Welcome to Tribe Talk, where our panel of Tribe fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the Indians each week throughout the season.
This week, we discuss how our youngsters are faring so far this season. We'll take a look at Carlos Santana's first week on the job, revisit a discussion about who really belongs in the closer's role, and try to make heads or tails of Trevor Crowe.
I would like to thank this week's participants Dale Thomas and Scott Miles for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we're addressing this week.
1. After months of aniticipation, mega-prospect Carlos Santana finally made his major league debut for the Indians last Friday.
What did you think of Santana's performance in his first game, and what did you think of his performance in the games that have been played since then?
Does Santana look like he was ready to handle the majors to you? Were you more impressed by his defense or his offense? What areas in Santana's game do you think still need more work?
Samantha Bunten: We were lucky enough to be at the ballpark the night Santana made his much-anticipated debut.
A roaring crowd desperate for something to give them hope combined with the nerves and adrenaline of that first big league at-bat caused Santana to do what every kid does the first time he comes to the plate trying to prove something: he tried to launch the ball into the upper deck. I can hear my little league coach now: "Don't try to kill it!"
You can't blame Santana too much for this. He'll settle down at the plate and will prove why he was the organization's top prospect before you know it.
Defensively, I think he's been outstanding from the start. In the first inning of his first game, he sent a message of "don't try to run on me" when he flawlessly cut down Nyjer Morgan on his way to second.
I also think he has called games well so far (Jake and Fausto didn't shake him off much in his first two games), and has proven he can block the ball very well, which is no small feat when handling a sinkerball-heavy staff.
Overall, I'm pleased with Santana so far. For once, the hype was 100 percent legit.
Scott Miles: I thought, "Dang, he looks like Victor." Number 41...batting stance with hands held high...felt like a pretty good comparison.
He seems ready for the big leagues. I mean, at least as ready as Jason Donald or Luis Valbuena.
I was really impressed with him behind the plate for Fausto. He did a great job working with his sinker and Fausto seemed confident with him behind the plate to throw any pitch he wanted.
It's early to tell what he needs to work on. I'm just excited to see him behind the dish and getting big league experience.
Dale Thomas: The debut: Let's start with Santana's (the band) Black Magic Woman. That's a screamin' guitar and a great song. It felt like Woodstock all over again except for the wood of Santana's bat never actually made a lot of contact with the ball.
Kearns made up for that with his back-to-back long balls to left center, which seemed to get the entire team rolling.
I really enjoyed Santana's first inning throw to second. It arrived about a half hour before the runner, and may have been key to settling Jake down a bit after a somewhat shaky beginning.
I thought he played good defense picking quite a few pitches up out of the dirt, and also think he called a decent game.
At the plate he seemed to want to kill something... namely the baseball. The result? Well he topped a couple into the dirt, fouled a bunch up and backward, but finally got to stand on first base by way of a walk.
Overall, I thought it was a good first game for Santana. Since then we've seen him smack one out, then go one for four. I'm thinking he just needs to settle down and get a better feel for big league pitching. He'll be fine.
2. Trevor Crowe has done a fair job of filling in for injured Grady Sizemore in centerfield thus far this season. He has played solid defense and hit very well with runners in scoring position, but his .243 average and lack of either extra base hits or steals still leave a lot to be desired.
Many folks are now clamoring to see Michael Brantley recalled to take over in center instead. How do you feel about the merits of Crowe versus those of Brantley?
Do you think Crowe is doing an adequate job? Do you think Brantley could do better?
Even if you think Brantley is the better choice in the long run, do you think he would be better off getting more at-bats in Triple-A for the time being?
Samantha Bunten: It's no secret that I'm not a big fan of Trevor - in fact, panelist Dale Thomas and I spent a whole game heckling him in the outfield last weekend.
Mostly though, I just don't know what to make of Crowe. Most of the time, he looks either lazy or confused. Then all of a sudden, he makes a great diving catch in center or smacks an RBI single into the gap.
As for Brantley, I'm a big, big fan. Huge, in fact. But as much as I'd like to see him come up and swipe Crowe's job, Brantley is exactly where he should be right now, refining his skills in Columbus.
