Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lazy Sorgiunday

A day after a stirring win in FlyerLand (only a 25-point win over the nation’s #6 ranked team to add to a win in Louisville to the resume) and with quite a bit of time until the Colts and Titans determine the playoff future of the boys in Orange, it’s time for a Lazy Sorgiunday:

Lest anyone think that the national media has awarded the AL Central to the Tigers in light of the Cabrera/Willis deal, Yahoo Sports has emerged with a (very) early AL Power Rankings listing the Tribe just a tick below the Red Sox, and above Detroit, in the AL…which really means all of MLB. Obviously, the idea is to FINISH the year at the top of the Power Rankings, but starting near the top shows that the national pundits certainly didn’t see 2007 as a fluke.

Terry Pluto touches on the “What to do with Andy Marte and the BLC” topic, pointing out that both are out of options and Marte is struggling in Winter Ball. While it has been heard that the Indians have asked Marte to try to get away from pulling every ball and using the whole field in Winter Ball (which, to some, could be a questionable strategy as his confidence, without the tinkering, couldn’t be too high), his performance in the DWL is certainly disappointing. Pluto correctly points out that Marte is not an ideal bench player and would have to be given regular AB for a team in line to be in contention from Day 1.

As has been written here before, since it seems that the Indians are committed to Casey Blake being in the everyday lineup and Marte doesn’t figure to be “handed” the 3B job, why not use Blake’s versatility to allow Marte to play 3B against LHP? Seeing that a platoon exists in LF where the RH portion (Michaels) could be moved for another part, what’s wrong with Marte, Blake, and Dellucci platooning LF and 3B?
Against LHP, Blake in LF and Marte at 3B.
Against RHP, Dellucci in LF and Blake at 3B.

I’m actually of the belief that Marte SHOULD be “handed” the 3B job out of Winter Haven to truly see what he can do in an extended period of time (40 to 60 games) before making a decision to possibly pull the plug on him. Consider that Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia had a .544 OPS in April of 2007 through 55 AB in his first extended look at MLB while Marte had a .553 OPS in April of 2007 in 39 AB before his injury sent him to Buffalo for good. Since the Tribe is essentially set everywhere else in the lineup, with suitable back-ups in Shoppach and The Frisco Kid, let’s see what Marte can do with some regular time (or, at the very least, platooning with Blake and Dellucci) before giving up on a 24-year-old (2 years younger than Francisco, by the way) whose only downfall has been high expectations and a slow adjustment to MLB.

As for the BLC, I’m firmly of the belief that this will become one of those “this will sort itself out somehow” roster moves as Choo probably won’t be ready to come back from injury and rehab stints until June, by which time the fate of Dellucci could be sealed or the Tribe gets creative in roster management. Unfortunately for BLC, his history shows that he merely fits as a platoon OF unable to hit LHP and, unless Dellucci is moved in some sort of deal to make room (please, pretty please…), that role is already filled by a player working on a long-term deal.

Tribe Minor League Guru Tony Lastoria begins his Tribe Top 50+ prospect list. If you’re not familiar with Tony’s work and consider yourself knowledgeable about the organization, prepare to be blown away at the depth and breadth of his knowledge about the 2B for the Dominican Summer League team and how he figures into the organization’s plans.
Extremely interesting stuff with all of the legwork done and compiled very neatly for you.

Around the Central, news out of the Twin Cities has the Twinkies holding onto Johan and talking about a 4-year, $80M extension for him…for now.

During some Christmas shopping, I had a chance to stop by the Team Shop to catch a glimpse of the new alternate jerseys and was hoping to see the hats. While the hats had not yet arrived, I am, unfortunately the bearer of bad news.

Yes, Virginia, the new Indians alternates are yellow.
Not cream, not off-white, not beige, not vintage...but yellow. They may not look like it on TV or in pictures, but standing in front of the jerseys, there is no mistaking the color…yellow.

It answers, of course, the question as to why the hats don’t have a white outline around the block “C”. The answer is that if the “C” were outlined in white, it would represent the only white anywhere on the uniform. Since yellow as an outline on a hat looks about as good as a yellow jersey, thank goodness they didn’t outline the “C” in yellow.
Sigh. I suppose at least they won’t be wearing vests.
Someday they'll get this right.

Finally, I’ll be donning these threads today.

OK, maybe not, but seeing as how Sorgi is a Wisconsin grad and one of The DiaperTribe’s gifts in Milwaukee from the in-laws was a Bucky Badger “singing” doll that dances while playing “On Wisconsin”, I’m wearing the battery out on that thing tonight.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Overhead Projector, Part I

As the cold wind blows and the world slows down for a holiday week, it is finally time to delve into some statistics and crunch some numbers to keep our minds sharp for the day when the Tribe arrives in Winter Haven.

In the past decade or so, the baseball world has been turned on its collective ear regarding the use of statistics and the use of those statistics to predict the performance of individual players for an upcoming season based on similar players (in terms of age and statistics, just to name a few) throughout history to project what an upcoming season holds in store for a particular player. While this use of numbers and stats known as Sabermetrics was regularly eschewed for what “my own eyes tell me”, the movement is not only gaining steam but finding recognition as the Godfather of Sabermetrics Bill James draws a paycheck from Yawkey Way and the Indians’ hiring of Keith Woolner (who invented a complicated and useful measurable known as VORP) last season shows that the Tribe brass not only buys into the philosophy, but are willing to pay for it as well.

Now, for some background, lest you think I love crunching numbers, the only reason that I didn’t drop the Statistics class (required Math) during my freshman year in college was because the hot girl (who thought that I was the “bee’s knees”) that sat in front of me (and after 4 years of all-boys Catholic High School this cannot be discounted) was always looking for help in this confusing world of numbers. I, obviously, was more than happy to oblige, studying harder for the class than the ones I actually enjoyed (English, History, etc.) so I could maintain that level of confidence and said girl would think I was somewhat smart…meaning she HAD to like me (did I mention that the all-boys High School made me incapable of handling girls in class in college?).

Regardless, the romance never got off the ground and numbers became background noise again to me as I try to wrangle my way through all of these Sabermetric categories and projections. In fact, I’m more of the school of Todd Snider, who says that, “64 percent of all the world's statistics are made up right there on the spot - 82.4 percent of people believe 'em whether they're accurate statistics or not”.

But dive headfirst into this we will, because these numbers and projections are obviously being used at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario and because…well, Spring Training is a long way away. For the 2008 projections listed below, the resource used was the Bill James Handbook 2008 (BJH2K8) from the school of the aforementioned Bill James with statistics compiled for public consumption by Fangraphs.com (where, as other men can lose an afternoon in a Home Depot, I can lose an afternoon).

Most of the statistics are easily recognizable, except for the RC/27 stat that will be listed at the end of each line. RC/27 estimates the number of runs a player contributes to his team over the course of 27 outs or a 9 inning game.
A strange stat?
Sure, but easy to compare the likes of Grady Sizemore to Jason Michaels in one quick stat.

Since, frankly, this is a pretty time-consuming endeavor; I’m going to break it up into two parts for the purposes of space and my sanity.
First up, the position players -
Victor Martinez
.302 BA / .381 OBP / .482 SLG / .863 OPS, 21 HR, 102 RBI, 6.77 RC/27
The BJH2K8 sees a 2008 very similar to Victor’s rock-steady 2007 (.301 BA / .374 OBP / .505 SLG / .879 OPS, 25 HR, 114 RBI, 6.71 RC/27) with a marginal power decline, but a higher overall RC/27. Considering that The Stick was the solid fixture in the 2007 lineup that allowed the (relatively speaking) down years of Sizemore and Hafner, and this should be cause for jubilation if it comes to fruition. Essentially, James sees another business-as-usual year from the shockingly consistent Tribe backstop.

Kelly Shoppach
.256 BA / .318 OBP / .460 SLG / .778 OPS, 8 HR, 30 RBI, 4.96 RC/27
Looks like much of the same for Shoppach with a low OBP (lots of Ks and few BB) and power when contact is made. Shoppach’s 2007 line reads as .261 BA / .310 OBP / .472 SLG / .782 OPS, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 5.15 RC/27 – so his 2008 projection almost looks like a carbon copy. Those hoping for a breakout year for Shoppach which would increase his trade value or allow the Indians more flexibility to move Victor around at 1B should (at least according to these projections) take Shoppach for what he is – a good defensive catcher with poor plate discipline and power…or an ideal backup C.

Ryan Garko
.277 BA / .348 OBP / .467 SLG / .816 OPS, 22 HR, 81 RBI, 5.59 RC/27
A bit of a downtick for Garko-my-God-did-you-see-how-far-he-hit-that, with a slight drop in OBP (.359 in 2007 to a projected .348), SLG (.483 in 2007 to a projected .469), and RC/27 (6.26 in 2007 to a projected 5.59). Interestingly, the only number that sees a substantial increase is his RBI (61 in 2007 to a projected 81), which may simply be a by-product of what would be seen as more run-producing opportunities within the Tribe lineup. Outside of those small reductions and variations, the folks at Bill James seem to think that the Garko that established himself as a viable (if not tremendous) 1B in 2007 is the Garko that will appear in 2008. It’s hard to argue with as Garko seems to be one of those “is what he is” players, not projecting out too highly or going through extended struggles that would compromise his consistency.

Asdrubal Cabrera
.283 BA / .345 OBP / .401 SLG / .745 OPS, 6 HR, 42 RBI, 4.86 RC/27
Similar to Garko, the projections for AstroCab would indicate that BJH thinks that the Cabrera that thrived in the latter portion of 2007 is what will be showing up at AL ballparks next summer as his RC/27 is nearly identical to that of the Asdrubal v.2007 (4.88 in 2007 to a projected 4.86). Interestingly, the projections cover only 110 games, which explain why the RBI totals look a little on the low side. Another stat that jumps out is the 15 projected SB, as (because Asdrubal didn’t steal any bases with the parent club) it is easy to forget that he swiped a combined 25 bases in Akron and Buffalo last year before getting called up to the Tribe. For a 21-year-old player, still adapting to MLB (though doing so very quickly), the projections are wildly positive as his progression as a player and his readiness to contribute consistent AB to the Indians are justified by the numbers.

