Sunday, July 22, 2007

Lazy Sunday with The Franchise

The Tribe tries to take 3 of 4 tonight (in a Sunday night game NOT on ESPN?) from the Rangers and Lazy Sunday is upon us:

Paul Hoynes comes through with ANOTHER Brandon Phillips piece, using the intro of “The Indians' decision to trade Brandon Phillips to Cincinnati early last season has been discussed and debated. It's gotten old, so old that it probably shouldn't be talked about again.”

An interesting way to start a piece when Hoynes continually writes about Phillips and the awful mistake that the Indians made, hindsight obviously being 20-20. But let’s step back to the sequence of events for Phillips career with the Indians, using only on-field performance.

In 2003, Phillips was handed the 2B job out of Spring Training and proved himself to be completely overmatched by posting a .208 BA / .242 OBP / .311 SLG / .553 OPS. Finally sent down, Phillips continued to struggle in Buffalo, hitting at a clip of .175 / .247 / .279 / .526. Those are numbers that scream that a player is ill-equipped for to remain in the pros and needs more time in AAA.

In 2004, Phillips rebounded nicely in Buffalo, coasting to a .303 / .363 / .430 / .793 line with 8 HR and 50 RBI. In related news, Ronnie Belliard was putting together an All-Star season in Cleveland and Phillips’ teammate in Buffalo, Jhonny Peralta, was named the International League MVP.

Going into 2005, the Indians had one spot open at SS with the departure of Omar Vizquel via FA and 2B belonged to Belliard (who, remember, was a 2004 AL All-Star). Peralta won the job and the decision was made to send Phillips back to Buffalo to give him regular AB and not to simply play once a week as the Utility IF is prone to do. Phillips responded to the demotion with a regression from the previous year to the tune of .256 / .326 / .409 / .735 in Buffalo while Peralta put together the finest offensive season at SS in Indians’ history and Belliard played a decent 2B on a contender.

Heading into 2006, the Indians were seemingly set at SS and 2B with Peralta and Belliard, but Phillips had run out of options and needed to stick with the big-league roster as a Utility IF, pitted against the incomparable Ramon Vazquez.

The decision was made that Vazquez fit the role of a Utility IF, despite being less talented than Phillips, mainly because of the way that the club felt that Phillips would react to being “only” a Utility IF. Phillips was dealt at his absolute lowest value as most teams knew that he could be had for a low level minor-leaguer. Cincinnati sent Single-A pitcher (Jeff Stevens) to the Tribe in the hopes that Phillips would accept the role of their Utility IF. He actually thrived and broke out in his first year in Cincinnati, staking a claim to the 2B job and making a case to become a perennial All-Star since. Meanwhile in Cleveland, as we all know, Peralta struggled as the Indians had a terrible year, resulting in Belliard being traded and the “We never should have traded Brandon Phillips” cries growing louder by the day.

But essentially, on the field only, Phillips was blocked by a player who had played superior to him in Peralta and a 2004 All-Star in Belliard from playing everyday. True, he could have been pitted as the Utility IF and become insurance in case the worst-case scenario of 2006 unfolded.

But the actions that accompanied those statistics is what greased Phillips’ slide out of Cleveland. He debuted in our consciousness on his first day of Spring Training wearing shoes embroidered with the nickname he gave himself, “The Franchise”, and had his final act as an Indians famously sitting at his locker on the day of the press conference that Sizemore signed his big contract, complaining “that should be me”. Between those two instances were numerous run-ins with club officials (not just Eric Wedge), including an argument with Farm Director John Farrell in the Buffalo locker room that was described by some as a “dressing down” of Farrell by the young infielder.

Phillips' talent is unmistakable and the Indians received very little in return for him, but to paint Phillips as a martyr and to project that he was somehow “wronged” by the organization is not taking all of the facts and situations into account.

Brandon Phillips was given an opportunity in Cleveland and failed, then sulked and argued his way out of the organization. His attitude and sense of entitlement are what bought him a ticket out of Cleveland and any fan who fails to take that big picture approach is doing themselves a disservice by not appreciating the current Indians for what they are, a better team without Brandon Phillips on the roster.
If a change of address and management benefited him, good for him.

