Saturday, July 11, 2009

Battered and frustrated, Tribe heads into break with lots to do

Ahhh, the All-Star break.

Where does the time go?

Seems like only about six years ago the Tribe began the season (with a loss) in Texas, and now, here we are, already at the break.

And if a team ever needed the break, this one does.

If a fan base ever needed a break, this one clearly does.

Many of the more casual fans have moved on to other pursuits, but if you are still reading a blog about the Tribe (or, say, writing one) you definitely need some time off.

Eric Wedge has gone off on his club - uncharacteristically so - about a half dozen times in public. Who knows how many times he's done so without reporters around.

The tension seems to be getting very much thicker among the players as well.

Take Friday night for instance.
Cliff Lee, who, to his credit, has sucked up agonizing defeat after agonizing defeat this season, could barely hold back the anger he must be feeling about a team that seems to go to sleep on him nearly every time he pitches. Friday, Lee pitched 7 innings, allowing 3 runs. The Tribe managed 1 run for him. After the game he didn't seem too happy, at least in this quote of him in a PD story.

"Print the same thing I said the last time. It's the same story."
Lee also was apparently irked by Ryan Garko's failure to catch a line drive down the right field line - good for two runs. Again according to the PD, Lee was asked if he thought the ball should have been caught:

"Do you? I don't pass judgment on that. I throw the pitches. Where it goes it goes. It's not up to me to move the outfielders or infielders. All I do is pitch. It did seem like it was in the air a long time. I don't know if they had him shaded the other way or what. You'd have to ask him or Wedgie."

Which is exactly what the press corps did.

Garko, also showing he may be reaching a boiling point, took offense to the questioning:

"Sometimes I think because it's me, I don't make a play, and it becomes a big deal. If [Shin-Soo] Choo's out there, it's a double and it doesn't become an issue. I got a good jump on the ball, went all out. I just didn't make the play."

If I may interject here. It is true that a big deal is made out of it because it is you Ryan. And rightly so. Even the most casual fan can see you are not an outfielder and people criticize not you and your willingness to take on this new challenge but your manager who should also be able to see that a guy with your plodding foot speed should not be playing in the outfield at all, let alone one the size of the outfield in Detroit.

After coming out of the game, Lee could be seen on the bench chatting (mutually muttering, apparently in agreement) with Victor Martinez, a teammate with whom Lee has had at least one public run in.

Friday the two seemed to be sharing their frustrations about the way the team goes about its business.

Victor, in fact, seems to have been in a funk now for about a month - about the same amount of time his BA has been dropping like a rock.

It's a chicken-egg thing going on.

Is Victor frustrated because of his deep and lengthy slump, or is his BA melting away because of his frustration with teammates who don't seem to be really into what they're doing?

Purely a guess on my part, but from what I hear and read about Martinez, I'd say his offense has fallen victim to his frustration boiling over, and not the other way around.

Perhaps the best thing for the guys on the team is that they get away and not see each other's faces for three days.


After everyone has had a few days to simmer down, it will be time to get back to work.

The first thing Wedge has to do is get the following notion out of his head:

“We’re a long shot. I understand that. But this is a crazy game. Stranger things have happened. Just look at some of the comebacks in September, let alone with more than two months to play.”

He said that? He really did! Or at least the Beacon Journal's Indians blog Tribe Matters said that he said it.

In another - more coherent - moment, Wedge talked about being vigilant about keeping on top of guys who just might find themselves, shall we say, motivationally challenged in a meaningless second half.

“I think you have to have a heightened awareness of that in the situation we’re in."

Okay, so maybe he isn't delusional after all.

The Tribe Matters post goes on to talk about how Wedge and the brain trust must continue to evaluate what they have in the remaining months, but then focuses on Ben Francisco and the aforementioned Garko, saying Tribe officials don't seem to have made a final decision on them and their abilities.

Let me save you some time.

You get offered anything more valuable than a bag of balls for Francisco prior to July 31, you take it. He's a backup outfielder. No more. No less.

Garko has proven (despite his protestations of being judged too harshly) over the past several years that he is a decent DH. Period. At least on a team that has several options at 1B. And as everyone who watches the team seems to agree (except for Wedgie), he is not an outfielder. There's no way for me to know this, but I get the feeling Garko is fed up with being something less than one of Wedgie's favorites and, unless there's a change in managers at the end of the season (a likely scenario), he would just as soon be playing somewhere else. He should be accommodated.

Shapiro should also be looking to dump a few others in the weeks ahead - starting with Jhonny Peralta.

Peralta has turned out to be a decent 3B. He's much better there than at SS, even though he refuses to see it. As for his attitude, which has shown itself to be less than stellar in the past, he seems to be in an even worse place this season - the switch to 3B the likely culprit. The move was good enough for A-Rod and for Cal Ripken, but not Jhonny Peralta!

