Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Culture clash behind A.L. Central reversal

"We're going to worry about winning a championship in '08 instead of waiting to win a championship in 2010, 2011."

Those words, quoted by USA Today, were uttered by Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams in announcing the trade of three serious prospects for outfielder Nick Swisher last January.

On the other hand, Tribe GM Mark Shapiro recently told The Sporting News he has no regrets about sitting on his hands this winter.

"I can honestly say we would have done nothing differently. Given the free agents that were out there, the year we were coming off, the track record of the guys we were bringing back, given all of that, there is nothing I would have done differently. I see nothing we could have done in the offseason that would have prevented this."

As I sit here and watch the White Sox celebrate (with Thome's fat can bouncing around on my TV screen like an over-fed five-year-old -not that I'm bitter) a three-game sweep of the Tribe, I can't help but ask: which teams was it than won a World Series in 2005?

Wouldn't it seem to make sense that the team that is 60 years removed from its last World Series title would be more likely than the team that won three years ago to adopt the more impatient, more aggressive approach?

I also can't help but think that the aggressive approach of the Sox, in contrast to the conservative posture taken by the Tribe is - maybe even more so than the injuries suffered by the Tribe - the key reason the two teams have reversed roles in the Central Division this year.

Shapiro said there was nothing he could have done in the offseason to prevent this season's swan dive.

Seems to me that Carlos Quentin - currently tied for second in the AL in HRs - and Nick Swisher - putting it together after a slow start - were as available to the Tribe as they were to the White Sox.

The Sox identified a need in the outfield and made not one, but two major upgrades. To do so they traded four prospects - one power-hitting hopeful to the Diamondbacks for Quentin and three other attractive youngsters to the A's for Swisher.

All four of the prospects are just that - guys that should, or at least could, make a difference about three years from now.

Seems to me the Tribe could have mustered up enough three-years-from-now guys to bring in some offense, but that was too "painful" for Shapiro.

The Sox identified a need for a major upgrade at the back end of the bullpen. They spent a bundle for Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel - both signing contracts worth roughly $5 million a year.

Despite the obvious importance of the bullpen in today's game, there still persists this idea that good relievers grow on trees and there's no need to spend big money on them. Nowhere is that more evident than in Cleveland, where Masa Kobayashi was the only effort to upgrade - even though Shapiro admitted before the season that he was concerned about the burnout of some of last year's workhorses and about Joe Borowski's flair for the dramatic in the ninth inning.

Even with the disappearance of Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner on the offensive side - due to injury, and prior to that, ineffectiveness likely due to injury - I would say the Tribe might well have been able to stay close enough this year if the bullpen had been able to keep up with the starting rotation for the first couple of months of the season. The recent dropoff among the starters - I think - has to do not only with injuries but also with the general malaise that has gripped the team in light of its dismal performance.

Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen feud in public with each other and their players.

Any disagreement in the Tribe organization is wrapped in the cone of silence (I just saw the Get Smart movie - well worth $9.00).

I'm not sure one approach is better than the other, but the Tribe's under-wraps approach tends to come off as not really taking action or knowing what action to take when action is so clearly required.

From a fan's point of view you just can't stand to hear Eric Wedge mumble the same old nothing night after night when you'd just like to see him light someone up and introduce a little edginess into the clubhouse.

Because of the unwillingness to part with the pieces of their future for what looked like a great shot at the present, the Tribe now finds itself in the ironic position of having to trade more present for more future.

The hope is that when CC Sabathia goes in a trade the Tribe will get young, newly minted major leaguers who have accomplished at least a little something in the bigs.

I share that hope. But I don't think it is realistic.

Any team making a pitch for CC at this juncture is in a pennant race and not interested in creating one hole to fill another.

I think the reality is that anyone the Tribe would get for Sabathia will not come from a current 25-man roster. The best they can expect is to get someone who they hope will be on their own 25-man roster come April 2009.

The Tribe wanted to have their cake and eat it, by hoping they had enough this year without mortgaging a bit of their future.

The White Sox simply wanted to devour that cake this year - the future be damned.

The cake-right-now idea seems pretty good to me.


bobbydb19 said...

You saw "Get Smart"? Ever see the movie "Groundhogs Day"? Because that is what I am living right now. It seems like the I reliving the same day over and over again. Now I am going to finally "Get Smart" and go to bed. Forget about the Indians (I know have said that day after day. [I told you I am reliving the same day over and over]). The thing I wanted to re-live was 2007 (but this time with a trip to the WS). I had some much fun last year. It just ain't happening. And now I am really sad (and pissed off) to know that some of these players I have watched will no longer be on my team. I have to re-live the dismantling and rebuilding of my team and wait "just a few more years" to be in contention. I guess that is what you get for being a fan. My beloved Tribe. Ripped my freaking heart out again.

the moose said...

I tried everything I could to help the Indians win - I played all my white sox in fantasy world andbenched the indians - What another unbelievable loss - 5 runs the night before wins - 5 runs for CC should be enough - maybe he is not as good as we thought - tom hamilton says there are going to be changes today

one thing for sure they wont loose today

we have a day of no baseball pain - just another dime or so at the gas pump and the grocery store and more losses for our savings account

the moose said...

you picked the wrong night to see the yanks - they scored 18 runs last night

Ron Vallo said...

No, I picked the right night to see the Yanks, because they scored 18 runs last night. I would never have been able to sit through that. Seeing them lose 3-2 was much more palatable.