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 wonder if we should buy what the Indians are selling based on last week's successful run, discuss the possibility of Jake Westbrook being moved, and contemplate how much an off-day is really worth.
I would like to thank this week's participants Dale Thomas and Jon Sladek 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. Last week the Tribe won consecutive series against the Royals and Orioles, marking the first time this season that they emerged victorious in back-to-back series.
Winning just two series in a row is not normally an accomplishment of any significance, but when your team is playing under .500 ball, you take what you can get.
That said, can we really put any stock into this small success? Does the Tribe winning two consecutive series indicate that perhaps they're beginning to turn it around, or was it merely the product of playing two teams who may be even worse than the Indians?
Do you think the Indians did anything differently last week that enabled them to be successful, or were they merely the better of two bad teams on the field?
Samantha Bunten: A win is a win, especially when you only have 15 of them on the season, so I don't want to complain too much that the team finally got it right, even if that only lasted for a week.
That being said, like we've talked about before in this column, the front office sold this as a rebuilding year, but that's just not what it looks like. Mostly this looks like a team that is spinning and has a total lack of focus and direction. If the Tribe wants to sell us hope based on one good week, they're going to have to cut the price if they want us to buy.
What happened last week probably started off as a fluke, but success breeds more success, so I'm guessing that once the team got rolling, it was easier to keep the fire going.
The idea of staying motivated and giving maximum effort like that is really what this team both needs and lacks in a general sense. Despite their lack of success, the Indians are still not as bad talent-wise as their performance thus far in the season has indicated.
They've caught some bad breaks, sure, but what is really costing them is their failure to maintain effort and enthusiasm on a consistent basis. Last week the Indians did well because they saw a lot of really bad pitching, but that won't be the case most of the time.
Staying motivated and working hard isn't going to turn this team into a contender this year, but it will improve the win-loss record for more than just one week.
Jon Sladek: I see no sign of this team turning anything around except fans who considered heading to the ballpark for a game.
They have all the traits of a horrible baseball team: blown saves, stranded runners inning after inning, ill-timed errors. They find a way to turn wins into losses. I was not doing doing back-flips when they took a couple series' last week.
Dale Thomas: I'm not going to run right out and put a down payment on my World series tickets, but for now, I'll take heart in some incremental improvements.
It looks like Westbrook is coming around, and it was great to see him go the distance against Baltimore. Talbot has been very steady and continues to impress. Carmona has shown us good things, and I haven't given up on Huff just yet. Our relief is still really a scary thing though, so I've found it better to experience the late innings with my eyes closed and my fingers crossed.
Our offense is just sputtering along as usual in my opinion, and has shown no real signs of sustained improvement. For example, in Saturday's win over Baltimore, we were scoreless through eight. I'm used to this. Then they bring in their relievers and we just light 'em up.
This is just the result of facing bad pitching, although I give Kearns credit for his three-run blast, which was good enough to win that game. However, with Redmond and Crowe accounting for two runs apiece, I have to look to terrible pitching from Simon and Meredith for giving the Tribe those freebies, all in the ninth. Yikes!
Bottom line is we're apparently not as bad as those guys. These days, that's quite a compliment to the team.
2. On a related note to the above question, one victory in the aforementioned series was the Tribe's 8-2 win over Baltimore on Saturday night in which they scored eight runs in the ninth inning for a huge come-from-behind victory.
This would seem to indicate that the offense, which we've criticized so heavily for failing to live up to our expectations, is at least capable on some level of the ability to score runs that we believed they had.
Do you think this means the offense has finally gotten it together? Does it make you happy that they finally had a true breakout game, or are you just that much more frustrated that they've proven they're capable of such a feat after all but have failed to live up to their potential on all but this one occasion?
Samantha Bunten: I don't think there was ever a doubt that the offense had the potential to blow up like they did in the ninth inning on Saturday night, which really just makes it all that more frustrating. It just evokes a vision of a team that has the talent, but not the determination, to put a lot of runs on the board.
The Indians have a run differential of -36 and the Orioles have a run differential of -56, so do the math. The Tribe pounded out a huge inning against a team even more likely to allow eight unanswered runs than they are.
If the Indians were getting blown out every day, it would be one thing, but generally they lose by a handful of runs, resulting in a negative run differential that has slowly progressed to being pretty far to the wrong side of zero.
Sure, this could have been a breakout game if the Indians had used it to keep their momentum going, but they didn't. We all know this team can score runs, but until they actually do so consistently, that doesn't mean much.
