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Cleveland Indians’ Tribe Talk: Holy Hot Streak, Batman!

Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.

This week, we mull over whether the Tribe’s hot start means they could be a contender in the AL Central this season, discuss whether Matt LaPorta’s time to prove himself is running out and take our best shot at predicting AL division winners for the end of 2011.

I would like to thank this week’s participant Lewie Pollis for his contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week.

Go Tribe!



1. Holy hot streak, Batman! After dropping their first two games of the season to Chicago, the Indians went on a seven-game winning streak, sweeping Boston and Seattle in the process.

It seems that all of a sudden, the Indians are in first place. For now.

Most of us Tribe faithful would be lying if we said that at least some small part of us wasn’t entertaining the idea that this just might last.

Whether you’re playing good or bad baseball, chances are the first week of the season is never going to be enough to make you or break you for the season. Unless by some chance, it isn’t just a streak, but rather a sign of things to come.

So, what do you make of the Indians’ red hot start? Legitimate or lucky? Long-lasting or a flash in the pan? Do you think this is an indication that the Indians are a far better team than most people thought they would be?

And then the real test: care to revise your prediction on where the Tribe will finish in the Central, or even who will win the Central?


Lewie Pollis: I don’t think this really changes anything going forward. The pitching’s been a little fluky, but the Indians really are a good offensive team. 

Cabrera and Hannahan have been playing over their heads, but look at the success the Indians’ lineup has had while Choo and Santana have been struggling.

When they start to pick it up and Sizemore comes back, it’ll help balance out the effect of the others’ regression to the mean. 

The only real impact this has on my projections is that the Indians have outperformed expectations for their first 12 games; I’m not changing my mind much about the last 150.

I’ll say the Tribe wins 79 games and at least challenges for third place in the division.


Samantha Bunten: I’d call the Indians start both legitimate AND lucky. They’re playing better baseball than they should be, but that doesn’t mean it’s all just luck.

The Tribe has won dominantly in a number of games this season. Their victories didn’t come on lucky breaks, and many of them weren’t even close in score.

The offense has more than proven they’re a legitimate threat, and the defense has been pretty stellar. I’m not sure the pitching is quite there yet, but it’s certainly been far better than we expected. 

I wish I could say I’m revising my prediction for the division and that I think the Indians will come out on top at the end of 2011, but they would need to keep this up at least through May for that to be worth considering. 

It’s certainly possible that they could pull of a miracle and come out a winner (remember 2007? No one thought they’d win the Central that year either), but for now let’s just enjoy watching the Tribe play good baseball and wait and see before we start making predictions of huge success.



2. In a few weeks when players like Grady Sizemore, Joe Smith, and Jason Donald start coming off the DL, the Indians are going to have a bit of a problem on their hands: How are they going to create roster spots for them?

Granted, it’s a lovely problem to have: players who have been subbing for the injured as well as backup and bench players have all played exceptionally well so far. But who will get the boot anyway?

Which outfielder will be sent packing to make room for Sizemore? Which bullpen pitcher will be out of a job when Joe Smith returns?

And what of Jason Donald? His situation is a bit different: is it possible that Jack Hannahan has played well enough at third that Donald doesn’t have a job opening to come back to? Any chance he bumps Adam Everett out of the utility spot?


Lewie Pollis: I’d say Shelley Duncan is the obvious choice in the outfield, based on how little playing time he’s gotten. Kearns’ signed a major-league free agent contract this winter so I don’t see him getting demoted anytime soon.

There’s a chance Buck could be sent down, but my money’s on Duncan.


Samantha Bunten: In the outfield, I’m guessing that Travis Buck will be the first to go. Kearns has struggled as well, but he seems to be coming on more lately, signed a major league contract before the season started and was unquestionably designated the fourth outfielder for after Sizemore returns.

Shelly Duncan is also a possibility for demotion, but I see him as more versatile than Buck and therefore a more attractive candidate for sticking around. 

The bullpen is tougher to predict because the relievers who seem to have struggled the most are the long relief guys (Germano and Durbin) and they’re not exactly interchangeable with a guy like Joe Smith.

As for third base, the job is Hannahan’s to lose. He’s SO good defensively and his bat has been far better than we imagined, so I don’t see any sense in bringing in Donald unless that changes.



3. In a surprising turn of events, every starting pitcher on the Tribe roster has now pitched a great game. Some of them (Masterson, Tomlin) have even pitched two.

With all the problems the rotation had last season, and the bad start it got off to in the first two games of 2011, this has been a bit of a shocker.

One of our Tribe Talk panelists has been predicting this for Tomlin since Spring Training. Another panelist has been promising Masterson will deliver like this since early last year. Is there a chance this is legitimate, and not just a fluke of a good start for both pitchers?

How about Carrasco? He bounced back nicely after a disastrous first start, but can he keep that up?


Lewie Pollis: The thing I like about Carmona’s start to the season is his increase in strikeouts. His 7.6 K/9 rate is almost a 50 percent increase over last year, which is why he has a 3.61 xFIP. Small sample size caveat here, but it’s a reason to be optimistic. 

Same goes for Talbot, but I’m not confident that he can keep his K/9 rate above 8.0 when it was below 5.0 last year.

Carrasco has been better than he’s looked while Tomlin hasn’t been quite as good. Actually, Tomlin reminds me of Talbot this time last year—great ERA, miserable peripherals.

Based on his track record I think he’ll be able to at least get the walks under control (pun intended), but at this rate he’s in for some major regression. 

Finally, there’s Masterson. There’s a lot I could say about how he’s been lucky (even so, he’s got a 2.61 FIP), but instead I’d prefer to bask in the glory of saying, “I told you so!”


Samantha Bunten: I’m not sure I completely trust either Masterson or Tomlin just yet, but I do think they’ve both given us a good reason to think they may just be able to stick it out. 

It’s not so much about the wins (though those are nice, obviously). Mostly I like what I see because both pitchers have excelled in doing what they do best.

Masterson has been overpowering and missing opposing bats, and Tomlin has done a pretty nice job finessing his pitches. 

Carrasco probably concerns me more. He’s done a nice job so far (aside from that first outing in Chicago), but I’m still seeing a lot of control problems.

He’s young and still learning, so I expect he’ll improve further throughout the season, but at the moment, he’s not my favorite guy to see out there on the mound. 



4. Just like the Indians’ pitching, the Tribe’s offense has also gotten off to a torrid start, with almost all of the starters contributing greatly to the offense’s overall success.

Well, with the exception of two people. Let’s go ahead and assume Choo will be fine. There’s no reason to think, for a player like that, that he won’t turn it around quickly, as he’s starting to do already.

That leaves Matt LaPorta as the only starter who looks like he may be an ongoing problem for the Tribe’s offense. It’s early, but LaPorta is still struggling at the plate the same way he did last year, and others who struggled in 2010 seem to have already turned it around.

Do you think this is an indication that it’s finally time to give up on LaPorta? How long do you think the Indians should give him before they throw in the towel? Remember that LaPorta is 26 years old and has just one option left.

If you are in fact entertaining thoughts of pulling the plug on LaPorta, how do you think the Indians should handle the first base spot going forward?


Lewie Pollis: I reject the premise of the question. He’s got an impressive 11.9 percent walk rate and a fantastic 1.000 Power Factor

The problem is his .192 BABIP. If we replace his BABIP with his previous-career .260 mark (still probably quite unlucky), his batting line improves to .236/.332/.472. If we use a league-average .300 BABIP instead, he jumps to .265/.371/.530. 

And we’re really talking about pulling the plug?


Samantha Bunten: I’m still not entirely sure what to make of LaPorta. I want to like him, but he’s still having a lot of trouble with consistency. 

I’d be very hesitant to give up on him because he has so much power and his plate discipline has definitely improved from 2010.

Still, I’m looking for a much higher average than .189 and a much, much higher OBP than .295. Unless he hits 40-plus homeruns, he better be hitting at least .270. 

Granted, LaPorta has had some bad luck on some well-hit balls this season, but if your luck is so bad that it keeps your average below the Mendoza line, maybe you’re just too unlucky for the team to risk sending you out there.

I’m not ready to say I’m giving up on LaPorta just yet, but he’s going to need to get it together in a hurry. At the moment, he’s being far outperformed by the other guy who came over from Milwaukee in the CC Sabathia trade with him, Michael Brantley. 



5. Fun Question of the Week: It’s time for Tribe Talk panelists to take their first pass at predicting division winners across the league. We’ll make our picks for the AL this week, and next week take a shot at the NL. We’ll also revisit the question at a few later intervals throughout the season.

Lewie Pollis: East: Red Sox Central: White Sox West: Rangers Wild Card: Yankees 

The only change here from my preseason picks is dropping the Rays from the Wild Card—with Longoria injured, Manny gone and the disadvantage of a miserable start, my sleeper team looks like a failure. 

As for the pennant, any prediction is meaningless because anything can happen in five- and seven-game series. But I’ll take the Red Sox, just because I still think they’re the best team.


Samantha Bunten: East: Yankees Central: White Sox West: Rangers Wild Card: Indians. 

Ok, Ok, I’m kidding about the Wild Card. Sort of. Let’s call it possible but highly unlikely. I like Toronto and Oakland as Wild Card candidates as well. 

The AL pennant is tough to predict at the moment; I don’t see a single team who is playing like they deserve a trip to the World Series. But of course as Annie Savoy once said, “it’s a long season and you gotta trust it”. 

For now my pick is the Rangers, IF they can stay out of the trainer’s room. And you should never, ever count the Yankees out, because the second you do is always when they sneak up behind you and drop the anvil on your head. Be warned.

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MLB Report Cards: Grading Each of the 2011 Cleveland Indians’ Offseason Moves

The Indians front office, as usual, was relatively dormant in the offseason. By now, everyone has heard the joke: “were the Indians even AT the Winter Meetings?”. 

Still, with the ever-looming budget restrictions in mind, first-year GM Chris Antonetti made a series of smaller moves designed to support the team’s core of young players. 

With so many of the Indians’ offseason signings being minor league contracts for players who may not even make the Opening Day roster, it is difficult to grade Antonetti’s performance before a single pitch has been thrown. 

Thus it is with a great deal of uncertainty that I present the following grades for each significant move Antonetti and the Tribe front office made this offseason. 

Please feel free to share your thoughts on the matter in the comments below, and we’ll reassess the grades for these moves at the close of the 2011 season to see if the Antonetti’s offseason actions wind up looking better or worse after 162 games than they did on paper before Spring Training.

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Cleveland Indians: Solving The Third Base Problem

As the Indians’ organization breathes a collective sigh of relief that Shin-Soo Choo’s gold medal victory in the Asian Games will excuse him from his military duty to his native South Korea, we can all stop worrying that we’ll have to watch a parade of no-name prospects in right field next season.

The Cleveland faithful are now free to shift the target of their worry over to that pesky, ever-problematic place on the diamond for the Tribe: Third base.

A revolving door of a position for the Indians dating all the way back to their late 1990s heyday, the hot corner is like teflon for the Indians—nothing sticks.