Josh Barfield
.273 BA / .315 OBP / .385 SLG / .701 OPS, 5 HR, 33 RBI, 4.21 RC/27
It couldn’t all be positive, could it? While Barfield’s projections are…shall we say, underwhelming, it actually is encouraging as it represents a rebound (of sorts) from his nightmarish 2007 season. The numbers actually slot pretty evenly in somewhere between his 2006 season with the Padres and last year. Apparently, BJH thinks that the real Josh Barfield falls somewhere in the middle of those two seasons; which, in a way, is positive as at least it indicates that the player that we saw man 2B in an Indians’ uniform last year was not as good as it gets for Barfield. That being said, his OBP is still embarrassingly low and the 2008 projection of 15 BB only reminds us that Barfield has all of 44 BB in his 1,022 plate appearances in MLB. Oof.

Jhonny Peralta
.276 BA / .348 OBP / .445 SLG / .793 OPS, 20 HR, 79 RBI, 5.51 RC/27
Back on the positive side of the ledger, BJH sees a nice improvement for Mr. Lasik. All of his peripherals are up as Jhonny moves closer to the 2005 form (though not quite in the same stratosphere) that quickened pulses around town. After 2007 and this projection, it would seem that Peralta projects to a consistent .280 hitter with an OPS around .800, about 20 HR and 80 RBI. In this time when numbers are (allegedly) no longer inflated, that’s a pretty nice RH stick in the bottom ½ of the order.

Casey Blake
.258 BA / .331 OBP / .429 SLG / .760 OPS, 16 HR, 59 RBI, 4.71 RC/27
The Beard is (not surprisingly) not one of the favorites of the number-crunchers, and these projections are a pretty good indication why. While the numbers are not dreadful, they are simply average and are thought by most to be about what a very average MLB player can do. A .260 BA, 15 HR, and 60 RBI over the course of a full season almost fits the textbook of an “average” player and points to the reason that Blake evokes such a big chasm between his critics and his supporters. His supporters see a solid, if unspectacular, player whose versatility and ability to fill in where needed make him a valuable asset. My buddy C-Badd is so enamored with Blake that he believes that he can present a convincing argument that Blake is “the best ATHLETE to ever don a Tribe uni” (yes, you read that right) because of his jack-of-all-trades ability. On the other side, the naysayers will point out that Caasey Blaake (that’s AAAA) is nothing more than a glorified AAA player who has been given full MLB seasons to post his mediocre numbers. The troubling trend that seems to have found some footing is that Blake is penciled in to play every day (perhaps at the expense of higher-ceiling youngsters) and, if his 2007 2nd half is any indication of what 2008 holds for the 34-year-old, the downward spiral has begun (.835 OPS in 2006, .777 OPS in 2007, projected .760 OPS in 2008). Recognizing the drop-off before Blake already has one foot off the cliff will be vital to the continued development of the Tribe as failing to do so will take AB away from young players who project as more than a simple “solid” MLB player.

David Dellucci
.250 BA / .344 OBP / .425 SLG / .769 OPS, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 4.94 RC/27
If one can honestly call a .769 OPS projection a prediction of a “bounce back” year, here it is. While BJH2K8 certainly is no fan of The Looch, at least it sees an improvement from his 2007 to the tune of 90 points higher in his OPS. The HR and RBI numbers look very low, mainly because they’re based off of 43 games (here’s hoping that they know something we don’t), so as long as you figure he’ll play twice as many as part of a platoon (allegedly) and 12 HR and 44 RBI from ½ of an OF isn’t too bad. Is it worth the too-long contract given his prior to last year? Certainly not, but if Dellucci can rebound somewhat and start hitting RHP again, the Indians will (at the very least) have a LH hitter to break up their RH-heavy bottom of the lineup.

Jason Michaels
.278 BA / .353 OBP / .415 SLG / .768 OPS, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 5.02 RC/27
The “Tour of Mediocrity” continues as Michaels numbers look alarmingly like the ones that we’ve seen for two years now as it seems that…wait for it…Jason Michaels is a decent platoon OF and probably best suited as a 4th OF. Actually, the projected numbers would constitute Michaels’ best year in a Cleveland uniform while it is still far from Michaels’ 2005 season that somehow convinced the Indians that he was ready for a full-time gig in the AL. As long as he is simply being counted on to constitute ½ of the Artist Now Commonly Known as Dellichaels, Michaels will do fine to face LHP and serve as a defensive replacement. However, seeing as how he may be the more expensive version of a redundancy on the Indians’ roster (The Ben Francisco Treat being the cheaper version), it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Michaels return to the NL via a trade where he may be more suited as a RH OF off the bench.

Grady Sizemore
.285 BA / .384 OBP / .504 SLG / .888 OPS, 26 HR, 80 RBI, 6.73 RC/27
Those expecting that big “breakout” year from SuperSizemore one of these years will again be disappointed if the BJH projections hold true. Disappointed, that is, until you remember that a 25-year-old is projected to post a .888 OPS with 25 HR-25-SB ability is slated to play Gold Glove CF for the Tribe. With a lower projected OBP (.390 in 2007), a higher projected SLG (.462 in 2007), it would seem that BJH thinks that Sizemore will increase his XBH (though not quite to his fabulous 2006 season of 92 XBH) while slightly lowering his propensity for K (projected 23.3% K rate in 2008 vs. 24.7% K rate in 2007). For Sizemore, the projection looks very much like his 2006 campaign, with a little more power in play…for a top-of-the-order, that’s about all you can ask for.

Franklin Gutierrez
.275 BA / .334 OBP / .445 SLG / .779 OPS, 13 HR, 45 RBI, 5.16 RC/27
Those looking for an Alex Rios-type year from Frank the Tank may just need just a little patience…patience. But there are certainly positives in the projections, most importantly a higher OBP (projected .334 vs. a .318 OBP in 2007), a lower K rate, and a higher BB rate. For a young player still finding his way, those are extremely positive things (if they come to pass) and while his power numbers would appear to trend slightly down (.445 projected SLG vs. .472 SLG in 2007), the 13 projected HR and 45 projected RBI are only the product of a projected 115 games. Factoring those numbers over 162 games, those numbers would fall closer to a 18 HR, 65 RBI season for a 25-year-old player (in February) with all of 444 plate appearances heading into the 2008 season.

Travis Hafner
.290 BA / .405 OBP / .543 SLG / .948 OPS, 33 HR, 115 RBI, 7.85 RC/27
According to BJH2K8 (at least), I'd like to be the first to welcome Pronk back into the fold. I don’t know who that imposter was in the #48 jersey last year or who this “Hafner” guy was, but a projected .948 OPS is a full .101 higher than 2007 with 9 more HR and 15 RBI. While it doesn’t forecast a return to the 2004 (.993 OPS), 2005 (1.003 OPS), or 2006 (1.097 OPS), at least it would represent a move back in the right direction. Before getting too excited, it is important to remember (obviously) that these are merely projections, but the thought of seeing the “real” Pronk stride menacingly to the plate makes me wish it wasn’t December.

Unfortunately, some of the younger players did not have projections done by BJH2K8 – Andy Marte, Ben Francisco, Shin-Soo Choo – which are posted on Fangraphs, which is too bad as it would be interesting to see how Marte would compare against Blake, The Frisco Kid against Michaels, and the BLC against Dellucci. But, we’ll play the hand dealt to us and wait for Baseball Prospectus’ 2008 edition for the complete listing.

Without knowing those, though, the results are still intriguing for the Tribe. Victor, Grady, and Peralta are thought to have comparable years to 2007 with Hafner rebounding nicely back into form. Garko, Asdrubal, and Gutz look to build on their first taste of success by establishing some consistency and Blake, Dellucci, and Michaels form the “meh” brigade. Not too far off what many were thinking as 2007 ended, but interesting nonetheless to see it validated (somewhat) by people who have taken the time to crunch the numbers and make projections for 2008.

Up next – the Pitchers.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Lazy Sunday

Coming to you live from the satellite office in Milwaukee (where it seems that Miller Lite flows from the faucets)…albeit late, on a day when it was confirmed that there will be no NFL playoff berth under any trees on the North Coast, it is time for Lazy Sunday:

Very little of substance in the local papers outside of Terry Pluto rehashing what was written here last week about Cliff Lee being a desirable commodity on the trade market with the deals that the likes of Carlos Silva and Dontrelle Willis (without having thrown a pitch in the AL and struggling for two seasons in the NL) just inked.

Outside of Terry, some tremendous stuff from ESPN’s Jayson Stark in terms of a few items that affect the Indians, Detroit’s window of opportunity, and how baseball (flush with cash) will see the payrolls affected by unprecedented revenue. He starts out with how the Tigers’ off-season moves affect the Indians (with some Shapiro quotes thrown in for good measure):

At least the Cleveland Indians are already a playoff team. You might even recall they were one win away from ousting the Red Sox from the postseason just a couple of months ago. But they also play in the same division as those upwardly mobile Tigers. So does this team feel pressured to counter every big move with one of its own?
"Absolutely not," Indians GM Mark Shapiro said. "It would be a lie to say it doesn't affect you emotionally. But you've got to distance yourself from that as quickly as you can. If you try to build your club to beat one team, or measure yourself against one team, you make emotional decisions, and they usually end up being mistakes."
The Indians' payroll barely topped $60 million in 2007. The Tigers' payroll will be double that in 2008. The Yankees' payroll might quadruple that. So the Indians know exactly what they're up against. But they also understand they have to operate in their universe, not anyone else's.
"We need to focus on making our team as good as it can possibly be," Shapiro said. "We ask ourselves: 'How can we find ways to score more runs or prevent more?' The only question we ask is: 'What decisions can we make to improve our run differential?,' not 'Will it be enough to beat one team or counter the moves they made?'"
The only good news for the Indians is, they don't have to play in the AL East. So at least they don't have to play nearly 25 percent of their schedule just against the Red Sox and Yankees. Not that the Tigers are exactly the Joliet Jackhammers. But at least the Indians can finish behind the Tigers and still make the playoffs.