Jon Sladek: Take a good, long look at the Tribe's batting order one through nine. Do you honestly think any of those names scare anybody? They will be fortunate to have one 20-homerun guy this year. They have used Austin Kearns, Jhonny Peralta and Travis Hafner in the clean-up role. What else needs to be said?
Dale Thomas: Maybe I can be more succinct on this one: No.
Whereas I'm always happy when we hit the ball, and happier when we get to put a toe on home plate, I didn't consider this to be a breakout game.
We played a bad team for one thing, got some freaky hits off poor relief for another, and we continue to struggle with offensive consistency as always, since we do have to account for those first eight innings.
I think I'm just frustrated to the regular amount, which is a lot already, so this didn't make it any worse...wait a sec...actually it was really really cool that the Indians won while the Cavs were blowing up into total rubble. Go Tribe!!
3. The fact that the Indians would very much like to move Kerry Wood if possible has been crystal clear for a long time. More interesting is the recent buzz that it might be both possible and in the team's best interest to look into trading surprise success Jake Westbrook.
Westbrook is one of the highest paid players on the roster, but may also be one of the most movable, given his solid performance thus far in the season. The only thing that might deter potential suitors is his injury history.
Do you think that the Tribe will want to move Westbrook, and if so, do you think they can draw enough interest from other teams to get a fair return for him?
If you were another team looking to pick up a pitcher, would you consider Westbrook, given his salary and injury history? About how much would you be willing to give up in return for him?
Samantha Bunten: At the moment, Westbrook would be one of the easiest guys on the whole team to trade, if the Tribe were inclined to make such a move.
The Indians, who have a proven track record of willingness to sell low in general, would surely give Westbrook away for a discount in order to move his salary since he's relatively expensive for our payroll and not really part of the long-term plan.
His injury history and mediocre overall success rate might give teams pause, but at this point he's doing well enough (and will likely come cheap enough) that he should get a lot of looks from contending teams looking for a solid fourth or fifth starter.
I expect he could fetch a B-level prospect in return, especially if the Indians were willing to eat a portion of his salary. That said, I'd rather the Tribe hung on to Westbrook for the time being. He's been a bright spot and a helpful contributor to our success this year among a team of underachievers, and could likely be re-signed for a short-term, financially modest contract that might allow the Indians to get a few more years out of him. At this point, that might be worth more than what they would get for him in trade.
Jon Sladek: Westbrook is a quality starter and if he finds a little more consistency, he could surely help a contender down the stretch.
Dale Thomas: Well if I were another team, I'd trade for Westbrook in a heartbeat. I'd be willing to ante up my Victor Martinez bobble head with the attachable chest protector AND the mitt, plus a pocket fisherman, my buttoneer and half a sham-wow...well, maybe not the sham-wow, but I'd throw in a small box of jujubes cause everybody likes those.
What I mean is, here's a 33-year-old guy cobbled together with nuts and bolts and rubber bands with a lifetime ERA of 4.30 to compliment his 'under .500' win-loss record. His best season was back in 2004 when he went 14-9, followed by a couple of years of 14-15 wins, but equal losses.
Now it's not like the guy is a total schlock, not at all, but he does pose several risks to any suitor and we all know Shapiro can't be trusted to get more than the bobblehead in a trade. No way he'd bring home the sham-wow or jujubes.
And speaking of Martinez, we got no pitching for him, no pitching for CC and no pitching for Lee (and Marson isn't a major league catcher either).
The Tribe's best bet here is to get Jake to sign for a downsized, way-less-money two-year deal, or get a fan to do the player evaluations for a trade.
All that said, I expect the Tribe to send him off to a competitor since he can still throw a decent game, and get zilch in return... I mean jeez, Asdrubal had to break an arm and Grady had to bat blindfolded and blow up a knee to stay off the trading blocks.
In the mean time, I figure since the pitching mound is pretty close to third base, Peralta will find a way to crash into Westbrook while fielding a bunt. Peralta will see this as showing enthusiasm, while Westbrook will see stars and birdies twirling around his eyes.
4. The baseball season is a long, arduous, 162-game grind where often the last man standing is merely the one who managed to hang on the longest.
The Tribe is currently in the midst of a 16-game stretch without an off-day, and will be hit with a 20-game stretch without one going into the All Star Break.
Players and managers often say the team is tired and "needs an off-day". But what exactly is an off-day worth? Can one day off really give players adequate rest if they need it, or help a struggling team to right itself?
Do you think the Tribe's performance will suffer significantly during these long stretches without a break, or are big stretches without an off-day merely a part of the game that won't affect a team's overall production?
