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.
Here in the final days of the regular season and our final installment of Tribe Talk for the year, we discuss how much a come-from-behind victory is worth, our playoff picks, and our final thoughts on the disappointments of the 2009 season and our hopes for the 2010 season.
I would like to thank this week's participants Nino Colla, Scott Miles, and Jeff Poore for their contributions here and throughout the season. My greatest thanks to these contributors for their dedication to this project throughout this difficult year for the Tribe faithful. I could not have done it without them.
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.
1. As much as the Tribe is slammed for looking lethargic and apathetic (by us at Tribe Talk as much as anyone), 32 of their 63 wins were actually come-from-behind victories.
Does this mean we aren't giving the Indians enough credit for displaying a "never say die" attitude, or is this just one more meaningless number that falls under the old saying "you can make statistics say anything you want"?
Samantha Bunten: There would be nothing I would like more than to be able to look at a stat like this, smack myself on the forehead, and exclaim, "I KNEW we weren't really that bad!"
Unfortunately, what I think it boils down to is that it doesn't matter how many of your victories turn out to be of a come-from-behind variety when your winning percentage is a mere .404.
Much as I wish this weren't true, I also can't say I believe that this indicates the Tribe had some sort of never-say-die attitude that we all just merely didn't notice while we were calling them lazy and unmotivated.
Sure, the come-from-behind victories are nice, but look at it this way: If a team is always behind, from the start of each and every game, then any victory they might get will always be of the come-from-behind sort.
Don't get me wrong, this team has plenty of guys who deserve credit for not dogging it despite this bleak situation. But when Jhonny Peralta stands out there looking bored, lethargic, and apathetic, there isn't a stat in the world that can make him look anything but lazy.
Nino Colla: Uh yeah, I think it speaks to what they were playing like before the month of September. They had that attitude prior, but now it's just not there. I think the starting pitching has something to do with it as well.
In the end though, it doesn't really matter. You can make statistics say what you want, but in this case, this sort of "achievement" isn't really worth anything given the disappointment this season.
Scott Miles: Thanks to my friends at baseball-reference.com, I can tell you that through the first two innings of games, the Indians have been outscored 188-126, and 14 of those runs the Tribe scored came in one inning against the Yankees (that seems like 40 years ago.)
For comparison’s sake, the Yankees have outscored their opponents 198-168, and the Nationals have been outscored 187-149. So you want to get out to a lead early. And yes, our deficit in the early innings is worse than the Nationals’.
Basically, we’ve had a combination of poor pitching and even worse offensive production early in games. No wonder we had so many comeback wins, because we were always losing. But give credit to the steady hand of Eric Wedge—may his managerial career rest in peace—for never panicking when facing those early deficits. His steady nature probably had a big part in those comebacks.
Jeff Poore: The latter. If a team has a winning record then those come from behind wins MEAN something. When you have 90+ losses it just means you have a bad team that gets behind early and often.
2. The 2010 Tribe outfield appears to be pretty much set: Choo in right, Brantley in left, and Sizemore in center.
The infield picture, however, is a little less clear. How do you envision the infield shaping up next year, at each position as well as in utility roles?
Samantha Bunten: Jason Donald and Chris Gimenez can handle the utility roles. LaPorta at first, Valbuena at second, and Cabrera at short all look like virtual locks on their respective positions and have the potential to be a pretty decent infield. Unfortunately for the Indians, someone will still have to play third base.
Right now, the options appear to be Peralta and Marte. which anymore sounds about as promising as leaving the position completely vacant. I don't see the Indians acquiring a third baseman before next season—it's not as though they can afford to bring in a truly high quality hot corner guy, and they've already got two mediocre, utility type third basemen in Peralta and Marte so i can't imagine they would want to acquire another.
There isn't much promise in the system at third either. Lonnie Chisenhall should be an outstanding third baseman some day, but he isn't ready yet. Other than that, the system doesn't have much to offer in terms of players who could be big league ready any time soon.
Nino Colla: 1B LaPorta, 2B Valbuena, SS Cabrera, 3B Peralta/Marte.
I've yet to be able to peg what the Indians are going to do with Jhonny Peralta. If he stays he's a lock for third and Marte moves to the bench. If not it's Marte's job to lose.
I think the Indians are going to give Luis Valbuena every shot in the world to win the second base job. If he does, they'll be happy. If he flutters around, they'll probably be disappointed but they'll give him the job anyway. I think Jason Donald will be the same way for the middle infield utility spot.
Now, he may be Valbuena's biggest competitor for the second base job, but they'll find a way to get him there.
Marte would backup first and third, Donald short and second. The issue comes in with Chris Gimenez. I really like the kid, though some don't and think he's garbage. I'd keep him on the bench as a guy who can play any position you ask him to in a pinch. He's got outfield, infield, and catcher flexibility.
If you got Wyatt Toregas as the primary backup to Lou Marson (at least that's my hope and guess in what the Indians should and will do), Gimenez can be rover.
