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 talk trade deadline and celebrate Christmas in July as Jhonny Peralta is finally shipped out of town, share our two cents' worth on how our AL Central foes will fare in the playoff race, and marvel at Josh Tomlin's spot start.
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. The Yankees are in town for four games this week, just in time for Alex Rodriguez's bid for career home run No. 600.
Obviously, no opposing pitcher wants to give up any sort of milestone hit. Especially a milestone as huge as a 600th home run. Especially to a Yankee. And perhaps mostly to a Yankee like A-Rod.
Do you think A-Rod will hit his 600th this week off Tribe pitching? Any thoughts on who the unlucky pitcher to potentially serve it up might be?
What's your strategy to avoid giving up said home run? Would you pitch to A-Rod any differently in this situation than you normally would, or are you of the opinion that this requires no different strategy from the standard approach dictated by the fact that you never want to give up a homer, whether it's number six or number 600, to an opponent?
Samantha Bunten: At first I wasn't totally opposed to the idea of A-Rod getting number 600 off our pitchers this week because it would be kind of fun to witness No. 600 for any hitter.
Then my mother pointed out that when you factor in the steroids, this is really more like his 16th home run. So he's really only 13 career home runs ahead of Trevor Crowe. I am not impressed.
In all seriousness though, with one game left in the series, it doesn't look like the Tribe will be the team to give up number 600 (*16). That said, I would certainly be careful with him, but mostly because he's still a dangerous hitter, home run count notwithstanding.
And for the record, I would never intentionally walk a hitter to avoid giving up a milestone home run. Any competitive pitcher should want to prove that he can best a competitive hitter by pitching to him.
Of course it IS a little different in this situation: If the hitter blatantly cheated to reach the milestone, shouldn't the pitcher be allowed to cheat just a teeny bit to avoid winding up on the wrong end of it?
Nino Colla: I'm a little selfish, as I'm going to the game on Wednesday, so I'd like A-Rod to hit his 600th home run then, not just to witness some bit of history (tainted or not) and to possibly catch it.
Why not? I'd love to get my hands on the A-Rod 600 home run ball. What would I do with it, you ask? I don't know, I'd definitely hold out for some favors in return.
I wouldn't sell it, because I'm not that type of person, but I'd most definitely want something in return for it. I mean, it's the 600th home run of a possible Hall of Fame player's career. Who wouldn't want to have history in their hands?
I do think he'll hit it this week though, maybe before Wednesday. He may be trying a little harder, because A-Rod tends to press in these situations, so throwing him junk balls down and away couldn't hurt. Or you could pitch him up and in and just make him hit some lazy flies to right field.
If I had to pick one, I'd go with...Joe Smith, just because I'm a hater.
The Coop: Actually, I do NOT think A-Rod will hit No. 600 against the Indians. I believe that, because of what a jerk and cheater he is, the baseball gods will make him wait.
I’m not one to wish injury on a player—even a Grade-A loser on the Yankees—but if there is one guy I’d like to see have a career-ending injury while on the cusp of a milestone, it would be Rodriguez.
Along those lines, then, it should not surprise you that my strategy for pitching to A-Rod would be to give him absolutely nothing to hit whatsoever. Plunk him, give him four wide ones, whatever.
But I wouldn’t let a guy like that celebrate reaching what used to be a sacred plateau. Of course, I am aware that this approach is totally bush league. If it was literally any other hitter still playing, I’d try to get him out as best I could and let the chips fall where they may. But for this jabroney, I would never even give him the satisfaction.
Lewie Pollis: Let me start by saying WE TRADED PERALTA!!!!!!!!!
Anyway, at this point, if it's going to be from us, it's probably going to be Mitch Talbot.
There's no use trying to avoid giving him No. 600 because he's going to get it anyway (though I suppose I wouldn't mind if it took a long time for him to get it), and he really hasn't been much of an offensive threat this year so pitching around him wouldn't make sense.
Frankly, it would be kinda cool to be there to see it (as I will tonight).
2. With Aaron Laffey landing on the DL with a case of dead arm, the Indians have once again found themselves in need of a spot starter for Tuesday's game.
