Corner of Carnegie and Ontario: The end of the beginning of the end?
While life can certainly sometimes get in the way, baseball never stops. So, after a week off in which the real life went into overdrive, I'm back with a two-parter. Here's part one. Look for part two at this time tomorrow...after Tony's Tribe Happenings.
This isn’t going to come as news to anybody, but Grady Sizemore has been shut down for the rest of the 2012 season. Sizemore was running in preparation for his “long awaited” minor league rehab assignment, when he felt pain in his surgically repaired right knee. For those counting at home, Sizemore has now played in 210 games over the past four seasons. While you can average that out to roughly 53 games a season since 2009, the only thing that matters in 2012 is that he didn’t play a single game.
I’ve always been a big Grady Sizemore fan. His style of play is everything that you love about the game of baseball. He was fearless as both a defensive player, and at the plate. There was nothing more satisfying as a baseball fan than to watch Sizemore charge a ball and make a diving catch on a sure-fire single, or seeing him crash into a wall stealing a multiple base-hit, or a home run.
His aggressiveness at the plate was a bit more frustrating, as he could strike out at an alarming rate. He had 130+ K’s four times, with two of those seasons topping off at over 150. With that said, his OBP during his prime stretch from 2005-2008 was .370. During that four-year stretch, the samarai outfielder missed only nine ballgames, and averaged 22 homers, 29 stolen bases and 116 runs. He won two gold gloves during that stretch, and was clearly the top player on this team once Victor Martinez was traded away to Boston.
Last fall, before any major free agents had signed with any other team, the Indians signed Sizemore to an incentive-laden, one-year, five million dollar deal. It was a monumental mistake.
I’m not saying that the Indians thought-process was wrong. I’m not even saying that throwing money towards Sizemore was wrong. But the Indians managed to back themselves into a corner even before the major cogs that they were looking at signing to potentially play in the outfield went anywhere else when they signed him to an insane five million dollar deal, when there wasn’t any other teams offering up that type of money. Even if there was, there was enough doubt about his health to warrant letting him go. I know I wasn’t the only person thinking that it was possible Sizemore wouldn’t play at all this year.
Not only did that five million dollars likely keep the Indians from signing another major player, but NOT having Sizemore as an option absolutely decimated this club. That single move allowed guys like Johnny Damon and Aaron Cunningham to get substantial at bats, and was a big factor in why the Indians run differential is so ridiculous.
It’s the kind of move that should cost Chris Antonetti his job.
No, it’s not his fault that Sizemore didn’t play at all this year. No, it’s not his fault that the market the Indians play in force him to have to take Sizemore-like gambles. But, the performance brought on by that deal has to be a part of his job evaluation. When you look at the body of work over the last year-and-a-half in conjunction WITH the Sizemore signing, you have enough evidence that someone is just not doing a good job right now.
Like the Indians “window,” the margin for error on moves like this is small, and if you make more than one big mistake, it can’t be overlooked, regardless of the reasoning.
While the deal was a massive bonehead move, I don’t fault Sizemore or his agent for putting his name on the dotted line. I’ve heard some folks say that Sizemore owed it to the Indians to disclose how injured he truly was. Well, there is a hazy shade of grey with the truth behind that, but again, don’t the Indians have a choice to get a good look at the player they are about to sign?
The interesting piece to all of this is that it’s distinctly possible that the Indians sign Sizemore again next year, and while I have a definitive thought as to whether or not they should or shouldn’t sign him, I’ll hold off on vocalizing that until they do or don’t, and see a monetary value.
Lost in all of this is the fact that a really gifted ballplayer has likely lost his ability to be “special,” which is the true loss in all of this. Sizemore could do things that only a handful in the league can do right now, and it’s a shame those days are likely long gone.
Trust me when I say this Grady, we do miss you. The 26-year-old version of yourself may have fixed the offense enough to keep the torrential slide from happening. Unfortunately, that player is long gone.
The other big news this week really shouldn’t be big news. Shin Soo Choo has apparently been offered several long-term deals over the past few years, but to no avail. It was clear when Choo hired Scott Boras nearly two years ago that the Indians chances at signing the right-fielder to a pre-emptive multi-year deal were gone. Boras doesn’t believe in it, as it doesn’t ever maximize a player’s value. For a player, Boras is a dream come true. To a small-market team like the Indians, he’s the anti-christ.
Still, to hear Antonetti say it out loud puts an official nail into Choo’s coffin as a player for the Indians going forward. The Tribe legitimately tried to move him during the trade deadline, and in my opinion, will be able to move him over the winter, or at next season’s deadline if they so choose. The can also get compensatory draft picks for him when he eventually signs elsewhere, so the Indians aren’t in a lose-lose situation here.
The only question that remains with regards to Choo’s future is who is going to make the decision with regards to his departure. Chris Antonetti and the front office has flubbed these types of trades since 2007, so I have absolutely no faith in anything that can be potentially done. I know I’ll get some disagreement there, but there really hasn’t been a sure-fire win with regards to a “name-trade,” with the mild exception of the V-Mart deal for Masterson.
Of course, the stubborn brass could decide to hold onto Choo until the trade deadline thinking that this team could contend in 2013, but the thought of another Antonetti-led deadline deal already has my heart beating much too quickly. I’m not saying this team COULDN’T contend in 2013, there just needs to be many, many pieces added to it, and dealing Choo for more than one piece would be a way to do it. They hold many of the cards if they do something this winter, but will lose a lot of that leverage when he becomes a rental. You also run the risk of a start to his 2013 season the same way he started 2011 and 2012. To get maximum value, a winter deal may be the way to go.
The only question: should Antonetti be the one to make it?
