Tonight's game has been postponed until 4:05 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.
Just in case anyone forgot the original premise, I respond to letters originally addressed to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer, giving them the semi-intelligent answer they may or may not deserve and almost certainly have not yet received. To simulate Hoynsie's lack of Internet access and sheer laziness, I restrict myself to only one minute of research for the entire column. Other than that one minute, the answers are literally written off the top of my head.
Hey, Hoynsie: Didn't the idea of "leveraging" Justin Masterson out of the starting rotation begin in June when the Boston Red Sox were trying to reacquire him for use as a long reliever? If so, does his current status indicate he will be offered back to the Sox again next year? -- Steve Gaylo, Thompson
Hey, Steve: On the one hand, it is unlikely that the Indians have any real interest in trading Masterson. On the other hand, he is in a sense being offered to every team, not just Boston, all the time. That is, make the Indians a good enough offer, and there is literally no player that they won't trade, up to and including SIzemore and Choo. If Antonetti thinks the team will be better with the players coming back than the players going out, he'll pull the trigger. As one of our better rotation options entering 2011, Masterson would be difficult to pry loose but not impossible, but you seem to think he's being reserved (or something) for the Red Sox, which frankly just makes no sense at all.
Let's get abstract for a moment. Every team would like to leverage every player it controls as much as possible, but of course that means different things to different teams. Decisions on individual players, as I've written before, are rarely if ever only about that one player, but rather about all the different players who present themselves as options for that player's spot, whether through a trade, minor league promotion or free agent signing. Antonetti himself has said that teams have to think in terms of an actual, specific player who will replace another player in each role, rather than working off a generalized "replacement level" concept. (I can see from the blank look on your face that I've lost you now, Steve, but that's okay, since you're not really reading this, and I don't really care.)
How does this apply to Masterson? Well, the Indians have one replacement level for Masterson in the rotation, which we might call "8th starter" or "6.20 ERA" or "David Huff." They have another replacement level for Masterson in the bullpen, which is, I don't know, Laffey or Herrmann or something like that. The Red Sox, since you bring them up, are in a different situation, in that their bullpen replacement might not be any better than the Indians' — especially mid-season — while their rotation replacement might be significantly better than David Huff, which, obviously, isn't saying much.
I won't front, Steve; I was always a Masterson-as-starter guy, so maybe I'm just seeing what I want to see, i.e., a guy who seemed to be putting it all together as the season wore on. It really is about leverage, as you suggest, in that even if Masterson himself could possibly be more valuable as a reliever than as a starter — which would be tough from a pure arithmetic standpoint — you still have that nagging "who is our replacement" question to deal with. Fact is, we need starters more than relievers, and by the time that ever changes, hopefully Masterson will have become too good of a starter to consider switching him back.
Bottom line, if the Red Sox or anyone else want to acquire him to use as a super-fine reliever, they're still going to have to pay young-cheap-starter prices for him, because that's his value to the Indians at this time. That, in a nutshell, is why he wasn't traded back to Boston this past July and probably won't be next year, either.
Damn, that was exhausting. Can we get an easy one now?
Hey, Steve: No, he hasn't. Dolan has made lots of public claims about eight-figure losses in 2009 and 2010, and in light of the recent disclosures, it's reasonable to wonder how accurate those claims have been. But it's important to be clear that the Indians aren't like the Pirates or the Marlins. The Pirates have been dumping seasons since Albert Belle was a rookie, and the Marlins needed to be scolded just to lock up their best young players to multi-year deals. The Indians didn't need to be told to lock up their best young guys like Sizemore, Carmona and Martinez, in some cases to record-setting deals. They took the leap to extend 30-ish stars like Westbrook and Hafner — generally to the club's detriment. So while Dolan may have exaggerated the club's losses a little bit, it is clear that the team really has been spending basically all the money available if not more, and ticket revenues really are in the toilet. It's hard to imagine how the Indians could be making much of a profit.
Hey, Hoynsie: After decades of success with the wild card, including huge bumps in revenue, attendance, and fun for the fans, there was one lone owner who vociferously voiced his dissent. Back in September of 1993, this owner stated regarding the then-proposed wild card, "I made my arguments and went down in flames. History will prove me right. This is an exercise in folly." Who was that owner? -- Robert Beajulais, New Orleans
Hey, Robert: In the clearest sign yet of Hoynes' laziness and Internet illiteracy, he guessed George Steinbrenner was the answer — and his editor just let it slide! I don't even know what to say about this. The correct answer, of course, is former Texas Rangers owner George W. Bush. All politics aside, I just have to ask: You live in New Orleans, and this is your biggest complaint? (Here's a funny coincidence, Robert: Our last names both mean "the wine.")
Hey, Hoynsie: Why are the Indians continuing to play guys like Matt LaPorta, Jayson Nix, Luis Valbuena, Shelley Duncan and Chris Gimenez? Do we really not have more capable players in the farm system? -- R.E., Jackson, Mich.
Hey R.E.: No. That is, we don't have more players in the farm system who are more capable right now of playing in the majors, even though we have high hopes that guys like Weglarz, Kipnis and Phelps will arrive at that point in only a matter of months. Perhaps more significant is that we're going to face a series of tough roster decisions between October and March, and the club wants to give the guys you list as much opportunity as possible to show them what they can do. The lone exception is LaPorta, who still may well be an important player going forward, and who needs as many big-league reps as possible to see if he can get there. It's not unusual for even a star player to struggle in his first 500 or so at-bats in the majors — not everyone is instantly productive as Sizemore and Santana were. I honestly think it would be foolish to bench LaPorta at this point.
Hey, Hoynsie: Do you think the Tribe will give Drew Sutton a shot at third base next year? He reminds me a little bit of Casey Blake size wise and hustle wise. Sutton has done okay at shortstop so he should be able to play third. He is a switch hitter with some pop. -- Joe Eversole, Pelman, Ala.
