Thursday, February 28, 2008

The cold period
The NFL is on hiatus, baseball season doesn't start for more than four weeks, and we are not in the postseason in either college or professional basketball.

If you're wondering why the blog has taken a political turn lately, that's why.

The Indians have started Spring Training, but right now, there's not much to talk about, other than the inaction of the team's offseason.

The roster is pretty much in tact from last October, with a few exceptions (Kenny Lofton, Trot Nixon, Chris Gomez). There is certainly a desire to rip the Indians for not actively improving the team, but then again, General Manager Mark Shapiro does know more than I.

It's not like he has the Red Sox budget to work with (or for that matter, the Cavaliers), but asking the Indians to win the division in this (ehhehhm) market on back-to-back seasons is a bit of a stretch. Still, there is a line of thinking that this could be the Indians final shot before having to rebuild.

- C.C Sabathia is certainly in his last season with the team. Losing a Cy Young winner is never an enchanting prospect, but committing the type of capital needed to secure him just isn't responsible.

- Travis Hafner is reaching 30. Don't be fooled by the Indians' brass, announcers and whomever else. Last season was a major disappointment for Hafner and the Indians. It's possible that Hafner's best seasons are behind him, and that injuries and age will prevent the 2006 Travis from ever returning. Still, he's probably good for another 25-homer/100 RBI season, even if he does only hit .260. It's a shame we were so spoiled by Pronk.

- For as much grief as I have given him, Casey Blake was solid last season. But he's 34 and you wonder how much more he has left. If Andy Marte (or the sea of youthful outfielders) doesn't pan out, Blake will be asked to carry a big load this season. The Indians gave him a one-year deal, so it's unlikely even they forsee him as more than a year-to-year option. But Blake has surprised me the last two seasons. As long as he's put in a position to succeed (the No. 2 hole was a good fit) and not in a position to carry (the No. 3, 4 and 5 holes were not)he might be effective.

- And what of the bullpen? Joe Borowski and Rafael Betancourt were excellent in their roles last season. Jose Mesa and Eric Plunk have taught us good relief often comes in odd years. The Indians did bring in new arms for the pen, so maybe that's not as much of a concern.

- I still think Josh Barfield is capable of being an all-star. But he has a long way to go to escape Asdrubal Cabrera's hold on second base. I would have traded Jhonny Peralta this offseason for some more help and pushed Cabrera to short, but the Indians seem content with the former right where he is. Could Barfield go the way of Brandon Phillips?

With about a month until opening day, the Indians will probably reveal nothing in the next four weeks. Spring Training won't tell us much, because most of the positions have been decided. The smaller decisions may be what makes or breaks this season, and those won't come into play for a few months.



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