Speaking of the Tigers, Stark had this to say about the 2008 season in Motown (again, with an AL Executive’s thoughts thrown in to further the legitimacy of the assertion):

True, the Tigers will run a lineup out there in which seven of the nine everyday players have made at least one All-Star team since 2005. But they also have a roster full of players with injury histories. So after dealing away seven of their best prospects this winter, they need to stay healthy, because they're short of reinforcements they can call up. "They've pretty much decimated their depth," one AL executive said. "So this is their window."

Finally, Stark addresses the trend of “skyrocketing” payrolls and whether they truly are leaping over new hurdles or if they are simply a by-product of the game being flush with cash:

As recently as 2003, a $120 million payroll was unheard of, for any team but the Yankees. This year, the buzz is that at least seven teams -- and possibly as many as nine -- could top $120 million. The Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers, Mets, Cubs and Tigers are all projecting payrolls around that figure or higher. And the Mariners and White Sox could wind up in that zone with the right free-agent signing (or two).

So what are the luxury-tax ramifications of that? Zilch. The threshold for 2008 will inflate to $155 million (and probably affect only the Yankees and Red Sox). From there, the threshold zooms to $162M, $170M and $178M the following three years.

"A 100 million payroll used to be a huge payroll," one GM said. "But there's so much money in the game, within two years, that's going to be the average payroll."


How does news like that impact the negotiations with C.C. and how have the Indians projected out their revenue to possibly offer the Hefty Lefty a king’s ransom without compromising their long-stated desire to avoid unnecessarily long contracts (6th or 7th year guaranteed) for starting pitchers?
It shall be interesting to see going forward as Spring Training and Opening Day approach.

I should be able to pound out a long-overdue piece on 2008 projections for the Tribe, though not likely prior to Jesus’ birthday.
Until then, Merry Christmas to all…and to all a good night.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Taking a Walk Down Memory Lane

In light of little to nothing happening on the Reservation (probably for quite a while), it is finally time to delve into the 1st Annual Year In Review here at The DiaTribe, where the comments (good and bad) will come back to us in blazing Technicolor and we will all be exposed for what we wrote as the season progressed and how those comments look now in retrospect.

While I certainly won’t limit the content here to the past and will continue to contribute random thoughts on the Tribe, I’ll try to pound out one of these a week, so it should boil down to about 7 installments – which should get us to just around the beginning of February, when the Gladiators start practice.
Just kidding…it should get us to right around when the equipment trucks are getting gassed up and filled for the final trip to Winter Haven.

I figured it would be fun to examine the actual results on the field and the hits and the misses that were written here as well as some of the more entertaining comments (right and wrong in retrospect) by the best posters in the business.

And with that obligatory introduction out of the way, we’re off…
2007 Year in Review – April
What Happened
The Tribe endured a snow storm, a trip to Milwaukee, and A-Rod having “the greatest month of anyone in the history of anyone” all over their new closer's face to finish April 15-8, 1 ½ games up on the Tigers.

The offense was paced by Pronk (still donning the #48 before that Hafner chap took his place at some point in the season) as he finished April with 5 HR, 16 RBI, and a 1.021 OPS in 22 games. Sizemore (.926 OPS), Martinez (17 RBI), and Peralta (4 HR, 14 RBI) started strong, serving as signs of good things to come while the Aprils of Dellichaels (.244 BA, 9 combined RBI) and Josh Barfield (.425 OPS) showed that sometimes you can judge a book by the first chapter.

On the pitching side, the starters paced the winning with C.C. (3-0, 3.18 ERA, 1.32 WHIP), the Byrdman (2-1, 3.50 ERA, 1.44 WHIP) and Fausto (2-1, 3.76 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) showing that the rotation would prove to be the strength of the team despite the struggles of Sowers (who had more BB than K) and Westbrook (who, we would later learn, was pitching with an oblique strain). Unbelievably, the best relievers were Jason Dangerously and F-Cab while JoeBo indoctrinated us to the tightrope that he walked throughout the season.

Now for the reactions of yours truly and the serial posters in real time.
Remember the quotes are real and time-stamped to verify their authenticity:
According to Your Humble Host – Nostradamus
The obvious strength of the 2007 Tribe is clearly the starting pitching, particularly the quality at the top end of the rotation and the depth of the quality into the 7th and 8th starters (in Buffalo). – 4/1/07

Carmona will begin the season in the rotation and it’s feasible that, when Lee returns, he stays there if he finds early success. He clearly has the repertoire to succeed in MLB; the question of his mental readiness is what will determine if he logs some miles between Cleveland and Buffalo this year or stays on the parent club for good. – 4/1/07

Unless Betancourt or Hernandez can step up immediately, the Indians may be running open auditions for the set-up role, with the hopes that Cabrera or Davis can harness their stuff to translate into some 8th inning success. – 4/1/07

Peralta’s Spring performance has provided hope that he is closer to his 2005 form and has put his nightmarish 2006 in the rearview mirror. If Peralta is, in fact, ready to contribute anything close to his 2005 stat line, it will go a long way towards the Indians establishing themselves as an offensive juggernaut. – 4/1/07

So, the Indians, with their strong rotation and productive lineup have as much of a chance to represent the AL in the Fall Classic as any other club. – 4/1/07

I know that Slider and John Adams made the trip, not as sure about Jason Davis or Fernando Cabrera. Seeing as how The Atomic Wedgie is still only pitching Hernandez (yikes), Fultz, Betancourt, and The Big Borowski – there’s an APB out for JD and Cabrera. – 4/10/07

I know it’s only 2/3 of an inning, but it’s the same thing with Davis – inconsistency, inability to prevent runners already on base from scoring, and complete frustration. At a certain point with Davis, all of the talk about “electric stuff” and his potential to become Joe Nathan has to turn into the reality that he’s simply an ineffective reliever taking a roster spot away from a potentially useful arm in the bullpen. Allowing him to “knock the rust off” or try to harness his stuff while the Indians are in a position to contend, at any point in the season, is simple irresponsibility. Wedge’s current favorite ineffective reliever, Hernandez, left today’s game with an unspecified “right leg injury”, giving hope to the thought that another reliever can take his spot in Wedgie’s bullpen rotation. Maybe Hernandez will hit the DL and can go on a rehab assignment to figure out what’s wrong with him. Or…maybe he’s 42 and the tank’s simply empty. – 4/12/07

The contracts given this past off-season became irresponsible as the guaranteed years mounted up. Jeff Suppan (4 years…not bad), Ted Lilly (4 years…not bad), Gil Meche (5 years…ugh), and Barry Zito (7 years…good God) all received contracts longer than Westbrook’s extension. The wisdom in limiting the number of guaranteed years is tied to the idea that pitchers, and the inherent risks of their profession, can have SO many things go wrong going forward that the risk of a long-term contract can be minimized by limiting the guaranteed years. By limiting the extension to 3 years, the Indians don’t extend themselves out too far into the future, but lock up an innings-eater that’s averaged nearly 15 wins, with a 1.32 WHIP over the last 3 years. Comparable production for the next 4 years (2007 under his current contract, then the 3-year extension) is certainly worth the $11M per that the Indians will be paying. – 4/14/07

Will the contingent that said that the Dolan ownership would NEVER EVER sign a player to an extension or pay a player more than $10M a year please issue their mea culpas, in writing, to the corner of Carnegie and Ontario? The truth is that the payroll flexibility that the Indians have achieved allowed them to commit this money to Westbrook. – 4/14/07

Carmona’s mastery of the Twins as he outpitched Johan Santana (ever think you’d see those words put together?) was all the more impressive because the sinker that he throws generally induces ground balls. Since the Twins have perfected the art of pounding the ball off of the Metrodome turf, it was entirely feasible that they would dink-and-dunk their way around the bases, beating out infield hits all night.
But the Twins couldn’t hit Carmona solidly and swung early and often, something they don’t generally do, limiting his pitch count and accentuating his effectiveness as he moved quickly through a Twins’ lineup obviously built for the old “hammer the ball into the turf and run like hell” strategy (Jason Tyner was leading off).
Carmona has now put together two consecutive outstanding starts, against the Yankees and the Twins no less, and would be 2-0 if not for the A-Rod massacre. – 4/25/07

They’ve won every series (that I can remember, or at least care to remember – they didn’t play in New York yet, right) this year and the numbers that the team has put up include nothing that jumps out as entirely successful. No aspect of the team has carried the others, as the team has figured out a way to win convincingly, win ugly, and win with smoke and mirrors. For 2 years, the whole town has complained that the team has been unable to win close games, overcome mistakes to win a game, and have been unable to put lesser teams away as they should. So far this year, the Indians have done just that. They sit at 12-7 with no obvious reason for the .632 winning percentage. If it’s difficult to pinpoint the reason for success and it’s easy to argue that each aspect of the team could improve (maybe not the bullpen), this team may be poised for that breakout season. That breakout season when everything falls into place, that the close games end in victory, and the team is able to get on a roll that lasts all season. – 4/26/07
Remember that the formula for success, broken down simply works like this:
Win 2 out of every 3 at home (win every series) to go 54-27
Play .500 ball on the road to go 40-41
Combine those records and you end up at 94-68
Sounds easy, right? Well, obviously it’s not or every team would follow the simple roadmap for making the playoffs. – 4/29/07

Missing the Mark
Jake Westbrook, Jeremy Sowers, and Cliff Lee form a solid middle of the rotation led by Westbrook, who has earned his reputation as an innings-eater who always keeps the Tribe in games, regardless of the amount of hits he gives up. Sowers established himself as a thinking man’s lefty, in the vein of Jaime Moyer and Tom Glavine – a pitcher who doesn’t blow away anybody, but always gets out of tough innings and through games despite not possessing overpowering stuff. Lee, when he returns from an oblique strain, needs to re-establish his spot in the rotation as a solid LHP, capable of getting past the 5th inning while reducing the amount of HR allowed. If Lee is able to replicate the modicum of success that he had in 2005 and 2006, it will go a long way for the Indians to have 4 solid-to-excellent starters, a boast few teams can make. – 4/1/07

