Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Sunday Drive with random thoughts of the Indians 2009-2010 offseason

Thank the heaven's above, it's finally time to say goodbye to the psycho-season.

The psychotics out there (understand that it isn't lost upon me that I am actually one of them) have been predicting and projecting the possibilities of the season to come. It all comes to a fever-pitch during February, as those final hot-stove pick-ups are made, new contracts are signed and the bats, balls and gloves are shipped from home to the home-away-from-home at Spring Training, USA.

So here we are, as the pitchers and catchers report to Goodyear, Arizona today, wondering how the Indians are going to put a team that can win games on the field. It really has been a long and despicable winter pondering the Indians and the 2010. Normally, the Indians make their bevy of offseason moves that never seem to be the right position or the right player or the right amount of money (whether it really is or not). This year, the Indians seemingly took a step beyond previous seasons, setting records for club inactivity. Rumors are abound that tumbleweeds have been blowing through the Progressive Field offices since late November.

I've been sitting here in front of this computer spring conflicted. Should the Indians commit to playing the young guys this season, even though it likely will lead to a season of torment? Or, should the Indians make enough moves to at least be competitive in a relatively weak division? Then there is a third line of thought that leads me to the belief that perhaps one leads to another (and you can take that in whatever direction you want).

Their most entertaining moves of the offseason happened in November, when they brought in a new coaching staff, led by Manny Acta. That should go a long way to explaining just how looooooonnnnnng this offseason has been. Seriously, go to a local watering hole some time this week, sit down, and start talking Indians' baseball. Nearly 75% of your entire conversation will focus on Acta's losing record, Sandy Alomar Jr.'s playing days (I give you a link to 'The Diatribe,' which actually addresses Alomar more appropriately as a coach), or about an in-your-face coach that spent his offseason running around the globe in the Amazing Race.

Past the coaching staff, Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti have ransacked the major league version of Goodwill, looking for every type of cheap player they could find. First, they dealt from their pile of catchers, sending Kelly Shoppach to the Rays for a player-to-be-named-later (yeah, I'll get to that later). The same day, they signed RHP Jason Grilli, IF Luis Gonzalez, LHP Mike Gosling, and 3B Brian Buscher to minor-league contracts. A week later, they ransacked the Rule V draft, and came back with righty Hector Ambriz. They dropped Adam Miller and Anthony Reyes from the 40-man roster, then signed them back-up to minor league deals (Miller won't pitch this year, but Reyes may). They signed former Nationals reliever, right-hander Saul Rivera, and on the same day, received Rays prospect, right-hander Mitch Talbot (as the player-to-be-named-later in the Shoppach deal).

After the Christmas holidays, the Indians signed outfielders Austin Kearns and Shelley Duncan to minor league deals. A week later, they brought in Mark Gruzeilanek to another minor-league contract. A couple of days after that, they signed their first major league deal of the offseason, to Catcher Mike Redmond for a massive $850,000, then traded Jesus Brito to the Pirates for infielder Brian Bixler.

February has essentially been the Indians trying to sign Orlando Hudson (out of nowhere) and then ultimately signing Russell Branyan.

So, for those counting at home, the Indians have offered up all of two major league contracts, one to a back-up catcher, and another to a whiffer (yep, all wrapped up into one player). If you add up those contracts together, without incentives, they come in at under $3 million a year. They also signed several nearly-weres, always weren'ts and has-beens to minor league deals to compete for jobs.

I'm well aware of the financial hardships that the Indians face in this present market. Even so, there's always that part of me that wants them to burn the "small-market ledger" and utilize the "Just Win, Baby" mentality. Of course, Al Davis created that line of thinking, and we all know how that's paying off for him now. No, the Dolans are in this thing for the long-haul, and they proved that this week with the announcement of a management change at the end of the 2010 season.

Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti will both get promotions, with Shapiro moving up to team president, and Antonetti taking over the VP/GM role that Shapiro has held onto since since 2002. Paul Dolan, the current president, will slide into daddy's role as chairman and CEO of the Tribe. There is a sense of irony to all of this that has to make you laugh.

Many have been calling for Mark Shapiro's head on a platter for the past two seasons. Of course, this is coming after Shapiro won the Executive of the Year twice, in 2005 and 2007, when the Indians managed to win over 90 games. Now imagine the Indians struggling in 2010, for a third straight year, which will earn Shapiro a promotion? The Diatribe looks at the impending management moves in a bit of a different perspective in today's Lazy Sunday. Might Shapiro be setting up Antonetti for success, so he can take the fall? Perhaps...

So here we stand, officially the first day of spring training after an offseason that was about as exciting as watching the snow fall in Cleveland. This is one of those rare teams that we really don't have a clue at what we have until we see them play on opening day and beyond. Until then, come back early and often to read the ramblings of one of the psychotics that always think this is the best time of the know...when the Indians still have a chance to win the World Series.

Blog Post of the SunDAY: Check out Nino's spring training primer at the Tribe Daily. It will do just about everything for you Indians fans that are still trying to figure out who's who, and what's what. It's detailed and intense, for all you fellow psychos...

Check out the rearviewmirror for Cleveland...bye-bye least for another month-in-a-half.

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