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.
In the opening week of the 2010 season, we critique Manny Acta's final roster decisions, discuss who the first member of the rotation to bite the dust will be, and predict the details of the next animal kingdom attack on Progressive Field.
I would like to thank this week's participants Dale Thomas, Jon Sladek, and Scott Miles for their contributions. 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. How would you rate Manny Acta's final decisions regarding the 25-man roster? Are there any players who you were disappointed to see not make the cut? Did any of those who did make the cut surprise you?
If you were in charge, which one player who made the team would you have left off your roster, and which one player who didn't make the cut would you have kept on board?
Dale Thomas: I think Manny did a pretty good job in working with what he had and I wasn't really surprised by the cuts or the non-cuts.
I'm tempted to say I would have kept Sowers, but don't worry, I won't due to his 18-30 record...and then there's that 5.18 ERA.
Who wouldn't make my roster? Well there's this guy named Andy Marte...
Samantha Bunten: There were really no surprises this season.
As per usual, I have to object to Andy Marte, but since that was inevitable, I think Acta truly did a nice job.
I thought there were more questions over whether Huff would get a spot in the rotation, but in the end the correct decision was made. I would not have minded seeing Toregas make the roster, but I believe we'll see him at some point this season.
Scott Miles: I'm generally supportive of it. My lone two question marks are leaving Carlos Santana off the roster, and putting Aaron Laffey in the bullpen.
Lou Marson seems like a nice guy, hard working and all, but he has no upside. He'll bat .270 with no pop and be just decent behind the plate. For Santana, the sky is the limit, and everyone raved about him in spring training. Just give him the chance to play.
Laffey was the most consistent starter last season. I know that David Huff closed the year on a high note, but Laffey was strong throughout the season.
Jon Sladek: My only real complaint would have been sending Brantley down in favor of Branyan, which became moot once Russell got DL-ed.
Of course I would have added Cliff Lee and deleted Lou Marson and Jason Donald, but that is a different conversation.
2. In a last minute twist during Spring Training, an injury to Russell Branyan shifted Matt LaPorta to first and landed Michael Brantley on the major league roster rather than in Triple-A.
Do you prefer LaPorta at first rather than in the outfield? Would you have preferred Brantley stay in AAA until mid-season due to service time issues, or are you glad he's here right away to help the team?
Dale Thomas: I guess I'd rather see LaPorta at first. I mean since we have to see him at all.
I think the outfielders need to have electric feet, and I haven't seen that from LaPorta. I'm happy about Brantley being here now since I can't even imagine who might be on this team when mid-season rolls around.
Samantha Bunten: In every way, LaPorta profiles better at first base than he does in left field. Defensively he would have been a liability in left, whereas Brantley significantly strengthens the outfield defense.
Being a huge Michael Brantley fan, I'm obviously glad to see him on the roster, but I do understand the strategy of holding him back due to service time issues.
I would not have objected to keeping Brantley in AAA had that been what happened, but I think the injury to Branyan produced an opportunity to get major league at-bats to both LaPorta and Brantley right out of the gate, and that will only help both players and the team in the long run.
Scott Miles: Yes, I'm a big fan of LaPorta at first, Brantley in left, and Branyan nowhere near the big club. Those two represent the future. Branyan represents the distant, distant past.
LaPorta's offense should easily equal whatever Branyan would have produced, while Brantley could develop into the ideal lead-off man. Worst case scenario, his speed will help track down all the liners in the gap that our pitchers will give up this year. I'm happy with where both of them are playing.
Jon Sladek: Sending Brantley back to Columbus would have been a negative move. Mark Shapiro gets paid to worry about arbitration clocks, I want to see the kid develop at the big league level. Also, LaPorta seems capable at first base.
3. In a perfect world, the fate of our rotation shakes out like this: Jake Westbrook stays healthy, Fausto Carmona returns to 2007 form, Justin Masterson lives up to the hype, Mitch Talbot proves he isn't just here because he was out of options, and David Huff continues to exceed expectations like he did in 2009.
Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world, we live in Cleveland.
Which of the five pitchers slated to start the season in our rotation do you believe will live up to expectations, and which ones won't deliver? For those who don't come through, who do you see as the candidates to replace them as the season progresses?
Dale Thomas: Man, I wanna say something really positive here, given my previous two answers. Let's see... ummmm...Oh wait! Everybody expects Jake to fold, so I think he will live up to that and so will Carmona.
Seriously, I have high hopes for both Huff and Masterson, and I just flat-out expect Talbot to deliver.
Samantha Bunten: I spent the entire off-season doubting Masterson, but based on how he looked in Spring Training, I am pleased to report that I think I may have been wrong about that.
I think Westbrook is the one guy who won't deliver. i like Jake, but I don't think he'll ever truly make it back from his injury.
Fausto will have his ups and downs, but I think he'll be better than he has been in two years. Talbot will be better than anyone expected, and Huff will, as usual, quietly perform above expectations despite the fact that no one will notice.