The team hit an all-time low in 2010, starting off with Jhonny “Quit hitting the ball toward me, you’re interrupting my nap” Peralta and ending with the horrifying “Nimartuena”, a blundering, clumsy, error-making Frankenstein cobbled together with the likes of Jayson Nix, Andy Marte and Luis Valbuena. 

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Tribe Talk: Farewell, 2010 Indians

Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.

This week, we present our final installment of Tribe Talk for 2010, handing out our end-of-season awards for the team and sharing our final thoughts on the 2010 Cleveland Indians. 

I would like to thank participants Dale Thomas, Nino Colla, Lewie Pollis, and The Coop for their outstanding contributions this week and throughout the season. 

This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week. Enjoy the offseason, Tribe fans. Tribe Talk will return at the start of Spring Training in 2011.

Go Tribe!


1. 2010 Indians Offensive MVP:

Samantha Bunten: Shin-Soo Choo

Nino Colla: Shin-Soo Choo

The Coop: Shin-Soo Choo

Dale Thomas: Shin-Soo Choo


2. 2010 indians Defensive MVP: 

Samantha Bunten: Lou Marson

Nino Colla: Lou Marson

The Coop: Shin-Soo Choo

Dale Thomas: Shin-Soo Choo

Lewie Pollis: CHOOOOOOOOOOOO! (Honorable mention: Jhonny Peralta)

3. 2010 Indians Cy Young:

Samantha Bunten: Chris Perez

Nino Colla: Chris Perez

The Coop: Chris Perez

Dale Thomas: Fausto Carmona

Lewie Pollis: Chris Perez

4. 2010 Indians Player Who Was The Biggest Disappointment: 

Samantha Bunten: Nimartuena (not including Andy Marte’s amazing pitching performance). Or perhaps not so much the players themselves, but the organization’s complete and total failure to find anyone who could play third base at all at any point in the season. 

Nino Colla: Asdrubal Cabrera

The Coop: Grady Sizemore – unless you are required to play more than than 25 percent of the season. Then it’s Travis Hafner.

Dale Thomas: Luis Valbuena

Lewie Pollis: Grady Sizemore

5. 2010 Indians Player Who Was The Biggest Pleasant Surprise: 

Samantha Bunten: Fausto Carmona

Nino Colla: Jeanmar Gomez

The Coop: Fausto Carmona

Dale Thomas: Chris Perez

Lewie Pollis: Carlos Santana

6. 2010 Indians Most Improved Player: 

Samantha Bunten: Fausto Carmona

Nino Colla: Chris Perez

The Coop: Fausto Carmona

Dale Thomas: Michael Brantley

Lewie Pollis: Chris Perez

7. Which three players do you believe were most vital to the team’s success (however small that was) this season, and why? 

Samantha Bunten: Choo, Carmona, and Perez. These are the three players who came to the ballpark every day and did their job as they’re paid to do, and sometimes even a little better than that. 

These three (along with Santana) gave the Tribe something to build around for the future. In a season wracked with disappointment, these three stood out as the players who not only didn’t fail us, they gave us a reason to keep watching. 

Nino Colla: I think it is quite obvious who the three players are and there probably isn’t much debate. 

Shin-Soo Choo was this team’s rock in the lineup. Fausto Carmona‘s return to decent pitching was much needed. And of course Chris Perez’s dominance in the ninth inning was a breath of fresh air.

The Coop: Fausto Carmona, Chris Perez, and Shin-Soo Choo. Quite simply, without one or more of these guys, the season would have been over in May, much sooner than when it really ended (in June).

Dale Thomas: Choo, Carmona, and Chris Perez. These are the guys that did their jobs well. Without them, we may not have recorded a win in 2010. Okay, maybe that’s overstated, but I’m just sayin’…

Lewie Pollis: Gotta start with Choo here. has him at 7.3 WAR, good for second-best in all of baseball. His fantastic defense, plus power, and amazing plate discipline should have made him an MVP candidate. 

Next has got to be Carlos Santana. Who cares if he was up for only two months—he was absolutely amazing. Great power, a solid arm, and plate discipline well beyond his years. He’ll be a perennial All-Star, starting in 2011. 

I have to throw a bone to Chris Perez. He made a terrible first impression, but he put his early-season woes behind him quickly. Since April 17, he’s posted a 1.35 ERA, and opposing batters have hit .174 against him with a miniscule .556 OPS. He hasn’t given up a run since August 6 or taken a loss since May 5. That puts him on par with the best closers in the league.

8. Predict the Indians’ record in 2011:

Samantha Bunten: 80-82

Nino Colla: 80-82

The Coop: 75-87, 4th in the AL Central

Dale Thomas: 81-81

Lewie Pollis: 81-81

9. Please share your final thoughts on the Indians’ 2010 season in 200 words or less:

Samantha Bunten: Sadly, the overall impression the 2010 Indians left is that they managed to somehow still be completely disappointing despite the fact that no one expected a thing out of them. 

It’s easy to blame injuries to key players to make their failures as a team more palatable, but truthfully, can we really say they would have done significantly better without these bad breaks? I’m inclined to say yes, because we all have to find a reason to keep hoping, but the truth is, it’s impossible to say for sure. 

It was tough to watch this season: we had to endure those injuries, the perpetual disaster at third base, a lackluster offense, terrible infield defense, and Trevor. 

Luckily, the Tribe did give us a few reasons to keep hoping: Fausto Carmona rising from the ashes, and the better-than-expected rotation as a whole. Shin-Soo Choo continuing to prove that he’s an all-star-caliber player. 

Carlos Santana providing hope for the future. Watching Chris Perez’s pitching and his hair shine. And the young kids putting on a good show at the end of the season when we had nothing to lose. 

Nino Colla: Ah well, what can you say other than we did a lot of what we were expected to do? 

We found out about players we needed to find out about. We answered a lot of questions. 

Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Laffey, Michael Brantley, Matt LaPorta, Luis Valbuena, Jason Donald, Trevor Crowe, Carlos Santana, Lou Marson, and Tony Sipp answered a lot of questions for us. 

Sure, there are still more questions to be answered with some of those guys, but we now know a lot of things we didn’t know at the start of this season and the club is going to be better for it in the long run.

The Coop: The Indians’ 2010 season was pretty much a disaster. However, to make an omelette, you’ve got to break a few eggs, and I think that’s what the Indians are doing. 

Getting rid of overpaid, under-talented players like Kerry Wood and Jhonny Peralta opened the door for young guys to get some run and show what they can do. T

The starting rotation was a very unexpected surprise, particularly the reinvention of Fausto Carmona. They definitely have a staff to build around for the future. 

Chris Perez is nasty and is more than capable of being the closer in the near-term. 

The Indians biggest problem is their offense. The complete lack of power in the lineup would be okay if they had a bunch of .300 hitters who could run and advance runners. But they don’t. 

The pitching staff is only going to get better, but they’ll never reach their full potential if they get lackluster run support. 

A lot of position players also struggled in their first extended time up in The Show, so we can only hope that these growing pains manifest themselves into a team that is ready to break through in 2011 (or, realistically, 2012).

Dale Thomas: This was a team that was never seriously expected to contend. 

It was a game camp designed to develop young players. Watch them grow, so to say, under the tutelage of a few select veterans and a new manager who only really asked for two things: Don’t commit errors and don’t issue walks. This team did not subscribe to either. 

No blame, no shame for a team plagued by injury. Grady Sizemore, one of the Tribe’s most reliable players goes down with a knee injury and became one of the Tribe’s most injury-prone players in the last two years. 

Cabrera missed almost 50 games due to a broken forearm, and really never returned to his pre-injury form. Santana, our brightest prospect in eons goes down in a heap after an ugly collision at home plate with a knee injury. 

Hafner continued his part-time status, and it all adds up to a season of gloom. 

Still, there are bright spots: Choo’s 20-20 season, Perez establishing himself as a closer and the absolute sizzle that Santana showed before being injured. 

There are lots of questions yet to be answered, especially in the rotation. Was Talbot’s first half a fluke? Can Masterson pitch at all?

Lewie Pollis: I predicted in the spring that, while the Indians’ season would be filled with pain, frustration, and occasional nausea, we would see glimmers of hope for a brighter future as our tremendously talented young players begins their ascent to the Show. 

I didn’t expect much going into the season, yet I still came away disappointed. 

Valbuena and Marson took steps back, LaPorta and Brantley took longer than they should have to adjust to big-league pitching, and Sizemore and Hafner were complete wastes of money and roster space. 

And yet, we saw some great things, too. Choo took his game to a whole new level. LaPorta had the first hot streak of his career. Carmona improved, Masterson made strides, and Carrasco was terrific. 

Cabrera made some Omar-esque plays at shortstop, and Marson showed off his cannon arm. And, of course, Santana made us all believe again. 

Since I still have some word space left, I’d like to remind everyone that it’s too early to give up on Masterson. He finished the year with a 3.93 FIP, .332 BABIP, and 66.6 percent strand rate. So don’t start crying for him to be moved to the ‘pen because of his 4.70 ERA. 

CHOOOOOOOO! (exactly 200 words)

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Tribe Talk: Should We Be Happy the Season is Finally Almost Over?

Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.

This week, we fess up on whether we’re glad the season is coming to an end, discuss the season’s biggest bright spots and disappointments, and share our best ideas for attractions at the Progressive Field Winter Wonderland. 

I would like to thank this week’s participants, Dale Thomas and Dan Tylicki, for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week.

Go Tribe!


1. It’s here! It’s here! It’s finally here! 

No, not Christmas. I’m speaking of the final week of baseball’s 2010 regular season. Most fans probably aren’t quite that excited, but then most fans didn’t have to watch the Indians all season. 

So honestly, are you truly glad it’s finally over? Do you really just feel relieved we can call it a year, or are you always just sad to see the Tribe’s season end, no matter how dismal it’s been? 

Do you think most Tribe fans would agree with your opinion?

Samantha Bunten: The great Bart Giamatti once said the following about the end of the baseball season: 

“It breaks your heart.  It is designed to break your heart.  The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.”

I guess what I’m saying is, Giamatti and I feel the same way about this. I never want to see the baseball season end, no matter how bad the season has been. 

We complain about our team a lot, and they deserve it. But in the end, we’re lucky to live in a world where we get to watch baseball.

Even bad baseball. 

I would hope that most fans would agree with this assessment, though I don’t believe they do. And I can’t say that I blame them. 

Here’s to next year! Maybe there will be a better season, maybe there will be a worse season. But at least there will be baseball. 

Dale Thomas: Nah, I’d rather summer stuck around along with the Tribe, even though there are a lot of bugs that come along with the deal. 

Acta has been refreshing, even though he hasn’t exactly been a “wow” factor, and the team has been fun to watch once I got past that pesky thing about wanting to win games. 

Some pretty good ballplayers are going to rise up out of this mess, and that always leaves me wanting to watch one more game. 

Judging by the empty seats at the ballpark, I’d say most fans wouldn’t agree with me at all.

Dan Tylicki: I actually am, just since this season we knew was going to be hard to watch. Cleveland’s a football city first, so once September hit, I don’t think people minded that the Tribe’s season was over. 

The casual fan would agree, though the die-hard baby boomers who have lived through worse teams would not enjoy the offseason, I imagine.


