Thursday, August 6, 2009

Future News?

As I sit here on this gorgeous Thursday watching the Indians '09 Futility Tour I encountered upon an ESPN article citing team owner Larry Dolan.

In the article Dolan backs the team decision to trade stars Vic Martinez and Cliff Lee, explaining that the team is more than 500,000 attendees short of their projections and expects to lose $16 million this season.

This isn't news, we all knew the Indians have problems. The news is that Dolan spoke. Of course, it wouldn't be so important if it weren't for the last segment of the article.

Dolan also said ownership will have input into whether manager Eric Wedge returns next season.

That seemingly innocuous sentence that served as an epilogue to an overall sobering article says a lot about the future of the Indians.

All season long rumors have been flying about the tenuousness of manager Eric Wedge's job, and all season long GM Mark Shapiro has stood by his man despite the obvious fan outrage. By addressing this issue to the media, no matter how small, I believe that the Dolan's are tipping their hand toward a regime change in Cleveland.

The bulk of the article was about the lack of attendance and clear resent from the Tribe faithful. I believe that the ownership recognizes that the resent is not just directed at these trades that were made to balance the books, but at the management, who may be the reason they need to balance the books.

Indians fans saw their team go from projected AL Central winners to basement dwellers yet again. The ire was placed upon Wedge, as it often is (warranted or not), yet the team stood pat.

This brief statement from the Dolan's gives me the sense that they sympathize with the fans, and are aware of their concerns.

With this I believe that it will be very difficult for Wedge, and possibly his BFF Shapiro to retain their jobs beyond this season.

The Dolan's, much like us fans, are tired of the ride-it-out mentality that has only resulted in a few above average second halves in recent history. The recognize the need for change, and in saying this, acknowledge that they will be making such a change.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New B.A. Prospect Rankings

In light of the Indians recent wholesale changes at the major league level and below Baseball America has corrected the Indians top ten prospects for 2009.

Prior to the flurry of trades the Tribe top ten looked like this:

1. Carlos Santana, c
2. Matt LaPorta, of
3. Nick Weglarz, of
4. Adam Miller, rhp
5. Beau Mills, 1b
6. Lonnie Chisenhall, ss
7. Kelvin de la Cruz, lhp
8. David Huff, lhp
9. Michael Brantley, of/1b
10. Carlos Rivero, ss

On the new and improved list only four of those original ten players are still listed. Of course you have to consider that Adam Miller has since gone through career threatening finger surgery, Dave Huff has ascended to the Major League level, which affects their status on the list, but the changes are pretty dramatic regardless.

This is what the Indians' top ten looks like now:

1. Carlos Santana, c
Stolen from the Dodgers last summer in the Casey Blake trade.
2. Matt LaPorta, of
Scouts are cooling a little on the centerpiece of the C.C. Sabathia trade.
3. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3b
Surprise 2008 first-rounder is hitting just like the Indians hoped.
4. Jason Knapp, rhp
One of the hardest throwers in the lower minors is out with shoulder fatigue
5. Nick Hagadone, lhp
Has regained power stuff after Tommy John surgery, might be a reliever.
6. Alex White, rhp
Tremendous value pick at 15th overall in the 2009 draft, though still unsigned.
7. Nick Weglarz, of
Lefthanded version of LaPorta with a chance to surpass him down the road.
8. Hector Rondon, rhp
He and Weglarz are the only guys on this list who were Indians before June 2008.
9. T.J. House, lhp
Signed for $750,000 as a 16th-round pick in 2008.
10. Carlos Carrasco, rhp
What he has in stuff he has lacked in poise and results in the upper minors.

A couple surprising notes are that Chisenhall, Rondon and House ascended the list in spite of the new acquisitions. I believe that this really speaks to the Indians ability to develop their own talent, which has been questioned widely as of late.

These names are also significant because I believe that they may be names that we become more familiar with in the near future. Carrasco and LaPorta could (maybe should) be with the team by September at the latest and appear to be fixtures next year. Weglarz, Santana and Rondon will not be far behind them, possibly impacting the team next year or by 2011 at the latest.

Though things look bleak right now having traded two consecutive Cy Young winners and a true team leader, but the pieces for the future are in place and the team may be poised for an extended run at greatness just a few years from now.

Any disgruntled fans who still aren't convinced (and are ESPN Insiders) should read this article by Buster Olney on the widening gap between the rich clubs and poor clubs. This article will give some insight as to what the Indians are dealing with and why they have had to make these moves.

Above all else we need to stay fans and we need to keep supporting the team. Just take a look at those names, and plan on getting one of their jerseys in the near future.

Friday, July 31, 2009

"This is my house. I'm leaving my house."

Those are the words of the now former Indian catcher Victor Martinez. As most of you are aware he was dealt to the Boston Red Sox today as a part of a four team deal.

As vapid MLB news consumer I am not shocked by this deal in the least, but as an Indian fan I still feel a bit taken aback by the last few days.

Since the Mark DeRosa trade way back on June 28th, the Indians have made five deals stripping the team of their opening day starting pitcher, left fielder, first baseman and third baseman, not to mention their back-up first baseman and set-up man.

Of course the team got quite a haul in return. Besides saving payroll for the 2009 season the Indians have now shed $17 million from their 2010 payroll (only Lee and Martinez were guaranteed money next year).

Since it's been a whirlwind the past few weeks we'll recap everything that the Indians have brought in prior to today's deadline.

Position Players

Lou Marson, C (from Philadelphia via Cliff Lee trade)

The 23 year old catcher was rated as the third best prospect from within the Phillies system by Baseball America and was evaluated by General Manager Mark Shapiro as "at least an average everyday catcher."

At bat he is known for his ability to work the count and it has shown in his OBP (.382). He has hit well for average, hitting a solid .294 for Lehigh Valley, and has carried that average through high A and AA. Behind the plate Marson is highly regarded for his game-calling and receiving and many scouts describe him as a natural leader.

Where he fits within the organization is somewhat ambiguous, however. At the moment Wyatt Toregas has been called up from AAA and Marson has taken his place in Columbus. With Kelly Shoppach and Chris Giminez (to a lesser extent) also able to play behind the plate and the future of the team Carlos Santana killing time in Akron, Marson's place seems tenuous.

His acquisition could signal an end of Shoppach's Tribe tenure during the August waiver period, either that or Marson could become trade bait in the off-season given the Indians will have some payroll flexibility.

Jason Donald, SS (from Philadelphia via Cliff Lee trade)

Like Marson, Donald joining the Tribe comes with a bit of confusion. Directly ahead of him in the middle infield are the likes of Asdrubal Cabrera, Luis Valbuena and to a much (much) lesser degree Josh Barfield.

