These are my untouched-since-then notes taken during Spring Training 2003. They are kinda fun to look back on...
What I Did On My Spring Vacation
I spent it watching the Cleveland Indians in beautiful Winter Haven Florida! Seeing the way that town folded up when the big club headed north, I have to wonder what the city leaders next job will be after they let their home become a ghost town by not having a team train there. They are walking into that uncertain void with all the confidence of David Caruso strutting off the NYPD Blue set.
Thoughts on the team:
Why doesn't the Cleveland media get what's going on here? Indian's GM Mark Shapiro has planted the seeds for the next generation of winning teams using the decaying hulk of the previous generation. He accomplished this, just before the 90's version hit the iceberg. Rather than focusing on this positive story, all they want to talk about is the tearing down of a team that had run its course anyway. Is the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes too embittered from covering years of lousy teams to get excited about what is germinating under Shapiro's stewardship? Does The Akron Beacon Journal's Sheldon Ocker think himself to be so all-knowing that he knows better than the Indians' brass as well as everyone else?
Some random player thoughts...
New First Baseman Travis Hafner really is a poor-man's Thome with walks and power. I'd be disappointed with less than .300/.400/.500. As to his fielding, like Michael Jackson, he wears a glove for no apparent reason...
Akron First Baseman Eric Crozier and Buffalo Outfielder Jody Gerut both made strong impressions. Crozier looks like an athlete in the same way Brandon Phillips does and the missing power part of his game is starting to show up with 6 dingers in the spring. He is also the best fielder at his position above low A. Gerut has spent some serious time in the weight room showing Rickey Henderson-like quads and is intentionally sacrificing batting average for power. He is showing signs of busting out of the 4th outfielder projection. A Stanford grad, he is to be congratulated on being the only pro athlete I've ever heard refer to the effect his possibly making the roster might have upon maxing out his 401k contribution...
Corey Smith has always been happy-go-lucky and sources tell me that he did not work hard this winter belying his "work ethic" propaganda. I believe, however, that somebody sat him down this spring and pointed out how pivotal this season is for him as he seemed oddly somber. He was drafted out of high school from the weather-affected short season New Jersey area which puts him behind developmentally. This is his third season, however, and it is time for him to close the gap between hype and performance. Keep an eye on his walks - his strikeout zone judgement has really been holding him back as well as whispers of "he can't hit the curve-ball".
I still don't know why they didn't give Akron manager Brad Komminsk the Buffalo job. Nothing against Marty Brown but Komminsk has won two consecutive Manager of the Year awards and unlike Brown, was from inside the organization.
Keep an eye on outfielder Eric Johnson - a 3rd round pick from 99 who pursued football for the last year. He is an ungodly athlete who if he hits will get moved along quickly.
Brandon Phillips range is obscene and he really should be at short with Omar put out to pasture somewhere. Was that lightning that just struck me?
I keep thinking that Grady Sizemore will be the best player of the big three prospects (Sizemore, Phillips & Cliff Lee) heisted from Montreal for Colon. He and Ryan Church will be sharing centerfield with Sizemore also playing left when Church isn't in center. Church seems to be having continued troubles with the strike zone that emerged at Akron last year.
Jeremy Guthrie is an impossibly good-looking guy with a wife who almost made me faint. Ah to be young, rich and handsome...
Zack Sorenson has to be making Bill Selby nervous as he is rapidly becoming a Selby clone and is younger
Kinston RHP Mariano Gomez is fun to watch - throws nice and easy.
Buffalo LHP Brian Tallet must have really ticked somebody off - he was shifted to Buffalo way quickly with no fanfare...
Josh Bard, who is starting to look like Einar Diaz without the silly contract might not be able to hit enough to hold the catching job, especially with mega-prospect Victor Martinez behind him. If Victor's arm gets away from the kryptonite, he'll soon be on his way to becoming the player Sandy Alomar was supposed to be ten years ago. I did see him throw out a couple of guys and he can't be worse than Mike Piazza who wags like to say "couldn't throw out the garbage...". I think Wedge likes Bard, however, as he may see something of himself in him and there are position-switch whispers going on with Victor.
If the parent club had kept Jose Santiago and lost Aaron Myette through waivers, I would've blown the same gasket that I had just finally reacquired after the keep Will Cordero/waive Karim Garcia decision of last spring.
I am very happy that Ricky Gutierrez is not with team even if the respite is temporary during his rehab stint. I truly don't understand why big, stupid contracts force teams to play losers. If I bought AOL at $100/share, does that mean I have to hang on to it at $50 or do I admit the mistake and sell it before it goes to $2? Being crazy enough to take Cordero off then Pittsburgh Pirate GM Cam Bonifay's hands lead to two mistakes: keeping Cordero and losing Karim Garcia. Keeping Gutierrez around is moronic. Admit that you were wrong and put him out in Terry Shumpert/Luis Alicea-land where he belongs!!! More on this at a later time.
I like that the front office is keeping prospect Jhonny Peralta at shortstop down in Buffalo. Why not leave him at the maximum defensive position until you have to move him to third or second? He hit at a very young age at Akron last year and his year becomes even more interesting when you isolate the second half where he amassed most of his offensive production.
Todd Pennington and Honeudis Pereyra are two low minor league high strikeout right-handers that I watched and was disappointed in. Righty Pereyra is listed at a 5'11" but I was looking down on him from my lofty 5'10" and Pennington does it with change-ups and has an odd motion that seems difficult to repeat. Confucious says to not get excited about short righthanders (unless he's an Astro) or about low minor league pitchers who feature a change-up as their out pitch.
Other than Travis Foley, they'll be lucky if the 2001 draft wasn't ill-spent on high school right-handers. JD Martin ain't projecting - his fastball hasn't "grown" yet, Dan Denham can't find the plate and Jake Dittler has done exactly nothing. Thank God Alan Horne went to Ole Miss! In return for the team's inability to sign Horne, they drafted and signed Lake County second baseman Micah Schilling in 2002.