Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Eye On the Tribe: From Baerga to Barfield

In the land of the Cleveland Indians, second base has always been a position that has been a "position of interest." When the Tribe traded for Sandy Alomar Jr. and Carlos Baerga, things got really interesting. Baerga was a solid second baseman. But rumors began to circulate immediately about Alomar Jr.'s brother, Roberto.

Baerga faltered, and was dealt with Alvaro Espinosa to the Mets, for Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino. Both Kent and Vizcaino would do alright in the position. There was a huge problem, however. Neither one was Baerga or Alomar. Kent and Vizcaino were promptly packaged together with Julian Tavarez in a deal with San Francisco that brought the Indians Matty Williams and Trenidad Hubbard. At the time, it was a good deal. Cleveland needed a third baseman. Unfortunately, it left them with a HUGE hole at 2nd base.

Enter Tony Fernandez, and Julio Franco. Both played very well in the Indians World Series year in 1997. The problem? Fernandez was 35, and Franco was 38. Oh, and neither player was Baerga or Alomar. As a matter of fact, the rumors that Baerga was going to come back began circulating. Franco was released, and Tony Fernandez hit the free agent market.

Enter the Shawon Dunston experiment. Dunston looked terrible in his shift to 2B, and was dealt to San Francisco. David Bell took over the position. Bell was dealt to Seattle for Joey "Bug Eyes" Cora. This brought on Branson and Enrique Wilson, and Cora. Truly a horrid year for the Indians second sackers.

Then came the day many of us waited for, December 1, 1998. Roberto Alomar joined the Indians. He would be the savior, and was the final piece of the World Series puzzle. Besides, second base would be manned by an MVP candidate, and the heir apparent in Cleveland for 10 years. Alomar batted .324, with 24 dingers and 120 RBI. yeah, I'd say that was pretty impressive. Alomar followed with .310, 19 and 89. No, not the year before, but still a fantastic season. In 2001, it was another one of THOSE seasons. Alomar rolled with .336, 20 and 100. There was noone better in the field. This was WITHOUT Sandy, who was granted free agency the year before.

Alomar was unhappy. No title, and no brother. He was dealt to New York, and just like that, we were all left scratching our heads. Ricky Gutierrez was brought in from Houston. What he WASN'T, was Alomar or Baerga. He was more Tony Fernandez. John McDonald filled in. Another year, another wonder where the heir went, and not second baseman in the near future, although people were excited about Brandon Phillips.

Then Phillips played, and it was too soon. It didn't work, to the tune of .208, and McDonald and Santos filled in. Now we were really in trouble. Phillips, our answer, exploded in front of our eyes, and there was nobody left. Ron Belliard was brought in, and again, tuned in a Tony Fernandez year. It was a suprise, though, as many felt he was a fill in guy. 2005 brought the same results and 2004. He was adequate. No, not the great fielder, but not a duff either. Still, many people were hoping Phillips would recover and become another Alomar or Baerga. Last season, Belliard was doing his normal thing, but was dealt. The curse of Alomar and Baerga bites again. His replacement? Joe Inglett, and Hector Luna. Yeah, I know, it was painful. Phillips had been dealt, and was tearing up the NL. Cleveland had nowhere to go.

Then came the deal.

Kevin Kouzmanoff for Joshua LaRoy Barfield. The son of Jesse.

A new 2nd baseman for a team in desperate need.

He had a fantastic rookie season for San Diego (remember where Alomar started?).

Many believe that Barfield has the ability to hit in the ballpark of 25 home runs. Batting second on this team, that would be an interesting number for Sizemore, who is leading off, and has 25 homerun potential. You don't need the taters at the start of the order, but it doesn't hurt. More importantly, you get a kid that can field, and can hit, and will develop, and what do you end up with?

This spring, Barfield was in early, working with Jhonny Peralta to get their gig down. It helped Peralta as well. This is a working joe, so he won't be reminding anyone of Baerga any time soon.

After only 10 games, Barfield is batting .375, with an OBP of .430, 4 stolen bases, and 5 runs. On the defensive side, Barfield is rolling. In 65 innings of work, and 36 chances, Barfield hasn't made an error. He covers a whole lot of ground, and will make Garko and Peralta look much better. It's early, I realize that, but it's not hard to see that the kid can hit. It's not hard to see that the kid works hard. It's not hard to see that he fits this club. It's not hard to see that 2B won't be an issue for the next few years.

