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?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tribe trades Lee, Francisco; Pulls plug on this year and next

(Updated at 10:39 PM EDT with Shapiro comments)

"We had some lack of conviction with the team's ability to be a definitive contender next year. If felt we could contend with zero additions, we definitively would not have made this deal."

And so we hear from the man himself.

Tribe GM Mark Shapiro - at a news conference officially announcing the trade of Cliff Lee to Philadelphia - essentially said the front office has no illusions that the team it created will contend in 2010, so key pieces of "now" are being shipped for possible pieces of "future."

Even more depressing for the fan base, Shapiro said at the press conference that he's been told by the Dolans that they will not pony up for additions to the roster over the winter. So, having determined that without experienced reinforcements the team will go nowhere again next season, the fire sale's biggest piece of merchandise was moved, with an equally big piece about to be shipped.

Now it's wait until 2011 - at least.

But if you've followed this team long enough, you know that tomorrow (in this case 2011 or 2012) never comes.

It is awful as a fan to always be on the butt end of these kinds of trades - where you get the prospects and watch one of your team's guys go off and help fulfill some other fan's dreams.

But it's even harder in cases like this one, where the deal fails to bring in return even the promise of something better down the road.

Shapiro, as you might guess, thinks he got a pretty good haul in this deal.

"The value was compelling. It had to be compelling. We received three players who can contribute [soon] in a meaningful way, as well as one player with high upside."

I suppose he couldn't say, "Look, the Dolans are pulling the plug on this thing and I had to get something for Lee."

But how else can you explain what Shapiro settled for?

At face value, the Tribe got four of the Phillies top 10 prospects.

They got an 18-year-old pitcher who throws in the high 90's in Jason Knapp.

The other pitcher coming to the Tribe in the deal, 22-year-old Carlos Carrasco, was seen by many as the soon-to-be-No. 2 man in the Phillies rotation.

So Shapiro got what he was looking for, right? Pitching, pitching and more pitching.

Well, maybe not so much.

Knapp, the 18-year-old supposed center piece of the deal from the Tribe's standpoint, has been on the DL since July 11 with a "tired" shoulder. Arm troubles already - at age 18

As for Carrasco, he was considered the No. 1 or No. 2 pitching prospect in the Phils' organization before this year began. But this season Carrasco is 6-9 with a 5.18 ERA at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He's struck out 112 and walked 38 in 114 2/3 innings. Quickly doing the math that's pretty much exactly one walk every three innings. Carrasco was a guy the Tribe was offered last year when they were peddling CC Sabathia, and they didn't bite. And given his numbers, Carrasco's stock has dropped around the MLB this season, except maybe in one front office where a salarly dump is the main objective.

The two position players in the deal - catcher Lou Marson and SS Jason Donald - leave me equally underwhelmed.

The SS, Donald, is hitting .236 at Triple-A this year, and just got back from a stint of several weeks on the DL after knee surgery.

And Donald appears to be a utility infielder in the making.

Keep in mind these words about Donald - quoted by - are coming from Phillies assistant GM Chuck LaMar, the guy doing the selling:

"He can be an everyday player. Like anyone with his skill set, he's got to prove it at every level."

Talk about your feint praise.

"Like anyone with his skill set, he's got to prove it at every level." Translation: He doesn't have terrific tools but he's a grinder who may find his way to a big-league bench through hustle and determination. Can anyone say Jamey Carroll?

And what does the Tribe need with another SS prospect anyway? They seem to have a young middle-infield combo they are happy with right now in Luis Valbuena and Asdrubal Cabrera. I'm not sold on Valbuena - at least at the plate - but Wedgie seems to love him to death (which, of course, may not mean anything come October).

Then there's the catcher coming the Tribe's way - Lou Marson. His numbers for the season at Triple-A: .294 BA, .370 SLG, a pedestrian .751 OPS and 1 dinger. Exciting. Especially in an organization that already has about six viable catchers (soon to be one less).

You have to assume Marson's arrival will be followed by someone's departure. With the Dolans edict on offseason spending and Shapiro's conclusion that next year is already a super long-shot, that somebody will be Victor Martinez.