2. What was the single biggest bright spot for the Tribe this season? 

What good can we take from 2010, as Tribe fans?

Samantha Bunten: You have to appreciate what Choo was able to do with his season. He turned in a stellar performance and put up great numbers, despite missing significant time with injury and being on a bad team. 

I like watching the young guys too, even if they’re a long way from looking like they can form a competitive major league team. It’s tough to let go of the idea of having a decent, if not successful season, but once you do, it’s easier to at least appreciate watching the kids learn and improve.

Dale Thomas: One bright spot for me was not feeling like I got sucker-punched by trades and salary dumps. But the one that shines like beacon is getting rid of Jhonny Peralta. 

I think there are some very good things for fans to ponder over the offseason. It looks like we have a viable closer, and that’s just flat-out huge. 

Santana and Brantley show tantalizing promise on both sides of the ball, and our pitching….ummm…well, let’s just say we finally discovered a use for Marte.

Dan Tylicki: Simply put, Shin-soo Choo is the real deal, and will hopefully be the star of the team for many years to come. 

Besides that, a good deal of the new talent looks promising, such as Brantley, Perez, Tomlin, and Carrasco.


3. What was the single biggest disappointment of the 2010 season? 

Do you think this is something that can be fixed in 2011?


Samantha Bunten: Injuries to key players was a huge factor.

That’s the most frustrating disappointment of all because it’s just bad luck. It’s nobody’s fault.

We can’t blame that on Dolan or Shapiro or Nimartuena. I’m not even sure we can blame it on Trevor, but I’m willing to give it a shot. 

Aside from that, I suppose the biggest disappointment was players whose development did not progress at the rate it should have: Brantley, LaPorta, Masterson…and the list goes on. 

As far as 2011 goes, obviously you can never “fix” injuries. We’ll just have to hope we get luckier next year. 

As for the players who didn’t progress at the rate they should have, I do think that can be fixed. Brantley and LaPorta have already shown signs of improvement; let’s hope they continue in that vein. 

Dale Thomas: My biggest disappointment was the lack of an infield. The errors were really hard to take when our pitching is so dependent, and it’s not like they made up for it with their bats. 

The one exception is the guy at short. I don’t expect this will be fixed in 2011.

Dan Tylicki: Injuries. They hurt many teams, but Sizemore, Cabrera, and Santana missed too much time to them, so it made this season a wash very early on. 

It’ll be fixed in 2011, provided they don’t get hurt in the offseason.


4. Fun Question of the Week: The Indians recently announced plans to turn Progressive Field into a “Winter Wonderland” during the offseason. 

There will be games, there will be rides, there will be snow. I know, I know; the joke writes itself. But tell us, what are your best ideas for Tribe-themed rides and attractions for the Progressive Field Winter Wonderland?

Samantha Bunten: Chris Perez hair salon? Second base merry-go-round? Trevor Crowe dunk tank? 

There will also be an empty, unmanned attraction that will just be called “third base.”

Dale Thomas: The Slider—This is the sledding hill with purple snow that smells really bad. 

Choo Express—this train never leaves Cleveland.

Dan Tylicki: Perhaps a game where we have to throw a ball past Nimartuena to score. It’d be a winner every time.

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Tribe Talk: 2010 Indians vs. 2009 Indians, Rain Delays, and Choo’s 20/20 Season

Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.

This week, we talk rain delays, Shin Soo Choo’s 20/20 season, what statistical benchmarks a team needs to hit to be a playoff contender, and whether the 2010 Indians are better, worse or equal to the 2009 team. 

I would like to thank this week’s participants Nino Colla, The Coop, and Lewie Pollis for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week.

Go Tribe!


1. Over the weekend, Shin Soo Choo reached both 20 steals and 20 home runs, giving him his second consecutive 20/20 season. 

In your opinion, how big of an accomplishment is a 20/20 season? Do you consider 20/20 enough to say the player in question has had a “great” season? 

Is this accomplishment more significant than usual in Choo’s case because the team has had so little success this season otherwise?

Samantha Bunten: Choo definitely had a great season, but basing that solely on the fact that he went 20/20 doesn’t do his performance justice. His average, consistency, eye at the plate, and arm in right field all contributed as much to his great season as the 20/20 feat did. 

What IS particularly notable about the fact that he hit 20/20 is that he did it despite missing significant time due to injury. The fact that he was able to do it two years in a row is no small feat either. 

Nino Colla: I think it is a big accomplishment given that he’s been injured and I didn’t think this club would have anyone reach 20 home runs this season.

I wouldn’t say just because he had a 20/20 year means he had a great season; he had a great season for many other reasons. He’s a good player but he needs to stay healthy for the entire year and more importantly, he needs someone that hits around him so they can take the pressure off.

Lewie Pollis: To call Choo a “20/20” player is to focus on the wrong parts of what make him so special. The power and speed are nice, but more important is his plate discipline and smooth swing. 

And don’t forget his sterling glove and cannon arm—even during throws where there isn’t a play, I’m always amazed at his arm strength and accuracy.

The Coop: I think the most impressive thing about what Choo has done isn’t the 20/20 part of the accomplishment, it’s the fact that he’s done it two years in a row. 

I remember a time—back when statistics weren’t overinflated due to steroids and HGH—that 30/30 was the true benchmark of a serious offensive weapon. These days, it’s likely that there will only be about a dozen guys that hit 20/20, and maybe only one or two with outside shots at 30/30. 

So, maybe I need to re-define what is “great”? I don’t think 20/20 is great, but it’s definitely solid. 

Also, it’s not necessarily an accomplishment that relies on the quality of the team and supporting cast, so no bonus points for that either. 

The problem for the Indians is, they need a bunch of guys who can hover around 20/20. A team with one guy who (barely) reaches 20/20 does not a contender make. 

Still—how can you not be happy with what Choo has done in his brief tenure with the Indians? He is one of only a few guys that the Indians can truly depend on for the future, so props to him.

2. When asked what it takes for a team to be a viable playoff contender, Manny Acta said it was crucial to do at least one of the following: score 800+ runs, have an OBP of .340 or higher, or have an ERA under 4.00. 

The Indians obviously reached none of these benchmarks. Do you agree with Acta’s assessment of what milestones are necessary for a team to reach in order to be a playoff contender? 

In your opinion, which of those three numbers is the MOST crucial, and why?

Samantha Bunten: I understand the point he’s trying to make but it’s really a gross oversimplification. This is essentially like saying, if you hit well and you pitch well you’ll win ball games, so everyone just needs to go out there and do their job and we’ll all be fine. Uh, duh? 

Besides, plenty of teams hit these benchmarks and miss the playoffs, and there are also plenty of teams that miss all three and make the playoffs anyway. 

If you’re playing good baseball in general, you might miss all three and still get there because the machine as a whole is working. Or you might reach all three but miss out on a playoff spot because you play in a very competitive division. 

I’ll give him points for using OBP instead of batting average, and for the fact that what he said was at least technically correct, but mostly it just comes off sounding like how you would explain how to win baseball games to an eight-year-old.

Nino Colla: Short answer, yes. Why? Because if you score 800 runs you have a good offense, and if your team ERA is under 4.00, you have good pitching. 

The last time I checked, you kind of needed both to be decent to make the playoffs. I mean, what Acta said about those benchmarks is so simple, but so true. 

The most important one is ERA. If you don’t have pitching you don’t have a chance. You can’t get by with marginal pitching and an explosive offense. But you can get by with stellar pitching and a marginal offense. At least in my opinion. I’m sure there are stats that counter that, but I agree with that in principle.

Lewie Pollis: The Reds aren’t on pace to do any of those things, so simply put Acta is wrong. 

Also, OBP and lots of runs are cause and effect of the same thing, so really, this is a pretty stupid quote. As for which is most important, does it really matter whether you prevent runs or score them? 

One thing I am proud of: our manager used OBP as a primary measure of batting performance. It’s not quite wOBA, but it’s a hell of a lot better than, say, Jerry DiPoto.

The Coop: Well, I think Acta has done an admirable job of oversimplifying things, but he’s probably on target. I mean, score lots of runs and don’t let the other team score very many? Yeah, I’d say that’s a pretty decent formula for success. 

However, it seems to me that Acta is overlooking many of the intangibles that truly do contribute to a run at the pennant. 

For starters, how about a lights out bullpen? Even if you have a dominating crew to work the late innings, chances are they won’t make much of a dent in the team ERA but you’re going to win a ton of games. 

Same goes for timely hitting, not leaving men on base, and aggressive (but smart) baserunning. A big hit with two outs or challenging an outfielder’s arm on a ball in the gap doesn’t always show up in the box score, but who would argue that these things don’t contribute to making a team great? 

Of the things Acta mentioned, I say that getting on base and scoring runs gets you into the playoffs, but pitching wins playoff games. But the bottom line is, you need a strong combination of all of these things—and a good manager (which Acta conveniently neglected to mention).

3. Last year many of us expected the Indians to contend before the season began, and they completely imploded. 

This year most of us didn’t expect much of anything prior to the beginning of the season, and yet the team still managed to disappoint. 

In your opinion, were the 2010 Indians a better than, worse than, or equal to the 2009 Indians? What makes you say so?

Samantha Bunten: In my opinion, the 2010 squad was a worse team that had a better season. 

The 2009 team had more talent, or at least they did before they started trading them all away for peanuts in July. But they were also a team that was supposed to contend and instead played .400 baseball. 

The 2010 team can’t compete with 2009 talent-wise, but you have to consider this a better season because they didn’t fall so far short of what they were expected to do. 

Also, the team was getting worse in 2009; this season, even if they still have a VERY long way to go, at least they’re actually getting better. 

Nino Colla: I think they are separate entities. I don’t think either was better or worse because they are different teams under different circumstances. 

Was it worse having a team that you thought would compete, but didn’t than having a team you thought wouldn’t compete and didn’t? 

There was more talent on that 2009 team and for that there was a lot more expectations. All I know is that the 2007 team was the bomb.

Lewie Pollis: The Indians’ winning percentage right now is .408. Last year it was .404. Not much of a difference either way. 

From a fan’s perspective, though, this year was much better. We didn’t trade away any beloved hometown heroes. We underperformed expectations, but not by nearly as much. And we caught glimpses of Carlos Santana, Matt LaPorta, Carlos Carrasco, et al who give us hope for the future.

The Coop: I’ve got to believe they’re better. This year, the Indians had the opportunity to give a lot of young guys a lot of playing time. And, even guys that weren’t in the everyday lineup got a good taste of the majors which should hopefully carry them forward into next year. 

First of all, the Indians got dramatically better when Eric Wedge was fired and Acta was hired. Acta is not going to remind anyone of Casey Stengel, but he’s done a fair job and, for the most part, has stayed out of the way. 

The Indians found some clear building blocks moving forward (Santana, LaPorta, most of the starting rotation), and also purged some of the wasted space (Peralta, Wood). They need to continue on this path in the near-term. 

Travis Hafner should be on everyone’s “must go now” list, and I wouldn’t shed a tear if the Indians got rid of Grady Sizemore too. There’s no doubt that there’s a ton of youth and potential at all levels in the organization, and it seems that, in terms of talent, they are headed in the right direction. 