This time, the nod went to right-hander Josh Tomlin. Tomlin is 8-4 with a 2.68 ERA in Columbus (over 17 starts) this season, so his numbers are pretty good. Do you think Tomlin was the correct choice to make the spot start on Tuesday or is there someone else who you think would have been a better pick?
If you were in charge, would Tomlin's recent legal troubles have influenced your decision at all? Is it fair to take a spot start away from David Huff for his twitter miscue, but allow Tomlin to take the mound after being arrested for assault? (Charges have since been downgraded to disorderly conduct.)
Samantha Bunten: At the risk of sounding like a Monday morning quarterback, I'll say I was completely in favor of giving that start to Tomlin. He did a fantastic job, and I'm sure we'll see him again in September.
Tomlin's legal trouble didn't (and shouldn't) have any effect on this decision. Yes, it's not nice to beat people up, he should never have done it, and I fully support the future decision of the court system to make him spend his offseason picking up trash on the side of a freeway.
But in terms of how the bad behavior of Tomlin and Huff relates to the team, Huff was clearly the one who made the sort of mistake that should absolutely cost you a chance for a call-up.
Huff's violation was baseball-related, so it's through baseball that he should have been punished. Perhaps the Indians can have him collect trash around the stadium for a comparable punishment to Tomlin's.
Nino Colla: I'm not sure if Tomlin was the correct choice, but he certainly is deserving of the shot. I actually think given their options, this actually makes the most sense outside David Huff.
I think Huff would make the most sense other than Tomlin because of the fact that he's got that major league experience and he's been good in Columbus the past few times out.
I think Gomez needs to stick around in Triple-A as I think that start in the major leagues really kick-started him and I'd like to see him rip through some AAA hitters before we get him back up here.
I think Carlos Carrasco left his last start anyway with more arm issues, so I'd rule him out. I don't want his next start to be in the majors after dealing with an injury.
Tomlin makes sense because he's pitched well and he is deserving of the shot. As for his legal issues, not a factor for me at all.
It's kind of a different situation from that of Huff as David directly disobeyed orders from the organization. What Tomlin did was way worse on ethical and moral grounds, but that was a few months ago and right now, I think there is no real reason to hold him back from making the start.
The Coop: Well, since I’m writing this on Wednesday, I would be an idiot to say anything suggesting Tomlin was NOT the right call after his masterful performance on Tuesday evening.
But, even before watching him shred the Yankees on Tuesday, I feel that, based on what he’s done at Columbus this year, he was as deserving as anyone.
At this point, the Indians are in a situation where everyone is going to get their chance at some point. Sure, some will be called up later in the season, and most won’t get to make their major league debut against the Yankees, but if these guys have the right focus and attitude, they can make the most out of their opportunity.
That’s all we should care about as fans: not who gets called up and when, but what they do when they get here. As far as the disciplinary problems that Tomlin had, I could not care less. I’m sure he was out of line in the barroom brawl, but I could make a case that Huff’s tweet was for more egregious because it put the (major league) team at a competitive disadvantage.
Bottom line? Both guys did dumb things, but Tomlin gets guys out and Huff doesn’t.
Lewie Pollis: Given that he held the Yankees to one run in seven innings, I'm going to go ahead and say he was a good pick. But yeah, I think I would have made the same call.
As for his arrest, that had nothing to do with baseball. Huff's tweet was a direct breach of protocol, but plenty of players have committed non-baseball-related crimes off the field and gotten away with it (No one complains about Babe Ruth's drinking during Prohibition.).
3. Let's take a moment to discuss how the rest of the AL Central is faring as we head into the thick of the pennant race.
As of Monday, Chicago, Minnesota, and Detroit were not only all very much still in the race, but all within two games of each other.
Who do you see as the winner in the end, and why?
Additionally, part of the reason we keep having to address this question is that no one in the division seems to be able to gain a big enough lead—or hold on to one at all—for very long.
Combine that with winning percentages that are pretty low for division leaders, and it looks like even the winner here won't be much threat to other playoff teams. Do you agree?