Shapiro's take on Marson? Well he doesn't suck, or words to that effect:

"We're really impressed with his receiving, game-calling and leadership skills. Combined with his bat, he could be at least an average everyday Major League catcher."

(While he may or may not think it, I sure am glad my boss never called me "average.")

What's not to get excited about there? We get an "average" catcher in this deal.

The Blue Jays pulled out of talks with the Phillies because they couldn't get minor leaguer Kyle Drabek - the No. 1 MiLB pitching prospect in the Philadelphia system - or AJ Happ, already doing well for himself in the bigs. In fact, the Tribe didn't get any of four players the Jays were targeting.

The Jays walked away.

Maybe the Tribe should have done the same, unless of course the chief objective was to gut the payroll and at least get something for Lee.

Earlier this week I did a post that picked up a quote from an annonymous MLB executive who said he expected the Tribe to cut its payroll down into the 50s next season - a mammoth jump from this season.

A couple of you questioned whether the Dolans would ever think of cutting that much, and I have to admit I had my doubts too.

But the quickness with which this trade was made, and the seemingly poor return, does make it appear that the chief objective was to get Lee's salary off of the books for next season. And that the same priority will prevail in the now-very-likely Victor Martinez deal.

If the Dolans think Regressive Field is too empty now, let me use a phrase that we Cleveland fans have heard a lot from the guys who have run our sports teams over the years.

Wait 'til next year.

Oh, and just one other thing before I go.

Wasn't Andy Marte brought up to play every day in a do-or-die final audition with the Tribe? I know I must have just glossed over it, but I didn't see his name in today's lineup - only the second game played since his recall.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bodies on the move, as the Tribe's future hangs in the balance


Went away for a few days - down to Virginia to help my brother-in-law celebrate a milestone birthday.

And while I was away sampling pulled pork in like seven different varieties of barbecue sauce - and darting from car air conditioner, to home air conditioner, to hotel air conditioner - the Tribe was plenty busy on the field and off.

As I was packing my bags to go, so was Raffie Betancourt. And just about the time I was pulling into the driveway this evening - souvenir ham and peanuts in tow - Ryan Garko was being given an all-expense-paid trip Frisco.

To add to all that, the Tribe also announced the PTBNL in the Mark DeRosa trade of a few weeks ago.

As the dust settled, the Tribe found itself with two high-ceiling, class-A starting pitchers and two candidates for the back end of the bullpen for this year and beyond (including Chris Perez who is already with the club).

Meanwhile, while I was away from my satellite dish, the Tribe had its best weekend of the season on the field, winning three times in Seattle and putting up 31 runs in the process - and getting good pitching to boot.

Perhaps the biggest news of all was the fact that Jeremy Sowers got past the fifth inning with his head still intact on Saturday night.

On Sunday the Tribe announced they picked up reliever Jess Todd - 24 saves and 2.20 ERA at Memphis - from St. Louis to complete the DeRosa deal. Todd should come up (I would hope sooner than later) and get his feet wet on the big club some time this year. With Chris Perez getting his act together in his last five outings or so, it looks like the Tribe got a decent haul for DeRosa and has taken a first couple of steps to repair the bullpen for next year.

From the Rockies, in return for Betancourt, the Tribe got Class A right-handed starter Connor Graham. He's at Class A, so who who knows. But he's got 87 Ks in 80 innings this year. At 6'-7" though, he has control trouble - having walked one batter every two innings. He'll remain a starter this year, but with only a two-pitch arsenal he could be considered for a bullpen role as well. But not if the walks keep up at their current pace.

Which brings us to tonight's deal - Garko for Class A lefty starter Scott Barnes. Again, he's Class A so we've only got numbers to go on and a lot can go wrong as he moves up the ladder. But Barnes this season is 12-3 with a 2.85 ERA.

As distasteful as it is to keep sending major leaguers away for guys who may never see Progressive Field, to this point I'm on board.

That is, I was on board as I made the obvious assumption that last-year's big name acquisition in the CC Sabathia deal - Matt LaPorta - would be heading to the coast to join the Tribe in Disneyland.

What's that you say? Andy Marte is going to be making that trip instead of LaPorta? Good one! Oh, you're not kidding.