If Garko proves to be a huge detriment to team defense in the field, Blake may be handed the full-time 1B job and one of the young RH OF (Ben Francisco or Franklin Gutierrez) will take his spot in the platoon. – 4/1/07

Barfield’s defensive prowess, speed, and youth should endear him quickly to Indians’ fans that still miss Roberto Alomar as he establishes himself as another core player for 2007 and beyond. – 4/1/07

Marte is likely to show flashes of an impact bat with power and tape-measure shots, but he needs to lay off low-and-away breaking pitches and improve his OBP and pitch selection to develop as a legitimate RH power bat that many thought he would become as recently as this time last year. – 4/1/07

Mike Rouse figures to be strictly a defensive replacement in the infield, capable of giving the regular IF a break in late innings or on back-to-backs. – 4/1/07

ALDS – Cleveland over Oakland, Boston over Chicago
NLDS – Philadelphia over Milwaukee, New York over Los Angeles
ALCS – Cleveland over Boston
NLCS – New York over Philadelphia
World Series – Cleveland over New York
If it all breaks like that, sometime in late October or early November, Indians fans will rejoice worldwide and all will be right with the world. – 4/1/07

How does that 2nd spot in the lineup look so far? Nixon and Michaels have combined to go 8 for 13, 5 R, 2 RBI, 4 2B, 1 HR, and 15 TB in the first 3 games, not to mention the one ridiculous catch that nearly stopped my heart for good measure. With Sizemore and the early success of the 2 hole, Hafner and Martinez look primed for some serious run-producing opportunities. – 4/5/07

Andy Marte has established that, if he’s thrown a ball up in the strike zone, he has a nice doubles stroke to LF. Down and away – that’s another story. But, watching Barfield run around the bases as Marte poked those doubles, for some reason, excites me more than it probably should. – 4/10/07

With Westbrook signed, it’s unlikely that the Indians pick up Byrd’s 2008 option worth $8M and can use that money for other portions of the roster. Taking that into account, the 2008 rotation looks like this:
Sabathia
Miller
Sowers
Westbrook
Lee
If the Indians are able to extend C.C., that rotation stays intact until 2010.
Think about that for a moment…that’s 3 full seasons with that stacked rotation. – 4/14/07

The Indians blew a prime opportunity to announce their arrival as AL heavyweights, instead looking like overmatched, overwhelmed featherweights. Never has there been a series in recent memory that was so utterly disappointing, so unhealthy for the lining of my stomach, and so heartbreaking as the last three days have been. Realizing that this is the 4th series of the season and the idea of a baseball season is never to get too high or too low (it’s a marathon, kids, not a sprint), the fact that the incapability of this team to put together a complete game that haunted them all of last season persists is positively horrifying. – 4/19/07

4 of the 9 regulars are hitting under .225 (Peralta, Blake, Marte, and Barfield), the team is hitting .212 with RISP, and the Indians are tied for the lead in the AL in errors (despite the fact they missed the ENTIRE Seattle series and have played 4 fewer games). And, miraculously, they're still 8-7. Maybe it's by luck, maybe it's a sign that they can win when not clicking on all cylinders.
Whatever it is, this team needs to pull themselves out of whatever extended Spring Training they think they're still in, before they run into a team (like the Yankees) that will simply exploit their flaws and their mistakes. Otherwise, this team is going to sink quickly to the bottom of the standings and dig themselves a hole too deep to get out of once (or if) they can correct these problems and play complete, error-free, fundamentally sound games. – 4/23/07

So, the question remains – when Lee returns from the DL, does Fausto stay in the rotation in lieu of another starter, does he transition to the bullpen, or does he return to Buffalo to stay on his 5-day pitching schedule and remain the “6th Starter” in case of another injury.
As well as he has pitched, the answer is fairly obvious – he will return to the Bison rotation and wait for his next chance. In Spring Training, a line of thinking developed that if Carmona thrived in the rotation while Byrd’s 2007 start mirrored his 2006 start (which is to say, he started 2007 awfully), Carmona would take Byrd’s spot in the rotation and Byrd would move to the bullpen to become the highest paid reliever in Tribe history. When Matt Miller went down and his dominance of RH batters was lost, the scenario seemed more likely as Byrd’s 2006 numbers vs. RH (.695 OPS) far outpaced that of his work against LH (.972 OPS). – 4/25/07

At this point, it makes more sense for the Indians to send Fausto to the Buffalo rotation to keep his arm stretched out and on a regular routine for when (not if) he’s needed at some point later this season to step into the rotation. Having him as the 6th starter gives the Indians unheard-of insurance in their rotation and depth that would be the envy of most of MLB. – 4/25/07

Frivolities
Opening Day tomorrow, which some feel should be a citywide holiday, and with some merit. The folks down at the Jake for the Opener break down to a couple of categories:
The St. Patrick’s Day Crowd
These are the people looking for a reason to party and drink on a weekday afternoon, regardless of the occasion. The same group was down on West 6th a few weeks ago, chugging keg beer and doing Jagerbombs before noon to celebrate St. Paddy’s, regardless of their ethnicity. These people will arrive late and leave early, but they’ll cheer on their team while they’re there…their blood alcohol level will help them in that regard.
The One-Timers
These folks go to one game a year, the Home Opener, and can’t figure out who the 3B is or where Paul Byrd came from. They’ll complain that the Dolans are cheap and they won’t be able to figure out why Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome aren’t wearing the Wahoo. These “fans” will call themselves huge fans when the team starts winning as they fill up the bandwagon on their own.
The Diehards

No, not the people who get a free battery if they were alive when the Indians actually won a World Series; these are the people who brave the weather to sit and cheer for their team in good times and bad. They wear their headphones to listen to Hammy and keep their ears warm on an April afternoon. They come in their Indians’ hats, with their Indians’ jackets, covered by an Indians’ blanket, clutching their new media guides, and staying until the last out. They’ll visit Heritage Park and they’ll cheer for Ben Broussard or Richie Sexson (on the Mariners) for the “memories” of their good times as Indians. – 4/5/07

The debacle of the Home Opener – 4/7/07

T-Bone’s fantastic Slide Show of the Home Opener – 4/9/07

I know, I know…the Indians are playing home games in Milwaukee…just like the team in Major League did for the 1989 film…on the same day the collector’s edition of the DVD was released…canceling the “Wild Thing Vaughn Glasses Giveaway” originally scheduled for the Tuesday game at the Jake. Look, I’ve seen the house that served as the outside of Roger Dorn’s house in the movie (it’s on Lake Drive in Whitefish Bay), so I’m aware of the similarities. The irony is not lost on me, nor is the ridiculous fact that the Indians are playing “home” games in Miller Park against the Angels. The DiaBride, in fact, thinks it’s all been planned by Paramount to sell more DVD’s. – 4/10/07

My unhealthy obsession with these all Blue Helmets with the Home Whites from the trip to Milwaukee – 4/10/17

It’s also very possible that Paul Byrd has been abducted in a manner reminiscent of The Last Starfighter and have replaced him with a Beta Unit android who is infinitely more effective than the actual Paul Byrd. I’m baffled by the effectiveness of the being wearing #36 thus far, so I’m just throwing it out there. I’m just saying…it’s possible. – 4/15/07

The first of many Anti-Yankee rants – 4/17/07

Some hack’s 1st foray into mainstream media – 4/24/07

Best of the Best
Wow the Tribe to win it all? I suppose Sizemore would be MVP as well!?!?!? I sure hope you're right man. – 4/1/07 – The Natural Mevs

Undefeated season, Grady is on pace for 162 HRs, and I've chalked up the Big Borowski for 81 saves. – 4/2/07 – Cy Slapnicka

i'm a few hours from heading down to the opener in what will most likely be the last season as jacobs field. just checked weather.com and see that it's 25 degrees outside right now. awesome. WTAM is down there broadcasting live and bob frantz just said it's snowing down there. sweet. – 4/5/07 – T-Bone

One of the funnniest things I've seen in recent memory was a Mil-you-walk-aya fan drinking a beer and holding a huge sign that said "Go Whoever." Classic. – 4/10/07 – Rockdawg

And this seems to be the end of the line for Davis. He might make a good ROOGY or long-man for a team that's not, you know, trying to WIN THE DIVISION. There is no baseball reason that this bullpen shouldn't be Cabrera, Mastny, Betancourt, Lara, Fultz, Borowski, and Eddie Moo or whoever's hot in Buffalo, right now. – 4/12/07 – Tyler

Second, Hernandez hasn't "done nothing but fail." You're working with a small sample size, but if that't the context, I will too. He was successful, IMO, in his first two appearances. Does that mean he's a lockdown 8th inning man? Of course not. But dismissing him (and Davis) based largely on 6 games and/or 2/3 of an inning seems incredibly, tendentiously premature. – 4/12/07 – Jeff

ah-hem fellas...um i think the yankees blog is down the hall. its right next to the art modell, john elway, and MJ boards.
unfortunately they are smashing the indians tonight, but i'm not about to talk about about how this team is hard to hate. i find it quite easy, with a juicehead at dh, a pretty boy at CF, SS, and 3B, two guys that talk about their man-love or lack thereof in the media, a guy that stole his old team's world series ball, and they may just employ clemens by season's end. in fact, the only person i do respect is rivera b/c he just goes out and does his job.
add on the media coverage and the fact that the espn broadcast just talked about how happy gay-rod was that he and jeter spent the summer on a mountain in wyoming for 15 minutes, i have no problems hating them. in fact, if i ran the scoreboard at an MLB park...i would wait until they high fived or embraced or just stood next to each other and i'd play this – 4/17/07 - Cy Slapnicka