Currently Donald is playing in Columbus, but the idea is to have him compete with Valbuena in the spring for the 2B position or perhaps fill the "Jamey Carroll" role and compliment Luis as the right handed bat to his left. Another possibility is that Donald could be moved in the off-season to a team in more desperate need than the Indians.

Donald started the year slowly after recovering from off-season knee surgery. At Lehigh Valley he was batting a paltry .236, but he did have a good offensive season at AA in 2008. He was the Phillies fourth best prospect according to Baseball America, but scouts see him filling a utility role rather than a starting role in the big leagues.

Starting Pitchers:

Justin Masterson, RHP (from Boston via Victor Martinez trade)

Mark Shapiro has changed his mind a bit about the teams 2010 chances since acquiring Masterson on Friday. The 6'6", 250 lb. Jamaican born right-hander is expected to join the big club immediately, starting in the bullpen and slowly getting stretched out to a starting role; by the end of the season Masterson should be pitching in the rotation.

With the Red Sox this season he has gone 3-3 through 31 games, six as a starter. Masterson has notched 68 strikeouts and only 25 walks this season but has had a slightly inflated ERA at 4.50.

His big body makes for an ideal pitchers build and he throws the ball from a three-quarters motion that makes him appear to sling the ball to home plate. His best pitch is his sinker which he varies between 84 and 94 mph along with a heavy, late sink. His slider is also a plus pitch which sits in the low 80's. Added to that arsenal is a circle change that he keeps between 77 and 81. Primarily Masterson will use the sinker as his out pitch, but he compliments it well with his secondary pitches. Along with Carlos Carrasco he gives the Indians rotation a chance of being decent despite losing Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee.

Carlos Carrasco, RHP (from Philadelphia via Cliff Lee trade)

Though Carrasco is currently in AAA his impact could be felt to the North before September call-ups. The young (22) righty has already spent six years in professional baseball, but '09 (his first full season at AAA) has been one of his poorest to date.

At Lehigh Valley he has gone 6-9 with a 5.18 ERA through 20 starts. Despite those poor baseline statistics Carrasco has managed to stike out 112 batters through 114.2 innings and only walked 38. His fastball has been clocked as high as 94-95 but it is his change-up that is his bread and butter. Sitting in the low 80's Carrasco is unafraid to use the change-up and against anyone and according to one scout "it can be a big league out pitch at it's best."

The Phillies front office still valued Carrasco and took most of the blame for his start, claiming that they imposed some changes upon him to make him a better major league player.

His raw stuff are inspiring and the scouting report on him project his stuff at major league average or above. The Indians believe that he can slot in to the middle of the rotation and make an impact as early as 2010.

Jason Knapp, RHP (from Philadelphia via Cliff Lee trade)

His raw stuff alone make this 18-year-old the centerpiece of the Lee trade. Standing in at 6'5" Knapp has the size to intimidate the opposition and the arm to back up that size.

Knapp works with three pitches and reaches the mid-90's consistently with his fastball, however, beyond the fastball his stuff is marked with inconsistency. Of course, that is to be expected from a player who has yet to reach his 19th birthday.

Mechanically Knapp has already cleaned up a few of the issues that have plagued his young career, which could have led to his poor start to the 2009. Pitching for Class A Lakewood this season he went 2-7 with a 4.01 ERA but he has averaged 11.7 K/9 and kept his WHIP at 1.195.

Knapp hasn't thrown since July 11 because of shoulder issues but he should be back to throwing for Lake County sometime in August. Though his future remains unsettled he is currently projected as a high end rotation starter. He was listed as the 10th best prospect in the Phillies organization prior to the trade.

Scott Barnes, LHP (from San Francisco via Ryan Garko trade)

Barnes, the ninth best prospect in the Giants organization by Baseball America, is often compared to another Giant arm: Madison Bumgarner. The lanky left-hander skipped low A this season and accelerated to high A and has flourished since.

At San Jose Barnes has gone 12-3 over 18 starts with a 2.85 ERA, good enough for tops in the California League in wins and second in ERA. His 99 strikeouts tied him for ninth in the league and kept his average per nine innings slightly above 9.0.

Jason Grey of ESPN describes his motion as "whippy" and "slingerlike" making the ball tough to pick up out of his hand. His delivery has been cleaned up while in the minors and he has shown consistency and the ability to repeat his delivery with nothing that would cause alarm. Grey predicts him to spend more time in the minors, obviously, but projects him as "a solid starter down the road."

Connor Graham, RHP (from Colorado via Rafael Betancourt trade)

The lone return from the Raffy Right deal jumped from A ball with the Rocks directly to AA Akron for the Tribe. Graham, an Ohio native, is another big bodied pitcher standing in at 6'6" and 235 lbs.

He is a hard thrower with the numbers to prove it (9.7 K/9 at Modesto) but he also struggled with his command allowing nearly five walks per nine innings. Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer thinks that he Graham has a future in the bullpen, though he has spent his career as a starter, and likens him to former Indians power relievers Jose Mesa and Steve Karsay of yesteryear.

Currently the Indians have no plans to move Graham to the 'pen, and his win-loss (7-4) and low HR allowed numbers (two over 80 innings) while in Modesto seem to back up their assertion.

Nick Hagadone, LHP (from Boston via Victor Martinez trade)

With a fastball that tops out at 98, a plus slider and an improving change-up there is considerable upside to this lefty acquired for the former Indian captain. Rated as the number three prospect in the Sox system (ahead of Daniel Bard) his control is listed as one of his strongest assets.

In 10 starts at Class A Greenville Hagadone has gone 0-2 but allowed seven earned runs in 25 innings which calculates to a 2.52 ERA. He is averaging 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings and kept his WHIP at 1.08. However his walk numbers have been high, despite scouting that touts his control, and has averaged almost five bases on balls per nine.

Hagadone is coming off Tommy John surgery and only made his season debut June 6th. He will be reporting to Lake County. The Indians will have a decision to make in the near future as to where this young lefty will end up, in the rotation or the bullpen. His scouting report describes his motion as fluid but compact, which might indicate a future in relief work for the Indians.

Bryan Price, RHP (from Boston via Victor Martinez trade)

Since Price changed his arm action and developed higher velocity while at Rice University he has been on the Indians radar. Shapiro mentioned that he was on the Indians mind during the 2008 draft when he was selected 45th overall in the sandwich round.

Price's fastball has a good deal of velocity on it, clocking in between 92 and 95 mph. He profiles as a pitcher with a smooth three-quarters deliver but with some unnecessary movement. He also throws a two-seam fastball that has nice inward movement toward right handed hitters. His slider is described as a "plus" pitch which he relies on as an out pitch, and his change-up is still a work in progress.

Price is another one of the young pitchers that could be used in relief or as a starter. With High A Salem this season Price has gone 1-6 with a 6.54 ERA over 11 starts. He fared better at Class A Greenville, going 3-2 with 2.45 ERA. His command has been questioned under duress, but his scouting report details him as a generally good control and command pitcher.

