Better Off Dead
They say it’s darkest before the dawn.
Well cock-a-freaking-doodle-doo to the Cleveland Indians. If that rooster doesn’t crow in the next week to ten days you may as well serve it up for dinner because it doesn’t get any darker than it is right now for Eric Wedge and his troops.
After splitting a four game track meet in Texas the Tribe waltzed into Detroit to face perhaps the one team more disappointing than the Indians in all of baseball and dropped two of three games to the bumbling Tigers.
And we’re not just talking about the bats that continue to sleep. We’re now entering full-blown breakdown mode for this club. If it’s not the offense continuing to fall short then it’s the starting pitching that’s inadequate. If it’s not the starting pitching or the hitting then it’s the suddenly leaky bullpen that’s giving away rare leads.
No part of this ball club is performing up to even reasonable expectations. And because everything is a mess the Indians all of a sudden find themselves 8.5 games behind in the mediocre AL Central and 7 games under .500, their low water mark of the season.
We’ve been keeping track of the Indians struggles since the start of the season and we’ve also been checking the internal calendar to gauge whether this team is in need of some supplemental talent to get them over the hump or whether they’re about to clear the decks by looking to deal CC Sabathia to the highest bidder. The fact that the Indians and the Chicago White Sox are heading in opposite directions in the standings may be a better indication than looking at any calendar. The Tribe is nearing the jump-off point for their 2008 season. Without a drastic turnaround in the next 7-10 days it’s time to call a spade a spade and look to 2009 and beyond. That’s not being dramatic. That’s being honest. This team has some players that would add value to clubs who are battling for their division lead or who have legitimate playoff aspirations. If you’re not going to be one of those guys then you better be ready and willing to raid their rosters for players who can help you get back to that level sooner rather than later.
Aside from Sabathia the Indians can also get value for players like Paul Byrd, Casey Blake, David Dellucci, Jamey Carroll and others. In fact, you might be able to count on one hand the guys who are untouchable on this current roster, even if you’ve lost a finger or two in some industrial accident. We’re quickly approaching that time when not looking to improve your ball club for seasons beyond this one is criminal. The injuries to Fausto Carmona and Jake Westbrook, especially the death knell sounded by the news Westbrook is done for a full year while his elbow is rebuilt, has lengthened the odds against this team competing for a division title or a wildcard spot.
In an odd way, being DOA on June 15th might actually benefit this club. There will be no hand-wringing over what to do with Sabathia or anyone else who can bring you a return of major league-ready hitters. All the thought has been removed. That’s not a bad thing right now for this front office.
Jhonny Bhe Bhad
I chan’t thake thoo mhuch mhore of this ghuy.
For me Jhonny Peralta embodies everything that’s wrong with this Cleveland Indians team. When I look at Peralta I see a guy with major league ability as a hitter but who appears to have absolutely no clue at the plate on any given at bat.
Case in point: bases loaded Sunday against the Tigers with the Indian trailing 5-2 and just one out. Grady Sizemore had led off the inning by popping out to 3rd base against Tiger reliever Casey Fossum. The Tigers bring in Zach Miner who walks Franklin Gutierrez (no easy task). Victor Martinez singles. Ryan Garko gets hit by a pitch from Miner who is now clearly Paris Hilton-wild.
The Tribe is on the verge of getting right back into this ballgame.
Detroit brings on Freddy Dolsi in relief of Miner. Dolsi’s first two pitches to Peralta are thrown closer to Windsor, Ontario than to the strike zone. So the count is 2-0 to Peralta and the Indians are dying for a good at bat here against a cat who can’t hit the ground if he drops the ball. Yet inconceivably Peralta swings at a 2-0 pitch that was up around the letters and was more than likely ball 3. Peralta then swings through another offering from Dolsi and ultimately strikes out on a 3-2 pitch. Ben Francisco follows Peralta by striking out looking on three pitches and your ball game was, in effect, extremely over.
Francisco had a horrible at bat. But the inning was effectively killed because Jhonny Peralta has a huge head full of air and has no concept of what he’s doing or what’s called for by certain situations. This is not a babe in the woods either. Peralta has over 2,000 major league at bats. Unfortunately he apparently retains nothing from any one of them.
Peralta is currently hitting .235 on the season. He leads the club with 11 HRs but has only 21 RBI to show for those homers. He’s earned the nickname ‘Hon Solo’ on the TCF message boards. And if you really want to see steam come from the ears of people who watch this team night after night, just talk about Jhonny’s defense. For as lazy and clueless as Peralta can appear to be with a bat in his hands, he’s downright comatose on the defensive side of the ball.
Peralta lacks lateral quickness and he’s not especially adept at charging a ball and throwing on the run. There are occasions when he genuinely seems startled by a ball hit at him. Having limited range and being semi-coherent are not typically the job requirements for a major league shortstop. The Indians front office would have you believe Peralta is a plus bat the position. But I certainly don’t see it enough. While Jhonny can occasionally knock you over with his approach and his power he can’t seem to consistently bring production to the table.
Peralta can hit. He hasn’t often enough this season but he is capable. But playing a defensively deficient player at SS means he better be a dominant middle of the order run producer. That is not Jhonny Peralta. Not by a long shot. And his struggles, and his demeanor while going through them, are emblematic of this entire team.