Twitter Mailbag: Antonetti, Acta and Looking to 2013 Questions
By Mike Brandyberry
When the Indians lose 21 of 25 games and fall from 3.5 games to 14.5 in back of first place in less than a month, it’s easy to hit the wall with writer’s block. And, despite our analytics that say we have great readership, we don’t receive many comments, so I decided to use my last day of summer vacation to interact with our tweeps. Our twitter following and interaction has been great since our birth last summer.
Every writer knows, the easiest way to produce a story is just churn out a fan mailbag, so now I’m just like everyone else; a little lazy and fatigued with this season. I’ve thought of doing this for a while as we want to interact with our readers more (that’s one of the points of a blog).
So, without further ado, here is the first DTTWLN mailbag. If questions remain this good, I’ll try to do this about once a month. On to the questions…
Question from @dhall95: When will we see the last of Chris Antonetti and Mark Shapiro? That’s the only hope of turning this franchise around.
Unfortunately, I don’t think fans will like my answer, but I don’t think either are going anywhere in the immediate future. Shapiro has been a part of the organization since 1991 and worked with Hank Peters and John Hart. He’s really the last link to the success the Indians had in the 1990s. Granted, he is no John Hart, but he was hand-picked by Hart to replace him. I definitely believe that Shapiro has involvement in the baseball operations aspect, but I also know the majority of his time is dedicated issues off the field.
In no way should anyone interpret Antonetti as a puppet for Shapiro. Antonetti makes the decisions involving the building of the roster. His decision to trade for Ubaldo Jimenez should be proof enough of that. That move was a very un-Shapiro-like move. However, that trade along with nearly every other move Antonetti has made since becoming General Manager has not worked well. While any credible site says his contract is only through this season, Antonetti has said numerous times over the last couple months that his contract has been extended. Terry Pluto speculated that it might run through 2014.
If that is the case, I would expect Antonetti to be back next season, and while we will never hear it publicly, he has to be on a short leash to make some moves and improve the team. If this team, with this core, is all back in 2013 and Antonetti sprinkles some more spare parts around it, not much will change. If he doesn’t try a new plan or make major improvements, I would think Shapiro would have to strongly consider firing Antonetti after 2013.
Personally, I would fire Antonetti the day after the season ends. He built a team that was fatally flawed against left-handed pitching, resigned Grady Sizemore instead of acquiring Josh Willingham and didn’t make moves during the season to improve the ballclub when they obviously needed them. Once the trade deadline arrived, it was nearly too late. The Ubaldo trade signaled an all-in move, but has never been followed up with the same mindset.
Question from @MichaelKCarlson: Obviously, something in front office has to change. Who’s responsible, and who’s going to take the fall?
Well, in answering the previous question, I pretty much placed my blame on Chris Antonetti. He built the team that was supposed to be a playoff contender and declared the “window of contention,” yet has a team that is going to lose 90 games.
Unfortunately, the guy who is going to take the fall is Manny Acta. Even in while losing 21 of their last 25 games, I’m an Acta supporter. I think the life of the team has been taken out of them with the first losing streak. They went from playoff contenders to playing out the string in the span of a week. Obviously a young team has not handled this well, but I still point the finger at the construction of the team, not the execution.
I think the dismal August and downfall of this team shows just how good of a job Acta did a year ago to go 80-82. Don’t forget, he had Jerad Head, Kosuke Fukudome and Ezequiel Carrera in the outfield in early September against the Detroit Tigers, trying to save their season.
Second question from @MichaelKCarlson: Given inaction at deadline, and performance after the half, is our “window of contention” already closed?
The window on this team’s core is closed, but I think if Antonetti is to remain General Manager long term (past the next season or two), he has to find a way to keep the window open. I don’t think ownership and baseball economics will allow the front office to just add offense and starting pitching to the core they currently have. You could argue they need two or three hitters and at least two starting pitchers. On the free agent market, that’s very expensive, even for a team with a couple big contracts coming off the books. Since I think Antonetti will return, he has to really look to trade players like Shin-Soo Choo and Chris Perez for young players that are ready to be on the roster in 2013.
Regardless of who the General Manger or Manager is, as long as the Indians are working on a $65 million payroll, they need to build a core that is all approximately with the same Major League service time and try to prove to fans that a group of players will be on the team for 3-5 straight years.