Relief Pitchers

Chris Perez, RHP (from St. Louis via Mark DeRosa trade)

Obviously we've had some time to see this kid and so far his numbers haven't been great. However, if you take away his horrific first appearance he has only allowed two earned runs over 8.2 innings, which is good enough for a 2.19 ERA, which is much better than his current 4.64 overall ERA.

In his second year in the big leagues Perez is showing the talent to be a solid bullpen arm, which can be a rare commodity, and certainly worthy of a player like DeRosa with an expiring contract.

Perez's arsenal is best described as filthy, and Future Redbirds described his stuff as the "best pure stuff of any pitcher in the [Cardinals] system." That kind of praise does not lightly, and will certainly serve him well in Cleveland.

I see Perez as the heir apparent to Kerry Wood, thus usurping the role from Jensen Lewis, who has shown too much inconsistency in his young career.

Jess Todd, RHP (from St. Louis via Mark DeRosa trade)

I was very pleased with the Indians selection of Todd as the PTBNL in the Mark DeRosa trade, and I feel that it really swung the balance of the trade to the Indians favor.

Todd spent the first half of this year closing for AAA Memphis and has since taken over that role in Columbus. With Memphis he earned 24 saves in 41 appearances over 49 innings. During that time he struck out 59 and only walked 13 all while keeping his WHIP and ERA low at 1.061 and 2.20, respectively.

Since moving to Columbus he has earned one save in two appearance and is yet to allow a run. In those two innings of work he has struck out three and walked none.

Todd uses a 90-94 mph four seam fastball along with a two-seamer and a circle change that moves like a splitter. Though he is a bit smaller, only 5'11", he throws hard and has a strong delivery, albeit one that requires a good deal of effort on his part. Because of this Todd profiles best as a reliever and in my opinion the best man to set up for battery mate Chris Perez in the near future. It won't be long before Todd moves north, I would have to guess he would be a September call up at the latest.

What it all means

The Indians have netted a strong core of young, promising prospects for two proven stars, two decent utility men and two young players without a future in Cleveland. Overall I would say that these deals have the potential to be very lucrative for the Indians, similar to the now famous Bartolo Colon deal (which, of course, brough Grady, Cliff and Brandon Phillips to Cleveland).

But they are called prospects for a reason, and clearly 2009, and for all intents and purposes 2010, will be used solely as rebuilding years. As I mentioned previously, with Masterson and Carrasco ready to move in to the rotation shortly Mark Shapiro has some optimism for next year though it would be a long shot.

"I think in a division that's not perfect, with no real powerhouse team, it will take all things firing right, but I think [contention] next year is not out of the question," Shapiro said. "I think what's more important is that we have a multi-year opportunity to have a good team."

I have reason to believe that the Indians are not done dealing, and that August may still be a busy month. With a bad economy players are more likely to clear waivers and players like Carl Pavano and Jamey Carroll, both of whom have high value to contenders, could easily be moved with their budget friendly contracts. Even Kelly Shoppach may be made available next month since he will be arbitration eligible after this season.

Beyond that I believe that the team may be able to make a play in free agency this off-season. Thought I doubt the team will make any huge moves, the $16 million in salary that was freed up by the V-Mart and Cliff Lee deals may be able to go to good use, especially when you consider that Shapiro was never asked to offload salary.

As usual I implore you Tribe fans to stay positive and look to the future. But even as I was writing this the Victorless, Cliffless, (dare I say) hopeless Indians pulled off a 13 inning win against the Central leading Tigers.

There is hope, there is next year.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tribe deals Lee and Francisco for prospects

It's official, 2009 and 2010 are over.

Perhaps a snap judgment, but that is what blogs are meant for. Right now it looks as though the team's chances for 2010 have been shot as well. This deal also begs the question: who is the Indians current ace? That answer, undoubtedly will require the answerer to redefine the meaning of "ace" to fit their agenda.

Right off the bat, I don't love this deal for the Indians. Two of the main pieces acquired are a AAA catcher and shortstop. Correct me if I'm wrong but the depth charts look pretty good for those positions.

Maybe this means that Victor Martinez is going to be dealt as well, but I would really not be happy if such a deal were to take place. Behind Vic the team has Wyatt Toregas, Carlos Santana and to a lesser extent Chris Giminez. All of a sudden it feels like we're the Pirates, dealing because we can't hang on to anyone long enough to win a damn game.

The other two acquisitions in this deal are two prized pitching prospects, which was to be expected. However, neither has had statistically great years so far. Of course, stats only can tell you so much about a player, but I don't like this: Carlos Carrasco, 69-, 5.18 ERA in 20 starts at AAA.

The other pitching prospect, 19 year old Jason Knapp has hardly any pro experience under his belt, but has gone 2-7 with a 4.9=01 ERA in 17 starts. His strikeout numbers are impressive, with 111 with only 39 walks in 85+ innings, but I still have my doubts.

I'll break this down some more in the near future. Hopefully I won't have any more prospects, via Victor trade, to discuss in that post.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Garko Going West, Marte Moving Up

As most fans know by now Ryan Garko was shipped to the Giants yesterday in return for left handed minor league pitcher Scott Barnes.

Right now I like this deal for the Indians. Garko, who admittedly had been heating up recently, never really seemed to cement his place in the starting nine with his defense or his offense. His numbers were generally only noteworthy against left-handed pitching, thus making him only valuable at certain times, and certainly more valuable to a National League team.

Barnes has the pedigree of a future major league ballplayer. Coming in to this season he was ranked as the Giants ninth-best prospect despite only playing one year in Class A.

A product of St. John's University, Barnes was an eighth round pick in the 2008 draft and spent parts of last season in the minors with San Fransisco's Rookie, Low A and A affiliates.

This year at High A San Jose he has compiled a California League leading 12 wins, and his ERA, 2.85, is good enough for second. His WHIP has remained relatively low, at 1.13 and he is average 9.09 K/9 and only 2. 66 BB/9.

At 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds he has intimidating size on the mound. However it isn't his velocity that will help him excel through the minors, rather his command.

On the San Jose Giants Web site there is an article detailing Barnes stuff in which San Fransisco Giants VP of Baseball Operation Bobby Evans dotes upon the young lefty.

He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he’s a strike-thrower. You need to be able to command your stuff and Scott has done that. It’s impressive," said Evans.

Baseball America reports his fastball as a mid-eighties pitch which he "changes speeds like a major league veteran." Anytime those words are used to describe a prospect it is certainly exciting, but the same article also mentions that his change-up may be his best pitch.

