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2.13.2011

Cabrera's Effect: A Deeper Look at the Cabrera Addition

Nino Colla | Sunday, February 13, 2011 | | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips
I tweeted this, but like clockwork, the Indians make a signing just as I start to put out the Spring Primer. Inevitably making what I post slightly incorrect.

We still don't know what spot Orlando Cabrera will occupy on the 40-man roster, only that he'll occupy one. With the 40-Man Position Players part due tomorrow, it obviously stands to be altered.

This morning, the Cabrera signing has certainly made some waves, so were going to do a little bit of a round-up around the web. Tomorrow and Tuesday the primer will finish as P&C's report and I'll probably throw myself off a cliff Wednesday, so yes, this works.



[ORLANDO, THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH]

Instead of rehashing what I've already said, if you want to know what I truly think, read my piece over at The Cleveland Fan on the Cabrera signing. I'm obviously taking the side that I like the addition, not only because he's added to the roster, but I like the fact that he'll be playing second base.

Well maybe not like, but I'm certainly okay with the idea. The main crux of my argument? Could we really do any worse at this point in time? In addition to that idea that he could be a decent second baseman (with his declining skills at shortstop) defensively, he could be a spark in the clubhouse.

Armed with two recent articles from the Reds about how Cabrera is a winner and a leader, (one from pre-season one from post-Red's clinching the NL Central) is it unreasonable to assume Cabrera is going to be a nice addition in the clubhouse.

Let's stop the train right here and examine that further. Is Cabrera really a "clubhouse" guy? Or is he just a staunch leader that makes his teammates play better, but still not well liked? Can he be that? What's the true story? I always assumed, from reading what I've read, that Cabrera is a guy teams love because he comes in and they win. Well, let's look at the damning evidence in both lights.

PRO-Cabs
  • Michael Hurley of NESN: "Orlando Cabrera is an above-average fielder, a .275 hitter and a good clubhouse guy. Despite the fact that he seems like a guy whom 25 teams would covet, he's bounced around to and from five teams in four years. Make that six in five."
  • John Fay: "Cabrera was much more vocal. He spoke to everyone in the clubhouse. He also had a reputation as a winner. He was one of the players who spoke up after a crushing defeat in Atlanta. Basically, he took the blame for the loss."
  • Joe Mauer: "He's been huge," said Mauer of Cabrera. "I think he brings a lot of confidence to our team. We have definitely talented guys. But I think he's come here with confidence that [says], 'Hey, we're going to do this.' And people feed off of that. Not just his defense and his bat, but his leadership in the clubhouse with some of our younger guys."
CON-Cabs
  • Ozzie Guillen: "'You can say Orlando took a shot at the players,' Guillen said. 'To me, the problem is Orlando thinks he's better than what he really is. He acts like he played with better people, better managers, better players, like he's doing us a favor. Well, everyone has a different personality, and that's the way we are here. Am I supposed to take things away from the players because we're losing? I won't do that. I'm the same way all year long, and I'm not going to change that because we're losing. He's not going to change the manager.'"
  • Orlando Cabrera is an Asshole: "So for being a baby about some errors charged to him, for worrying more about his paycheck than the team he's playing for, and for not taking the time or making an effort to try and clear things up, Orlando Cabrera is my Asshole Of The Week."
  • Bob Ryan: "There's a reason why he has bounced around that has nothing to do with what he does on the field, and we'll leave it at that."
OTHER-Cabs
  • From Cabrera Himself: "We're different. I can tell the guys who have been raised from the minors to the big leagues with the Angels. They have a mentality of pure concentration. I'm more of any easygoing guy. That's what I learned in '04—that you don't need to concentrate for five hours before the game to know what you've got to do. [Homegrown third baseman] Chone Figgins is looser now. That kid didn't even talk before games, and now I've got him joking around in the dugout."
Seems like a lot of the cons are from his time in Chicago. It also should be noted that Cabrera and Guillen seemingly made up after that war of words. Cabrera's criticism of the White Sox when he was with them was that they "didn't have the right attitude" and the clubhouse was too light. This coming from a guy who was apart of the Red Sox club that declared themselves "Idiots". Kind of makes you wonder.

"The one thing we're missing, a team that wins so many ballgames is missing, is we don't come out every night as the winners. We come out hoping to win a ballgame. I don't think that's the right attitude.

''This is a team that has so many stars and so many good players. The other team should be afraid of facing us. We should show that face every night and win ballgames before they even start at 7 o'clock.''

Cabrera went on to say there's a time to be funny and have fun and then there is a time to "take care of business" as a ballplayer. Can you fault him for saying any of that? No, that's the right attitude. But what we don't know and probably will never know is if those comments were warranted.

