This is the fifth installment in a 12-part series.
The Cleveland Indians hired John Mirabelli as Director of Scouting in the fall of 1999. Mirabelli was promoted to Assistant General Manager/ Director of Scouting prior to the 2002 season and signed a contract extension in May 2007 that takes him through 2010. Later that year he took on an "expanded role in the procurement of amateur and professional talent, both in the United States and abroad" while Brad Grant assumed responsibility for overseeing all elements of the amateur draft. The Indians have had many young players succeed during this time, though many have been plucked from other organizations. After the disasters of the previous two years, is it time to fire John Mirabelli and the scouts?
If you're looking for an exhaustive analysis on how the Indians have drafted compared to other teams, or how they've fared with international signings, you'll need to look elsewhere on this site or in the Annual published last spring. Keep in mind the goal of this series - holding people accountable, regardless if it is actually their fault ("and even if it isn't, it's probably time to fire somebody anyway.").
Firing Mirabelli is probably not a novel idea to LGT readers. Some may say he hasn't had successful drafts, and others may say he hasn't drafted "high-ceiling" guys. Or that he hasn't signed an impact player from the Pacific Rim. Or that he speaks French, but not in Russian. In any event, I'm going to focus on a few "fireable offenses."
By and large, difference-making talent originally signed by the Indians does not exist on the current roster.
Admittedly, my mostly uninformed opinion from a year ago was that the Indians amateur drafts have been awful. After getting some perspective from within this site, I've realized that "awful" is an overstatement, and when compared to other teams (particularly in the AL Central), it doesn't look bad at all. Also, the amateur draft is just one way to add players to the organization. And no, we're not going to debate selecting "high-ceiling players" for the 10 billionth time, or even the 11 millionth time.
And in Mirabelli's defense, the Indians have only selected in the Top 10 once since 1992. Budget constraints have certainly impacted their ability to select certain players. But in the end, Cleveland's highest single-season slugging percentage of players signed after Mirabelli was hired belongs to Ryan Garko, who slugged .483 in 2007. And of pitchers signed in the Mirabelli era, the highest single-season strikeout total by a Cleveland starter outside of Fausto Carmona belongs to fireballer Jeremy Sowers, with 64 in 2008 (though David Huff is making a charge this year). Screw it, these are fireable offenses!
And the trading for several power arms (C. Perez, Knapp, Masterson, and Hagadone) this year was an effort to stock pitching depth, but it may as well been an admission of their inability to find these arms in other ways. Again, the aforementioned lack of high draft picks and budget constraints have hampered the Indians in this pursuit, but remember, we're looking for accountability here.
Signing David Dellucci
Sure, scouts didn't have the final say on this signing. They may have had little, or even no input at all. But in the spirit of Fire Everyone!, we're going to hold the scouting department accountable for not talking Mark Shapiro out of this one. Outside of one good month, one great quote, and a good beard, there's not much else to take from this signing. Sure, he tore his hamstring from the bone in 2007, but he wasn't doing anything before then either. Was this a critical error that set the franchise back? No. But it was a swing and a miss.
Being unable to acquire talented minor-leaguers from other organizations
OK, just making sure you're paying attention. If we're going to blame them for the Dellucci signing, we'll have to give them credit for this, to the extent he and his scouts were involved. It's not that it's unimportant. However, I suppose any number of us could have looked over the Dodgers' system and asked, "What about that Santana guy?"
Jose Ozoria Wally Bryan
Sure, it isn't the first time this has happened to a major league club. The Indians are not alone. It also may be that the Indians did everything possible to avoid this. However, in Andrew's piece on firing Larry Dolan, much of the discussion in the comments section centered on small market teams needing to become unique or unconventional in their methods. I'll submit that in signing players who are actually older than they say they are, the Indians should strive to be unconventional and make sure this doesn't happen.
It's not an exorbitant amount, but if you're going to spend $575,000 on signing an international free agent, you better make sure his ceiling is Asdrubal Cabrera and not Niuman Romero. Perhaps we'll see
young Mr. Bryan get a cup of coffee at first base in September 2014, thereby ending Andy Marte's consecutive game streak at 788.
That wraps it up. What about Brad Grant, you say? Well, let's give him a pass. We'll keep around anyone who uses their first pick on a player named Lonnie Chisenhall, especially if that player hits .276/.346/.492 at the age of 20 in High-A in their first full season.
Should Mirabelli be fired? Did the promotion of Brad Grant mean that Mirabelli was already "fired?" Is Mirabelli now in a role that better suits him? Or is saying "It hasn't been as bad as you think" good enough when you summarize the results of someone's performance in a significant role?