I also enjoy walking up to everyone wearing a Yankee jersey in Cleveland or Cinci when they come to town, shaking their hand, and politely saying, "Wow! That's amazing. How long did it take you to drive from NYC? Or did you fly? That's amazing. It must be nice to see new ballparks all over the country. What do you think of Cleveland/Cinci?"
Then they say, "No, I'm from here." I pause for like 5 seconds in silence and then scream: "This guy hates baseball! Hey! Over here! This guy is not a real fan..."
Seriously. Ask my friends. That's what I do. – 4/17/07 – Millkey

While at the Flying Monkey in Tremont I took a random poll of six individuals bellied up to the bar. The question was who is the second basemen for the Tribe. The responses were as follows: three Jelly Bellies, one I don't know, one I don't care, and one Jessie Barfield (yes Jessie)... so I just walked away. – 4/19/07 – arodmvp

has anyone noticed that the espn crews are practically cheering for the yankees? its bad enough that their entire 3 game series was nationally televised. i think espn is one month away from wearing pinstripes on the air.
its amazing to me that fox sports has not stepped up and filled the void left by the self proclaimed worldwide leader and provided some good content. its sad when its more enjoyable to hear the espn desporte broadcast than the english version. i can honestly say, i allow my wife to change it to HGTV without protest. sportscenter's awfullness, coupled with baseball tonight filling the void left by quality broadcasters with phone "interviews" with players, makes it trying to watch.
HR could be on Dateline, cornered by Chris Hansen and he'd still be a more entertaining TV personality than Kruk and Phillips. – 4/23/07 – Cy Slapnicka

My hope is that Barfield will figure out how to hit and become more prominent in the offense. It would be nice if Marte could at least field the ball too. Anything to get the Mighty Casey out of the regular lineup. – 4/26/07 – Jason

sucks to be carmona right now, I just hope they keep starting him in Buffalo; its a nice problem to have i guess. – 4/29/07 – Baltimoran

Browns dominated draft day. Doesn't matter if they flame or win a Super Bowl. The moves were top notch by Savage. – 4/29/07 – rodells

How about this from the game story for tonight's (tuesday's) game: Although nothing has been finalized, Indians union rep Casey Blake confirmed that one of the four home games postponed by snow against Seattle last month will be made up when Cleveland visits Safeco Field from Sept. 25-27. ... – 4/29/07 - Tim

A fun ride it was, this 2007 season...and we're still going up the first hill on the roller coaster.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lazy Snowy Sunday

After the DiaperTribe’s 1st birthday party, multiple shoveling excursions in this Winter Wonderland, and watching YOUR Cleveland Browns win a game that puts them squarely in the drivers’ seat for a playoff berth, it’s finally time to make the rounds on a Lazy Sunday.

The ever-steady Terry Pluto checks in with thoughts on Josh Barfield, Jamey Carroll, and Dan Haren. Since we’ve covered most of the other topics in the past week or so, the most notable passage going forward remains the one regarding the effect of FA signings on the trade market:
The Indians say that they continue to work very hard on deals. They believe more trades will happen as free agents continue to sign -- meaning other teams have holes to fill. They don't advertise it, but the Tribe knows it must get better in some areas if it plans to repeat in the Central Division.

In particular, Pluto is referring to the FA market being set for starting pitchers by a signing that would assign values for the remaining FA pitchers and those who may be available via trade. Well, as of yesterday, consider the market set as Hiroki Kuroda’s plane from Japan landed in LAX en route to Chavez Ravine which immediately allows the lesser FA pitchers to slot in with the remainder of the starters as well as establishing a value for starting pitchers still under contract, but perhaps available via trade.

Which brings us to the two FA names being most talked about in terms of starting pitchers – Carlos Silva and Kyle Lohse – who, you say?
Exactly. The FA market is embarrassingly thin, to the point that both of these middle-of-the-rotation starters are likely looking at 3 to 4 year deals (at least) with annual salaries in the 8 digits, as ridiculous as that sounds to anyone with gray matter.

Who cares, right?
We’re set in the rotation, and if anything have some depth to make a move. Speaking of that depth, how would…oh, I don’t know…let’s just throw a name out there…Cliff Lee compare to Silva and Lohse in terms of performance in the past 3 years?
Carlos Silva 2005-2007
33-37, 4.50 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 570 2/3 IP, 230 K, 77 BB

Kyle Lohse 2005-2007
23-35, 4.77 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 498 IP, 305 K, 145 BB

Cliff Lee 2005-2007
37-24, 4.52 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 500 IP, 338 K, 146 BB

Obviously that includes Lee’s 2005 season, in which he went 18-5 with a 3.79 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP, and he has certainly trended downward since 2005 to his downright awful 2007 season; but it serves as a reminder that Silva and Lohse are considered the top FA starters left on the market and each is looking for a multi-year deal in the range of $9M to $11M annually. Considering that Lee is owed $9.5M over the next two years with a $8M club option for 2010 (with a $1M buyout), one would have to think that Lee (even with his dreadful 2007 season) would be seen as more desirable than the dregs available on the FA market in terms of financial commitments and potential.

Taking into account the dollars and guaranteed years associated with Lee vs. Silva/Lohse, now that Kuroda has signed, the teams still looking for rotation help (Seattle, Arizona, etc.) could come calling for Lee. And because the Indians didn’t part with any young pitchers (Miller, Laffey, or Sowers) to acquire Haren, the depth would still remain if Lee is dealt.

To me, dealing Lee makes more sense than keeping him, though the Tribe would be selling extremely low on him. If Lee stays on the roster, he’s guaranteed a spot on the 25-man as his last option was burned after the infamous hat-tip; that means that he’d have to stay in the rotation (which means that Laffey AND Sowers start 2008 in Buffalo) or he’d take a bullpen spot away from someone like Tom Mastny or Jenny Lewis.

Throw in the fact that Lee’s agent has stated that Lee wants to be a starter…somewhere, that he’s been characterized as stubborn and difficult to coach, and that he tussled with one of the unquestioned leaders of the team in Victor last year, and it seems that the path that Lee is greasing out of town may be taken before the flight to Winter Haven touches down.

By the way, pitchers and catchers report in 60 days.
Thought you might need that as the snow continues to fall.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Haren Heads South

News that Dan Haren won’t be making a trip to the North Coast (and neither will AZ closer Jose Valverde) has hit as Arizona re-tools their team in an attempt at making an extended run by dealing some of their depth to upgrade the team by acquiring Haren, Chad Qualls, and Chris Burke, among others.

According to numerous media outlets, the D-Backs and the Tribe were the two main suitors for the young Oakland RHP and it appears that the inclusion (or exclusion, depending upon your point of view) of Asdrubal Cabrera in the deal was the stumbling block. Unfortunately, we’ll never know and be relegated to conjecture and rumor over what the Indians offered Billy Beane for Haren.

There’s no question that Oakland got what they were seeking in the deal from Arizona as they received a young, high-level, close to MLB talent in Carlos Gonzalez (think AstroCab for us), a decent starter who will compete for the Oakland rotation this year in Dana Eveland (Sowers on a lesser scale), a highly-thought of SP prospect who will probably contribute in Oakland at some point this season in Brett Anderson (think Miller or Laffey if you’re high on Laffey), a high-ceiling, low level hitter in Chris Carter (who was acquired from the White Sox for Carlos Quentin, by the by) who would compare to a player like Nick Weglarz (though younger than Carter), a young, high OBP OF in Aaron Cunningham (who did post a .939 OPS in A ball and a .898 OPS in AA last year as a 21-year-old) and another young pitcher in Greg Smith, a 23-year-old reliever who struggled in his first exposure to AAA in 2007.

So, the comparable package for the Tribe is Cabrera, Sowers, Miller, Weglarz, a young AA/AAA reliever like Jeff Stevens, and a A/AA young OF with good OBP and speed like a (sorry, but this is another comparable that the Tribe would have in their system) Trevor Crowe.

So to put it in perspective – that would be Cabrera, Sowers, Miller, Weglarz, Stevens, and Crowe for Haren and a middling middle reliever in Connor Robertson. Looks like quite a haul when compared to prospects you’ve heard of, right?

Don’t think that the A’s didn’t get quality AND quantity as the Diamondbacks gave up their (according to Baseball America just last week) #1 prospect in Gonzalez, their #3 in Anderson, #7 in Cunningham, and #8 in Carter.

With that all in mind, I wonder what the Indians’ final offer was?
How did it compare to the haul from Arizona?
Was Cabrera ever in play?
Was Gutierrez’s name ever bandied about?

Sadly, we’ll never know as that type of information just never makes it out for public consumption. But wouldn’t it be great if there were some timeframe after which trade offers became “declassified” so they could be looked at by the public? Haven’t you always wondered, after a trade does or doesn’t go down, what the offers on the table were and what ended up being the stumbling blocks?

Think about the possibilities for the Indians of the past 10 years alone:
What did Montreal ask for from the Indians for Pedro Martinez?
What players prevented the Tribe for consummating the deal?
Was it Jaret Wright?

Was Jose Reyes included in the prospect list that the Indians chose from in the Roberto Alomar deal to the Mets?
If he was, who did the Indians choose instead of him?
If he wasn’t, did the Tribe ask about him in any counter-offer?

What other offers were on the table for the Indians for Bartolo Colon?
Who did they ultimately choose Grady Sizemore over in terms of lower level prospects?
What are those players doing now?

What absurd weather balloons to teams float out there for the elite players?
Do GM’s exchange e-mails like Fantasy Baseball owners, just throwing things against the wall to see what sticks?

I could read this kind of stuff for hours to see what could have been, what almost was, and what disagreements held up certain deals and how they looked in retrospect. Imagine Pedro Martinez on the Tribe for (what we see now) as the paltry price of Jaret Wright and others.

Regardless, the events of yesterday are done and Haren is heading to the desert as Indians’ fans sit and wonder what could have been and imagine scenarios and trade packages that prevented what simply did not happen.

Off to get a Christmas Tree as the snow hits that promises to keep me and my shovel busy for a while.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

More Questions than Answers

The Mitchell Report has finally arrived, full of names of offenders and cheaters that have been implicated for taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). With all of the hype surrounding the release and the “naming of names”, the talk by the players’ union of a “witch hunt”, and the alleged bullying of team trainers to compile names in the Report, my first reaction is – “That’s It?”

