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10.01.2010

The Rundown: Playing Catch Up with Winter Leagues and Manny Acta

Nino Colla | Friday, October 01, 2010 | | | | | | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips
I'm not even sure where to start. Hell I don't even know what to call this.

For one, I can't believe it is already October. Shoot me now if you please, time is just flying. Because it is October though, that means the Indians season is coming to an end.

About a few weeks ago, it was kind of like "Alright I'm glad the season is coming to an end," and now it's more like "Alright I'm glad the season is coming to an end, now when do Pitchers and Catchers report?"

After going to the game on Wednesday, well the second game, I've been re-energized about this squad. With all the school work, I kind had been waning around and now, with things starting to clear up and the fact that this team looks to have a lot of promise, I want it to be the end of February, right now.

So I really don't know where to start, I have a list of things we need to get to, but not only do I not know what to tackle first,  I can't seem to organize my thoughts here.


[INFIELD OF PAIN]

I guess we'll start here, with a question in the latest Indians Inbox from Anthony Castrovince that made me think a little bit.

Do the 2011 Indians have an infield? Obviously, there is a question at third base, and the answer is not Jayson Nix, Luis Valbuena or Andy Marte. First base currently features Matt LaPorta, who is starting to look more like Ben Broussard and Ryan Garko than Jim Thome. Second base has the most action with guys like Jason Donald, Cord Phelps and Jason Kipnis, but they are still just prospects.  And what's up with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera? All of a sudden you see his name being brought up by the Cleveland media as a liability.
-- John L., San Diego

I think if you look at this team.. And we'll get into that in a second, I think there is more potential in the outfield at this point. So I can see were the concern is about this infield.

Castro made a good point to bring up an Acta quote about stability.Acta has a point, at least defensively. But I think the scope of this question had more to do with the overall look. Cabrera is the most interesting guy to me, other than LaPorta, who is the key in my eyes. Castro hinted that Cabrera was kind of dogging it at times and he points out that zone rating thing.

Look you know me and stats, I'm sure it indicates Cabs hasn't been good, but that is because HE HASN'T!

Cabrera has made some spectacular plays, but he isn't playing like one of the best shortstops in the league, which I know he can be. We know he is a slow starter, but you throw in that broken arm and he never really got a chance to do much of anything. You have to think he's still dealing with that this year. If anything, I'm in line with Castro in giving him a pass this year.

Then there is LaPorta, who Acta is giving a mulligan to. I'm not exactly for that, but he was one of the guys we needed to "find out" about in this season.

And I think we did. I think despite the rehab he had to deal with, I think we found out a lot about him and that he CAN do what we think he can do. We just need to give him the opportunity to do so when he's fully healthy. We didn't see either of those things, but he showed his flashes and I think moving forward, he's butt is on the line.

That leaves us with second and third and we're not even going to touch that with a ten-foot pole. Second base will eventually be manned by someone named Jason, or I guess Jayson.. Be it Nix, Donald, or Kipnis.. And third base will eventually be manned by Lonnie Chisenhall.

This next season... We're sending Jayson Nix to Puerto Rico (more on that later) to play third and what he does will dictate what the club does at third.

Yeah the infield looks half complete for next season, but... There is hope.


[OH HOPE]

This gives me the perfect segue into talking about next year and hope. I'm starting to buy in, drink the kool-aid, whatever you want to term it. I'm getting on board with this team making some waves next year.

Okay so we need to start playing the IF game with the health of certain players, cough Sizemore cough, and start believing what we are seeing from certain pitchers and position players in this month of September is for real... Buuuuuut, I always choose to believe in the positive. You know me by now to be just that type of person.

I want to point out an excellent piece that Paul Cousineau put out the other day. Well when doesn't Paulie C put out something excellent... But this was just fantastic in terms of research and breaking down the numbers.

This team has often been compared to the one from a few years ago, pre-contention, post-massive gutting of the roster and system. Paul actually compared them in terms of progress and development and I don't know, it seems to me as if this team is ahead of where that team was in terms of talent..

