Tribe Talk : Of Closers, Bruce Drennan, and Unwritten Rules
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 agree that Kerry Wood rather than Chris Perez belongs in the closer's role, share our thoughts on the now-infamous Bruce Drennan rant, and debate the merits of baseball's unwritten rules.
I would like to thank this week's participants Nino Colla, The Coop, and Lewie Pollis 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. After a lengthy stint on the DL, Kerry Wood has finally been given the all-clear to resume the closer's role for the Tribe. To ease Wood back in to the routine of possibly having to throw on consecutive days, Manny Acta had him make back-to-back appearances in the seventh inning on Saturday and Sunday. He struggled and took the loss in his first appearance but looked much better the second time around.
Do you think Wood can last the rest of the season (or even most of it) without either winding up back on the DL or proving to be totally ineffective?
Wood has produced mixed results during his time in Cleveland, as has his temporary replacement Chris Perez (albeit with a much smaller sample size). Given that, would you ideally prefer that Wood close and Perez return to a set-up role, as is the current plan, or would you prefer Perez to be the Indians' closer permanently?
Did Kerry Wood's salary factor into your decision on that at all?
Samantha Bunten: As a rule, closers are overvalued and overpaid, and Kerry Wood is the league's best cautionary tale on this particular issue. Unfortunately, whether he gets injured or can't perform adequately, we have to pay him anyway. The Indians gave Wood a contract to be their closer, so that's what he should be.
Aside from the unprofessional finger-pointing incident with Lou Marson, I think Perez did a fair job of filling the role in Wood's absence. However, for the time being the team's interests are best served by moving Perez back to a set-up role and letting Wood at least try to do the job he's been paid to do.
In a season where the team was contending, I might argue that Perez should take over if he in fact proved to be the more reliable closer, but that isn't the case this year. It is in the Indians' best interest to be able to move Wood before the trade deadline, so we need to showcase him in the closer's role if we want to have even a shred of hope of getting anything of value in return for him.
The Coop: I understand your question but I disagree with the premise, and you alluded to the reason when you mentioned his contract.
The signing of Kerry Wood should have never happened in the first place. Giving that much (guaranteed) money to an injury-prone pitcher who has achieved only moderate success in the majors is a recipe for disaster. As a result, you can’t count on the guy for anything.
I put Wood’s odds of returning to the DL at about 60/40. I certainly don’t expect him to contribute as much as he did last year. And of course, the Indians will be double-screwed if they can’t move Wood at the trade deadline.
I like the job that Chris Perez has done in his short career with the Tribe, and I think that he can grow into the role of closer. Now, however, there’s no choice but to move him back to the set-up role until the next time Wood gets hurt.
Nino Colla: First off, injuries are an unknown, so I don't even have an idea if he can go the rest of the season without landing on the DL. He made it through last season without having anything creep up on him, so you just don't know.
As for him producing ineffective results, I think a good part of it has to do with lack of use. It happened last year and it really was evident that he'd come out after a long lay-off from a closing situation and just did not have it. Chris Perez even had to deal with that this year. He had what, six opportunities and four of them came against one team, the other two against another team? That isn't going to work. And it isn't like you can bring in your closer unless you know for a fact you won't be in a save situation later in the game or you have an off-day following the current game.
I would like to see Kerry Wood remain in the closer's role and it has nothing to do with his salary. It has to do with experience and deepening the rest of the pen. I'd rather be able to use Perez in a setup role because he is younger and able to be used for more than just one inning. Right now, it just makes more sense.
Lewie Pollis: First off, Wood's salary is already set in stone, so why worry about it? The money is out of our hands anyway; the checks are as good as cashed. If it's decided that he is the inferior closer and we're already losing millions in payroll thanks to him, why should we lose games because of him too?
That said, the Indians should give Wood every chance to prove himself in the closer's role for another non-performance related reason: maximizing his trade value. Kerry Wood's presence does us absolutely no good, so the Indians need to take a page from Billy Beane's book (figuratively or literally, either one works) and sell him off.
