put their egos aside (remember that Omar, in a shocking turn of events for a guy who has called out Jose Mesa and Albert Belle in print, took some shots at the organization on his way out of town), this move does make sense on paper.

It would allow Omar to retire an Indian and solidify the infield defense while bringing back his still-consistent bat to the lineup.

They can also make plans for the Omar statue between NCB Park (in case you missed it, National City Bank is close to acquiring naming rights to the Park, and I can’t decide if it will go by NCB or “The Nat”) and the Q.

Expect the Indians to be creative in their acquisition of a middle infielder (and with most of their acquisitions this off-season), so a simple list a FA isn’t going to paint the entire picture.

Whatever direction they decide to go in, there WILL be a new middle infielder added as they’ve gone on record to say that Inglett and Luna are viewed as utility IF for 2006.

That’s, at least, a good first step.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


With a tear in the eye, it's time for the last 2006 regular season Lazy Sunday:

Paul Hoynes throws out two names to watch this off-season, Seattle P Gil Meche (a FA) and Phillies OF Pat Burrell (a trade possibility due to make…wait for it…$13M in ’07 and $14M in ‘08).

Terry Pluto intimates that the Tribe is comfortable enough with Carmona’s last 3 starts to consider moving a SP in a trade. Pluto’s guess (and it’s a good guess) is the Byrdman.

Socker defends the Indians’ readiness as a ballclub for 2007 and thinks that Matt Miller will be a part of the rebuilt bullpen.

In the same vein as the LS, Baseball America has named their 2006 Overall Minor League All Star teams.
Indians’ farmhands making the list:
Kevin Kouzmanoff – Overall 1st Team DH
Brian Barton – Overall 2nd Team OF
Adam Miller – Overall 2nd Team SP
Chuck Lofgren – Overall 2nd Team SP
Shin-Soo Choo – AAA OF (with Tacoma)
Jeremy Sowers – AAA SP
Scott Lewis – High A SP

I think the most fascinating thing to do when looking at a Minor League All Star team like that is to examine the prospects, their positions, and their teams. Then, it’s easy to determine who’s blocked by solid Major Leaguers, making them (or the players blocking their path) trade candidates.

Some things that stand out:
The Angels have two 2B on the list (Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar), both in the upper levels. As has been mentioned before, if Scot Shields is a closer possibility, could one of those players be a possible solution at 2B? Add the fact that they have a SS on the list in Brandon Wood, while having Orlando Cabrera topside and it’s a situation worth watching.

Kevin Kouzmanoff is blocked by Travis Hafner, Andy Marte, and Ryan Garko. Oh wait, we knew that already. Add that to the fact that he has recurring back and hamstring problems and we’ve got a logjam on the North Coast. That is, unless, Kouzmanoff can play LF. Allegedly, 1B may still be in the mix for K2's future, but hasn’t Gonnie Garko earned it?

The White Sox have Josh Fields in AAA at 3B along with some great minor league arms, so don’t be surprised if they try to make a splash in the trade market (Carl Crawford) as Kenny Williams is unafraid to pull the trigger on a big trade, for better or worse. Podsednik is gonzo for next year, so Crawford could be a legitimate option for the South Siders.

The Diamondbacks are absolutely stacked with OF & 2B prospects, so if the Tribe is looking for a trade partner for some young talent, Phoenix may be the place to watch. The fact that Josh Byrnes has a relationship with Mark Shapiro won’t hurt.

Speaking of Arizona, with T-Crowe going to the Arizona Fall League to see if he can play 2B, expect Shapiro and the boys to spend some time watching the Peoria Javelinas.

Inexplicably, I’ll be heading down to the last game today (with serial commenter T-Bone) to bid a farewell to the 2006 Indians. Last year’s last game didn’t finish well - the enduring images were Sizemore going Ned Braden in Slap Shot, disrobing on his way back from 1B after making the last out, Ozzie giving the choke sign, and Wickman running around the ballpark giving out baseballs. In case you don’t remember here was the scene in the Tribe dugout:

Not as much to play for today, but we’ll try to solve the Indians’ problems…and make it to a TV for the beginning of the Browns' game.