This is what has had players quaking in their cleats, had GM’s and trainers stiff-arming investigators, and had all sorts of media outlets ready to pounce on MLB’s imitation of an ostrich for the last 15 years?
This list of players is the fruit of the investigation?

Frankly, I’m surprised and a little disappointed that this is the net result of the whole investigation. Most of these names were already known due to suspensions, documented shipments of PEDs reported by the media, or by assertions and implications by Jose Canseco, Jason Grimsley and others. The new names that appear on the list are generally marginal MLB players and, unless those were the only players looking for an edge to put them above the level of a AAAA player, I find the scarcity of players’ names on this list fairly shocking.

Sure, it fingered the likes of Clemens and Gagne – but are any of these names really THAT surprising?
Was the Fountain of Youth that Clemens found in Toronto ever thought to be anything but filled with PEDs? He was on the downward slope of his career with 192 career wins when Boston let him go at the age of 33 – what do people think happened to him? A new training regimen…a new pitch?
Didn’t Gagne’s sudden rise to dominance, and subsequent precipitous drop-off just scream that he was working under false pretenses?
How about John Rocker’s best imitation of Haley’s Comet?

It seems that the Mitchell Report is meant to merely serve as a warning to players, unfortunately only scratching the surface of players that have likely used PEDs in one form or another in the past 5 years. Obviously, the Report’s hands were tied by the uncooperative nature of the players and specifically the players’ union, intent on “protecting their members’ privacy”, or the teams not willing to admit what they knew and when they knew it.

But it seems that the names on the list simply are linked to four main sources – BALCO, Jason Grimsley, former personal trainer Brian McNamee, and former Mets’ clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski. If these names are what were born of those four sources (the only ones that were willing to talk to the Mitchell Report), how many other names remain unknown due to the code of silence or by a simple lack of evidence? If this many players can be named simply through a few webs of deceit, how many more exist out there that are breathing a sigh of relief today?

If any fan is na├»ve to be surprised by the Mitchell Report, they simply haven’t been paying attention to the influx and proliferation of PEDs in all aspects of sports. Performance-enhancing drugs are a problem in all sports (not merely baseball) for star players evidenced most obviously this year by the suspension of Patriots’ S Rodney Harrison and last year’s suspension of Chargers’ LB Shawne Merriman – two players whom, after serving their suspension, returned back to work without the infamy or scrutiny that seems to have been placed on MLB.

I suppose that a part of me was hoping that the Mitchell Report would pull back the curtain on the ugliness of how widespread the impact that PEDs had on MLB, particularly in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. But, again, I find myself disappointed that it didn’t go far enough – that it didn’t wait until every rock was turned over and evidence of every cheater was found. That, unfortunately, was likely wishful thinking and certainly could have had a much more lasting impact on MLB than the list of these players.

Some could say that the Mitchell Report is long overdue, and rightfully so; but to me, the results of the investigation are far from satisfactory and MLB should have completed a full and exhaustive investigation (which this does not seem to be) if they were truly interested in cleaning up the sport to the level that it needs. The investigative arms of different media outlets had seemingly done most of the legwork for the Mitchell Report and the question about whether these players (the ones still playing, that is) are even going to be disciplined makes the Report even more toothless and limited than it seems at first glance.

If the Mitchell Report is simply a first step to clean up the game, it has achieved the goal of breaking the ice and identifying how widespread a problem PEDs have been in MLB for some time now. If, however, it is seen as the definitive report on PEDs and will is viewed as some sort of long-standing Monroe Doctrine that will be used in MLB’s fight against PEDs, it will become outdated as soon as chemists and cheaters find a way to circumvent the rules in a new, more creative, way.

MLB must, in stark comparison to the way they’ve handled this problem in the past, remain diligent in combating and doing their best to eliminate PEDs from the game as best possible. If they feel that the results of the Mitchell Report will do that, they’re fooling themselves and will become a laughingstock as chemistry and creativity pass them by.

The Mitchell Report is a start, nothing else.
It serves as a warning that nobody is above being exposed as a cheater as Roger Clemens has suddenly (and rightfully) joined Barry Bonds on the Asterisk List. But, beyond the scare tactics, the real work remains to be done to truly clean up the game and retain the sanctity and the trust among fans that the players are not clean and will be held responsible if they are not. If that next step remains far off on the horizon, MLB is no better off today than it was yesterday morning. If MLB is willing to take a proactive stance on the problem, regardless of the impact at the gate and in public perception, the impact in the short term will be negative; but the long-term health of the game will benefit from the aggressive removal of this element from MLB to emerge as the viable (and honestly viable) sport that we have all grown to love.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Haren In Blue (and Red)?

Ken Rosenthal has put the Tribe squarely in the mix for Haren:
"The trade of Haren could happen first — and the Diamondbacks and Indians, two clubs deep in young talent, are in the best position to make a deal, according to major-league sources...

The Diamondbacks' offer for Haren is believed to include Class AAA outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, Class AAA second baseman Emilio Bonifacio and Class AA left-hander Brett Anderson, among others.

The Indians' advantage is that they can offer superior major-league ready pitching, including righty Adam Miller, who projects as either a top-of-the-rotation starter or closer, and lefty Aaron Laffey, a sinker-baller who could develop into another Mark Buehrle.

Haren, the starting pitcher for the American League in the 2007 All-Star Game, could form a potent trio with C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona in Cleveland — and protect the Indians against the loss of Sabathia as a free agent at the end of the season."


To secure a pitcher like Haren, the Indians would surely have to part with Atom Miller, would likely have to include Aaron Laffey, and would have to try to convince Oakland not to hold their breath unless Asdrubal Cabrera were included.

If the deal is Miller, Laffey, and Cabrera, I would back away from the table mainly due to the fact that very few 21-year-old middle infielders (who have excelled at every minor league stop along the way) arrive in MLB and thrive the way that Asdrubal did to close out 2007. The ones that historically have debuted that early put Droob in some pretty good company.

As was pointed out back in August, “recent Middle IF who made their first real contributions in MLB at either age 20 or 21 is a pretty impressive list with players like Alan Trammell, Roberto Alomar, Lou Whitaker, Willie Randolph, and Ozzie Guillen offering a range of players with varying degrees of success.

Expand it to age 22 and the list doesn’t have much of a drop-off, with the likes of Barry Larkin, Omar Vizquel (yes, Omar), and Ryne Sandberg dotting the high end.”


Take into account that Cabrera hasn’t even played his natural position (one which most scouts feel he will become an elite defender manning) and that he’s been exposed to the playoffs– and it’s fairly easy to ascertain that Asdrubal is a keeper and a legitimate deal-breaker for Haren, or anyone else at this point.

Take Cabrera out of the deal and replace him with a player like Jared Goedert or Wes Hodges (any lower level position player not named Weglarz) and it remains a hefty price to pay and one that would give pause (truthfully, due more to the inclusion of Laffey than Miller for me) - but Haren, particularly for the money over three full years, is just too good to pass up.
Think about the rotation:
C.C.
Fausto
Haren
Westbrook
Byrd
Lee and Sowers are still there as depth starters and those top 4 could go against any 4 starters west of Beantown.

This is still just a rumor, but would serve as a nice move to allay some fears created by the moves in Motown of the past week for 2008.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Victorious Lazy Sunday

With a tremendous day of football in the books (The DiaBride is a big Packers fan and the tepee was draped in Green & Gold at 1:00 PM as the Pack was on locally prior to the Browns’ win), I’ve finally peeled myself off of the couch and stopped watching the inferior quality of the CBS football feed with the odd color scheme and the blurriness that accompanies it enough to delve into a Lazy Sunday.

As has become the case here for a while, the only Cleveland writer still offering up anything worth detailing about the Indians is…no, Livingston – you bitterman, not you…but the one, the only…Terry Pluto.

Pluto checks in with a very fair assessment of the Tigers’ off-season to this point, addressing the Florida deal and the Renteria deal. He also delves into (and clears up) some of the particulars regarding the rumored trades that were bandied about at the Winter Meetings.

According to Pluto, the Pirates were asking for MORE than Frank the Tank, Shoppach, and Lee for Jason Bay and that the Tribe’s concern about Bay’s knees had as much to do with the trade not being consummated as Pittsburgh’s exorbitant asking price. Pluto says that he would have given up Gutz or Francisco and Lee for Bay and stopped at that point. I wouldn’t have included Franky in the discussions as his departure to fill LF would create a void in RF, but I probably would have done The Frisco Kid and Lee for Bay. Of course, had Pittsburgh agreed to that, Neal Huntington would be lambasted (and rightfully so) by the local media.

Pluto also reports (though he admits that he never nailed down the exact asking price) that the Indians asked about Miguel Cabrera and were told that Frank the Tank, AstroCab, and Adam Miller was the starting point as other players would be necessary to land the Big Fish. As great as Miggy Cabrera would have looked at the Jake, creating a hole at 2B and RF (by moving two young, promising players under club control for the foreseeable future) makes the cost too high.

Truly, the beauty of what the Tigers did (while they forfeited some top prospects and eliminated a good amount of depth in their system) is that the players they sent to Florida were not being counted on to contribute in Detroit in 2008. The same cannot be said for Gutierrez and Asdrubal.

Finally, on Pluto, how is he the ONLY Cleveland writer privy to this type of information?
Are the beat writers doing what I do to find the latest Tribe rumors, clicking the “refresh” button on the MLB rumors pages online? None of them had anything of any substance throughout the whole Winter Meetings outside of what was reported nationally by the likes of Gammons and Rosenthal.

As wrong as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was in the coverage of the Bay negotiations (and by no means am I saying that fabricating stories and trade scenarios at a writer’s whim are preferable to working actual sources and dealing in reality), at least it made for good fiction and was likely based on SOME conversation the writer had with an employee of the Pirates (as outdated as the reports of the package seemed to be as they were published).