While I, in recent weeks, have advocated giving Marte one last shot with the Tribe in this lost season, 1B is not what I had in mind. I realize Jhonny Peralta has been smashing the ball during my four-day hiatus, but what is the point of playing Marte at first?

Makes you wonder if Shapiro and crew have seen something that makes them a lot less excited about LaPorta than they were a year ago at this time.

This would seem to be the perfect time to bring him up, and it does beg the question - just what is the front office's hesitation with LaPorta?

Apparently while I was away, there were also rumors of a blockbuster deal that would send Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee to the Dodgers, with names like Clayton Kershaw and James Loney tossed around as being among those players who would be coming this way.

The Dodgers have flat out denied the rumors - started by FOX sports - and's Rhett Bollinger reported Sunday that the fantasy-baseball-like deal appears to be just that.

Still the New York Post's Joel Sherman reports the vultures continue to circle above the carcass that is the 2009 Cleveland Indians hoping to come away with Victor, or Lee - or both.

Sherman quotes one MLB exec (unidentified) who says deals for Victor and Lee are likely - and will be forced by the Tribe's need to cut payroll nearly in half next season because of all the empty seats at the home ballpark.

One club executive said he would bet "1,000 percent" that Cleveland moves Lee and Martinez because of financial reasons. This executive said that the economy has hurt the Indians as bad as any club and noted that the three players who make the most for the Indians next year are Travis Hafner ($11 million), Jake Westbrook ($11 million) and Kerry Wood ($10.5 million).

"That is $33 million for three players they can't trade and know are going to be part of their team next year when they will probably have to lower their payroll into the $50 million range," the executive said. "How do they get to that number with Lee ($8 million in 2010) and Martinez ($7 million) on the team, also?"

If it is true that a payroll cut of that magnitude is in the offing for the Tribe next year, and with the fan base as bitter as it is already, questions about the viability of the franchise would be the next thing to swirl above the heads of the Tribe.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tribe spinning their wheels in a pointless second half

Not sure what the exact quote was, but as the All-Star break was coming to an end Eric Wedge made the comment that he was looking for stability in his lineup in the second half.

And then there's the one about the bishop, the priest and the rabbi...

In the four games since the break the Tribe has used the same lineup exactly - nunce. Not at all. Four games, four different lineups.

Not that I expect that - at this point - a stable lineup would make any difference on a team that is playing their games with one eye on the calendar - waiting for it to flip to October. But the disconnect between Wedge's talk and his action is just another example of him no longer having a clue about what to do with this team. It's also the reason no one - fans or players - put any stock in anything he has to say anymore.

Of course there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason for the decisions by the front office as to who is one the big league team anymore either.

The team has a youngster like Luis Valbuena up, but not playing everyday. What is the point there?

At the same time, the roster is full of retreads on the pitching staff, like Tomo Ohka and Winston Abreu.

I tuned in to the pregame show today just in time to hear the conclusion of an interview with with assistant GM Chris Antonetti, who said the goal of the organization at this point is to win as many games as possible while developing the young talent on the roster.


How do these two things go together. Either you put the young guys in and let them play in the hope that they get comfortable and get better - W's and L's be damned - or you put your best lineup out there day in and day out to rack up as many wins as you can.

This team is so confused right now they can't even decide what is in their best interest for the rest of the season.

GM Mark Shapiro indicated the team is in no hurry to bring up youngsters like Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley because: "we are doing some very good development work with a lot of these guys" right where they are.

From where I sit though, why lose with Ryan Garko, Ben Francisco and Tomo Ohka, when you could be spending the remainder of the season at least getting some sort of idea of what guys like Brantley, LaPorta and even Hector Rondon can contribute next year? (Unless you don't want the major league staff - which has proven itself inept at developing talent - anywhere near these guys.)

Perhaps things will change at the end of the month, when we find out who, if anybody, the Tribe has sent along to greener pastures, and which youngsters they get in return.

No one wants to watch the same old thing for the next two months. No one gives a damn anymore. The only way to make anything out of this wasted year is to see if there's any help down below that can be counted on for next year.

