The Tribe takes two of three in LA and the White Sox get swept by their North Side brethren and can't seem to win on the road (that is 9 straight after Sunday night). The Twins are still the Twins and while they are 40-36 and doing it with smoke and mirrors, does anyone really think they will be sticking around come September? Then there are the Motor City Kitties. They have been feasting on that joke of a division that is the NL West. They sit 36-39, five games back of the Chi-Sox.
What does all of this mean for the Indians?
In fourth place at 35-41 and six games back, do they still have a realistic shot to get back into this race? You know "The grinder" himself Eric Wedge thinks so. The same problems remain. To paraphrase GM extraordinaire Shappy: "we are without our #2 and #3 starters, our #3 and #4 hitters, and our bullpen is a mess."
Don't forget about the fact that Jhonny Peralta is a statue at SS barely hitting his weight, Ryan Garko trades months where he is hotter than baked clams one week than colder than my ex-sister in law the next. Second base has gone from Asdrubal Cabrera (fighting to get to the Mendoza line before getting sent down to Buffalo) to Josh Barfield (one game, broken finger) to Jamey Carroll (best used as a utility man, he is 34 after all). Franklin Gutierrez has been a disappointment at the plate and is now in a platoon with Shin-Soo Choo. David Dellucci and Casey Blake are still David Dellucci and Casey Blake.
The point of all of this is that with everything that is going on, the question remains if the Indians are truly out of it. Here is what the plan should be for the next three-four weeks:
1. Play Shin-Soo Choo, Ben Francisco, and Franklyn Gutierrez in the two corner OF spots and leave them there in some sort of rotation. Francisco's bat and Franky G's glove are too valuable, as is the total package Choo is offering. There is ZERO reason for Double Deez to see anything other than pinch hitting duty.
2. Get Jensen Lewis back up here and let him throw in the seventh. Is it just me or do you think the arms of Rafael Betancourt, Rafael Perez, and Masa Kobayashi will fall off by mid-August. Luckily for them, the Indians have had plenty of blow outs in the opponents favor, leaving ample innings for long man Scott Elarton and "No-Dick" Rick Bauer. As Terry Pluto wrote on Sunday "I think we've all seen enough of Edward Mujica." Also, like they did with Jenny last year, give me Jeff Stevens and prepare him in the middle innings. Pluto calls the player to be named later int he Brandon Phillips debacle as "the best reliever to come through Akron since Rafael Betancourt."
3. Get Morgan Ensberg up here, give him starts at 3B and let Fake play some 1B. When Garko is slumping (like he has been for the last week), his at-bats are brutal. Andy Marte is worthless, as is Jorge Velandia. At least we know Ensberg used to have some game.
4.Wait a week, dump Velandia, and bring back AC. Play him four-five days a week at SS, while DH'ing Jhonny Peralta. Cabrera is hitting over .370 in close to two weeks in Buffalo and playing "sensational" defense, according to his current manager Torey Lovullo. This will help both players thrive. Jhonny's range rivals my 94 year old grandmother these days.
5. Consider dumping Paul Byrd for prospects while there is still a market for him and bring up former first round pick David Huff. Lets see what a rotation of five lefties looks like. Remember the days of the five-righty rotation where unless you got spot starts from memorable names like John Smiley, Brian Anderson or Jason Jacome, you wouldn't see a lefty until Paul "The Ass Man" Assenmacher came trotting in form the pen? (I loved the Ass Man, but was more partial to Al Morman.)
Up next is another of the soft-underbelly of the NL West, the San Francisco Giants. This signals the return of one of Cleveland's favorite sons, Omar Vizquel. I will be down at the Jake tonight to give Omar a standing "O." Through all of the big bopper years, Omar may have been the most beloved of the red, white, and blue. He flashed the leather, and his million dollar smile, on a daily basis and never seemed to ruffle any feathers, unless your name is Jose Mesa. It's funny how now people talk about Omar as if he were a God, yet most Tribe fans were pushing him out the door '04for the younger Peralta. Now, all you hear is "Omar would have made that play with ease."
That is the truth. With apologies to Ozzie Smith, Omar is the best defensive shortstop any of us will probably ever see. It was a pleasure to watch him work his magic here for 10 years and it will be a pleasure to see him take the position he owned tonight.