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Finding Positives


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Hoynes and Manoloff go back-to-back with hopefulness:


First up, Hoynes:

Finding positives proved to be a challenge after Cleveland Indians' wasted 2009 season

By Paul Hoynes

October 10, 2009, 7:30PM


It's too easy to ask what went wrong with the 2009 Indians. Everyone knows by now.


People have been fired and traded because of it.


The harder question to ask and answer is what went right? Not much to be sure.


Asdrubal Cabrera had a nice year. The same with Shin-Soo Choo. Rookie David Huff won 11 games. Luis Valbuena hit 10 homers as a rookie. Tony Sipp and Chris Perez threw well at times out of the bullpen.


The Indians had a chance to look at a lot of rookies. There were 12 on the club when the season ended on Oct. 4 with a 12-7 loss to Boston. Said fired manager Eric Wedge, "Some have shown they belong in the big leagues. Some need more time in the minors."


Which sounds a lot like the scout, who in early June, when the Indians still had the team they thought would contend intact, said, "The Indians have a lot of big-league players. They just don't have any stars."


Since several of those big-league players were traded long ago, it makes one wonder where the Indians stand now.


At the All-Star break they were a collection of strangers. It's safe to say they ended the season the same way. When 52 players walk through the locker room door, it's hard to call anybody "buddy," much less remember his name.


The front office has always been a big believer in having leaders among its players. There weren't many to be found after the flurry of trades. Third baseman Jhonny Peralta has no inclination to lead. Travis Hafner started the year with one sore shoulder and ended it with two. Fausto Carmona was in the ozone the whole year and closer Kerry Wood never really got a chance to show what he could do on or off the field because he had so few save opportunities.


Grady Sizemore played for five months with a left elbow and left groin that needed surgery. When he finally shut it down in September to have two operations within a week of each other, the Indians turned into an expansion team.


Statistically speaking, the season was just as bad as it looked. Only six other teams in Indians history lost more games than this year's 65-97 club. The Indians have played baseball since 1901, so that covers a lot ground and a lot of bad baseball.


GM Mark Shapiro says this won't be a complete rebuild like he went through in 2003. He could start an argument in any bar in town with that statement. That is, if anybody is still talking about the Indians.


So whoever Shapiro hires as manager better come with the proper equipment. Only sledgehammers will do on this work site.




1. Desert delirium: When the Indians reported in February to their new $72 million spring training complex in Goodyear, Ariz., everything that ailed the franchise was going to be cured. No more would they have to contend with the antiquated facility in Winter Haven, Fla.

While the complex offered everything a ballplayer needed, even if it did look like a detention center on the far side of the moon, the Indians, remarkably uninspired, lost 20 games in Cactus League play. The desert delirium persisted into the regular season as they lost seven of their first eight games to finish April with an 8-14 record. The pattern of the season was set.


2.Thou shall not save The Indians’ bullpen, GM Mark Shapiro’s pride and joy in the off-season, blew 10 saves in the first two months of the season. In the next four months, they blew eight.

They had 10 games decided in the eighth inning or later in April and May. The Indians went 2-8 in those games.


3. Take your pick: David Dellucci and Masa Kobayashi were a waste of roster space. Grady Sizemore played hurt all year. They waited too long to promote Andy Marte and Matt LaPorta from Class AAA Columbus.

The pitchers walked too many batters. The hitters struck out too much. Travis Hafner was a shadow of himself. Manager Eric Wedge changed the lineup too much. Owner Larry Dolan is cheap. Shapiro can’t judge talent. Chris Gimenez played too much. Jordan Brown could have saved the season if they’d only called him up. Winston Abreu was really a spy planted by the four other AL Central teams to sabotage the Tribe’s season.


4. They messed with the gulls: When Shin-Soo Choo’s game-winning single in the 10th inning deflected off a gull in center field on June 11, the Indians should have embraced the moment.

They should have done everything possible to cater to the flocks of gulls that had descended into Progressive Field over the previous games. Instead, they set off fireworks between innings to keep the gulls away. The fireworks worked and kept the Indians from being embarrassed in a string of nationally televised games, but it ruined what would have been the best home-field advantage this side of the Metrodome.

The Indians were 27-36 and seven games out of first place after Choo’s single. They went 38-61 the rest of the year and buzzards replaced the gulls above the ballpark.


5. It’s the trades, stupid: This is the old chicken or the egg argument. Were the Indians going to break the team up all along? Or were they waiting until midseason to see how they were going before conducting a fire sale?

It didn’t matter because after the deals of Mark DeRosa, Rafael Betancourt, Ryan Garko, Cliff Lee, Ben Francisco, Victor Martinez and Carl Pavano, the Indians were as bad a team as there was in the big leagues. After Pavano was traded on Aug. 7, the Indians finished the year by going 19-35. Only Pittsburgh finished with a worse record (17-36).





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And here's Manoloff:


In a long, grim season, there were a few grins as well for the Cleveland Indians

By Dennis Manoloff

October 10, 2009, 7:46PM


CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Indians' 2009 season was forgettable but managed to provide plenty of wild and wacky moments and stats. Here is a look at some of the nuggets:


The team


Straight-up awful: They finished 65-97, tied with Kansas City for last in AL Central. The .401 winning percentage was their worst since posting a .352 (57-105) in 1991.


