Friday, July 31, 2009

Coping with life after Victor

It's taken me a bit of time to get something up on this site tonight because I've been struggling to put into words just how I feel about the latest punch in the stomach - the Victor Martinez trade.

I was wild-eyed angry the other night with the trade of Cliff Lee.

I was angry that Lee was gone, but what really lit my fire was the realization that the deal meant another gutting and rebuild - with the next move sure to involve Victor.

So with Victor gone, I'm feeling an odd mixture of emotions, and anger is at the low end of list.

Sadness is probably the most prevalent feeling for me tonight.

How can you watch Victor's post-trade chat with reporters and not feel it?

How can you think of the 2007 season and not feel it?

How can you look at the unrealized expectations of the 2009 season and not feel it?

How can you see the latest core of players you thought might take us where we want to go, then see it broken up over the past 12 months - starting with CC -and not feel sad?

It's not an emotion really, but I'm also feeling a little sick to my stomach having just listened to Mark Shapiro during the Tribe game move up his contention-expectation clock to 2010. It was an obvious, and shameless, attempt to neutralize some of the venom being spewed by Tribe fans who are clearly not up for another rebuilding period that they just didn't see coming.

(I'm also feeling some nausea listening to Matt Underwood during the interview with Shapiro planting a big one right between the GM's two butt cheeks, but that's really beside the point I'm trying to make here.)

I would be lying if I denied the tiniest spark of curiosity about the new direction the team was forced into over the past few weeks. I would say the feeling stops well short of excitement, but I have already found myself mentally moving people in and out of the rotation, pen and starting lineup and trying to convince myself that there might just be enough new blood around to fill lots of holes.

We'll talk about that in detail at another time though.

Let's get back to the Victor deal.

As I said I have had two days to process all the anger that came with the Lee trade, and the realization that the plug has been pulled and some bleak days are ahead.

Unlike the night of the Lee trade, there was no surprise tonight.

I mostly just feel an emptiness that comes with knowing the heart and soul of the team - a real Cleveland Indian, the way Thome and Vizquel were real Cleveland Indians - has been sent packing.

It's not a feeling I haven't felt before and it's a feeling I'm sure to feel again, being a fan of a small-market team in a flawed system that stacks all the cards against teams like the Tribe.

So what is there to do but suck it up and see what we got for Victor?

My initial reaction to the deal was much like my initial reaction to the Lee deal - we didn't get the guys everyone else was looking for. In this case it was starter, and top prospect, Clay Buckholz and reliever Daniel Bard, both currently with the Red Sox.

While that is true, the Tribe did get Justin Masterson - a pitcher already up in the bigs and ready to step into the rotation once he gets stretched out after pitching in the bullpen with the Sox.

LHP Nick Hagadone is also a key piece for the Tribe, and the guy with the highest upside in this deal for Cleveland. He's a flame thrower who Shapiro said was clocked recently at 99 by Tribe scouts. More routinely, he's at 94-95 with what is said to be an exceptional slider. There is the little matter of TJ surgery less than a year ago, but based on what he's doing this year, it appears the operation was a success.

In his TV appearance tonight, Shapiro said Hagadone will either be put on an accelerated track to the back of the Tribe's bullpen, or a much slower track to the front end of the rotation. If he is put on the starter track, Hagadone's development will be slower because he will be on an innings limit due to to the surgery.

Bryan Price, like Hagadone, is pitching at Class A after being the 45th player picked overall in the 2008 draft. He's not looking so good so far, but he too has mid-90's capabilities.

Maybe it's the 48-hour cooling-off period since the Lee trade, or the encouraging outing tonight by Fausto Carmona, or maybe even the three Yeunglings I had with my burger tonight, but I'm starting to come to terms with the reality that the Tribe - again - is rebuilding.

Most of the Tribe's players have played poorly this season. Eric Wedge has been even worse as a manager. And the front office has failed for years to produce homegrown players to add to those they've acquired in trade.

There's a lot wrong with the organization from top to bottom.

There will be time to deal with front-office and management issues when the season ends. But the time to start fixing the talent shortage was now.

