Thursday, July 28, 2005

Karma....and Casey Blake

I guess this is karma coming back on Wickman (and me) because of all those saves he almost blew, but it was an awful time to receive it. Again, there's a lot of season left, but with virtually everyone in the AL still in the race, merely keeping pace with the peloton isn't good enough. What makes the loss even more frustrating is that the Indians collected 14 hits, and had but 4 runs to show for it. Whether it's due to the lack of getting hits at the right time or just plain idiotic baserunning, wasting opportunities just grates on me. But if you look at the stats, Oakland left just as many runners on base (11), and had as many hits (14). That's baseball, I guess.

Let me once and for all enunciate my thoughts on Casey Blake, which dovetails with a bit of my philosophy. Blake is disliked right now not because of who he is, but how he's being used. I think if Blake was a platoon partner for Ben Broussard or played in the outfield once a week and still hit .223/.296/.388, some people would complain, but it wouldn't cause much of a kerfluffle. It's because he's trotted out to right field every day, and his offensive struggles are there in front of you every day that it begins to gnaw at your insides. And I don't care where he's hitting in the order, because it really doesn't matter all too much, but I do care that he's in the lineup to begin with. A parallel is the animosity towards Matt Lawton during his stint with the Indians; it wasn't Matt Lawton per se, it was the fact that the Indians gave him a huge contract after trading for him. Heck, at this point I'd take Lawton's cement-shoed range in right field right now, because he's still a pretty decent hitter. But I guess that's besides the point right now. It wasn't that the Indians should have kept Matt Lawton, it's that they replaced him (essentially) with Casey Blake.

And it goes a bit farther than just saying the Indians made a bad move signing Blake to a two-year deal last winter, because there are instances where a team made the absolute correct decision and the player bombs despite everything. No, the Indians signed Blake to a two-year deal, knowing they'd be moving him to outfield, knowing that even at 2004 levels he'd be an average right fielder, knowing that he was 31 and didn't have much of a track record. The good news is that Blake can play the outfield, and he probably can make out a career as a fourth outfielder/utility man. The bad news is that he's not hitting enough to be a backup catcher right now, and as a result, the Indians have a gigantic hole in the outfield. I'm just glad Grady Sizemore has played as well as he has this season; if not, the outfield would have been Coco Crisp, Jody Gerut (assuming they wouldn't have traded him), and ????.

How do you make the best of this situation? Well, I think you go to Jason Dubois, tell him that he's the right fielder, and see what happens. Or Jeff Liefer. Or Ernie Young. Or Andy Abad. Whoever they decide to pick. Obviously besides possibly Dubois, none of these guys are much of a long-term solution, but they don't need to be. All you want is a .250/.350/.450 line for two months.

I guess my point is that good organizations get the most out of the players they have, and they find the right roles for them. For two years, the Indians did exactly that with Casey Blake, a minor-league free agent who gave them two good years at third base. Then they gave him a two-year deal to play right field, effectively canceling out the great return they received in 2003 and 2004. Hopefully he serves as a warning, so whenever the next Casey Blake appears, they know what to do with him.

15 comments:

  1. Anonymous7:00 AM

    Ryan, the money Blake gets is not enough to be consequential to any team. It's his appearances at the plate during crucial game situations that are so painful. This guy is an automatic out when the game is on the line. And to keep having to watch him screw up is like watching a train wreck over and over again. IMHO
    (Elsandito)

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  2. Blake is on the way down or out. He is now batting last, FINALLY. I wouldn't mind seeing him get demoted if that is possible. I know the Indians won't eat his contract. He is horrible with the game on the line. He'll either strikeout or ground into that inning ending double play. He must be in good with Wedge, to still be at the point where he is now. I mean even Boone has caught and surpassed him.

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  3. Dear Ryan,

    Thank you for managing to get the word 'kerfuffle' into a column!!
    To hell with Casey Blake!