Then again, this was in 2008, late in September and in a period of time when Chicago was in danger of wasting the division away to Minnesota. The comments came in the middle of a five game losing streak (two of the loses that came to Cleveland) and had they not picked up a win in the series finale against Cleveland and the season finale against Detroit (a make-up game), they would have submitted the division right to Minnesota, without the chance to win a one-game playoff with the Twins.

That whole year for Cabrera was a weird one. There was all that, the fact that he left the clubhouse early so he didn't have to talk to the media and then during the playoffs, the little "spat" he got into with Grant Balfour. Remember when he thought Balfour was cursing him out? Cabrera's response was to kick dirt and yell back.

What happened in Chicago that we have all these issues and not anywhere else? Maybe Cabrera was right about the clubhouse. I mean, it is Ozzie Guillen managing the team, so maybe he simply didn't see eye-to-eye with what Guillen was preaching.

There is also that "bad vibes" sort of thing coming out of Boston. They are mostly internet rumors and people like Bob Ryan (Boston Media) hinting at, but not disclosing that Cabrera was a bad seed during his half a year in Boston. If you read the message board comments on that Bob Ryan link, plenty of posters said he was promiscuous with a few of the player's wives in Boston. Really?

So what are we to believe? What are we to think? Is Cabrera a good guy? Is he a bad teammate? Is he a leader? He can be a bad guy but a good leader. Plenty of jerks have been good leaders. You probably can't be a good leader and a bad teammate though. Maybe Chicago was just a bad fit. Can we believe what we hear in regards to what happened in Boston?

Cincinnati, Minnesota, Montreal, Oakland, none of them seemed to report issues and even Cincinnati and Minnesota sounded like he had endeared himself to his teammates... So I guess we'll see first hand what he's all about in that regard.

That brings us to the next point of contention. And I didn't mean to get out on a tangent with the expanded clubhouse issue, but LGT's Ryan brings up an additional point, along with point out that he has a "mercurial" reputation.

"At first glance, Orlando doesn't seem to fit this roster. The Indians really needed a third baseman, not a shortstop who's going to challenge for time at second. This signing, rather than clarifying the muddled infield situation, makes it even more opaque."

That's the other side of this coin. Fitting into the clubhouse and then fitting into this roster. Or better yet, fitting into this mess, because that is exactly what this is. One thing I didn't really consider is what this actually says about the situation. Okay they signed Cabrera to play second base. What does that say about second base? Or is it simply them opting for an alternative and out-of-the-box fix to their third base issue? Who do they not have faith in and at what position? We don't even know where Jayson Nix and Donald fit in before the Cabrera signing, so it isn't like we can point the finger anywhere.

If you believe Castrovince, who was just as much in the know about the Indians last year as anyone, maybe it's Jason Donald.

"Count me among the skeptical that Donald has the arm to play third (and Cabrera has never played there). It still seems to me that Jayson Nix is the favorite to land the most opportunity at the hot corner. We shall see."

In fact, he makes it seem as if Donald isn't even a contender for third and rather he's battling Cabrera for second base time and likely Luis Valbuena for a utility role. This would point directly to the notion that Tony Lastoria had about Donald going straight to Columbus to be the everyday shortstop.

That may be what WILL happen. But I think Paulie C over at The DiaTribe nailed it in terms of what SHOULD happen. Just read the whole thing, but the overall point.

"Figure in that each and every one of them figures into positions that are not their “natural” position and you start to see the veins in my forehead appearing. That being said, which one of those players do you see legitimately fitting past July of 2011 in any role...the one with higher projected OPS from all three sources across the board, right?"

He's talking about Donald, Nix, and Cabrera and how they'll all be playing out of position in some way under the Indians "Square Peg, Round Hole" venture. It's so obvious, and it always is with Paulie, but we never fail to see the obvious solution and problem sitting right in front of us. These guys are all playing out of position. Donald is a shortstop playing everywhere, Nix is a second baseman playing third and Cabrera is a shortstop playing second.

What's Paul's solution?

Cord Friggin' Phelps.

Why the hell not? The points are in his piece. Not only is there a better OPS projection for Phelps, but if you aren't the projection type, he outplayed Jason Kipnis (the Indians Next Big Thing, sorry Brock Lesnar, in regards to second base) during the Fall League and is not only ahead of him in terms of experience, but also in production at that advanced level.

Why discount Cord? I'd' much rather him around than Valbuena. As Paul also puts it, if we really are in a youth movement, why not fully commit to it? Sure keep Cabrera around, but why bother with a guy like Nix or fodder like Valbuena? If the Indians really think Donald and Phelps can be a part of the club as utility players, why not start them now? Why not let Cabrera be the backup?

All relatively sound points and one's I tend to agree with looking at all the evidence right now.

But we all know that isn't how things will work out. It just won't, because it makes too much sense.

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