Recently, Cleveland Indians' General Manager Mark Shapiro has indicated his concern over ticket sales for the 2009 season. Don't worry Mark, even in the tough economic times of the 70's, the die hard Indians' fans continued to find creative ways to purchase season tickets. How many times in the 60's, 70's, and 80's did we hear of the team nearly being sold and moved away? That is all in the past because what the organization didn't have back then was the built-in corporate accounts that make up the greater number of season ticket purchases today.
But if you are truly concerned about the minority of season tickets purchased by the little people...the true remaining Indians fans and supporters, you could have been more thoughtful and honest almost one year ago.
As the season started, there were injuries that were masked and hidden. These players were not 100% but went out to play as if they were up to it, in many case jeopardizing their futures in the game. Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, and Joe Borowski to name a few should have stayed on in extended spring training, rehabilitation programs, or went under the knife as the individual case dictated.
As the season began to sour early on, Mark Shapiro and manager Eric Wedge vowed not to take any action until well into the season, some 40 games or so. At that point, when the fans and media were pleading with them to do something, they still insisted on waiting things out to see if on-field performances improved. The only saving grace was that Detroit was doing the same head scratching over their over-paid under-achieving team. As it turned out, it didn't matter as neither team contended for the division. The Tigers wondered what happened to their power shortage of high priced veterans while the Indians hid injuries and refused to make roster changes or adjustments.
Fast forward to the 2009 Indians' season. Is Travis Hafner healthy enough to not only play but hit like he is paid to hit? Is Victor Martinez able to raise his right arm over his shoulder to make an accurate throw or swing a bat with any velocity? Who will play where? Who will be the 3rd baseman? It appears to be Mark DeRosa but listening to Shapiro and Wedge during the winter tours, DeRose could play 2nd base if Cabrera doesn't hit or outfield if Francisco or Choo falter. These things should be established in spring training but it sounds like there will be some tinkering after the season starts. OK, I'm good with that if the wheels begin to fall off early on as they did last year but come out of spring training with a solid and tested team on the field and in the batting order. Apparently the Jhonny Peralta 3rd base experiment did not pan out this past fall/winter, proven by the acquisition of Mark DeRosa.
What would you do if you knew Martinez and Hafner to be healthy and ready to go?
Victor plays everyday spliting his time between catching and 1st base. Hafner is the DH only with Victor batting in front of him and Peralta behind him to get him fastballs to sock. Peralta starts the season at shortstop with DeRosa at 3rd. Cabrera is given a chance to hit everyday playing 2nd. The outfield appears to be solid with Sizemore, Francisco, and Choo playing most everyday. Garko plays first when Victor catches. Garko and Delucci are solid pinch hitters and both decent defensive replacements late in the game. Shoppach catches when Victor is at 1st but he must concentrate on reducing his strikeouts this spring.
Don't bring back Jake Westbrook too soon!
Carmona must return to form for this starting pitching staff to be stabilized. Cliff Lee should have another solid year coming off the Cy Young award. Carl Pavano must be solid and injury free. Scott Lewis absolutely has earned a shot at starting for this team. Keep Kerry Wood on a pitch count and healthy.
Other than that, I still see Grady Sizemore as a #2 batter in the order but that will not happen until we get a bona fide leadoff hitter on this team.
Other keys to success this season?
Get off to a strong start. If not, we cannot wait 40 or 50 games into the season and expect to contend.
Beat upstart teams like the Royals everytime we play them. The Royals are coming fast but still a year or two away. We are the superior team now and need to beat teams like this everytime we face them. Remember how we let the Tampa Bay Rays bedevil us out of the playoffs in 2005?
Be honest about injuries and don't risk an injured player's future on waiting out the first part of the season.
React quicker if you have to with the minors. There are some very strong players ready to take their shots at most positions. Don't let "options" dictate the fortunes of this club. Did we learn anything from the Andy Marte experience?
Win the season series with the Yankees, Tigers, Red Sox, and Angels. This may not be the highest paid collection of ball players assembled but I like their chances very much, especially against these teams!
Be honest with the organization and with the fans and media.