As Michael Lewis wrote in Moneyball, "You could take a slightly above average pitcher and drop him into the closer’s role, let him accumulate a gaudy number of saves, and then sell him off." Since 1999, Oakland has done it with Billy Taylor, Jason Isringhausen, Billy Koch, Keith Foulke, and, most recently, Huston Street.
If we can get even a forgotten B-prospect in exchange for Wood, it would be worthwhile. If trading an expensive closer we don't need in a season that was over before it started nets us a middle reliever who can pitch a third of an inning in the 2013 World Series, I wouldn't have to blink to pull the trigger.
2. Frustrating as it may be, we at Tribe Talk have vowed to be patient with youngsters like Matt LaPorta and Justin Masterson as they adjust to playing the game at the major league level.
Unfortunately, many of us are running out of patience for Luis Valbuena, who is no longer new enough to the big leagues to get a free pass on many of his mistakes and struggles. Valbuena is currently hitting .167, has posted five errors, and has made critical, game-changing mistakes in the field on more than one occasion.
All of that begs the question, is Valbuena still just too young to have it down yet, or is he about to become the next Josh Barfield?
Further, if Valbuena truly can't handle the job, where does the Tribe go from there? Should veteran Mark Grudzielanek take over as the starting second baseman, or could it perhaps be time to bring up Jason Donald and give him a shot?
Samantha Bunten: I really liked Valbuena when he first came up, so I hate to completely write him off just yet because I still see some potential in him. But then, I really liked Barfield too, and we all know how that one turned out.
Valbuena is no bigger problem than any of the other struggling players on the team, but he does play a position that we have more options at for replacement than others. I like Jason Donald and I think he deserves a shot at the job. Just like Peralta or Marson, Valbuena hasn't played well enough to keep his spot if there's someone else who proves they can do a better job filling the role.
That said, I'm not completely ready to write off Valbuena either; he still has the right to be in the mix to compete for the job as well. So I say we let Valbuena and Donald duke it out for the role, and if Valbuena continues to fail and Donald can't do any better, we have a pretty good insurance policy in Mark Grudzielanek.
The Coop: I have been a fan of Valbuena since he arrived in Cleveland – or at least as much as possible for a guy with limited range and no stick. But I really thought that he was turning the corner at the plate toward the end of last year, and I think he’s a little better than average in the field.
Unfortunately, he seems lost and simply might not have what it takes to succeed in the majors. Still, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s not like the Indians are going anywhere this year.
I think the Indians should stick with him for the rest of the year, unless they just have to send him down to save him the personal embarrassment. That’s when it will be nice to have a veteran like Grudzielanek to take over.
Nino Colla: I would like to point out that the horrific errors he's made have been at shortstop. So any reason involving that in his ouster should not be valid because he isn't a shortstop and shouldn't be expected to be perfect after being thrown into the fire like this.
That being said, those were routine plays and he deserved to get benched for it when Cabrera got back healthy. I wouldn't be using that for a reason to send him down though. He deserves the rest of this month to turn it around offensively.
I want Jason Donald playing everyday until the show is all his. I'd be playing Grudzielanek through this stretch a lot more, against all left-handers especially. When it gets to a point where it is obviously not working for Valbuena, I believe we will all know. It will be at that point that I would bring Jason Donald up and let him go and do his thing.
Lewie Pollis: How do you define the cutoff between a youngster who needs patience and a veteran who needs the hook? Valbuena isn't that much more experienced than LaPorta, and I'd say he looks like a prospect compared to Masterson. It's a blurry line, but it would seem kind of arbitrary even if it was clearer.
I'm all for giving Donald a shot. I'm open to auditioning anyone who could be part of our long-term plan: Brian Bixler, Wes Hodges, maybe accelerate Lonnie Chisenhall's path to the majors. But if you want to talk about replacing slumping veterans, it's unfair to stop there.
