Monday, May 5, 2008

Getting to the heart of the the Tribe's woes

Quick now!

Name the heart of the Tribe's batting order.

If you think about that for about four seconds you realize something quite scary and sickening.

There is no heart of the Tribe's batting order.

I've been busy on my final project for my master's and then out of town for a couple of days over the weekend, but it is clear that the headline of my most-recent post - written an entire week ago - still applies. "Frustration reigns at Progressive Field."

Just as the Tribe's offense was at the center of that posting, so it is with today's.

Think of the Tribe's current lineup (or any one of its recent 26 lineups) and you can't string three guys together who could be considered the heart of the order.

The most-recent lineup had Franklin Gutierrez batting second and David Dellucci batting third. Both have done reasonably well at the plate in the past week, but come on!

Cleanup hitter Victor Martinez, while leading the league in hitting, has not yet hit a home run this season. Lord knows I'm not knocking V-Mart, as he and Grady are the only two guys who have been reasonably consistent all year. But what other team has a cleanup hitter with no homers?

I made a somewhat snide comment about the 26 lineups thing, but really I don't blame Eric Wedge. He's been forced to grasp at straws because most of his hitters, no matter where they are hitting in the order, are not getting the job done.

Dropping Travis Hafner to sixth - or at least out of the three spot - was a necessity.

I'm not sure putting Jhonny Peralta at No. 5 makes sense since he seems to have two or three hot days in a row followed by a week's worth of swinging at every pitch that comes his way, no matter how far outside and low it is.

In addition to trying to find a batting order that works, Wedge has tried to play small ball a lot more lately. Whether you agree with the merits of small ball or not, again you have to give him credit for trying something.

It's time - as we are now a week away from the arbitrary but very real 40-game reassessment period - for Mark Shapiro to start pulling some levers himself.

Ben Francisco's likely recall is a start. With Dellucci at least playing a major league hitter on TV now, Francisco will be a much better platoon partner for Dellucci than the floppy-haired platinum blonde currently taking his turn out in LF.

But that has got to be only a start.

Ben Francisco's arrival alone will not heal what ails the Tribe offense. There is too much dead wood throughout.

Josh Barfield isn't tearing it up at Buffalo, but Asdrubal Cabrera has been abysmal so far at the plate for the Tribe. Cabrera may have caught lightning in a bottle last season and it just may be that he could benefit from another go-round in Buffalo. Perhaps a Barfield/Cabrera swap is in order.

But they say you can't put lipstick on a pig and adding Francisco, and possibily Barfield, would amount to little more than that.

Another proven bat - and at this point it doesn't matter where they play in the field since no one on this team can hit - is a must.

There's enough depth among the starting pitchers in the system that some must be sacraficed. If not, all that terrific starting pitching we've been seeing on the major league level will continue to fall victim to the Tribe's feeble bats. And just where does that get you?

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