Hey, Joe: We could do a lot worse than a year of Casey Blake at this point, but I doubt Sutton can live up to that. I honestly don't know much about Sutton, but my gut feeling is no, he won't get a shot, and in fact he'll be booted from the 40-man to make space for someone more prospect-y. Sutton essentially is competing with Nix and Marte, as I see it, and the best thing he has going for him is that Nix has played third base as though his gloves are made of solid brick. What Nix has going for him is that he plays a solid second base, but then again, we seem to have four or five other guys who can play second, so what's the point? Sutton hasn't been bad in the minors, but he's been old, and at no point has he ever hit anything like Marte did in 2009.
I've been saying for weeks that Nix is going to force Marte off the roster at the end of the year, but if the Indians think Sutton can be solid at both shortstop and third base, I guess it's conceivable that the Indians might boot both Marte and Nix and keep Sutton around — especially since Sutton is the only one who can be optioned to Columbus in 2011. It's just hard to believe they would give a starting job to someone of such slim pedigree and experience, and ultimately, don't they need a third baseman to bat in the everyday lineup more than they need a backup shortstop? I don't see that a team like the 2011 Indians needs a better Plan B at shortstop than Jason Donald, and I definitely don't mean that as a slight to Donald.
Hey, Hoynsie: Recently there was a Plain Dealer article about Shin Soo Choo being a 'keeper' because he hit 20 homers and stole 20 bases this season. It reminded me of the time Omar Vizquel got the hero treatment for 2,000 hits (as opposed to the major-league standard -- 3,000). Now 20 homers and 20 steals is a nice season, but isn't 30/30 or 40/40 more worthy of praise? -- Brett Ormsby, Bay Village
Hey, Dumbass: This reminds me of the time Omar Vizquel got 2,000 hits, and some total jerkoff complained that he was been given the "hero treatment" based on a round of applause. Are you, in fact, that same jerkoff or a different jerkoff? Ah, well, I guess it doesn't really matter. Of all the miseries that we Indians fans have to endure, I sometimes think that fans like you — so confident that your knuckleheaded downerism is somehow streetwise — are the very worst misery of all. You are not the least bit streetwise, Brett, or any other type of wise. What you are is an unpleasant man with a tiny little brain.
Even here, in the hallowed ether of LGT, sometimes one of our brilliant commenters will fall into the rhetorical trap of saying, "This guy is hardly a Hall of Famer." It should go without saying that a player can have a hell of a career while still falling short of Cooperstown — Kenny Lofton, anyone? — and by the same token, a current player can have one hell of a season even without hitting the standard-issue statistical milestones we're used to hearing about, whether it's 30-30 or a .300 average or 100 RBI or a Gold Glove.
I can't decide whether you're a bigger jerkoff regarding VIzquel or Choo, but we'll start with Vizquel. There are only 20 active players with 2,000 hits, and only three of them collected 2,000 hits as a shortstop: Derek Jeter (the active hits leader), Miguel Tejada and Vizquel. So in fact, nitwit, 2,000 hits is a pretty impressive achievement in its own right, and doubly impressive for a defensive player. Vizquel improbably has collected another 798 hits (and counting) and is third on the active list, just 19 hits behind Ivan Rodriguez for the number-two spot on that list. It is entirely possible that Pudge, who will sail into the Hall on the first ballot, will finish with fewer hits than Vizquel, who will not.
Tejada is 500+ hits behind VIzquel and won't catch him. Chipper Jones, another first-ballot guy, won't catch him, nor will Magglio Ordoñez or Junior Griffey or Vladimir Guerrero. Johnny Damon, a noodly armed left fielder, may not catch him either. Even Manny Ramirez, probably the best all-around hitter you or I ever saw in an Indians uniform, may well not catch Vizquel on this particular list. For all the great hitters the Indians had in the 90s, Vizquel has more career hits than any of them except Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield.
How many great defensive infielders have 2,000 hits? Pudge, Johnny Bench, Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt, and Scott Rolen will get there soon. In the middle infield, you've got Ozzie Smith, Luis Aparacio, Robbie Alomar, Ryne Sandberg, and Bill Mazeroski barely got there. At the moment he reached 2,000 hits, Vizquel joined some very fine company.
How many of those great defenders have 3,000 hits, which you claim is the benchmark? None. Zero. Zip. Nada. How many of them finished with more hits than Vizquel? Again, zero. So perhaps the "hero treatment" was not entirely out of line.
Now for Choo. You claim 20-20 isn't special at all, but how many AL hitters are 20-20 men this season? Exactly three: Alex Rios, Bobby Abreu and our man Choo. B.J. Upton could still sneak in, but that's gonna be it. A few notable power/speed guys who aren't on that list: Carl Crawford, Ichiro Suzuki, Ben Zobrist, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Curtis Granderson, Torii Hunter and Evan Longoria.
But perhaps the real fault lies with the guys covering the team, or even with the Indians, who are essentially talking down to the fans when they tout Choo as a 20-20 man. Choo is in fact an even better player than the words "20-20 man" can convey, but it's the nature of the game that great all-around players, who fail to hit the leaderboard in any one particular stat, often end up underrated. I doubt very much, Brett, that a twerpwad like you has ever heard of WAR, but using that metric, Choo rates as the sixth best all-around offensive player in the league, and the eighth most valuable position player overall. He is better than Paul Konerko, even in the best season of Konerko's career.
By more than one measure, Choo has been the league's most productive outfielder at the plate over the past two seasons, and also over the past three seasons — and lest we forget, he also leads all AL outfielders in assists. Yes, I'd say that makes Choo a keeper. And you a jerkoff. Again.