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Indians Wheel and Deal Again

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After the latest trades, the Cleveland Indians are now the youngest team in baseball.

The Cleveland Indians organization has been hit by a whirlwind of events again this season. Just like last year, the events reached their peak at the trade deadline. Over the course of the last week, emotions have been running high.

The beginning of the week was not even like any other. Reason being that the New York Yankees came into town for their only trip to Cleveland this season. In addition, Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez was on the brink of a career milestone, sitting on 599 career home runs going into the four-game set. The Tribe marketing department went all-out to capitalize on any possible fan interest. For weeks prior to the series the organization promoted a special offer by Chuck Galeti, host of the Indians’ post-game call-in show, in which bleacher seats at Progressive Field were only $10 for the first game. The promotion appeared to be a success as the entire section of the stadium was sold out. A few hours before game time, the Tribe Twitter contingent announced another special deal. Lower reserved seats were advertised to those who follow @tribetalk on Twitter, also for only $10 and were only available at a certain ticket window at the stadium. As a result, over 27,000 fans were in attendance to witness a pitcher’s duel. The Indians led 2-1 for much of the game until Jake Westbrook gave up an eighth inning two-run homer to give a Yankees a 3-2 win in the opener. A-Rod, under the immense pressure of hitting his 600th career homer, was 0-for-4 on the game.

The next night, hoping to capitalize on the interest from the first game, the Indians Twitter deal was in effect again. The big team had also just called up Josh Tomlin to make his Major League debut. Another crowd of over 27,000 turned out to watch another duel as Tomlin went toe-to-toe with C.C. Sabathia, holding Alex Rodriguez to another 0-for-4 game as the Tribe evened the series with a 4-1 victory.

The Indians were riding high after the superb debut they got from Tomlin and stellar work from the bullpen. But Wednesday night the storm clouds rolled in, literally. As they had the previous two games, the Tribe marketing department put up the $10 Twitter deal, but this time the weather was working against it. Shortly before game time, a rainstorm hit, delaying the game for an hour. Once it began, Fausto Carmona took the mound and was bombed right out of the gate. He obviously was not in the form he has shown all season long. He looked more like the Fausto Carmona of the last two seasons. He struggled to find the plate early and when he did, the Yankees pounded him. If Manny Acta had not pulled him early, he could very well have given up A-Rod’s 600th bomb. Again the Tribe bullpen pitched well enough to shut the Yankees, including Rodriguez, down. But the Indians lineup could not figure out A.J. Burnett and were the victims of an 8-0 shutout. Unlike the previous two games, A-Rod appeared to take some of the pressure off himself and just try to hit the ball, instead of hitting it out of the park. As a result, he went 2-for-5 with a double and a run batted in. The only entertainment for Indians fans was a near riot in the bleachers when a fan was spotted wearing a Lebron James Miami Heat jersey. Luckily the fan was ejected from the ballpark before anything disastrous could occur.

The series finale was the game I was eyeing. In addition to Alex Rodriguez still searching for that 600th home run, it was also dollar dog night at Progressive Field. Once @tribetalk announced the lower reserve seats were again on sale to Twitter users for one more game, I was sold. I headed off to the ballpark in hopes of seeing the Indians finally win a game with me in attendance. The game started off well and good as the Tribe took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. However, the possibility for disaster struck when Mitch Talbot had to leave the game in the third inning with an injury. While the Tribe bullpen had been very solid in recent weeks, it was also overworked. The Indians held the Yankees down for five innings, but by the sixth inning, the pitching staff was worn down. The Yanks posted seven runs in the seventh inning and two more in the eighth to take a commanding lead. Meanwhile the Tribe again could not figure out the Yankees’ pitching. This time they were facing youngster Dustin Moseley, who was filling in for the injured Andy Pettitte. The game was so out of hand that Manny Acta was forced to put third baseman Andy Marte on the hill to pitch the ninth. Marte rewarded Acta with a 1-2-3 inning, the Indians’ only one of the game, including a strikeout of slugger Nick Swisher, and received a massive applause from the Tribe fans left in attendance. The pop was probably the biggest the Indians received the entire game and most definitely the loudest of Marte’s career. The Indians showed a bit of life in the ninth, scoring three runs, but the game was too far out of hand to make the comeback and lost the game 11-4. Once again Alex Rodriguez failed to hit his 600th career home run. While it would have been interesting to be in attendance for something so historic, I was glad he did not do it in Cleveland. The loss left me now 0-5 in attending Tribe games. Although the team cannot seem to play well when I am at the games, I always seem to enjoy the action. However, because of such a poor record, perhaps I should consider banning myself from Tribe games for the rest of the season.

In the midst of the Yankee hoopla was the buzz over the latest Tribe trade talks. Wednesday the Indians pulled another trigger, trading struggling third baseman Jhonny Peralta to the Detroit Tigers for a single-A pitcher. This comes as no surprise as Peralta was not in the Indians’ future plans and the Tigers were desperately in need of a corner man when Brandon Inge went down with an injury. While the moves continued after the Yankees left town, the Bronx Bombers were still heavily involved with Indian affairs. Although Austin Kearns did not play well during the series, he obviously has been good enough to convince the Yankees he can contribute to their playoff run. Kearns was shipped to New York for cash or a player to be named later. The trading with the Yankees did not stop there either, as they were willing to take on the contract of Kerry Wood in another deal for cash or a player to be named. Each of these deals made sense as the Tribe is in the middle of a massive youth movement. Wood was definitely not working out for the team to warrant his ten-million dollar contract. Trading Kearns, while he was showing some good production as a middle of the order hitter, allows the organization to see if Michael Brantley has finally figured himself out after one last tour through Triple-A Columbus. Finally, the Indians were involved in another three team deadline deal which sent Jake Westbrook to the St. Louis Cardinals. In return the Tribe got a minor league pitcher from the San Diego Padres, who was described as having a “projectable arm.”

While the reasons for these deals make sense, the execution and return show one of two things: the true value of the players being traded as seen by the receiving teams, or a lack of effort to get quality in return by Tribe management. Receiving players to be named later are rarely ever a good thing. Mitch Talbot was the player to be named in the Kelly Shoppach trade. While he has been pitching well, whether he is a quality starter or a fluke remains to be seen. Fans can only hope Mark Shapiro or Chris Antonetti can pull rabbits out of their hats with the players to be named that they get from the Yankees for Kearns and Wood. As for the Indians now, they are the youngest team in the league and many fans see them as a glorified Triple-A team playing in the Majors. As I have stated before, I enjoy watching the youngsters play. Many times they will be overmatched against seasoned veterans but it will give them a valuable learning experience. Many top organizations build the core of their Major League teams from within the organization. The Minnesota Twins did it with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Francisco Liriano. The Boston Red Sox did it with Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Kevin Youkilis. The Colorado Rockies did it with practically their entire roster. The Indians did it themselves once upon a time. They are capable of doing it again, even with cash strapped ownership such as the Dolans.

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  1. Considering how some of the prospects we’ve gotten in other trades have panned out, I always get cautious when the Indians do a trade with a “player to be named later.” The Indians have had a lot of trades where the prospects flat out didn’t pan out or are still developing. Brantley is a good example of that and LaPorta tends to be inconsistent. A lot of the players we got in trades last season are still working their way up through the minors and it’s questionable whether they will get the phone call to Cleveland.

    You do have a point that some trades do work out for the best. I remember being upset the day we traded Bartolo Colon but in reality, that was one of the best trades we made. Colon only had a couple of good years after that while Sizemore, Lee and Phillips have proven to be mainstays.

    Jeff Sabo

    August 3, 2010 at 12:18 am

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