The problem with any deal at this point is that after a confluence of screw ups, starting with the Ubaldo Jimenez trade in 2011, moving through the winter of discontent in 2011/2012; through the 2012 deadline of the abyss, there should be absolutely no confidence in any move this front office will make. I don’t care who or what you blame, whether it be the Dolans, the economy, the Colavito curse, or if you think there’s bad shakra, Antonetti has to be the focal point of the blame with regards to the make-up of the team. He’s the GM, and it’s his job to figure out ways around the ownership…around the economy…around 12 people showing up…and around the ridiculous governing rules of baseball…and anything else that gets in the way of building a good club. Personally, I could care less whether or not Antonetti would “kill it” in a town with more money. I won’t be a fan of that town…or that team, so who cares. What I need right now is a GM and a front office that understands when a philosophical change needs to take place, and does it. If I hire someone to manage my finances, and I go broke even if the economy sucks, he gets fired, and hopefully BEFORE I go broke.
I like Chris Antonetti. He’s created roots in Cleveland, by all accounts, loves the city, and wants to bring the team a World Series. Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s the right man for the job. It’s clear that the current philosophy isn’t working. You can blame it on poor drafting over the years. You can blame it on poor trades over the years. You can blame it on poor attendance equating to a team lacking in cash. You can blame it on owners that clearly haven’t got a clue. You can blame it on underperforming players. You can blame it on whatever you want. At the end of the day, right or wrong, it’s the philosophy that carries the brunt of the blame.
To be the GM in Cleveland, you have to be close-to-perfect. If you make mistakes, that’s fine, as long as you make some good moves. There haven’t been many good moves made here in awhile.
I understand that Cleveland is a hard market. I understand that winning here takes a monumental effort, but it can happen. I’m just not convinced that the team in place is the right one.
Which leads me to Manny Acta. I can honestly say that I don’t know what kind of manager he is. I really believe that he has everything you need to be a really good manager. I like his attitude, and I like his demeanor. I would love to see what would have happened to this team over the five years prior to his hire if he would have been there instead of Wedge.
I was never a fan of his philosophy, and his “dog house” ridded this team of several players that turned out to be solid players elsewhere. Let’s face it…I haven’t liked the guy since the Brandon Phillips debacle, and while he had his merits, I was just never a fan.
With Acta, while I know he is a metrics guy in many ways, there is also a feel to his style of managing. There are definitely styles of player that he likes, and there are definitely styles of play that he doesn’t. He seems to have the players respect, and has that players’ approach, but this certainly isn’t a Boston Red Sox sort of locker room.
He gets a lot out of this team at times, but it sometimes seems like he’s ringing out a dry rag. There just doesn’t seem to be a whole lot more to get out of this team.
He seems irritated at this point, and while I wouldn’t say he’s lost the team, the season is clearly lost. It will be interesting to me to see if he can’t pull something together over this next month to build some momentum into 2013. I do feel like it will play a HUGE part in whether or not he’s brought back.
Of course, there could be other factors that lead to a decision.
That other factor could be one Sandy Alomar Jr. I like polls. I would love to see what a fan poll of who should be manager next season between Sandy Alomor Jr. and Manny Acta. My guess is that Alomar would win by a landslide.
His name is an interesting one. He’s already being bantered about as a favorite to manage in Houston. Alomar is considered by many to be a comer as far as managers go, and while that is always up for conjecture, I happen to agree. Does that mean he should be the next manager in Cleveland? The easy answer is yes, but not necessarily.
Alomar would immediately bring some goodwill to this team, and would immediately be considered the top free agent pick-up of the offseason. His coaching staff would likely be interesting to say the very least, as I’m sure we’d see some familiar faces poking around from those 90’s teams.
The question is, would he be able to win here in Cleveland? Remember, Manny Acta was considered a comer as well. Look what he’s been dealt. There’s no guarantee that Alomar would be given anything better, and the weight of it all would be tremendous on Alomar. How long would the goodwill last with the same old garbage being dealt by ownership?
If Alomar is brought it, I won’t lie, I’d be ecstatic…both as a fan of this team…and just to see what he could do. I just don’t know that this ownership will allow him to do much of anything.
You see, it’s extremely complicated right now with this team. There are break-downs at every level, from the owners, to the front office, to the on-field management, to the team. Perhaps the best bet would be to allow these Columbus guys to come up with Sarbaugh with the idea that the Indians are a ten-year plan.
I certainly don’t know though, because there’s a whole bunch of disarray…and you have to wonder if the dumping of players in 2008 and 2009 doesn’t resemble the Pirates disassembling in the early 1990’s, when guys like Bonds, Van Slyke and Bonilla were shipped off, and the team went into a 20-year tailspin. There are obvious differences, since the Pirates were yearly contenders, but the disarray in ownership and leadership certainly mirror each other…
Let’s hope that’s not the case.
Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sizemore was a gift to Cleveland, and I wish him the best.
Jim Pete: the Pirates had to lose, and once they figured that out, they recovered and can now contend.
Pay or lose.
If you can't buy a pennant, you have to lose to be able to draft one of the two or three, possible impact kids in the annual HS & college player draft.
The Indians keep playing over their heads thanks to some pretty good front office moves, thanks to some excellent managing, and thanks to some young men who give it their all every game.
It's time to take a break, release all the 4-A players, and move everybody up in the minors another level or two.
Find out who can play and who can't, and draft kids with huge upsides like Paulino (Who should be at Akron next year).
Minors will lose a lot of games for a few years. That should be acceptable to Cleveland fans if the future is brighter.
I also don't see it as a tough call with Antonetti , we need a new direction at the top. All is not lost below, we have a number of primo young prospects, all of them aren't going to bomb out.
Grady seems like this generation's Pete Reiser, another multi tooled gifted OF who played so hard be beat himself up and shortened his career.