Still, at some point, any assessment of how good or bad the Indians are has to be based on their win-loss record, and right now it seems like it would take a miracle to get to .500. But I’m willing to give the organization at least one more year before I call this entire rebuilding process a disaster.

4.  Fun Question of the Week: Saturday night, the Indians and Royals game was suspended due to rain for three entire hours, and was then resumed after midnight instead of being called. 

Many people thought it was ridiculous that the officials chose to resume the game after a three hour delay, particularly given that both teams were well out of playoff contention and would have no impact on any sort of postseason play whatsoever. 

Do you agree that resuming the game was ridiculous, or do you think the decision to resume play was correct? At what point has a rain delay gone on long enough that the game should just be called? 

If you had attended this game, would you have waited out the delay to watch the finish?

Samantha Bunten: I’ve always been a huge supporter of sticking it out as a show of faith in your team, which in theory, means never leaving a game early. 

Of course what I had in mind in terms of never leaving a game early was more like, sticking it out through a game where it’s 30 degrees out in April, or riding out a 15-inning game waiting for someone to break up a tie score even if it takes until midnight. 

What I did not have in mind is sitting through a three-hour rain delay in the middle of game between two teams whose doomed fates for the season were sealed, oh, somewhere around the middle of Spring Training. 

Riding this one out wouldn’t be loyalty, it would be insanity. So yes, of course it was ridiculous for them to resume play. It was pretty clear no one wanted to be there, including the players. 

This was a meaningless game where the officials needlessly risked injury to a player due to wet field conditions, not to mention leaving the audience to die of boredom. 

To date I’ve actually never left a game early, but if I had been at this game, it may very well have been the one that broke the pattern. 

Nino Colla: I’ve stayed ridiculously late into the night to wait out a rain-delay, so I know I would wait it out if I needed to. 

I thought it was crazy that they decided to continue that game and shocked when I woke up and didn’t see F/7 on the box score. I could see if they needed to get the game in because it was the last visit to Kansas City for the Indians and it wasn’t an official game yet, but that wasn’t the case. 

For this particular game, I would have left after that last delay. I’m not one to leave a game before it finishes, I hate that, but I think it would have been acceptable by my own standards to jet at that point, especially given the circumstances.

Lewie Pollis: About 10 years ago, I went to a game with my family. By the sixth or seventh inning we were losing and everyone else was getting tired, so we left in spite of my dramatic protests. 

I pouted all the way home, and as soon as I got out of the car I ran up to my room and turned on the radio. Here’s what I heard: “…swing and a DRIVE! DEEP LEFT FIELD A-WAYYYYYY BACK! WALK-OFF HOME RUN! INDIANS WIN!” 

The moral of the story is, never leave a game early.

The Coop: First of all, what does it say about Kansas City nightlife if waiting out a three-hour rain delay between two teams fighting to stay out of last place is a good idea? I feel like anyone who did that is in desperate need of a new hobby or geographic relocation. 

Of course it was ridiculous to resume play. The game meant nothing. Literally nothing. Not only does it have zero bearing on the pennant chase, but it probably didn’t even have an impact on fantasy baseball. I mean, I’m no expert, but if you have more than one guy from K.C. or Cleveland on your fantasy team, you’re probably not doing too well.

Secondly, there’s a serious chance of injury. I can just see it now—team MVP Shin-Soo Choo slips on the wet grass and breaks his leg, ending his career. Or slips on a wet top-step of the dugout. And for what? 

But getting back to the nightlife thing—what, does someone have an affinity for paying $7 for a beer when they could probably get one across the street for $2.25? Is the charm of Kauffman Stadium more alluring than, I don’t know, watching Saturday Night Live re-runs on TV? Is someone sad that they haven’t caught pneumonia recently? 

The fact is, in a situation like that, the players don’t want to be there, the managers don’t want to be there, the umpires don’t want to be there, and the peanut vendors don’t want to be there. So what kind of experience could a fan possibly get? 

All that being said—doesn’t surprise me one bit that the game was resumed. That’s what MLB is, that’s what they do.

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Tribe Talk: Summing Up What Went So Colossally Wrong For The Indians This Season

Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.

With the Tribe’s disappointing 2010 season finally winding down, it’s time to take a look at each facet of the Indians’ play and take our best guesses as to what went so terribly wrong in each area specifically, and more importantly, why. 

I would like to thank this week’s participants, Lewie Pollis, The Coop, and Nino Colla, for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week.

Go Tribe!


1. What went so wrong with the defense?

Samantha Bunten: It boils down to two things: horrible, horrible errors at extremely critical points in games, and the three-headed monster known as “Nimartuena” wreaking havoc at third base.

Throw in the fact that the team’s two best defenders (Sizemore and Cabrera) were both seriously injured, and it’s not surprising the defense leads the league in errors. 

Nino Colla: Asdrubal Cabrera got hurt, Grady Sizemore got hurt, and the Indians were playing Jhonny Peralta and “Nimartuena” at third. Seriously, that’s what happened. 

Cabrera is the anchor of the infield, he makes everyone better. Sizemore is the anchor in the outfield and even when he was playing, he was hurt.

For my money, those are your two best defensive players and they missed time, one more than the other, but they still missed time. 

Then you try and make someone like Jayson Nix a third baseman and he undergoes what you should have expected, a period of adjustment.

Then you try and shuffle in Marte in random spots and how can you expect someone to play consistent defense when they aren’t playing consistently?

Then you have Valbuena, and I won’t even bother disclosing why that is a bad idea. 

For the most part, the defense was good early, then it just fell off the track. Making big errors in big spots was the biggest thing, then they just started coming in bunches as the two guys mentioned above started to drop off.

Lewie Pollis: FanGraphs’ Bryan Smith wrote a great article before the season about the Tribe’s “bold strategy” of having three natural shortstops (Cabrera, Peralta, and Valbuena) around the infield. The problem was, all three are poor defenders. 

For all his flash, Cabrera really needs to improve his range. I don’t want to relive the horrors of Peralta’s miserable glove, but it seemed somehow fitting when Jayson Nix made an error at third base the night after he was traded. 

The outfield is a mess, too. Aside from Choo (the only player on the team with a UZR over 4.0), Sizemore, Brown, Brantley, and Kearns have all left something to be desired. Then there’s Trevor Crowe’s -34.2 UZR/150 in center field.

The Coop: There’s an old adage that says good defenses are built up the middle, and if you believe that, then look no further. 

The revolving door that is the Indians’ infield is not very talented with the leather, and this is the biggest culprit for the Indians lackluster defense.

They’re not the worst I’ve ever seen, but when you grow up watching Carlos Baerga and Omar Vizquel, you have an understanding about what a good defense can do for a team. 

Stability has obviously been a problem, and that starts with the double play duo. At short, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Donald have been awful. At second, Luis Valbuena is good with the glove, but he is disastrous at the plate, and this has kept him out of the lineup. 

Meanwhile, Donald is better than he is at short, but that’s not saying much. Even tossing in third base, Jayson Nix makes Jhonny Peralta look like Brooks Robinson. 

And of course, another major reason for the poor defense is the absence of Grady Sizemore. It certainly doesn’t help to have a Gold Glover out of the lineup, personal feelings aside.


2. What went so wrong with the offense? 

Samantha Bunten: An exceptionally slow start killed momentum early to such a degree that I’m not sure the Indians ever really came back from it. 

Injuries and a revolving door of slumping players resulted in large number of roster members not seeing consistent plate appearances, which made it difficult for many of them to settle in and find their stroke. 

As a group, their pitch selection regressed from last season, as most of the lineup waffled back and forth between not being aggressive enough and waiting on walks and flailing at anything within three feet of the plate.

Also, there was a glaring lack of power hitting from the middle of the order.

Nino Colla: Early it was bad and I don’t think anyone knows why. 

Okay, so Sizemore was gone and hurt, Branyan took awhile to get going after he even got back, Peralta was up to his usual early tricks, and Cabrera was sub-par early. 

It just didn’t click from the start and then you started replacing the pieces you were counting on to be reliable and that is when your offense goes to hell in a hand-basket. Simple as that.

Lewie Pollis: Every single position player the we’ve had has either plain-old played poorly, gotten injured, or both. I have nothing more to say.

The Coop: No power hitting. You can keep your small-ball if you want. I’ll take doubles, homers, and runs batted in. 

Sure, base stealing, moving runners, and taking extra bases is important. But for as much effort as it takes for a small-ball offense to manufacturer one run, a team with some power hitters can change an entire game with one swing of the bat.

Hey, you might not necessarily guarantee yourself a playoff spot with good power numbers, but you will definitely guarantee yourself mediocrity or worse without them.

Of the teams that rank in the bottom 10 of the majors in home runs and slugging percentage, only one (San Diego) is in a pennant chase right now. The Indians have absolutely no one who strikes fear in an opposing pitcher. 

They have three guys with double-digits in home runs and probably no one that will finish with more than 100 runs batted in, and no one with a slugging percentage over .500. That’s just not going to cut it.


3. What went so wrong with the starting pitching? 

Samantha Bunten: Let’s begin with the fact that the Tribe spent way too much of the season with two guys in the rotation who didn’t belong there.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, Masterson belonged in the bullpen. At the risk of beating a dead mule, Huff should probably never have been in the majors in the first place. 

That said, starting pitching wasn’t the team’s biggest problem. The starters for the most part did a fair job, except maybe for the lack of ability to go deep into games in terms of innings. 

A team with starters who can’t go more than five or six innings requires a far stronger bullpen than the one we had. The fact that the bullpen couldn’t back up them up was probably the biggest overall problem for the starters, aside from issuing too many walks.

Nino Colla:  I don’t think anything went wrong here. It went as well you could have expected things to go if you ask me. 

This was the doom and gloom part of the team and they ended up being one of the most stable units on the club from start to finish.

They had rough patches, but they were the only thing worth watching early in the season and right now, they are showing some promise with young guys like Jeanmar Gomez and Carlos Carrasco pitching very well. 

The one thing that I think did go wrong overall was David Huff. The way his season played out was not ideal and definitely opposite of what I expected.

I thought he was going to play a major part in this rotation and establish himself as one of the guys for this team now and in the future. Now his status is in serious doubt after he’s put himself in Acta’s dog house and consistently denied doing things the organization’s way. 

I’m worried about his future because I think he has the potential to be a part of this rotation, but he may be damaging the relationship beyond repair.

Lewie Pollis: The rotation’s collective 5.3 K/9 rate was the lowest in baseball, and our 3.5 BB/9 rate was the worst in the AL. The solution is simple: throw some strikes.

The Coop: More than anything else, I believe that pitching (and getting good at pitching) takes time, patience, and experience. So at the risk of breaking your rule about not blaming youth and inexperience anymore, I believe that this is the only thing that held the Indians back. 

Other than that, I would say the starting pitching was the lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal year. They are definitely talented, so I think the future is very bright for the Indians’ rotation in years to come.

If I had to place blame on anything, I would say that David Huff was a major disappointment, and that the team has wasted time on having Justin Masterson in the rotation and not the bullpen (c’mon, you knew it was coming).