Is he the next Tony Fernandez? Is he the next Carlos Baerga? Is he the next Roberto Alomar? I don't know the answer to any of those questions.

What I do know is this. There are a lot LESS questions now, then there were 6 months ago. My guess is that those three names will be a distant memory.

Can't WAIT to see this kid play when it counts.

Adam Miller the Fifth Starter? Not yet… I will tell you this. Adam Miller has made his statement to the top five. He's not in the rotation yet, but he's not far behind. Watch the chatter begin if Paul Byrd or Fausto Carmona stumble out of the gate. Maybe it's the 14 scoreless innings. Maybe it's the pedigree. Maybe it's all of the above. He's hammering on the door.

As for now, Fausto Carmona gets his big chance with Cliff Lee out. Carmona has had a decent spring as well, going 2-1 with a 3.6 ERA so far. I'm hoping Carmona really pans out as a starter, as it will give the Indians a wealth of arm talent, which will help them down the road, as well as at the deadline.

Miller will make this team next year for sure. As for this year? Time will tell, and so will Fausto.

Have you been paying attention to the OTHER Miller? Matt Miller is having some kind of power spring. In seven and two-thirds innings, he has 16 K's and five walks. Not counting the walks, that 16 K's out of 22 batters. Heck, 16 out of 27 is good enough. I'm starting to like this bullpen.

One final thought for the night: Using Roberto Alomar as your guideline, what do YOU all think about Josh Barfield?

No, I don't want to set him up to fail, but I do think Barfield is going to be a player. Alomar? Maybe not, but his ceiling is high.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Eye On The Tribe

The Tribe has had some interesting developments over the past few weeks in Winter Haven. I will admit, after the offseason, it was hard to get into the humdrum of spring. After watching all the games I have DVRed over the past couple of days, I have a couple of thoughts, on a couple of players.

The Stud: Adam Miller is going to be good, and with this club soon. He's been solid this spring, with an ERA of 0, in two starts and three appearances. He hasn't exactly dominated, but he's definately looked good. It's going to be hard for the Tribe brass to keep him in the minors. I hope he spends most of the year down on the farm, but if there are any more injury issues with the starters, look for Miller to be the next man up.

Why Get Nixon and Dellucci again? The surprise of the spring has to be the play of Ben Francisco and Franklin Gutierrez. Both are batting well over .300, and are playing nearly flawless in the outfield. Francisco has been showcasing some power as well. This does a couple of things: It give the Tribe plenty of trading power. No, these guys aren't going to bring superstars, but they might bring parts that we need if they get dealt. It also give us Nixon insurance. If ANY of the outfielders get hurt, we've got the parts in Buffalo to fill the needs. The outfield looks strong, and I haven't even mentioned Trevor Crowe yet. Poor Trevor won't be seeing the outfield in Cleveland any time soon.

THIS is why we got Dellucci and Michaels. Could we see one or both of these guys as the regular outfield?...

More on this tomorrow. I had a much longer post, but it disappeared. I have been having blogger issues, and I keep forgetting to save my posts before publishing them. When I hit the Publish button, nearly my entire post disappears. Frustrating...

should be fixed by tomorrow. Will see you all then. Check my labels for just a bit of what I talked about.

The Loozer Commeth, AND Go-eth--GOOD RIDDANCE

Varejao let's Boozer know who's Paint it is--AP-Mark DuncanHow do you know you've come a long way?

I forgot about the game last night. Here it is, the big return of Loozer, and I was sitting at a Verizon kiosk checking out new phones. It's a beautiful thing, and gives you a good idea about how much I care about Loozer's return.

I've come a long way.

After watching the game this morning, I have a few things to say. Some of them may be deemed sacreligious in some circles, but I'm only speaking the truth as I see it.

The fans really handed Loozer his ass. It was fun to watch. It wasn't nearly as voracious as I thought it would be, but it was pretty good. To bad we had to wait three years.

We Love You Carlos!--AP-Mark DuncanLarry Hughes was horrid from the floor last night, once again. I believe he was 2 for 17. Ouch. He did play great defense, and that pass to Lebron...but I'll get to that later. But Hughes' defense...solid stuff. The most impressive play last night was when he got back off a turnover and Utah was rolling down on a 3 on Hughes, and Larry came out with the steal. Fantastic stuff, really. He also filled the stat line with 8 boards and 5 assists. Seriously folks, when your point is capable of 8 boards every night, you have an advantage. This is the Hughes I want to see. No, not the guy chucking up misses, but the guy that fills the stat sheet. He also had 2 steals, and 2 blocks. This is the Lebron-mate we've been looking for.