Obviously Barnes is a couple years away from making an impact in the big league rotation, but this trade will have an immediate impact on the big club with Garko gone. beat writer Anthony Castrovince noted on his
blog that Andy Marte will be taking the bus from Columbus to Cleveland and begin seeing time at first base.

This move will please many fans who noted that upon returning to AAA this season he has hit .327 with 18 home runs and only 50 strike outs in 300 plate appearances. The team has been hesitant to recall Marte after his poor performances in Cleveland over the past two seasons, including the entire 2008 season which he spent on the bench.

The move will be risky, because should Marte struggle at the big league level again the team will have to expose him to waivers in order to demote him and bring up another player (say, Matt LaPorta). However, the Indians may be priming him for an August waiver deal, as his value is arguably the highest it's ever been while he has been with the club.

Regardless of how Marte does, this deal does eventually free a 25-man roster spot for prized prospect Matt LaPorta. With Garko out of the way, LaPorta will be able to share time with Victor Martinez at first.

This deal makes 2010 look increasingly good for the young position players. The lineup could potentially look something like this:
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Grady Sizemore, CF
Victor Martinez, C
Shin-Soo Choo, RF
Matt LaPorta, 1B
Jhonny Peralta, 3B
Travis Hafner, DH
Michael Brantley, LF
Luis Valbuena, 2B

Of course, in this perfect lineup Grady is not our lead-off hitter and Michael Brantley is starting. This may or may not happen, a lot of what happens depends on who is managing by this time next year. Regardless, I would have to say that these past couple deals made by the team have made a lot of sense and have made the future look better for the Indians.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Jess Todd, the final piece

...of the Mark DeRosa trade. In no way is Jess Todd going to solve everything, that's far too incredulous a statement.

However, since he is the last piece coming from St. Louis let's break down his numbers.

I want to start by expressing the relief I am feeling that the Indians did not take the other pitcher that was speculated to be on their short-list, Francisco Samuel. Everything I read about Samuel highlighted his inconsistency and questioned his future. Then I saw, first-hand, Samuel blow up at the All Star Futures Game in St. Louis and prayed the Indians would get Todd.

Good pickin' Shappy.

Todd came out of the University of Arkansas as the best Razorback starter featuring four pitches that can reach the mid-90's. The righty's main pitch is a four seam fastball but he partners that with a hard mid-80's slider that he uses as an out pitch. He also throws a two-seamer and a circle change that have been rated as fringe average or below.

The big plus to this acquisition is that Todd's two best pitches were evaluated as two of the best pitches in the entire 2007 draft for the Cardinals (thanks to Future Redbirds for the info).

Todd stands in at 5 foot 11 inches, and doesn't really have the body to intimidate the players that he is throwing to with his size. However, he doesn't have many, if any, mechanical flaws that are often present in players who attempt to overthrow.

Todd is able to keep his velocity up using a "tall-and-fall" pitching method in which he leads with his hips and follows through his tilted shoulders. His motion looks as if he is stepping over an invisible step on the mound, which allows him to more aggressively rotate his hips to maximize his velocity (thanks to Pitchers Hit Eighth for the info).

The Cardinals made the decision to place Todd in the bullpen prior to starting the season, and by all accounts it seems to have gone well to this point. Pitchers hit Eighth believes that his mechanics and stuff are best suited for a late-inning role and Future Redbirds also like the young righty as a set-up man in the future.

In 41 games at AAA Memphis (zero started) Todd has gone 4-2 with a 2.20 ERA and 24 saves. What I like the most about his numbers, and what so many beleaguered Tribe fans have to agree with, is that over those 49 innings Todd has only given up 3 home runs, and just 12 earned runs total. His WHIP has remained low at 1.06, and his K/9 has been an astonishing 10.8.

The walks have not been a huge issue this season for Todd, only allowing 2.4 per nine, and have never been a huge issue, even as a starter.

I would expect to see Todd begin at Columbus, but I wouldn't expect the team to keep him there for a very long time. Hopefully this half of the DeRosa deal will begin paying dividends in Cleveland in a very short period of time.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Betancourt Gone, Looking Forward

The Indians made an important move yesterday in trading Rafael Betancourt to the Rockies for Class A pitcher Connor Graham.

This is a move that will surprise no one, considering the team was unlikely to exercise their $5.4 million option on Raffy Right next year. However, this move signifies that the team is willing to look beyond 2010.

I think that most fans can agree that this is a good thing. With the current state of the pitching rotation and the fact that some of our best prospects are two years away, competing in 2010 is not as important as 2011.

Currently the Indians have 4 players listed in Baseball America's top 50 prospects, with Carlos Santana listed as number seven and Matt LaPorta coming in at number 22 (Lonnie Chisenhall and Nick Weglarz were simply listed by alphabetical order in the 25-50 half of the list).

Of those four I would only expect to see Weglarz and LaPorta in the big leagues prior to next September (at least for serious consideration). Unfortunately, none of those prospects listed can provide pitching help.

That's where Graham comes in.

In two and a half seasons in the minors Graham, from Miami of Ohio, has pitched in 48 games and started all but two of those. His numbers have been impressive in Class A ball with an overall 20-10 record and an ERA of 2.55. This year for the Rockies Advanced A team in Modesto he has gone 7-4 over 80 innings notching 87 strikeouts to only 41 bases on balls. Though his WHIP is a bit high at 1.35, his K/9 makes up for it at 9.7 and his HR/9 has been microscopic at 0.2.

Baseball America describes Graham as a hard-thrower that sits in the mid-90's and can touch 96 at times. In the past Graham has had issues with location, in part because of a hard slider that he has difficultly controlling and a fastball with "plus natural life," according to BA. As he stands currently, he is projected as a solid bullpen option for the Indians. However, should he be able to reign in his two current pitches and pair them with a curve or changeup he would be a valuable addition to the big league rotation.

Looking forward this deal could work out well for the Indians, who certainly got their money's worth out of Betancourt, a converted infielder.

Time will tell who else among this current batch of Tribe players becomes a big league troubadour, until then stay positive Tribe fans.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Love him or Hate him, Albert Belle is funny

Hoynesie over at the PD posted an interesting article today about a conversation he had with former Indian Albert Belle about steroids and this terrible team.

Albert's time with the Tribe was tenuous; he was moody, unpredictable, aggressive and a damn good hitter. Since the topic of steroids was part of the call Hoynes had the cajones to ask Belle if he ever used banned substances. Hoynes, of course, was risking a serious beat down from a big man, but Belle reaffirmed my love for him when he responded to the accusation that perhaps his outbursts were related to 'roid rage.

Said Belle, "No, I was just an angry black man."

I love it! What a good sense of humor this man has, let's get him in a commentary box. He'll scare the annoying "back, back, back's" right out of Chris Berman.

Other than that Belle had a couple astute comments about former teammate Manny Ramirez and his failed drug test. Albert rhetorically asked what the point of drug testing was if none of the statistics from the guilty player are nullified.

