Tag: Lou Marson

36-Year Old Woman Stealing The Headlines at Cleveland Indians’ Camp

Thirty-six year old Justine Siegal has a passion for the game of baseball, and this has allowed her to make great strides in the sport.

No, she’s not a player—that would be truly remarkable. What makes this event so special is that, for some reason, it’s flown somewhat under the radar.

Siegal has spent the past four years as an assistant baseball coach at Springfield College in Massachusetts. Aside from coaching baseball at the college, she has been working toward her Ph.D. in sports and exercise psychology.

During her time coaching at Springfield, she became the first woman in history to coach a professional baseball team. In 2009 she coached the the Brockton Rox, an independent league team in the Canadian-American Association, to a 56-37 record.

Siegal, a Cleveland native, approached Indians GM Chris Antonetti with a proposal during the Winter Meetings this past December. 

She wanted to throw batting practice to the Tribe in spring training.

So yesterday, Siegal threw four-seam fastballs during batting practice to a group of five Minor Leaguers. After watching the session, members of the Cleveland brass were impressed enough to let her face a few Major Leaguers.

With her 13-year old daughter watching, Siegal threw batting practice to catchers Lou Marson, Paul Phillips and Juan Apodaca.

When interviewed after the history-making appearance, Siegal said, “I’ve been thinking about this almost every hour for the past month. I’m excited to be here and to have done a good job.”

Siegal had been notified about the arrangement three weeks prior and was itching to get out there ever since. 

Teams around the league were very impressed with the performance. So impressed even, that she will be throwing batting practice for the Athletics on Wednesday.

Justine Siegal’s story is one that’s certainly good for the game of baseball. Women may never actually see the field but, who knows, women could one day have a much greater impact in the sport.

The involvement of women is integral to the growth and development of the game. When more women participate, more women watch.

With a larger fan base possibly on the horizon, baseball could be entering yet another period of prosperity, success and glory.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

If the Shoe Fits: Cleveland Indians Have the Makings to Be Next Year’s Cinderella Team

Miracles happen, especially in sports. 

After a decade of futility the Tampa Bay Rays stunned the baseball world by winning the AL pennant in 2008, the organization’s first ever winning season.

The following year the Mariners, a preseason footnote in the AL West, won 85 games under GM Jack Zduriencik’s inaugural season. 

This season fans hopped on the San Diego Padres’ bandwagon and watched the team battle, albeit successfully, for the NL West Division crown.

Every year, as if on cue, a team marches towards contention following a remarkably quick and unsuspected turnaround.  As baseball nears the season’s climatic end, one is left to wonder which team is prepared to go unnoticed and quietly slip on the proverbially glass slipper come next April?

The Cleveland Indians.

The Indians 2010 season was a disaster. The team struggled from the start and frustrations began to mount as the team quickly faded out of contention. 

Underperforming players struggled to right the ship, young players failed to adjust to the rigors of big league life, injuries forced role players into every day jobs and veteran players were traded to make room for promising prospects. 

However, there are reasons for hope at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario, despite a dismal 69-93 record.    

Trevor Crowe was thrust into one of those aforementioned everyday roles after Grady Sizemore succumbed to injury.

Crowe, a former first round pick out of the University of Arizona, displayed grit and hustle, but provided little help.  In 479 plate appearances he hit .251/.302/.333, and cost the team 12 runs according UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating). 

Using WAR (Wins Above Replacement), Crowe essentially cost the team one win over the course of the season. 

A healthy Grady Sizemore is expected for the 2011 season, but a productive Grady Sizemore is another question.

Sizemore, the team’s regular centerfielder, was one of baseball’s eminent budding young stars prior to the 2009.  He looked like he was on the edge of superstardom after ranking among the sport’s elite from 2006 to 2008.

Then the wheels fell off.

A disappointing 2009 was plagued by injuries, and the internet release of compromising photos in the offseason seemed to set the tone for this year. 

He often looked uncomfortable, and at times lost, in the batter’s box.  After hitting .211/.271/.289 in 33 games Sizemore eventually called it a lost season. 

It’s hard to predict which Sizemore will be patrolling centerfield in 2011, but remember only two seasons ago he posted a 7.1 WAR—essentially an eight game improvement over Trevor Crowe.

Injury also wrecked the season of Carlos Santana, one baseball’s top rookies.

Santana made his debut on June 11, and instantly became a much needed force in the middle of the Indians’ lineup. The team nearly played .500 (22-25) before a nasty collision at home plate ended his season. He hit .260/.401/.467 while the rest of the Tribe catchers hit .203/.279/.309 combined.

Santana’s offense and Lou Marson’s late inning defensive ability should quietly rank among the league’s best catching tandems in 2011.   

The team’s next biggest disappointments, outside of injury, were Matt LaPorta and Luis Valbuena.

LaPorta, considered the key piece in the Sabathia deal, hit .221/.306/.362, and earned a midseason demotion to Triple-A. 

It is still too early to toss him by the wayside with the likes of Jeremy Sowers and Michael Aubrey, but the front office’s patience has to be running thin. 

The former University of Florida alum has proven he can hit minor league pitching, and it wouldn’t be hard for him to take a step forward next year—considering how low he has set the bar. 

LaPorta may not be the impact bat the team thought he was, but any player who posts a career minor league line of .296/.390/.563 will have SOME positive major league value. 

Luis Valbuena, like LaPorta, earned an in-season demotion to the minor leagues.  Valbuena often looked like a black hole in the lineup and on the field. He hit .193/.273/.258 and cost the team almost seven runs on defense, according to UZR. His WAR total of -1.5 was among baseball’s worst. 