While it may not be the popular or widely held belief by Tribe fans, Brandon Phillips, on another team, is something that I have no problem with. Let him be himself, the self-proclaimed “next Barry Larkin”.

Just let him do it in a uniform without “Cleveland” on the front.

Back to the show, Sheldon Ocker stands up for Jim Thome after saying that he doesn’t know what he would do with Fernando Cabrera.

He also offers his sincere, uplifting words to those who take the time to write him.

Jim Ingraham goes out on a limb and feels that the Indians should be buying.

Ken Rosenthal touches on the availability of the Astros’ relievers and what the Royals are looking for in exchange for Octavio Dotel.

The New York Post reports that the Royals are looking for a RH MLB-ready CF for Dotel.
Sound like anyone you know?

While we knew that Eric Gagne wasn’t coming to Cleveland, maybe he’s not going anywhere. Perhaps Joaquin Benoit, also mentioned in the article, will be the Texas reliever headed north.

Speaking of Rangers, it appears that Kenny Lofton (as long as his foot injury is not serious) is not adamant about playing CF and would play LF for a contender.

Finally, I was forwarded two web pages that are pretty much the best thing I’ve seen in quite a while, by Michael Bobal of Parma. They are depth charts of the Indians’ pitchers and hitters from the top down, including their stats for this year, compiled by the incomparable Baseball Reference website.

Basically, if you want to know what LH relievers we have in the system, from Cleveland to rookie ball, how old they are, and how their season has gone, it’s all right there, neatly organized for you.

The ages, for me, are great because you see that guys like the OF in Buffalo and Akron are a lot older than AA and AAA players should be (Jon Van Every is 27), which gives you a point of comparison of where these players are developmentally and how they stack up with the other players in the system that play the same position.
It also lists updated stats for each minor league team, with all of the relevant stats.

Like I said, this was a phenomenal find and I think I lost about two hours of my life examining these lists.

Anyway, the links for the pitchers is here and the hitter link is here.
I’ll add it to the sidebar as it’s something that contains up-to-the-minute stats for the WHOLE organization, separated by position.

A tough stretch awaits the Tribe after tonight’s game (4 vs. BOS, 3 vs. MIN), so it’s time to get fat on the scraps of the AL West.


Jeff said...

For what it's worth, all of Texas's home games during the summer are late starts because of the heat. They play Sunday afternoon home games only in April and September.

I constantly have to argue with my friends about Brandon Phillips, especially because I now live in Cincinnati. In addition to all of the points you mentioned, I often like to add that he had more trade value than Ramon Vazquez, so it made more sense to move him. Even though all he brought was Jeff Stevens, the Indians would have been lucky if Vazquez brought a case of beer. (And yes, I realize the irony of making this argument when Vazquez has gone 5 for 9 against Cleveland in the last 72 hours.) Also, even though Phillips has shown good power, his OBP is still a less-than-stellar .327, so I'm not crying over him with all the attached headaches. (Again, I realize the irony when the Tribe's 2B has an OBP of .279, and recently went 37 days in a row without drawing a walk. They're still objectively reasonable arguments.)

Hyde said...

Keep in mind that Philips' "opportunity" in Cleveland amounted to half a season at the age of 21, after which time he never got another chance with the big league team. Good thing we didn't take that stance after Grady Sizemore's mediocre half-season in 2004.

Basically, Wedge made up his mind about Phillips in July of 2003 and nothing he did would ever change his mind. Remember when the Indians called him up in 2005 on Shapiro's insistence and Wedge refused to play him, even in the late innings of blowouts?

I really can't understand how anyone can still defend this, especially since the low-risk move was so obvious: just leave Phillips on the Opening Day 2006 roster as a utilityman. If he's a problem, it's easy enough to get rid of him and call up Vazquez. And keep in mind that the 2006 Indians were one of the biggest disappointments in baseball even without the alleged "bad vibes" of Phillips around the dugout. So much for chemistry.

And isn't it interesting how no one in Montreal and no one in Cincinnati ever pointed to Phillips having a bad attitude. Only Eric Wedge and his yes-men. The hardest thing for some people is to say "I blew it."