It's a good question, one that I would love to see put in front of commissioner Bud Selig.

On the subject of Manny, he reminded us that he is such a good player that he could do without the steroids and still hit the ball a mile. It reminds of his early days with the Tribe, in which he hit just as well as he did in Boston or L.A. without the extra bulk.

Well, enjoy the All Star Game friends, I am.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Talkin' Trades: Victor wants to stay, Cliff should want to go

I've been doing a lot of reading lately. Everyone has an opinion about the Indians right now, and many of them are good. Unfortunately many of them are not, and that is why I don't read comments of other blogs or message boards.

Now for my own comments.

In this article from the PD Victor Martinez committed himself to the Tribe for life, or at least in theory.

"I can't see myself in another uniform," said Martinez. "We'll see what happens."

That is really the best thing I have heard all season. Honestly, I never really gave the Martinez trade rumors much credence, considering his contract and his importance to the team.

Martinez, a career .298 hitter, is the cornerstone of the lineup and (when healthy) is the most consistent player on the team. This is evidenced by his inclusion as the lone Indian in the All Star Game.

His numbers at first base are not terrible, and not much worse than his numbers behind the plate. Because first base is traditionally a hitters position he looks to be secure there for many more years.

However the problem that arises is that his contract is up at the end of the 2010 season and the team will face a worsening payroll situation after such a terrible 2009 season. It is unclear whether or not the team will be able to hang on to him, but hopefully his statements indicate a willingness to accept a hometown discount to stay in a Tribe uniform.

The other name being thrown around in trade talks is that of Cliff Lee, the staff ace. Also under control through next season, Lee has stopped short of committing himself to the Indians, and it has been surmised that he will be very likely to test those free agent waters.

If this brilliant DiaTribe article is any indication he has every right to want to leave.

After his latest loss he issued a thinly veiled criticism at manager Eric Wedge's decision to play Ryan Garko in right, which resulted in a costly error.

Asked if he felt the ball should have been caught, Lee said, “Do you? I don't pass judgment on that. I throw the pitches. Where it goes it goes. It's not up to me to move the outfielders or infielders. All I do is pitch. It did seem like it was in the air a long time. I don't know if they had him shaded the other way or what. You'd have to ask him or Wedgie.”

He's absolutely right kids. Garko has no right being in right, or anywhere else in the outfield for that matter. The Wedge-Shapiro brain trust has made questionable decisions such as this (letting Brandon Phillips go, keeping Andy Marte on the roster all year, not firing Wedge/stepping down, etc.) many times and I can only imagine the polarizing impact it has on the team.

The same frustration can be seen in Jhonny Peralta, who clearly needs a change of scenery (or manager) to resolve his issues.

If I were Cliff Lee I would be asking the Indians to find a new team for me to play for, and if I were the Indians I would take him up on that.

I understand that trading Lee leaves the team without a legitimate ace for '10, but trading him halfway through the season next year does the same thing, and it seems as if that is bound to happen anyway.

Right now the return for Lee is going to be highest because of his low cost and length left on his contract. Should a Neftali Feliz or Clay Buccholz become available, I believe the Indians have to listen.

Personally, I prefer the Red Sox as a trading partner because it would be easy to send Kelly Shoppach back to their catching strapped club in order to get deeper returns and clear the way for Wyatt Toregas and later Carlos Santana.

These next few weeks will be interesting for these two players as well as the fans. I believe that the team has to make some kind of move, but I am not sure either of these cornerstones will be moving. We may be waving goodbye to Pavano or Carroll soon, however.

Check back soon for Futures Game thoughts and reactions.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Onward and

Well, Eric Wedge has a couple more months as Chief in Cleveland. That's not what I'm writing about though, that horse has been beaten to death.

I want to talk about the positive, because here at the Wahoo Blues we like to look at the good side of following a last place team.

Grady Sizemore hit two home runs tonight, further improving his status out of the leadoff spot. Choo followed his lead and put one out of the park continuing his offensive explosion and giving fans something to be happy about.

Tomorrow night Aaron Laffey is making his first start since being injured early in the season. It will be good to see his return and hopefully it will give our bullpen a much needed rest. Prior to being sidelined Laffey was 3-1 with a 3.93 ERA in four starts and six appearances out of the bullpen.

The best part of this move means that Tomo Ohka will no longer be starting and (very?) soon Jeremy Sowers will also be out of the rotation. Ohka, to his credit, pitched well in a few outings, Sowers, however, never really lasted well through five innings. Sowers has gone 2-6 in nine starts allowing 33 earned runs in 52 innings pitched.

If there is a silver lining in those poor numbers it's that perhaps Sowers will be a viable bullpen option. I expect the lefty to be sent to Columbus over the All-Star break where he will get an extended look in the 'pen. Should he be able to continue pitching strong early in his appearances there is no reason to believe that he could not contribute in some manner down the road.

Fausto Carmona will be getting one more start at AAA before coming back to the big club. On Friday he will take the rubber for Columbus against Memphis, and should things go well I would expect him to be a part of the break rotation shuffle.

That shuffle could bring an improved looking rotation, lining up something like: Lee, Pavano, Laffey, Carmona, Huff and you have to believe that Jake Westbrook is not far behind.

Of course, who sits when Westbrook comes back? If Huff continues to pitch well it will really put the heat on Aaron Laffey to earn his spot. Right behind him in AAA is the newly promoted Hector Rondon who will be looking to make an impact in Cleveland in the not-too-distant future.

Also tearing up the diamond in Columbus is third baseman Andy Marte who was named the International League Batter of the Week for the second week running. He hit .458 with two homers, six RBIs and eight extra-base hits last week and is currently tied for second in the league in batting average.

Though Marte may not have a spot (or be wanted) in Cleveland, his numbers put him in prime position to become part of a trade before the July 31st deadline.

Other young guns who are proving their worth are Nick Weglarz and Carlos Santana, whom I will be watching play in the All Star Futures Game. I hope to be able to post pictures sometime after the weekend.

Since we're not dwelling on the bad we won't discuss Chris Perez giving up a grand salami to Konerko, or the fact that the team traded a 20-something, unproven reliever for a 32 year old reliever with a spotty record. We just won't.

Stay strong Tribe fans. There's a whole half a season left to contemplate how 2010 will go.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pavano Gets Nothing and News Roundup

So Pavano wasn't so bad last night, everyone else was, however. Including new boy Chris Perez. It's only been one game for him, so pump the brakes Cleveland doomsayers.

In other news, Fausto is going down low again, this time for AA Akron. After only allowing one hit over 6 1/3 innings in his last start for Class A Lake County the righty has been given another chance in his reclamation excursion through the minor leagues.

