Monday, July 21, 2008

The most talked about man in Cleveland sports

The most talked about man in Cleveland sports - at least in recent days - spells his name incorrectly.

But he's swinging a hot bat for the Tribe and with the trading deadline getting ever closer, some Tribe fans are pulling back on their earlier enthusiasm for a trade of SS Jhonny Peralta.

With the Tribe faltering badly and Peralta hitting .225 in April and .230 in May, while playing his usual cement-footed SS, Tribe fans started to talk about Peralta as trade bate.

It didn't help that he averaged virtually one K/game for the first two months, and often resembled the ADHD-afflicted player that manager Eric Wedge had complained about in the past.

In June Peralta hit .293, but with only one homer.

As the Tribe sank further in the Central, the cries to trade Peralta grew louder.

But late last month something happened.

In a move that left Tribe fans scratching their heads (mine was rubbed red from the scratching), Wedge put Peralta in the clean-up spot, and he produced.

Since moving into the No. 4 hole on June 22, the Tribe SS is hitting .341, with 12 doubles, five homers and 20 ribbies.

With his current hot streak running for a month now - something unusual for Peralta, who is often criticized for running very hot only to turn very cold for much too long - he has picked up a throng of allies among fans who say the Tribe would be nuts to trade a power-hitting SS.

(Either their minds have been changed, or they have become more vocal about their support of Peralta because this crowd was not heard from back in May.)

Others say they'd like to keep Peralta, but move him to 3b since the Indians have the slick-fielding Asdrubal Cabrera waiting in the wings. (The Tribe bigwigs shot that idea down again today.)

And there is still a vocal contingent who would like to see Peralta traded since he is too one-dimensional, has no real natural position and could help bring back someone who could fill one of the many holes anticipated on the 2009 roster.

From those in the first camp, the best arguments I've heard have come from a guy who posts regularly at MVN's Tribe Report, another Web site I write for.

The logic is Peralta makes the routine plays well, and puts up numbers offensively. He does lead all AL shortstops in homers and is second in RBIs. But his OBP is a mediocre .309 and his OPS is an equally ordinary .790. And for me, a SS should be required to do more defensively than make the routine plays with regularity.

Those who advocate that Peralta should stay right where he is also argue that there is no sure-thing replacement for him in the organization.

It's hard to argue that Cabrera has proven anything - except that he can be a standout fielder.

To quote JB, the guy who comments regularly at the Tribe Report:

"How long would it take watching a shortstop flirt with .200 before Shapiro would be called a fool for letting someone who played the same position while hitting .260/20/75 get away?"

I have to say, the pro-Jhonny camp does make some strong arguments, and when I'm at my flip-floppiest, I sometimes think they are right.

But then I remember the slumps, and the waving at curve balls in the dirt, the attempts to pull every pitch no matter where it's thrown and the lackadaisical attitude when Jhonny isn't into it.

The pro-Jhonny faction also argues that a deadline trade of Peralta won't bring a major-league-ready piece in return because contenders don't want to create one hole to fill another.

I agree completely.

But the same would not hold true in the off-season, when Peralta would bring a riper return.

As for those who would like to move Peralta to 3B, I would say now would be the time to find out if that's possible. He could get two or three days a week there, with Andy Marte getting the rest of the time while Perlta moves back to SS or DHes.

My suspicion, though, is that might not work out so well either. Peralta was determined to not have the tools when he was tried at 3B in the minors.

To argue the point another way, try to picture Jhonny charging a swinging bunt, or diving over the bag then setting to throw to first. Case pretty much closed - although, again, now would be the time to test it.

Those who want to keep Peralta at short argue that his offensive numbers are great for a SS, but just OK for a 3B. But Joe Crede made the All-Star team at 3B with numbers pretty much the same as Peralta's.

And so that brings us to those who want to trade Peralta.

The main name that comes up as a possible interested party is the Dodgers, because of the injury to Rafael Furcal.

But Nomar is playing fairly well at his old position for the Dodgers. And they are rumored to be interested in Jack Wilson, and John McDonald, so they are apparently not as interested in adding an offensive SS as has been rumored in the past.

Casey Blake's name has come up with the Dodgers as well, so a package deal might bring a pretty good haul.

And Rafael Furcal's contract is up at the end of the year, so Peralta's team-friendly contract would appeal to LA.

Still, I'm brought back to the reality that contending teams don't like to fill one hole by creating another.

I don't think - and certainly don't hope - that Peralta will be at SS long-term for the Tribe

But I'm reasonably convinced that Peralta won't be going anywhere by July 31 and I think it's probably best that he isn't.

If I were the Tribe, I'd test Peralta out at 3B some during the last two months of the year.

And then , during the off-season, I would see if someone is willing to give me equal value that is major league-experienced or, at least, major-league-ready an attempt to fill one of the many holes the Tribe is going to have in the off-season.

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