Shouldn't one of the people I mentioned be taking playing time from Jhonny Peralta? Take Jake Westbrook out of the rotation and throw in Yohan Pino. And call up Jordan Brown to replace Grady "Swing-and-a-Miss" Sizemore. You want some fresh faces? Fine, but don't just single out Valbuena.
3. Let's talk about the now-infamous Bruce Drennan rant that was all over the internet last week.
For anyone who hasn't seen it, take a look: http://deadspin.com/5532859/indians-announcer-goes-on-epic-indians-rant-on-the-indians-network
What do you think about Drennan's eruption? Enthusiastic or obnoxious? Necessary or sensationalist? Do you think Drennan was making valid points, or was he just having a tantrum?
Even if you think this was just the ravings of a man who is long on screaming and short on facts, could there still be some merit in such an outburst? Isn't it possible that maybe it's about time someone got really, really mad?
Samantha Bunten: Drennan's rant was absurd, obnoxious, and over-dramatic, but aside from the error regarding sending Valbuena "back to the Mets" when he actually came from Seattle, it was also mostly correct.
In between all the screaming and digressions into things that were entirely off-topic, Drennan was actually making valid points. He called out players who needed to be called out and did a pretty entertaining job of doing it (The Branyan/ballerina comparison was priceless).
Even if he sounded like a blowhard, Drennan did what someone needed to do: get really, really mad. The whole incident isn't going to make me a huge fan of the guy, but I do respect his willingness to lay his frustrations with a frustrating team out there in the open without hedging his bets at all.
There's a fine line between making excuses for a struggling team by being too passive and patient with them and just having a tantrum. No one can excuse Drennan of erring on the side of passivity, and maybe the Indians need someone in their corner who is willing to demand accountability, even if he sounds like a raving lunatic doing it.
The Coop: I love Bruce Drennan. I grew up listening to him and have been a fan of his for as long as I can remember. He’s a Cleveland sports media legend. If we can’t agree on that, there’s probably not a whole lot we can agree on. And no, he wasn’t my bookie.
This was an epic rant, one I will not soon forget. There are countless, classic one-liners here, particularly his take on Valbuena (who I like, remember): “I said, send him to Mahoning Valley. He can’t do any harm there; they haven’t even started their season!”
It wasn’t sensationalistic, because how many people could possibly be watching the Indians post-game show – especially after that game! But, even if you didn’t like it – did he say anything that wasn’t right? He ripped the Tribe, they deserve to be ripped, and more people who cover the Indians should rip ‘em. (Cuing up my most gravely voice): I LOVE YA BRUCEY!!!
Nino Colla: Enthusiastic and Obnoxious? Both. Was it necessary? Parts of it. I think he was having a tantrum but he did make SOME good points.
I watch Drennan often because ESPN obviously doesn't cover the Indians much. This is actually on par with some of his other rants so I'm shocked it has gotten so much attention over the internet from sites such as deadspin.
I felt the same way he did after that game so I know the frustration. Obviously he didn't have time to let the loss sink in so a lot of it was emotional. I think it was silly of him to go down the lineup card and repeat the averages of players. Also when you get upset like that you also tend to make mistakes, like when he said to send Luis Valbuena back to the Mets (came from Seattle).
When you sum it all up though, no one on the Indians watched that and said, "Oh boy, we better start playing hard now!" Maybe someone should get mad, I don't know the personality of the team as a whole or if it would make a difference, but Drennan getting miffed certainly does nothing other than provide us with a nice source of entertainment.
Lewie Pollis: He's either stupid or a drama queen. You don't get that worked up over a team playing badly unless you thought they were going to be contenders--which begs the question, is Drennan qualified to have his own sports show?
Did anyone remind him that this is the Major Leagues? You don't get just anyone to be a TV analyst for a baseball team. BRENNAN! Brennan, Brennan... Valbuena to the Mets? We got him from the Mariners. THE MARINERS! Ah, ah! Painful.
