Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Is a column about nothing a good thing?

A column about nothing. No, it is not a tip of the hat to Seinfeld. But rather a reflection of the trade deadline where nothing happened at all.
And the average disgruntled Indians fan believes they know the reason why.
Dolan won't spend money.
That seems to be the favorite mantra of the angry radio caller/bar stool sitter. Many look at the Indians' decision to stand pat during the trading deadline as another example of Dolan's supposed cheapness.
I have never subscribed to the theory “if you have money, you better spend it.” There is a long list out there of teams who spend big bucks and get little wins out of it. Risk/reward theory seems a better path.
The Indians aren't going to win the division. And right now they don't resemble anything like a playoff team, but the truth is that outside of the White Sox, not many teams in the American League look playoff ready right now.
The argument can be made that the Indians are one number five hitter away from being a serious contender. In the games they score three runs or less they are playing .233 ball but in games they score four or more runs they win at a .722 clip. WOWZA. All for just one more run.
The Indians have been so bad in that all important RBI position that it literally has become a five hole. Newly arrived from Buffalo, Jeff Liefer has occupied the spot the last few games because Casey Blake finally wore out his welcome.
But before dousing your Dolan effigy in kerosene, consider the market that general manager Mark Shapiro had to work in.
The Twins, with the questionable health of Torii Hunter, desperately needed a hitter more than the Tribe and they didn't pull the trigger. In fact, you can argue that 11 of the American League's 14 teams still have some sort of whiff of the playoffs.
The White Sox would have to have an apocalyptical collapse not to make the playoffs. That leaves the Red Sox, Angels, A's, Yankees, Twins, Indians, Rangers, Blue Jays, Orioles and Tigers in the mix.
Somebody has to win the East and West so the rest battle for the Wild Card. Every team is flawed just like the Indians. Many fans wanted to point to next year and trade Kevin Millwood, of course they also want to trade Bob Wickman, CC Sabathia, Casey Blake, Ben Brossard and Aaron Boone.
Trading your best veteran arm is normally not a strong message to send to young players or anxious fans. Trading your future for a run-of-the-mill player like Joe Randa or Aubrey Hoff makes no sense. Neither does over-paying for a flawed player like Adam Dunn. Every team needed help at the deadline and yet no one pulled the trigger on a major trade, what does that tell you?
The biggest bat picked up at the deadline was Matt Lawton. Yes, the same Matt Lawton elderly ladies in Cleveland hated. And he was traded to the Cubs for Jody Gerut. In all reality only two big names were out there and the price would have been extraordinary.
In order to win in the post modern age, teams have to spend wisely. You can't tie up the payroll in this size market for just one player.
I admit that I love Manny Ramirez and I know his salary destroys the plan Shapiro has so carefully crafted. The only other hitter I would have been willing to risk Millwood and prospects for would have been Alfonso Soriano. Either bat would change our line-up instantly. But then you would be sending a stud pitcher to a team chasing the same spot you are. Add in the extra salary cost and you can see why not to make a deal.
If Shapiro couldn't afford to land the big fish at least he didn't trade for prospects. He didn't give up on the season. Not trading Millwood sends the message, it is still possible.
It amazes me that some fans still bemoan losing Omar and Jim Thome. Mark Shapiro was right about both players. Vizquel is having a fine season in San Francisco both in the field and with the bat, but Jim Thome's career might be over. Meanwhile Jhonny Peralta for one-ninth of Omar's salary this year (and O took a 50 percent pay cut) has quietly become the team's best clutch hitter. Before his raise earlier this season, Travis Hafner made one-twenty-fifth of Thome's salary and he still has his best productive years ahead of him. Risk/reward theory at work.
In fact, once Hafner's dizziness and headaches subside, his concussion may accidentally have solved the Indians line-up woes. The Indians tried to protect Peralta all season before necessity forced him to hit third this past week. He handled the duty well. When Hafner returns, your top five hitters of Grady Sizemore, Coco Crisp, Peralta, Hafner and Martinez compare to just about any team in the league. While Blake is not a good number five hitter, he is an above average number nine hitter.
The Indians have not given us much to cheer about since the Fourth of July. But heading into last night's game, they were just 4 games out of the playoffs.
Four wildcards teams have played in the World Series in the last three years including the last three champions. Are the Indians capable? Looking at the last month, no. But who in the American League is?
The White Sox look to be the best team in baseball. Their cursed history has been overlooked because of the media love affair with the Red Sox. It took how many seventh games for Boston to shed their albatross. The Pale Hose just choke less dramatically. They had one of the game’s best records in baseball in the 90s and 00s but they have had exactly no playoffs series wins to show for it. Asking the South Siders to shed 88 years of bad history in just one miracle season is asking a great deal. Scan the Internet and you will see their own fans don't believe. Right now they are playing the right way and winning games as a team. Their closer Dustin Hermanson is banged up and they didn’t trade for any bullpen help.
The Indians pitching is better than Boston and New York. On paper, they look just as good as the A's, Angels and Twins. Why not just play it out and see what happens?
The team representing the American League this year will be the team that gets hot at the right time. I know the Indians’ hot stretch in June was at the expense of NL Worst, ahem, West where no one now is over .500. And yes they gave up four hits to the last place Mariners twice and lost, but still they are right in the mix of a playoff battle.
So if you are not happy about not making a deal, let me assure you in every American League city, the sports columnists are all writing the exact same thing. No one got better at the trading deadline. And everyone is beatable, except maybe the White Sox. But they have the ghosts of the Black Sox to deal with.
After last October, it appeared that belief in baseball curses was over. Here's hoping at least one is still left.