The emergence of Cord Phelps, Jared Goedert, Josh Rodriguez and Jason Kipnis will provide plenty of options, and upgrades, for Manny Acta to use next season at second and third bases. 

There is reason to believe in Cleveland baseball, again. The young pitching staff took a step forward after the All-Star break.

Fausto Carmona had his most productive season since the team’s magical run in 2007.  Justin Masterson was lights out for the final 5-7 weeks of the year, Carlos Carrasco started to capitalize on his vast potential and the farm system has some of the best bullpen arms in all of baseball. 

Hope runs eternal during spring training. Perhaps next spring the Indians will slip on the glass slipper and run all the way towards late season contention. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Tribe Talk: Is the Wait for Carlos Santana Finally Over?

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

This week, we argue for why Carlos Santana should be brought up to the majors now, make some early trade predictions, and share our best methods for distraction during a disappointing season.

I would like to thank this week’s participants Nino Colla, Lewie Pollis, and The Coop 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. The rumor mill would have it that Christmas may come a little early in Cleveland this year; June, to be exact.

No, unfortunately, no one is saying that we’re getting a whole new roster. But the word on the street is that we will be getting an early Christmas gift this year in the form of Carlos Santana, who could be promoted to the majors as soon as two weeks from now.

Given the state of the team, and Santana’s numbers at Triple-A (which are impressive, but not totally overwhelming: .310 avg, 9 2B, 9 HR, 39 RBI in 42 G), are you completely in favor of bringing up Santana now?

Does your decision at all relate to how poorly Lou Marson is faring, or are you 100 percent convinced that Santana is ready to handle the majors?

Even if you are completely sold on Santana’s bat being Major League-ready, do you have any concerns about his defense, game-calling ability, or language issues not being quite up to snuff just yet?

Samantha Bunten: I’m completely in favor of calling him up now for two reasons:

First, he’s far enough along in his development that I don’t expect it would hurt him at all to be thrown into the fire. Even if he does regress a bit (at the plate, mostly), I don’t think it will be severe or at all damaging, and once he gets through the adjustment period of facing major league pitching I expect he’ll be fine. 

Second, this team and its fans NEED someone like Santana to give them a boost. Given what we’ve seen from Lou Marson, Santana being called up will only help the team, even if he only hits half as well as he’s hitting right now. 

And perhaps most important, this is exactly the sort of thing that could serve to re-energize the fanbase. I am never in favor of bringing up a player too early just to sell tickets, but I don’t believe it’s too early for Santana in terms of development, so there won’t be any negative side effect to selling a few extra seats. 

I’m sure he’s not fully developed as a game-caller, but then neither are half of the catchers in the majors.

Some of them never get there at all. If you consider the speed at which Santana has been able to develop his game thus far, there should be no doubt that he’ll be in command of his game-calling abilities sooner rather than later as well. 

Nino Colla: Let me go down the line here real quick. Language issues? No, I heard Chris Gimenez say that he communicates fine with his teammates and his English is actually better than people say it is.

Game-calling ability? I wouldn’t know, but if anything that would probably be the one thing holding him back. 

Defense? No, I saw him throw to second base on more than one occasion, he’ll be able to control the running game. I think he should be sound enough in terms of blocking balls and playing defense to where it shouldn’t be an issue. Even if he isn’t, the guy coaching first base knows a thing or two about developing that aspect of his game. 

That aside, we all know Carlos Santana is as ready as he’ll ever be in terms of his bat. While I’ve preached giving Lou Marson a shot, I think I’ve reached a point where I’m ready to see Carlos Santana come June 1st after he’s avoided Super Two eligibility.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see that happen, but also wouldn’t be shocked to see it not happen. 

In a way, I’d also be okay with either outcome. If the club were to go with Lou Marson for a little bit longer, while painful, I don’t think I could object because the kid is still young and he’s still learning. He’s shown at times he can hit major league pitching and play above-average defense, so it isn’t like he’s been a complete horrid show from the beginning of April.

Look at it this way. Is Carlos Santana spending an extra month (if we were to assume he is called up in July anyway) really going to hurt anyone? Will it demoralize him to a point where he becomes a complete bust? Will it cripple the Indians’ chances of winning the division in 2010? The answer to all of those questions is simple, “No.”


The Coop: Get him up here, sooner rather than later.

It’s not that I think Santana is ready to handle the majors; in fact, I am prepared to witness the substantial growing pains that he will endure in his early years. But let’s be honest, Lou Marson might stick around the majors for a few more years but he’s got no upside whatsoever. 

He was drafted in 2004 and had played 22 career games in the majors entering this year. He’s done nothing to warrant keeping spot on the roster, and it’s not like he’s some savvy veteran who can at least make a pitching staff better by being out there. 

Also, when Santana arrives in Cleveland, he’ll have daily contact with Sandy Alomar, Jr., arguably the greatest Indians catcher ever. While catcher is certainly not an easy position to learn (especially for a converted infielder like Santana), the opportunity to learn from a former All-Star is as perfect as it gets. 

Santana also needs to start getting Major League ABs, plain and simple. What’s the worst that could happen? He hits .206 like Lou Marson? I’ll take the over on that one, thank you very much.

Lewie Pollis: Whoa, hold on there. This guy has a .994 OPS. He’s on pace for 30 homers and 132 RBI and has a .249 ISO. He’s walking more than he strikes out, and he’s even stolen four bases. Also, he’s a catcher. That’s not totally overwhelming?

Yes, yes, and more yes, bring him up now.