4. What went so wrong with the relief pitching? 

Samantha Bunten: First of all, “Kerry Wood” and “Good Bullpen” are two mutually exclusive entities. The Indians rode the sinking ship that is Kerry Wood far too long, and they ended up drowning. 

Generally speaking, the biggest problem was the ungodly number of walks issued late in games. With an offense largely unable to overcome any sort of deficit in the late innings, the last thing the bullpen should be doing is issuing free passes. 

Throw strikes. Force your opponent to swing and put the bat on the ball well enough to earn their way to first base. The Indians’ bullpen doesn’t post nearly enough strikeouts to cede as many walks as they have. 

Nino Colla: Early on I think they had no stable chain of command. Even though Perez was a semi-stable option early, the lead-up to him was weakened by him moving to that closer’s role. 

Believe it or not, whether you like him or hate him, Wood returning to the role sort of stabilized everything because Perez moved back and made the chain stronger.

Now Perez is back in the role and the options leading up to him are much stronger, which is why I think the bullpen has been very successful since that point Wood was traded. 

Particularly, Jensen Lewis and Jess Todd’s outcomes were not pleasing. I think the club mistreated Lewis and I think that situation isn’t going to end ideally. Todd’s progression in Columbus was disappointing, and I expected more from him in the major leagues.

Lewie Pollis: When a team’s closer posts a 6.30 ERA and the bullpen combines to walk almost a batter every two innings, what do you expect? 

Really, though, for a rebuilding team with no hope of contending, this shouldn’t have been where we put our resources anyway.

The Coop: Geez, it should be easier to be critical with a team this bad, but I’d say the relief pitching wasn’t too bad this year either. 

The biggest problem was that the Indians held onto Kerry Wood too long (obviously in an attempt to get some trade value for him, which now remains to be seen). However, this year’s bullpen was definitely an upgrade over the past few years. 

Depth might be the biggest “problem” with this unit. I said at the beginning of the season that I wanted Chris Perez to be the closer, and he has done a very good job with the opportunity.

I think he’s the closer of the immediate future, until a certain current starter is moved to the bullpen and groomed for the job. 

As for the other guys, Tony Sipp and Rafael Perez are certainly capable major league relievers. This is another group that I think has potential for the long-run.

5. What went so wrong with the base running? 

Samantha Bunten: This is by far the least concerning area of the Indians’ game. The base running wasn’t that bad, and it was also sort of hog-tied by the lack of hitting in that if our players can’t get themselves a single or a walk in the first place, then they won’t be getting a good jump off the bag or stealing second. Duh. 

I look at it like this: I’m all for small ball and manufacturing runs, but in order to do that successfully, you need to have the kind of lineup that boasts hitters top to bottom who consistently get themselves on base. 

And let’s face it: if anyone could actually hit the ball out of the infield with any sort of regularity, then runs would cross the plate whether the base running was exceptionally good or not. 

At the end of the day though, we can always blame Trevor.

Nino Colla: I would say this was a stronger part of the team. It is an overlooked aspect, but this club was good in this department. 

It was good to see Acta employ some tactics like hit and run and moving base runners and it was good to see some execution on the club’s part.

Of course, a lot of that had to do with the type of talent on the club vs. the talent that used to be on the club, but Acta seems like the one to do this stuff regardless. 

Choo’s aggressiveness got him into some boneheaded situations, but overall, nothing to complain about. Steve Smith seems like a solid guy at third. I would like to see Brantley run more, but he has to get on base, which is the biggest issue for him not running as much as you would like.

Lewie Pollis: I don’t think the baserunning has been that bad. Sure, Lou Marson and Matt LaPorta look like they have refrigerators on their backs while they sprint, but this is far from my biggest area of concern.

The Coop: Nothing. Jhonny Peralta had an inside-the-park home run. That trumps anything negative that you could possibly say!

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Tribe Talk: Life After Arbitration Eligibility for Cabrera and Choo

Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.

This week we discuss the fate of the Tribe’s 2011 arbitration-eligible players, project next season’s payroll, wonder what’s wrong with Mitch Talbot, and share our thoughts on possibly playing spoiler for the Twins or the White Sox this month.

I would like to thank this week’s participants, Dale Thomas at Dan Tylicki, for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week.

Go Tribe!


1. This winter, Shin Soo Choo will be eligible for arbitration. There hasn’t been much talk of signing him to a multi-year contract, at least that we know of. 

Do you think the Indians will avoid arbitration and sign him to a multi-year deal this offseason? What do you think is a reasonable contract length/dollar amount? 

Is there any chance the Tribe signs Choo for a deal longer than three years that not only avoids arbitration but goes into the beginning of his free agency?

Samantha Bunten: There’s no way they’ll avoid arbitration with Scott Boras involved. I expect they’ll make an offer to buy out his arbitration years anyway, but I don’t see them trying to push anything that goes into his free-agent years. 

The Indians are no longer in the habit of buying that far into the future unless the player comes at a serious bargain price, which no one repped by Scott Boras ever will. 

If they’re smart, and if Boras agrees to play ball, they should look at a deal in the neighborhood of three years, $16-18 million. 

Dale Thomas: I’m not too worried about Boras pushing Choo into free agency, and I don’t think the Indians will attempt a long-term deal. Let’s call it the “Hafner lesson.”

I think they will try to buy out his arbitration years with a low-ball offer. Maybe $15-20 million. 

He is in his offensive prime right now and will be 31 years old at the free-agency stage. That’s typically when a player’s performance might begin to decline, so I don’t think free agency will be all that kind to Choo. I figure a three-year deal, then the Indians will cut him loose.

Dan Tylicki: They probably will not avoid arbitration, given that he’s a Boras client, but I hope they do and sign him to a multi-year agreement. 

He’s earned a pretty hefty contract with his play, I’d say in the $5 million per year range. I’d go higher but this is the Indians we’re talking about.

I don’t see anything beyond a three-year deal happening, though.


2. Another core player who will be eligible for arbitration this winter is Asdrubal Cabrera

What do you think is a reasonable offer of years/salary for Cabrera? Any chance the Indians lock him up for longer than just his arbitration years by giving him a contract that extends into free agency? 

Now for the really tough question: If the Indians are only willing and/or able, financially speaking, to give a long-term contract to either Choo or Cabrera but not both, which one do you think they should choose? Why?

Samantha Bunten: Cabrera is a far better candidate for a long-term deal than Choo given his age and representation. 

Moreover, the team’s needs should also make Cabrera the stronger candidate. The system is full of outfielders. Obviously, it would hurt to lose Choo in the future, but it would be easier to absorb than losing Cabrera. 

I would try to go six years with Cabrera, back-loaded with a club option on the last year. 

The Indians are also in a better position to negotiate with Cabrera than they are with Choo, given Cabrera’s injuries, unproven consistency on offense, and relationship/attachment to the team. 

Dale Thomas: Cabrera is a lot like Choo in that they both had breakout seasons in 2009 and both continue to improve…except Cabrera is way younger, and is a great candidate for a six-year deal.

They could probably get a discounted price early on in the deal then jack it up toward the later years. 

It could look something like this: 2011, $2 million; 2012, $3.5 million; 2013, $6 million;  2014, $8 million, 2015, $9.5 million; and 2016, $10 million (club option.) This would lock him up for his best years.

Dan Tylicki: Cabrera is probably an easier case to lock up past arbitration, since he’s emerged as a leader, and due to his injuries, the Indians may be able to get a bit of a break money-wise. Not sure how much he’d get, but he deserves a good contract as well. 

He’s more likely to get the longer deal that goes into free agency, but again I think this is unlikely. 

The second question is a tough one indeed. Do you pick the clubhouse leader-infielder, probably the only spot in the infield that’s actually nailed down, or do you pick the most productive player at a position we’re deeper in, who’s a Boras client? 

If they had the same agent, I’d go with Choo just because we need that spark in the lineup, even though based on need right now, Cabrera seems the more urgent player to get signed up.


3. On a related note to the above, the Indians payroll this season was about $61 million. Roughly $27 million of that has or will come off the books this year, putting the total going into next year at about $34 million. 

Obviously that number will go up from $34 million in 2011 (through players entering arbitration and scheduled raises for players under contract if nothing else), but how much do you think it will go up beyond that? 

What do you estimate the Indians’ payroll entering 2011 to be? Do you think the projection is a reasonable amount for them to spend given the team’s revenue and chances of contending?

Samantha Bunten: The total for payroll will likely end up about the same, let’s say about $58 million. Not much will change. The Indians will spend about the same amount, they’ll rank about the same amongst other MLB teams in terms of payroll, and they won’t contend.

They’ll bring in a stopgap third baseman on a one-year deal, give the same sort of deal to a veteran low-risk, high-reward pitcher, say the word “rebuilding” a lot, and then finish last in the Central. 

Business as usual. At least we know what to expect.

Dale Thomas: Payroll will end up about where it is now, then they will complain about it. I honestly don’t feel that they are ‘building’ a team. 

It’s more like they are becoming adept at tearing the team down. Deconstruction specialists, so to say. 

Yeah, they’re obligated to raise certain salaries, then obliged to dump those same salaries and thumb their noses to the general public while explaining how “we don’t understand”. 

Sadly, contending has come to mean ‘not coming in last.’ How many Walmart TVs do you have to get before you realize that your audience doesn’t want to watch a blank screen? 

Our ballpark is empty for a reason and it doesn’t take a brilliant analyst to figure out why. Everyone knows you have to invest first to get the dividend later. Ownership has sunk to buying lottery tickets with the hope of getting lucky.

Dan Tylicki:  I think we’ll finish somewhere in the neighborhood of $56-58 million. It will remain near the bottom, and it will look like they won’t contend. 

Factoring in Choo and Cabrera, there wouldn’t be too much more for others, and as usual, Cleveland will take the low-risk, high-reward route, finding a one-year third baseman and perhaps another player or two.


4. Mitch Talbot was a hugely pleasant surprise the first half of the season, pitching far better than anyone expected and making the Kelly Shoppach trade with the Rays look like a complete steal. 

These days, he’s the poster child for how quickly things can start to go down the drain. 

Initially Talbot’s struggles landed him on the DL, but it’s only gotten worse from there. Upon returning to the team, he gave up 12 runs in his first three starts, and was touched for five runs in the first inning last week by the anemic Oakland offense. 

So what exactly is wrong with Talbot? Why do you think he was able to pitch so well in the first half of the season but then took such a dramatic turn for the worse? 

Do you think Talbot can adjust and return to his early season form? Do you think this is just a bad spell for Talbot that he’ll eventually emerge from, or do you think his success at the beginning of the year was just a fluke?

Samantha Bunten: There doesn’t appear to be any sort of mechanical issue or flaw in his delivery, though I think there’s a strong possibility he could be tipping, even if it’s only in such a way that it nets opposing batters more walks/an easier go at pitch selection rather than allowing them to tee off on him. 

He’s also relatively young and doesn’t have a ton of major league experience, so he may have had a few bad outings that were just part of the way things go for everyone but was then unable to get past them mentally. 