There is a lot more of a "hope" factor moving with this team because there is a lot more untapped potential that we're looking at. I think Paul is correct in assuming they are somewhere between 2003 and 2004, because they are their own team... But like he said, a lot of it is built off on promise, not actual results.

You look at some of those names in the pitching staff, Jason Stanford, Billy Traber, Ricardo Rodriguez... Yoi... Now granted, we look at some of the names we have now and in 7 years, we might just say the same thing about Jeanmar Gomez and Josh Tomlin.. But look beyond Tomlin and Gomez, there is some serious depth in terms of the amount of arms available.

Ditto with the bullpen... But more so with the age... That bullpen was filled with players above 25 years old... Our CLOSER isn't even 25 years old. The oldest is Rafael Perez and hes 28 and looks to be one of our best guns leading up to CFNP.

Who by the way gives me more hope than anything because for once, and this term was used by Paul and on the radio, and by everyone else and their mom. Chris Perez is the first legit closer that this team has had since Jose Mesa.

We say it because it's true.

[ACTA]

I'm not sure I have the time to detail and go through this entire thing by associate reporter John Barone.... But John does a tremendous job in profiling Acta and blending in some of the stuff Manny has been talking about as the season winds down. Let me blend in some of Castrovince's quotes from the latest blog entry and get some discussion going on Actavision.

Acta will push that injury card, as he should because it is his big ticket in terms of telling the masses... HEY WE DID PRETTY GOOD THIS YEAR CONSIDERING WE LOST HALF OUR TEAM!

"This is a club that cannot afford to absorb the type of injuries we absorbed," Acta said. "We're not the type of team that can have somebody get hurt, then plug in a guy who hit 35 home runs two years ago or go out and get a someone. It really hurt us."

Alright no one is going to put up a fight about the way this team is finishing. We all like to see a little success here heading into 2011 and we all like to see some flashes in what has been an otherwise bad season in terms of Dubs and Els...

We all have questions about the way he goes about his decision making and move-making... BUT I think with such a young team and in a season where we need to "find out what we have," that he needs a pass on a lot of the things he's done. Now that aside, it would seem as if Acta still has some questions in terms of those fundamentals and what-not, but again, injuries, constant switching of players.. Let's judge Acta on the things that he can control right now. And of course the one thing that comes to the front is the fact that this man knows how to talk.

"I appreciate a lot of the stuff Manny does after the fact," Duncan said. "He makes decisions that at first you might feel upset about, but once you understand why he's doing it and the reasoning behind it, you really appreciate it."

It isn't just talking to the media, we know he can do that, but he can talk to his players and they all get it and they all love him. The great question becomes and Barone gets this out of Perez, is can that attitude win ball games?

"I definitely think Manny's personality could work for a winning team. It takes the pressure away. If a young guy gets called up and goes 0-for-4 and he's maybe thinking, 'Oh no, I'm going to get sent down soon,' Manny comes back and says, 'Hey, get 'em tomorrow. No big deal.' Then they're like, 'Oh, OK.' That definitely helps."

Now let's just assume this is our guy... We need to get the stable pieces around him before we can start to judge, right? We have a good basis in terms of defining what type of manager Manny Acta is, but do we have the basis to say we know how GOOD of a manager he is?

I don't think so. Because Acta is leaving after the season to do some work for the Spanish coverage of the playoffs and also some homework on the youngsters, he did some future-looking with the media.

Highlights.. He said the Indians, if they were to, would go after a good starting pitcher, not specifically a veteran. Look a good pitcher is going to be a veteran, but Acta is basically saying, we just aren't going to bring in some old fogey who the club is going to learn from, we are going to bring in a pitcher that the club is going to learn from and be a decent option in the rotation.

That being said, as Castro said, those guys cost money and this club has 90000 options for the rotation that they could get a look at rather than giving at minimum 15 starts to someone who's already established.

Acta also mentioned a few guys in particular. He said LaPorta gets a mulligan, as noted earlier, and that he was most surprised by Luis Valbuena's nose-dive.

