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Cleveland Indians Posts Worth Reading

I haven’t had much to write about lately with July being so slow a sports month when the Indians stink.  If you want to read a very in-depth series about the Indians problems and how they can fix them, Todd Dery has done an excellent job at where I am an almost constant contributor.

The All-Star Break is Here… Thank Goodness

All-Star Break Analysis: The Indians Bullpen

All Star Break Analysis – The Position Players Part I

All-Star Break Analysis – The Position Players Part II

All-Star Break Analysis – Manager and Front Office

Cleveland Indians Fire Sale Should Begin

After last night’s game in Chicago where Indians “closer” Joe Borowski gave up two runs in the bottom of the tenth to waste Casey Blake’s should-a-been game winner, I think it is officially time to stick a fork in the Cleveland Indians for 2008. They are so very completely ridiculously hopelessly done in an unbelievable fall from almost beating the Red Sox to go to the World Series last October. From injuries, to sophomore slumps, to complete busts, to tired players, this team has failed in almost all facets of the game this season.

I am not going to rehash it all for you in any detail, but imagine the moustachioed man who used to do the commercials for Micro Machines

CC Sabathia’s early season slump, the failure of Jason Michaels / David Dellucci platoon, the continued struggles and injury of Travis Hafner, Jake Westbrook Tommy John surgery, Fausto Carmona hip injury, Victor Martinez elbow surgery, Asdrubal Cabrera sophomore slump, Garko failing to live up to expectations, continued inconsistency from Jhonny Peralta, Franklin Gutierrez’ utter failures at the plate, Joe Borowski injury and failures after returning, Rafael Betancourt seemingly tired and ineffective, etc, etc, etc…

So, where do we go from here now that the season is basically over?

  • Sign or trade CC now. The Indians have been making a last ditch effort to lock up CC for the long term. If they can’t get that done, they need to get as much Triple and Double A talent as they possibly can for him. I don’t know if it is three players or more or even less, but they have plenty of needs from starting pitching to corner outfield and infield.
  • Either give Andy Marte 20 games in a row or cut him. Andy Marte can’t be expected to produce when he plays sporadically. If he is going to get an actual shot at third base, give it to him.
  • As Terry Pluto has stated multiple times, let play the middle of the infield when Barfield is healthy. This means doing something with Jhonny Peralta.
  • Either try to trade Jhonny Peralta or try him out at third base. Then again, with those offensive numbers maybe you cut your losses with both him and Marte.
  • Trade Paul Byrd for whatever you can get. I like Byrd, but he is as old as the hills and I don’t expect him to be back in Cleveland next year.
  • Trade Joe Borowski. I am not sure what value he has, but I am sure someone could use another bullpen guy.
  • Last but not least, and I hate to say this, but trade Casey Blake. I love Casey Blake because he can play basically any position on the field and my friends and I have all built up an irrational, unjustified worship of Casey Blake. After a pinch hitter came into the game last week he even played a couple innings at short. Casey Blake could possibly help someone in the stretch run filling in at multiple positions and pinch hitting. His numbers are excellent with men in scoring position. Plus, if the Tribe really wants him back next season he will be a free agent.

The way I see it the Indians have somewhere between 3 and 5 guys who can leave via trade. If they can average 2 players per trade that means the Indians should be able to infuse at least 6-10 guys with potential at the AAA and AA levels. That means that the Indians won’t keep themselves from competing next season with guys like Fausto Carmona, Cliff Lee, and Aaron Laffey definitely returning to the rotation, and guys like Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore and hopefully a healthy Travis Hafner to the lineup.

Finally, I have one question that I am left with after seeing this collapse this season. How is it that the Indians coaches are so beyond blame? I know Eric Wedge has had his haters all along since he was named manager of the team. I know he wasn’t as good a manager as the team performed last season. I know he isn’t as bad a manager as the team performed this season. Still, would a team with such high expectations have a staff that remains as unscathed as this one has in any other city? I don’t really know at what point the finger of blame has to end up on someone in Eric Wedge’s staff. Yet all is quiet. Seems a bit odd to me that even a hitting coach is untouchable in a situation like this. This team has regressed offensively in a big big way this season.

Failure the Best Medecine for Indians?

Today I am testing the limits of my abilities to be an understanding fan in a smallish baseball market.  I am currently wondering if the Indians’ failures this season might actually be the best thing in the world for this team in the long run.  And this comes less than a year after the Indians were 27 outs away from a trip to the World Series.  Realize how big a leap this is for me and try to run with me on this one for a little bit.  As I am typing here in this first paragraph, I don’t even know if I am going to convince myself before the end of the post.  From a long-term perspective of the Cleveland Indians, could failure this year be better for this team than success?

