Monday, September 12, 2005

Can You See the Light?

Great moment - Entering the cab at Hopkins Airport on Sunday night around 10:30PM, I ask the cabbie how the Tribe is doing. He utters the three sweetest words I've heard in some time, "We're killing 'em".

Let's recap - the Wahoos beat Johan Santana, knock Carlos Silva out after one inning, and sweep the Twins right out of playoff contention. And, they win in a large way in front of 38,000+ (though as Cy has stated, 20,000 of which have jumped the bandwagon), to show Cleveland what they've been missing all summer (or at least since the All-Star break). What a weekend for the Friends of the Feather.

Perhaps realizing that the OSU loss and the Browns' continued misery has put Cleveland in its normal September Sunday night doldrums, the Indians came to the rescue. First, Grady hits a triple to start the game, then puts on a display, offensively and defensively, that should make the naysayers that say that "the team has no known players" want to learn about this talented bunch. But the people who read this already knew that.

A few things though pondered while out of the Eastern Time Zone:

While tailgating before the Wisconsin-Temple game in Madison (which is without a doubt the craziest college town I've ever been to) on Saturday afternoon, my buddy Krems said that he thought that this Indians pitching staff is the best staff that we've seen in our lifetime. I have to agree. From the rotation, which has been unbelievable, to the bullpen, which "locks it up" in the late innings, I can't remember a time when the Tribe has legitimately been in EVERY single game because of pitching. It may be a stretch, but I'll go back to the days of Feller and Lemon to a time when all 5 guys in the rotation are capable of winning games and keeping the team in the game. This staff has been incredible.

They should show the scene in Wedding Crashers when Vaughn and Wilson are telling each other to "lock it up" every time a reliever comes on.
John Beckwith: You better lock it up.
Jeremy Grey: No, you lock it up!
John Beckwith: You lock it up!
Jeremy Grey: You lock it up!
John Beckwith: You lock it up!
Jeremy Grey: Lock it up!

With a lot of travel time, I thought about the holes for next year (which I promise I will take a break from because WE'RE IN THE PENNANT RACE), which are 2 starters, 3 relievers, a RF and a 1B. Now there are different strategies on how to fill holes in a lineup that is more or less solid.

The two main strategies being adding pieces through FA or adding major league ready pieces from the farm:
The two main success stories of adding pieces through FA would be New York (obviously) and St. Louis/Boston (who normally trade their prospects for established players, then sign those established players to long-term deals). These teams started with a core group of young talent (for example: NY with Jeter, Posada, Rivera, and Williams emerging at the same time in the mid 90's), then add proven major league talent, obviously at a premium. The pros of this process is obviously to acquire players that have experience and a track record. The cons are obviously the costs associated with signing premium FA, and signing older players, who may be more likely to incur injuries. Two obvious busts using this strategy in recent years have been the Orioles (Lopez, Tejada, Palmiero, Sosa) and the Tigers (Ondonez, Rodriguez, Percival), who tried to add players to a depleted roster, attempting to create chemistry using the Fantasy Baseball approach.

The other strategy used has been to continue to build from within once that core group of players is established. Two teams that have used this strategy very effectively have been the A's and the Braves. The A's are more of an extreme case, often trading players at the peak of their trade value (Hudson/Mulder), or allowing a FA to move on (Giambi/Tejada), but they always seem to have another player ready to plug in. Whether it's Bobby Crosby replacing Tejada, or using the arms acquired in trades to replace the studs (Haren came in the Mulder deal), they seem to have mastered the art of knowing where their weaknesses will be two years from now and planning accordingly.
The Braves are a bit of a mix of the strategies, but always have seemed to have that player in the minors ready to contribute (Chipper, Giles, Furcal, Andruw, Estrada, and now Francouer) at the exact position that they need help. In the off chance that the minor leaguer is not ready, they'll add that veteran (Brian Jordan, Julio), but never seem to make that huge splash in FA, relying instead on Leo Mazzone bringing out the best in pitching retreads and Bobby Cox mixing vets and youngsters to win a staggering string of division titles. There are obvious teams that have tried this strategy (for the last 10 years) without any luck (Pirates, Royals), but they haven't had that core group of talent to add to.

Looking at the Tribe with all of these models in mind, I hope that they lean more in the way of the Braves than anything else. Shapiro seems to have players ready in the minors, who seem to be available at spots of most need (Garko at 1B) and a ton of arms to choose from to keep the pitching staff well-stocked. If, by chance, they feel at some point in the future, they feel that they don't have anyone in-house or down the pipeline capable of contributing, add a player. But I don't think it's necessary to add a huge signee to create buzz (just ask the Mariners how Sexson and Beltre have worked out). Rather, they should continue to develop strong prospects and add savvy veterans when needed.

We'll revisit how to address the holes after the season, for now let's concentrate on the matter at hand. The Tribe is 82-61 with 19 games to play. If they can go 12-7 (which is VERY doable with their schedule), they finish with a record of 94-68! They have 7 games against KC, which they could go 6-1 in, meaning they could split the other 12 and still finish with 94 wins. Do you think they're going to split the other 12 the way that they're playing? Me neither. 94 wins should put them right in the thick of things for the Wild Card, if not atop it (I'm not addressing the Central until after the first series with the ChiSox).

The Tribe put the nail in the Twins coffin this weekend with the opportunity to do the same to the A's (in the Wild Card at least) early this week.

Coco won the AL Player of the Week with some sickening numbers. Jason Davis and Fausto Carmona were called up from Buffalo, whose playoffs ended on Sunday.

Enjoy Tribetember and The Hunt for October.


ehlofan said...

Not the best starting staff we've seen in our lifetime, but most promising young starting staff! Hart didn't go bat crazy until later in his tenure. The '95-96 staffs were phenomenal. They had great young hitters shored up by veteran hurlers. Hershiser, Martinez, Nagy, Morris (late season acquisition), - and a host of other guys who picked up slack when called upon - Ogea, Mark Clark, Bud Black, Tavarez (who made the greatest local commercial ever "Come to B-Dubs!".

t-bone said...

Is it wrong that on the way home from work last night at about 645 I just stayed on 90 and headed straight to the Jake, by myself, in my "business casual" attire? Am I a fan, or freak?

t-bone said...

ALSO, i have an open invite to everyone in my fantasy football league (which PC had to unfortunately bow out of this year) to the game tonight with our good seats, and NO one is taking me up on it. this is sad.