Yes the Kent State Golden Flashes have had a historic year. An 11 – 1 record with 2 more games to play. The Golden Flashes have had two winning seasons since I came to Kent. A 7 -4 record in 1987 and 6 -5 in 2001. 84 total wins since 1985 with 19 of those wins coming in the last three years, and 48 wins coming in the last ten years. This has been a wonderful season to watch.
Kent has some very good players. A couple of offensive linemen who are going to be drafted this year. One Brian Winters, maybe in the second round. Roosevelt Nix a junior defensive linemen who is one of their better players. The team has two great running backs Trayion Durham and Dri Archer. Archer a junior had scored a touchdown in every game this year until last week. He is definitely one of the more exciting players in the country. He has scored 21 touchdowns on the year by rushing, receiving, kick returns, punt returns, and passing. If you get to watch any games keep your eye on Archer. He can score at any moment.
What does this have to do with the Tribe? The Golden flashes and the Cleveland Indians are going in opposite directions. Kent State with a win could possible end up with a BCS birth in the Orange Bowl! The baseball team just completed competing in the college world series and knocked off a few top five teams on the way to a top 10 finish. Everyone is talking about the Kent State Golden Flashes and they are making appearances on national TV. The Cleveland Indians are nowhere to be seen. It is like they are trying not to be noticed. The last two months of the baseball season it was hard to find anyone who could tell me what the Tribe had done in any game. The apathy towards the Indians was staggering. I might as well of talked politics and religion with people. The Tribe fell out of the pennant race and out of everyone’s thoughts. The Indians made few moves and were fairly silent. They did fire Manny Acta and hire Terry Francona, their big headline for the last 4 months. They quietly released Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Roberto Hernandez (I don’t even know who that guy is – oh Fausto Carmona) and a few other muffled moves. Don’t mind us we are not doing anything, really! They are like an actor or politician who gets in trouble and decides to lay low for a while. I am really hoping that they turn it up a notch during the winter meeting and create some excitement about the team, but I doubt it. There have been rumors they may try and rebuild again. With interest in the Tribe at an all-time low this would only intensify their problems in my opinion.
Here are my thoughts on what has happened so far.
Firing Acta and hiring Francona: I didn’t mind Manny Acta, but I thought that he didn’t have the intensity this team needed. The team seamed listless sometimes and was going through the motions. I was talking to my beer vendor buddy Tim and we were discussing how a team takes on its manager’s personality. I think this was totally true. Acta rarely argued with umpires and would calmly go about his job. I think there are times when a manager needs to go off to fire his team up. They don’t have to be Lou Piniella, but they can jump start a dugout. (One of my favorite games I ever attended Lou kicked his hat around the infield a dozen times, and then up into the stands. He then tried to retrieve his hat. The crowd cheered louder and louder with every kick. ) I don’t think the players in the end liked playing for Acta. There was a game in New York where Dewayne Wise dove into the stands to make a catch. He came out of the stands and the umpire called Jack Hannahan out even though Wise didn’t have the ball. Dewayne Wise Bogus Catch Hannahan proceded to get tossed from the game and Acta argued but remained in the game. This was one play that called for a Lou Pinniella moment. One of the worst calls of all time and Acta does not argue for his player. It was events like this that I think peeved players. They didn’t think that Acta stood up for them. I felt Asdrubal especially became frustrated with Acta a few times. The fans in Cleveland wanted Sandy Alomar Jr. as the manager, but I think Francona was the right choice. He has had a great relationship with the front office in the past, working as a special advisor. I believe he was well liked by players in Boston and could attract free agents to Cleveland. Francona comes from a large Boston market that had intense pressure to win, and he produced. He could have had about any job he wanted and he choose Cleveland.
Player Movement: Releasing Hafner, Sizemore, and Hernadez does not surprise me. Nor would I be surprised if any of them are back with the team next year. I doubt it and hope not, but I could see Hafner signing a low contract with incentives. He is married and lives in Cleveland now. Our offense is better when he is in the lineup, unfortunately that was not nearly enough. Hafner was one of the most feared hitters in the game five years ago. In 2006 teams did anything they could not to pitch to him. They would be better off to walk him with the bases loaded than to pitch to him. (He hit 6 grand slams that year and 42 home runs) I wish Grady Sizemore could have made it back last year. There was a time I thought Sizemore would be the face of the franchise and the one player the Tribe would pay to keep. Injuries changed all of that. I feel as though Sizemore should play for free for the Indians after last year, but I doubt he will be back. The Tribe did make a minor move by trading Esmil Rogers to the Toronto Blue Jays for infielders Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes. Rogers was a reclamation project who had a very good year last year. Even if Rogers has turned the corner the Tribe has plenty of bull pen arms and can risk trading for other needs. Aviles at the very least solves the Tribes utility infielder position and backs up Asdrubal which they sorely needed last year. Gomes is a right handed bat with power that can play multiple corner positions and even catch.
