Five New Year's Resolutions for the Cleveland Indians
Well, it's Jan. 1, and as always, people around the world are resolving to better themselves in the year ahead.
Some people will resolve to lose weight, some people will resolve to think more about others, and some people will resolve to read my articles more often (I hope).
The principle doesn't apply very well to baseball; if executives thought about improving their teams only once a year, they'd be fired pretty quickly.
Nevertheless, here are my suggestions for how Larry Dolan, Manny Acta, and Mark Shapiro could better the Cleveland Indians in the year ahead.
Get Grady Sizemore Out of the Leadoff Spot
Since earning a starting job in 2005, Grady Sizemore has been the Tribe's leadoff hitter. No doubt, no questions asked. In 771 career starts, he has hit elsewhere in the order just 98 times.
One of Acta's first acts as manager should be to push him down in the lineup.
Why, you ask? After all, while his average has steadily dropped over the last few years (from .290 in 2006 to .248 in 2009), he gets on base because of his good plate discipline.
Add to that his good speed (he averaged 29 steals from 2005-2008) and he sounds like a pretty good guy to have at the top of the order.
The problem is, Sizemore's true calling is to be a power hitter. Discounting his injury-riddled 2009 campaign, his home run totals have increased as his average has declined. Combine that with his high walk and strikeout totals, and his numbers resemble those of Carlos Pena.
With Victor Martinez gone and Travis Hafner washed up, Sizemore is the team's best power hitter. Move him to the middle of the order and give Asdrubal Cabrera or Michael Brantley the leadoff spot.
Give the Prospects a Chance
Fellow Clevelanders, if you haven't yet given up on 2010, it's time to let your bubble burst.
While ownership hasn't publicly declared this season a lost cause, the team's sentiment was implicit in its decisions to trade Martinez and Cliff Lee.
If Shapiro thought the Indians could contend next season, he wouldn't have dealt his two best players. It's as simple as that.
With that in mind, the Indians' main goal for the upcoming season should be developing their future core of players. Brash as it may sound, winning shouldn't be the top priority since it would be useless anyway.
Make Matt LaPorta the Opening Day first baseman. Cycle Brantley and Trevor Crowe into the regular outfield/DH mix with Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, and Travis Hafner. Name Lou Marson the starting catcher from the get-go and bring Carlos Santana up before school gets out.
That doesn't necessarily mean we should rush Lonnie Chisenhall and Nick Weglarz up from Double-A. But finding out if Andy Marte has finally turned the corner is more important than padding Jhonny Peralta's resume.
Show Us What You've Done
Any political scientist will tell you that, while people hate the idea of raising taxes, they're more than happy to pay high rates when they receive a tangible product or quality service in return.
Similarly, fans hate seeing their star players traded, but they can deal with their losses if they feel as though their team got someone good in exchange.
Remember the Bartolo Colon trade of 2002? How many Clevelanders were happy with that deal? I know I wasn't—I locked myself alone in my room all day and pouted (granted, I was only nine years old).
Of course, now that we've seen the ripened fruits of that deal (Lee and Sizemore), no Indians fan would question the intelligence of the trade.
So show us what you've done. We saw a little of LaPorta and Brantley (from the CC Sabathia trade) last year—let's see some more. Bring up Marson and Jason Knapp (our return for Lee). Have a bobblehead night for Justin Masterson (acquired for Martinez).
We Tribe faithful are hungry for a new hometown hero. Make us a new idol; if you build it, we will come.
Lower the Ticket Prices
Speaking of which, the stands at Progressive Field would fill up a lot faster if tickets weren't so expensive.
It's not that people are unwilling to pay exorbitant prices to watch grown men chase a small sphere around an enclosed grass arena. Even in this economy, try finding an empty seat at Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium.
But for a depressed team that doesn't win and has dealt most of its stars, most casual fans aren't willing to empty their pocketbooks.
Prices have been skyrocketing at the Prog; last season even the bleacher creatures lost almost $20 just to get to their seats.
Add to that the $4 hot dogs and $7 beers, and fans get to experience a financial drain with their heart-breaking loss.
It's not that Clevelanders have stopped caring about the team, it's just that it isn't worth the price to watch the Indians struggle in person when they could get it for free on TV.
Keep on waiting 'til next year. If you're an Indians fan, you should be used to it by now.