Time will tell if the pieces picked up by Shapiro were the right ones. But - after thinking things over the past few days - I began to see some merit to the argument that there was not enough talent at the top end of the organization to make a serious go of things. And since the Tribe can't just go out and buy the two top pitchers on the market and the top bat or two - like another team we know - this is how it has to be done.

My original sentiment was to just chuck it all and get a hobby like gardening for the summer. Many of you are threatening yourself with the same thing - giving up on the Tribe and baseball.

But I know myself too well, and I know that I can't do that.

I don't have to be happy about it. And I will continue to bitch about just how broken baseball's system is. But I will go through yet another rebuild with the Tribe and enjoy whatever good moments come along as this new group of Tribesman evolves into our next great hope.

In the meantime, can I have another Yeungling please?


Anonymous said...

The Victor trade definitely hurts. I'd go as far to say as he was a bigger 'heart of the team' than even Omar Vizquel in the 90s. In the 90s you had more than just Omar, you had Lofton, Nagy, Thome, etc.

Yeah you have Grady and Hafner now....but no one will ever put those two in the same sentence as Victor as far as team heart.

Only silver lining is we got an absolutely AMAZING deal for him. Honestly, we bent Boston over in this deal.

Would Bucholtz have been nice? Yes, but they turned that down and we weren't even trying for secondary pieces with him. Would bard have been nice? Yes, but people that can start are MUCH more valuable in a reload than setup men (which is what Bard is now). We have Chris Perez and Jess Todd who can do what Bard does. Maybe not as well, but likely close.

I've been telling my one buddy for 2 weeks now that Hagadone is gonna be the next CC. Yes, the TJ surgery is a bit scary...but people forget that Cliff Lee had it in the minors and even Kyle Drabek of the Phillies (who many seemed to want for Lee) has already had it very recently.

Remember too that Hagadone was rated the #3 prospect by Baseball America....and Daniel Bard was #4.

I do wish with every fiber of my body that we'd of held on to Victor and extended him this winter. It's gonna hurt for a long while knowing he's gone and likely not coming back.....

But at least we got a great deal.

This deal will turn out better for Cleveland than Boston. Vic is not what Boston needed at all (which makes this deal even tougher)....

Anonymous said...

Not that it should make anyone feel better....but check out Garko and Victor's numbers in Cleveland this year...

Garko: .285 BA, .362 OBP, .464 SLG, .826 OPS, 11 HR, 39 RBI in 239 at-bats.

Victor: .284 BA, .368 OBP, .464 SLG, .832 OPS, 15 HR, 67 RBI in 377 at-bats.

Nearly IDENTICAL batting lines. Vic only had 4 more HRs in nearly 140 more at-bats.

NOT saying Garko is the better hitter....but does show just how great our haul was for Victor....

Gonna miss Victor more than I think I even missed Omar.....but he was struggling and no guarantee he'd hit .300 with 25 HRs and 110 RBIs past this seson....

Anonymous said...

It's not just Matt Harwood planting kisses on Shapiro's butt. This article and comments so far are making the trade sound great. Shapirio Dolan and Wedge are awful Period. All 3 will be back next year and while I too will be a fan despite this I am not going to spin this Fire Sale to save $$ into anything else. We traded DeRosa for a lousy middle reliever, got a bag of broken bats for Lee ad had to throw in Francisco. We traded Garko for a gamble and the trade for Victor we got Masterson and 2 more gambles. Pavano will be next and Grady will go next year sometime for the same reason. I would be more optimistic if Shapiro gets sent packing. We sent a prospect to Tampa Bay for a guy we just released. Shapiro keeps pointing at the Colon trade. He has to and if he told the truth even he was shocked on how good it was. But Wedge grinded out Phillips, Grady has gotten worse the longer he plays for Wedge & Shelton instead of Murray, and Lee was traded for highly risky prospects at best. Free agent signings like Kerry Wood (Trade him please), Trot Nixon, and the washed up David Dellucci show how overmatched Marky is.
Victor is EXACTLY what the Red Sox need, a guy that can replace Varitek and play 1st and DH. So far he has been delivering top value the Sox offense which looked dead the last month is scoring in bunches and even got washed up Smoltz a win!