4. The 2010 MLB amateur draft, taking place June 7th-9th, is now less than a month away. What position(s) do you feel the Indians need to prioritize in the draft? What single position do you feel the Indians are thinnest at throughout their whole system, and at what position do you feel they have the most depth?
Other than Bryce Harper (who will surely go as the number-one pick), is there any specific player eligible for this year's draft who you would love to see the Tribe go after?
Samantha Bunten: I'm of the opinion that the Indians farm system is, overall, in pretty good shape. That said, I believe that means it would be in their best interest to not get too hung up on filling a specific role and simply draft the best player available.
Because of the nature of baseball's system, the success of a draft pick is harder to predict than it is in any other sport. That means the smart money is always on drafting the best player on the board at the time, regardless of position.
In terms of specifics, I'm generally in favor of prioritizing, if anything, hitters with speed and a naturally good eye at the plate and pitchers with excellent command who already have at least some ability to throw breaking pitches.
The Coop: Well, I don’t follow the minor league affiliates as well as I should, but I can’t seem to remember ever hearing or reading about any first base prospects, and right now, Matt LaPorta hasn’t done anything to make me think that the Indians are set at that position. I’m not writing him off just yet, but it seems to be a need.
In fact, I’d like to see the Indians start loading up on the corner positions. They’ve needed a solid third baseman for years, and while Chisenhall will (hopefully) be up in the bigs sooner rather than later, he’s obviously no guarantee either.
Baseball drafts seem to be more of a crap-shoot than the drafts in any of the other sports, so I just close my eyes and hope a couple of these guys contribute in a few years…before the Indians trade them away when they become great and command big money.
Nino Colla: The MLB draft isn't really like the NFL or the NBA draft, so I don't think prioritizing positions is really needed. Sure there might be years a team goes pitcher or hitter heavy, maybe they should go hitter heavy this year. Overall you take the best player available, provided you think you can sign him (a problem we don't have space to get into, so I'll refrain), and worry about positions later.
Now if you are lacking in the system in a certain area, that doesn't mean you reach for say, a third baseman in the first round because you need a stud third baseman. I think overall though the Indians are pretty thin at shortstop. They do have Asdrubal Cabrera at the top and he won't need to be replaced for awhile (hopefully). They've done a good job building up second base, which has been a weakness in the past.
Their pitching has really seen a vast improvement with all those trades and I think we've got plenty of first base types in the system. Outfield is loaded if you ask me, but you can never have enough good outfielders.
I don't pay much attention to amateur prospects, it's just too much with all the options out there, especially a month out. The best part is reading scouting reports of the players the Indians draft and until they are in the Cleveland organization, I don't really pay much attention to the prospects.
Lewie Pollis: I don't think the Indians have any real holes in their farm system. We've got tremendously talented arms to stock our rotations of the future, and some outstanding outfielders. The only place where we're really lacking star power is the infield, but even there we have significant depth.
I don't know much about any of the big names in the draft, so I don't have any specific goals there either. My advice to the Indians would be to take the best player available with each pick, without giving too much thought to positions. I'd rather have too many great options in a single area than equal adequacy all around. That's what trades are for.
5. Fun Question of the Week: The big story in baseball last week was pitcher Dallas Braden's explosion over A-Rod violating an unwritten rule of baseball by walking across the mound.
Do you think Braden overreacted, or was A-Rod wrong to disrespect something which is well-known to be an unwritten rule of the game?
Which of the many unwritten baseball rules do you completely agree with, and which one(s) do you simply find ridiculous?
Samantha Bunten: The Braden/Rodriguez situation was marked by ridiculous behavior by both parties. Rodriguez showed his disrespect for the game and his opponent by jogging across the mound, and Braden showed his immaturity and temper when he reacted by lashing out through the media.
