Monday, June 08, 2009

Five worst moves of the Wedge/Shapiro era
Starting in 2003, Indians GM Mark Shapiro and manager Eric Wedge have often been hailed for some brilliant trades.

Certainly, there have been plenty of those. The Bartolo Colon deal ranks as one of the best in team history. Eduardo Perez for Asdrubal Cabrera and Ben Broussard for Shin Soo Choo also stand out.

But as with any tandem,there have been some major misfires, on the field and off. Here are the top five worst moves from Wedge and Shapiro.

1. Trading Brandon Phillips to the Reds for Jeff Stevens.
Wedge and Phillips never clicked, and the surefire star turned into a 4-A player with the Indians. Still, it's hard to excuse Wedge's decision to take lifelong journeyman Ramon Vasquez over Phillips to fill out the team's roster.

Phillips was sent to Cincinnati for Stevens, who was a low minor leaguer at the time. Phillips responded to the trade by becoming perhaps the best all-around second baseman in the National League. In 2007, Phillips slammed 30 homers, drove in 94 runs and stole 32 bases.

In 2008 he missed more than 20 games, but still hit 21 homers and stole 23 bases.

Imagining him in an Indians uniform, even just in 2007, is enough to make one drool.

Stevens did OK in the Indians system, but was dealt to the Cubs in the Mark DeRosa deal.

The Phillips situation also stains the Colon deal a bit. The Indians got three stars in the deal (Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee being the others who came from the Expos in 2002), but gave one away.

2. Signing Travis Hafner to 4-year, $57 million contract
From 2004-2006, Hafner was as good a hitter as there was in baseball.

He was also injury prone, missing significant parts of each season, even though his numbers at the time hardly reflect that.

In 2006, Hafner hit 42 homers and drove in 117 runs for the Indians. But he played only 129 games, and in 2007, something seemed off. The article that announced his signing (on July 12, 2007) even made mention of it:

After becoming just the second Indians player in history (Jim Thome being the other) to hit 40 homers, draw 100 walks, score 100 runs and drive in 100 runs in a single season in 2006, Hafner hasn't been the same hitter this season. He entered the break batting .262 with 11 doubles and 14 homers, though he does rank 11th in the American League with 57 RBIs and first in walks with 65.

Most blamed the stress of the deal as the reason for Hafner's somewhat average play. Problem was, once the ink was dry, he failed to regain his past form.

The numbers in 2007 weren't bad. Hafner hit 24 homers and knocked in 100 runs. Hafner actually managed to play 152 games that season, but it goes down as the first sign something was wrong with Pronk.

In 2008, Hafner looked like a shell of himself. Because of injuries, he played just 57 games, and when he did play, well, it wasn't pretty. Five homers, a .197 batting average.

Hafner's shoulder has been the culprit for most of his problems, and it acted up again this season. As of today, the returning Hafner has played just 19 games.

So now, the Indians are stuck with a 32-year old power hitter who gets injured and can't play the field. Because of his contract, and the fact that he's almost always hurt, the Indians have practically nowhere to move him. Even if he were playing well, the Indians still wouldn't be able to trade him to more than half the teams in the league. National League clubs don't have much need for a DH.

3. Signing David Dellucci, and then sticking with him.
On Dec. 6, 2006, the Indians gave David Dellucci a contract that promised him more than $11 million over three years. One hundred years from now, historians will still be trying to figure out why.

In 2005, Dellucci hit 29 homers for the Rangers. But that was in Texas, where home runs are like summer afternoon thunderstorms.

The Indians gave Dellucci the deal after a year in which he hit 13 homers. But the Tribe already had plenty of younger, faster players ready to assume the spot. They even signed another slow left-handed hitter -- Trot Nixon.

Already 33, it was difficult to see what role Dellucci would play on the Indians.

The answer was simple enough: None.

Dellucci was only hitting .230 with four homers when an injury effectively ended his 2007 season. By the time he came back in 2008, he still failed to wow anyone, hitting .238 with 11 homers. He did, however, play 113 games, taking away at-bats from Ben Francisco, Choo and others.

Everyone figured the Tribe would be smart enough to cut Dellucci in Spring Training. They weren't, and Indians fans had to watch Dellucci play in 14 more games, never hitting a home run. He was injured before the season even started, but did go on a rehab assignment. One wonders what Josh Barfield might do with these unlimited opportunities.

We know what Dellucci did, and the Indians cut him in late May.

4. Firing bullpen coach Louis Isaac after 44 years with the organization
Maybe there's more to this story than has been told. Maybe Eric Wedge and Mark Shapiro had a very good reason to fire him. We don't, we can't, know everything that goes on behind closed doors.

But on the surface, Wedge and Shapiro look awfully cold for this move, and it makes me cringe every time I hear one of them blather about "playing the game the right way."

The PD's Bill Livingston summed it up well here.

5. Mike Rouse.
What exactly did Mike Rouse have on Eric Wedge that allowed him to be the utility infielder for the Indians for much of 2007?

Rouse played eight games for the Athletics in 2006, and the Indians picked him up. He made the team, then produced one of the most awful offensive seasons in big-league history.

Rouse, who admittedly, didn't play much, did see action in 41 games and got 76 at-bats. He had eight hits, all but one a single. That's a .119 average. It might have made sense had he been the second coming of Dave Concepcion, but he wasn't.

He made one error, but it was a big one, almost costing the Indians a game in Texas, He was finally designated for assignment on August 6, 2007.

The Indians picked up the much better Chris Gomez and won the AL Central.

But Rouse's presence for much of that season remains one of the great mysteries in Indians' history.



At 8:35 AM , Blogger Mike said...

Hi Zach, it's Mike Hurley. I just discovered your blog and I really enjoy it, good job! It's pretty awesome that you turned out to be a sports writer, you were meant to be one :)

I really agree with you about some of these Indians moves. I loved Choo and Francisco from day one and it killed me that Dellucci got so much playing time over them. He was also a pretty terrible outfielder, it looked like he was running around with a beer in one hand.

This season has really disappointed me. I really thought they would do something this year. Why on earth did Wedge keep running Perez out there every game to give up leads. Man it drove me up the wall. I can't understand why Wedge still has a job, honestly.

I'm still not at the point where I can even talk much about the Cavs. So crushing. I'm really, really disappointed in Mike Brown. Nothing against Orlando, they definitely outplayed us, but man. Van Gundy just made us look bad. We got dismantled. It didn't look like Brown made any preparations for Orlando at all, and he didn't make any adjustments.

Anyway, keep up the good work! I've got you bookmarked now. ;)


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