Stop kissing butt and start kicking it. Where is your pride? You can still root for the Tribe without praising one of the worst GM/manager/coaches combination in MLB

Dolan please sell the team!

Boston Wahoo

Ron Vallo said...

Hey Boston Wahoo:

You and I are in the same boat (at least from your sign-on I'm presuming you live in Boston).

We have to watch this garbage go on while the local team in our respective cities just keep buying their way to the top, often with "our" players.

I think in my post I criticized Wedge and Shapiro for getting us into the mess we are in and in fact suggested that they and the scouting department be dealt with in the off-season.

I don't think Shapiro will go, since he is now the architect of the new rebuild and the Dolans love him.

But I do think there is a decent chance Wedge and his coaches will be gone and that a hard look at the scouting department may send some of them packing too.

They all got us into the mess, including Shapiro, but the mess was so bad that on the pitching side - except for Rondon - there was a long string of No. 5 (maybe a couple of No. 4) starters throughout the system prior to the trades made over the past few weeks. (You may argue that is still the case. I say only time will tell and there's a chance we have better than that now).

It is Shapiro's attempt to clean up his own mess. The only other choice was to live with the mess and have an awful pitching staff for the forseeable future.

We don't have to like that Shapiro f'd it up, but I think a reload was the best alternative.

Do I agree with your chant GO TRIBE, FIRE WEDGE & SHAPIRO. Dolan please sell the team!


But until any or all of those things happen, this was the best solution in my mind.

We can disagree but I don't think the tone of my piece is a kiss-ass tone.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth. It is ridiculous to expect broadcasters paid by the team to ask "hard-hitting" questions. I can't think of one... Michael Kay of the Yanks was a great reporter and I think, a very good announcer. Yet, he consistently lobs "soft balls." And the Sox announcers? Puhleze. Chill on this issue

Anonymous said...

To the third poster...

I pretty much stopped reading after you said "We traded DeRosa for a lousy middle reliever, got a bag of broken bats for Lee ad had to throw in Francisco."

Clearly you do not follow baseball and prospects very closely.

First off, we got 2 players for DeRosa. We got the #3 and #4 best prospect in Cards system for a guy that was gonna be a free agent after the year and was only gonna be a Type B free agent in the AL (thus only 1 supplemental pick).

What did we give up for him?

We gave up our 19th, 29th, and an unranked prospect!

A 1st grader could tell you that we made out like bandits in that deal.

Not too mention neither Perez nor Todd (the other guy) are projected as 'middle relievers'. Perez is a closer in the making and Todd could be a decent starter or solid setup man.

And then your comment about the Lee trade is off too.

We got MORE talent in this trade than even the Bartolo Colon trade.

We had to throw-in Zach Day in that deal and only got 3 in A-ball, one in AA who would go on to have TJ surgery less than two years after the deal, and a AAA SS/2B with attitude problems...o, and Lee Stevens (aka, David Dellucci).

Obviously you never know how the prospects will turn out, but Knapp is more highly rated at the time of the trade than any of the players the Tribe got in that Colon trade (Phillips would go on to be a top 20 the next year though).

Does it absolutely SUCK that we made these trades?

YES. Not disagreeing there. But this team was gonna find it tough to compete next year even in the weak AL Central with the roster they have. They were not going to win the World Series, that's for sure.

So what was the point in keeping Cliff Lee around?

The Victor deal really, really stings.....but in baseball terms, it really was the best move.

When Victor's deal was up after 2010, there's a chance he re-signs....but what position would he play?

Catcher would likely be Carlos Santana's. Maybe Victor splits time...but can this organization (or any organization not named the Yankees or Red Sox) afford to give a big 3-4 year deal to a 32 year old catcher who needs to be playing 1B?

As I showed with Victor's numbers....if he's playing 1B, he's average. You can find a guy to replicate his numbers pretty closely at 1B for cheap. LaPorta, Hodges (could end up at 1B), Brown, and Mills could all be doing it by 2011.

If you give Victor a big deal, it's very likely he'd become Hafner part deux. He'd clog up a position for the younger guys and be makign too much money for his production.

Kind of like when we let Omar go. It SUCKED, but we couldn't afford to give Omar and his lackluster offense $5M a year. He wasn't worth half that by the end of his deal (and even during).