A perhaps more valuable piece for a contender would be Jamey Carroll, since he has a good attitude and some versatility. He's also used to performing off the bench. The Tribe might be able to get a decent prospect for him.

Contenders can always use another arm.

You have to assume Carl Pavano will pull a Kevin Millwood. That is, take advantage of the Tribe's need for bargain-basement pitching options to re-establish his career, then take off for the biggest bucks after the season. So you might as well get something for him now.

Raffie Betancourt - and his option of nearly $5 mil for next year - should be shopped if he proves himself healthy over the next few weeks.

Joe Smith? Not sure if the Mets shipped us the right Joe Smith, but the one wearing the Tribe uniform currently would not be missed.

Which brings us to Kerry Wood. I am still of the notion that his ineffectiveness this season is due to rust. The Tribe has no need for a closer this year, but we can hope and pray they will need one next season. Why go through the whole closer hunt again this off-season? I would keep him, but I think there's a decent chance he will be traded. The Yankees need a bridge to the 9th. They could care less about the $10 mil they'd have to pay him next year. And who knows when Mariano Rivera's wizardry might give out. Wood could be an insurance policy if age catches up to Rivera next season.

In the 'good luck with that one' department, Kelly Shoppach should be on the "get-rid-of" list. I doff my cap to those who clamored for the Tribe to sell high on Shoppach last winter. I thought he might be capable of being an everyday player, which would allow Victor to save his body at 1B. I thought wrong. Unless someone's starting catcher goes down, I can't see anyone giving up much for Shoppach.

There are three other names on the deadwood list - Winston Abreu, Jose Veres and Tomo Ohka. Since they would bring nothing in return, they might as well be kept around until all the trading dust settles and the Tribe checks out its hand. If they have enough MLB-ready players to go around, they should dump the trio. If not, they're warm bodies to play out the string.

Two things the Tribe should NOT do before July 31 - trade Lee and Martinez. There has to be something to start with when putting together next year's team. Neither guy breaks the bank in their option year. They both seem to give a damn about winning and losing and trading them would mean the turnstiles getting even more rusty next season.

Which brings us to the guys who need to play in the second half.

It does little good to have Luis Valbuena play every other day. If he's the choice at 2B, let him play. I still think Josh Barfield has talent, but his mind has been fried by the way he was used here, and I don't think he'll make any progress until he goes elsewhere.

Matt LaPorta should be up and playing 1B everyday. Michael Brantley should be up, and playing left field - center when Sizemore needs to rest is elbow.

If Peralta is traded, what harm can come of trying Andy Marte one more time? My guess is he is the classic 4-A player who lacks the confidence to make it over the hump, but there's no harm in giving him one last shot during this lost season.

David Huff must pitch every five days. They need him anyway since the numbers at SP are very thin, but he has shown some flashes of ability as he as pitched more innings (his last outing notwithstanding).

In September, I'd give Hector Rondon about 5 or 6 starts to get his feet wet.

And the Tribe must find a way to get Aaron Laffey, Fausto Carmona, Jensen Lewis, Raffie Perez and now (apparently) Chris Perez pitching back at their ability levels. I'm not all that optimistic about many of them, but the field staff has to try. And if they can't resurrect these guys, all the more reason to dump the whole staff come October.

Which brings me to the final two things Shapiro must do in the second half - scour the baseball world and come up with a short list to replace Wedge, and polish up his own resume just in case the ownership has the guts to start the management overhaul where it should start, at the top.


Anonymous said...

wow - some analysis and recommendations. Must be something in the family genes as I agree with most of it.

First one more strike for shapiro and wedge - looks like we kept the wrong OF - francisco instead of Guttierrez. Man he is tearing it up in Seattle.

Now your list - it is easy to say get rid of this guy or that guy but who is going to trade for them.

You got more guys to dump than keep. I agree Francisco, peralta, and garko should probably go. I think peralta and garko want to go and have had enough of wedge. Carroll is a wedge type player and will probably stay. Pavano and betancourt could go cause of salaries. I think Pavano has some inning clause in his contract.

Smith has been a big disappointment. Wood if the price is right - why not except then we have no closer again.

shoppach, abreu, veres, ohka - would ANYONE take these guys if we dropped them.Its a shame when 25 % of your roster no one wants.

Yes let brantley and laporta play - we got nothing to loose

take care - moose

Ron Vallo said...

Well, I mentioned every guy that should be shopped. Obviously there wouldn't be takers on every one. Nor could the Tribe trade every one, or they wouldn't be able to field a team.

I meant to indicate who I thought should be actively shopped or be made expendable if someone wants them.

To do it all would require about 7 trades, which obviously is just silly.

Ron Vallo said...

As for Guttierez, looks like another player who has figured it out AFTER leaving the guidance and coaching of Wedgie and staff.

Anonymous said...

Most teams get a 3 day all star break - the tribe decided to make it a 4 Day break !!!

embarassing -

Anonymous said...

