Tribe Talk: The Slow Death of Grady Sizemore's 2009 Season

Samantha Bunten@@samanthabuntenAnalyst ISeptember 11, 2009

Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report's Tribe fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the Indians each week throughout the season.

This week we discuss the woes of Grady Sizemore, what Michael Brantley and Tony Sipp bring to the table, and the ramifications, both legal and ethical, of failing to disclose an injury during a trade.

I would like to thank this week's participant Dale Thomas for his contribution.

This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we're addressing this week.

Go Tribe!

1. After stubbornly refusing to shut down Grady Sizemore since it first became evident that he was injured, the Indians have finally pulled the plug and ended Sizemore's season.

Sizemore is scheduled to undergo surgery on both his inflamed elbow and on his injured abdomen over the next two weeks.

Fans have lambasted the Indians' brass for allowing Sizemore to continue to play hurt for so long. What do you think?

Should the Indians have shut down Sizemore back when it first became evident that he needed surgery? Would your opinion be different if the team were in a pennant race?

How much say do you really think Sizemore had in the matter, and if the decision WAS mostly his, do you think he was foolish to lobby to finish the season?

Dale Thomas: This is kind of a hot button with me. I think they should have shut him down much, much earlier. The decision to keep him out there hurt Grady's play and so goes the team's play on whole. They gambled with this guy's future and present. They lost the bet with the present, and I can only hope we haven't lost a bet with his future.

There's a part of me that says my answer might be different if we were contending, but it's only a small thought. He couldn't hit, struggled with throwing, and couldn't really make those classic Grady diving catches, so how would he have helped the team even if they were in a pennant race?

There are rumors around that this was largely Grady's own decision, but that's just so weird that I can't fully believe it. If it was indeed his own decision, then someone should have stepped in to help him with that decision.

Players want to play, so I understand the emotions that may have gone into the decision, but hey, he didn't finish the season anyway, his stats are trashed, and any additional damage done is unknown to me, but I have to believe there was additional damage done. Yes, I think it was foolish...or at least misdirected thinking.

Samantha Bunten: This situation should NEVER have happened. The Indians should have shut Sizemore down way back when they first learned he would need elbow surgery.

It's a tough call in a pennant race, but in a lost season like the Tribe is having, it's the easiest call in the world. Shame on the organization for not only leaving Sizemore out there to possibly aggravate the injury, but also to take the heat for possibly being part of the decision making process that has kept him on the field while injured for far longer than he should have been.

Nobody should be jumping on Sizemore for this. Did he WANT to keep playing? Of course. Did he think he was tough enough to play through it? Of course. Whether he knew if he really SHOULD be playing isn't known to the public, but that is irrelevant.

There is no way this was truly his decision. Here's how a baseball team works: you, the player, are allowed to make all of your own decisions, so long as your decisions are the same ones the team has already made for you.

2. As frustrating as the situation with Sizemore has been, on September first, some small good finally came of it. Tribe fans were given a first look at young outfielder Michael Brantley, who has been impressive in his debut, hitting in each of his first six games, batting .391 with two RBIs and four runs and even escaping a run-down last Sunday.

What do you think of Brantley thus far? Has his success merely been beginners' luck, or do you think he can keep up this caliber of play?

Do you see Brantley as part of the Tribe's outfield in 2010? Has Matt LaPorta's possible move to first freed up a starting job in the outfield for Brantley next year?

How important is Brantley's speed to his value, especially given that this is a team that could certainly stand to be faster and smarter on the base paths as a group?

Dale Thomas: Let me start by saying this to the last part of the question... I sure do miss seeing Manny Ramirez on those base paths... he was like having a new puppy on a leash...walking along fine, then hears a siren or something and bolts off randomly, smack into a tree... or in Manny's case, into the second baseman, or the ball itself... or the grounds keepers' entrance... or just going the wrong direction period. All at the speed of glue.

Oh! But this is about Brantley!