Success is a lot of fun.  Don’t ask me how I know.  As a Cleveland sports fan, success is a mystical theory rather than a tangible feeling.  Last year, the Indians got really close to the World Series.  If they had gotten there, I think they had a hell of a chance against the Colorado Rockies.  I know that this isn’t foolproof logic, but the Red Sox swept the Rockies and the Indians were able to go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox.  But the Indians didn’t have enough to get over the top when almost everything was going right.  Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez anchored the offense.  Asdrubal Cabrera provided a much-needed lift both offensively and defensively.  The bullpen was crazy good.  The Raphaels (Perez and Betancourt) were ridiculously effective out of the bullpen.  Given a year of time and the Indians’ current struggles, I think it is safe to say that they were playing a bit over their heads last year.

So, now the Indians are 5 1/2 games back of the Chicago White Sox despite excellent starting pitching.  Cliff Lee has re-emerged as a legit front of the rotation starting pitcher.  CC Sabathia has overcome some early troubles to be an effective number one starter.  Aaron Laffey has filled in admirably for Jake Westbrook and now Fausto Carmona during injuries.

But the offense can’t get anything going.  Asdrubal Cabrera and Franklin Gutierrez are mired in sophomore slumps.  Grady Sizmore hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been a superstar.  Victor Martinez has a good average, but has yet to hit a homer this season.  Jhonny Peralta has some homers, but a horrendous average.  Garko has failed to do much at all.  Jason Michaels was run out of town.  Dellucci hasn’t been great.  Even the callups like Ben Francisco, while better, haven’t provided enough of a spark to get this team going.

The fact is that this team that I was bragging about last season because of their depth looks absolutely thin right now.  Looking down the road to Buffalo doesn’t provide too much light at the end of the tunnel either.

Back to the point.  Could failure this year be better for the Cleveland Indians in the long run?  Well, if the Indians become sellers rather than buyers as we approach the trade deadline, then yes, I think it could be better.  The idea this year was that the Indians were going to keep everything in place to make a run at the World Series including the most talked about upcoming free agent C.C. Sabathia.

If the Indians were to trade C.C. and then later in the year trade Paul Byrd (another upcoming free agent) to a contender in a playoff race there is no telling how much young talent they could infuse into the team.  It would be like the Bartolo Colon trade all over again, except this time Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona, and to a lesser extent Garko, Peralta and other pieces are already here.

It would be like jumpstarting a rebuilding so that there wouldn’t be any rebuilding at all.

The Indians would lose C.C. Sabathia and they would still have Fausto Carmona, Cliff Lee, Jake Westbrook and Aaron Laffey in the starting rotation.  The Indians would still have all the suspect offensive pieces in place, but maybe they could have two or three legit possibilities at third base and the corner outfield positions.

But if the Indians were marginally successful this year and DON’T make the World Series, they probably have to face the future with that same personnel when C.C. Sabathia leaves this offseason for $25 million per season somewhere else.  At least if they get an opportunity to trade him they can get the future in place.

See?  I don’t know if even I am convinced.  Maybe this is just me trying to put a silver lining on how badly the Indians are playing right now.

Sabathia Puts Contract Talks On Hold

According to C.C. Sabathia’s website, he has decided to put all contract talks on hold until after the 2008 baseball season. He says he wants to concentrate on his game.

“I look forward to a successful 2008 season, both for myself and for the Indians as a whole.”

“I will do everything within my power to help the club to its first World Series appearance since 1997 and its first World Series Championship since 1948.

“There will be time after the season for the Indians and my representatives to discuss my contract status. I remain hopeful that these discussions will result in a contract extension that will keep me with the franchise for many years to come. In the meantime, in order to avoid any distractions, my representatives and I will not make any further comment about my contractual situation beyond this statement.”

Some might view this as a selfish move for Sabathia.  Seeing as he is about to be the most sought-after free agent available (to the Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, Dodgers and Braves) next season, CC has to maximize his value by following up his 2007 Cy Young season in 2008.   Thankfully for Indians fans, these goals align nicely with the Indians trying to repeat as Central Division champs and driving to the World Series.  Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.

It is a strange dichotomy for Indians fans, though.  They want the team to do amazingly this season and bring home the first championship since 1948.  Then again, if CC gets them there, he will almost certainly be writing his own ticket right out of town with one hell of a résumé entry.  Either way, it sounds like CC will give the Indians a chance to sign him after the season. All Cleveland fans can hop is that the timing of talks will be sometime after a World Series parade in a very very cold late-autumn Cleveland.

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