The current team is simply unwatchable and it serves no purpose for the Tribe to keep spinning its wheels.

Give us something to care about.

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.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tribe "Quotes of the Day"

There's nothing really new to say about the Tribe after last night's disaster - which featured the usual middle-inning disappearance by Jeremy Sowers and a huge blowup by the Tribe's two newest relievers, Chris Perez and Winston Abreu.

So I though I'd just have a little fun instead dissecting (alright, taking out of context) some of the quotes from various members of the team after the game and adding the thoughts that were going through my head as I read each one.

From various articles in the Plain Dealer and on

Tribe pitching coach Carl Willis on starting three straight, and very similar, lefties against the White Sox:

"We've got four lefties in the rotation. It's hard to break them up." Can't argue with the math.

"At the break, we'll put the rotation back together." All the king's horses and all the king's men...

"I think a lot of teams would like to have four good left-handed starters." I'm sure the Tribe would like four good ones as well.

Eric Wedge on his choice of poison in the sixth inning as Jeremy Sowers was melting down again.

"Normally, in that situation, you give a guy a chance to get through it. But time and time again he's struggled to get through that so you go to the bullpen and that doesn't work either." No comment necessary.

"We're going to have to see what our options are with Jeremy." Firing squad anyone?

Winston Abreu:

"I threw sliders to Ramirez and Konerko. I tried to throw them down, but they were up. That's baseball. Sometime you do good, sometimes you do bad." Geeze, don't take it so hard Winston.


(Wedge) "There's never been more opportunity than there is in that bullpen right now, and there's never been more opportunity in our starting rotation than there is right now." Really?

Aaron Laffey on being activated by the Tribe:

"I'm ready for a regular start - something that means something." Join the club Aaron, and 'wait 'til next year.'

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Wedged in for the foreseeable future

Finished up my trip to the home front on the 4th with a visit to the MetroParks Zoo. The last time I was there, my cousin and I were pulling around our now-20-something kids in a red wagon.

I ran into a big flock of seagulls while I was there (non-residents). Apparently they too got bored with the Tribe and are seeking entertainment elsewhere.

I was pretty much incommunicado the whole way home today. Not much in the way of radio in the hinterlands of northern PA.

But when I got home I read the news that Tribe GM Mark Shapiro gave manager Eric Wedge and his coaching staff a public assurance that they will be around 'til the end of the season - at least.

As unwelcome as that might be for many of us, the news was hardly a surprise.

Repeating his oft-stated mantra of the past month or so, Shapiro said that basically everyone in the front office and on the field is responsible for the disaster that is the 2009 Cleveland Indians.

No argument here. And as I've said many times before, we're well past the point where a change of managers might have sparked a rally by the club and a return to the race.

The only good that would come of releasing Wedge and his cronies at this point would be the knowledge that they won't be back next year. With today's announcement, that remains a possibility as Shapiro said the team is still in evaluation mode.'s Anthony Castrovince speculates that Wedge's future may be decided less by wins and losses the rest of the way than by his staff's ability to develop the Tribe's many youngsters so they are ready to contribute next year.

If that is the case, I might be calling the realty company right about now if I were Wedge.

The list of current and former Tribesmen who either failed to progress or regressed under the tutelage of Wedge & Co. is long. Here are just a few names;

Fausto Carmona, Raffie Perez, Kelly Shoppach, Josh Barfield, Andy Marte, Jeremy Sowers, Jhonny Peralta, Ben Francisco, Franklin Gutierrez, Brandon Phillips, Jeremy Guthrie, yada yada....

On the plus side we can put Grady Sizemore, Shin-soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera and Victor Martinez.

Can Wedge and the boys get Fausto straightened by the end of September? Will their new favorite, Luis Valbuena, be hitting with any consistency by the end of the year? Will Raffie Perez snap out of it? Will they EVER bring up Matt LaPorta, and if so will he produce under the watchful eye of Derek Shelton?

If that's the bar that has been set, I wish Wedgie and friends good luck.

On one other topic, the PD's Terry Pluto wrote today that he believes LaPorta's return to the majors is being delayed by the injury to Sizemore, saying the Tribe brass needs to keep Ben Francisco around to play CF when Sizemore's balky elbow won't allow him to play.

