How to Fix the Cleveland Indians for 2010
The 2009 season has not gone at all as planned for the Cleveland Indians.
They have struggled, at one point or another, in every aspect of the game, losing because of starting pitching, the bullpen, blown saves, bad defense, bad managing, a lack of situational hitting, a lack of hitting period, and even some blown calls (when a fan reaches over the fence to snatch a ball away from a fielder it's interference, not a go ahead home run, even for the Yankees, but I digress).
And to top it off, the Indians have been hit especially hard by the injury bug, with nine players currently on the DL, including their best player, Grady Sizemore; their most consistent player in 2009, Asdrubal Cabrera; their cleanup hitter, Travis Hafner; their No. 2 starter Jake Westbrook; and their go-to reliever, Rafael Betancourt.
The calendar has now turned to June, and as much as it hurts me to admit, the Tribe, at 10 games under .500, has no shot this year, even in the weak AL Central, so why do Mark Shapiro and Eric Wedge continue to stand by and watch this team lose day after day?
It is time to admit defeat for 2009 and start building for next year. To do that, Shapiro needs to have a mini fire-sale, and it needs to start now. Start unloading DeRosa, Carroll, Pavano, Garko, Francisco, etc. for as many quality young arms a year or less away from the majors as possible.
Hell, even entertain offers for Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, and everyone else but don't pull the trigger unless you get a king's ransom for them.
Then proceed to shake up the big league club even more. Start today by sending Fausto Carmona back to Columbus until he learns to throw strikes (as this looks less likely to happen every day, you may as well just assume he will never be back with the club and be pleasantly surprised if he does somehow regain his control/confidence, which would be a huge boost to the rotation when/if it ever happens as 2007 prived how good he can be) and just go ahead and throw Tomo Ohka into the rotation for a turn or two.
Then, as pitchers like Westbrook, Aaron Laffey, and Scott Lewis get healthy, replace the likes of Jeremy Sowers, David Huff, and Ohka in the rotation and hope that Hector Rondon and/or Huff are ready to contribute by 2010.
The bullpen, which was atrocious at the outset is a solid, if makeshift, group right now. The bigger thing here is to get some good young arms to fill out the pen for next season.
This should be done mainly through the aforementioned trades as well as by making sure that minor leaguers like Zach Putman progress and are ready to at least compete for a spot next spring.
The offense has been up and down all year, but if Sizemore and Hafner can get healthy by opening day, the lineup will have plenty of firepower. The biggest thing here is to give some young prospects a shot to play in the majors this year. Everyday.
Let Matt LaPorta, Jordan Brown, Luis Valbuena/Josh Barfield play everyday and see if they can help you next year.
It would be so much more beneficial to lose with your future stars (hopefully) in there gaining experience than to watch Jamie Carroll, Kelly Shoppach, Trevor Crowe, David Dellucci...fail over and over.
It would be one thing to play your veterans if you had a chance to win this year, but this team is going nowhere regardless of which players strike out with runners in scoring position.
As with many bad teams, the Indians are not a very well-run club, and Wedge should definitely be on his last legs as manager. I mean, why the fuck would you call up your top prospect LaPorta, and then sit him for weeks in favor of David Dellucci (who, it should go without saying, sucks) and Trevor Crowe, another, less talented rookie?
It's just another or the thousands of examples Wedge has given everybody that he has no idea what he is doing and that, when in doubt (which for him is almost all of the time), play favorites.
However, I have long since accepted the fact that as long as Shapiro is GM, Wedge will never, ever, ever, get the axe. And Shapiro himself is safe for the foreseeable future as Larry Dolan is asleep at the wheel.
There's really no hope for an improvement in management as the incompetence runs all the way up through the organization, so the best we can hope for is some serious changes to the actual roster.
Even with Wedge and Shapiro still in control, it is possible that, with the right moves, the Indians can be contenders again in 2010 with a lineup something like this:
with a Beau Mills and Carlos Santana knocking on the door at AAA and a rotation of:
with Carmona/Lewis/Reyes/Huff/Putnam and some young arms acquired through trades in the mix for the fifth spot and to fill out the pen.
It may not be a championship team, but it is markedly better than what is on the field right now and could easily compete for the 2010 AL Central crown.
Throw in a couple good free agent signings (especially a high character, clubhouse presence ala Trot Nixon) and the team will be looking pretty good.
But right now all I can do is hope that dumb and dumber have a stroke of genius and start to overhaul this team radically because 2009 is a lost cause, and, as of right now, 2010 isn't looking a whole lot better.
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