Wednesday, June 20, 2007

They beat me to it!

Well I was going to rant about the moral quandary I was pondering as to why Roberto Hernandez still had a place on the Indians roster, but when I woke up this morning the Indians had answered my dreams, designating him for assignment, which basically means... CUT!

For those who missed it, the Indians managed to climb to within 1 run of the Phillies last night in the bottom of the 8th only to have Uncle Eric place a call to the bullpen for Roberto who promptly gave up 3 runs int he top of the 9th to effectively seal the game. It hurt even more when the Tribe scored 1 in the 9th, which would have tied the game and sent it into extra innings had Roberto not given up the aforementioned runs.

Now I was all for Mark Shapiro's plan of signing a bunch of veteran arms and hoping that a few stepped up and performed. But it has been apparantly obvious since the second week of April that Roberto Hernandez did not have it anymore, especially in the tougher American League. So Shapiro was 2 for 4, with Fultzy and Borowski seeming working, Foulke retiring and Roberto well... let's not lament the dead.

The only part of that plan that I didn't like was the seeming disregard of the Indians young talent. The last time I checked, two of the MLB's perennial playoff participants, Atlanta and Oakland, in addition to the locking down of a few key players and a tactical free agent signing here and there always seemed to bring up their young talent and incorporate them into the line-up effectively.

Carmona and Perez have made the most of their opportunities. Mastny and Cabrera remain works in progress. Would Mujica, Lara, Miller or Koplove be any worse that Hernandez was? I find that hard to believe. And yes, I realize that Miller and Koplove aren't young. But the point is when you realize something isn't working, you need to address it. Hernandez hasn't been working since Game 3. It should not have taken this long to act on it.

This applies to the field as well as David Dellucci is headed to the DL for an extended period after pulling his hamstring last night. I haven't given up on The Looch yet but he is not having a great year. Neither is Trot Nixon. So we get to have a look at Franklin Gutierrez and Ben Francisco. Shin-soo Choo is on the DL or he would be here and not Francisco. Jason Michaels will get some more PT but as I have stated before I think he has proven he excels in the platoon role but can not play every day. Maybe one of these guys will step up and we'll get a clear vision if they can ball at this level, a la Ryan Garko at the end of 2006.

The Indians are now forced to depend on some young guys, and maybe, just maybe, that's not that bad of a thing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The real Cliff Lee?

Now that’s the Cliff Lee I remember.

Seven innings, five hits, one run, five strikeouts. Cool and calm when working out of a couple jams. Indians win 10-1. Done and done. This is the Cliff Lee the Indians locked up long term a year or so ago. I hope that this is a sign that Cliff has knocked off the rust from missing spring training and we can expect more of the same from now on.

If Lee can step up and Jake Westbrook can work his way back into form when he comes off the DL in a week it is a big step towards eliminating some of the issues that may hinder the Indians from “taking the next step” and contending for the AL Central and ultimately the World Series titles.

Here are some of the issues that the Indians need to sort out if the want to be a serious threat this season:

  • C. C. and Fausto and pray for rain – The ’03 Marlins, the ’04 Red Sox, ’05 White Sox and the ’06 Cardinals all had one this in common. They all had 4 solid starting pitchers. Not 4 studs, just 4 solid guys that gave them a shot to win every night. As I said before if Cliff Lee gets back to form and someone else steps up, paging Jake Westbrook, the Indians can live with Byrd/Sowers/Stanford/Slocum/Miller going every fifth day.
  • Bullpen Consistency – Despite the occasional Ernie Camacho impersonation, Joe Borowski is firmly entrenched as the closer. Rafael Betancourt is having a phenomenal season. Aaron Fultz is in place as the situational lefty. I think Rafael Perez has shown the benefit of having a second lefty, that he can eat up innings as a long man and that he’s got a shot to be a pretty good pitcher. They need two more guys to step up because Joe, Raffy and Fultzy can’t pitch every day. Whether they come from within or via trade someone please step up. Tom Mastny could be one of the guys if he reverts back to his April form. I think he’s such a different kind of pitcher than anyone else the Tribe has he would be great if he could just figure it out. Fernando Cabrera seems to be on the Jason Davis/Jeremy Guthrie track unfortunately and Roberto Hernandez is well, Roberto Hernandez. Mike Koplove, Eddie Mujica and Matt Miller all made cameos, maybe one of them are the answer but we can’t win with half a bullpen.
  • Will an outfield not named Grady please produce? – To me this is priority numero uno. David Dellucci is a notorious second half player, so I hold out hope he will turn it on. Trot Nixon has lost all the pop in his bat. Jason Michaels has been great in his platoon action but that’s the role he excels in. He’s shown he can’t play in an every day role. If the Indians are going to make a trade then this is the spot I’d like to see them address.
  • The Pronk Supremacy – Grady Sizemore may be one of the top 5 to 10 players in MLB today and may be on his way to being the top one once he hits his prime but Travis Hafner is the straw that stirs the Tribe’s offensive drink. Victor Martinez is having a monster year and letting Pronk get pitches to hit. He’s just not doing it. I don’t know if it’s mental or he’s just having an off year but if we want to see the consistent run producing from the Indians it has to start with Pronk.

In the mean time let’s make chopped liver of the lowly Phillies and beat up on my putrid Washington nationals in DC this coming weekend.