Is there a reason that Pluto seems to be the one writer in NE Ohio who has the pulse of what’s going on behind the scenes at The Jake, The Q, or Berea? Could it have anything to do that he reports what he’s told, makes his assumptions and decisions on common sense and rarely flies off the handle with the bitterness and pointed agendas that other NE Ohio writers think is their birthright?

Think about it, if you ran a professional sports franchise in town and had an opportunity to filter information to the public through the media, who would you call?
Bill Livingston?
Bud Shaw?
Tony Grossi?
Sheldon Ocker?
Jim Ingraham?
Paul Hoynes?
Mary Kay Cabot?
Branson Wright?
Or would you allow fair and respected writers like Terry Pluto and Brian Windhorst in on the information, allowing them to use their talent and common sense to prepare the information for mass consumption?

Off the soapbox, the only real news of note after the Winter Meetings is that Oakland’s Dan Haren is still on the block and perhaps could be had for a package of young, under-club-contract-for-the-foreseeable-future talent.

Haren is an absolute stud, posting a 3.07 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP with 192 K to 55 BB in 222 innings in 2007, so he won’t come cheap. Factor in that he’ll get paid $4M in 2008, $5.5M in 2009, and has a $6.75M club option for 2010 and he REALLY won’t come cheap.

Oakland GM Billy Beane is always looking for young, cheap talent that he can control for many years, so the Indians could perhaps have the talent necessary (Atom Miller, Aaron Laffey, etc. plus some lower-level, high-ceiling hitters) to acquire Haren to lock down the rotation and (perhaps) soften the blow if (note the if, not the when) C.C. leaves for greener pastures in 2009. Acquiring a player like Haren would seem to be much more in Shapiro’s wheelhouse as he has established himself as an elite MLB pitcher, under club control at a known number for three more years.
Obviously, nothing has been reported that the Indians are in on this (Lord knows I won’t read about it in the local fishwraps until a deal is done), but it might be something to keep an eye on going forward.

Nice little weekend here with a Browns’ win, a Packers’ win, a Marquette win over Wisconsin (again, the DiaBride is a dyed-in-the-wool Milwaukeean) and a stirring upset by the University of Dayton in Louisville.
If only it didn’t mean me putting off the Christmas lights…

Saturday, December 08, 2007

An Exercise in Futility

After having publicly acknowledging that they were in need of middle infield depth, the Indians acquired Futility IF Jamey Carroll from the Colorado Rockies for the famed Player to Be Named Later. While much gnashing of teeth and hand wringing has begun in various corners over this minor acquisition, it remains just that – minor. Very simply, Carroll is a middle IF who will give the Indians the ability to spell AstroCab at 2B or allow Cabrera to spell Peralta at SS, in addition to adding flexibility on the roster as Carroll played 2B, 3B, SS, RF, and CF for the Rox last year.

The move provides an immediate answer as to where Josh Barfield figures into the 2008 plans as the seamstress in Buffalo can start putting the BARFIELD on the back of a Bisons’ jersey this morning. Prior to the acquisition, the only feasible alternative (under contract, ruling out Chris Gomez’s return) for the Indians in their middle infield was to allow Josh Barfield to start the season as the “Utility IF”, which is in quotes as Barfield can really only play 2B and, thus has limitations on the usefulness and flexibility that a “Utility IF” historically provides. Barfield is now certain to start the season in AAA (unless, miracle of miracles, he beats out Asdrubal for the 2B job in Winter Haven), where he will get the consistent AB that simply don’t exist for him on the parent club in an attempt to figure out what went (dreadfully) wrong for him in 2007.

As for the player heading to the North Coast, Carroll is a 34-year-old who goes by the name of Jamey, which may be one reason that so many people are against this move. In my mind, once a man passes the age of 16 or 18, he generally drops the childlike nickname of Jamey or Mikey or Stevie – with a few exceptions that are more socially acceptable, like Jimmy or Sammy or Tommy. I suppose within the family context, the continuation of a nickname is not completely outrageous, but to continue to go by the name of “Jamey” well into your 30’s smacks of the Peter Pan Syndrome. I know that in sports we tend to have our heroes continue to go by their childhood nicknames (Kenny, Sandy, Manny, Charlie, etc.), but “Jamey” just bothers me.
Maybe it has something to do with the eldest daughter’s name on “Charles in Charge”, as much as I so did love Nicole Eggert once upon a time.

But I digress.
Seriously, Carroll brings flexibility to the team, defensively, if not bringing too much lumber to the party. He’s averaged an OPS of .703 in his 6-year career (though he did have a decent 2006 season as the Rockies everyday 2B), which is about right for a Futility IF. If Carroll was being counted on to be much more than that, this move would cause worry. But figuring that he’ll only be used for depth on the roster shouldn’t cause too much consternation.

One concern that has been voiced is the fact that Carroll is due $2.3M in 2008 and that the money (on a small-market team) could be better allocated to bolster the bullpen or acquire a full-time LF. The announcement of the move intimated that the Rockies, who had a crowded middle infield, could be picking up some of the tab for Carroll in 2008. The argument regarding Carroll continues that players like Carroll are a dime a dozen and are easily found on the FA market. That may be true, but again, it’s an argument about the 25th man on the 25 man roster! Only those unnaturally obsessed with Mike Rouse are the ones who are giving this too much thought.

The Player to Be Named Later to go to the Mountain Time Zone will likely come from a pool of lower-rated prospects as the Indians balked on including (not-too-highly-rated) RHP Sean Smith in the deal (after Colorado asked for Barfield). It’s entirely possible that the Indians could trade one of the players already on the 40-man-roster (remember, someone has to come off to add Carroll) that looks to be at the end of his Tribe career like a Brian Slocum.

All of that being said – the move does have some 25-man roster implications, mainly because of Andy Marte and Big League Choo being out of options as one of them will be squeezed by this move. As of today, the 13 roster spots for the offense figure to shake out like this:
Martinez
Shoppach
Garko
Hafner
Cabrera
Peralta
Carroll
Blake
Marte
Dellucci
Michaels
Sizemore
Gutierrez
Notably absent are Ben Francisco (who, barring a trade of Jason Michaels, looks more and more to be joining Barfield in Buffalo to start the season) and the BLC. Of course, the BLC is rehabbing a arm injury that could allow the Indians to stash him on the DL, then some rehab time to start the season; but, right now, he joins Francisco and Barfield as an odd man out in the roster picture.

A trade could still be in the offing to make space for Francisco on the roster or even to move Choo to another team as the next group of OF prospects (Jordan Brown and Trevor Crowe) figure to be arriving in Buffalo soon. But as of right now, both OF are out of the mix with the parent club after the acquisition of Carroll, coupled with the assumption that Andy Marte will begin 2008 in Cleveland in some capacity.

All in all, it is not a major move in the least, despite some of the outcry about the acquisition and the implications it has on the roster and payroll.
A wise man once told me that arguing about Utility IF is the lowest form of Baseball conversation.
I suppose in lieu of anything else to discuss…

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Motown Becomes Miggytown

As the huge news that Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis are heading to the AL Central to join the Detroit Tigers, let me just say that the joke a few days ago that Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland were attempting to rebuild the Marlins was only that – a joke.

With all of the talk of Cabrera going to Anaheim, the Tigers pounced on an opportunity out of nowhere, adding a ridiculously productive hitter by parting with their two top prospects in OF Cameron Maybin and SP Andrew Miller, to go with 4 other prospects. The move makes a clear announcement that the Tigers are making their move right now in the AL Central, with the future perhaps an afterthought. It’s an acknowledgement that their team is getting old and they need to make a push for a World Series trophy before age and injuries catch up to the likes of Gary Sheffield and Kenny Rogers.

The inclusion of Willis is ancillary, regardless of how the casual fan will see the name and think that the Tigers rotation just added an important top-of-the-rotation starter, because Willis is simply has not been one for a solid two years now. Since bursting on the scene in 2005 (22-10, 2.63 ERA), he has regressed to the point that his WHIP in 2007 (1.60) was third worst among qualified MLB starters, behind the likes of Baltimore’s Daniel Cabrera and Chicago’s Jose Contreras. At this point, Willis projects as a 4th or maybe even 5th starter with the hope in Detroit that he can recapture the success of his superb 2005 season, something that becomes less likely when you consider that he’s making the jump from the NL to the AL, which boast better, deeper lineups and won’t give him the luxury of facing 8 hitters in a lineup as he has throughout his career.

If Willis makes the career recovery, this trade is great for the Tigers as Willis is still only 25 years old and (best case scenario for Detroit) makes the loss of stud prospect Miller a little easier to take; but Willis’ mechanics and his confidence need a major makeover for him to find consistent success in the American League.

But, as I said, Willis is ancillary to this deal – the “Big Fish” is Cabrera, a ridiculously talented hitter who has posted OPS of .946 in 2005, .998 in 2006, and .965 in 2007 while averaging 31 HR, 44 2B, and 116 RBI in those three years – all without much protection from the rest of the Florida lineup. The addition of Cabrera to any MLB team immediately bolsters a lineup, but consider what the Tigers are looking to trot out to the dish every night, with their OPS and rankings for their position (how they stack up against other players playing their postions) against the rest of MLB for 2007:
Pudge - .714 OPS (8th in MLB)
Guillen - .859 OPS (would be 9th among 1B)
Polanco - .846 OPS (3rd in MLB)
Renteria - .860 OPS (3rd in MLB)
Cabrera - .965 OPS (3rd in MLB)
Granderson - .913 OPS (1st in MLB)
Ordonez – 1.029 OPS (1st in MLB)
Sheffield - .839 (5th in MLB)

Though one could argue that Pudge may be on the downslope of his career or that some of these players may be getting older, Left Field (not included above as it figure to be manned by Marcus Thames and Jacque Jones) is the only obvious position that could even be considered a weakness for the Tigers. The addition of Cabrera just made this offense (3rd in MLB in runs scored in 2007) incredibly potent. Consider that Renteria and Jones will augment the offense as well – replacing Sean Casey, Craig Monroe, and Cabrera taking the spot of Brandon Inge – and the Tigers’ offense has become downright scary in a short time, regardless of some expected regressions in 2008 from a few of the main cogs of the lineup.

