TRIBE IN TROUBLE: WHY CLEVELAND INDIANS FANS SHOULD WORRY
I'm not sure what's shakier right now: the Indians pitching or the economy. And Joe Borowski's disabled-list stint -- after blowing two April saves in fantastically painful ways -- is kind of like the coming economic stimulus. It will provide temporary relief, but won't keep the ball club from getting screwed later. (Most of you will have to pay back that stimulus, by the way.)
The biggest problem the Tribe has isn't even Joe Blow or the closer position. It's the reigning A.L. Cy Young award winner C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia is 0-3 with a preposterous 13.50 ERA after his shelling last night at the hands of the Detroit Tigers. Though most of the damage came in a nightmarish 5th inning, in which Sabathia did not record a single out, Sabathia totally harmed himself by walking five, a troubling trend that fellow starter Fausto Carmona has also shown this April.
Analyst after analyst has said, "C.C.'s gonna snap out of it. He's too good." I sincerely hope all of them are correct. But I wouldn't be me -- the annoying, told-you-so me -- if I didn't point you to this post from the off-season. I proposed the idea that if the Indians couldn't make a trade for Jason Bay or another everyday corner outfielder (didn't happen) and if they couldn't re-sign Sabathia before spring training started on their terms (also didn't happen), then they should shop him -- trade him to get something for him before he bolts at contract's end.
As much as I hate to be wrong, sometimes I hate to be right. This is one of those times.
I got murdered for this idea from everyone who read it because most of them blinded by loyalty to No. 52 and because most of them never read Terry Pluto's book about the Indians, Dealing. I was berated fiercely because one of the names I mentioned was Juan Pierre, who I'll admit delivers an .OPS akin to the attendance at most Florida Marlins games. But, really, I imagined the Indians acquiring an outfielder, a closer (the Indians are without a legitimate one right now) and whatever prospects they could get to fill out the farm. I suggested, logically, they trade him to a place like L.A., which is close to home for Sabathia and has two organizations with the cash capabilities to pay him his astonishingly high market value when he becomes a free agent.
I won't rehash every ounce of logic I spewed there. Go back and read it yourself. But what I will say is that Mark Shapiro -- who is a genius for assembling the Indians core of Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner, Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Garko -- couldn't quite put together a safe but bold off-season deal that would have guaranteed the Indians to be a winning ballclub for years to come. He put a little too much faith in Borowski, and he didn't recognize that Sabathia, in all likelihood, was going to go the route of Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez, testing the free-agent waters only to say "Siyanara" to the city on the lake. With no changes or risks coming into 2008, the Indians organization was collectively sitting at a game of five-card draw, holding three 4s and refusing to draw a card. Too bad quite a few hands can beat a three-of-a-kind.
Sabathia may turn this around and go 17-3. The Indians might start finally start hitting, climb out of this 5-10 hole they've gotten themselves into, and play right back to the top of the A.L. Central. But Kansas City is better, Chicago is off to a startlingly good start with revived pitching, Minnesota isn't as barren as everyone says, and Detroit proved tonight how they can play their way back into the race and win the division: scorch everyone to death with the best one-through-nine in baseball.
What does the Tribe have? A lot of question marks. They need a savior, an unexpected pick-me-up from someone we've written off. Maybe it's Cliff Lee or Andy Marte or Josh Barfield. Maybe it's Ben Francisco, who most people are dubbing the next Carl Yastrzemski in comparison to Cleveland's woeful Jason Michaels/David Dellucci platoon. Maybe it's Trevor Crowe, Adam Miller, or Rafael Perez. Call me a pessimist if you want, but it's probably not C.C. Sabathia. In retrospect, though, if he bombs this year, the Indians might be able to overpay for him in the off-season and bring him back.
This rough start is enough to make you wish you could go back in a time to October and shanghai Joel Skinner and Josh Beckett in the night. I'll be watching the Indians at Yankee Stadium in May, and I really hope I don't have to bring a paper sack to wear over my head. Maniac Manny Ramirez's ninth-inning blast Monday was enough to remind us Wahoos of the world that we were so close yet were -- and are -- so far away.