Question from @Rmarcis: Do you think that multiple core players will be traded this offseason? I think Shin-Soo Choo will, but beyond him. For arms or bats?
I agree, I think Choo will be traded and probably should be for several reasons. The biggest is that the Indians have made several attempts to sign Choo to a long term extension and he and his agent, Scott Boras, have not been interested. If Choo is going to the free agent market after the 2013 season, the Indians will lose him. Someone is going to give him a brinks truck or two.
I also think it makes sense to trade Choo because if he is traded to a team that is close to contending, or hoping to make a World Series push in 2013, that team could overpay and possibly part with a quality young player they might normally not part ways with. That’s why I think the Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates had dialogue about Choo at the trade deadline. Pittsburgh is thirsty to win and be a playoff team. They just didn’t blink on the Indians’ demands. I think someone will this winter. I also think moving Choo, even though he is probably their best hitter, is a step toward fixing the lefty-heavy batting order. The offense has to be built around Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley. Two are left-handed, the other is a switch hitter. They need to find some righties or they’ll be back where they are now.
In terms of other core players being traded, I think it is possible. I would think it is probably better than 50/50 the Indians will try to trade Chris Perez. He’s projected to make between $7-8 million through salary arbitration this winter. It’s pretty hard to justify having a $65 million payroll and giving one-eighth of your available salary to a guy who only pitches one inning, when the team is winning. You are basically relying on the other 24 players to get the ball to your best player. It is kind of backwards logic at a pretty steep price. Perez, like Choo, would garner players that could probably help the Indians quickly. It’s also easy to try and trade Perez since Vinnie Pestano seems to have all the tools to assume the closer’s role. Regardless, the bullpen is getting pretty expensive. A shakeup in the Mafia has to happen because of economics.
I think it is a real possibility to see Grady Sizemore in Goodyear, Arizona on a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. Of course if he was healthy, he would make the team and have a small, yet incentive-filled contract.
The Sizemore situation is certainly a sad one. If you want to blame Antonetti for giving him $5 million this year, that’s fair, but don’t fault Sizemore. He’s never shown up out of shape and never given less than 100%. For all the games Sizemore has missed, he’s probably played the same amount hurt. Some other players wouldn’t have tried to play through those injuries, or play so hard.
I do think the Indians and Sizemore recognize that the other party has been loyal. If no one gives Sizemore a guaranteed contract (and why would they), I can see him back on a minor league deal in 2013.
Honestly, I don’t think Acta is the only person of authority in the Indians’ organization that has lost complete faith with LaPorta. I had an Indians front office executive tell me in February that he thought LaPorta would play the entire season in Columbus. At the time, I considered the Tribe a contending team and felt they’d have better production at both first base and left field. I’m assuming they did too when that statement was made.
I’ve heard from several scouts that have seen LaPorta play this season that feel he has not made any adjustments and will still fail at the Major League level. I’ve heard the theory that the Indians did not want him to acquire too much service time this season or he would be arbitration eligible and they had no interest in giving him a pay raise for 2013.
I was definitely against calling up LaPorta to play first base during the first half of the season. While Casey Kotchman has struggled offensively, he has played a fantastic first base. If the scouts are right, LaPorta wouldn’t provide any better offensive production and would be worse defensively. However, since the Indians acquired Lars Anderson from the Boston Red Sox, LaPorta has played almost exclusively in left field. I don’t think he is the answer, and until the no-trade deadline, I didn’t see the point. Now, I’d like to see him play just provide some closure to the issue.
I think at this point, they don’t want to make a roster move with a week before rosters expand on September 1. Even though Shelley Duncan has had a tough 2012, it would be foolish to designate him for assignment and risk losing him when you could just wait a week and have both below-average bats on the roster.
A condescending question from @tbrandyberry: What did you do to our daughter that she’s cooperating with you so you can do this?
I scoff at your disbelief in my multi-tasking skills, but for the record Hannah was napping when I started this and is now playing in her walker. I did take a break for a bottle and diaper change (for her, not me).
From one of our best in-game tweeps, @bTdill: Given the state of things what might you predict the lineup will look like next year? Any additions via free agency? Any offseason trades?