Still, you have to call Braden the winner here. Immature or not, he called A-rod out on something which he had every right to be angry about. A-Rod has violated the integrity of the game more than once, and he shouldn't be allowed to get away with it just because he's got a couple of MVP awards under his belt. Braden got the last laugh by following up his statements with a perfect game, and Rodriguez looked like a fool by stooping to the lowest possible level as usual by reacting to Braden's accusations with a flippant, arrogant, and pouty "I'm important and you're not" sort of response.
As to the unwritten rules in general, I am a very, very strong supporter of respecting the game, and respecting the unwritten rules (whether they're silly or not) is a part of that.
You don't swing away on a 3-0 count or swipe second if you're up by 11 runs. You don't jog across the mound and you don't peek at the catcher's signs. As a hitter, you don't show up a pitcher by watching a home run and as a pitcher you don't plunk a guy just because he hits you well. However, if another team's pitcher hits your batter for no good reason, then all bets are off. You're obligated to retaliate on behalf of your teammate and hit a batter from the offending team as a show of solidarity and to demonstrate that you're going to protect your teammates.
Baseball is by nature a self-policing environment and while that has it's pluses and minuses, in the case of the unwritten rules, this is a very good thing for the game. The best way to ensure the game gets the respect it deserves is if the players on the field demand it from one another.
The Coop: Alex Rodriguez is a punk and my only complaint is that Braden didn’t try to throw down with him right then and there. Rodriguez then played one of the lowest cards of all, a sort of “Do you know who I am?” attitude, when he basically said that Braden didn’t have the right to criticize him because he didn’t have a long track record of success.
Well, if Rodriguez wants to talk about track records, let’s talk about them. This is certainly not the first time his baseball etiquette has been questioned. In fact, it’s at least the third time that I can remember. Oh, and Braden hasn’t been caught using PEDs. And by the way, I doubt Rodriguez would have been so brazen if it was Josh Beckett or Justin Verlander on the mound.
To the larger question of baseball’s unwritten rules, I grew up playing the game so I agree with pretty much all of them. Sure, some of them are silly, I’ll grant you that. But baseball is nothing without its amazing tradition and a mutual respect for the game by all who play it. My only hope is that more players call out arrogant violators like Rodriguez.
Nino Colla: Go ahead and read this: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/390150-the-baseball-cluster-the-unwritten-but-often-spoke-of-rules-of-baseball
I think it was a bit of both. I think Alex Rodriguez is an attention seeker, but I also think Dallas Braden was being a bit over the top looking for some attention of his own.
I absolutely hate, as I pointed out in that article above, the idea of pegging another hitter because your manager told you to. I think it's childish and can also be dangerous, obviously. But it screams of petty school yard antics like "He stole my crayons!" or "He cut in line to use the swing!" Oh, you hit one of my hitters, well now I'm going to hit one of yours! Oh you hit a home run off me and stared at it too long? I'm going to peg you in the back! It's silly and I hate it. It may be a part of the game that has gone on for awhile and someone whose actually played the game for awhile understands it better than I do, but it annoys me to no end.
I don't know if there are any I "agree with" but I certainly see the merits in respecting the game and the people you play against. Something like not stealing a base when you are up by nine runs late in the game is something I definitely support.
Lewie Pollis: The unwritten rules that bug me most happen off the field in early January, in the Hall of Fame voting.
First off, the "no one gets in unanimously" rule is ridiculous. You know how many people care about players' vote totals (besides whether or not they exceed 75%)? No one but the self-important jackasses who fill out the ballots. Ralph Kiner (75.4%) is just as much a Hall-of-Famer as Nolan Ryan (98.8%--I'd love to hear a few of the 1.2% of voters who didn't vote for him explain themselves).
And the rule that only the truly special players get to be first-balloters? What's that about? How do players magically become better candidates over time after they stop playing ?
Almost a full third (32.6%) of HOF voters decided Andre Dawson wasn't worthy after five years of retirement, but was after he'd been out of the game for 13 years. Does that make any sense to anyone?
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