Swarming Defense  AP-Mark DuncanHow about that Cavalier defense anyways? This is just me, but am I the only one that thought Lebron led the defensive charge last night? There wasn't really one signature play on defense, but there was just something there, something I've seen before, but for some reason it was resonating throughout the building last night. Maybe it wasn't even his defense, but the way he was playing. Irregardless, the Cavs really stepped it up on defense, something they've been good at, but you could tell it was a total team effort.

Drew Gooden, who was brought in to take the place of Loozer, played one hell of a game last night, in particular in the second half, in particular in the third quarter. Gooden was the driving force in the defensive effort. He really can play the kind of defense at times that can get under the skin of opponents. He certainly did that. He also found the point, scoring 9 by my count. Drew ended with 14 points, and 12 boards, putting up remarkably similar numbers that Gooden would be putting up if he were a Cavalier. This tenacious Gooden is the player we need to win the title. You put him together with Varejao, and you've got (no pun intended) twice the heart and player that Loozer is. My preference is the two headed monster. My gut tells me both will be Cavs for awhile.

Carlos Loozer is one hell of a player. He did make Gooden look silly early in the game with a fine move baseline that led to a dunk. He finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds. He never would have been THAT player as a Cavalier. He didn't want to be the second fiddle, he wanted to be the star. To bad for him. Carlos, I hope the spotlight is better than a title. That being said, I'm done with you. From this point on, you're back to just another player. No need to mention a guy on a team that will never do a thing. By the way, did anyone notice the two foul shots he missed in the fourth quarter? Not bothered by the fans? Yeah, okay...

Sasha taking it to the defense--AP-Mark DuncanSasha Pavlovic may be the guy that wins the Cavs a title. Most impressive wasn't his 21 points, but his 50% shooting. He hits valuable jump shots, and threes in particular. In general, you are looking at an offensive player. If he can average 15 a game for this team, they will score 100 more often than not.

Ira Newble played. Nothing really more than that, but he played. Just felt like letting you know;).

Lebron James was on fire last night. There's not really another way to say it any better than that without using profanity. I gotta tell you, that jam that he had You have to see this dunk LIVE!--AP-Mark Duncanoff the Hughes pass was one of the most impressive dunks I've seen all year. Hughes just threw the ball up into the air, and any time the receiver of the pass has to redirect his body in the air to catch, than dunk, it's something special. I swear though, this time, Lebron bent nearly 45 degrees, caught the ball, and dunked with verocity. When James is coming down the floor he is a hybrid of 2 players, Dr. J, and Dominique Wilkins. He moves like Doc, that grace, and always seemingly heading to the hoop in a twisted position. When the ball goes down, it's like Dominique, at the speed of sound. What always impressed me about Wilkins was how quickly the ball went through the hoop and hit the floor. Often, Wilkins would get hit be the ball bouncing off the floor, BEFORE HE CAME BACK DOWN. Watch Lebron, then some old clips of Doc and Wilkins, you'll see what I mean. The chips were down last night, and we were watching the Cavs of the crap part of the season. Even Lebron started off slow. In the second half, Lebron was a machine. His defensive rebounding was top notch. You all know he ended with 24 points, 17 boards and 9 assists. Talk about filling up a statline, and leading by example.

The Cavs have won 8 games in a row, and have changed their season with the streak. I just hope the season continues to be this fun. Their next four games should be interesting to say the least. On Tuesday, we head to Charlotte. Then comes three home games in a row, Dallas on Wednesday, New York on Friday and Denver next Sunday. Dallas and Denver stand out. Denver ran Phoenix out of the building last night, and Iverson had a game for the ages with 44 and 15 assists. That should be a fun game.

Here's to you Boozer, and your team's four game losing streak. Super road trip.