That’s a tough question to answer considering so many variables are unknown. If Acta is fired a new manager will enter with a new direction, same would be true if Antonetti were gone (although I think he will be back in 2013). With the idea of trading Choo and Perez on the table, what they would receive would probably dictate lineups and rotations more than anything.
A question from @kposey5: A simple question, where do the Indians go from here, if they keep the same management, front office, manager, etc.
It might be a simple question, but it is far from a simple answer. You basically asked me to outline our coverage for the four to five months of the offseason. I’ll do my best with a couple answers.
If Antonetti remains as General Manager, he has to shake up the roster. Returning the same core of players and sprinkling in a new batch of marginal veterans isn’t going to fix anything. The team might not lose 90 games like it looks like they will this year, but it isn’t going to win 90 games either.
The two biggest things is regardless of who is making the trades, the organization has to make better trades. The roster is flawed in major part to poor trades when the team didn’t cash in on C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee. If the Tribe trades Choo and/or Perez this winter, they have to hit in those trades.
On the field, they have to get better starting pitching any way possible. Much of this losing streak has been built upon poor starting pitching. When your offense is average at best, falling behind early is catastrophic. This team was built with the plan that starting pitching would get the lead into the sixth inning and then hand it over to the team’s strength, the bullpen. Once the starting rotation went south, they’ve taken their team strength in the bullpen out of the equation. Perez, Pestano and Joe Smith rarely pitch unless their leading. They have to get back to that formula and improve the rotation in any way possible.
Because some of the coaches have to finish the season, the team can’t just coach themselves? Of course when the team struggles, it is easy to blame coaches. Fields came in a year ago to replace Jon Nunnally when he supposedly was the problem. As far as thoughts on Fields and his employment, he’ll probably be let go at the end of the season when Acta is relieved of his duties.
However, considering he’ll be the second hitting coach casualty in as many years in Cleveland, I would tend to place the blame on the players swinging the bats, not the coach. You can’t turn chicken excrement into chicken salad seems appropriate here.
Finally, the Indians offense isn’t as bad as some people think. The Tribe is 11th overall in on base percentage (.323) and 18th in batting average (.252). While that isn’t going to create any comparisons to the 1995 Indians, they aren’t as bad as their perceived. I think their biggest struggle offensively is that they have no one who is a legitimate home run threat. Cleveland rarely has a big inning, scoring three, four or more runs in an inning because they don’t hit the ball deep. When you are an average offense, but you need three hits to score a run, it’s how you end up 20th in scoring runs.
To the best of my knowledge, yes. With the Indians on the road so much of late, it is tougher to have interaction with the people that would know for certain. Antonetti is supposed to meet with the media Friday afternoon and hopefully someone will ask him. Unfortunately, I return to my day job tomorrow and won’t be able to make it when he meets with the media at 3:15. I do know that at one point it was a possibility that Carrasco could pitch in September if he progressed quickly. I haven’t heard anything to the affect that he will pitch this year, but if he was perceived as a possibility for this year at some point, even with some setbacks he should be ready for pitchers and catchers in 2013.
Sarcastically @J_Kordan asks: Where in the world is Carmen San Diego? I bet she would make a great left fielder.
I think she is Jason Knapp’s Geography instructor at Penn this fall.
I think Chisenhall is the favorite to be the Opening Day third baseman. When Indians trainer Lonnie Soloff explained his injury, he was clear it would take into September before he would be able to resume baseball activities. If he is healthy, I would expect Chisenhall to return to the Indians lineup in September, even if it is just the last week or two. I don’t have any knowledge of it, but I would expect Chisenhall to play in Instructional League in Arizona in October once he is fully healthy.
As far as it setting him back for next season, I don’t think that will be a problem. Soloff was clear that the break to Chisenhall’s arm was very comparable to the break Asdrubal Cabrera suffered in 2010 when he collided with Jhonny Peralta. Cabrera returned in about 10 weeks and has swung the bat with more power after the injury than he ever did before. I don’t think the injury helped Cabrera’s power, but it certainly hasn’t held him back. I wouldn’t expect it to hinder Chisenhall come spring.
Great questions and I enjoyed the interaction. One thing we want to do at DTTWLN over the offseason is try to interact with fans more often and better, not just through Twitter. Feel free to contribute comments at the bottom and follow our Facebook page.