May 20, 1948
Despite the great record to start the season by the Cleveland Indians, team president Bill Veeck is not comfortable with the makeup and effort of his ball club.
The Indians have been a team of streaks. After winning their first six games of the year, they dropped four straight. They rebounded with a five-game winning streak, only to trade off a pair of losses sandwiching a win before their current four game victorious run.
It looks as though there are holes throughout the roster and the overall composition of the team seems to be unusual and unconventional at best.
With the demotion of Lyman Linde to Triple-A Baltimore and the move of pitcher Charley Wensloff to the inactive list, the Indians reduced their roster to 25 players by the league-mandated deadline. Wensloff has been dealing with a chronic sore arm.
The roster currently is composed of ten pitchers, a pair of catchers, five infielders and eight different outfielders. Two of those outfielders can double as corner infielders if needed.
The construction of the roster defies the norm. While ten pitchers is customary, most teams prefer to operate with a third catcher, in addition to more infielders and fewer outfielders than Cleveland currently has on its team. When you can only start three outfielders in a given game, having five extras on the bench may be a luxury the Indians can afford to deal from.
Unfortunately for Veeck, the market for acquiring players has been thin, with many owners looking more to purchase players than swap talents at this stage of the season.
With just one backup infielder (Johnny Berardino) and several others walking around on sore ankles already in the early portion of the season, Veeck may need to consider bringing in some depth in the dirt.
The Indians entered the season knowing that they had a wealth of outfielders on the roster. The hopes were that they would be able to maneuver several of them as pieces for an infielder or a starting pitcher, another piece known to be coveted by Veeck.
As for Veeck, he has not shied away about his desire to improve the Indians and to make them into legitimate pennant chasers.
“I talked with the (White) Sox not long ago and they said they were satisfied with the club as it is,” Veeck stated in an interview from the Cleveland Clinic Hospital, where he is recovering from a procedure on his leg. “I’m not satisfied with my club and I know we’re better off than they are.”
Cleveland stands at 15-6. Chicago is 4-17.
Outfielder Pat Seerey has twice been dangled on waivers, only to be pulled back when Chicago and Philadelphia placed claims on him. The once highly-touted player may be nearing the end of his stay in Cleveland. He came up with the club in 1943 at 20 years old, but has never batted higher than .237, despite slugging 26 home runs two seasons ago. He has led the league in strikeouts in three of the last four years.
The success of guys like Larry Doby, who has transitioned from the infield to right field, has made Seerey expendable. He has seen limited action this season, once as a pinch hitter and three other times as the starting right fielder. In those brief opportunities, he has just two hits in 10 at-bats, including a home run and four RBI. But four other at-bats have ended in strikeouts, highlighting a consistent problem throughout Seerey’s professional career.
Opposing general managers have not sounded satisfied with Veeck’s trading considerations.
“Veeck has peculiar ideas on trading,” said Leslie M. O’Connor, general manager of the Chicago White Sox. “He wanted to swing a half-rate deal – half-rate on our players, that is. Mentioning one name, we couldn’t swing a deal for Pat Seerey on whom waivers were asked.”
Veeck is looking for starting pitching and it is believed that he was pursuing Joe Haynes or Orval Grove from the struggling Sox. After Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, and Gene Bearden, the Cleveland rotation is full of question marks.
Even Bearden has to be an unknown commodity at this point for manager Lou Boudreau. With just two starts this season and three appearances in his big league career, the sample size is small and the jury still might be deliberating. He is 2-0 in his starts, falling just one out short of throwing two complete games to open his season, and has allowed just two earned runs so far.
Four weeks remain before the deadline of trading activity hits Major League Baseball. A lot can change, and likely will, as Veeck continues to try to stabilize the Indians into a consistent ball club capable of contending for the American League crown.