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Tribe Happenings: COLLAPSE

Tribe Happenings: COLLAPSE
August 5, 2012
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There was a game in the distant past in which the Cleveland Indians delivered a early knockdown in their fight for division supremacy. Sure, the Indians were in third place at the time, but they took measure of the defending AL Central champions, and knocked them flat out.

You remember the game, don’t you? The Indians were facing off against the Detroit Tigers and their vaunted ace, Justin Verlander. The Indians entered the game at .500, and were four games behind the first place Chicago White Sox. The Tigers were in between, and seemed ready to start an all too familiar tear to the, as they did last season. But then, something funny happened.

The Indians won.

The Tigers had scored first on young Zach McAllister after an error allowed a runner into scoring position, but the Indians would come right back with a run of their own in the first, on a Jason Kipnis sac fly. The Tigers would respond the way title contenders do, with a lead off big fly in the top of the sixth, to take a 2-1 lead, you know, with that Verlander character on the hill.

Then the struggling Carlos Santana launched a lead-off homer in the bottom of the seventh, to tie the game. Travis Hafner followed with a home run of his own, and the back-to-back jacks gave the Tribe a 3-2 lead. Two more singles bookended to deep flyball outs would leave the Indians with two one and two-out, when a struggling Asdrubal Cabrera roped a single scoring a run, and Jason Kipnis would get another run home on an error.

The Indians would hold on to win 5-3 in perhaps their best win of the year, and against the Tigers, and against Justin Verlander, arguably the best pitcher in baseball. The Indians found themselves three games behind the White Sox at that point, and within striking distance of the playoffs. I know that was a long time ago IPI readers, but you do remember it don’t you? Can your minds take you back to…JULY 26TH?!?

Well, that was then, and this is now. The Indians haven’t won a game since.

The Indians have collapsed in a way that only Cleveland fans can appreciate. They followed that win against the Tigers by getting swept in a three-game series by the last-place Twins, and getting outscored in that series 28-6. The Twins used the series to springboard past the Royals into fourth place. In an irony of sorts, the Indians left Minnesota and headed to the newly minted last place Royals trying to right the ship, and of course, swept again, and outscored 20-11. The Indians then headed to Detroit, who the Indians had actually dominated this year, to the tune of 7-3 overall. Detroit has swept the first two games of the series, by a total of 16-3.

So, for those counting at home, the Indians are 0-8 in their last eight ballgames, and have been outscored by a total of 64-20.

Feel free to insert your own thoughts here, because I really need to move on. I have a feeling that most fans have already done so, and are jumping on board the Jimmy Haslam express. I certainly don’t blame you.

How about Cody Allen…

I’ve written extensively about one Cody Allen this year as he’s made his progression through the system in monumental fashion, so there’s really no need to rehash his climb from Mahoning in 2011, through Columbus in 2012. The facts that you need to know from that blast off through the system is that in two half-seasons essentially, Cody Allen played with every minor league affiliate in the Indians system above rookie ball. He pitched in 54 total games during that 13-month stretch. In those 54 games, he pitched in 98 total innings. He gave up only 60 hits during that time, with 19 earned runs. Of the 60 hits, five were homers. He walked only 23 batters, and hit only three. He struck out 128 batters, giving him a K/9 rate of 11.8, and a BB/9 rate of 2.1. His WHIP was 0.847.

His only bump in the road came during a May stint with Columbus that you won’t hear too many folks talk about because of his meteoric rise. His ERA in May was a sub-standard (for him) 4.26, and he really struggled to get his bearings for the first time. I was curious to see how he would handle the jump to the majors. I’d say he passed with flying colors.

With the Tribe, Allen has now pitched in 7 1/3 shutout innings over five appearances, and he is continuing the dominance that he’s showcased at every level. Now, to be fair, he’s not exactly been placed in parts of games that are necessarily important, but he’s still facing major league bats, and getting them out consistently. The only area of early concern is perhaps his walk total. He’s walked five batters against only seven K’s. He’s thrown 120 pitches so far, and 52% of those have been strikes. I’d be more concerned with that if he weren’t getting outs and if his velocity was down, but that’s just not the case. He’s hitting 94-95 on the gun with regularity, and has touched 96-97 when he reaches back. In other words, his stuff is still there. As he learns the big league game, he’ll just get better.