Scott Miles: I think the infield will look the same as it was at the end of this season—Jhonny Peralta at third, Asdrubal Cabrera at short (still the only big leaguer with the first name “Asdrubal”), Luis Valbuena at second and Matt LaPorta at first.
If Peralta can hit like he did in 2005 or 2008, this can be one of the best infields in baseball.
(By the way, I’ve long held that Peralta has been the true catalyst to this offense. In 2005, his splits were .292/.366/.520, with 24 HRs and 35 2Bs, and we scored the seventh-most runs in baseball. In 2008, it was .276/.331/.473, with 23 HRs and career-highs 89 RBI and 104 runs, and we scored the seventh-most runs in baseball.
This year? Just .259/.319/.382, with just 11 HRs and 56 runs scored, though he does have 81 RBI.)
The utility positions will be Andy Marte and/or Jason Donald. I think Marte will be given plenty of opportunities to prove himself in spring training, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded at the end of camp to some team in desperate need of depth for a bucket of balls.
Neither will factor in much to the future plans, as the current starting infield could be in place for a long time.
Jeff Poore: Three of four is easy. LaPorta at first, Valbuena at second, and Cabrera at short.
Third base is an unknown. I have a feeling they will shop Peralta over the offseason but he still may be here. I have seen enough of Andy Marte...no mas por favor!
Nick Welgarz and Lonnis Chisenhall are not ready. They have some money to spend so it will be interesting if they do play Peralta. I see Jason Donald and Chris Gimenez as your utility guys.
3. Last week we discussed possible free agent signings for the Tribe this offseason, and there was a lot of support for signing a guy like Aaron Boone as a utility player/clubhouse guy.
Aside from Boone, are there other journeyman/veterans you would like to see join the Tribe for 2010? Who are your favorite candidates, and why?
Omar Vizquel has expressed interest in playing again in 2010 at age 42. He has spent 11 of his 21 seasons with the Tribe already. What do you think the chances are that Vizquel ends up being the veteran player the Tribe signs?
Samantha Bunten: If we're going to give away a roster spot to a veteran who is really only kept around for their off-field contributions, then I'm going to be pretty picky about who it is.
Aside from Boone, Vizquel is probably the only guy I would consider for this role. We know Vizquel has a good clubhouse presence, is good with young players, and perhaps most important, a huge fan favorite who might win back a few frustrated Tribe fans and sell a few tickets.
Sounds like a great idea on paper, but as always, there's a hitch in this plan, too.
First, can the money be used to get a younger player who can help this team to a winning record? Because if so, it's absolutely certain that fielding a competitive team will bring back more fans than Omar will, no matter how much we love him.
Second, signing Vizquel is not without huge risks. For one thing, he's 42 years old. If his knee fails, and at his age there is a good chance of that, then we're just paying one more injured guy to ride the pine.
Worse, if Vizquel does not get injured but can no longer play competitively, the Indians will be in a proverbial catch-22. Leave him on the 25-man roster and an ineffective player eats up a roster spot.
Demote him to triple-A or cut him, and you've just screwed over Omar Vizquel. Fans will mutiny whether that's the smartest decision or not.
That being said, if we do decide to sign this sort of player, I can't think of a single guy I'd rather see in that role than Vizquel.
Nino Colla: I think the chances are slim, but it all depends on what is going on in Mark Shapiro's brain. There isn't a bad aspect to this idea first off. For one, it will put fans in the seats, even if the team sucks. Ken Griffey Jr. generated some buzz, and hey, the team didn't do so bad either.
Now, attendance went down, but I think it's safe to say that attendance sort of went down for just about every team not located in Boston, Los Angeles, or New York, or a team that is now winning. The economy has produced that.
But what could it hurt? You'll generate a ton of money off merchandise because A) Cabrera will have to change his number and you'll sell off that, or B) Omar will change his number and people will WANT Omar gear. That's the financial aspect of it. It makes loads of sense.
On the field, it makes equally as much sense. He can play second, he can play third, we KNOW he can play short. He can do what he did in Texas and the Rangers beat reporter said the day Omar started at third, he automatically became the best third baseman in Rangers history, adding it to the best second baseman as well. It makes all the sense in the world on the field as well, you can't script a better situation.
Here is where I start to get bleary about it though. If this club really likes Jason Donald and they WANT him to be the utility man...He's going to be the utility man. I'd love for them to not take that attitude, but with Shapiro back there and whoever the manager is going to be, I have no clue.
You sign Omar to a minor league deal. He doesn't do enough or Jason Donald does and you have to cut Omar...THIS CITY WILL GO NUTS! Shapiro will be crucified the minute he makes the decision. I would understand, if the reason was justified, I understand the concepts and ideas and goals.
But there are way too many irrational fans that will go absolutely ballistic if their idol is cut. So would I love to see it happen? Absolutely I would, but I fear the worst case scenario.
Scott Miles: I’m not exactly sure why we’d need to sign any veterans. With all due respect to Aaron Boone and all that he has endured, why should he be on the team and take away a roster spot from one of our 812 rookies/young veterans who need playing time and experience? Not to mention that as of this writing, Boone is hitless in a mere 10 at-bats this season.
