Monday, April 04, 2011

The Grady Sizemore Show

A Note From Paul – Every so often, I find myself lucky enough to get something like that which follows from my friend Tyler. Without exception, any correspondence that the two of us have together forces me to re-examine what I think about the Indians or baseball and why I think it. This is no exception.

We may mis-remember Grady Sizemore’s debut. His 2004 arrival marked him as special, given his young age, but his early 2005 call-up to replace Juan Gonzalez and the six-figure at-bat (singular) was a matter of simple necessity. Of course, Sizemore’s first few months rightly impressed us in context. It’s just that they were not objectively extraordinary. What we had was a very good, very youthful center fielder, showing he belonged in big leagues.

Then, in June 2005, the not-quite 23-year-old Sizemore cried “havoc” and let slip the dogs of war.

In 131 June plate appearances, Sizemore had 40 hits -- 18 for extra bases -- and 14 walks against 21 strikeouts. The Indians as a team plated 156 runs that month. Thirty of them were Sizemore.

I recall fondly a mid-decade post-game interview with Casey Blake; I can’t say conclusively whether it was from that summer, though it surely could have been. The interviewer asked Blake about the team’s recent hot streak: “We call it the Grady Sizemore Show,” Blake replied.

And, for the next four seasons, so it was.

In 2005, Sizemore posted the highest OPS among American League center fielders.

In 2006, Sizemore posted the highest OPS among American League center fielders.

In 2007, Sizemore posted the third-highest OPS among American League center fielders -- but fear not, Tribe fans, for he was tied for the lead in home runs, second in stolen bases behind the otherwise-harmless Corey Patterson, and first in walks by a margin of roughly two to one.

In 2008 -- steel yourself -- Sizemore posted the highest OPS among American League center fielders.

I admit Sizemore owes a debt to the talents which complemented him. CC Sabathia was the team’s fist; Travis Hafner, the muscle; Victor Martinez, the heart. Yet Grady Sizemore was the swagger. He did ridiculous things. He caught balls he shouldn’t have reached in innings that he shouldn’t have even been on the field. He’d rain homers into the visiting bullpen one game and lay down impeccable bunt singles in the next. It’s been years since we saw him as a superstar. It’s worth remembering.

Then down the pike came 2009, disappointment in its wake. Plainly fighting his own body, Sizemore still stood among the positional league leaders in slugging percentage. But the narrative had evaporated, for both Sizemore and for the Aughties Indians. The “banner guys,” that bizarrely likable group whose visages were flown outside the ballpark? They failed us.

Forgive my memory one more time. I can remember another interview, circa 2009 or early 2010 -- it was of a veteran, like Cliff Lee, perhaps after the trade. The interviewer baited his subject with a question about the Indians management and its gut-wrenching parade of high-profile trades. Paraphrasing the answer here: “We could have won more games.”

Alas. The banner guys that still mattered, left, except for the ones that didn’t, who got hurt. Into the latter category went Sizemore the havoc-crier, and we’ve hardly seen him since.

Does it sound like I’m eulogizing? I don’t mean to. Five remain on the 25-man roster from the Indians’ last surge into relevance, all of them under team control at least through 2012. Each is necessary to the organization’s chances of success in the immediate future; each, infuriatingly, must be discussed in the conditional. If Raffy’s slider. If Asdrubal’s defense. If Fausto’s command. If Hafner’s entire God-damn right arm.

There’s one “if” that matters even more, or at least feels like it does. I could make the case a dozen ways -- hunt down advanced metrics, argue positional value and organizational depth, wax poetic on intangibles. Whatever. I don’t want to. I think its evidence enough that I don’t have to.

If the Grady Sizemore Show plays on.

Don’t get me wrong. Sans Sizemore, there might be enough punch in this lineup to make a respectable showing, to lose with a little dignity. Carlos Santana, dissatisfied with a mere display of promise, seems to prefer actual production. Shin-Soo Choo appears to be on a run of dependable greatness. Travis Hafner and Asdrubal Cabrera look healthier than they’ve been in years. Positive developments, all.