Tribe traded Gutierrez cause he had more trade value than Francisco. The Mariners came out and said they had no interest in Francisco. With LaPorta/Crowe/Brantly for LF (plus Weglarz), getting what you could for Gut wasn't a bad move (though I hated to see him go). He needs to be playing CF to get full value of his skills. Wasn't gonna do that in Cleveland.

Brantley should not see Cleveland at all this year. He's young and really struggled at times in AAA. He's not gonna be on the team in 2010 to start the year, so leave him down. Send him to the AFL if you want him to get more work in, but Tribe doesn't tend to bring guys up to sit on the bench. Makes no sense.

LaPorta should be up and playing LF. Victor will start 70-80 games at 1B next year. You want LaPorta in those games still. Let Garko sit during those ones then. LaPorta should be starting everyday in LF. Francisco should be a backup and start in CF when Grady needs a rest.

We should see this later this month though.

Rondon will be up in August provided he keeps pitching well in Columbus. He's only at 72 innings for the season. The Indians want him at 160 at least after throwing 145 and 136 the previous two seasons. He'll have to average 8 innings a start to get that in AAA, and that ain't happening. He's already on the 40-man roster, so it won't affect his option clock at all (this year already counts no matter if he's brought up or not).

Marte is a minor league free agent at the end of the year....he's as good as gone.

Also, if you're gonna bring someone up, it'll be Jordan Brown. Natural LF/RF that plays 1B as well. Having a fantatic year in AAA. A bit like a lefty-Garko. Will make a great bench guy next year.

Not a fan of dealing Peralta. As I said, Marte is a free agent and he ain't sticking around. Hodges has been hurt for much of the year. He'll need more time in he's god-awful defensively.

So unless you want to start Gimenez or Barfield at 3B next really have to keep Peralta around.

Plus, if Wedge is gone, I think a lot of his attitude problems will go away.

Need to bring in a guy like Hargrove (not sayin him necessarily, but a guy like him). One that can handle personalities like that. Hargrove did great with Ramirez, who reminds me a lot of Peralta. Ramirez hated the media back then. Also came into camp out of shape a few times. Looked extremely lazy in the field....but did play ok at times (nearly 20 outfield assists one year).

Remind you of someone? Peralta can come in out of weight and really looks lazy in the field. But he does make all the routine plays.

He's not the type of player you want around with Wedge.....

I'd rather get rid of Wedge though.

Lee, Garko, Barfield, Peralta, and Shoppach all have had issues with Wedge....and that's just what we know of. Then the old ones were Phillips, Bradley (though he doesn't really count, lol), and Gerut.

I even think Victor isn't seeing eye to eye with him fully anymore.

Choo and Cabrera are the only offensive players that have really grown under Wedge. Lee is the only pitcher....and that was after a major meltdown in the middle.

If Wedge can't handle his players, or develop them....what's his purpose?

He should go before any player is traded that's not a free agent. See how things go without him....I bet you like the results.

Anonymous said...

Literally this team makes me want to vomit. It's like watching a train wreck. It's every year with every Cleveland team. Oh well...But Hey, Wedge likes our lineup right now and wants consistency...good grief.

Anonymous said...

I agree this team needs about 10-12 new faces on the 25 man roster next year (at a minimum). The only problem with not trading Lee or Victor is that those are the only two guys that could fetch anything in return. The rest of the guys mentioned as disposable could only fetch spare parts and minor leaguers that have 'upside' 2-3 years down the road. The latter is better than keeping 'the same old, same old' however.

Anonymous said...

There's more guys on this team with value than just Lee and Martinez....

Victor has 330 at-bats this year.....

In Garko's last 330 at-bats (dating back to mid-August last year), he has a higher batting average (hitting over .300), higher OBP (.384), an identical SLG (.485)higher OPS, more HRs (15), more RBIs (67), and more hits (100) than Victor Martinez.

He also did that averaging fewer at-bats per game (3.2 vs 3.8).

People underrate Garko.....

Anonymous said...

moose said

so back from the all star break
One game looked good but the rest is back to normal. 70 games and counting. 36-56 so if they play 500 (fat chance) they would be 71-91
I dont think so - 100 is looking good.

I went to the game saturday night for beach night. Eight hits one run. And Franklin Guttierez looks like an all star. Anothe ex indian thriving away from wedge. So the trade deadline is12 days away. I look for Pavano and Garko to go. The fans dont want to see Toka Ohma pitch anymore. Let Huff, Laffey, and Sowers take their lumps. Don't push westbrook back - there is no reason. Peralta may go - he needs a change of scenary.
The bullpen - other than wood - some folks may take a look at Betancourt. The indains have a lot of september games who is going to come.

Let the kids play - laporta, brantley, marte etc.

I look at all the other teams in the league and they all have good youth and pitching. This franchise has nothing in the minors. Shapiro and his scouting team have messed up badly. Wedge needs to go - no one respects him.