Ultimately, I think Talbot will be fine. It may just be an issue of getting his confidence back. If not, we can always just ship him off to Arizona. Hey, it worked for Fausto. Sort of. 

Dale Thomas: I think the long ugly season wore him down and he just doesn’t give a sh** anymore. Oh wait! Maybe that’s me…

Dan Tylicki: I wish I could say it’s because of the teams he’s faced, but he’s played against the Athletics and Mariners and got torched by both, so that’s clearly wrong.

Looking through his stats doesn’t show anything other then him just pitching worse, so I’m quite certain it’s mental. These kinds of slumps are what separates the good and the bad pitchers. If he can shake this off and return to form, he’ll be worth keeping. If he’s even worse in September, then it will be a problem. 

I don’t think his early success was a fluke, he’s just someone who still needs to develop at the major league level. I think he has the tools to snap out of it, but I don’t know if he will.


5. Fun Question of the Week: Beginning this week, the Tribe still has six games each left with division contenders Chicago and Minnesota before the end of the season. This leaves them with a chance to play spoiler for someone’s playoff chances. 

Given the choice, whose season would you rather the Tribe ruin, the Twins or the White Sox? Realistically, which of those teams do you think the Tribe has a greater chance of victimizing in an effort to play spoiler?

Samantha Bunten: Since Torii Hunter is no longer with the Twins and around to run his mouth off about how much he hates the Indians, the choice is pretty easy: Chicago, all the way. 

We can make the choke sign at Ozzie Guillen like he did to us a few years ago. We can ruin AJ Pierzynski’s winter. We can keep Mark Buehrle from getting additional chances to hit yet another batter in the head and then refuse to apologize for it. That’s right, Chicago—what goes around comes around. 

Dale Thomas: White Sox get my vote, but I hope we don’t have to vote on whose season we wreck next year.

Dan Tylicki: Hmm, who would I rather see beaten by the Tribe, Manny or Thome? Probably Manny, since Thome was with the team longer, so I’d rather spoil Chicago. 

We’re 8-5 against Chicago and 5-7 against Minnesota, so I’d say we have a better shot against Chicago.

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Tribe Talk: Indians Fans’ Wait for Next Year Starts Now

Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.

With our Tribe deeply buried in the AL Central cellar, this week we start looking ahead to next year.

Exploring Chris Antonetti’s transition to the GM position at the end of the season, venturing a few guesses as to what action the Indians will take on the free agent market this winter, and predicting what the future holds for the 2011 starting rotation and lineup. 

I would like to thank this week’s participants Lewie Pollis, The Coop, and Nino Colla. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week.

Go Tribe!

1. With just over a month left in the season and the Tribe 21.5 games out of first and firmly entrenched in the AL Central basement, it’s time to do what we in Cleveland do best: Wait til next year. 

With that in mind, let’s make an attempt at an early assessment of how things will shake out for the Tribe in 2011, starting with the front office. 

Mark Shapiro will step down at the end of this season and move to the team president role, and Chris Antonetti will take over as GM. How do you feel about this change? 

Do you think Antonetti will be an improvement over Shapiro? Are you part of the camp that wanted Shapiro out? 

Given that Shapiro will still retain a role with the team, and that Antonetti is his protege, do you think this move will really make things any different? And for those of you who are satisfied with the job Shapiro has done, do you think Antonetti will follow suit?

Samantha Bunten: Seems like once again, it’s time to bring up that trusty old “swapping deck chairs on the titanic” analogy. By bringing in Shapiro’s long-time right-hand man as GM, and allowing Shapiro to stay on as team president, the Indians aren’t really making any attempt to change course; they’re just shuffling the deck. 

The move has a pointless feel to it. It won’t result in a change from the current front office philosophy, which has largely failed us. It’s like bickering over seating arrangements at a dinner party taking place in a burning building. 

Okay, okay, now that I’ve gotten to take my shots, I suppose I’ll give Antonetti a chance for at least a season or two before condemn him to keeping us in the losing holding pattern we’ve been in under Shapiro. 

The optimism of that sounds a little lame even as I type it now, given that Antonetti has been groomed (crippled?) by Shapiro for years now, but who knows? Maybe he’ll surprise us by bucking the trend.

Dare to dream. 

Lewie Pollis: The last 10 years have been extremely frustrating for every Indians fan, but that’s not Shapiro’s fault. He’s made his share of mistakes, but I have no doubt that he is one of the best GMs in the game. 

Think about how he revolutionized the rebuilding process. For many teams, the word “rebuilding” means a decade of cellar-dwelling misery. 

We had it good—just three losing seasons separated the end of our Glory Days in 2001 from our 93-win resurgence in 2005. We were one game away from the pennant in 2007; now we have arguably the deepest farm system in the game and are likely to be serious contenders before the end of the Mayan calendar. 

And let’s not forget the trades.

Shin-Shoo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana… talk about great pick-ups. It’s too early to judge the Lee and Martinez trades. Even if they haven’t done much yet I’m quite pleased with getting Michael Brantley and Matt LaPorta in exchange for two months of CC Sabathia. 

Then, of course, there’s the Bartolo Colon deal, which has to be remembered as one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history. 

I don’t know what Antonetti will do once he takes the reins, but I’m betting that things won’t change very much. I just hope that when Weglarz, Chisenhall, & Co. start tearing up the AL Central, people will remember who really built the team.

Nino Colla: I’m excited for the move. I can’t wait to see a fresh type of leadership on the baseball operations side of things. It will remain to be seen if Antonetti will be an improvement, but I think Chris has the tools to be successful. 

I think the biggest thing for him is to establish his own way of doing things. I think in ways he is much like Shapiro, or else he wouldn’t have been Mark’s right-hand man all these years.

However, Chris is his own person and he has to do things his way while still following the organizational philosophy. I did not want Mark Shapiro to be fired because I think he has done what he could do with the budget and circumstances he’s been given. 

Will things really be different?

The circumstances might be tougher for Antonetti and he may have a shorter leash with the fans because of all the recent talent brought in, but I think while it will be business as usual, Antonetti is going to be the guy calling the shots when it comes to that talent.

The Coop: The only good thing I can say about Mark Shapiro is that Larry Dolan didn’t do him any favors by being cheap. Shapiro was faced with the unenviable task of slashing payroll and rebuilding an entire organization. 

A lot of people have vilified Shapiro for cleaning house over the last few years (demolishing the house, really), but I don’t think Shapiro is so dumb that he wouldn’t have signed Sabathia, Lee and Martinez if his owner would have let him. 

Still, the “cheap owner” excuse only goes so far.

There are many, many playoff contenders (some perennial), who have done much more with much less.

Ultimately, Shapiro was a disaster. 

People thought he was a genius when they saw the returns on the Bartolo Colon trade. Looking back, we know that deal was very overrated. 

When he was given the chance to spend some money, he gave it to guys like Travis Hafner and Kerry Wood. Shapiro failed the Indians when it came to scouting and player development. Only until recently has the farm system gotten to where it needs to be. 

How many years did we have to put up with Jhonny Peralta because we couldn’t find or develop a third baseman? Oh, and he hired Eric Wedge. 

But what matters most is results. The Indians had two above-.500 seasons under Shapiro and zero World Series appearances. Who knows what Shapiro’s role will be as team president – but one thing is for sure: He (and Dolan) will be Chris Antonetti’s boss. Can you really expect anything different?


2. The Tribe will close 2010 with a lot of uncertainty regarding the future of the starting rotation. They have a lot of potential talent in the system, but whether there are five pitchers ready to take on a starting role in the majors remains to be seen. 

Who do you see as the five starters in the rotation at the beginning of 2011? Are there any dark horse candidates who don’t get much press but who you think might be a long shot to grab one of the available spots? 

Are there any current starters for the Tribe who you don’t see hanging onto their role next season?

Samantha Bunten: I think the most likely scenario is Carmona, Tomlin, Gomez, Talbot, and a free agent to be named later. 

There has been plenty of buzz that the Indians might bring back Jake Westbrook. I wouldn’t rule out Carl Pavano returning either. 

They could fill the spot internally, but I think having a veteran in a rotation of mostly youngsters is important to their success as a group in ways that go beyond how said player will perform on the mound. This group needs a leader. 

Depending on the length/cost of the contract given to this pitcher, it’s certainly conceivable he’ll be flipped for prospects before the deadline, but by that point there’s a good chance that at least one of the long shots from within the organization will have established himself as a viable candidate for the job. 

I don’t think that person will be Masterson (like Coop always says, move him to the ‘pen!). Rondon, Carrasco, Kluber, and even Alex White (if he’s far enough along in his development) could all be in the running. I’m still hanging on to a shred of hope that Huff will finally get it together. 

Lewie Pollis: Unless they’re traded in the offseason (certainly possible), Carmona and Talbot are shoe-ins. With or without Shapiro, the Indians’ front office understands BABIP well enough to keep Masterson around, barring complete collapse. 

There’s a chance we’ll bring in another low-risk, high-reward veteran like Carl Pavano (there are rumors of re-signing Westbrook), but if not, it will be between Carlos Carrasco, Jeanmar Gomez, and Josh Tomlin for the last two spots. 

Personally, I’d pick Carrasco and Tomlin, but Gomez has the edge of being the rotation now. Don’t count out Yohan Pino or Zack McAllister, though.

Nino Colla: I think the Indians do have a lot of uncertainty, but they’ve answered a lot of questions in regards to it, which is what this season was for. 

Fausto Carmona is a part of the rotation, I think we know that. I think we also know he is more of a No. 2 guy rather than an ace. I think we also know Mitch Talbot is a viable option at the back-end. 

I think we’ve found out that Justin Masterson may not be able to cut it in the rotation. We know he has the stuff. We know that if he were to be a viable starter, he would be a middle of the rotation guy. 

The problem is his two dominant pitches aren’t enough for him to be a starter. Do the Indians truly believe he can develop another pitch or two? If they do, they probably should go with him again to start the year in the rotation. 

I think the rotation should shake out as: Carmona, Talbot, Gomez, Carrasco, Free Agent. I would add a veteran arm, a la Carl Pavano, to fill innings in the beginning of the year. 


To start the year, this team needs some veteran leadership. A rotation full of young guys isn’t going to cut it and I think the rotation really benefited from having Jake Westbrook around this year. 

Carmona can’t be that guy, so I’d bring someone in who could. Eventually, Huff, Tomlin, McAllister, Kluber, Rondon, etc. will all get their shots.

The Coop: I’ve got four for you: Carmona, Gomez, Tomlin, and Talbot seem like no-brainers. 

I’ve been saying it for awhile, but I am really hoping the Indians take a look at Masterson coming out of the ‘pen. Will they? Probably not. 

In my view, Gomez is probably the least likely of those four to land (or be given) a job. If you replace him with Masterson, I think you’ve got the core rotation for 2011. And while this isn’t exactly the ’71 Orioles staff, I have been impressed with all of these guys at certain points this season. I think it’s a very young but very talented group. 

That of course leaves the fifth spot.

I don’t normally think about the fifth spot in the rotation because normally it provides very little, but the job is wide open and I always like some good competition in the spring.