Is there any chance the AL central representative in the 2010 playoffs gets out of the first round alive, or will the league-wide rumblings that the division is weak gain credence when the division's postseason team makes an early exit?
Samantha Bunten: At this point, you have to like the White Sox as the easy favorite because Minnesota has spiraled into disaster and Detroit...well, it traded for Jhonny Peralta. That says it all.
As for how the Central Division champ will fare in the playoffs, it isn't really about how they stack up against the other contenders right now.
The team that wins in the playoffs is rarely the best team; it's the hottest team. That's how Chicago won a World Series in 2005. It could do it again this year depending on how hot (and how lucky) it is this October.
Nino Colla: I picked Chicago before the season started and things didn't look good, but I actually stayed with my pick because I love its pitching, Peavy or no Peavy.
I'm going to hold steady with the Sox, just because I feel good about them. Key words in this question are "looks like." Yes, so the division winner won't look too impressive in terms of the Rangers or Angels, the AL East Winner and its Wild Card team, because let's face it, the AL East gets its two teams in.
Chicago, Minnesota, and Detroit all look like they couldn't hang with any of the other playoff teams, but that is why playoff baseball is great. Anything can happen, especially in a short series when a team like Chicago could have Danks, Buehrle, and Floyd in four out of the five games.
The Coop: In the round table season preview, I went with Detroit as the AL Central champion, followed by Minnesota, Chicago, Cleveland, and Kansas City. I was the only person who picked Detroit.
I’d like to be stubborn, but I just can’t go with Detroit. Its recent loss of Ordonez and the fact that it has a ridiculous schedule down the stretch will be too much to overcome.
But let’s be honest—Chicago had one of the greatest Junes/early-Julys in major league history, and it's only a half game up on Minnesota and 4 in front of Detroit? What does that tell you about Chicago and the rest of the division?
Normally I hate the blanket dismissals of leagues, conferences, and divisions as strong or weak. But the AL Central, as presently constituted (including the decimating injuries that have been suffered along the way), is downright pathetic. I don’t see any of these teams making any noise in the playoffs.
Lewie Pollis: I really liked the White Sox as a sleeper team before the season started, and I still think they have the highest upside.
I guess the question is which team will show up for the rest of the season: the anemic lollygaggers who we beat up on in April or the red-hot intimidating club that's made up so much ground the last couple months. I can't say with certainty which way it will go.
As for the playoffs, I don't think any serious fan truly believes that the best team always wins. Seven games isn't nearly a large enough sample size to truly determine which team is more talented. It really boils down to luck.
4. This is the last week before the MLB trade deadline, and our last chance to predict what moves the Tribe will make before July 31st comes and goes.
Indians rumored to be on the block: Kerry Wood, Fausto Carmona, Jhonny Peralta, Austin Kearns, and Jake Westbrook.
Please rank those five players in descending order from the most likely to the least likely to be traded.
If you could only move one of them, who would you move? Where? What would you want in return?
Finally, which of the above do you think has a chance to clear waivers and thus be a possible trade candidate after the July 31st deadline?
(Author's Note: Some panelists submitted their responses to this question before Jhonny Peralta was traded to the Tigers on Wednesday.)
Samantha Bunten: Jhonny Peralta is gone! Jhonny Peralta is gone!
Ok, I'm done now.
Realistically, Westbrook is the most likely to be dealt before the deadline. A lot will depend on how his salary would be divided up between the Tribe and the recipient, but he's the most appealing player we have to a potential suitor who is in need of a boost in the back-end of its rotation.
Kearns won't fetch half what he would have in June, but he could still go before the deadline. There's no way he'll clear waivers, so this one is now or never.
Wood could easily be moved in August, so it's unlikely he goes before the deadline. I'm still not certain he's truly movable at all given his salary, injury history, and general mediocrity, but on the other hand, if you can move Peralta, you can move anyone.
As for Carmona, there is absolutely no logical reason to trade him. I realize logic doesn't often factor into Mark Shapiro's decisions, but moving him now given his performance this season and contract status just makes the move seem totally unlikely regardless.