Home wreckers: They went 35-46 at home -- worst since the 1991 outfit was 30-52 in Municipal Stadium.


Road kill: They lost a club-record 15 consecutive road games, Aug. 30 through the end of the season. Their last road victory came Aug. 29 against Baltimore, 5-3.


No runs, no chance: They went 5-61 when scoring three or fewer.


Wedge shots: Manager Eric Wedge and his staff were fired with six games remaining but opted to finish the season, going 1-5.


Hit or miss: In his seven seasons as manager, Wedge had two 90-victory seasons (93-69 in 2005, 96-66 in 2007) and two 90-loss seasons (68-94 in 2003, 65-97 in 2009).


Whiff kings: Their hitters struck out 225 times more than their opponents (1,211-986).


Far from overpowering: They had one pitcher, Cliff Lee, finish with 100-plus strikeouts. Lee struck out 107.


Spoilers: They defeated the Yankees, 10-2, April 16 in the first official game at new Yankee Stadium.


Yankee doodles: The Indians, who lost 97 games, defeated the Yankees, who won 103, by 18 runs April 18 in the Bronx (22-4).


Meltdown: On May 15 in Tampa Bay, they held a seven-run lead through 31/2 innings but lost, 8-7.


Ridiculous rally: On May 25 at Progressive Field, they came back from 10 down to beat Tampa Bay, 11-10. The Devil Rays led, 10-0, through 31/2 innings. Victor Martinez's two-out, two-run single capped a seven-run ninth.


Greenhorns: They finished with 12 rookies on the 30-man active roster, tied for most in the majors.


High success rate: Six of the seven major leaguers traded by the Indians in June, July and August reached the postseason: Mark DeRosa (St. Louis), Rafael Betancourt (Colorado), Cliff Lee (Philadelphia), Ben Francisco (Philadelphia), Victor Martinez (Boston) and Carl Pavano (Minnesota). Only Ryan Garko (San Francisco) did not.




Cliff Lee: Lee, who was traded to Philadelphia on July 29, led Indians starters in ERA (3.14) and the staff in innings (152) and strikeouts (107). The left-hander became the second defending Cy Young winner to be dealt by Cleveland in two seasons (CC Sabathia, Milwaukee, 2008).


David Huff: The rookie left-hander led the Indians with 11 victories. It was the first time a rookie led the Tribe in victories since CC Sabathia had 17 in 2001. Huff's total is the lowest for a club leader since Mark Clark and Dennis Martinez had 11 in strike-shortened 1994. Huff led the club in victories despite beginning the season in Class AAA. The last Indians rookie to win 10 was Ryan Drese in 2002.


Shin-Soo Choo: The right fielder finished with 20 homers and 21 steals -- the first Asian-born player in MLB history to go 20/20. He went 2-for-4 on Oct. 3 to raise his average from .299 to .300, then did not play in the season finale Oct. 4.


Asdrubal Cabrera: The switch-hitting shortstop led all Tribe regulars with a.308 average, which ranked among AL leaders. He batted .306 against lefties and .309 against righties.


Jhonny Peralta: The third baseman led the club by hitting into 20 double plays. Factor in the 20 additional outs, and Peralta's average drops from .254 to .246 (148-of-602). He ended the season in a 6-for-64 swoon. His overall on-base percentage was .316. He ranked second on the Indians with 83 RBI but scored just 57 runs in 151 games.


Fausto Carmona: The right-hander ranked as one of the worst starters in the majors with at least 24 starts (5-12, 6.32 ERA). In his last four seasons, Carmona's winning percentages with the Tribe are all over the map: .091 (1-10 in 2006), .704 (19-8 in 2007), .533 (8-7 in 2008) and .294 (5-12 in 2009). In his past two seasons, Carmona has combined to walk 140 and strike out 137 in 246 innings. He had 70 walks and 79 strikeouts this year.


Luis Valbuena: The rookie second baseman posted a sub-.300 on-base percentage (.298) but .400-plus slugging percentage (.416). Of his 92 hits, 38 were for extra bases (25 doubles, three triples, 10 homers).


Kerry Wood: The closer had 26 save opportunities (he converted 20) and pitched 55 innings while earning $10 million.


Ryan Garko: Garko, who tied for the club lead with 90 RBI in 2008, was traded for a Class A pitcher (Scott Barnes) the following July. Garko was a bust with San Francisco and likely will return to the American League in 2010.


Victor Martinez: Martinez, who was traded to Boston on July 31, hit a grand slam against the Indians in Fenway Park on Oct. 3. Martinez batted .284 in 99 games for the Indians and .336 in 56 games for the Red Sox.


Chris Gimenez: The likeable utility man finished with a .144 average (16-for-111) in 45 games. He ended the season in a 2-for-49 slide.


Kelly Shoppach: The catcher finished with more hit-by-pitches (18) than doubles (14). He struck out 98 times in 271 officials at-bats. The 36-percent whiff rate actually rates as an improvement from last year (133 of 352, 38 percent).


Luis Vizcaino: The reliever gave up a walk-off homer to the first batter he faced as an Indian. On May 15 in Tampa Bay, B.J. Upton took Vizcaino deep to lead off the ninth for an 8-7 Rays victory.








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