Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Autumn in Cleveland

It’s September 30th, 2008. Last year at this time, the Cleveland Indians were Central Division Champions of the American League. Today, most of the team spent the morning and afternoon cleaning out their lockers.
Last year, we experienced such a wonderful "Indian" Summer that the midges covered the Yankees at the Baseball Park then known as Jacobs Field. This year, the midges cover doorways, cars, windows, and spider webs everywhere.

Last year, after missing the World Series by one game, expectations were high for the 2008 season. This year, after losing 3 key players to trades before those players became free agents, we are concerned about this small market team of limited means in payroll competing again.
Well, with about 183 days to go before the start of the season, no sense in worrying now. That’s up to G.M. Mark Shapiro and the Dolans.
That’s also up to Manager Eric Wedge to give his input and expectations of the players on the team, as well as give his input on needs.
To be honest, I feel better about this team this season than I did after the ALCS last season. Last off-season, the Indians, under the leadership of Shapiro, practically were motionless in acquiring any help for this team to get beyond the Red Sox.
This off-season, there needs to be a concerted effort to obtain one strong starting pitcher and shore up the bullpen. Other than that, we are good to go!
Think about it…
Grady Sizemore rules center field everywhere…solid!
Shin Soo Choo has earned a shot at playing everyday in the outfield. (Now if we can only figure out his South Korean military obligation.)
Ben Francisco and Franklin Gutierrez round out the outfield. Francisco has proved that he can play and hit in the majors. Gutierrez is an excellent outfielder who must hit consistently.
Now for the infield that helped Eric Wedge be so creative with so many different line-ups.
Out is 3rd baseman Andy Marte, the "Marte Experiment" is over. Package him in a bundle for some pitching and hopefully the team on the other side of the deal will not notice they are getting him.
Jhonny Peralta has proven himself as a reliable power hitter. He is destined to move to 3rd base for the Cleveland Indians. Don’t fight it Jhonny, take 3rd and play everyday, working on your power.
Ryan Garko has tremendous heart and certainly is a fine fielding 1st baseman but he was handed the position and could not sustain himself as an everyday player. Garko is a bench player and a pinch hitter/DH.
Victor Martinez must play most of his games at 1st base. When healthy, he is our best hitter and he will not stay healthy behind the dish.
Kelly Shoppach has earned the right to be the everyday catcher. He must cut down on his strikeouts, especially called!
Asdrubal Cabrera moves to short stop. This is his natural position and he is the best infielder on the team. He has poise, speed of hands, and great instincts. He must hit consistently.
Who wouldn’t agree that Jamey Carroll should get a shot at playing everyday? He can play 2nd base and be the little offensive spark that makes this team hum.
Travis Hafner believes that he will be 75% healthy by Spring Training. Hafner should not play until he is 100%. (When will we know the truth about Hafner?) The DH spot allows Wedge to rotate his big guns, Peralta, Martinez, Shoppach, Sizemore, and Garko with a day off in the field but still have their presence in the batting order.
This very team was 16 games under .500 at the All Star Break and finished the season at 81-81. They were one of the best teams in all of baseball in the second half. They can and will contend with a strong balance of speed, power, and timely hitting while they continue to be one of the top defensive teams.
The big question and big need…pitching.

OK, I feel better so, come on Twins…you are down by one Jim Thome home run!

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