People can call me a 'butt kisser' but you need to step back and look at what the team (and Shapiro) have done from a baseball standpoint, and not looking at it as a fan.

Shapiro did AMAZING in getting the talent he did.

I will say, I wish we'd have gone with Michael Taylor over Lou Marson in the Lee deal.....but I still think that Marson will be flipped this winter (even after the Victor trade). That or Shoppach will, so getting the extra catcher will make some sense then.

Plus this gives me hope that Jordan Brown will get a shot both this year and next in either LF or at 1B.

Shapiro has now put together the BEST farm system in all of baseball. It's up to the manager (hopefully not Wedge) to bring these young guys along and for the front office (Mirabelli and Grant) to keep the trend of solid drafts going (the last 3 have looked very good, Chisenhall was the steal of last year's draft).

Anonymous said...

Wow -- as I read your blog I feel as if I am reading my own thoughts. I too am a Clevelander in New York. I too am more depressed than angry. Victor was an Indian through and through. He loved the team and the city. Losing him is very sad.

Anonymous said...

Who are these guys commenting from "Yankeeland"and "RedSoxland"? ...and why do we Clevelanders need to read what they "think," especially since it amounts to little more than knee-jerk justification and rationalization of whatever Dolan and Shapiro decide to do? And, for another thing, why is posting their poorly written, clumsily edited and weakly reasoned bilge on its sports pages?
What the Dolan/Shapiro tandem just did to our town reeks so much, even a hundred out-of-town shitspinners can't pretty it up.

Anonymous said...

it is not that cleveland is a small market team i.e the 90's. It is just that dolan paid too much for the team and now he can't afford them. Everyone needs to go from the owner to the gm, front office all the managers. exspecially the scouts, they cant scout talent if it slapped them in the face clean house and it starts with dolen shapiro wedge and all his people except for skinner. until this happens we can go back to regressive field and be the mistake at the former jake.

Anonymous said...

"All his people except for skinner" ??

I like Skinner....but c'mon now. He's FAR from the only guy that should stick around.

Anonymous said...

to poster #8 - the yankeeland and redsoxland posters are probably like me indian fans who moved to other parts of the country. you need to get a grip on yourself and stop attacking people because you can't handle what is going on with the tribe. you implied that dolan and shapiro ruined the city of cleveland. i've been an indian fan since the 50's and what has taken place this year is nothing compared to what went on in 60's, 70's and 80's. during those three decades, the tribe did not even have a glimmer of hope making the playoffs. yes, the rebuilding process sucks and wedge and shapiro should be fired but at least the trades the last few weeks will make us more competitve in a couple of years. you need to move on like the tribe is doing.

Anonymous said...

Other than the part about Shapiro being fired, I agree with the poster above.

This is NOTHING compared to some of the old Indians clubs. Heck, 2002 was much worse as well. We already had a solid farm system (unlike in 2002), now we have THE BEST.

As said about a hundred times, it sucks to rebuild but it's necessary at times.

Shapiro is still one of the 5 best GMs in baseball. The best at trading for prospects, and our drafts have been much better of late (though that's a team effort, and Bud Grant deserves a lot of credit for that).

Has Shapiro made some mistakes? Yes, but so has every GM.

Other than Wren....I honestly can't name a GM I'd rather have over Shapiro right now.

Kenny Williams would be the only other that'd I'd consider....but not sure how well he'd work in Cleveland with a smaller budget where he can't make those off the wall moves he likes.

Anonymous said...

Other than the potential we hear about in Rondon at AAA as a starting pitcher, when was the last time the Indians pulled a #1 or even #2 starter from their own system? Next to CC at age 19, what about 10-11 years ago, I can't think of anyone. So to rectify this, Shapiro has to "fix' this vacuum by trading the Tribe's best players they can't afford to acquire players from other organizations that they themselves fail to draft. What does that say about their own drafting and scouting? Pretty pathetic.

BTW: A correction from one of your recent anonymous posters who stated that Zach Day was a "throw-in" in the Colon trade. Not quite. I believe it was the "puzzle guy," our old buddy Milton Bradley who was traded straight up for Day.