I don’t particularly care if the rest of his game isn’t fully polished, nor do I care if we call him up early enough that he becomes a Super Two player (we already kept him down long enough to ensure an extra year of team control). He’s the most exciting thing that will happen to the Tribe this season (I’m still predicting that he’ll be Rookie of the Year), and I want him NOW.


2. It’s time to take another look at the state of the Indians’ rotation.

Westbrook, Carmona, and Talbot are firmly entrenched as permanent members of the starting five, but things get a little fuzzier when it comes to the last two spots.

There has been talk of the struggling David Huff being sent to the minors, of Justin Masterson moving to the bullpen, and of Aaron Laffey being moved into the rotation.

Do you want to see Laffey get a shot at being a starter? If so, would you prefer to see him take Huff’s spot (with Huff being sent to Columbus) or Masterson’s spot (with Masterson being sent to the bullpen)?

Do you have any interest in seeing both Masterson and Huff taken out of the rotation for the moment? If so, who are the other pitcher aside from Laffey that you would like to see take over the additional spot in the rotation?


Samantha Bunten: I think Laffey deserves a shot at joining the rotation, and I think he should have had that shot from the beginning of the season. The only problem is, I’m not sure whose rotation spot he should be given. 

You can argue that Masterson may be better suited to the bullpen anyway, so the switch should be made accordingly, but I’m still not entirely certain this would be the best strategy.

Despite his struggles, I do see Masterson as a member of the rotation over the long haul, so it would be foolish to put him in the pen instead of letting him continue to gain experience and develop in a starting role. 

Huff is a little different; there would be no point in moving him to the bullpen, so to give Laffey his spot, he would have to be sent to Columbus. I’m not sure there would be anything to be gained from that for Huff. He’s struggling at the major league level, to be sure, but I don’t think that this is due to needing more seasoning in the minors.

At this point, he’s better off trying to work out his problems on a big league mound. 

So I guess I’m not sure what to do about this situation. I might allow Laffey a few spot starts and see how it goes. If he’s impressive enough that he’s able to force the issue, we might consider moving Masterson to the pen or sending Huff down if it proves to be the best solution. 

Nino Colla: You know I really don’t know what I want to see. I think I just want to see David Huff and Justin Masterson both do well to the point that this isn’t an issue. 

I’ve not been impressed with Aaron Laffey this season in that bullpen role and I’ve actually arrived at a point where I’m questioning if we should continue to bother with him. The club has shuffled him around so much, I don’t think even he knows what he is anymore. 

Masterson needs to keep at it, he deserves more than two months, and I said the same thing after two weeks and will probably say it again at the end of June. There is no one in Columbus busting the doors down to get into the rotation, so why bother right now? 

Huff seems to be in more immediate danger, but I don’t think I’d make a move on him either. It goes back to the same reason I wouldn’t move Matt LaPorta, what does he have left to prove? Sure you send David Huff down to “figure things out” or give him a “wake up call.” But is that really the answer? Wouldn’t it be far better if he figured things out at this level? 

This season is obviously going nowhere quickly so it isn’t like his lack of performance is holding us back from winning the division. Now if Huff had an attitude problem (something I don’t think is the case, I just think he gets too relaxed and that is what causes his struggles) then you could send a message that way, but really I see no purpose in that. 

As for Laffey… Does he deserve another shot at the rotation? After what he did in the spring (in other words, nothing to NOT deserve a shot) I think so, but after watching him handle the bullpen spot with moderate success, I’m not going to scream my head off for him to get that shot. His WHIP is atrocious and he can’t even get left-handers out enough to be counted on doing that if nothing else.

The Coop: Ahh, my favorite topic! I did not have much confidence in the starting rotation during spring training, but even the most optimistic observer would have to admit that they did not expect to have five consistent, above-average starters on which the Tribe could rely. 

I guess I’m a little surprised that one of the guys having the most trouble is David Huff, because he caught fire at the end of last year and I expected him to carry that success into this season.

While he’s struggled, you can’t pull the plug on a guy after two months and eight starts. The other problem with sending Huff to Columbus is that there is no suitable replacement. 

Aaron Laffey would be a great candidate; however, my hope is that Laffey actually replaces Masterson in the rotation. Of course, this is more of me believing that Masterson belongs in the bullpen—as I’ve previously mentioned on this roundtable—than necessarily thinking that Laffey is the long-term answer.

But, Laffey does have some starting experience and would be adequate for a fifth starter.

Lewie Pollis: First of all, I’m sick and tired of people beating up on Masterson. Sure, he’s struggling against lefties, but anyone who thinks luck isn’t the primary factor in his problems is just plain wrong. 

His luck hasn’t just been bad, it’s been historically bad. To put his .399 BABIP in perspective, only three pitchers in the last 10 years have had hit rates over .350, and exactly zero have exceeded .366.

And his 19.0% HR/FB rate would be the second-highest ever recorded since tracking began in 2002. So unless you’re prepared to say that Masterson is the worst weak contact-inducer in recent memory, his stats are going to improve. Period. 

Send David Huff to the minors immediately. He has no redeeming peripherals, and he needs to rediscover his ability to strike batters out (8.1 career K/9 in the minors, nearly double his 4.3 career K/9 in the majors). 

While we’re at it, let’s send Talbot down, too. Does anyone seriously think someone who walks more than he strikes out can maintain an above-average ERA? His .230 BABIP is the second-luckiest in the league. I don’t have the patience to go through past years’ leaderboards for him, too, but I bet that kind of fortune is similarly unprecedented.

Three words: crash and burn. 

