Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One of the interesting things (perhaps THE interesting thing) about the Indians' offseason is their arbitration hearings.

There are two players the Indians appear to be going to arbitration with: reliever Rafael Betancourt and infielder Casey Blake.

Betancourt filed for a deal worth about $2.5 million. For anyone who watched him last season, that number sounds like a bargain. If he were a free agent, I imagine he could get at least $7 million, just because of how many teams are starved for pitching help.

The Indians countered with a $1.75 million offer. This for a man who went 5-1 with a 1.47 earned run average in 2007.

I was about to call the Indians cheap, but then I read about the Blake negotiations.

The Indians are offering Blake a deal worth $5.4 million for one season. If you read this blog at all, you probably know how I feel about Blake. He had some great moments last season. He almost had me turned on him entirely.

Then came Game 7 of the ALCS.

I don't blame Blake for the loss of the game or the series. But it's undeniable that in the most important moments of the season, he failed twice -- first at bat, then in the field. In some ways, he was like Derek Anderson for the Browns: He did a lot of good things, but in the crucial game didn't come through.

Blake hit .270 with 18 homers and 78 RBIs last year. Is he valuable? No question. But he's going to be 35, a time when most non-steroid using players (which I believe Blake is one of)decline.

I think $5.4 is overpaying for a guy who generally does not drive in runs.

Blake wants almost $7 million for 2008. I almost spit out my orange juice when I read that.

My gut feeling is the Indians will find common ground with both players, which I think will be good for all involved. But the Betancourt deals have me confused.

First off, I can't believe he'd ask for so little. But I also can't believe the Indians won't try to lock him up for two or three years. It's unlikely he'll be as dominant as he was last season.

But he doesn't have to be dominant to be useful to the club.



At 1:46 PM , Anonymous Erik said...

That meltdown was a team effort, and I think you can make a case that it started when Kenny Lofton tried to storm the mound and fight Josh Beckett in Game 5. That was a sign that the Indians, as a club, were losing their grip on the series.

What happened in Game 7 with Blake, Skinner and Lofton was merely the snowball gaining momentum. The Indians lost that series two games earlier.

I know everyone loved having Kenny back last year, but I'm glad he's not going to be an Indian anymore. Lofton's little tirade was a throwback to the dark side of those Indians teams from the '90s. Those teams were full of temperamental, moody, mercurial players. Lofton, Murray and Belle in particular seemed to live with a constant chip on their shoulders.

Maybe Lofton has mellowed in his old age, but that meltdown in Game 5 showed that he's still temperamental and can still be provoked into losing his temper.

Casey Blake might have hurt the team with some of his defensive miscues and poor performance with RISP, but there is no question Lofton hurt as much as he helped. We can have our fond memories of him, but that's a relationship that needs to end once and for all.


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