The season isn't over at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario
I can’t help but shake my head while sitting here during the opening home series here at Progressive Field.
The Cleveland Indians are 3-5 and two games out of first on April 10th, and to listen to the general populace that surround the Indians, you would think that the season ended yesterday after another 100-loss season.
Sure, things could be better. The pitching staff looks like utter garbage up to this point, and the offense doesn't seem to be all that far behind.
The normal reaction for Cleveland fans is to hammer on the Dolans, drop the front office for their lack of sanity, blame the manager for being a complete and utter idiot, and stare at the players and wonder, “who are these guys,” or at the very least, most of the above.
I’m just not there yet, and I’m not anywhere close.
Yes folks, there’s reason for optimism in the midst of the pitching woes. There’s basis for hope as the defense looks like a bad version of the Bad News Bears. There’s cause for optimism that the offense is a little bit more than the weird cousins of Aaron Cunningham.
What is the reason…the basis…the cause?
This team is going to get better…because it’s better than what we’ve seen. It’s really that simple. The naysayers here in Cleveland will always find a reason to berate and hammer the team, especially when they aren’t playing well. They’ll dig out their stats and create their own numbers to showcase why this team will win less than 70 games, but they won’t. They’ll win 80 games or better, because that’s the type of team this is. It may take the Tribe some time to get there, but they will…
…but boy are they making me wonder…
Let’s take a walk around the corner, shall we…
On a scale from one-to-ten, with zero being an idiot and ten being an Einstein, where would you rate Carlos Carrasco? Yeah, I have him at a zero too. I don’t know Carlos Carrasco from a rock out in my backyard, and I’m certainly not in his head, so I can’t, with any certainty say that he threw at Kevin Youkilis on Tuesday night afterRobinson Cano belted a home run, but c’mon, you’ve got to be kidding if you think he didn’t. I did notice some sentiment from those that like to take the opposite stance of the sensible and smart thinking 90% of the time that think Carrasco didn’t throw at Youkilis on purpose, but he did. That’s who he is right now, and I firmly believe that’s likely who he’ll be going forward.
Can you imagine coming back from a year-and-a-half of rehab pondering a six-game suspension you earned a game prior to your injury for throwing at someone’s head (Kansas City’s Brett Butler in 2011), and then throwing at someone’s head? Can you imagine that it’s Kevin Youkilis, a guy that’s considered one of Terry Francona’s boys from Boston, who the Indians pursued with some serious money prior to the 2013 season? Sure, that’s probably not much of a big deal, but it certainly adds to the idiocy of the entire event. Yeah, I know, the pessimists are using the ridiculousness of it to say that he didn’t do it on purpose, but he did.
That makes Carlos Carrasco a moron, and he’s hopefully going to get treated like one.
Look for the Indians to send Carrasco down to Triple A Columbus, for a long period of time. Of course, Carrasco just might get suspended, and then they’ll have to deal with that again, if it happens.
What makes the ejection even worse is the simple fact that the Indians really needed him to pitch longer to save the bullpen. They were lucky in that they had Brett Myers ready to go with his regular amount of rest, and while he got pounded into oblivion, he did a yeoman’s job going the rest of the way for Carrasco. Corey Kluber will make his first start of the season today, and the rest of the rotation will slot into their normal places. Kluber goes today, and Zach McAllister will go tomorrow. This will allow Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Brett Myers to go Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and take the Indians to their first day off, on Monday.
The question going forward will be what happens to the rotation going forward. Every question that was out there for the rotation prior to the season is still there. You know why? It’s only April 10th. I’m struggling with the fact that folks thought all the answers would be found and figured out by now.
This team wasn’t built for a one-year run. It was built for a multi-year run, and they clearly knew that they needed pitching. They went after several, and they struck out on several fronts. Brett Myers was picked up as a guy they thought could be an innings eater. Sure, it was a major question, but they needed a body to help lengthen their choices. It seems to be backfiring, but if we based everything on two starts, Derek Lowe would have been a front-runner for the Cy Young award last year. No, I don’t think Myers is great, but there’s a chance this isn’t the year-long trend.
Ubaldo is Ubaldo. If we’re lucky, he’ll have some good starts to go with his bad starts, and it’s clear there will be some bad starts.
Zach McAllister is either going to take the next step, or he’ll plateau as a guy that goes six innings, isn’t great, and provides back-end-of-the-rotation support.
I already talked about Brett Myers, and still think he could log in 180-to-200 innings. I also think we could see improvement there. I’m not basing that on anything that I’ve seen with the Indians, but on what he’s done in the past…velocity be damned.
Justin Masterson is going to have a good season. There are things to worry about, but his stuff is just wicked. He can do what Carmona couldn’t, and that’s throw enough strikes to get hitters to bite on the stuff outside the zone.
Then there’s the five-hole. Scott Kazmir is now extremely important. He has to be healthy through the first half of the season. If he’s not, this team could be in trouble. He needs to give Trevor Bauer some time to season. Once that happens, perhaps this rotation will get some play.
As of now, there are just too many questions.
If you don’t think that Francisco Lindor is on the fast-track, start paying attention. This kid can play, and if he continues to belt around Carolina League pitching, the Indians will likely try to bring him back to Ohio sooner, rather than later. Listen, they believe in taking their time with prospects, but Lindor’s the kind of kid that will force the Indians’ hand. Asdrubal Cabrera’s days are numbered in Cleveland, regardless of whether or not he wants to stay. Lindor went 3-for-6 today, with a triple. He’s now hitting .458 on the young season. You also need to keep an eye onBryson Myles. There’s some pessimism there, but there is a slew of talent. If he stays healthy, he’s a top five prospect, or close to it. I’ll get into the Mudcats more on Sunday, and take care of Lindor while I can. Look out Akron, he has eyes on an Aeros jersey.
I like Trevor Bauer, and while I hear that he needs seasoning, I think he could pitch well for the Indians if he gets a chance. Yes, he can use seasoning, but he has the mentality and make-up to win now. He may be our best option when the Carrasco garbage settles. Oof.
I apologize about the short Corner today, but it’s my son’s eleventh birthday. Today I’m dedicating this piece to him. You see buddy…Daddy can keep it under 3,000 words, and I can get off this thing so we can go have some fun. Now off to the Mudcats game (I wrote most of this before the game...)
It’s a beautiful day for baseball…everybody…
Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim, according to your scale you believe Carrasco is mentally challenged. Basically they would need to buy a "short bus" to get him around the minors. You better hope thats not quite the case. No one really has as good of pure stuff as Carrasco on the staff. We need him I am sorry to say.
The only way this season turns around is Masterson stays dominate, Ubaldo is up and down (oppossed to always down) McCalister and Kazmir can hold down the back of the rotation and eventually Carrasco and Bauer get their acts together and join the middle of the rotation. Dice K may need to pitch some to get to this point.
So, we really need both Carrasco and Bauer if this team wants to reach its potential.
The Indians have to be smart and optimize their assets. Chances are Lindor is going to be a lot better at age 27 than at 21 -- so keep him in the minors seasoning until he's legitimately ready to contribute so that he's not a free agent after he turns 26. (This is all assuming he is a successful MLB player, which is no certainty)
If we had one more consistently decent pitcher, to add to Masterson (assuming he's OK), and inconsistent Ubaldo and the flotsam and jetsam brigade, we would still see lots of optimism for an entertaining season, if not a competitive one. If it's this season or next we get that pitcher, we're awfully close.