First, I'm happy to know that Brantley isn't his first name. I'm impressed by that. I'm also very impressed with his play thus far. By all appearances, I wouldn't count this as luck. He looks very comfortable at the plate as well as in the field. He has connected with some sick pitches, staying on the ball well and just making contact in some tough situations.

His speed is sorely needed and very important to his overall value... for example, he can turn an out into an infield single with speed, or he can create opportunities for runs by sneaking (or jetting) into scoring position.

We may see some doubles turn into triples, or take doubles away from the opposition by running down a scorcher to the wall.

Speed is huge. Speed with intuition is even better.

As with all players, Brantley will need to earn his spot in the outfield, but he certainly is off to a good start.

Samantha Bunten: I can't say enough good things about Brantley. He's the most exciting young player I have seen with the Tribe in a long time.

So far Brantley has looked sharp in the field, sharper at the plate, and still sharper on the base paths.

The play on Sunday where he got out of the run-down is tougher for the base runner than it looks. Brantley was able to not only keep the run down going long enough to allow the runner to score from third, but also to then managed to avoid a tag and scamper safely back to the bag.

I do think Brantley can keep this up. I think he will be a key player for the Indians next year, part of a very solid outfield with Sizemore and Choo.

Perhaps most important, the speed that Brantley brings to the lineup is incredible. Brantley is also the "smart" sort of fast...the kind of guy who has the speed, the instincts, and the brains to be an excellent strategic base runner. The Indians don't have many of those. Brantley is worth a lot for that skill alone.


3. For the most part, Indians pitching in 2009 has been abominable, but one definite bright spot has been reliever Tony Sipp.

Sipp has allowed just one run and five hits in his last 15 appearances, striking out 17. He is 2-0 with a 3.30 ERA on the season in 36 appearances. What do you think the future holds for Sipp? Can he continue to be as dominant as he has been for the rest of the season and for the foreseeable future?

Have any other Tribe pitchers greatly impressed you as the season is winding down?

Dale Thomas: Sipp has been lights out, and he has been put in some really horrible situations. His presence on the mound extends confidence to the rest of the bullpen too. Most of our relievers have done well following Sipp. It's always amazing to me how an entire team can feed off of one man's command of his position. Yet another reason why Grady should have been shut down earlier... heh... but I digress.

I like what Laffey has done even though he really blew up in his last outing. I think he has a great attitude, and works very hard to understand his mistakes and weaknesses.

That said, and since the question says 'greatly impressed', nobody comes to mind... If it were 'slightly impressed', or even 'not horrendously bad', I'd add Huff and Sowers, as long as each was pulled after five innings.

Samantha Bunten: Sipp, along with Chris Perez, has been a bright spot for Indians pitching this season, and I don't think there is any reason to think Sipp won't continue to be an effective relief pitcher down the road as well.

His command has been excellent and he has a knack for getting out of the types of situations that give relief pitchers nightmares - bases loaded, one out, opponent's best hitter coming to the plate, and such. Sitting at 92-93 with a wicked slider, he could be the Indians' closer someday.

The only red flag is the injury history. However, despite having missed all of 2007 and half of 2008 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Sipp has been healthy - and effective - for the most part since then.

Still, his arm should be monitored closely, and someone should probably be working on his mechanics (he still lands with a slightly closed front foot after delivery, which is likely to lead to hip problems).

Chris Perez has done an excellent job stabilizing the bullpen, and I also think very highly of David Huff.

Huff has done a tremendous job of stepping up and assuming a role that no one knew he would need to embrace so quickly. Huff will still have his growing pains, to be sure, and as we discussed last week, he is coming close to the point where he needs to be shut down for fear of overuse. He has even started to look tired on the mound.

I am pretty pleased with Aaron Laffey as well, who has done a great job stepping up to the challenge and holding his own as a starter. As of right now, he has earned the right to start on Opening Day in 2010.