Laffey is intriguing, but I’m not sold on him either. I don’t think it takes Bill James to realize that someone who walks more than he strikes out isn’t a good pitcher, but the real flukiness is that he has yet to give up a home run.

There’s a huge difference between his 3.64 FIP and 4.85 xFIP; even if you plug in his lucky 7.7 career HR/FB% with this year’s numbers, his FIP climbs to an uninspiring 4.53. Add in the fact that relievers’ numbers are usually better than starters’, and Laffey wouldn’t be much more than a marginal improvement. 

If you’re looking for rotation help, why not get it from the minors? Bring up Josh Tomlin and Yohan Pino, or maybe Scott Lewis and Hector Rondon. Any of them would be more fun to watch than Huff or Talbot.


3. We’re still a long way from the July 31st Trade Deadline, but we already know the Indians will be sellers this year and are in possession of a number of players who might be moved well before the deadline.

Obviously unless one of you has bugged Mark Shapiro’s office, we can only guess at who will be traded, where to, and when. Still, there’s no harm in speculating a bit.

That said, do you see the Tribe making any trades sooner rather than later?

Which players do you think will be moved this season between now and the deadline? Are there any players on the roster generally thought to be on the block who you do NOT think the Tribe will choose to trade this season?

Samantha Bunten: I’m going to guess we won’t see a lot of activity until we’re closer to the deadline, mostly because the Indians don’t have a lot to offer in terms of players anyone would be dying to acquire.

It’s a lot easier to sell early if you have someone another team would kill to get their hands on no matter the price or their own very specific needs. 

Thus I think the players on our roster who are potentially on the trading block won’t go until closer to the deadline, when other teams are either desperate enough to overpay for a really questionable pitcher (I’m looking at you, Kerry Wood), or better equipped to assess their specific small needs down the stretch. 

I don’t truly think we’ll be able to move Kerry Wood—the price is just going to be too high, even if the Indians are willing to sell relatively low. I imagine Jake Westbrook will at least get a few looks, and both Kearns and Grudzielanek could fetch an excellent return at almost no true cost to the Indians since neither is part of the future plan. 

Nino Colla: I think Austin Kearns will be dealt if he keeps hitting like this. The club isn’t going to block Michael Brantley—especially if Trevor Crowe continues to hit and Grady Sizemore misses an extended period of time—with Austin Kearns. 

That also being said, with Kearns going, so too will Russell The Muscle Branyan, as he also blocks Brantley by pushing LaPorta into left field more often than not, so I think both of them are on their way out of town come July. 

I think the groans about Jhonny Peralta have gotten so loud that Cleveland may end up dealing him and that isn’t something I would have said a few months ago. But the fans genuinely dislike the guy to the point where I think Mark Shapiro might, for once, listen to them and rid the club of a player that the fanbase can’t stand. 

I think more than anything they want to do it to give Andy Marte a legitimate opportunity to finally sink or swim at third base. Lonnie Chisenhall is still a year away at least, especially with his injury setback in Akron, so this club needs a third baseman beyond this year and while they could pick up his option, they may get more value trading him now rather than next year at the deadline. 

I’m on the fence in terms of trading Jake Westbrook. I think the club would like to have him back next year at a discounted rate (something I think he would feel he owes the team after spending most of that contract extension on the disabled list) because he still has the ability and is a great veteran for a rotation.

But I still think they may trade him anyway, because bringing him back in free agency isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.

The Coop: It’s a funny thing about all the trades the Indians have pulled off over the last few years. Now that they’ve dealt three All-Stars, who else is left that will command any trade value? 

It’s not like we’re talking about Sabathia, Lee, and Martinez. Who are we talking about? Hafner, Wood, Kearns, and maybe Sizemore? Not exactly Murderer’s Row. 

Obviously, guys like Choo and Cabrera should be off the table because the Indians can still build around them, as should most of the guys who haven’t played more than a full season or two.

I think the Indians should also hang onto Grady, even though he’s clearly damaged goods at this point. 

Everyone else should be officially for sale, and the Indians should trade them for whatever they can get, even if it includes a couple extra fungo bats.

Lewie Pollis: I’ve started a weekly column called “Cleveland Indians Trading Post,” in which I’m looking at who might be traded and where they might go. 

I’m not even going to try to shrink my long analyses into bite-sized pieces, but so far I predicted that Austin Kearns would go to the Mariners, A’s, or Braves, while Jake Westbrook will be shipped to the Yankees, Mets, or Dodgers.

I think Mark Grudzielanek would also be attractive trade bait, and I’m sure someone will make an offer for Jordan Brown if the Indians keep pretending that he doesn’t exist. Jhonny Peralta (please please please please please ) could give a contender some infield depth now that he’s starting to look like a semi-respectable player again (if you squint). 

I think the same will eventually be said for Kerry Wood, but it seems like he just keeps looking worse and worse. And if I’m Mark Shapiro, I’m praying that someone makes me an attractive offer for Mitch Talbot.




4. It wasn’t so long ago that the Indians and that other Ohio team, the Reds, were in very similar positions: struggling at the major league level, but in possession of a system loaded with up-and-coming talent.

This season saw their paths diverge: The Indians are in last place in their division, and the Reds are in first place in theirs.

We spend plenty of time arguing about what the Indians did wrong (or even what we maintain they’re still doing right), but the fact of the matter is, the Reds put a successful team on the field first.

Tell us, what do you think the Reds did right that enabled them to put themselves in the position that they currently inhabit? Is there anything specific that you think the Reds did right that the Indians failed to do? 


Samantha Bunten: The Reds had one distinct advantage over the Indians in that their up-and-coming players were further along in the system. The Reds were already in the process of rebuilding for the future when the Indians were in the playoffs in 2007.