Quite frankly, after his display on Wednesday, I'm about done with Valbuena, offensively, defensively, and definitively.

It sounds as if there is some of that hope there with Valbuena though with Acta and crew. Who knows.

And to me, I go back to the early season when Acta said that "Trevor Crowe gained a fan in me" or something of the sorts... Arrrrgghhhhh.. Now if Crowe panned out, I wouldn't have an issue, but CROWE.. COME ON MAN.

Homeless guy, Wednesday's game aside when he was awesome, has had moments and an overall look where I just want to smash my head against a cinder block.

[SEND EM HOME HAPPY]

That being said, Wednesday's second game of the double header was fantastic. There were not a whole lot of people there, way less were probably there for the first game, but it was fun. The atmosphere was interesting to say the least, but when Brantley crossed the plate on that squeeze play, holy crap did the roof come off the place, even though there wasn't a roof.

The Indians always do it right... They were giving away jerseys like they were out of style hand-me-downs and if you ever missed any of the promotional give away nights, you could easily come to this game and make up for the entire season if you play your cards right.

Then after everything was said and done, the entire team, armed with dozens and dozens of signed baseballs came out and threw them into the crowd. How awesome is that?

You can say what you want about this team and down them... But as fans, we are treated like gold. They are trying to give the best on the field product possible, but while that is down, they do what they can to make it known we are appreciated and that I think is often overlooked and under appreciated.

Sure, the real fans, as they will call themselves, want results on the field, not bobbleheads. But, whatevs.


[RANDOM RUNDOWN]

Okay we got some stuff here that we need to recap and discuss....

The whole 40-man thing and how it is going to play out is interesting. We've got a lot of things here that need to play out and we have some things that could take us by surprise if we don't account for them.

First things first, we might have a 40-man roster spot that we didn't expect to have with the news that Hector Ambriz will have Tommy John Surgery, today. And here is the part that pisses you off the most if you are the Indians.

"He told us that he never really felt great the whole year," Indians manager Manny Acta said. 

That's just fantastic.. Remember he started the year on the disabled list and at that time we were just kind of like, okay what's going on with this dude, do they want him or not? Well, gosh...

Now Ambriz is out for 2011, for sure. The nice thing is the club can just designate him, knowing full well that no one will want to claim him because of that injury, send him outright to the minors where they can rehab him this next year, and still maintain control of him. He's shown some flashes in terms of stuff and ability and if he was operating with an injury, then I very much do want to see them hold on to Hector and see what he can do.

Alright I don't want to go link digging, so I'll just hit these few things right here.

Preston Mattingly for Roman Pena? Wow, whatever.


Vinnie Pestano notched his first career save over the weekend... First off, why?

It had everything to do with Chris Perez not being available due to the birth of his son, Maxwell. Looks like "Pure Rage" wasn't in the cards. Congrats to Chris and we can't wait to see little CFP sport the crazy hair. Noticed that Perez shaved the beard, but kept the goatee.

But back to Pestano... If you are not a heavy follower of the minor leagues and some of the stories for some of these players, Pestano's is certainly one of the more impressive ones. Great kid that deserves the opportunity and it is great to see him running with it. I'm a big Pestano fan, so seeing him not only get the call up and get the save, fun stuff.

Anyone notice what Kerry Wood has been doing for the Yankees? The guy was lights out with the bombers and that is GREAT for us because we get some more cash. However isn't it frustrating to see this? I'm sure Mark Shapiro is probably the one most angered by it because he gave so much money to Kerry and was rewarded with nothing but "NICE MOVE SHAPPY!" remarks in sarcastic tones.

Speaking of former Indians... BP is still talking...


