Saturday, July 26, 2008

We are richer for having lost him
So Casey Blake is gone, probably for good.

By noon, I'd received three calls and by the end of the day, I had received messages from many others.

"Your long national nightmare is over," said a friend at work.

At my place of employment, my long standing frustration with Blake is only slightly less known than my right-leaning politics.

So am I happy with the deal?

Yes. Honestly, I'd have released Blake after his miserable 2005 season. Instead, the Indians stuck with him, and he had his ups and downs over the next three seasons. His play was actually good much of the time, but I never thought he was much more than an average player, who could at times go above and below that standard.

He was very good this season, after a cold start. The most stunning thing was his average of almost .400 with runners in scoring position.

This from a guy who rarely hit higher than the Mendoza line in that position throughout his career.

But for all of his success, I will always remember Blake's double play in the seventh inning of the seventh game of last year's ALCS.

It was a crucial moment in Blake's career. To explain why that double play was so significant, let me go back to September of last season. After four years of ripping Blake unmercifully, I had warmed up to Blake.

After two game-winning homers in one week, I wrote a post on Blake called "Eating Crow."

So, Blake came through in the clutch, at the most important part of the season. So for the rest of the regular season, I'm done bashing him. He's done his part.

I also wrote that I'd get on Blake in the postseason if he went cold.

Instead, he had a big homer in game 4 of the ALCS, and I had conceded he had been good.

Then came game 7.

The Indians were down by a run with runners at the corners and one out in the seventh. The game should have been tied, but Indians' third base coach Joel Skinner inexplicably held up Kenny Lofton at third on a Franklin Gutierrez single.

That left it up to Blake, who swung at the first pitch and hit into a double play.

That alone could have happened to any hitter. But then Blake went out to the field and seemed to take the at-bat with him.

The Red Sox's Jacoby Ellsbury opened the bottom of the seventh with a routine ground ball to third. It went under Blake's gove and into the left-field corner. Boston scored two runs in the seventh, sixth in the eighth, and won, 11-2.

The seventh-inning sequence is how I'll remember Blake. Someone who could have good games and decent seasons, but the last person I'd want involved with a crucial game on the line.

I know it's not fair. I know Blake probably deserves better. But to say I feel otherwise about him would be dishonest.

My frustration with Blake never had anything to do with him personally. I have never heard anyone say anything bad about him, which after six years in Cleveland, is quite an accomplishment.

I never thought he was as good as the Indians' organization tried to tell me he was. That's also how I'll remember Blake. Tom Hamilton suggesting once that he should be a candidate for a gold glove, the Tribe's first STO documentary being about Blake, and CC Sabathia once describing him as one of the "best players in the game."

But in the end, I wish him well in Los Angeles. He's a good guy and deserves credit for the way he plays the game.

Now, as far as what the Indians got back ...

Carlos Santana -- what else to expect from and organization that traded for Milton Bradley, Coco Crisp and a guy eventually known as "Pronk?"

Santana has 14 homers and 96 RBIs for the Dodgers A team. That's something. In theory, he'll take a while to develop. But the last single A catcher the Indians traded for -- Max Ramirez -- took just two seasons to reach the bigs -- in Texas.

Jon Meloan has had a couple of really good seasons pitching in the Dodger system, but it didn't translate to a good season this year in AAA.

If either of these guys pan out, it's a good trade. If nothing else, the Indians' organization has shown an ability to trade for better prospects than it drafts (Andy Marte notwithstanding).

But two upper-echelon prospects for a guy who is 35 and going to leave at the end of the year anyway is a pretty strong return.



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