The key for Carmona is not to throw a perfect game, but to prove to the Indians brass that he can at least control the ball and make outs against tougher competition. A good outing for Carmona would be wonderful and meaningful for a team ravished by injury.

From the "News that will surprise no one" department, manager Eric Wedge has placed fourth in a players poll of managers they would least like to play for. The survey will be in the issue of Sports Illustrated that hits newsstands this week.

Cubs skipper Lou Piniella, Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and Cards boss Tony LaRussa are the only managers to receive higher marks than Wedgie. Of course the difference between the other three managers and Wedge is that each has a history of winning. We could discount Sweet Lou because he coaches the Cubs, but the other two have won World Series titles in the past five years, Wedge has two winning seasons in the last seven. The other coaches may have a more abrasive style of coaching, but what we don't know about Eric may be the worst part of him. The players may be on to something.

Back to Pavano, last night we got seven innings with two runs, five hits, no walks and six strikeouts from him, not to mention that he induced eleven ground ball outs. That is pretty damn good to be handed a loss. Of course, Eric Wedge did get ejected trying to argue to keep the Indians out of that rough inning, but it wasn't enough.

It's good news nonetheless to see Pavano pitching well again, and with some of our ailing pitchers on the recovery trail maybe the Tribe can win a few before the season is over.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Laffey Poor in First Rehab Start

The Indians got pounded again today. No big deal, just business as usual.

The real problem that I have with the club today is the horrendous start that Aaron Laffey posted in a rehab assignment for Akron.

Lasting only 3 and 1/3rd innings Laffey gave up five hits and three runs, all earned. The worst parts of this outing for Laffey is that he gave up 6 walks in his short outing and was even afforded a slim lead prior to blowing up.

I guess he was just trying to emulate the other Indians pitchers (except good ol' Clifford).

Though this was just Laffey's first start since being sat down with a strained right oblique muscle more is expected of the young lefty. I won't dismiss the competition at the AA level, because the Indians have two players (Carlos Santana and Nick Weglarz) who I believe could compete at the big league level very soon.

Hopefully Laffey is not still hurting and will be able to rebound nicely and show the stuff that brought him to Cleveland.

In other news some more information has been revealed about the deal that sent Mark DeRosa to the Cardinals. Specifically about the PTBNL.

According to St. Louis Post Dispatch writer Bernie Miklasz's Twitter account the determination of the PTBNL will hinge upon whether or not the Cardinals are able to sign DeRo beyond the '09 season.

Fox Sports Jon Paul Morosi cites "an official with knowledge of the transaction" who has mentioned a few possibilities from within the Cardinals organization that may be available to the Indians in the coming months. Specifically mentioned are hard-throwers Jess Todd and Francisco Samuel.

Future Redbirds lists the upside to Todd beginning with his fast ascension from college ball through the lower levels of the Cardinals system. Todd has two plus pitches: a 90-94 mph four-seamer and a hard mid-80's slider that he uses as his out pitch. He also has throws an average or below upper-80's two-seamer and a circle change that moves like a splitter. Long term Todd projects to be a reliever according to the blog, overall he seems to be a hard-throwing pitcher that could impact the club soon.

Samuel is a reliever currently pitching for the Cards AA affiliate. Through 31.2 innings he has gone 4-4 with a 4.55 ERA and earned 18 saves. His strikeout totals are impressive with 39 already this season and 85 in 56.1 innings last year at the high A level. Though he is small, listed at 150 lbs., he throws a hard fastball, clocking in at 94-96 mph. St. Louis Cardinal Scout expects to see him reach the AAA level before the end of the season, making him a viable bullpen arm for a big league club in the near future.

Obviously it will be a long time before we find out the results of this deal, but with Chris Perez donning the Tribe cap for the first time tomorrow night, hopefully we'll see some upside quickly.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

DeRo Out for Perez and PTBNL

Everyone knows by now that Mark DeRosa has been traded to the Cardinals. Old News. So let's do what bloggers do and break down the numbers! (It's all we have really.)

In 71 games this season DeRo has hit .270 with 13 doubles, 13 home runs and 50 RBI. His OPS stands at a respectable .799 and he does have 1 stolen base so far this season. Clearly the Cardinals are getting a quality veteran who can help them in their run for the NL Central crown, and I'm happy that he gets that chance. I don't need to extol the virtues of DeRo's versatility because everyone already knows.

On to how good Perez is!

Chris Perez started the year in AAA Memphis and was quickly promoted to the bigs to help out the Cards 'pen. While in Memphis he pitched four innings, notching two saves and a win while posting a 0.00 ERA.

Since being called up he has gone 1-1 with a 4.18 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and my favorite stat a .195 opponent average against. The kids throws flames, he consistently hits the mid-90's and has been known to reach back and toss a 98+ heater at times. So far this season he has notched a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio, with 30 and 15 respectively.

My best bet would be that the young righty (he turns 24 on Wednesday) will be the new eighth inning guy to set up Kerry Wood. Though a few more rough outings from Kid K might make everyone call for a role swap between the two. Perez will join the team on Sunday in Cleveland and be activated on Monday. With Carl Pavano listed as the probable for Monday's game against the White Sox it seems like Perez will be able to jump in to the American League right away.

The other part of the trade is the infamous Player To Be Named Later (or PTBNL, stay with me folks). The Indians are notorious for making this move work in their favor, bringing in the likes of Coco Crisp and Michael Brantley by way of the PTBNL.

The most interesting part of this PTBNL is that we have no idea where the player could come from or what stipulations surround the picking of said player. This, of course, means many blogs will be devoted that exact question. Last year the Tribe got to pick Brantley because of a clause that dictated that should the Brewers make the playoffs the Indians would be given the right to select the player. We'll know more in the near future but I would love to see such a clause again because the Cardinals seem very likely to make the playoffs in the weak NL Central.

As for now no Cardinals officials would comment on the PTBNL. Not even so much as what level the player could be selected at, or if he was on the 40 man roster. Just more fuel for the blogging fire.

Stay tuned.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Down Low with Fausto

Fausto Carmona returned to the mound last night for Class A Lake County and pitched 6 no hit innings before giving up a single to open the seventh. In an article for he recounted his experience, explaining that he felt good.

"It was good to get back to normal," Carmona said through translator Julio Rangel. "I was able to throw everything for strikes."

The rest of that article can be found here.

What I have to wonder is how important this start really was. I will not say that it is completely unimportant because what he did was impressive at any level. However, it's not at a level that really matters.

There is where the problem lies. It should be easy for a pitcher with proven major league talent to retire 18 straight players from the Class A level. Most players at that level are only a few years removed from high school or possibly coming right from the collegiate level.

I agree with Carmona that he should feel encouraged that he was able to throw strikes, but I believe that he still has a lot to prove. We watched as he fell apart on the mound in big league parks. He struggled to find the zone, and when he did often it was a mistake, thus pushing him further into his frustration and self-loathing.

