Mark Shapiro and the Cleveland Indians did a very efficient job of slaying the 2009 season when they traded a bevy of starters and major league players for prospects last week. Given the fact the Indians were nearly 20 games under .500 when the plug was pulled you would not be wrong to consider it a mercy killing.
It's hard to fault them for throwing dirt on this disappointing season.
But whether or not Shapiro wants to split hairs over phrases like ‘sweeping changes' and ‘rebuild vs. reload' the Indians, for all intents and purposes, also threw up the white flag on the 2010 season. One look at the prospective pitching staff for next season should convince any Tribe fans of that.
That's disappointing and frustrating. But the next two months could still be productive and help make 2010 a bit more tolerable if the Indians do the right thing today. By that I mean now is the time to bring Matt LaPorta to Cleveland.
I don't care who has to go (Jose Veras) or who has to be shut down (Grady Sizemore) for LaPorta to get the call up but waiting four weeks for September to arrive is waiting four weeks too many.
LaPorta can hit. This is an established fact as far as minor league production goes. The 24-year old has hovered around the .300 mark in Columbus all season and has hit 13 HRs while driving in nearly 50 runs. His OBP is almost 100 points higher than his batting average and his OPS is just about .900. He's putting up these very respectable numbers after advancing through AA last season so he's made the necessary adjustments in Columbus.
Why not bring this kid up today and let him make some more adjustments?
I'm not talking specifically about adjusting from minor league pitching to Major League pitching although I'd definitely hope to see some success. I'm also talking about the hundreds of other adjustments a minor leaguer has to make when he gets to the big leagues. Let LaPorta and any other kids you may be counting on next season get that initial discomfort out of the way. I know LaPorta was up for a cup of coffee earlier in the season and that's a plus. But he was up for just a couple of weeks, 13 games overall.
I want LaPorta and others to pack their bags for a long trip, get used to the major league schedule of arriving at the park, eating, working out, and tipping the clubhouse kids. I want LaPorta to be comfortable in the box next season when the Tribe visits Camden Yards, US Cellular Field and the Oakland Coliseum. Let him see how the ball comes out of the backdrop, let him face Mark Buehrle, Joe Nathan, Justin Verlander and the rest of the American League pitchers still remaining on the schedule. Let him do it starting today as opposed to heaping it all on him next season.
The experience would be invaluable and gets some of the learning left for these kids to do out of the way now, before the slate is wiped clean and the 2010 season is upon us. Baseball is a game of constant adjustments and also one of comfort. Why not begin that process today?
This season is over. There are no moral victories to be won. I'm not interested in playing spoiler against the AL central with the current roster and hoping to save face by winning a few more games than you might with raw kids. In short, suck is suck and there are no degrees of it.
There's potentially a great deal to be gained by getting those awkward first steps out of the way right now. Kids like LaPorta not only get a taste of the major league lifestyle but they also develop a greater hunger for it while they gain a great deal of valuable experience on and off the field.
Look, I'm begging you Mr. Shapiro. Andy Marte forced your hand and he was deservedly brought up for yet another opportunity. LaPorta deserves the same nod. What message does it send any kid in the organization if they see someone sustain success, put in the work they were asked to put in and work on their game only to die on the vine until September call-ups when there is clearly an opportunity for them in Cleveland now?
Not to mention that a consequence of the recent trades is that the fan base of this team is crushed right now. Two straight years in which you trade the reigning Cy Young winner followed up by the trade of the iconic Victor Martinez to the hated Red Sox will do that to your followers.
Let us see the fruits of those deals. Give us a glimpse of what we've got to look forward to and what work remains to be done with these kids. Justin Masterson's efforts the other night against the Tigers buoyed us. It may have been a band-aid on a sucking chest wound that the organization inflicted but it was something. Don't half-ass this rebuild and don't treat these young players with kid gloves. The organization needs to learn about them for evaluation and instructional purposes and to minimize the duration of the suck and we fans need to see them.
Jesus. You're not going to break them and if even if you do that tells you something about their makeup and their ability to help pull this team out of the death spiral it's currently in. Look at David Huff. The kid has an ERA approaching 6.00 but I'm intrigued by what I see. He's competing and he's learning and he's making adjustments all while occasionally getting his ass kicked. He doesn't look scared and he doesn't look overwhelmed and every pitch he's thrown this season will benefit him going forward.
Same with Luis Valbuena. You can see his confidence growing every week because more and more mystery is removed from the game. So he's hitting .240. But his head is filling with more information and he's developing a critical rapport with another young guy you stuck with (more or less) in Asdrubal Cabrera.
Get Matt LaPorta up here for that same experience. Let him take his lumps and have some success and put him ahead of the curve heading into next season.
Better sooner than later.
Why not now?