Gomez or David Huff seem the most likely candidates, but Huff is battling demons and I don’t think he’s going to turn it around anytime soon. 

After that, my money is on Carlos Carrasco, but I’d like to see if Hector Rondon or Alex White can give the other guys a run for their money.

3. Please list the position players who you believe will start on Opening Day next season. 

Are there any established starters who you believe are in danger of losing their job? 

Are there any long shots in the minor league system who you believe will surprise everyone and win a starting job next spring?

Samantha Bunten: Let’s start with what we know for sure: Santana at catcher, LaPorta at first, Cabrera at short, Sizemore in center, and Choo in right. 

That leaves second, third, and left field as question marks. 

The left field job should be Brantley’s to lose, which he’s done an excellent job of doing this year on several occasions. Hopefully this was just him getting adjusted and working the kinks out, and next year he’ll play up to his potential and win the left field spot permanently. 

I think Jason Donald has the best shot at the starting second base spot, though Cord Phelps may challenge him for it later in the season. 

Third base will continue to be the bane of our existence unless we go out and get a stopgap third baseman on the free agent market this winter to hold down the fort until Chisenhall is ready. Or at least until Goedert figures out how to field a hot grounder. 

Lewie Pollis: Obviously Carlos Santana will be behind the plate. Matt LaPorta and Asdrubal Cabrera will have first base and shortstop on lockdown. I’ll be bold and say that some combination of Jared Goedert, Josh Rodriguez, and Cord Phelps will round out the infield. 

The outfield is tricky—Choo and Sizemore have spots for sure. Brantley, Crowe, and Brown having to battle it out in left. Assuming Sizemore rebounds, my bet is on Brantley winning regular playing time, with one of the other two getting traded. 

And it’s hard to imagine benching Travis Hafner when we’re paying him eight digits.

Nino Colla: Santana, Sizemore, LaPorta, Choo, and Cabrera to me are the only locks. 

Brantley needs to get back in the lineup, stay healthy, and continue to do what he was doing pre-injury and he could join that list. 

I think Jason Donald is doing enough to be a starter at second and be that guy until Cord Phelps or Jason Kipnis can take that spot over and thus shift Donald to the utility position. Or better yet, Donald takes off and makes it tough for the Indians to replace him. 

Obviously, third base is a hole. I don’t think anyone can guess as to what will happen there. Jared Goedert apparently won’t get a shot this September, which leads me to believe he could be on the outside looking in during the spring, but he still could win that post.

The Coop: C – Carlos Santana 1B – Matt LaPorta 2B – Jason Donald 3B – Jayson Nix SS – Asdrubal Cabrera LF – Trevor Crowe (sorry Samantha) CF – Grady Sizemore RF – Shin-soo Choo (Note: You asked for position players which is why I didn’t name Travis Hafner.) 

The thing is, the Indians don’t really have many established starters – not in my mind anyway. I’d say Choo and Cabrera are established and don’t have anything to worry about. 

I’m not holding out much hope for Grady. I have been burned too many times, which means we might be looking at more of Michael Brantely or Jordan Brown in left and Crowe in center. 

I expect Luis Valbuena to compete for a job somewhere in the infield. I don’t think that Brown or Brantley are ready. I’m hoping Andy Marte takes up a career in broadcasting.

Other than that, I don’t really expect any current “long shots” to earn a job. If they were even remotely ready to be in the majors, they’d be here already (and not in September). 

But, if you ever wanted to make it to the show for the Indians, learning how to play third or left field wouldn’t be a bad idea. And of course, no one can predict which over-the-hill veteran the Indians will overpay for in the offseason.

4. Given the team’s financial constraints and where they are in the rebuilding process, the Tribe isn’t likely to be too active on the free agent market this winter. 

Still, there are some holes that need to be filled, even if only in a temporary sense while the team waits for prospects to become major league ready. 

What position(s) do you see the Tribe seeking to fill on the open market this winter? Are there any specific players who will be free agents this year who you see the Tribe making a run at?

Samantha Bunten: Again, filling the void at third base is a top priority. Obviously we can’t afford someone like Adrian Beltre (and honestly, we don’t need him since we have Chisenhall in the system), but we do need someone who can stand next to the bag and at least pretend to be a real third baseman for one season. 

If possible, I would love to get someone over there who actually has the glove for the job. I was and still am very fond of Blake, Boone, and even Fryman, but let’s face it: The last time we had a truly good third baseman? Matt Williams. Eek.

We’ll also need that veteran pitcher mentioned previously. I’d be happy with Jake returning, but ideally I’d rather have Pavano. 

Beyond that, I wouldn’t mind picking up a utility infielder with a truly good glove, but that’s really not a priority. I would rather see the money put into long-term contracts for guys like LaPorta, Santana, and (if he straightens out) Michael Brantley.

Lewie Pollis: With Westbrook, Wood, and Peralta off the books, we’ll save more than $25 million next year. 

Let’s assume that arbitration raises cost us $10 million (not likely, but still)—we still have $15 million to play with without raising payroll. There’s no real hole in the team that won’t be filled with prospects, and wasting time with second- or third-tier free agents isn’t likely to do us any good. 

If we want to improve via the free agent market, we’ll need to make a big splash. 

Ready? Here goes: The Indians should trade Hafner for whatever they can get. Salary relief and a fringe prospect? That’s fine. A promising prospect, but we have to eat a ton of money? Sold. Just make it happen. 

Then, we go out and sign Adam Dunn to DH and anchor the lineup for our future contending teams. Four years, $50 million would probably be more than enough to land him. That’s a small price to pay for one of the most consistent power hitters in the game.

Nino Colla: They are going to look for third baseman, I think that is a given. They like Nix, but he can’t play defense there. 

They won’t make any big signing there. They could bring in one, maybe two, wouldn’t shock me if they went with three, players on minor league deals in an attempt to fill that third base void. Pedro Feliz, Melvin Mora, Wes Helms, all guys that are older, potential minor league free deal guys that they could go after. 

Also, as I said earlier, they should go after a veteran starter. They shouldn’t be spending any money at all, but a Carl Pavano incentive-type deal would make a lot of sense. 

I don’t see a whole lot of names that jump out. I don’t know if Jamie Moyer is getting a major league contract somewhere, but that wouldn’t be a bad idea.

The Coop: When was the last time the Indians had above-average talent at third base or in left field? When Casey Blake is (was) your best third baseman since Travis Fryman, you’ve got problems. 

Meanwhile, the Indians haven’t had a fearsome left field slugger since Albert Belle (unless you count the “major league hitter” David Dellucci). 

So, in a perfect world, the Indians would be able to address these needs. Realistically, the Indians largely have no business being involved in the free agent market this off-season.

Sure, they’re going to need role players and some veterans just in case things don’t pan out with all of their young guys, but what’s the point? 

I mean, how many times do we have to watch the Indians rent guys like Mark DeRosa, Austin Kearns, and Carl Pavano, only to flip ‘em for a prospect or two? 

Sure, those types of guys can and have contributed, and it’s nice to see them fetch prospects, but is it really worth it to take innings or at bats away from the guys who we hope will be the long-term solution at their respective positions?


5. Fun Question of the Week: As stated above, limited budget and rebuilding plans will limit the Tribe’s activity on the free agent market this winter. But just for fun, let’s assume money is no object. 

If you were the Tribe’s GM, and you had unlimited funds, which three free agents would you pursue for the Tribe?

Samantha Bunten: In my imaginary baseball Utopia, the first thing the Tribe does is bring back Cliff Lee. But much to my dismay, and the dismay of deluded Yankee fans, Lee will likely be staying in Texas. Since this is purely hypothetical though, I’ll bring him in to be our ace and pay him $7 for the privilege. 

Beyond that, I’d love to see Matt Holliday in left field. I’d love to bring in Adam Dunn to compete for the DH job with Hafner, or to spell Matt LaPorta at first when we want to watch someone different strike out for the sake of variety.

Lewie Pollis: I already mentioned Dunn, and Cliff Lee is pretty obvious. 

Beyond that, I’d say Adrian Beltre—because if we could afford to get anyone we wanted, I’d say screw this whole rebuilding thing. Brantley, Choo, Beltre, Dunn, Santana, LaPorta, Sizemore, Cabrera, Nix. That would be the best lineup in baseball.

Nino Colla: I probably wouldn’t actually pursue much. 

I like the guys we have at the locked positions, I think our outfield is set and if it isn’t, Nick Weglarz is close enough to the point where I’d have no problem rotating the likes of Brantley, Zeke Carrera, Jordan Brown, and the infamous Trevor Crowe in at left field until he is ready.

Ditto for second base, as much as I’d love to have a guy like Orlando Hudson on my team. 

At third base, there really is nothing. Adrian Beltre is probably the best available if he doesn’t exercise his option, but if it isn’t a one year deal, I don’t toy with Beltre. Part of what made him a great value for the Red Sox this past offseason was the fact that it was a cheap one year deal and how he produces in those situations. 

As for starting pitching… Cliff Lee.. Go bring him back, for real.

The Coop: Only three free agents? If we want the Indians to win more than 81 games, we’re gonna need more than three! 

My three would be Adrian Beltre (third base), Matt Holliday (left field), and Cliff Lee. 

Mediocrity, here we come!

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Tribe Talk: Assessing The Aftermath Of The Indians’ 2010 Draft

Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.

This week we focus on the signing deadline for draft picks and discuss our thoughts on the draftees signed by the Indians, debate whether the MLB slotting system needs an overhaul, and share our thoughts on how much draft position really matters. 

I would like to thank this week’s participants Dale Thomas, Dan Tylicki, and Scott Miles for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week.

Go Tribe!

1. On Monday, the last day before the signing deadline for draft picks, the Indians pulled out an 11th hour miracle by getting their top three draft picks signed. 

The feat was impressive given that many were speculating that they would only be able to sign perhaps two of the highly regarded picks. Were you impressed that the Tribe was able to pull this off? 

Do you think the three players in question (Drew Pomeranz, 1st rd, $2.65MM, LeVon Washington, 2nd rd, $1.2MM, and Tony Wolters, 3rd rd, $1.35MM) were worth the money? 

Now that the deadline has passed and the Tribe has signed 26 of their 50 draft selections, how would you say the team did in the draft overall this year?

Samantha Bunten: I’m certainly pleased that the team got their top three picks signed, though I’m not sure it was truly as big of an accomplishment as it was made out to be. 

Bonus-wise, these were not expensive players. They got all three signed for less total money than what many early first round picks get as individuals. The total they gave out in bonuses to the top three, mathematically speaking, gave them three players for about half the price of Bryce Harper. 

Seems impressive until you consider that Harper was overpriced and that, in the Indians’ case, you get what you pay for. I’m not saying I think the top three picks were bad selections (I’m particularly fond of Wolters), I just think they might have netted better players if they weren’t so concerned about signability issues. 

True, sometimes it’s wise to avoid such players (first rounders who are Boras clients in particular). But then again, if the Indians track record in the draft over the last 10 years has taught us anything, it’s that playing it safe rarely breeds any sort of concrete, consistent success.

Dale Thomas: Yes, I’m encouraged that the Tribe got their top three signed. I think they did a good job here and overall I’d give them an A- for this year’s draft. 