So to a significant degree, the Reds didn’t truly do it better, they just got a head start on the Indians. 

That being said, they have certainly made some decisions along the way that were arguably better than those made by the Indians in similar situations. I’m not sure I think the Reds are any better at player development than the Tribe, but they absolutely draft better (I would kill to hire away their scouting department for the Indians), and they’ve done an excellent job in choosing solid veterans to fill in holes around their prospects. 



Nino Colla:

Lose? Fellow-blogger Paul Cousineau put together a brilliant entry into TheDiaTribe on Sunday that pretty much made a fantastic point that I don’t think many people ever considered. Just because they are winning all of a sudden doesn’t mean they’ve “figured it out.”

Did the Rays figure it out? Yeah they got new management and that has been a big reason, but top-10 pick after top-10 pick (and hitting on those picks) certainly didn’t hurt. 

What have the Indians really failed at? Given the current system, their window is really small to compete and when you get injuries like some of the ones the Indians have had in the past few years to marquee players, it just compounds it all.

Let’s not praise the Reds for anything yet. It’s still May and while I picked them to finish second in the division, they didn’t exactly recreate the wheel in rebuilding their team. 


So far based off their team, they’ve made some good personnel decisions, point blank. They’ve brought in good pitchers throughout all outlets, made a few good trades (Brandon Phillips, whoops) and drafted well (Joey Votto, Jay Bruce), and mixed in some veteran signings (Orlando Cabrera, Johnny Gomes ) that ha ve panned out to be successful.

I’d hate to say they “got lucky” but in a way, they sort of did. I guess fortunate would be better. Fortunate that a lot of their decisions have worked out well. 

The Indians on the other hand haven’t been so fortunate.

They’ve made some bad choices in the free-agent aspect (both in the veterans they’ve signed and the extensions that they’ve given out, but you can’t really hold injuries to Hafner and Westbrook against them), haven’t drafted well (something they’ve addressed in the past few years), and have overall just haven’t seen some of their plan formulate as they wanted.

The Coop: I certainly don’t follow the Reds as much as the Indians, but when I look at their roster, three things stand out to me: scouting, player development, and patience. 

The Reds have a startling number of guys that they drafted or signed as free agents before other teams could scoop them up, and many of these guys are the reason for the team’s success. It is clear that their scouting department has done a wonderful job. It all starts from there. 

Once you find the studs, you have to develop them. Obviously, their farm system is doing the job as well, molding raw talent into major league-caliber talent.

And finally, once these guys make it to the majors, the big league club has to be patient with their early struggles. Many people have been calling the Reds an “up-and-comer” for the last few years. In fact, this year, I even heard a few people pick them to win the division. 


So, they have built up to the success they are experiencing this year. While those players have been the centerpiece of their success this year, they have also managed to successfully round out their roster with reliable veterans while purging their team of has-beens with bad contracts.

I’m not a fan of the Reds, but the Indians could definitely benefit from using this same approach. 

Unfortunately, I think the Indians do have a similar approach; they just have not executed it nearly as well.


Lewie Pollis: To make up for my loquaciousness before, I’ll make this short and sweet: their plan isn’t better, it’s just further along. 


This is the first time in 10 years they’ve been over .500; we’re just two years removed from reaching the ALCS, so don’t think for half a second that they’re better at this than we are. In fact, the Reds would have killed to have gone through the three-year turnaround between the end of the Glory Days in 2001 and our big bounce-back in 2005.



5. Fun Question of the Week: When your team is struggling, sometimes the fictional baseball world becomes more appealing than the real one. Baseball movies and books with happy endings can be a great distraction when your team is failing to provide the same sort of fairy tale ending in reality.

Do you ever use fictional baseball movies or books as a distraction from the frustrations of watching the Tribe? What are you favorites?


Samantha Bunten : Bull Durham is what gets me through the rough patches in the season, just like it’s pretty much the only thing that gets me through the offseason. 

Also, fantasy baseball, as the name would imply, is an excellent distraction during the season when your real, live team is struggling.

I actually think that generally speaking, fantasy is better when your own team isn’t performing well; not only does it help to relieve some of the frustration of reality, but since your real team isn’t doing well, you never run into one of those situations where you catch yourself hoping your team loses to an opponent because their starting pitcher is on your fantasy roster.



Nino Colla : I think every Tribe fan likes Major League , but I don’t think I’ve ever used it as a way to distract myself from what is really going on.

For the most part I live with the pain, but I do distract myself from the real baseball world by playing both Out of the Park Baseball and whatever video game I currently have. 


This year, now that I’m the owner of a Wii, that game is MLB 2k10 . Not the greatest baseball game ever (actually probably one of the worst I’ve ever played) but it lets me screw around enough to the point where it’s fun.

I’ve been using Adam Wainwright and his dominate curveball to drown my sorrows. Baltimore is on a warpath that will end in nothing more than a World Series victory. 

While we are at it, will there ever be baseball movies better than Bull Durham, Bad News Bears (the original) or Major League? I don’t think so. Until they start making the real life stories of players (I’d pay to see them turn Hank Aaron’s story into a motion picture) into movies, there probably will be nothing close.

The Coop: I’m more of a guy who limits his exposure to baseball when my team is struggling. It hurts too much to hear about league leaders and pennant contenders when I realize my favorite team is in last place. Instead, I juice myself up for baseball season by watching the classic baseball movies. 

