Monday, May 25, 2009

Same old, same old - more or less

Well, it's been a week of wetness for me. Soaked is the better word as Orlando had between 10 and 11 inches of rain in the five days the family and I darted from one covered area to another at the Magic Kingdom. Still we managed to get on every coaster-type ride in the main four parks at least once.

Seems the Tribe remains on their roller coaster ride into oblivion as well. Win one, lose one, give one away.

The Tribe lost three of the six games they played while I was gone.

I guess it could also be said they won three of six.

When I left they were 11 under and 7.5 back. As I write this, they are 11 under and 8.5 back, with the first-place Tigers well ahead in their Memorial Day game against KC .

At face value it seems little has changed.

The rotation, the bullpen, the defense and the up-and-down offense each had a hand in the losses that turned what could have been a good week into more of the same.

The lineup shuffling continues - producing little, except for more and more questions in the minds of several players who don't have a clue where they stand or what glove to bring to the park on any given day.

If you look a little beyond the surface, you can find a little bit to hang your hat on though - at least where the bullpen is concerned.

The pen was 2 and 3 with 3 saves over the six games from Tuesday through Sunday. So they were responsible for all three losses. That looks, at first glance, like more of the same.

But they also were responsible for 2 of the 3 wins last week and saved all 3 victories.

That is change for the better.

Excluding Kerry Wood's Tuesday night meltdown, the pen pitched 21 1/3 innings last week and allowed 4 earned runs - an ERA of 1.69.

Even better, most of the good work was spread around among four pitchers - Raffie Betancourt, Greg Aquino, Matt Herges and Luis Vizcaino. Yes, Vizcaino lost Sunday's game, but he was pitching for the third straight day and was gassed.

So things may be looking up at least a little in the pen.

Several other major developments occurred while I was busy riding Test Track and The Rockin' Roller Coaster, and drying my sneakers off with the hotel hair dryer.

Aaron Laffey - who helped stabilize both the starting rotation, and then the bullpen - pulled the old oblique. Based on past history with CC Sabathia (two or three times) and Jake Westbrook, that usually turns into a 4 to 6-weeker.

The same night - Friday I believe - Anthony Reyes came out of the game early and headed straight for the DL with a sore elbow. Apparently his pitching had become less effective as the elbow got more sore over the past several games. Finally, on Friday, he had to call it quits. It's not clear yet just what the extent of that injury is.

(UPDATE: Shortly after this posting the word came down that Reyes is likely to require major surgery on the elbow and is likely out for the season.)

What is clear is that the Tribe is very short on starters.

David Huff has shown nothing in two starts so far and Jeremy Sowers is back with the club by default.

Which brings us to the last major development during my week in the rain forests of Orlando.

Mark DeRosa trade rumors.

With DeRosa playing 1B like a man who has played there only a dozen or so times in his career, three other more capable first basemen on the roster and a crying need for pitching, it appears DeRosa may be on his way out.

I like DeRosa's bat, but he doesn't have much of a glove and he clearly can't play 1B. So unless the Tribe decides to put him at 2B - his position with the Cubs - and send Luis Valbuena down to Columbus, I think it is a matter of time before he is traded.

If it were me, I wouldn't even bother with DeRosa at 2B. Defensively it can be covered better by Valbuena, Jamey Carroll or Josh Barfield.

I think DeRosa is our best chip to land some pitching and he has no obvious place to play in the field.

The team will miss his bat, but pitching is a much more urgent need at the moment.

Finally, before I go off to watch my first Tribe game in seven days, I'd like to address the Eric Wedge situation one last time.

It has become painfully obvious that Mark Shapiro has decided that Wedge doesn't deserve the bulk of the blame for yet another disastrous stumble from the gate.

Certainly Shapiro must know a fair amount of the blame goes in his direction and he appears unwilling to throw Wedge under the bus. It is an admirable stance by Shapiro. But it is a chancy one too.

If the team continues to stumble and bumble its way through the remainder of the year - as I believe it will - than both men at the top may find themselves under ownership's gaze at year end.

I don't think Wedge has shown the type of leadership this team needs to pull itself up, and more importantly, I think he makes matters worse with his constant shuffling and reshuffling of the deck chairs.

But when it comes time at the end of the year to start throwing things overboard, Shapiro may find himself right ahead of his buddy Wedgie.

Frankly, I've never bought into the moneyball, supercomputer, Wall Street-speak way that many modern baseball teams are being run. I think a player has to be judged on more than obscure stats run through forty different spread sheets. His smarts, his ability to motivate himself, his level of self-confidence and his natural abilities all have to be added into the mix.

I just don't think you can create a baseball team by crunching numbers and spouting biz speak.

Maybe it would be best for Wedge to stick around for the rest of the year. That way maybe he can take Shapiro with him when he heads for the door and a fresh look from a new management team might lead to better days.

(I've removed the "should Wedge be fired" Tribe poll that has been up the last 10 days or so. Just FYI 77% of those who responded said that Wedge should indeed be let go, while 23% said he should not.)

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