Should the Tribe Reload or Rebuild: There have been a lot of rumors that the Tribe may try to cash in on some of their veteran players and trade them. Asdrubal Cabrera, Chris Perez, and Shin-Soo Choo. The thinking is that the Tribe has very few players (other than relief pitchers) in the upper minors who will be ready to help soon. They do have some quality players in single A. Some of their top prospects play shortstop. Fransico Lindor being the one name to remember. The Indians are in need of starting pitching. This is the one area that had a complete collapse all year long last year. Asdrubal should allow the Indians to bring in a couple high ceiling pitchers. Choo is one year away from free agency is very unlikely to return since his agent is Scott Boros. Chris Perez has not been a model player with his comments about fans and the front office. As I have mentioned the Indians strength is relief pitching and Perez could probably be easily replaced. Trading Asdrubal would signal a significant rebuild. Choo would be hard to replace but as I mentioned he is good as gone at the end of the year and the Tribe could try and replace him now. I just happen to disagree with departing with any of these players other than Perez. The time for the Tribe to win could be now. The New York Yankees have their own problems and even though they are still good, they are not great. I am not sure how much longer that is going to last. If the Tribe decides to rebuild the Yankees will probably have fixed their problems by then. No one in the American league is dominating right now. Oakland won their division against the likes of the Rangers and Angels. The Orioles won the wild card and just missed winning the division. The Tribe has shown for two straight years that they are capable of being near the top of the division. With the coaching change and some smart moves in free agency the Indians should be able to stay competitive in the American league. (I will post my free agency wish list next week, but Kevin Youkilis will be on it) I am also tired of the Tribe getting rid of star players while Detroit continues to amass them. You need star players to win!
As I mentioned earlier, if the Tribe rebuilds they will also be fighting a marketing nightmare. The fans and radio have tuned out Tribe in record numbers this year. If the Indians don’t show the fans some energy then, like the players did with Acta, the fans will become more disenchanted with the Tribe.
And who know sometimes heaven smiles upon us. My Kent State Golden Flashes have been miserable forever it seems, but this year came out of nowhere. No one expected a year like this. If the Tribe tries to compete with the few great players it has maybe the stars will align one day for them to. If they rebuild I can almost guarantee those stars will not be aligning this year.
This is a little long, but here goes. I was going to write about the Indians next move when news broke today about Grady Sizemore possibly returning to the Tribe. Sizemore on verge of deal I have been wondering for a few weeks now what the front office was thinking by not picking up Sizemore’s contract. I just can not see them replacing Grady with any comparable player without paying a huge sum of money. And as we all know the Tribe is very unlikely to jump in on a big free agent, especially at this point in the teams development. The Dolan’s have spent money before contrary to popular belief, but I don’t see the front office spending money at this time. Especially with the uncertainty about this team and what exactly they have. The Tribe could sign Sizemore to incentive laden one year contract. Possibly worth more than the 9 million he was to make. If he plays the entire year and meets the goals that is great. Hopefully the rest of the team will perform as expected and the Indians will have a great season. If he excels but the rest of the team falters the Tribe could easily trade him and get back a good prospect or needed piece. Suppose he is still hurt and plays randomly or he has a lackluster year. The Indians would not be stuck with a multiyear contract. The price to bring in a free agent would probably be much more than taking the risk with Sizemore. I have been researching some of the players that are free agents and players the Tribe may target in trades.
I will start out with the 2011 free agents. Jim Bowden on ESPN.COM has an article on the projected price of each free agent. Obviously the Indians will not be pursuing Pujols or Fielder. Count out Carlos Beltran as he would be to expensive and reportedly he already nixed a midsummer trade to the Tribe. Here is a list of possible free agents with their batting stance and age.