My list is the usual suspects: Major League, The Natural, Field of Dreams, Pride of the Yankees. Also, I would recommend 61* for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. It’s also been a long time since I’ve seen Fear Strikes Out . Of course, some of those aren’t exactly the most “upbeat” flicks, but they are classics nonetheless. 

I’m also looking forward to reading The Bad Guys Won , a book about the ’86 Mets. Drug addicts, womanizers, drunks… Hey, if the whole “scout, develop, have patience” strategy doesn’t work, perhaps the Indians should take a cue from those guys?


Lewie Pollis : I prefer video games. Whenever I feel depressed about the real Tribe, I turn on MVP Baseball 2005 (old school, I know) and watch my Indians destroy the rest of the league. 


At the end of July 2008, Victor Martinez is on pace for 60 homers. Trade acquisition Carl Crawford is batting .400 and is likely to be the founding member of the 50/100 club, and fictional 22-year-old J.J. Nunez is on his way to his second-straight Cy Young, thanks to his 100-mph fastball, 60-mph knuckler , and wicked, diving splitter. 

My Indians won the World Series in ’05 and ’06, setting some insane records on the way. Another trade acquisition, David Ortiz, had 96 homers in ’05, then racked up 196 RBI in ’06. Crawford has broken the single-season triples record (36) three years in a row, each season topping the last. And fictional Indian Johan Santana threw three perfect games between September ’06 and August ’07.

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Tribe Talk: Now Casting The Role Of Team Scapegoat


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

This week, we compare the Tribe’s performance to our expectations for them after the one-month mark, point fingers at our chosen scapegoats, and volunteer our baseball playing services to the Tribe, in case they’re so desperate that they’re looking for walk-ons with no professional experience.

I would like to thank this week’s participants: Dale Thomas, Scott Miles, and Jon Sladek 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. This week we officially pass the one-month mark of the 2010 season. Everyone had their opinions during Spring Training about whether the Tribe would be good, bad, or ugly this year.

At this point, where is the Tribe relative to where you expected them to be? Is this team better, worse, or exactly the same as you predicted?

What player or group of players on the Indians is better than you had expected, and which is worse?

Finally, how indicative do you think the Tribe’s current level of play is of how they will fare over the full season ?

Samantha Bunten: Looking just at the Indians record, they are only a little worse than I expected. Unfortunately the overall caliber of play I’ve seen has been much more disappointing. The things that strike me most are the preventable mistakes made by players with enough experience to know better, and the glaring power outage this team is having. 

While the defensive blunders and pitching woes aren’t good, much of that has been as I expected. To me, the element of this team that is far worse than I imagined is the offense. This team was supposed to, if nothing else, be able to put runs on the board. 

Right now they’re having an appallingly difficult time moving runners and even more difficulty showing any power or any speed. You expect a struggling team to lack either speed or power, but you don’t expect it to come up so short in both areas. 

As for who is better than I expected, Kearns and Carmona are the stand-outs. I’m also generally okay with how the rotation is faring. 

I think this team will get better as the season progresses because the young guys on the squad will surely continue to learn and grow as players. What is more uncertain is whether our veteran guys can improve enough just to play the way that they should have been playing from the start. 

Dale Thomas: By win/loss record as of Tuesday night, the Tribe is just a little worse than I expected them to be. I expected them to be next-to-last, but alas….they are in last place by a game. Looking at Chicago and Kansas City, I would expect the standings to continue to waffle around as each game is played. 

Kearns has been a pleasant surprise, as he is better than I expected him to be, and appears to be our best hitter at .333 with a whopping two dingers. Cabrera and Choo are performing well, each hitting over .300, which I expected, but then you get to the entire remaining roster which is under-performing even by my extremely low expectations. 

Sizemore is at .221 with 26 strikeouts. Hafner is at .208, Branyan is at .207, and Valbuena is at .167…I mean Jeez! This lineup couldn’t even hit Indians pitching. It’s horrible for a team that was supposed to be all about offense. 

And Pitching? Holy cow…Talbot is our leader? I didn’t expect this at all, but he has the best ERA and is tied for most wins with Carmona. I’ve actually switched my thinking from focusing on winning games to just scoring a run.

Jon Sladek: Just fair warning, the gloves are coming off this week. 

I’m appalled at what I have witnessed the first part of this baseball season. Nobody expected the Tribe to contend for the Central, but the brand of baseball we have witnessed is unacceptable. Mitchy Talbot is about the only guy who has exceeded expectations. The list of underachievers is too long to name here. The current level of play is indicative of a long, uninteresting season.

Scott Miles: Though the record is probably about what I figured, maybe a shade or two worse, the season has been full of individual surprises for me. 

First, three unpleasant surprises: 

1. Grady Sizemore: .220 average, zero HR. Not comfortable in two-hole? 

2. Valbuena and Brantley: They should be young cornerstones of team. Both are batting below .175, with Brantley already back in Columbus and Valbuena single-handedly murdering Wednesday’s game. 

3. Matt LaPorta: zero HR, one RBI…umm, what? 

Now, the pleasant: 

1. Mitch Talbot: 3-2 with a 2.88 ERA? If he could stop walking so many hitters, whoa. Very impressive. 

2. Fausto Carmona: He’s baaaaaaaaaack. (Hopefully). And echo the comment about walks with Talbot. 

3. Austin Kearns: Capitalizing on his playing time opportunity. Only consistent bat in the lineup besides Choo and Cabrera. 

You’d expect Grady to bounce back, although off of an injury, who knows. The failure to develop young talent was probably the biggest knock on Eric Wedge, and Manny Acta is finding it a tough go as well. Maybe they’re not just as good as billed? I don’t know. And if Talbot or Carmona can’t keep up this production, the Indians might lose 100 games this year.