Nino Colla: 1. Kerry Wood; 2. Austin Kearns; 3. Jake Westbrook; 4. Jhonny Peralta; 5. Fausto Carmona.
Just because Kerry Wood is first doesn't mean he'll get traded first though. I think Wood is gone AFTER the non-waiver deadline, whereas Kearns goes before. That basically answers the last question, as I think Wood is probably the only guy you'd trade after the non-waiver deadline.
If I could only trade one, I'd trade Austin Kearns, mainly to open up playing time for all our young outfielders. I love Kearns, I'd love to have him as a fourth outfielder on my team and he's a great bench player, but that is what should make him attractive to other teams.
The big thing in dealing him is playing time for other players, which is far more valuable in my eyes. I love Kearns, but I think he needs to get dealt.
The Coop: In order of most likely to be traded to least likely, I’ll go with Wood, Kearns, Westbrook, Carmona, and Peralta.
If I could only move one, it would be Kerry Wood. He is making too much money for the performance he is providing, and in my opinion, the Indians have far superior options for the closer role. OK, I’ll say it. He’s garbage. But, he might be just what another contender needs. Bullpen “help” is hard to come by.
Then again, Jake Westbrook hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, and he’s not cheap either, but he’s done more than Wood, that’s for sure.
The only one that would clear waivers is Peralta. I don’t honestly believe that anyone has called the Indians to ask about him. He’s the only guy who could hit an inside-the-park home run and have his trade value actually decrease because people got to see exactly how slow he really is.
I don’t think any of these guys, if moved, will command anything special, so I’m not expecting much. I’m not going to hate on Kearns like I normally do, but anyone who thinks that he will fetch a decent prospect or two in return is crazy.
If the Indians trade Carmona, I will be furious.
Lewie Pollis: I can say with great certainty that Jhonny Peralta will be dealt. I am Nostradamus.
Aside from him, I'd say Westbrook, Kearns, Wood, Carmona. Though I think Kearns is the most likely to be dealt before the non-waiver deadline because he has no chance of clearing waivers.
I think Wood will be dealt sometime in August. Westbrook could go either way.
5. Fun Question of the Week: As we mentioned, the Yankees are in town this week. Everyone likes to beat the Yankees, but do you really get more satisfaction out of that than you would out of hammering a divisional rival like Detroit or Chicago?
Of all the other teams in MLB, who do you most enjoy watching the Indians beat, and why?
Samantha Bunten: I enjoy beating anyone who I consider a rival (Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago), anyone thinks they're entitled to win (Yankees), and anyone who is blatantly in bed with ESPN (Boston).
It's just so tough to pick a favorite when there are so many appealing choices!
I guess the one that tops the list varies from year-to-year according to who is currently the most competitive with the Tribe for teams within the division, and who is currently the most obnoxious for teams outside the division.
Overall, I suppose I'll pick the White Sox for their season-to-season consistency of being totally hateful, and because I'm trying to cut Detroit a break today because of the terrible, terrible, uh, gain it suffered yesterday.
Nino Colla: I get satisfaction out of seeing games like the 22-0 one in the Yankee Stadium opening assault of 2009. It gives more satisfaction because they spent millions and millions and maybe even billions of dollars on their baseball team's on-field talent, yet we still beat them 22-0.
Sure every team has their embarrassing losses, but you just don't lose 22-0 like that when you buy your entire team with millions of dollars going to each player.
Really, I get enjoyment from watching the Indians beat anyone...so yeah, let's just beat everyone and everyone will be happy, right?
The Coop: This one is easy, it’s the Red Sox. Yes, I hate the Yankees as well, but there is no one I hate more than Boston.
The only thing that’s better than beating Boston is beating Boston in Fenway. There’s nothing funnier to me than 40,000 clam chowder-eating, Sweet Caroline-singing, pizza-throwing buffoons going home unhappy.
I suppose when the Indians become a contender again, I will thoroughly enjoy beating the division rivals. But until that day, it’s the bums from Beantown.
Lewie Pollis: The Yankees, plain and simple. I am a proud Yankee Hater and have the official cap to show for it.
My passion for the Red Sox as my other favorite team was initially fully driven by my hatred for the Bombers.