I'm not sure if a couple weeks in the desert helped him to correct these issues of immaturity, but I certainly hope that they did. I hope to continue to see this progress from the Dominican pitcher and to see him soon in a Tribe uniform, pitching the way he did in '07.

Once again Wedge seems to have the right idea:
"There are certain things we want to see when he's out there pitching," he said. "If he proves to himself and us that he's getting beyond some of these things, then we'll continue to move him [up]."

There is a lot that still needs to be seen from Fausto and there is a lot of potential that still needs to be tapped. Hopefully the club can prove that they have personnel to develop their own talent, and bring Carmona back as the new, old pitcher that we knew.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Work as hard as you can

Didn't get to watch the game tonight, I'm still a bit upset about that, but here's a sample of news on the Tribe from around the net.

Wedgie isn't sweating, or so he says. His cool demeanor will go with him all the way to the unemployment line...but probably not until the off-season, at least in my opinion.

Carmona got a start at Class A Lake County tonight, more on that later.

Confirmed that 'Drubs is coming back on Friday. Good news for the line-up, bad news for Jamey Carrol who will get dumped from the top spot. However, Carroll is such a pro that he'll keep producing no matter where he hits.

A couple young guys are going to be in the Futures Game. Nick Weglarz and Carlos Santana will be representing the Indians on the World team for the minor league showcase. I hope to be in attendance for the game, I'll certainly have a post about it at some point.

I'll get some more opinion out later, until then enjoy the game.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Ugly, (Kinda) Bad and some Good in Pittsburgh

I'll be honest, I couldn't watch most of tonight's game. Partly because I was at work until 8, partly because of how god awful the game was going when I did turn it on. I did manage to turn the game back on in the ninth to watch part of the rally, and that was something nice to see and take into tomorrow.

However, after this outing I really hope that Carl Pavano is injured. If he can't blame this on the sore shoulder that has kept him out since the 15th then it is going to be extremely difficult to explain the way he pitched. His stat line looks like something from a sabermetrician's nightmare:

3.2 IP, 8 runs, 3 earned, 11 hits and 1 walk.

The only good part of his outing was that he only gave up one base-on-balls compared to three strikeouts. For now we'll wait for any news on that right shoulder and hope for a better tomorrow.

Another disappointment from tonight's game was that Jamey Carroll, as he has done so often, started the game with a hit. Tonight it was a double, the sad part is that the team could not advance him past third.

Being more optimistic we can look at the bullpen, who only allowed three earned runs over 4.1 innings. Sure that number could be lower, but considering how bad the bullpen has been being kind of bad is an improvement.

Beyond that we can find some good in the offense's rebellious spirit and never-say-die spirit with their ninth inning, two-out rally. After two quick outs from DeRosa and Peralta the offense clicked on, reaching on errors or walks and scoring by way of Shoppach and Sizemore home runs. Though it ended up falling short in the end, it embodied the soul of this team who has done everything it could despite the shortcomings of the bullpen.

From the shipping department:
Michael Aubrey is out and Jose Veras is in.

Aubrey, a former number one pick, was sent to Baltimore for a player to be named later. It's a shame to see to his talent go untapped. Yet another testament to the Indians inability to develop their own talent.

Veras on the other hand has been brought in from the Yankees to try to save the bullpen. Over 25 games he has gone 3-1 with a 5.96 ERA. He has allowed 14 walks and struk out 17, not the best ratio but a change of scenery may be good for him like it was for Craig Breslow last year.

No word on who will be sent down when Veras joins the club Friday, but the only safe arms are those of Kerry Wood and Matt Herges. The team is currently carrying three left-handed relievers, which seems to be most likely to change later this week.

If I had to pick a pitcher to send down it would be Rafael Perez. Right now it just doesn't seem like he is in the right place, especially trying to rebound from a big hit or a mistake.

Fresh Old Faces on the Horizon

According to Anthony Castrovince of Asdrubal Cabrera's return to the big league club could come as early as Thursday. He writes:

Asdrubal Cabrera (sprained left shoulder joint) begins his rehab at Double-A Akron tonight and will likely play two games before the Indians evaluate him again. He could be back with the club as soon as Thursday.

The other item of note in his most recent post is that Sizemore batting in the number two spot (as noted in last night's game recap) is not a temporary thing. He said that Cabrera would be expected to fill in at the top of the order upon his return from injury.

This means it only took Eric Wedge a couple years to address two major issues within the line-up (Sizemore out of leadoff and Peralta to third). Now if he could drop Grady one more spot and leave DeRo in his best spot in the lineup (second), then we would have a really fearsome top of the order.

Now if the team could only develop their own talent...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Slump Busted or Send in the Clowns

I don't ever want to see another bullpen performance like this. Unfortunately there have been more than any team's fair share in the last week. Really there is nothing like a battle of last place teams to heat up a Tuesday night.

Grady Sizemore came back tonight with a real vigor for the game, it seems he was doing his best to prove us writers wrong that he can in fact make an immediate difference in the lineup.

On his first night back the center fielder went two for four with a two-run triple and a run scored batting in the number two spot. While his performance near the top of the lineup no doubt put a spark in to the team, he alone was not responsible for their first victory in more than a calendar week.

The real credit for tonight's 'W' goes to the pitcher who earned it, David Huff. He did what our pitchers could not do to this point: keep the bullpen out of the game. Eight strong innings allowing only four hits and two walks represented the young lefty's best start of the year.

Over his last six starts Huff has compiled a 3.41 ERA and notched three wins to only one loss. In his last five starts he has gone at least five innings and his last three have all qualified as a quality start (6 IP, 3 or fewer runs allowed).

These recent numbers are close to what the Indians had expected Huff to put up this season and show a great deal of potential for him going forward. With Westbrook nearing a return now is the right time for Huff to be heating up, and he certainly looks like sticking around past the All-Star Break at this point.

Without fail, in the ninth inning the bullpen had to make a shutout more interesting and once again contributed to the future heart problems of Indians fans everywhere.

Matt Herges came in to the ninth inning and promptly gave up a home run to Adam LaRoche. But he didn't stop there, instead allowing pinch hitter Brandon Moss to double home a run and bring everyone's favorite closer, Kerry Wood, in to the game.

Wood, doing his best reenactment of the weekend series in Chicago, let one inherited runner and two runs of his own cross the plate before loading the bases with the tying runner on third. Pitching to Adam LaRoche, who led off the inning with a home run, he loaded the count before getting the slugger to pop out to the right fielder DeRosa.

I'm certain that if this type of pitching continues I will have a heart attack within the next ten years.

However, this outing did serve to prove a point that the team has not given up on Eric Wedge. Putting up strong numbers in the win today and really doing their part in the field proved that this team still has the drive to win. The bullpen on the other hand seems as though they could start their offseason today and not care.