2. Like the rest of Eric Wedge’s staff, Derek Shelton was let go from his position with the Indians when they made a management regime change last fall.

Shelton is currently the hitting coach for the Tampa Bay Rays, who as a team are 20-7, sitting atop the fiercely competitive AL East, and are one of the best hitting teams in the league.

The Rays have scored the most runs in the AL, the Indians have scored the least.

Perhaps this is merely the product of Tampa Bay having more offensive talent on its roster than the Indians, but is there any chance that perhaps the Tribe made a mistake in letting Shelton go?

How much credit do you give to Shelton for the Rays’ success this season? Do you feel the Indians would be performing better offensively under the guidance of Shelton than they currently are under Jon Nunnally?


Samantha Bunten: If you have a lineup that includes Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena, and Carl Crawford, I don’t care who your hitting coach is—your team is going to score a lot of runs. Slider could coach that group and they would still be among the best hitting teams in the league. In other words, maybe who the hitting coach is isn’t our problem. 

Regardless, I really liked Shelton. I think he was good at guiding young hitters and at getting the most out of every player which that individual had to offer. He did it in Cleveland and now he’s doing it in Tampa Bay. The only difference is that working with the Rays, the amount of talent the hitters each have to offer is far higher. 

Shelton’s dismissal was inevitable, as when the manager goes, generally his whole staff goes with him. Still, I would take Shelton back in a heartbeat, given the opportunity. That being said though, I don’t blame Jon Nunnally for most of the Tribe’s hitting woes. No matter how you swing it, the hitting coach is probably not the problem here.  

Dale Thomas: First off, Derek is from Carbondale, Illinois. I grew up there. Go Salukis! 

This of course has no bearing on anything, but with that said, each season since Derek Shelton arrived in Cleveland, the Indians have finished at least in the top half in the league in runs. 

During his first two seasons, the Indians offense was among the best in baseball. Although he’s had a couple misses (Josh Barfield, Jhonny Peralta), the rest of his record stacks up well, especially given the circumstances in 2008 and 2009. 

Yes, I think the Rays are far better for having Shelton. Yes, I think the Indians are far worse for not having Shelton. As for Nunnally? I think his 2010 record is screaming at the top of it’s lungs something like, “We suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck” (echo, echo, echo).

Jon Sladek: I could sit here and blame Jon Nunnally for the hitting woes, but at the end of the day, these guys are professionals, for goodness sake. 

Is Jon Nunnally making Sizemore continually flail at strike three or Hafner look at the first pitch fastball right down the middle, EVERY AT-BAT? I doubt Nunnally is instructing guys to strike out with one out and the bases loaded. 

Its beyond time to start holding guys accountable for their undisciplined approaches. Grady Sizemore struck out too much under Shelton and does the same under Nunnally. Perhaps the coaches aren’t the problem here.

Scott Miles: The Rays have more proven hitters in their lineup. You could probably start and stop the conversation with Evan Longoria (.374, 7 HR, 20 RBI). Throw in Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist, etc. and that’s a pretty potent order, even if some of those guys are hitting below their usual averages. 

The Indians’ lineup doesn’t have that much margin of error. It’s a mixture of young, unproven guys and guys coming off injuries or prolonged slumps (in Pronk’s case, both). 

I always thought Derek Shelton was pretty solid—the Tribe always had one of the top scoring lineups in the AL and wasn’t putrid at the plate last year even after trading Victor and with Grady and Pronk out—so the Indians might be a tad better with him back this year. But until the light bulb goes for some of the youngsters, it won’t matter who the hitting coach is.

3. Baseball is a team sport, and no single player’s struggles can be blamed for the team’s overall inability to succeed.

But the beauty of being a sports fan is we can assign blame to whatever individual we feel like anyway. If you had to pick one or two players whose performance you believe is personally responsible for the team’s struggles, who would those player(s) be?

What position on the field (other than starting pitcher on a given night) do you feel has the most potential to impact the outcome of a game based purely on the individual at that position’s performance?

(Note: The second part of the question is purely theoretical and meant to address baseball in general; it need not be the position occupied by a Tribe player who you believe makes the most difference to our team specifically, whether in a positive or negative sense).

Samantha Bunten: Aside from Sizemore and Hafner, both of who seem to be unable to make up their minds as to whether they’re going to be power hitters or contact hitters and hence have failed at both, I feel I have to point fingers at the mess on the right side of the infield. 

With Valbuena at second and either LaPorta or Branyan at first, the defense on the right side has been horrendous, and no one over there is exactly making up for it at the plate. 

I’ll give LaPorta the rest of the season to sort things out with his bat (though I think defensively, he’s a lost cause), but Branyan and Valbuena are out of excuses. Sometimes I don’t know why we even bother sending either of them out there. 

The most important position on the field for any team is the catcher. This player has the hardest job on the field physically speaking, and is also expected to be the brains of the operation, the team’s leader, and the in-game therapist for the unfailingly fragile psyches of pitchers. 

It’s a demanding, difficult, and thankless job that calls for an ability to multi-task that isn’t required for other positions. Most first basemen can’t even walk and chew gum at the same time.

Dale Thomas: Personally responsible for the team’s struggles? The two players names are: Hafnersizemorevalbuenaperaltamartebranyanredmondbrantleymarsonlaporta AND Mastersonwestbrookhuffsmithperez. 

I wish I could have mentioned more than two names here, but rules are rules. 

The most impactful position on the field with regard to influencing the outcome of a game? The catcher. From calling pitches and defenses to working with pitchers and umpires, catchers have a wide range of responsibilities that require intelligence, tact, baseball sense, and above all, leadership.

