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Second Thoughts Game #14: Red Sox 6, Indians 3

John Farrell's Red Sox complete sweep of Terry Francona's Indians

Second Thoughts Game #14: Red Sox 6, Indians 3
Cord Phelps (Photo: Getty Images)
April 19, 2013
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Twenty-five years ago, when they were briefly teammates on a typically mediocre 1980s Cleveland Indians squad, John Farrell seemed to bring out the best in Terry Francona. I’m not just basing that on some random, hazy childhood memories, either. I actually went to the trouble of looking it up—which should say something about how entertaining last night’s ballgame was. 

As it turns out, there were 10 games in which future managers Farrell and Francona were both in the starting line-up for the 1988 Tribe. And in those games—for reasons unknown to all but the parties involved—Tito hit a whopping .429 (18 for 42), including his lone home run of the season. In games in which anyone other than Farrell was Cleveland’s starting pitcher, meanwhile, Francona’s average dropped to .282. 

On the flip side, John Farrell did not seem to find Francona’s presence mutually beneficial. In those same aforementioned 10 ballgames, the normally solid right-hander surrendered 38 earned runs in just 61.1 innings of work—amounting to an ugly 5.58 ERA. By comparison, when Francona’s ass was parked on the pine, Farrell’s ERA in that ’88 campaign magically improved to a highly respectable 3.68. 

Basically, up until this week, there was every reason to believe that Farrell and Francona had a bizarro inverse relationship to one another—likely the consequence of a shaman’s curse or some similar type of statistical witchcraft. With Farrell’s Red Sox completing a dominant three-game sweep of Francona’s listless Indians in Cleveland, however, it appears that all those numbers I looked up were, in fact, just a bunch of coincidental meaningless bullsh#%. 

? of the Night

For the sake of variety—and to avoid putting any additional pressure on a clearly STRESSED OUT Asdrubal Cabrera—the Question Mark of the Night goes to Cord Phelps. It doesn’t help that Phelps is filling in for another growing question mark in Jason Kipnis, but let’s try looking at the kid outside of that context.

In 52 Major League games over the last 3 seasons, Phelps—who looked overmatched in another 0-for-3 performance last night—has just 18 hits in 112 at-bats. That’s a .161 average. Sure, it’s still 30 points higher than Asdrubal Cabrera’s current success rate (sorry, Droobs!), but it’s fair to say it’s not a real encouraging track record. 

Of course, the counterpoint on Cord has always been the much larger sample size of his work in the Minors, where he has a .290 career average in 300 games at the Triple-A level. Unfortunately, those numbers have actually been going in the wrong direction, as well, as 2012 saw Phelps post his lowest Minor League batting average (.276) and lowest OPS (.820) since 2009. On the bright side, he only made five errors in 581 chances at second base for the Clippers last year. But that just makes his costly seventh inning E-4 last night all the more deflating, as it basically opened the flood gates and put the game out of reach. 

As of yet, Cord just hasn’t looked comfortable in his brief time in the Bigs. It may have a lot to do with the fact that he knows he only has a fleeting opportunity to make an impression every time he is up here, particularly since Kipnis usurped his spot in the prospect pecking order. But it works both ways. If Phelps relaxes and starts producing, he’ll find that those cups of coffee needn’t be so brief, after all. 

! of the Night

No one would say Zach McAllister was lights out in this one, but we’re pretty much at the stage where any outing short of a nuclear meltdown qualifies as an encouraging performance for a Tribe starting pitcher. In fairness, umpire Mike Winters had as much to do with McAllister’s problems as anyone for much of the night. The strike zone was the size of a ferret’s nostril, and to their credit, the Red Sox hitters showed their trademark patience—working the Indians starter into another slew of jams.

Like Justin Masterson the night before, though, McAllister adeptly wormed his way out of more than a few of those, surrendering just three runs and keeping his guys within striking distance. Zach isn’t seasoned yet, but there can’t really be any debate at this point that he is the #2 man in the current Indians rotation—by default or not. At the very least, I haven’t forgotten that McAllister came here to save us from Austin Kearns. And for that reason, he is welcome at my table any time he wishes. 

P.S., Here are the results of those 10 games from 1988, just in case you thought I didn’t really sink to such depths.

Games in Which Terry Francona & John Farrell Played Together for the 1988 Cleveland Indians 

July 7: Angels 7, Indians 1

Farrell (L, 5.1 IP, 5 ER, 8 H, 2 BB, 2 K), Francona (1-4) 

July 10: Angels 7, Indians 5

Farrell (4 IP in Relief, 2 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 2 K), Francona (3-4, HR, RBI, 2 R) 

July 15: Mariners 8, Indians 5

Farrell (5.2 IP, 4 ER, 8 H, 3 BB, 5 K), Francona (1-5, R, 2 K) 

July 20: Indians 5, Athletics 4

Farrell (W, 6.2 IP, 4 ER, 10 H, 1 BB, 10 K), Francona (0-5)

July 26: Indians 7, Orioles 3

Farrell (W, 7.2 IP, 3 ER, 8 H, 3 BB, 2 K), Francona (3-5, 2B, RBI, R) 

July 31: Twins 12, Indians 4

Farrell (L, 5 IP, 6 ER, 8 H, 2 BB 2 K), Francona (3-4, R) 

August 6: Indians 5, Rangers 3

Farrell (W, 7 IP, 2 ER, 8 H, 2 BB, 3 K), Francona (3-4, 2 R) 

August 11: Rangers 5, Indians 4

Farrell (7 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 3 K), Francona (0-3) 

August 17: Indians 11, Brewers 7

Farrell (W, 7.1 IP, 4 ER, 8 H, 1 BB 1 K), Francona (1-3, RBI, 2 BB, K) 

August 22: Brewers 7, Indians 3

Farrell (L, 5.2 IP, 7 ER, 9 H, 2 BB, 2 K), Francona (3-5) 

Indians Record: 4-6

User Comments

April 19, 2013 - 11:26 AM EDT
Seems like Cord he presses a bit under the bright lights, big stage. He's got skills, he just seems to be playing tight. Maybe they should play him in a couple of day games against lesser pitchers. Lester is tough and the more you press, the more you give him to get you out. Put on a clinic last night. Not throwing that hard but he so fine with the location and movement. He doesn't give you much to drive and the Indians hitters did not make the adjustments to put more balls in play, they just got frustrated, which spells trouble if Francona and Van Buskirk or whatever the hitting coach's name is can't coach them up. Zach Mac pitched pretty well, hopefully he watches guys like Lester and picks up a thing or two. I did not expect the Indians to start this bad, very discouraging. Let's see what happens this weekend. Houston has plenty of legit excuses for a poor record thus far. The Indians do not. It's funny watching Manny Acta on ESPN Desportes. He's very nice when talking about the Indians. I think he has every right to feel bitter about what Antonetti gave him to work with for 2 years and how the front office handled the firing with 2 weeks to go in the season, but he doesn't show it. I'm thinking he'll be back coaching somewhere next year.
April 19, 2013 - 10:46 AM EDT
Cord Phelps is really not doing himself any favors right now. Given a chance to play he is struggling both defensively and offensively, and looks the same guy that struggled in brief callups in the past. He's out of options at the end of the year, so we might be seeing the end of his career as an Indian right before our eyes. He is just not reliable. That could change given a larger sample size this season, but right now, he is not showing he deserves a longer look, especially with Kipnis coming back and Aviles demanding more time.

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