Pluto further reports the Tribe wants to keep Chris Giminez around because they consider him a utility player of some value. Last time I looked, Gimenez and LaPorta play the same positions. Wouldn't LaPorta's presence make Giminez expendable?

But wouldn't LaPorta need a place to play everyday, you ask? Sure. He can play LF and Francisco can sit, except when needed to cover for Sizemore.

Pluto was clear to point out that he was just reporting the Tribe's thinking, not necessarily his own. From reading his piece, you get the idea that Pluto might make a different decision.

I certainly would.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Another Tribe head scratcher

I want to write something positive.

I desperately do. You have to take my word for it.

But again tonight I find myself with nothing good to say about the latest Tribe development - minimal though it may be.

The Tribe added another warm body to its bullpen today. A 32-year-old righty who doesn't even qualify at the level of journeyman, unless the journey through the minor leagues counts.

Winston Abreu, the guy picked up from Tampa Bay for 25-year-old reliever John Meloan, has pitched all of 42 innings at the big-league level, for three teams. He spent last season in Japan before getting a shot in spring training with the Rays.

Abreu has spent most of the season in AAA Durham, posting a 3-0 record with 10 saves and a 1.41 earned-run average, in 23 games. Triple-A batters hit .128 against him and he struck out 49 in 32 innings.

That performance prompted a call up by the Rays nearly three weeks ago, and in that time he managed 2 outings before being DFA'd. His lifetime ERA is 6.43 in just 42 MLB innings, with three different teams - and again he's 32 years old.

Sounds like he'll fit right in here in Cleveland.

In return, the Tribe sent to Tampa Meloan - a guy who created at least a mild stir around the Tribe corner of the blogosphere when he was acquired in the Casey Blake trade last year.

Granted, Meloan's numbers at AAA Columbus this season have been shockingly bad - a 5.52 ERA in 42 innings - but he is 7 years younger than Abreu, who - at his advanced age - has yet to establish himself in the bigs.

I'm not saying this trade will bring down the already-teetering organization.

The deal, like the team itself, prompts little more than a yawn.

But it's clear Abreu has shown he is not a major leaguer; his 6.43 lifetime ERA, and minimal big-league service time is all you need to know.

Maybe Meloan will never amount to anything either. But he is 25 and at least has a little while longer to figure things out before he can be declared a bust.

I know I've been advocating change. But trading a 25-year-old, ineffective reliever for a 32-year-old ineffective reliever is not exactly the change I was looking for.

Smells like a move for the sake of making a move to me.

Traumatized? Or just bored to death?

This year's summer trip back to Cleveland has been a nostalgic one for me to say the least.

It started with a wake for a boyhood friend of mine, which reunited me with neighborhood "kids" I hadn't seen in 30 years or more.

Then there was last night's trip to Progressive Field, which transported me back to the days of Municipal Stadium.

The crowd was minuscule, mostly disinterested and definitely disgusted with a home team that seemed equally disinterested and mostly inept. I felt I was back in the late '70s.

The announcement of the starting lineup for the Tribe was greeted by a response that could only generously be called a smattering of cheers. The place was dead from start to finish of another get-it-over-with performance from the home team.

Even John Adams could barely gather enough enthusiasm to whack his big bass drum more than three or four times during the game.

The Tribe went down to a methodical defeat before the sun had even set completely

In an article by Jerry Crasnick, posted two days ago, Tribe GM Mark Shapiro says Tribe fans are "traumatized," which, from the context of the article, I took to mean shell-shocked from all of the disappointment we've taken in the past from all of our home teams.

But the current mood of Tribe fans, I think, has little to do with the town's checkered sports past.

Tribe fans are not "traumatized." Some are angry that a team that was one win from the World Series two years ago has devolved into an unwatchable mess. Others are saddened by the same phenomenon.

A number of other fans are turned off by seven years of the same old same old, with the same faces in charge and very little to be happy about during that time period and a questionable future staring them in the face.

Others - and I think this applies to a large chunk of the fan base - are just plain bored.

