Friday, March 21

Spring Time, for Hafner, and Chain of Lakes

If you regularly read this blog you might be saying to yourself, "Where is the hard hitting Cleveland Indians coverage to rival this world class Cavs talk?" Well if you're looking for it in this post you've come to the wrong place, but welcome to my first FCF post just the same.

Just in case you missed it the Tribe finished 2007 with a 96-66 record, winning the AL Central title, and coming within a win of the World Series. So what did the braintrust over at Progresso Soup Field do this offseason? Well, they tried and failed to sign their ace and Cy Young winning pitcher (more on this later), but they did add Masahide Kobayashi (pictured to the right), a spry, soon to be 34 year old, Japanese transplant into the bullpen. . . and that was it. . .OK? No one should be surprised by this lack of movement out of the front office. This is an organization built on young homegrown talent signed to long-term contracts and gritty, sometimes called bargain basement, veterans.

Paul Cousineau over at the DiaTribe has a wonderful, if verbose, article covering the usual Tribe philosophy about up and coming youngsters with options remaining being sent to AAA, while possibly past their prime veterans "block" them. I know it can be easy in hindsight to ask "Why in the hell was Trot Nixon out in RF instead of Gutierrez?" but really it makes sense, at times. Hell, just go read the article.

So with the Tribe's front office scheme seemingly figured out before anyone goes to spring training, why does the Tribe even travel to Florida anyway? Well, the real answer here is that no one wants to enter spring training having to make a decision - just ask the Browns staff about last year's QB situation. So yes, David Dellucci and his sub-.150 average beats out Ben Francisco at a robust .350+. Yes, the likes of Aaron Fultz will be in the pen come March 31st even with his performance last week against the Braves where he posted a fine nine runs allowed, seven earned, in one-third of an inning.

One of my favorite spring training stories is of Bob Wickman a few years back. He got really roughed up in a game and a reporter asked him what was wrong after the game. He said that his fastball wasn't working and in a real game he would have moved onto one of his secondary pitches. However, in a spring training situation, he wanted to solve this problem, so all he did was continue to throwing fastballs. Obviously this turned into batting practice for the other team, but Bob was out there to work these things out. Given that story and all the crazy pitching matchups that can occur I feel safe in saying a relatively injury-free Spring Training is the best thing any of us can hope for.

So what decisions do need to be made this offseason? Well, for one there is
the problem of Andy Marte. A prospect without options, he either makes the team or he has to clear waivers. I'll let you in on a little secret: he's not making through waivers. So what does the Tribe do with him? Well, he becomes the utility infielder and maybe outfielder. Almost every Indians news source has invoked the dreaded parable of Brandon Philips, a player who we couldn't make fit in, so we traded him only to watch him develop into the player we always hoped he could be with the Reds. So given the potential upside of Marte, I suspect the organization will do their best to keep him and get him chances at the plate to prove himself.

The other major open spot is the 5th starter. This is a toss up between Laffey, Sowers and Lee. Personally I think Lee has pitched the best this spring. Sowers however is said to have regained some of his velocity he was sorely missing last year and Laffey looks to be headed to AAA. I use to have a thing for Lee, but he has betrayed me too many times. A lot of people complain he over uses his fastball in tough situations, and I am one of them. So I'm betting Lee breaks camp with the team and here's to hoping he regains his 2005 form. Oh, and I think Mastny will make the bullpen.

So finally we come to the ballad of C.C. I'll make this short since it has been tossed around almost everywhere else. He won't be an Indian next year, which I'm not too upset about. It will still hurt to see the Crooked Cap pitching for someone else, but C.C. is probably asking for more years and maybe more money than the Indians feel comfortable with. Look, this is a team that hasn't really been burnt by a contract in a while and I trust them. We still have him this year and given the unfortunate situation where the Tribe is out of contention (not likely) he probably will have tremendous trade value. Most importantly, this won't be the end of the world for the Tribe. Just think of all those great young players we can sign to long contracts worth pennies with all that money C.C. turned down.

Go Tribe!


Nick said...

If that title is a takeoff on "Spring Time for Hitler," then well played, sir.

JHH said...

Yes, yes it is.

I thought it a little vague, but didn't have a better candidate.

P.S. Lee makes his final spring start today.