But otherwise, this is a lineup of waiver-wire pick-ups and near-rookies. It is too thin; it is too green; and it is tethered to a rotation with problems even more vexing.

The team needs another run-producing veteran in his prime. It needs another on-base threat atop the lineup. It needs depth, someone to hold the line if others falter. It needs ... well, it needs the Grady Sizemore Show.


The next time Sizemore takes the field will be his first appearance in uniform since May 16, 2010. He’ll have a new elbow, a new knee, and a new swing. We should hope against hope for a prompt and successful return, both of the bat and the footspeed, but we shouldn’t mistake what that would portend. Sizemore’s under club control through 2012, by team option, and then, a few months past his 30th birthday, he’ll leave.

Indians management has pitched us on the promise of its upcoming talent. The last three years have seen this club transform itself from an organization augmented by player development to an organization almost solely dependent on player development. The problem with development is that, by definition, it takes time.

We’ve got one player in the wings we don’t have to develop, one we may not have to wait for -- one guy who could catapult this club out of the “L” column. And we’ve got him for 18 months.

It’s putting a lot on Sizemore’s shoulders, I know. But then I’m not asking to see him part the Red Sea here. I’m asking him to play on. Because I don’t want to wait until he’s gone to say nice things about how hard he tried.

I don’t want the show to be over yet.


Nick said...

The only way Grady stays with the Erie Warriors is if they are in the running for an AL Central title this season. Why would re-sign here? Isn't it obvious that he'll be traded if his stock is up because of a healthy and productive season?

Also, I hate the red hats.

Halifax said...

They won't deal him this year. He has a TEAM OPTION for 2012 that turns into a PLAYER OPTION if traded.

They will get more for him if he shows he's healthy at next year's deadline because this year he won't be healthy. If health was not a factor they'd still be nuts to deal him this year.

The only way they don't pick up the option is if he shows he can't play or gets seriously reinjured.

Personally, if they float a decent multi-year deal, I think he might be interested. But as we've seen, very few players stick around when more cash is involved elsewhere.

Cy Slapnicka said...

Nick (Ocker, I presume?), its not obvious for the reasons Halifax states. In fact, its obvious that he's not likely to be traded in 2011 for those reasons.

And if he has a good 2011, he may want to sign an extension if they pick up his 2012 option...for some security. If he has any lingering health concerns, he may want to know that going into 2012 he doesn't have to worry about regressing. Not saying it will happen, but lets deal with that next winter.

Bottom line, this post was about the now and the hope for Sizemore's immediate future. Its the first week of the season and all you brought to the table was negativity and bad things that will no doubt happen in the future b/c you don't get enough vitamin D and hope they happen so you can point to them and say, "See, I was right, everything sucks."

Nick, if everything sucks and the doomsday scenarios always play out, the world will end in 2012 anyway, so what do you care?

Bryan Belknap said...

I don't think Sizemore alone could take this team above .500. I see a Sizemore comeback as giving us 4 more wins. I don't think that is enough.

And I like the red hats.

I go into more details here.

Nick said...

I was asking questions about Sizemore's future. I made a statement, and then followed it with two questions (Please note the question marks (?)). In hopes that someone would shed some light on whether or not Grady would be staying because it seems like he'll be going. I brought questions "to the table" and I dont think it's a "doomsday scenario" if Grady stays, goes, or never plays again. I never said "everything sucks". Your comment is full of negativity and very defensive.

Please take your mancrush on Grady down a few notches.

Cy Slapnicka said...

they certainly read like rhetorical questions. they've also been discussed ad nauseum here.

i mentioned the negativity bc you "questions" implied a lot of it.

the article was about him coming back and playing well, not whether he'll leave...which is all you seemed to focus on.

please take the thoughtfulness of your "questions" up a few notches.