However it happened the Indians stopped their losing streak and moved one step closer to not being the worst team in the American League.

News from the Karma department:
The Chicago Cubs lost in Detroit tonight on a walk-off home run, just to prove that karma is indeed a bitch.

Eds. Note:
I may as well blame myself for this loss as I started writing this entry in between the top and bottom halves of the ninth inning, as a win. As if I hadn't learned a lesson. Never again will I trust the bullpen.

Sizemore nears return

According to reports from many sources, including ESPN, center fielder Grady Sizemore could be activated from the disabled list as early as today prior to the game against Pittsburgh. His sore left elbow has responded well to treatment after positive MRI's and it's looking likely that he will return to his post between De-Ro and Big League Choo.

His return would be welcomed by female fans and manager Eric Wedge alike, who is hoping his ailing players will help turn around the Indians recent plight.

In other news Asdrubal Cabrera has gone to Columbus for his rehab assignment and could be with the team anytime in the next two weeks depending on his shoulder.

Buster Olney has once again mentioned our versatile friend Mark DeRosa as a hot commodity. He links the utility man with the Cardinals, Mets and Yankees as potential landing spots. My personal favorite would be the Cardinals but only if we were able to pry young pitcher Mitchell Boggs away from the Redbirds.

Boggs name has been linked to a deal before, and certainly fits what the Indians will be looking for in return for DeRosa. In five minor league seasons Boggs has posted a 36-23 record with a 3.26 ERA. His strikeout to walk ratio 2.07 (410/198) has been very impressive as well.

Overall a major league ready arm for a rental player would be an excellent deal for the Indians, and I think that fans would be alright with it in the long run. That is, should a team be willing to make such a deal.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wedge Watch 2009 Update

According to our good friend Paul Hoynes at the PD there will be "no rash decisions" on Eric Wedge's job.

Basically, everything I wrote earlier about the team waiting to make a decision is still true.

In this article he chronicles a conversation with team president Paul Dolan about the manager and his tenuous status at the helm of the club. He also goes in to a bit of detail about the Shapiro-Wedge relationship, going so far as to say that their relationship has become so tight that it may not be a question of one without the other. Again, see my first post for my feelings about this issue.

It is clear, however, from the quotes in the article that the Dolan's are upset and expected their team to win some ballgames and bring in more fans.

If I were to guess (which I will) I would have to say that an All-Star Break managerial move would not surprise me. Otherwise, we're waiting until the offseason.

Stay tuned Tribe fans.

The End is a Good Place To Start

It's easy to be a blogger when times are tough. As of today, Monday June 22nd, the Indians are thirteen games under .500 and ten games back of first place in the American League Central seated firmly in the basement enjoying a day off. Mired in a six-game losing streak beginning with a sweep at home by the Brewers of Milwaukee and continued by another sweep within the friendly confines of Wrigley Field the Indians season is looking grim.

In fact, after an early morning round-up of Indians news sites and blogs it seems that the team has been universally declared dead by experts and pseudo-experts alike. That makes this the perfect time to start writing about the team, because every one has something to say when the team stinks.

After being in attendance at two of the weekend games against the Cubs I would have to agree with the consensus that the Indians may as well start looking forward to 2010, most likely without Eric Wedge.

The Indians have claimed to be in wait-and-see mode in regards to the trade market for some time now, and most certainly have to be sellers at this point, as owners of the worst record in the American League. Wait-and-see mode continues for the fans, however, who are forced to speculate when the Eric Wedge era of Indians baseball will be drawn to a close.

Team Owner Larry Dolan refused to comment to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer on Sunday as to Wedge's status, sparking speculation that the beleaguered skipper may not make it through the off-day at the helm. However, team President Paul Dolan did clarify his father's statements claiming they were not "a statement on Eric's performance."

Thus, the impetus is placed firmly on General Manager Mark Shapiro, who (as aptly noted in this wonderful post on will be hard pressed to fire his manager because of the clubhouse atmosphere that has been created in Cleveland.

The aforementioned post, along with Bud Shaw's column, got me thinking about what is necessary to right this organization. Truth is, it's not going to be an easy fix.

In the seven seasons Eric Wedge has been in charge the team has won the Central division only once, in 2007, though they did come close in '05. Those two seasons are also the only seasons that the club has finished above .500 under his charge. This track record is hardly awe-inspiring, and makes even casual observers wonder why Wedge has received such strong support from the organization.

I believe that because Shapiro has always worked in tandem with Wedge they have become almost as one, halting Shapiro from ever even hinting at replacing him. Which, unfortunately, makes firing Shapiro as well as Wedge the first part of the rebuilding process.

Of course, it's easy to throw the management under the bus first and call for their heads. It seems as though the under-educated Tribe fan has been calling for the same thing for weeks, or months now with torches and pitchforks. Right now is still not the right time though, because no matter who replaces either man things won't change anything immediately.

So how do things change, you might be wondering. Well, the short answer is they don't, at least not this season.

The team, for better or worse, needs to ride out this miserable season with the men they came in with. At the close of the season the time would be right for the team to part ways with the Shaprio-Wedge brain trust and begin again with new management.

The options to replace Shapiro begin in house with Chris Antonetti, who has been coveted by many teams but has shown loyalty to the Indians. The difficulty in selecting him as Shapiro's successor is noted in the Let's Go Tribe post which points out his complicity within the system which has become a monoculture. Antonetti may be too similar to his boss to create a new dynamic within the club and begin to make changes in earnest.

General Manager options outside of the club seem unlikely with the faith that the Dolan family has shown thus far, however should they have become distraught by the direction of the team it would not be surprising to see them select someone from outside the walls of Progressive Field.

The options to replace Eric Wedge seem less likely to come from within the organization for the simple fact that Joel Skinner, Jeff Datz or AAA manager Torey Lovullo seem more like interim candidates than a full-time replacement.

Some of the names of out-of-work managers are more interesting than others. Skippers with a winning history like Tony Peña and Bob Brenly come to mind right off the bat, and those like Clint Hurdle, Mike Hargrove or Buck Showalter are not far behind.

My favorite among those candidates would be Brenly, partly for what he did in Arizona and partly for his Cleveland roots and what you would have to assume would be a whole-hearted desire to see the club win a championship. Peña is also an interesting choice, with a similar Royals club in 2004 he led them to their first winning season in a decade and has the experience to draw upon to help the players (something Wedge certainly lacks). The other candidates are less appealing, especially Hargrove who claimed to have lost his love for the game.

It will be an interesting month until the trade deadline to see how the team approaches their managerial situation. Unfortunately, it seems as though we fans have to sit back and watch it all unfold without the hope of seeing our boys back in the playoffs.