Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report's Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.
This week, we discuss the Tribe's history of being a "second-half team," commend Jeanmar Gomez for his exceptional spot start, and agree that someone needs to tell David Huff he isn't allowed to use Twitter anymore.
I would like to thank this week's participants Dale Thomas and Dan Tylicki 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 going a dismal 34-54 in the first half of the season, the Indians came on shockingly strong after the break and started things off with a four-game sweep of Detroit.
Over the last several seasons, the Indians have historically been a second-half team. Are we in for another round of that this season?
Do you think we will see this team play far better baseball for the rest of this year, or was the Detroit series (and the team's modest success right before the break) just a short-lived stretch of good baseball?
Can the Tribe play .500 ball in the second half? Is there any chance they can get their overall record up to (or even remotely near) .500 by the end of the season?
Samantha Bunten: Over the last 20 years or so, the Tribe has always been a second-half team. This was true in their good seasons and true in their bad ones. This year won't be any different.
As for the Detroit series and the first two games in Minnesota, of course it was just a short-lived stretch of good baseball. Even contending teams can't continue a masterful streak like that for very long. But that doesn't mean it wasn't a very, very good sign.
This team will be better on the back half of the season. I'm not sure they'll make it back to .500, but I bet they'll play over the 50 percent mark in the second half and thus come pretty close.
I fully expect them to pass Kansas City and finish fourth in the division. That doesn't exactly make it a successful season, but it does save it from being a total failure. This is Cleveland. Aim low.
Dale Thomas: A few days ago I might have said, "no way the Indians will be a .500 ball club in the second half." All you have to do is look at how they underachieved in the first half.
After watching them take two games from the Twins (so far) after the Detroit series, I had to reassess my outlook. I was particularly encouraged by game two with the Twins. A close one, and closed out impressively.
That said, I'll start to believe after I see who's traded, and if the Tribe can sustain this level of play for more than six games.
Dan Tylicki: I think that there's a possibility we could inch to .500 as the other teams selling off their players suddenly become more beatable. We would not be affected by something like that as much since we've been giving player time to the younger players.
Plus, we'll be getting Cabrera back, that's big. We'll play better baseball, and if we're lucky we may be able to overtake the Royals for fourth.
2. Just like the Indians are a "second-half team," plenty of individuals in baseball qualify as "second-half players."
Which Tribe players do you see improving or really coming on in the second half of the season? Which Tribe players do you see cooling off or slowing down?
In your opinion, which of the following is most damaging to a player (and consequently, his team): An exceptionally slow start, a big midseason slump, or a really cold finish?
Samantha Bunten: Slow starts create motivational problems that are hard to reverse, and midseason slumps can kill trade value for an individual or turn a team having a midseason slump from a buyer to a seller at the deadline.
But at the end of the day, there is nothing in the world that is worse than a cold finish. Ask anyone who was a Mets fan in 2007. No one remembers what a great season they had. Everyone remembers the epic, 17-game crash at the end of the year that took them from a lock to make the playoffs to the laughingstock of the entire league.
As for how the Tribe's individual players will fare in the second half, Matt LaPorta looks like the surest bet to really heat up. He went into the break swinging a hot bat, and came out of the break the same way.
Kearns has already started to cool off, and will probably continue at his current pace. I hate to complain about Kearns, as there was nearly an entire month of the season where he was pretty much the ONLY person on the team hitting anything at all, but his trade value has tanked. If the Indians were hoping to move him, they should have done so at least a month ago.
That being said, I think Kearns will pick up the pace again...probably the day after the trade deadline.
Dale Thomas: A cold finish is the worst of the lot. Nobody remembers the beginning or middle if you take the grand prize at the end. Anyone who watched the Boston Celtics this year will know what I mean.
LaPorta has come on very strong. That's probably Trevor's fault, but Crowe has also done a few things with his bat. Hafner has cooled off a bit, but hasn't gone out stone cold, and Kearns, in my opinion, will re-establish his stroke.
Nix has shown he can help, Peralta has shown that he's Peralta and will always be Peralta, and I'll just lump our pitching staff into one category: improved, Masterson and Wood not withstanding.
Dan Tylicki: Maybe it's just me, but I see Matt LaPorta having a great second half as he continues to get comfortable in his role. Jayson Nix has suddenly been very good for us of late, but I just can't see him keeping that up. Pitching-wise I think we'll get about what we expect.
As for which is most damaging to a player, it depends on the situation. If we're looking to trade a player, then the midseason slump is definitely the worst. Kearns has flat-lined of late, which is making it hard to get a lot of good talent for him.
If the team doesn't need to trade the player, then the cold finish is worst, as it could make one's own team or others look at the player and not find him effective.
3. Spot starts for pitchers rarely produce anything impressive. For the most part, teams only make such moves when their staff desperately needs rest or there has been an unexpected injury to another member of the rotation. These are not the sort of starts that carry high expectations for the pitcher; teams are usually just hoping they and the pitcher both make it out alive.
So what a pleasant surprise it was when spot-starter Jeanmar Gomez, making his major league debut, cruised to victory in a seven-inning, 93-pitch outing in which he yielded just two runs on five hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
Were you impressed or surprised by Gomez's performance, especially given that he's struggled in Triple-A so far this year?
As is expected with a spot start, Gomez was sent back to the minors immediately following his start on Sunday. Do you think we'll see Gomez again this season? Do you truly think he was ready to face big league hitters? Would he be your first choice for a spot starter should the same situation arise again this season?