The result is the same night after night. An offense that has recently taken to going through the motions, knowing full well that at some point - be it in the early innings by a starter or the latter innings at the hands of the bullpen - the pitching will collapse and the team will notch another "L"

In CYA fashion, the front office members quoted in the ESPN article attempted to dial down markedly fan expectations.

Shapiro: "I truly believe in my heart that we're going to be back in the playoffs again in the next three years."

Three years? Aren't we in year seven of a five-year rebuilding program already?

And from assistant GM Chris Antonetti, these thoughts about the success of 2007 and where the team stands today:

"Any time you have the opportunity to advance in the postseason and get that close, there's some level of disappointment when you don't reach your ultimate goal of winning the World Series. We valued that at the time. We understood that for teams in our market size, with our resources, it's exceptionally challenging to repeat and sustain that level of success."

Which means what? Don't expect much any time too soon? He makes it sound as though smoke and mirrors are a necessary set of tools for a team like the Tribe to do anything more than make an accidental appearance, every so often, in the playoffs.

No wonder the team is drawing so poorly smack dab in the middle of the summer. There seems to be a general lack of hope, which has led to a general lack of interest.

There are some things the team can do to spike interest enough to at least keep the die-hards from defecting.

A new manager would be a start, but it has become abundantly clear that that won't happen - at least until the offseason. Right now a new appointee would likely be an interim choice to finish the season anyway.

But there are some other things the team can do in the area of player personnel.

As much as I like the way Jamey Carroll plays ball, the Tribe needs to get Luis Valbuena in the lineup every day to see what he has and to allow him to get needed experience.

Then there's Matt LaPorta. Why is he not up with the big club and in the lineup every day? Put him either at 1B or LF. With the trade of Mark De Rosa the Tribe has a more glaring need in LF than at 1B right now, but I think LaPorta is more likely to be a 1B long-term so I would play him there.

Which brings us to Michael Brantley - he of the 30 SBs in 33 tries at Columbus. Why not let the fans have a glimpse of him rather than more than they ever want to see of Ben Francisco?

There are other moves that could be made, and perhaps will be made, if some of the dead wood can be cleaned out before the trading deadline. Presumably some young talent will be headed in our direction if trades are made.

But from what I saw tonight - the deadest I've ever seen Jacobs/Progressive Field - some kind of shakeup is in order or the fan base will tune out the Tribe altogether before too long.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Tribe - dead on my arrival

Made the long trek Tuesday from suburban New York to Cleveland for the annual summer visit with the family.

As often seems to be the case, the Tribe is pretty much at its worst as I come to town to make my once-a-year trip to the local ballpark.

That's scheduled for tonight, and with any luck the rain will be a bit more definitive tonight than it was Tuesday and I can be spared an in-person glimpse of this lifeless, directionless bunch.

Other than the final score, there is no statistical proof to back this up, and three games - I will admit - is a small sample. But is it a coincidence that the Tribe has played three of its worst games of the year since Saturday night, when the team either a) threw up the white flag, or b) (to paraphrase Kelly Shoppach) made a trade to better the team right now, unlike last year when the trades were made with the future in mind?

Three games. Three lopsided losses.

Sunday 8-1 to Cincinnati; Monday 6-3 to the White Sox (6-zip headed into the bottom of the ninth); Tuesday 11 -4 in a game mercifully ended early by the second round of thunderstorms to move through downtown Cleveland during the game.

As I said, beyond the final score, there is no statistical evidence to show that the team is playing this way because the DeRosa trade has taken what little starch they had out of them. It could just be a case of bad pitching making things too ugly too early.

But you can tell by watching the games that the Tribe showed a noticeable degree of listlessness in the past three games. Except for Monday's too-little-too-late ninth-inning rally, the team has shown no life whatsoever over the last three games.

To this point, the defense of Eric Wedge has been that the team is still playing for him.

Again, it's just three games. But it bears watching over the next week or so whether the lifeless, go-through-the-motions approach continues.

If it does, what then is the excuse for keeping the manager around?

(If the game gets played tonight, look for me in the bleachers. Myself, my brother, two of his sons and my cousin will be the five people sitting out there. Make it six with John Adams - seven if you count the drum.)