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Poor Drafts A Big Reason For Tribe's Failure

June 25, 2009
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Back in 2002 when Indians Owner Larry Dolan and General Manager Mark Shapiro implemented "The Plan", the idea was to build from within with a focus on pitching that would "come in waves".

Seven years later those waves have been reduced to barely a ripple in what has been a sea of disappointment that has been "The Plan". The fact that the Indians have very little on the current pitching staff and virtually nothing available to help at Triple-A or even Double-A is pretty damning in itself, and is a big reason why the 2009 season is circling the drain and the immediate future may be as well.

We are about seven years to the day since "The Plan" was put into action following the Bartolo Colon trade, and the pitching in the system is arguably worse now than it was when they started it with that trade. Yes, there have been some unfortunate injuries along the way (Adam Miller), unexpected falls (Fausto Carmona), and poor decision making (Jeremy Guthrie). But, the bottom line is the results, and those results show very little right now at the big league level to stabilize this pitching staff not only in the starting rotation but the bullpen as well. And there is very little at the Double-A and Triple-A level that can impact this team. Where are all the arms?

The one guy who has been a stabilizing force on the staff the last two years has been Cliff Lee, a guy they got from another organization and came into the system pretty much big league ready with little development needed to finish him off. David Huff is the lone bright spot from their system, though he is still young and working his way into being more comfortable and consistent as a big league pitcher. He looks like a keeper and mainstay in the middle of the Indians rotation for years to come, but what about the rest of the staff?

Young guys like Carmona, Rafael Perez, and Jensen Lewis who were counted on to be integral pieces to this pitching staff have fallen hard. It's almost like someone came along and just ripped the magic carpet they were riding on right out from under them. That's how hard and far they have fallen so fast.

What once was considered good depth in the starting pitching department with Scott Lewis, Aaron Laffey, Jeremy Sowers, and Zach Jackson has been reduced to nothing because of injuries and poor performance.

The same is true of the relief corps. At the end of last season they had what seemed to be some good depth with right-handers Adam Miller, Jeff Stevens, and John Meloan, but an injury (Miller), trade (Stevens), and disappearance (Meloan) have left the Indians with no impact bullpen arms to call upon from the minors this season.

Bottom line, the pitching staff has been largely ineffective and inconsistent all season, sometimes of Biblical proportions. Take your pick. One week it is the starting rotation that blows up, and the next it is the bullpen which implodes and finds new ways to make us all cry (die) of laughter because we just can't take it anymore.

So where does the blame for this mess lie? The easy target of course is GM Mark Shapiro, but two of his underlings Scouting Director John Mirabelli and Farm Director Ross Atkins surely are in the discussion.

Atkins has only been on the job for three years now, and he wasn't given much to work with when he took the farm duties prior to the start of the 2007 season considering what Mirabelli and former Farm Director John Farrell left him. Since taking over, the Indians system has improved a lot, some because of a better plan and system in place, but a lot because under Atkins' reign the drafts have been much better. So, he gets a pass, and from this corner he and his staff have done a good job considering what they have had to work with when he came in as well as the directives set down from Shapiro.

Shapiro gets some blame here as he is the top man, and the guy where ultimately the final decision lies. Obviously he can't make every decision day in and day out in the organization. Whether it be player procurement, evaluating his major league team and coaches, scouting for talent at the big league and minor league level, scouting for talent in the draft and internationally, or developing players in their farm system, he simple can't do it all.

This is why a GM has people run these other areas of the organization, and why he has to trust the people he has empowered to make those decisions as a scouting director, farm director, assistant GM, and so on. But, since he is the man responsible for putting those people in the position to make those decisions which affect the organization negatively or positively, in the end the blame does fall at his feet.

Shapiro is also the one who continues to go out and acquire has-been castoff reliever seemingly day after day after day. It's to the point of an addiction. He loads up on them in the offseason, picks a few off the scrap heap at the end of spring training, and continues to sign more and add more throughout the season. It never ends.


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