Actually, I’m most excited by Wolters. Wouldn’t it be great to have a guy that truly loves the game? His hitting will come around, and his defense is already there…and he’s only 18.

Dan Tylicki: I do like that they were signed in the end, though how the third rounder got more than the second rounder I don’t know. I’m not really a big fan of grading MLB drafts—even though I’ve done it myself—mainly because the draft is such a crap shoot that you never really know what’s going to happen. 

Nonetheless, I think they did well based on watching the film of the first three picks. Washington has the tools, he just needs to focus on developing them, as does Wolters. Pomeranz doesn’t have a big hill to climb to be the best starting pitcher we drafted under Shapiro, so he better accomplish that.

Scott Miles: It’s no secret that the Indians have struggled with the draft in recent years. Part of the reason has been bypassing players who had “signability” issues – asking for more money than the team was willing to pay. 

I’m not saying that all three of these players will be stars—you don’t even know if they will reach the big leagues—but it’s very encouraging that the Tribe was able to sign the guys they targeted so highly. So yes, I would say the draft went very well this year.

2. Let’s take a closer look at the Tribe’s top draft pick, first rounder and number five-overall selection Drew Pomeranz.

Now that he’s been signed and we can consider his price along with his talent, do you think he was the right choice for the Tribe in the first round? 

Do you think the Tribe may have prioritized him over another (better player) for signability reasons? If so, do you agree with their decision to do that?

Samantha Bunten: I think Pomeranz was an acceptable choice, but not the ideal one in the first round. But considering the team’s current needs, a top tier college pitcher isn’t a bad pick. 

What I did like about the pick was that the Indians finally appear to be changing their draft strategy from overloading on corner players and power bats to drafting pitchers and athletes who can play up the middle. 

What I don’t like about it has more to do with Pomeranz’s personal weaknesses: he has some command issues, and he’s yet to develop an adequate change-up. That’s fine for a pitcher being drafted out of high school, but a college pitcher should at least have a change up that is on its way to being major league ready, even if it needs some polishing in the minors first. 

That being said, the rest of his repertoire looks pretty good. If he can develop his off-speed stuff and hit his spots consistently, he’ll have very high upside. 

Dale Thomas: I think Pomeranz was a solid pick and the pick the Tribe had to make. He was the SEC pitcher of the year, 9-2 record with good control (139 strikeouts, 49 walks). 

I might have some concerns about his delivery with that big sweeping overhand style. Guys will run on him. Beyond that, I think he has the potential to be a number-one starter. Hopefully he’ll be able to shorten his delivery without sacrificing control.

Dan Tylicki: I was not the biggest fan of the signing. I get that he was probably the best college left-hander in the draft (never draft a high school pitcher, in my opinion), but after reviewing everything I had a much better opinion of Chris Sale, and personally would have taken him. I’m not saying that just because he’s already in the majors; I noticed this when reacting to the draft. 

In terms of signability though, that’s always a possibility, as it would be silly to draft someone if you couldn’t sign them. If that was their reason for picking Pomeranz over someone like Barret Loux, who didn’t sign, then that’s fine.

Scott Miles: I think he was the top player for the Indians in that slot. 

There may have been some position players with more upside than Pomeranz, but the Tribe’s starting pitching is clearly a weakness. Pomeranz has the potential to be a front-end starter for the Tribe for years to come.

3. The way the Indians approach signing draft picks brings up an interesting issue about how the process works across the league. The rules for slotting bonuses in the MLB are not hard and fast, rather, strongly suggested guidelines for how big a bonus a player drafted at a given slot should receive. 

Like most of baseball’s “guidelines,” very few teams adhere to them. Except the Indians, who are generally staunch followers of the guidelines the league sets. 

The Indians claim they’re just following the rules, but many think it’s just another excuse for the team’s ownership to be stingy. 

What’s your take on this? Are the slotting guidelines really rules that should be followed by the Tribe if no one else is following them? Do you think the Tribe is being cheap by adhering to them? 

Generally speaking, would you support an enforced slotting system for the league so that teams with more money or more spendthrift ownership don’t have an advantage in the draft?

Samantha Bunten: I’m generally not a fan of the way the NBA conducts itself, but there’s one thing they did get absolutely right: the slotting system. 

I’m not necessarily a staunch supporter of enforced slotting bonus amounts in MLB, but I do think it would be a good way to ensure that teams with less money aren’t constantly getting shafted in the draft. 

The absence of a salary cap and the impact of anti-trust laws already create a huge lack of parity in baseball. Let’s not make it even worse for the have-nots by putting them at a disadvantage in the draft as well, which should be the one place where they can go for talent if they can’t afford to purchase it on the open market. Really, it’s that or we all just agree to get rid of Scott Boras. 

Dale Thomas: To me, these “guidelines” are put out there for reasons other than the game of baseball. Like any other sport, baseball makes enforceable rules for things they consider to be critical to the game and to the balance of the game across the league. Simply stated, guidelines are a bunch of crap. 

I can’t eliminate the idea that the Indians are using the guidelines as an excuse, but at the same time I believe they would go outside the guideposts like everyone else if the conditions were favorable to doing that. It’s not like they have never thrown some money around, it’s more that they throw it at the wrong people, then freak out about it. 

I’m not really up for an enforced slotting system. Well-run teams under clever ownership can make enough money to be competitive. 

Put a winner on the field and players will come in from all directions. Winning teams are not necessarily dictated by the weight of a signing bonus.

Dan Tylicki: If no one else is following a guideline, then there’s not really any reason to either. Larry Dolan’s about as much of a tightwad as I am (not a compliment), and adhering to a guideline others scoff at is a clever excuse so that they don’t have to spend any money.

In theory, I would love an enforced slotting system in the draft, so that money isn’t an issue and clubs just have to look at talent. That being said, that kind of system would cause the possibility of players choosing to play overseas, so it would not solve all the draft problems, but at the same time it’s not meant to.

Scott Miles: I think the Indians did a pretty good job balancing the slotting system. They didn’t overpay for their top guys, yet they were also able to give Alex Lavisky, the catcher from St. Edward, about a million dollars, even though he was an eighth or ninth round pick.

Ideally, there would be a slotting system like the NBA (and the NHL, or so I’m told) so that it would never be an issue that the worst teams can’t sign the best players because they’re asking for too much money. 

I’m not sure if this will ever happen, but it needs to for the sake of competitive balance…let the Yankees and Red Sox sign those guys away from teams when they’re 28, not just be able to draft and develop them, too.

4. With the season coming to a close in less than two months, draft positions for 2011 will soon become apparent. 

Given the poor record the Tribe has this season, they will have a high pick in next year’s draft. The question is, how high? 

This brings up an interesting philosophical debate for losing teams: if you’re having a poor season no matter what, are you better off being truly at the very bottom of the barrel, in order to get a better draft position the following year, or is it always best to post the best record possible, even if said record will never be good enough to matter?

Samantha Bunten: No, no, no. I don’t care if you are 46 games out in your division by July; you NEVER cede games to improve your draft status. 

Fans come to the ballpark to see the team win, not to watch it jockey for position in a draft that will happen next year. Perhaps even more important, the MLB draft is different than the draft for other sports in that the likelihood of success for any given draft pick, be it a first-rounder or a 17th-rounder, is almost impossible to predict. 

It’s just never worth the gamble. A Stephen Strasburg comes along once every ten or so years. Most of the time, you’re talking about gambling away wins on a  Jeremy Sowers or a Trevor Crowe. No thanks.

Dale Thomas: Oh man…Go out there each and every day and try to win. It’s your obligation, no matter what. 

I mean, let’s say we have a long term plan wherein we throw games for five straight years to get number ones, and get ’em we do. Then we contend for five years. Then we dump and throw games for five more years, contend for five, and so-on. 

How is that baseball? It’s more like insider trading. Bookies wouldn’t even like it.

Come to think of it, hasn’t Kansas City done the ‘last place’ thing for like 30 years? This really blows my five-year plan…

Dan Tylicki: It looks like we will probably have a top five selection again this year, so ideally we can get the best players. While in some sports it seems wiser to lose the final game or two to give yourself a better position, unless there’s an amazing prospect in the next draft and you’re tied for the worst record, there’s no reason not to keep playing. 

As I’ve said above, the MLB draft is pretty much a crap shoot; the fifth, sixth, or seventh pick really doesn’t make a difference except to the player himself. It means little for the team, so there’s no reason to throw a game.

Scott Miles: I don’t think its as much of an issue because the baseball draft is too much of a crap shoot compared to the other sports. 

It is so broad. With 1,500 players involved you can easily miss on the top prospects. There is never a cut-and-dried consensus number one player (well, except for Strasburg). 

The Indians just need to stick with their philosophy now of playing as many young guys as possible, continue competing hard, and worry about next year next year.

5. Fun Question of the Week: Who is your favorite Indian who was drafted and developed by the team? Did the fact that this player came up through the Indians system have anything to do with your attachment to him? 

If the player you chose above is now retired or with another team, who is your favorite current Indian who was drafted and developed by the Tribe?

Samantha Bunten: That has to be Charlie Nagy or Manny, both former Indians who I would be attached to no matter what, but who I feel an additional sense of ownership of/fondness for because they were home-grown. 

I’d add Paul Shuey to that list as well as a more under-the-radar player who meant more to Indians fans because he came up through our system. 

As far as players still currently in the system, it has to be David Huff, despite his insistence on consistently proving my faith in him to be ill-founded. That honor should have theoretically gone to Adam Miller, but that was never a possibility since he’s been broken, uh, pretty much since the day we drafted him in 2003.

Dale Thomas: I could pick CC Sabathia, Charley Nagy, or Manny Ramirez. I love all those guys, and yes I do credit much of the love to the fact that they came up through our system…like family or something. 

But I’m going to go with Rick Manning as my all time fave because he was drafted way back in 1972 and, in a way, is STILL with the team. Now that’s longevity. 

For the last part of this question I’m stuck on that word ‘developed’… as in currently playing and playing well… hmmm…Trevor? Nah, I guess I’m currently without a favorite.

Dan Tylicki: This is a tough one, as there are several players drafted in the late 1980s/early 1990s that would fit in here. My first choice would be Manny Ramirez. He got lumped in with Thome a lot, and since the latter lasted longer he seems more well liked in Cleveland, but I loved the way Ramirez played the game, and still do, performance enhancers aside. 

My second choice is Charles Nagy. He didn’t have the personality like Ramirez or others, but he got the job done day in and day out, and that’s all you can ask of anybody.

Scott Miles: It has to be Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez, no? How can you not love those guys and what they meant to the city? Two future Hall of Famers. It’s hard to beat that. 

For me personally, after working for the Lake County Captains for two years, I definitely feel something a little extra when I watch the Indians now. Jeanmar Gomez, Josh Tomlin, Chris Gimenez, and Trevor Crowe were all guys I saw up close and personal. 

Jared Goedert, Hector Rondon, Carlton Smith, Nick Weglarz, and Matt McBride are some of the guys in AAA that I remember watching as well. I definitely root for all of those guys, even if I never imagined some of them would get this far (OK, just Gimenez).

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