4. So far the Cliff Lee trade has produced mixed results and a lot of question marks. As we discussed last week, Carrasco's value remains to be determined, but what of golden boy Jason Knapp, who has been shut down for the season?

The Indians have not directly laid any accusations, but whispers persist that Knapp may have been damaged goods upon his arrival from Philadelphia. Do you think this is true? If so, were you the Indians, would you file a complaint with the league against the Phillies?

How do you feel about filing such grievances in general? How much responsibility should the player's previous owner assume if he shows signs of some sort of existing injury condition within his first few months with his new team?

Dale Thomas: Unfortunately I'm not familiar enough to know if the damaged goods rumors are true or not. However, if the player is not as advertised due to a kept secret on the part of the Phillies, then filing a complaint seems reasonable.

In general, I'm not a big fan of filing grievances since we are supposed to be able to assess players ourselves, but at the same time, Philly had a zoomed in view of this guy, and certainly made decisions and assessments of this player's capabilities.

I do think there is an obligation for previous owners to inform potential buyers of known problems, same as if you are buying a house, which is also a complicated system of framework, skin and functionality just like a player.

It's very difficult to just walk in and "see" all the problems or problems in the making. If this damaged goods thing is true, then it was bad form on the part of the Phillies and they should be marooned on a landfill in Cleveland to think about what they've done.

Samantha Bunten: At this point, I don't believe we can draw any definite conclusions about how seriously Knapp's current injury is all, let alone whether the condition was pre-existing before he arrived in Cleveland.

When Knapp was first traded to the Indians, I expressed my concern about putting so much stock in a pitcher who is only 18 and already has a history of arm problems. I stand by that now.

To some degree, it is impossible to tell just exactly what the Phillies knew about Knapp before they traded him to the Indians. Also, we may never know what the Indians knew before they accepted the trade.

The Tribe has made no indication thus far that they plan to file a grievance. To me, this says that the injury is likely not the result of anything pre-existing that was kept a secret by the Phillies. The real question is whether there was a pre-existing issue that the Phillies DID disclose, yet the Indians took a flyer on him anyway.

In general, I'm on the fence about such grievances. On one hand, to hide an injury is dishonest and underhanded and smacks of cheating. On the other, well, think about it like this: if you were about to trade a hitter who you knew had slightly changed his swing and would be the worse for it, would you inform the team you were planning to trade him to that he had messed with his mechanics so they should probably give you less for him? Of course not. Nor would you be obligated to by any rule or moral code. When you look at it that way, it isn't so different from not disclosing an injury.

5. Fun Question of the Week: As the end of the 2009 season draws near, it's time to start giving out some awards. Who do you see as your 2009 MVP for the Tribe? How about the Tribe's CY Young for the season?

Regardless of performance on the field, who is your favorite player or players on the 2009 Indians' roster? How about your least favorite(s)?

Dale Thomas: Grady Sizemore continues to be my favorite Indian. His enthusiasm and work ethic are awesome. He always gives 100% of all of his working parts and gives a lot back to the city.

My least favorite player is Jhonny Peralta. Just reverse everything I said about Grady.

Cy Young? I'd give the Cy Young to a reliever this year. Yes, Tony Sipp. Can I do that?

As for MVP, I'd toss that over to Asdrubal & hope he catches it.

Samantha Bunten: The team lacks a true MVP, so I'll give it to Choo by default. If I were able to bend the rules a little, I would mail it to Boston for Victor Martinez, the man who truly deserves it, despite the fact that he was traded in July.

I would give the Cy Young to Sipp, again for lack of a better alternative.

My least favorite is Jhonny Peralta by far. His lazy, bratty, complacent attitude and total lack of productivity on the field make him useless as a player and extremely unappealing as a person. And you all know I hate Trevor Crowe, for reasons both rational and not.

My favorites for a while have been Sizemore, Choo, and the departed Martinez and Ben Francisco. With two of the four now gone from the roster, I am hoping that Brantley and Sipp can fill the vacancies in the future.



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