As for replacement candidates, I fully expect to see Laffey in the rotation by mid-season, and if Carrasco performs well in the minors, he should get a shot as well if a rotation spot opens up.
Scott Miles: Out of the five, Huff seems most likely to live up to expectations, because he's the only one pitching in the proper spot in the rotation. Westbrook should not be a No. 1 starter, Carmona is an enigma (as is Masterson), and no one honestly has any idea what to expect from Talbot.
I'd be shocked if Laffey doesn't find his way back into the rotation at some point. Carlos Carrasco would be next in line if there's an injury/horrible output, with Hector Rondon a more distant third option.
Jon Sladek: I believe Hector Rondon and Jeanmar Gomez both make their big league debuts this September.
I believe in Huff and I'm cautiously optimistic about Fausto. Not so much about Talbot. Masterson is best used in the bullpen.
4. In the season preview edition of Tribe Talk, we shared our predictions on serious matters regarding the fate of the Tribe this season. This time around, take a look into your crystal ball and try your hand at making a few predictions on some not-so-serious topics:
-Week of Manny Acta's first ejection:
Dale Thomas: Week two. This will happen when Marte and LaPorta try to play first at the same time. Manny will argue that between the two of them, they only count as one full player. The ump will toss him for being right.
Samantha Bunten: End of April, at the latest.
Scott Miles: Early May
Jon Sladek: I hate to speculate on such a personal decision for Acta.
-First team to wind up in a bench clearing brawl with the Tribe:
Dale Thomas: I think it will be game two against the White Sox when Carmona hits Pierzynski during his second- inning warm-up while Pierzynski is sitting in the dugout.
Samantha Bunten: Detroit. It's the right thing to do.
Scott Miles: Tigers
Jon Sladek: Now that Jamey Carroll is gone, I don't see the Tribe "brawling."
-Most likely roster member to get ejected from the field and Most likely Tribe Talk panelist to get ejected from the stands:
Dale Thomas: Joe Smith because nobody including the umps believe that's his real name ; the panelist will be me...in a totally unrelated incident like lighting a cigarette inside the gates.
Samantha Bunten: If Milton Bradley ever comes off the DL, I can definitely see Fausto getting tossed for engaging in a title fight with him reminiscent of his battle in '07 with Gary Sheffield ; Probably me, though I'd venture to say any one of us might get tossed on a visit to the front office.
Scott Miles: Asdrubal ; Samantha
Jon Sladek: Fausto is easily the most likely Indian to get run ; As far as panelists, Samantha Bunten will surely get the heave-ho by August.
-Roster member most likely to hurt himself not on the field, but via a ridiculous off-field injury (think David Cone missing a start after being bit on his pitching hand by his mother's dog in 1998 or Clint Barmes breaking his collar bone falling up a set of stairs carrying deer meat in 2005):
Dale Thomas: The winner of this award will be Travis Hafner. His dog is going to bite his ankle causing him to fall, and it looks like he's going to land directly on that dog! Knowing he will be punished for the rest of his married life for squishing that little dog, he tries to break his fall and suffers a season ending undetectable shoulder injury that baffles the medical world.
Samantha Bunten: The odds of Peralta choking on something seem exceptionally high.
Scott Miles: Hafner, while demonstrating a WWE move in the locker room.
Jon Sladek: I don't know why, but this screams Matt LaPorta.
-Roster member you're dying to see traded not for practical reasons, but because you just hate him:
Dale Thomas: Andy...Jhonny... Andy... Jhonny...eenie, meenie, miny, moe...rock, paper, scissors...red rover...Can there be two?
Samantha Bunten: I would pay another team to take Peralta or Marte, and while I don't hate Kerry wood, I do hate his salary, so if Chris Perez can be an effective closer (and I believe he can be), then I'd gladly ship Wood out to any team foolish enough to take on his salary.
Scott Miles: Branyan. It's nothing personal. I just don't know why he's here.
Jon Sladek: I would love to see Peralta traded for a third baseman who has, I don't know, a passing interest in baseball?
5. Fun Question of the Week: Nature frequently plays a role in baseball games. At Progressive Field, we've endured endless rain delays and seen fielders lose pop flies in the sun as often as in any other ballpark, but we seem to have a uniquely high rate of interference from the animal kingdom.
We've seen play stopped for a squirrel sprinting around the infield, swarms of midges plaguing playoff opponents, and seagulls terrorizing outfielders.
For whatever reason, the local wildlife appears to have taken a decided interest in Indians baseball, so take your best guess here as to what this season's animal interference incident will be.
Dale Thomas: It might be Travis' dog, but will more likely be a coyote looking for Travis' dog.
Samantha Bunten: I think Peralta looks dead enough over at third that it's only a matter of time before we develop a vulture problem.
Scott Miles: Zebra Mayhem
Jon Sladek: Indicative of the booming deer population in Ohio, a doe and her fawn will casually stroll onto the field and begin grazing on the outfield grass.
Comedy ensues as security personnel attempts to wrangle the animals while Tom Hamilton screams from the broadcast booth, "Oohh Dear!".