On to Charlotte.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Sunday Mosh Pit: 10 Questions the Cleveland Indians Hope To Answer

As we start the first FULL week of Spring Training games, Cleveland fans remain hopeful that Mark Shapiro made the necesary moves to not only improve the club from last year (who am I kidding, improve the club from THE YEAR BEFORE), but end up ahead of the Tigers, Twins and White Sox. It really may be to early to tell what's going to happen once the season begins, but that's no reason not to speculate. Today, I'm going to look at the top eight on and off-field questions the Tribe will hopefully be able to answer by the time Cleveland takes the field at the start of this season. Even if they can't, I WILL. Of course, before that, I need to mention who I think will MAKE THE ROSTER. I do believe things are relatively settled, minus surprises and injuries, of course:

Starting 9
CF-Grade Sizemore
LF-Jason Michaels or LF-David Delucci
DH-Travis Hafner
RF/1B-Casey Blake
RF-Trot Nixon
SS-Jhonny Peralta
3B-Andy Marte
2B-Josh Barfield

SS/2B--Mike Rouse (based on Terry Pluto)
C--Kelly Shoppach
(look for Garko to be the odd man out--and VMart to rotate at 1b)

Starting Five
#1--CC Sabathia--LHP
#2--Jake Westbrook--RHP
#3--Cliff Lee--LHP
#4--Jeremy Sowers--LHP
#5--Paul Byrd--RHP

Closer--Joe Borowski--RHP
Setup--Roberto Hernandez--RHP
Setup--Rafael Betancourt--RHP
Matchup--Aaron Fultz--LHP
Matchup--Fernando Cabrera--RHP
Middle Relief--Jason Davis--RHP
Middle Relief--Matt Miller--RHP

alright, on with the questions...

10. Is Mark Shapiro signing a contract a done deal? How many weeks in a row have we heard that Shapiro is signed, sealed and delivered? My only questions then is, WHY HASN'T HE SIGNED? Most people seem to agree that Shapiro does an amazing job with the payroll he's given. The ONLY problem is that there haven't been results. Shapiro HAS to produce a playoff appearance this season, because if his offseason acquisitions explode on him this year, the way they did last year, there are going to be far less folks saying how good he is. Look for Shapiro to sign a deal soon, as I really do see Shapiro putting it off while he's dealing with Westbrook, Sabathia and Pronk. He'll sign before the start of the season. Most of you know what I think about Shapiro. If he wants to stay, they should let him sign a deal that allows him to stay as long as he wants too. He's that good. I'm just surprised he hasn't tried to pursue a team with a larger payroll. My bet is if he did, he'd figure out a way to get them to the series in the first two years there. Let's just hope he never gets the itch.

9. Is Eric Wedge on the hot seat? I rarely disagree with Terry Pluto. Most will agree that he's as good as it gets, and rarely gets it wrong. Today, Mr. Pluto discussed how Eric Wedge ISN'T on the hot seat this year, that he isn't worried about his contract since he sees this team as playoff calibre, and that this team is a lock for 90 games (minus injury). I don't agree at all. I think Wedge IS on the hot seat. I think as relaxed as he looks, he'll begin feeling the pressure if the Indians aren't in the mix early. I also think Showalter may not have been brought in to replace Wedge, but do you really think he'll say no? I will say that Pluto brings a solid argument about the job Wedge has done with this team, and how he handles his starters, his rotation, and his strategy. The bottom line, however, is the 'scapegoat' mentality by Dolan. If this team doesn't do well, he'll defer, and we'll see Wedge go first, and Shapiro second. Wedge is on the hot seat, if this team doesn't perform. I absolutely think Cleveland will make it to the playoffs this year, and possibly, if the bullpen is as good as I suspect it is, win the division. If they don't make the playoffs, Wedge, who's contract is up this season will be gone. This would be rated higher, but if it becomes an issue, it won't be until break or later.

8. Which minor league players will make an impact on the Big League club out of Spring Training, and as the season progresses. Adam Miller will be on this team before the end of the year. I think Cleveland would ultimately want to see him make it until the end of the season in AAA, before taking over Westbrook or Byrd's slot next season, but he's just going to be too good to not have on the big club. No, I don't think he's going to make the club out of Spring Training. Trevor Crowe is the guy that's perhaps hurt the most by the platoon situations. Yeah, it pushes Choo and Garko out, but Choo is the unquestioned next guy in line in the outfield, and Garko will more than likely make the team. Crowe, who had one of those fantastic seasons last year that many didn't expect, will have to have a lot happen. I think we'll either see Crowe or see Crowe dealt by July. I like him, but most say he doesn't have the range to play center field. I could see him in left, but not with platoon central. He could be the bait we need, like K2, that could upgrade a position at the break. THE PLAYER that I believe will have the most impact on the big league club this year is Tony Sipp. It may not be until the stretch run, and there will be a couple that go before him, but Sipp will be this team's closer, perhaps as early as next year. They'll want him up earlier.

