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.