While Detroit may have given up quite a bit in terms of young talent, it’s important to remember that Cabrera is not Jim Thome v.2005 or Gary Sheffield v.2006, an aging slugger looking to help out a lineup. He is the real deal, the anchor of a lineup, and a player who now resides in the AL Central. Sure, the Tigers still have question marks in their bullpen to sort out (Denny Bautista considered) and Willis is far from a sure thing in the Detroit rotation, but the addition of Cabrera gives them some heavy lumber to swing around in the AL Central.

From the Indians’ perspective, the reactionary response would be that the Tribe needs to counter this move with something to bolster their lineup to “keep up with the Joneses”; but it’s important not to get too tied up in matching moves with a rival (ask the Yankees how their Japanese import to match Dice-K, Kei Igawa, worked out in their AAA rotation) simply to make a move to match a divisional rival. The Indians need to remember that quality pitching still beats quality hitting and the idea that the Tigers just secured the AL Central title is entirely premature, but the team closest to the Indians in their division just improved their team in the short-term, closing an eye to the long-term for sure, but have made a huge improvement nonetheless.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Music City Machinations

A mildly disappointing first day in Nashville as Arizona moved LF Carlos Quentin for a promising Low-A 1B to the South Side of Chicago. While I’ve been pushing for Quentin for a while (and it certainly will be easy to track how his career path continues as he’ll be joining the AL Central), the fact that Quentin and Lastings Milledge (both identified as possible solutions in LF for the Tribe via trade) have both been moved for less than overwhelming packages makes me think that Shapiro and the boys had their reservations about both of them. One would think that if the Tribe thought highly enough of either Quentin or Milledge that they could put together a package that would top what the D-Backs and Mets received. The fact that the Diamondbacks are still dying for a starting pitcher means that the Indians either didn’t want to deal a high-level prospect for Quentin or other options remain on the horizon.

One rumor fire that refuses to be put out is that Jason Bay is the subject of trade speculation for Cliff Lee and Kelly Shoppach. Not sure I get it from the Pirates’ perspective as Bay is their biggest trading chip and trading for a pitcher that was demoted in the middle of 2007 and a catcher who MIGHT translate to an MLB catcher would certainly fall under the category of “selling low” on Bay. Again, as I said yesterday, I don’t know who the Indians would find to be their backup catcher if Shoppach is dealt, but filling a hole in LF (whether it be Bay or someone else) would mean that there are a quite a few chips (Dellucci, Michaels, Francisco, Choo) that could be moved to fill the backup catcher spot on the roster.

Interestingly, Shapiro was on the Baseball Tonight Winter Meetings Show and said that having 7 starters is a luxury that the Indians are comfortable with heading into 2008 as rotation depth is never a bad thing. Then something interesting happened…Gammons (who is a big fan of Shapiro) kept asking about Cliff Lee – very specifically – and where he fit into the plan. Shapiro went out of his way to praise Lee, pointing out that he has won 18 games in MLB, he’s under contract for 3 more years on an affordable contract, and that he (according to Shapiro this afternoon) figures in very significantly for the 2008 team. Not to go all Ollie Stone on you, but what was strange was that it almost sounded like a plant Gammons to give Shapiro an opportunity to hype up Lee to any of the other GM’s minions who were undoubtedly tuned in to the show. It was almost like Shapiro wanted somebody to think (on their own), “yeah, Cliff Lee was pretty good a few years ago and he would cost less than Kyle Lohse…get the Indians on the phone.”

Of course, that could be me just looking WAY too far into this, but the fact that Lee is out of options meaning he would have to break camp with the team (instead of Laffey or Sowers who would join Miller in the Buffalo rotation, assuming Byrd isn’t suspended) makes me think more and more that Shapiro was simply attempting to put more polish on Lee’s apple via ESPN and Gammons.

The other interesting comment by Shapiro was that he stated that he didn’t really care if Santana went to New York or Boston because it would move Santana out of the division. He went on to say that if the Indians are worried about Santana pitching for one of the AL East teams in the playoffs against the Tribe that it meant that the Indians were in the playoffs – where anything can happen. Shapiro also said that he’d be most interested in the package of prospects that went to Minnesota as the right group of prospects would go a long way to giving the Twins a legitimate base of players to consistently contend – at Minnesota’s desired price.

From another perspective, if Santana remains a Twin (and doesn’t negotiate a new deal with the team that acquires him from Minnesota), the bar for the Sabathia negotiations doesn’t go through the roof in one fell swoop (with the 6 to 7 year deal that Gammons is reporting that Santana is seeking, worth between $120M and $175M) and would keep the Indians’ bargaining comparables of Zambrano, Oswalt, and Buehrle intact. Don’t think that Shapiro’s not aware of the implication as he told reporters, "What's more important for you guys to focus on is Peavy, not Santana. That deal is more important, because it's done and Santana is fiction."

By the way, since the Yahoo Rumors Page that I linked yesterday isn’t apparently being used for the Winter Meetings, here’s the WWL Blog page (but beware that it includes anything that the painfully-tan Steve Phillips writes), Rotoworld’s MLB page, and the Rosenthal page. Also, here’s the excellent analysis page that serial poster doby14 linked in the comments section that comments on the deals that ARE done.

Things are heating up in Nashville and, even if the DiaBride couldn’t be less thrilled about “three guys in suits or two guys in polo shirts standing in a hotel lobby” taking up space on the DVR in the beginning of December but as a wise man recently said “There’s Only One December”.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Lasy Sunday at the Old Mill

With the Winter Meetings starting tonight and the Hot Stove really kicking off some heat, Lazy Sunday is best served to scan “all the news that’s fit to print” and examine some of the more intriguing rumors and hearsay leading up to the events that will be taking place at the “Old Mill” (more specifically the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center shown here) in Nashville.

The Boston Globe previews each team’s possible (and I stress “possible”) agenda for the meetings, with a lot of good stuff including a few nuggets that Tribe fans may find interesting. Among them are indications that the Oakland A’s may be shopping pitchers Dan Haren, Huston Street, and Joe Blanton to replenish their farm system. While the Indians are pretty pitching-rich, it would come as no surprise if Shapiro expressed interest in Haren or Street as both have track records in MLB and the Indians would have the depth in their farm system to acquire them.

Another intriguing match, as has been discussed here already at length, is that the Diamondbacks are looking for young, cheap starting pitching with depth in the outfield to deal from. Could the Indians make a deal for Carlos Gonzalez (who would start the season in Buffalo) or Carlos Quentin (who is recovering from an injury), allowing them some flexibility to make a move with their other young OF (everyone seems to be looking for CF) to add another arm to the bullpen.

In the LF category, Toronto’s Reed Johnson (not Alex Rios) may be available, though he doesn’t project to be too much of an upgrade over what the Indians already possess. Also in the LF category, from the Boston Herald, talk persists that the Indians and Pirates are discussing a Jason Bay for deal that would include Kelly Shoppach, among others. While Shoppach certainly shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for acquiring a player like Bay, one would have to wonder who, exactly, the Indians feel will serve as their backup C in 2008 if The ShopVac is dealt. With Victor obviously thriving with a few games from out behind the plate, the trickle-down effect of dealing Shoppach might be greater than just parting with a backup C.

Also on Bay, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that Bay’s value is not what the Pirates thought it would be, so the Indians could take a wait-and-see approach as the price drops as the Buccos could be selling low on Bay.

So what would I like to see the Indians do in Nashville?
As much as I’d like to see them turn Dellichaels and Cliff Lee into an everyday OF and a lockdown closer, I remain bogged down by this whole “sense of reality” thing.

I’d like to see the Indians flip Michaels for a reliever (probably from the NL) allowing them to open the season with a platoon of Blake/Marte/Dellucci at 3B/LF (Blake at 3B, Dellucci in LF against RHP, Marte at 3B, Blake in LF against LHP). That arrangement, I think, would allow Andy Marte to ease into the MLB against mainly LHP, whom he has consistently hit throughout his career. If, and when, Marte is ready to take the reins at 3B, Blake moves to his super-utility role and out of the everyday lineup.

To fill the remaining “long-term solution” issue in LF, I’d make a move with the Diamondbacks for either Carlos Gonzalez or Carlos Quentin (which, as much as it pains me to realize, will probably cost the Indians a cheap MLB-ready player like Aaron Laffey) to work his way into LF at some point in 2008, not necessarily out of Spring Training, which is the path that many of the youngsters took to Jacobs Field in 2007 coming to Cleveland after finding success in Buffalo.

I think that the Pirates and Indians will make a deal of some sort, though not involving Jason Bay. With the history between Huntington and Shapiro (and the Pirates’ arms in the bullpen), I could see the Indians asking Huntington which prospects (there’s no reason for him to add unnecessary payroll) he would like to get Damaso Marte or Matt Capps to Cleveland. In my mind, I still think that Shapiro knows which players are Huntington’s favorites and which players he held in higher regard than others in the organization and will use that to pry an arm out of PNC. What it would allow would be to fortify the bullpen as every year, somebody (just to throw it out there, like a Raffy Perez) that was thought to be a vital part of the bullpen regresses, gets injured, or simply disappoints; so more arms are never a bad thing.

Outside of that (and that’s probably a LOT more than the Indians will do), the Tribe brass doesn’t have too many items on the checklist in Tennessee. One big one would be to get a certain Hefty Lefty to autograph the bottom of a legally-binding document before Hurricane Johan makes landfall on one of the coasts, destroying the pattern that the Zambrano, Oswalt, and Buehrle extensions set for pitchers NOT exactly on the FA market.

STO is broadcasting a show from Nashville on Monday through Thursday nights at 10 PM this week. If you’re out of town, the best site that I’ve found for reported rumors (that aren’t ALL just the fanciful thoughts of uninformed beat writers) is the Yahoo rumors site.

Pull up a chair everyone and make yourselves warm around the Hot Stove!