Michael Cuddyer – Twins – Righty age 32 Cuddyer is considered a great clubhouse presence and he hits lefties which the Tribe sorely needs both. He is a career .270 hitter with 20 HR power. He can play multiple positions, but does not excel defensively. Here is the main problem. He will probably command a 10 million dollar annual salary and his name had been linked to numerous high profile teams. He will be to expensive for the Cleveland Kinks (I’m on a Low Budget- as Ray Davies once said).
The next three players played on an Oakland team that made the Tribe’s offense look like Murderers’ row.
Josh Willingham – Oakland – Righty age 32 The Tribe was linked to Willingham in the summer before the trade deadline. He made 6 million last year while battting .246. He is a career .262 hitter with 20 – 25 HR power. Unlike Cuddyer he does not hit lefties, is an outfielder only, and he is not a great defender. Bowden reports he should command a salary around 7 million a year. Seems like a lot for a player that puts up numbers similar to Sizemore’s. Sizemore offers the potential to improve.
David DeJesus – Oakland – Lefty age 31 DeJesus made 6 million last year and is reportedly going to be in the 4 mill this year. He bats left handed and the Tribe could really use a righty. He struggles with left handers like the rest of the Tribe. He has no arm in the outfield and is not the best defender. He is a career .284 hitter but only hit .240 last season and has 10 HR power. At 4 million a year he is an option, but I believe Sizemore brings so much more possible upside to the offense and defense.
Coco Crisp – Oakland – Bats Switch age 32, Can you believe that this is a name that could resurface with the Tribe. Crisp was rumored in trades with the Tribe this summer and again during free agency. He made 5.75 million last year will make approximately the same in his new contract. Another player who has troubles with lefties, but he did steal 49 bases last year. A career .275 hitter, but only a .736 OPS. The Indians need more offense than that and Crisp is not a superstar in the field.
Jason Kubel – Twins – Lefty age 29 Kubel will receive a salary around 5 mil a year. He is a career .271 with 20 HR power. A majority of those coming off the Tribe it seems like. He is a poor defender and actually probably better suited to DH. Just what the Tribe doesn’t need, another DH.
Johnny Damon – Tampa Rays – Lefty age 38 The end is coming for Damon. If the Tribe could sign him to a short term contract around a couple million, I would say maybe. He made 5 mil last year while hitting .261 with 16 HR. For Detroit in 2010 he hit .271 with 8 HR. He has a proven track record but the age is a concern.
Andrew Jones – Yankees – Righty age 34 Jones had his best year since 2006. He hit .247 with 13 HR last year. Jones has never been a high average hitter and he is 5 years removed from his monster home run years. He is no longer a premiere outfielder either.
Cody Ross – Giants – Righty age 30 Cody made 6.3 million last year while hitting .240 with 14 HR. He is a career .268 hitter with 20 HR potential. I am not sure I would give him a long term contract, but this may be one player I would add as insurance. If Sizemore was unable to play or another outfielder was injured Ross would be a great insurance policy to have. He could also fill in regularly and give Sizemore, Choo and Brantley a day off. He is also the right handed bat the Tribe has been looking for. I would not want the tribe to replace Sizemore with Ross but to possibly add him to the team.
Kosuke Fukudome – Indians – Lefty age 34 Fukudome joined the Indians last year at the trade deadline. His stats with the Tribe were unimpressive, but I believe he would be a great 4th outfielder. Would he settle for that? I doubt it.
J. D. Drew – Boston – Lefty age 35 Drew has had one good year in his career in my opinion and should NOT be considered.
Rick Ankeil – Washington – Lefty age 32 See J. D. Drew!
The majority of free agents are at an age that most players begin to slow down and most are left handed (like Grady). The Tribe is in search of a right handed bat. I believe that Cody Ross due to his age and that he puts up the same numbers as other free agents, should be on the Indians phone list. He has 20 HR potential will probably command a lower salary than most of the free agents I have discussed. David DeJesus and Johnny Damon could also be low cost options, but I don’t know if either would come to possibly be a part time player. Possible Damon, but each has their own warts. DeJesus no defense, doesn’t hit lefties and little power. Damon is getting up there in age and is also left handed.
Two players that are free agents that I did not talk about are first basemen Casey Kotchman and Carlos Pena. The Tribe could try and sign either one of these players to replace Sizemore or add offense to the team.