Jon Sladek: Hafner and Sizemore. Simply put, these are two guys the team was counting on for the bulk of offensive production and they have both been abysmal. One is a DH that doesn’t “H,” the other somehow forgot how to hit home runs. Did anyone imagine Sizemore homerless a week into May?

Scott Miles: It would have to be Grady Sizemore, no? I’m not entirely sold he’s 100 percent healthy, but he either needs to start hitting or just sit and rest. For someone who was a 30-30 player two years ago, he can’t have a homerless, two-steal month. He just can’t. 

I think there are three “dynamic” positions on the field—first base, third base and left field. These are where your premier hitters, particularly in terms of power numbers, play. LaPorta and Branyan have combined for zero HR and three RBI in 103 at bats. Peralta is hitting .216 with two HR and ten RBI. Only Kearns in left field is holding up his end of the bargain, but with a smaller sample size (.343/2 HR/12 RBI in 19 games).


4. In spite of our complaints that the Indians defense is awful this season, they’re actually far from the worst-fielding team in the AL. As of Monday they had made just 14 errors this season, good for 4th place in the league.

Does this mean that the Tribe’s defense is actually much better than we perceive it to be, or does the number of errors not tell the whole story?

Aside from Jhonny Peralta’s notorious multi-error play against Detroit which cost us a win, how much do you believe the Indians’ defense has impacted their success in either a positive or negative way?

Samantha Bunten: First, I think it is important to note that the above defensive stats come from just two days ago when I wrote these questions. Things have gotten worse since, with the error tally up to 17 and our ranking among AL teams significantly lower. 

Still, I don’t think that poor defense in general is the problem. The Tribe’s issue seems to be that the errors always seem to come at critical points in the game. I would be willing to bet that while we currently rank in the middle of the pack in terms of the number of errors committed per number of chances, we are probably at the top of the list for games lost as the direct result of a defensive error. 

Regardless, the bottom line is that the defense isn’t as terrible as we think. The problem is that they have no margin for error because the team can’t score any runs. If this team was consistently putting runs on the board the way it should, I’m guessing the errors wouldn’t really be that noticeable at all. 

Dale Thomas: Clearly the defense is better than perceived (by the comparative numbers), but let’s face it, our blunders have been huge when we have them. 

Last night I saw one of our guys move all the way around the bases due to errors and wild pitches from Toronto. The Jays still won that game. Errors can and will hurt a team, but they don’t often kill a team in terms of wins and losses. Scoring the most runs wins games. Pitching shutouts positions teams to win games, such that the “most” runs might be just one. Everything else is the delightful drama in between.

Jon Sladek: The stats may say the Indians are playing decent defense, but the errors all seem to be at such crucial points of the same (see Luis Valbuena’s 5-hole job Wednesday). I would love to find out how many of those errors came in the late innings of close games. It’s just another example of a team that has no focus out there.

Scott Miles: The Tribe’s defense has been solid, apart from Peralta and Valbuena’s butchering of two games. You have three legit stars in the field between Sizemore, Choo and Cabrera, and Lou Marson has settled down and thrown out 5-of-14 base stealers. 

I think the overall defensive improvement can be attributed to the focus on fundamentals Acta stressed in spring training. Now, if only that could translate into the batter’s box…


5. Fun Question of the Week:

Every dedicated baseball fan has a dream of actually playing for his or her own team at the big league level.

If you truly had the chance to play for the Tribe, what position would you like to play? Where would you like to hit in the order?

Based on your own baseball skill set, no matter how much experience you have actually playing the game, what would be your greatest strength and greatest weakness as a player? 

Samantha Bunten: During my mostly-mediocre career on the diamond as a kid, I always hit leadoff because my strengths were speed and being a decent contact hitter. Other than that, it always helped that I was left-handed, though I think I mostly got by due to being the kid on the field most willing to hurt herself to get the job done.

Like every kid, I called shots in pick-up games Babe Ruth-style, only to watch the towering home run I envisioned land somewhere between the pitcher’s mound and second base. Suffice it to say my biggest weakness was a total lack of power, followed by a tendency to stop ground balls with my face. Hey, at least I stopped them. 

Position-wise, I’m primarily an outfielder, though in my mind, I’m definitely a catcher. 

Dale Thomas: I’d play lead guitar and lead vocal…oops, wrong forum…I’d play shortstop and hit in the one-slot. 

Forget that my baseball career ended in the ninth grade; that still left me with a nine-year career at short, hitting .315 with two championships. My strengths were putting the ball in play and a solid glove between the bags. My weaknesses were arm strength (some close plays at first, that drove my coaches nuts) and I never hit one out…ever.

Jon Sladek: I would love to be a left-handed middle reliever because as Raffy Perez has shown, you don’t even have to get people out to hold down a spot on the Tribe’s roster.

Scott Miles: I was fortunate enough to pitch an inning at Jacobs Field in a high school game my senior year, and I’d die for that opportunity again. 

I came out of the center field bullpen with the biggest grin on my face. It felt like it took five minutes to jog to the mound. My Solon Comets were up one on Euclid in the sixth when I came in, and I had so much adrenaline going I plunked the first kid in the head with my first pitch. Oops. 

I gave up a hit and then our shortstop botched a double play ball, so I had bases loaded with nobody out. Somehow I settled down and after a sacrifice fly tied the game, I got a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning. We won it in the bottom of the seventh with a suicide squeeze play and everyone rushed the field. Just an incredible experience, and I’d give five years off my life to go through it again.

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