Cleveland Indians Now Accepting Applications for the Position of Fearless Leader
Forget "Who's on First?"
The big question entering the 2010 season for the Indians is, "Who's Going to Lead This Team?"
Sure, we all feel better about the leadership coming from the dugout with the effervescent Manny Acta at the helm instead of the flat-lining Eric Wedge. But the team still needs a leader on the field.
Who is up to the task? Ladies and gentlemen, your candidates...
Grady Sizemore is the easy choice, at least on the surface.
He has a long tenure with the organization, spent time in the minor league system, and has the skills and talent to lead by example.
But to date, we've never seen any real evidence that the quiet Sizemore possesses any leadership skills or, for that matter, actually wants the job.
Sizemore could still step up and claim the role, but so far, he hasn't made any moves to do so.
Three years ago, Hafner would have been the ideal candidate to lead this team.
But things have changed a lot in terms of Hafner's role with the Indians.
Injuries have prevented him from leading by example, at least on the field, and have also reduced his playing time enough to where he may not be visible enough to take on the job.
Add to that the fact that he's a DH, so he isn't actually ON the field for 50 percent of the game, and Hafner looks like a guy who might have the right personality type for the role, but probably not the correct skill set.
The only things that qualify Branyan to be a potential team leader are age and experience and the fact that he's on his second tour with this team.
Realistically, Branyan isn't a great candidate for the job. His first stint with the Tribe was so long ago that he's no longer familiar with the players he would be leading, and Branyan has never been labeled a leader-type on any of his previous teams.
Add to that the fact that he will almost assuredly only be around for one year, and Russell the Muscle appears to be a pretty weak candidate.
All things being equal, Mark Grudzielanek has all the makings of a team leader.
He's an experienced veteran, he has an excellent reputation as a clubhouse guy, and his defensive skills and strategic play give him presence on the field.
The big problem is, he would have to actually MAKE the team first. The odds of this are pretty high, but again, there's the problem that he's a player who is new to the organization, and also one who may not be around for longer than a year.
Speaking generally in terms of baseball as a whole, Red Dog has the best leadership pedigree of anyone on this team.
He was a team leader in Minnesota, is known as a top-notch clubhouse guy, has experience mentoring young players, and plays the best position on the diamond for a potential leader.
But again, he's new to the team and doesn't have a history with the players surrounding him.
He also is signed to a one-year contract, and with the impending arrival of Carlos Santana and two potential future backups on the roster in Lou Marson and Wyatt Toregas, he likely won't be around in the coming seasons.
As recently as a year ago, the notion of Cabrera leading this team would have been almost laughable.
A-Cab was young, inexperienced, and didn't display any tendencies that indicated he might be a good team leader.
But things change, and it now seems that Cabrera might be the best candidate of all to captain this ship.
Cabrera, once a hesitant youngster who appeared somewhat awestruck by the whole experience of being on a major league diamond, has slowly and quietly morphed into a player who displays the characteristics of a leader.
Now that he's become more comfortable with his own play and his role as shortstop, Cabrera has started to show signs of a willingness and desire to take responsibility for what is happening on the field and in the dugout overall.
There's no proof yet that Cabrera has the moxie or the willingness to succeed in the role, but he appears to be the best candidate for the job going into the season.