7. Is Andy Marte the answer at third base? Lake Erie Hope does a really nice job talking about Marte, Travis Fryman's help, and his potential in the lineup. I don't agree that he's in the same position as Peralta was two years ago, but I do agree that Marte could be the fulcrum of this team. IF Marte performs above expectations, and provides icing on the cake, the Indians offense will be incredible. If he just performs to standards, hits for power, not for average, Clevelands offense will overall improve. There is concern on my part, that Marte may underperform. Marte has never hit for average, and learning HOW to hit for average in the majors is a mistake in my opinion. Marte is only 23 years old, and we've yet to see the player that Marte will become. My hope is that he's ready this year. I have a strange feeling that he's not. Of course, any Andy Marte will be better than the Aaron Boone-led platoon of last season. Of course, Marte only batted .226 in his limited action. Not exactly stellar statistics. Strange things could happen at third base this year, and it may help clear up problems in other areas.

6. Which Platoons (Delucci/Michaels in left, Blake/Nixon in right, Blake/Garko/VMart at first) will work, and which platoons won't? I really like the Delucci/Michaels platoon. This platoon is going to produce all year long, and I don't really have much more to say about it. What will ultimately happen here is that we will forget all about left field becuase these two can play defense, and can hit. Both are scrappy, and are those guys you need on the team to succeed. Blake and Nixon will work for as long as Nixon isn't hurt. My prediction is that he will be however, which will bring Choo and Garko back into play. Back to that in a second. I also believe that Garko is the real deal at 1B, as most others do. The problem is that there is no room for Garko with the addition of Nixon. Look for VMart to play a bit more at 1B in the platoon with Blake. If Nixon gets hurt, look for the hot bat, Garko or Choo, to get called up. More than likely, it will be Garko, to platoon with VMart, while Blake takes the majority of AB's in right. I also think it is distinctly possible that you could see Blake playing third base. I hope I'm wrong about Marte, but I just can't get Alex Escobar (without the injuries) out of my head. Look for left field to work well, and Right Field and First base to just plain work out. This could get really complicated as the season progresses, so tune back in to the DOJO to see how it all works out.

5. Will Mark Shapiro be able to sign Jake Westbrook by the start of the season? Jake Westbrook may not be the most talented Tribehand starter, but he's certainly the most consistent. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2004, JW has averaged 32 starts, 212 IP, 3 CG, 15 wins, 11 losses, and a 4 ERA. Here's a guy you plug into your 2 or 3 hole (preferably 3), and forget about. He's the guy that gives your starting pitching depth. He's also not worth the money that will certainly be offered to him next October by one of the large market teams. The question then becomes, will Mark Shapiro find a creative way to get Westbrook to not only sign on the dotted line, but sign in a way that will still allow him to go after Pronk and CC before their contracts run out next year. The popular opinion is that Shapiro might be able to sign 2 of the 3, and will probably be able to only sign one of the big 3. Sabathia and Pronk are both higher ceiling guys, so what Shapiro WON'T do is overspend now, and lose both Sabathia AND Pronk. If Cleveland can manage to get Westbrook to sign a decent deal that fits payroll, then look for Shapiro to jump on getting one of the other 2 to sign as well. Why is this a big question this preseason, when Westbrook isn't a free agent until the end of the year? Signing Westbrook now, not only will build support from the fan base to support the Dolan-led Tribe, but will send a clear message to the other Indians AND Free Agents that Cleveland is trying to build a winner. Shapiro has done a nice job building Cleveland as a team that can rebuild a career, and it has paid dividends in the free agent market. Now both the Dolans, and Shapiro need to take the next step. The Wildcard here, of course, is the Indians depth at starting pitching. With Adam Miller and Fausto Carmona both looking like potential top-end starters, and Chuck Lofgren and Scott Lewis looking even more dominating heading to AA this year, the focus for Shapiro might not be on starting pitching. Of course, if you are always looking towards the future, WHEN do you try and win the series? Personally, Cleveland should set their sights on Westbrook and Pronk. I would absolutely love to have Sabathia sitting there at the #1 slot, but I also wouldn't even DREAM OF PAYING him 130 million dollars over 7 years. Set your sights on Westbrook and Pronk (and just figure Pronk you WILL sign), and hope for the best.

