Thursday, June 24, 2010

Are we having fun yet?

So what have we learned from the first six games of the Indians' nine-game interleague road trip? This: Not only aren't they as good as the Phillies, one of the elite teams in the majors, but they may not even be as good as the Pirates, one of the worst teams in the majors.

Next comes three games with the Reds. Bet you can hardly wait, huh? On a brighter note, the Indians claimed Laynce Nix off waivers from the White Sox. To this point in his career Nix is most known for the unconventional way he spells his first name. What he hasn't done much of this year is hit.

Sent to Columbus to make room for Nix was Luis Valbuena. You wouldn't think the Indians could add a guy to replace Valbuena who was actually hitting LESS than Valbuena, but the Indians managed to do it. Nix was hitting .163 for the White Sox. That makes Valbuena's .166 average with the Indians look positively Maueresque.

The other roster move was to demote Jensen Lewis in order to make room on the roster for Aaron Laffey, who will be recalled from Columbus today and will start tonight in Cincinnati. The demotion of Lewis was surprise. It seemed more likely that Tony Sipp had earned a demotion, in order to get himself straightened out. Sipp has been a mess for the last three weeks. Apparently, though, Manager Manny Acta prefers to have a second lefty in the bullpen to pair with Rafael Perez, and is willing to live with Sipp's ongoing struggles.

The Indians are 1-5 on the nine-game trip that will end with the three games in Cincinnati. For the trid, the All-Star break can't get here fast enough.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Who would want Wood?

If Kerry Wood is hoping to get traded to a contender, this is no way to go about it. Wood's spectacular blown save Wednesday night will draw the attention of contending teams, but for all the wrong reasons. Giving up a two-run walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth inning is a good way for Wood to keep himself anchored to the Indians' roster for the rest of this going-nowhere season.

Following his night at the office Wednesday, when he gave up a two-run home run to Jimmy Rollins with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving the Phillies a 7-6 win over Indians, Wood now has a record of 1-3, with 3 blown saves and a humongous 7.98 ERA. Those numbers aren't going to generate any phone calls to Tribe GM Mark Shapiro from other GM's asking about Wood's availability. Ironically, Wood is very available, but the way he is pitching, who would want him?

The Wood-Indians marriage has been a disaster from day one. The Indians signed him prior to the 2009 season, under the assumption that they were contenders. Instead, they were pretenders. By mid-season they had begun a fire sale to strip the roster and begin a rebuild that has carried over into 2010. Through it all, Wood has been the elephant in the room - a wildly expensive closer for a team with no money and no hope of contending. In other words, a team with no need for a closer.

The Indians would love to trade Wood, and what's left of his $10.5 million 2010 salary, but he has pitched so poorly it's unlikely any team would have interest in him, unless he suddenly turns his season around. That's probably not going to happen because the last place Indians have so few save situations that Wood rarely pitches in meaningful games, and when he does get the odd save situtation he's usually rusty.

All in all it's bad situation for the Indians and Wood. He appears to be an untradable player at the moment for a team that desperately wants to trade him.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Please, no more Moyer

Some losses are downright predictable. The Indians’ 2-1 loss to the Phillies Tuesday night was one of them. You could see this one coming three days ago.

With a lineup filled with young and inexperienced hitters, the last kind of pitcher the Indians need to see is 47-year-old Jamie Moyer. Moyer was pitching in the major leagues before many of the players in the Indians’ starting lineup were even shaving.

Moyer survives, no, make that flourishes, by changing speeds, hitting his spots, and many times letting the batter get himself out by swinging at pitchers’ pitches. In other words, young hitters can be easy prey for a crafty veteran like Moyer.

Even veteran hitters can be dominated by Moyer, when he is at his best. The Indians found that out in the 2001 Division Series, when Moyer was with Seattle. In two starts in that series against the Indians, Moyer was 2-0, with a 1.50 ERA.

That 2001 Indians lineup was an all veteran lineup (Lofton, Vizquel, Robbie Alomar, Juan Gonzalez, Ellis Burks, Jim Thome, Travis Fryman, Marty Cordova), but Moyer, then a spry 38-year-old, made that lineup look just as bad as he made the Indians’ mostly inexperienced lineup look Tuesday night.

So the Indians couldn’t beat him when he was 38. They couldn’t beat him at 47. Maybe they’ll have better when he’s 56.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rebuilding is in the eye of the beholder

On more than one occasion, Indians manager Manny Acta has said following a game, usually a loss, that the Indians have to play a near perfect game in order to win. That's true. It's also unfortunate, because even the best teams rarely play a perfect game. The Indians are one of the worst teams, so you can reduced the chances of them playing a perfect game accordingly.

Because of the lack of talent on their roster, the Indians have almost no margin of error when it comes to trying to win games. Their pitching has to be near-flawless, their hitting has to be timely and productive, and their defense has to be error-free. All three of those things rarely happen on the same night, so it's no surprise that the Indians lose on most nights, and that they are in last place.

I think back to the day Acta was hired. He was asked how the Indians' situation compared to that of the team he had managed the previous 2 1/2 years, the Washington Nationals. Acta refused to even acknowledge that the Indians were rebuilding. He emphasized that the Indians had way more talent on hand than did the Nationals. I wonder now, nearly halfway through his first season as manager, how Acta views the talent level of the team he is managing.

With two starters, Grady Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera, out for the year (Sizemore) or for much of the year (Cabrera), what's left of the Indians really does resemble an expansion team. On most nights their lineup includes a few veterans sprinkled in with several young players trying to establish themselves at the major league level. The Indians' entire pitching staff fits that profile.

Occasionally they will come close to playing nearly perfect, and they'll win that game. More often, though, they will play like the young and inexperienced team that they mostly are, and they will lose those games.

That, essentially, is what expansion baseball looks like. That is what a rebuilding team looks like, and whether Acta wants to admit it or not, that's what the Indians are.