Samantha Bunten: An off-day, just like one consistent player on a mostly inconsistent team, is a small thing that can help the cause in some way, but isn't going to perform miracles.
I think off-days can be very useful in giving a player who is a little sore a brief respite, in restoring a bit of energy to a tired group of ballplayers, and in helping a team that has had a bad stretch right their ship. What it can't do is heal an injury, change a team's overall attitude, or turn a loser into a winner.
Baseball is a game of little things, and one off-day is one more little thing that can help a team that knows how to use it. Being forced to play these long stretches without a day of rest will be rough on the Tribe, but it won't be any rougher on them than it is on every other team, and every squad faces stretches like this at some point during the season. It won't hurt the Indians any more than it hurts any other team unless they let it.
Jon Sladek: In the name of all that is holy, I shudder at the thought of the Tribe's current performance "suffering significantly."
Dale Thomas: If you're kind of beat up and all your muscles ache and that kind of stuff, then I think a day off is pretty valuable...IF you spend that day off resting.
If you've got a nagging injury, then a single day off probably won't help you much. It might even tighten things up for you and risk further injury based on that theory that it's easier for something in motion to stay in motion than it is for something that's stopped to restart its motion.
Aside from that, it's probably safe to say a player might be in a better mood for having a day off. I mean we DO care about that at the pro level, right?
I don't think it will hurt overall performance during those long stretches unless you are Peralta, who would consider having a ball hit to him in three straight innings a total abuse of his right to nap.
Dairy farmers, for example will work 365-day stretches followed immediately by another 365-day stretch, for...let's say 30 years straight. A Bull, of course, is required to keep the herd going, so they also have to account for being charged and stomped...thus the Peralta factor also applies. Cows rarely get traded, but there's lots of manure to shovel up, so now we've accounted for the Shapiro factor.
All summed up, if a herdI mean a baseball team can't play a game where you sit on a bench for half the length that game for 20 days straight, then they simply have no fortitude.
5. Fun Question of the Week: It's time to play favorites.
Sometimes our favorite players aren't the best guys on the field. Unless you're a front-running fan, you probably are partial to certain players in spite of the fact that they aren't the most productive on the field.
Given that we're Indians fans it's probably safe to say that none of us are front-runners, so tell us: which player(s) on the team are you hopelessly attached to despite the fact that they really aren't any good?
On the other hand, are there any players on the team who are doing well, but you just don't like anyway?
Feel free to make irrational decisions on who you're partial to; after all, we've accused our own front office of doing the exact same thing on multiple occasions.
Samantha Bunten: I realize that Grady Sizemore isn't a favorite among many fans these days, but it wasn't so long ago that he was everybody's hero. His attitude, enthusiasm, and effort haven't changed. He caught a bad break with injuries, which snowballed into a lack of confidence and loss of plate discipline. I guess what I'm saying is, let's cut this guy a break.
Going on the DL may be the best thing for both him and the team, other than the fact that this means we'll have to see Trevor Crowe more often, which leads me to the second part of the question...
I hate, hate, hate Trevor Crowe. His effort level is far below what it should be for a player whose career average is .246. The fact that he's hitting .350 in five games since being recalled this year doesn't impress me. He's the antithesis of Sizemore, Cabrera, Kearns, and uh, whoever that one other person on the team is who appears to actually be trying.
Bottom line: I'll give players who struggle but work hard a million chances, but if you're not going to bring your A-game, whether you're batting .100 or .300, I'd rather you just stayed home.
Jon Sladek: I like Mike Redmond. Even though he is a career journeyman and his best days are behind him, he does play the game the right way and gives you everything he's got.
Guys I don't like? Wow, lets start with Sizemore, who is the most undisciplined hitter I have ever seen. Russell Branyan hits homeruns, but I have always hated his "all or nothing" approach. I hate guys that wildly wave at pitches and strike out too much, so basically, half the team.
Dale Thomas: I'm a total fan of Grady Sizemore and have been since he arrived. He's always had such a great attitude, and seems to truly enjoy the game.
He works extremely hard and throws himself around for the team. He doesn't even think about being close to the wall or whatever. You can tell the guys who do because they look...and look again...then miss the ball.
He runs hard to first each and every time, even though it may be pointless. He turns doubles into triples and he doesn't do a lot of "look at me" dancing when he makes a great play.
He signs stuff for fans, and always looks inward when he doesn't do well. I hope, for him more than any other player, that he heals up and finds his stroke again. He's a good guy and he's good for baseball.