4. Which player will surprise out of the gate? I really think that Josh Barfield is going to be someone that has everyone talking. LEH talked about him in the same breath as another former Padre, Roberto Alomar, and I agree. I know people think he's good, but my guess is that we'll see Barfield in the 2 hole before we get to the break. His upside is huge, and as many can already tell you, he's the type of player and person that works hard to get where he wants to be. He's working with Peralta right now, and you can tell from watching (or listening) that he's a gamer. I know there are players with questions, like VMart throwing guys out, and the others that I've mentioned, but I think all that will iron itself out. Barfield will take this team to the next level. It's all about being strong up the middle...and I do believe that Barfield, Sizemore and yes, Peralta, will be a strength for years to come...and I do mean offensively AND defensively.

3. What role will Fausto Carmona play on this team? Carmona is going to be the #1 guy in Buffalo, where he should be. Cleveland tried him out as a closer last year, and it failed miserably. I can't help but think back to Julian Tavarez, and it's just hard to believe it was 14 years ago. He came out as a starter in 1993, and was shelled as a starter his first year, in 7 starts. Spent a year in the minors in 1994, then was a lights out relief pitcher in 1995, before struggling in 1996 while moving between starting and relieving. Of course, he's been used in a variety of roles since leaving Cleveland after 1996, but you have to wonder what would have happened had he been used strictly as a starter, or a reliever, earlier in his career. Many thought he had top of the rotation potential. Cleveland never gave him the shot because they needed the slot in the pen, and had two kids named Wright and Colon. Carmona hopped back and forth last year as well. This year, however, Shapiro seems committed at allowing Carmona to remain a starter, and that's the way it should be. I see Carmona being the first line of defense if/when one of the starters go down. I really get a sense that this kid could be something special. My suspician is that we'll get to see some of that this year. The key will be to keep him as a STARTER!

2. Who will come out as the best player on the team? Pronk is Ortiz. Ortiz is Pronk. The similarities are astounding. But I believe this is the year that a player will come out of spring showing everyone that not only is he the best player on the Tribe, but the best player IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE. Grady Sizemore is going to have a monster year. I watch Sizemore play, and I can't help but think of Robin Yount. He LOOKS like him in the outfield, the way he charges the ball...the ground he covers. Yount wasn't flashy, but he flashed in the outfield. Yount didn't dominate you offensively, but he made you bleed. Sizemore is the same way, and only getting better. I believe that this season, we are going to see something special...that Sizemore is going to potentially show the league that he is not only the best in the AL, but the best in MLB. I don't have to tell you Indians fans about him, most of you are probably nodding right now. His OBP jumped to .375 last year, and I think will improve this year, with steadier bats in front of him. I also believe we will see Sizemore pick up some more RBI's, and have more power opportunities for as long as Barfield is batting 9th. It's not inconceivable to predict Sizemore closing in or surpassing 30-30 this season. Expect big things from the kid, he's that good.

1. What will happen to Jhonny Peralta? Jhonny Peralta WILL be back to his old self. I'm NOT talking about the Peralta from last year that everyone is fixating on. I'm talking about the Jhonny Peralta from EVERY OTHER YEAR HE'S PLAYED. I keep reading things that are infuriating, and the one at the top of the list is that "The Indians haven't made a move to make sure they have a shortstop to take over if Peralta struggles as he did last year." Look, I'm all for having a backup plan, but to make it sound like Peralta is a dog that needs to be put to sleep, instead of that dog that barked every other year of his career is absolutely ridiculous. Let's look at the facts last season. Peralta struggled, and there's no doubt. He lived in Wedge's doghouse all season, and wasn't in shape. You also have to look at the changes at the top of the order with the dealing of Coco Crisp as a major shift. It was one season, and a season in which it is very evident. He's in great shape this year, has already looked like a different player in the field, and has a good stick. He's also looked very good with Barfield. I really believe that not only will Peralta be improved at the plate, but with Barfield, will be ABOVE AVERAGE in the field. There, I said it. Now, about Peralta growing to 6'8", gaining X-Ray vision, and having three bones removed from his ribcage, well...everyone has to have an excuse.

Notice what's NOT mentioned? Nothing about the relief corp. I'm just going to say it's improved, and you'll have to live with it. It has some depth, and should allow Cleveland to develop some of their relievers.

I hope this helps with some of you as Spring Training continues, and hold onto the rope, things are sure as hell going to get bumpy...