His biggest comparison of recent memory seems to be Vinnie Pestano. Pestano played parts of four seasons in the minors, but if you look at his last two, things get pretty interesting when you start comparing him to Cody Allen:













94 1/3


















While their numbers are markedly similar, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First and foremost, you see the difference in games and innings pitched. Pestano was almost exclusively used as a closer or set-up guy, and always in one-inning of work. He would often work back-to-back games, and during those last two season, saved 41 ballgames. Allen was an altogether different pitcher. He rarely pitched in the ninth inning, went multiple innings nearly every time out, and saved only three games.

There’s no doubt that Allen will be moved to the back end of the bullpen, as close as later this season, but it’s more likely that they’ll wean him back to that role leading into spring training. It’s distinctly possible that Allen’s emergence will give the Indians a commodity heading into the offseason for deals. The Indians will likely shop Chris Perez, but will no doubt be asked about both Allen and Pestano. I wouldn’t deal any of the three, to be honest. With the rotation in such disarray, the Tribe needs a solid bullpen. Perez, Pestano and Allen give them that.

On the Trade Deadline…

I’m not about making moves just to make them, but I do think the Indians should have been proactive. The kicker to me, though, was that idiotic Lars Anderson deal. Seriously, when I saw the Indians had traded for Lars Anderson in an e-mail from Tony Lastoria, I thought he was joking. When you look at his numbers, it’s fairly clear that they just traded one of the more intriguing pitchers in the upper levels for a guy that sees Matt LaPorta, Russ Canzler and Vinnie Rottino when he stares in the mirror. That was a deal they could have made at any point in the season. Instead, they throw it out there on trade deadline day, as though it were a freakin’ bone for the fans who just will take any freakin’ deal.

On top of that, they give up Steven Wright. Now, I’m not going to stand up on a mountain and scream that this guy is going to be Phil Niekro, or even Tim Wakefield. He’s a 27-year old minor leaguer who just started throwing the knuckler exclusively in 2011. But here’s something to think about. While Tim Wakefield debuted in the majors in 1992 as a 25-year-old rookie and went 8-1 with the Pirates, he was back in the minors for some of 1993 and all of 1994. He started off there in 1995, as a 28-year-old, and made his debut for the Red Sox as a 28-year-old. He pitched in the bigs for 16 more seasons. Phil Niekro’s first full season in the big leagues with more than 100 innings as a starter was in 1967. He was 28. He pitched for 20 more seasons. Now I’m not saying that Steven Wright is that guy, but do you really deal him for a LaPorta clone? Really?

There may be more to this. I could see Wright going to management and saying, “Hey, I’d love to head to Boston and get Wakefield to really work with me.” That’s distinctly possible. Indians’ minor league field coordinator Rob Leary, a former Red Sox coach, reached out to Wakefield, asking him to talk to Wright. The two would talk briefly before Wright’s start on July 28th, before the deal had been made, and likely before it had been discussed. It is ironic that he was traded to the Sox the very next day.

Still, anyone who knows knuckleballers know that they are a small fraternity, and work with each other a lot. Tom Candiotti had spent some time with Wright, as had Niekro himself. Point being, Wright could have had access to whomever he wanted. Of course, Wakefield is a studio analyst for the Red Sox cable TV network, so this could be a daily meeting now.

Regardless, I can’t stand the move. Anderson used to be highly thought of, but after struggling for years, he’s been dubbed a lost cause by the Sox. Do the Indians need Anderson more than Wright? Look at the major league team…can you really make that case?

Either way, idiotic timing for a deal like that.

As for what the Indians should or shouldn’t have done? They needed to make some moves, even if it was to get ready for one more shot in 2013. I pretty much said it all in my normal column yesterday, so I’m not going to rehash that, but that Ubaldo Jimenez deal is looking pretty idiotic at this point. Even with his current numbers, you can lend credence to that deal by continuing on a course that honors this so-called window that Shapiro and Antonetti keep blathering on-and-on about. Cleary, that’s not happening.

