Saturday, November 11, 2006

Hot Stove Tomahawks

Since we haven’t talked about the Barfield deal yet, here’s Ken Rosenthal’s fascinating inside look at the anatomy of the deal. Rosenthal is that rare baseball insider who doesn’t try to make himself look more important then he is, or exhibit a hug East Coast bias (Gammons recently wrote that Jon Lester is a probable Hall of Famer).

The scouts’ insights into K2’s defensive deficiencies are pretty astounding and you have to wonder if the Indians DH’d him in Cleveland and played him at 1B in Arizona for a reason. If it’s true, then the Padres are getting fat on poor-fielding 3B developed by the Indians. Corey Smith, anyone? Russell Branyan?

I certainly wouldn’t put K2 in a category with those two (Corey Smith, the former Tribe #1 pick traded to the Padres for Jake Gatreau, is out of baseball), and I wish him the best in San Diego, where he should continue to stay classy.

From the Tribe perspective though, they had 3 players very similar in defensive availability, that is their scouts felt that Hafner, Garko, and Kouz could only DH or play 1B. One player had to go, and my guess is that Hafner wasn’t really considered. With the Padres infatuated with Kouzmanoff, the decision was made easier. Factor in Garko’s success at the BIG LEAGUE level, and you have the inner workings of a GM’s mind.

Did anyone else catch in the article that the Padres’ acquisition of Kouzmanoff may take them out of the Iwamura sweepstakes? If the Indians are hot on Iwamura, who may play LF in Cleveland, the trade reduced the number of potential suitors for him by one.

Actually, one of the most interesting parts of the article is the discussion having to do with Gary Sheffield being moved to the Tribe. It’s interesting because the Padres were willing to give up Scott Linebrink in this proposed deal. Forget Sheffield - Linebrink would look fantastic at the back end of the Indians’ bullpen. Ultimately, though, Shapiro filled a major hole with the player that was made available.

On the topic of Sheffeld to the Tigers - before anyone starts the, “this is the type of trade the Indians should be making”, stop – it’s not.

Does anyone else remember an AL Central team that, after a season of unexpected success, decided that it needed to add that one big bat? Instead of remembering that strong starting pitching, a lock-down bullpen, and a solid offense won them the World Series, the ChiSox HAD to have Jim Thome because that’s what they were lacking right?

How does Gary Sheffield make the Tigers lineup that much better than the Indians? Sure, he’ll add some better production from a corner OF spot – if he can stay healthy. He’s 38 right now, and the Tigers just handed him a 3-year deal. He’s coming off a season of injuries consistent with having a 38-year-old’s body (without the benefit of “flaxseed oil”) and he’s a noted malcontent.

On paper, I understand the move; but digging deeper into the make-up and identity of a baseball team – this is the kind of move that blows things up pretty quickly.

Then again, maybe Dombrowski and Leyland are trying to re-create 1997. If Alou, Counsell, Conine, Kevin Brown, and Livan Hernandez show up in Detroit this winter, you heard it here first.

If I have to hear the likes of Kenny Roda praise the Tigers while bemoaning the Dolans’ cheapness (Roda actually said on the Barfield trade when it broke, “I don’t know who this guy is, but I’m sure the Dolan’s didn’t have to open their wallet to get him”), I’ll go crazy.

How is it that nobody understands that strong pitching wins championships and that addition of a big bat may pacify a fan base and sell tickets, but it’s not the way that successful teams are built.

You would think in Cleveland, where the Sluggin’ Tribe of the ‘90s always fell JUST short because of pitching, that people would get that.
But they don’t.
Luckily, the guy who does is the one calling the shots.

The other news in the wigwam is that Buck Showalter is negotiating with the Indians to become a senior advisor, or as Paul Hoynes writes, to help them develop their new Spring Training Site in Arizona. Is this the veteran baseball guy that was missing in the organization in 2006?

With no Buddy Bell or Mike Hargrove, it was all on Wedge and his band of yes men, none of whom have the experience of a Showalter. Showalter could be that sounding board or second pair of eyes that could really help Wedge’s management.

That sounding board, or second opinion, is something that has been lacking since Robby Thompson left. Robby Thompson, you say? Yes, Robby Thompson.
They were 25-28 when Robby Thompson became the bench coach on June 4th of 2005 and finished 93-69. That means that the Tribe went 68-41 when Thompson was the bench coach, not to mention the fact that Thompson was the 2005 Infield Coach and coaxed a solid year of fielding out of Broussard, Belliard, Peralta, and Boone. The only difference in 2006 with that infield (which we all know was dreadful) is that Thompson had decided that he wanted to spend more time with his high school age sons and Luis Rivera became the Infield Coach.

Coaches only make so much of a difference, but those facts are hard to ignore.

I don’t buy that Showalter is the manager-in-waiting any more than Francona or Hargrove were managers-in-waiting when they filled similar roles. Shapiro and Wedge like to be surrounded by experienced baseball people and seem confident enough in their own job security that they don’t see these baseball people as threats to their jobs.

It’s early November and the Hot Stove League is putting off some heat.
Sit back and enjoy the glow.


Cy Slapnicka said...

did anyone realize bray-bray was talking about steve smith and keyshawn johnson dropping passes?

"Keyshawn and Steve Smith - we went back and forth a little bit that day. But for Keyshawn to talk, I mean, he dropped three passes that day. Steve Smith dropped four. So for them to talk about me, if you guys are supposed to be the great veterans that you are, don't drop passes."

Hello Pot, this is the Kettle calling.

As for the Tribe, I am happy with our current lineup. My main concern is with the guys that have not been consistent the last couple years....Jhonny and Casey, which version will we get next summer. And of course, the young guys need to meet expectations.

R.M. Jennings said...

I couldn't believe the Tigers would make such a dumb move. As far as I'm concerned, Gary Sheffield is a negative player, the kind of guy I could never cheer for if he won the Triple Crown and pitched four perfect games for the Tribe. Cleveland fans have known this guys was a jerk since at least the '97 World Series.

The worst thing about this deal is that the Yankees tend to get lucky with prospects (Soriano, Cano, etc). Sheffield will be a decent hitter off and on for a couple more seasons, whatever, but I'm afraid of the Yankees getting a big return out of this trade, because I hate them.

Rockdawg said...

Don't you dare label Sheff as a "negative player." The guy is an offensive stud, and I actually was hoping that the Tribe would work something out for him. I do agree that the Tigers payed out a bit too much for a 38 year old player.

I see the Baltimorian will be able to watch Jarret Wright for a couple more years....and when I saw watch, I mean watch him work the ladies downtown, maybe he can learn a thing or two about a thing or two.

Baltimoran said...

i'll be looking for his silver shiny tight shirt like he wore to Shooters. its a lock that one of those players the tigers sent the yankees becomes a stud.

nice to see the brownies put together a win. it was the first time in awhile i got to watch the game from a couch rather than a bar, and i'm thinking that somebody needs to tell frye that he is slow, he seems to think he can outrun defenders and escape d-linemen.