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  4. Elsandito,

    You are correct that the money doesn't really mean that much. It's the amount of at-bats that he's received that ticks me off the most. I know that there aren't that many internal options, but the trading deadline is close. Ken Rosenthal in his recent column:

    The Indians, 2 1/2 games out and tied with the Orioles in the wild-card race entering Wednesday's play, could be buyers and sellers, depending upon how the next few days shake out. They still want to add a bat, and probably would trade only righthander Kevin Millwood and/or closer Bob Wickman if they got back players who could help them next season and beyond. . . .

    That's promising.

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  5. Ken from Alexandria1:50 PM

    Wickman won't bring enough in return, so let's swallow hard and trade Millwood. A week ago the Orioles were ready to put Hayden Penn, their best pitching prospect, in a package for AJ Burnett. Trade Millwood for Penn, then flip Penn or one of our other young stud pitchers for a right fielder, preferably one with power from the right side. The lack of production from the corners is just the pits.

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  6. Ken,

    You'd be surprised what "veteren presence" and "All-Star" means to some GMs. I'm not saying that every GM overrates Wicky, but that it only takes one GM to get a deal done.

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  7. Pete in Vegas7:03 PM

    Will someone please explain to me why the recently aquired Jason Duboise isn't playing every day? If you can put Jeff Leifer! in at DH while Hafner's out, why, oh why, does the boy wonder (Blake)play? After yesterdays not unexpected Wickman meltdown, I think it's time to look at next year. This team and it's manager are going nowhere this year. I don't care if they sweep Seattle. there's little reason for hope. Even when Wedge manages properly, they lose as many as they win. Bite the bullet, trade what you have to, and gear up to contend next year. And please, no veterans.

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  8. Anonymous10:32 PM

    As I watch Wedge move Blake and Liefer up the lineup, and Peralta too, even though Wedge said previously that it would be counterproductive, a thought occurs. I couple that info with the point that Phillips is on the bench and unused thereby reducing our roster to 24. It seems that these are ways to undermine the percentages of winning. Can it be that the org actually would prefer to be sellers at the deadline? Or, at least not motivated buyers?
    (Elsandito)

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  9. Anonymous7:07 AM

    Belated GM for a day move:
    We trade Millwood, Riske and Wickman to Boston for Manny and agree to pick up 2/3 of his salary going forward.
    (Elsandito)

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  10. John K12:04 PM

    The Indians can afford to trade a couple of their high-potential minor league pitchers to get an outfielder, in addition to Wickman and Millwood, because not all of the minor-league talent can be protected in the annual draft.

    Also, does anyone know what happened to the hard-hitting 1B prospect Stephen Head, who played only part of Wednesday and none of Thursday for Kinston?

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  11. John,

    Head got hit in the head by a pickoff attempt. I think he's day-to-day.

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  12. pssst - from today's Billy Beane chat on BP today:

    Billy Beane: This has been the most unusual trade market I've experience since I've been a GM. There's a lot more buyers than there are sellers, and I think that's a credit to the fact that there are many teams that are still in the playoff hunt. There's also a number of teams that, despite not being in the playoff chase, are trying to create some momentum forward, and feel it's important for their young players' development to continue to try and win games. That being said, it would not surprise me to see at least a couple of big deals nobody expected.

    Billy Beane: Mark and his staff in Cleveland are among the best in the business. Yes, he's doing it the "right" way in my opinion, and he is succeeding. They've got one of the best young teams in baseball, and a minor league system that rivals the best in the game...and I'm glad they're out of town!

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  13. Anonymous10:36 PM

    Buster Olney on ESPNews indicated that Wickman and Millwood will be traded not for prospects but for players to help make a run.

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  14. Buster Olney on ESPNews indicated that Wickman and Millwood will be traded not for prospects but for players to help make a run.

    Add to that... Shapiro was on OTL Nightly alluding to the fact that teams can be both buyers and sellers.

    It should be an interesting trade deadline. Heck, this will be the most interesting one since 2002, and then Shapiro was selling off everyone.

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  15. Anonymous3:35 AM

    Millwood and Wickman could be a pretty good haul. My thought would be to dump Blake and maybe Rhodes because that would do us more good than prospects (except a can't miss 2B). The question you have to ask are the Indians a playoff team( or at least the 73' Mets)?

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