Presumably, the Indians will try and sign some guys in the offseason. We all know how that will turn out. Perhaps they’ll be able to make some solid trades from October through January, but I’m not optimistic. The three-headed monster of the Dolans, Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti just haven’t proven that they have any sort of game plan…and no, they don’t have to prove it to me, but they do have to prove it on the field.

Is it that the ownership is rudderless, and let Shapiro do what he wants, but without the cashflow? Is it Shapiro who is directionless, and has no plan in place with regards to the team in his role of president? Is it Antonetti, who has no idea what he’s doing, making a big move one year, then nothing the next. Is it a combination of the three?

Who knows, at this point, but if the Indians continue to lose, I’m sure Antonetti will have no problem using Manny Acta as the scapegoat. I actually don’t mind that, but at some point, this smell has to get back to Shapiro, because he seemingly gets promoted every time something goes wrong. Boy, talk about a dysfunctional front office.

The Indians, in 2013…

So what do the Indians look like next season? Just looking at the current roster, here are the guys that are likely going to be in starting roles:

C: Carlos Santana
2B: Jason Kipnis
3B: Lonnie Chisenhall
SS: Asdrubal Cabrera
CF: Michael Brantley
RF: Shin-Soo Choo
SP: Justin Masterson
SP: Ubaldo Jimenez
SP: Roberto Hernandez
SP: Josh McAllister
SP: Jeanmar Gomez
Closer: Chris Perez
Set-up: Vinnie Pestano
RP: Cody Allen
RP:  Joe Smith
RP: Rafael Perez
RP: Tony Sipp
RP: Josh Tomlin

Now clearly, there are some guys there that are going to be question marks, but there will be holes. I could place a guy like Lars Anderson or Matt LaPorta into first base, but we all know neither will make it. We could place Zeke Carrera or Tim Fedroff or Jared Goedert in at left, but more than likely they’ll be filling a bench role.

Might the Indians ponder a final move, making Lou Marson the starting catcher, and moving Santana to first base full-time? Might the Indians be on the market for a catcher instead of a first baseman or an outfielder? Will the Indians try any internal options, as “middling” as they may be? Will the Indians bolster the rotation with real big league players? Will the Indians find right-handed hitters? Will the Indians sign Travis Hafner to a low-end deal, therefore blocking the DH spot for other potential players?

There are potentially a ton of questions heading into 2013…and after the past two weeks, not a whole lot of answers…

On Derek Lowe and Johnny Damon...

You know, the Indians got exactly what they should have out of Derek Lowe. Lowe pitched well early for the Braves last year, and pitched well early for the Indians this year. Lowe bombed late last year, and began doing the same this year. The irony in all of this is that he'll get a month's rest or so, then perhaps come back and pitch well again. He's fine on a rotation with four other solid guys, but on this rotation, he just can't succeed...even as an innings eater. Don't be surprised if he comes back and pitches well though...if he gets some rest.

Damon is a similar story. The Cat didn't go to spring training, and to be quite honest, it was because he didn't want to, and/or, didn't have any suitors. On a team with some boppers, he would have been a fine addition. On this team, that needed offense, he just didn't cut it. Like Lowe, I wouldn't be suprised if he lands on his feet somewhere, and helps a team out. He's fantastic in the clubhouse, and what little information I DO get from folks in the know, is that he was extremely good in THIS clubhouse. Of course, I know lots of nice/inspirational guys that can stand in their locker room for free. Without playing, their offense would be just as good.

My point here is that both pitcher and left fielder were good options for a team that didn't need an ace at times, and didn't need four homers in one swing at times. There's no finger pointing going on here...except at the front office. Oh-oh, is that hindsight?