Samantha Bunten: Gomez should be commended for doing a fantastic job in his spot start. He handled the knowledge that he would be sent back down immediately afterward flawlessly, pitched a great game, and then got right back on a bus to his next Triple-A game. Oh, and he didn't put any of that on Twitter.
Alas, I don't think Gomez is really, truly ready to face big league hitters on a regular basis. His numbers at Triple-A this season indicate he's even struggling at that level. Still, the way he handled the situation of the spot start combined with his actual pitching performance indicates that we have every reason to think that Gomez will be a major contributor to the staff in the future.
I absolutely think we'll see him in September, but I doubt he'll be our next spot starter. That opportunity should go to Carlos Carrasco or Huff, once he's had enough time to sit and think about what he did.
Dale Thomas: I was really surprised by Gomez' performance. It was kind of inspiring. If we trade away our starters, I would expect to see Gomez get some more time in the bigs.
Otherwise I'd expect Huff to provide some spot starts, provided his phone is confiscated.
Dan Tylicki: I was surprised by Gomez's performance, given that his stats at Triple-A made it look like he was going to be killed when he came up here.
Given his performance, I see him definitely being a September call-up now. I don't think he's 100 percent ready to pitch in the big leagues, but his spot start was great practice.
My first choice would have been Josh Tomlin had he not had that barroom incident. Instead, it would probably be Carrasco, who is hungry to make sure that we forget his failed 2009 tryout.
4. Man, is David Huff ever in trouble.
It goes something like this: The aforementioned spot start on Sunday was reportedly supposed to go to David Huff. Except that Huff decided to post that information on Twitter before the team officially announced it. Oops.
Understandably irked, the Tribe reportedly yanked the start back from Huff because they were unhappy about his actions, opening the door for Gomez to get the call.
Do you think the Indians overreacted to Huff's social networking faux-pas, or were they correct to come down hard on him for his poor judgment?
Generally speaking, should the team have a clearly delineated policy on what players can share online, or is this just something that players should understand on their own? Is it really any different than a player who spills something he shouldn't in an interview?
Samantha Bunten: You know that software parents can buy to monitor or restrict their 13-year-old daughter's internet activity to make sure she isn't making plans online to meet a middle-aged biker gang in an alley? All professional sports teams need to get that to keep track of their players online antics.
This is for the players' own sakes as well as the sake of their organization. A few months ago, a Browns player I follow on Twitter actually tweeted his home address and phone number to all of his 4,000+ followers when he meant to send it privately to just one person. And then there was Sizemore's Mad Tea Party...
Granted, what Huff did wasn't as serious (or at all dangerous to himself), but it was still an over-share that was both unprofessional and strategically stupid. If the team hasn't announced the starter yet, there's probably a reason.
Someone needs to cut off Huff's Internet access until he proves he's responsible enough to use it.
Or maybe the Indians just need a "no tweeting" policy. Trust me, I've read Matt LaPorta's tweets—no one will miss them.
Dale Thomas: In this situation there's a lot more to the timing of naming your starter than "look at me", which is the way I view Huff's Twitter-happy announcement.
I'm okay with what the Indians did. The whole thing will, no doubt, result in some policy adjustments and attempts at heightened control over this sort of thing.
At the end of the day, I see a Twitter message as being a bit more premeditated than a player who spills something he shouldn't in an interview, as the media is pretty good at pouring fuel on whatever fire may be burning.
Dan Tylicki: It was right to come down on him, since he should've been happy he was given a chance when he already had a long leash this season.
I think it would be wise to have a clear policy, just so that it's easier to call people out on it when they pull something stupid like that.
5. Fun Question of the Week: Last Sunday, Jhonny Peralta got an inside-the-park home run on an epically strange play when Detroit outfielder Ryan Rayburn went crashing through the bullpen door trying to field the ball.
Between the strange occurrence of an outfielder falling through the 'pen door and the even stranger fact that Peralta actually made it all the way around the bases that quickly, this may be one of the most bizarre plays we've ever seen.
Aside from the above, what's the strangest play you've ever seen on the field?
Samantha Bunten: I was at an Indians-White Sox game in 1994 when Chicago blew through their starter and entire bullpen in under six innings and had to bring in their right fielder to pitch. He literally had to jog straight in from right field to the mound. His pitching debut went about as well as you'd expect.
The strangeness of that of course pales in comparison to about half the plays Manny Ramirez was involved in when he was with the Tribe. I can still recall Baby Bull trotting down to first for what he thought was a walk three pitches into an at-bat.
Dale Thomas: The strangest play I ever saw was when Jose Mesa threw a curve ball to give up the hit that scored the winning run in Game Seven of the 1997 World Series.
Maybe this isn't exactly what you meant by "play," but man oh man...it's at the top of my 'strange' list.
Dan Tylicki: Besides that one, I remember when Casey Blake hit an inside-the-park home run a few years back. I was in the stands and we were hitting very well that day. Blake came up and hit a ball that bounced just right, somehow none of the Tigers could get to it. Blake didn't seem to be running so fast as to make it happen, but he pulled it out, and it was awesome.
Perhaps it's not as strange as Peralta's, but still strange how it all clicked. Plus I remember it being dollar dog night; the hot dogs tasted especially good after that moment.
As an honorable mention (since I wasn't there): the home run bouncing off Jose Canseco's head has to be included.