"I'm a flashy player," he says. "I love to smile, love to have a good time. Because this is baseball. This is your dream. You get paid a lot of money to do something you love, and I love this game. But when I was over there, man, I couldn't be myself. I couldn't be me. I was always in the office, I was always doing early work. When you're 20 or 21 years old coming into the league and someone says, 'You have to follow this rule, you have to play the game like this, you can't be fancy, you have to run the bases, we're going to fine you if you miss a call, we're going to sit you on the bench.' Man, that's like the military to me. That's why I didn't join the military. I mean, left-right, left-right. That ain't me. This game is supposed to be fun. This ain't a job. This is your career. And you have to love your career." 

Look, I'm number one with this stuff in terms of having fun.... But did he just mock the Indians for telling him that HE HAD TO RUN THE BASES?!

COME ON DUDE! Seriously... That isn't being pushy, that's playing the game. The game you said you love... Get over yourself and stop blaming the Indians. The Tribe is at fault for the way they handled BP, but his sour attitude certainly didn't help things.

[WINTER LEAGUE ASSIGNMENTS]

Finally, assignments for all the Winter Leagues are out. The Indians will be sending a good crew to Arizona's Fall Leauge AND Arizona's Parrallel League, as well as get some players involved in the Latin Leagues.

Going to the AFL: Scott Barnes, Eric Berger, CC Lee, Bryan Price, Travis Turek, Jason Kipnis, Roberto Perez, Cord Phelps. The awesome thing is that Mike Sarbaugh will managing Peoria, the team all these guys will be on.

Cord Phelps will get some work in at third and other spots, especially since Kipnis is with the club... Barnes and Berger get a shot to get more work in and rebound from rocky years, and Price and CC Lee get to showcase themselves on a bigger stage.

The Parrallel League is interesting for one reason and one reason only.... Let me see if you can spot it... Elvis Araujo, Jose Flores, Santos Frias, Preston Guilmet, Adam Miller, Tyler Sturdevant, Trent Baker, Juan Diaz, Karexon Sanchez, Donnie Webb.

YEP... Adam Miller is in fact on that list... THEE ADAM MILLER!

From the sounds of it, Miller sounds like he's making some progress. The downside is he isn't on the 40-man and by showcasing him, it may present the Indians with the decision to protect him with the 40-man or risk losing all that effort and time and hope to see another team snag him.

That in mind, if the Indians feel like there is a good and high percentage shot that someone grabs him, I bet they roster him. They are NOT going to let someone else earn the payoff that has been put into Adam Miller, and if they do.. UGH.

In the Latin areas, Matt McBride and Josh Judy will go to the DR, Judy playing for Aguilas and McBride with Gigantes. It sounds like Andy Marte will also be in the DR.

Jarex Goedert and Nick Weglarz are going to get some work in under Dave Hudgens Caracs teams. It sounds like Asdrubal Cabrera will be getting some extra work in with Venezuela as well.

By far I think the player we'll most be focusing on is Jayson Nix with the San Juan team in Puerto Rico. He'll be playing third base to work on his defense and if things go well, he'll probably be the Indians starting third baseman next season. If things don't, they'll probably have to go out and sign a bunch of vets to minor league deals.

We are going to monitor the Winter Leagues big time this offseason and Nix will be a main focal point.


[SITE UPDATES]

Okay with things starting to steady with my classes and stuff, I'm going to get into more a of a regular groove, even with the offseason coming up.

One thing I'm going to put into motion is a podcast, most likely a weekly version, only about a half hour. It is something I've wanted to do for a year now and could have, but for whatever reason decided to hold off on.

I think it is time though. It will only be a half hour if that, I'll probably do it on Blog Talk Radio, so it will be live, but I won't set a rotation to it and probably just record it whenever I have time. So that is coming.

I mentioned the board tweaking and stuff like that and once the season ends, I'll get into motion the whole offseason chart, add the winter league rosters and clean everything up in terms of the salaries and what not.

Once the season ends, I'll also get into season recaps and all that other stuff... I want to be able to generate a lot of stuff for TCF in the offseason, so you may see some offshoots here, but better and more well put together things on TCF.

I have to do my yearly awards, and that entails getting a schedule together.. So in the coming weeks, look for all that to get ironed out.

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