Shapiro wants to roll the dice with the youngsters. Well, let’s do it then. Give them all the at-bats. Let them learn on the job. We have veterans with Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner and Peralta who can emerge as leaders.
Now, if Omar is serious about returning, I might soften my stance a bit...but only if he’s in a role like Jake Taylor mentoring Rube Baker in Major League 2. And maybe Omar can take over the team when Lou Brown has a midseason heart attack, too.
Jeff Poore: No veterans. Play the young guys. You have good young talent that goes deep right now and other than at third base, you really don't need a placeholder. I'd love to see Omar Vizquel back but really Jason Donald will be in that spot unless Omar takes a HUGE pay cut and someone gets injured.
4. This is the last week of the regular season, and thus the last week for the Tribe Talk column until next year. Please take this opportunity to briefly share your final thoughts on the 2009 Cleveland Indians.
Samantha Bunten: This question can truly only be answered with either a 10-page long rant or with one sentence along the lines of, "who sent this horrible team here to torture me and what awful thing could I possibly have done to deserve this?"
But this is Cleveland. We hope to win but we expect to lose. We expected a little more winning than we got this year, but we weren't all that surprised when the team failed to meet our expectations.
Still, the beauty of baseball is that no matter how it ends each season, we know it will be back again next spring. Let's close the books on this one, and believe, like always, that we'll get em next year.
Nino Colla: Aww, do I have to?
My final thought can be summed up in one phrase: "Blargh." Just blargh...What the hell happened?
This is painful to go through every year. I'm almost glad the expectations next year are for us to suck. Maybe now we'll play above that suck line and feel good. I know I will.
This year is one I want to remember but also forget. I want to remember the mistakes that were made, but not the pain that came with it. Okay maybe if I remember the pain...no, Shapiro should, it would better to motivate him.
I'm in no control of this club, nothing is going to change if I remember the pain. So, I want to forget the pain and remember the mistakes, so I can point them out if we ever do this again.
End O' Story, good bye 2009 Cleveland Indians, all 50 of you.
Scott Miles: Briefly? Is “train-wreck” brief enough? How about “crippling disappointment” or “bigger flops than every Eddie Murphy movie since 1990?*” Is that brief enough? * - Another 48 Hours came out in 1990. Since then, he has had one good movie – Life, in 1999. That movie is like the Tribe’s ALCS run in 2007, an aberration in a long period of ineptitude.
Jeff Poore: The guys ain't too bleeping good. Team had the pieces to be a contender but derailed with the failure of Fausto Carmona to be a second cog in the rotation and the bullpen imploding three separate times.
Hopefully, this is the year that Mark Shapiro finally learned his lesson.
5. Fun Question of the Week: Several months ago, we talked about what teams we would back down the end-of-season stretch, since the Tribe wasn't going to be in the running for a playoff spot.
Now that the playoff picture has become a little clearer, who are you backing for the playoffs in both the NL and the AL?
Samantha Bunten: I'm backing St. Louis both in the NL and all the way. They are my third favorite team behind the Indians and Milwaukee, one of the best run organizations in baseball, and are the team with arguably baseball's best fans.
The AL is tougher. I was hoping to see the Rangers get in, but since that didn't happen, my AL vote will depend on what happens in the final day of the season in the Central Division pennant race.
If Minnesota overtakes Detroit, I'm happy to back the Twins as my AL representative. If Detroit takes the Central title, then I guess I'll be rooting for the Angels as simply the lesser of four evils.
Nino Colla: Well I haven't decided if my picks are going to be the teams I back, or not. Okay, I haven't quite decided my picks either.
Right now in the AL, I think I'm pulling for the Angels, for two reasons: I picked them to win it all in the start of the year, and I'd like to be right so my ego feels good. Second, the story of Nick Adenhart is compelling and to see what the Angels would do if they won it all would be something.
In the NL, I think I'd love to see the Cardinals do it. They are just sort of likable. I often root for my picks, but in large part I'm rooting for stories.
Unless of course it's Yankees and Red Sox, then you can gag me.
Scott Miles: I don’t know how much of the playoffs I will watch. I’m just not overly supportive of any of these teams. I have great respect for the Cardinals organization, so I wouldn’t mind seeing them win. And the Rockies are an interesting story, but I just don’t know if I can handle another team that’s been around for less years than we have winning a World Series.
And in the AL, as much as we make fun of the overexposure of these teams...wouldn’t a Yankees-Red Sox ALCS be fun? The games will be competitive and intense. How many league championship series do you remember?
Outside of the ones the Indians played in, I can think of two—2003 and 2004 ALCS. Aaron Boone’s Game Seven homer in 2003, the Red Sox rally from being down 3-0 in 2004...it makes for entertaining and fun baseball.
Jeff Poore: The Angels and the the Phillies. The Angels are the only AL team left I don't detest and I'd love Cliff Lee to get a ring. But I think it will be the Red Sox and Dodgers. The Sox have the Yanks and Angels number and I have a feeling that Manny will see his old pals...