Pena – Cubs – Lefty age 33 Pena could possibly platoon at first base since he has problems with lefties. I don’t see the Tribe wanting to add a first baseman that needs to platoon. Pena does take a lot of walks and has a high on base percentage. It is strike out, home run, or walk for Pena. He will reportedly earn 10.5 million this next contract and I pretty sure that will exclude the Tribe.
Kotchman – Tampa Rays – Lefty age 28 Here is a player that I would like to see the Indians pursue. Kotchman is known as one of the better defensive first basemen in the league. He is a career .268 hitter with 10 – 15 HR power. If LaPorta is not considered the first base man for the Tribe, I believe they should consider a superior replacement in the field. Kotchman is going to command a 4 million dollar contract according to Bowden. The Tribe should be able to afford that. They could offer Kotchman a little more money for a one year deal and send LaPort back to the minors. LaPorta does not have anything else to prove, but it may be message to him. I am not sure LaPorta is not major league material. He did have 53 RBI’s in 353 at bats last year, but his defense leaves something to be desired. If LaPorta could play everyday he may put up 100 RBI’s. If the Tribe believes in LaPorta and that he can fix his mental lapses on defense great. If not they should consider Kotchman.
Derrek Lee is another first basemen free agent. He is 36 and rarely is healthy anymore. Five years age he would have been a player the Indians would have been looking for.
Another route the Indians could take is trading for a player. Here are some of the players that names have been rumored in trades.
Denard Span – Twins – Lefty age 27 Span is speedy defensive center fielder who makes 1 million a year. He is a .285 career hitter who would fit in the Tribe’s budget. The only problem is that the Indians would have to probably trade a reliever, possibly Chris Perez. The Tribe has loads of talent coming up through the minors that are relief pitchers. It is the one are that the Indians will probably be set at for a few years. I could see the Tribe trading Perez as they have numerous possible replacements. If the Indians resign Sizemore I don’t see the need for Span.
B.J. Upton – Detroit – Righty age 27 Upton is the right handed bat the Tribe is looking for and he is only 27. He has 20 HR power could steal 40 bases. He strikes out a LOT (fits in with the Tribe nicely), and has a low career OPS .758. He also plays with Detroit and do we make a trade with such close competition?
Martin Prado – Braves – Righty age 28 Makes 3 million and can play multiple positions OF/3B. Contact hitter who is a .293 career hitter with 15 home run power. Braves are looking for impact outfield bat. I am not sure what the Tribe could offer.
Charlie Blackmon – Rockies – Lefty age 25 Blackmon was hurt and put on the 60 day DL last year with a fractured left foot. He has a .316 career minor league average and could blossom into a good player. Would be a great option as a 4th outfielder and would probably not take a top player to trade for. One of the Tribe’s many minor league relievers would hopefully do the trick.
Brett Wallace – Astros- Lefty 25 Wallace is behind Carlos Lee in Houston and has no position. He was 42nd best prospect in 2009 when LaPorta was the 14th. 2010 he was the 16th best prospect. He is known as a hitting machine, but his brief stints in he majors have shown little. Wallace has 20 plus home run power and a high batting average. He has limited range and he can only play first or DH. A major plus is Wallace makes the league minimum, a perfect fit for the Tribe (Cleveland Kinks). Wallace has been involved in 3 major trades. Once for Matt Holliday, once for Roy Holliday, and in he Roy Oswalt trade.
As I mentioned earlier that I think it is in the best interest of the Indians to bring back Grady Sizemore. The upside potential with Sizemore is greater than the other free agents available at comparable cost. If Sizemore fails it is for one year. If he returns to Super Sizemore the Tribe can sign him or trade him for other players. Adding a player such as Cody Ross, Charlie Blackmon, Kosuke Fukudome, or Martin Prado should be considered weather Sizemore resigns or not. I believe the Tribe should look seriously at possible adding a first baseman. The player may depend upon Sizemore signing. Kotchman would cost a little more money, but adds a great defensive first baseman. A trade for Wallace adds a big league ready bat that may not have had enough major league experience to show its true worth. In a perfect world the Tribe resigns Sizemore and adds another outfielder, and a first baseman. I am keeping my eyes on these names: Martin Prado, Cody Ross, Charlie Blackmon, Brett Wallace and Casey Kotchman. It would be nice to see two of those name with the Tribe come opening day along with Grady Sizemore.
Check back a the around the first of the year and I will try to post again. A little shorter also.