Have a great Sunday everybody, and it's been my absolute pleasure covering for Tony this weekend...and... the delight of many, Tony will be returning to regular duties next week…

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

User Comments

August 5, 2012 - 7:47 PM EDT
If you want to take exception to my contention that Antonetti is the worst GM in modern history fine, I don't agree. I remember Frank Lane, Phil Seghi, Hoot Evers, Gabe Paul, Jim Hart, Mark Shapiro. There were a few things each one did that I didn't like but they all struck me more or less as people who had an eye for the game. And players didn't move around as much then, so internal development was a much more important part of the game. Today the entire world is your talent pool and you have to be able to shuffle the deck year to year and still put a legitimate product on the field. You need to know what's out there, to assess what the other teams have, to assess what your true talent level is, what you lack, and how and when to make improvements. Anybody that starts a season with no left handed starters and no right handed batters is ignorant ,and arrogant to suggest to fans that the team will be competitive. I resent that and I will not support it. I think all the previous managers to a man had more of a feel for the game and people who play it than Antonetti. A sports management degree from Georgetown is not going to tell you whether Lars Anderson can hit the curve or Chris Perez truly has what it takes to be a top shelf closer. Stats and algorithms are not going to tell you how much Derek Lowe has left in his tank or whether Ubaldo Jimenez was juicing in 2010. As for supporting a bad team- I know there are some Homers out there who will root no matter what, God bless ya, but I'm not one of them. I say if you like the players so much pray for them to be traded to a team that is better run and is playing better baseball. There used to be a joke about a thief who comes up to you on the street and says " Hey buddy you wanna buy a watch" And then he opens up his coat and he says " You wanna buy YOUR watch" which is already pinned to his lining. Well, Chris Antonetti has committed the cardinal sin of baseball GM's by stealing the our hope as fans. I don't want him to approach me again trying to sell me back what he's already stolen.
August 5, 2012 - 7:01 PM EDT
disagree in the 70 and 80 they had i guy name Seghi or something like that he was worse than Antonelli because the Indians keep him forever. Do not count on anyone losing their job I do not think the above mention GM's teams ended up last more off than not.. You have got root for the players during the next home stand they are really down particularly after todays tough lost support the players not the owner, scouts, or front office - most of whom should probably go. Many people picked the Indians to finish last in the division and they have played well above their potential up until now. The future does not look bright and I'd like to think they will be competitive in the next four or five years, but i see more of the 60's 70's and 80's ahead. and less of the mid 40 to mid 50 and 90's Go tribe .
August 5, 2012 - 6:55 PM EDT
Great article again. Your comments about the front office are right on as well as your personnel assessments. The front office clearly operates with no worry about their jobs, otherwise how does a guy with Mirabelli's record get promoted to vp as well as both Shapiro and Antoinetti clearly demonstrating a complete lack of planning and direction. Keep up the good work!
August 5, 2012 - 6:02 PM EDT
Perez's trade value just took a major hit. The Giants wanted him. The Indians good have gotten a good catcher, a good outfielder and a good pitcher- all prospects but good ones for him. Now they get bupkus. I've been watching the Indians since 1960. Antonetti is the worst GM I've seen, including Frank Lane. He has no sense of ability when evaluating players and no sense of timing in making moves. I'm done until he's gone. I'm an ardent fan, most of here on IPI are. If we are too turned off to hang, I can't imagine how the Indians under current management are going to sell enough seats to pay the rent.
August 5, 2012 - 3:08 PM EDT
I'm routing for the Indians to lose at this point. Hopefully it costs some of the front office their jobs although in all honesty I have no idea who to replace them with. Throw money at Walt Jockety? I would love to see Acta gone, Alomar and Sarbaugh promoted. Dump Radinsky (no matter what) and Fields. Get a better draft pick and be willing to promote and play and see what you have in some of the AAA guys. Only way all of that happens is an epic-ly bad end of the season.
August 5, 2012 - 1:54 PM EDT
So Lars Anderson is 0 for 7 w 4 K's in his first 2 games. Wright was the most immediately promising starting prospect the Indians had, now that Zach Mac has made the show. You have to trade Perez for a good starting pitcher or legit right-handed outfielder. Problem is I don't trust Antonetti to make trades. He doesn't what he's lookin' at. Period. End of Subject. Perez won't have a good year next year w the Indians. There won't be enough save opps. Now is the time to deal him but I think the Indians should hire a free agent trade artist.

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