His average in Triple-A has not been terribly impressive, which tells me he still has more work to do. Crowe plays an adequate centerfield, so let's give Brantley a chance to fine-tune his game before we throw him back into the fire.
Perhaps the biggest reason to leave Crowe out there though: as a trade showcase. Our outfield, at least in theory, will be overcrowded next year. With Sizemore and Brantley in the mix, Crowe isn't worth too much to us on the roster, but he could be worth a lot in trade come August for a contending team that needs outfield depth. He could very well be this season's Nick Swisher.
Scott Miles: You can tell that, athletically, Crowe belongs in the bigs. He can track down any ball in the outfield (when he decides to catch it) and he doesn't seem overwhelmed.
The biggest thing holding him back is consistency, both at the plate and in the field. Can he do it night in and night out, at bat after at bat? That seems to be the big question.
I'd keep Brantley in Triple-A for the time being and see if Crowe can continue to develop. By the end of July, if he is still battling those inconsistencies, then I might give Brantley another shot.
Dale Thomas: I like Trevor. I like to blame things on him. I like to watch him bounce off the wall in center field. I like to watch the near-collisions he seems to create and I like to watch him watching a pitch go by while he's contemplating zen or karma or maybe tomorrow's breakfast. Then I blame him for it.
Pick one, doesn't matter. In fact you can pick something Peralta or Pronk or Slider or the parking lot attendant did. I blame Trevor.
That said, I think you stated it well in that he's done a fair job filling in for Grady. There's just something about Trevor though, just like there was 'something' about Mary'.
It's like this: Watching him seems anticlimactic no matter what he's doing. At the plate I expect an out. In the field I expect him to be distracted.... maybe by a bug or a cloud that looks like an endangered salamander or a blade of grass that isn't as green as the one next to it. It's all kind of like he's a cardboard cutout that everyone knows will be folded up and put away later.
Then I'll see some replay or game stats and he's making a great catch or moving a runner or doing something that seems oddly productive.
Fact is, I don't think Brantley could do better, but I blame Trevor for that. In fact, it's Trevor's fault that Brantley was called up early in the first place. It's Trevor's fault that I was never called up at all... but let's put that aside for the moment because there are a couple of things I would like to see Trevor work on.
He needs to communicate better with his fellow outfielders so they don't crash into each other. He needs to practice better plate discipline. He needs to take better advantage of base stealing opportunities, and when he's in a hitter's count and a fast ball comes screaming up dead-center of the plate, he needs to swing for the fences.
If he would do these things, his average would come up along with his slugging percentage. He'd get himself in scoring position more often and Choo wouldn't be so scared when a fly ball is hit between them. Regardless, I'd blame him for something...I mean, just because...
3. This week in interleague play, the Tribe will face two very different NL Teams: The perpetually struggling Pirates, and the surpisingly solid Mets.
How do you think the Tribe will fare against both opponents? Would you employ a different strategy to defeat the Mets than you would to defeat the Pirates? How so?
A bit more on the philosophical side: The Tribe will face the Pirates in Pittsburgh, so National League rules will apply. How much do you think losing the DH will hurt the Tribe? How much do you think losing the DH hurts any AL team in general when they travel to an NL park?
Samantha Bunten: Historically the Tribe has trouble with both the Pirates and the Mets, and they were a better team when they faced these two opponents the last time around. So I don't think they'll fare any better now.
Offensively, the key will be to move runners and score early. On the other side of the ball, the Tribe will need to break up momentum when facing the Mets (who tend to score runs in bunches), and look out for sacrifices and steals when facing the Pirates (who frequently rely on a small ball approach).
As far as the DH is concerned, across the board I don't think it matters much. I mean, have you seen the average for most of the league's DHs? For a group of guys whose only job is to bat, they don't do a whole lot of hitting.
This WILL hurt the Tribe though, because Hafner is one of the few productive DHs in the AL at the moment. The fact that his arm is so fragile that the team can't even stick him at first to keep his bat in the lineup in an NL park will hurt us.
Scott Miles: The Tribe is probably going to struggle in both series.
The Mets are one of the hotter teams in baseball, although they have struggled on the road (never mind Masterson gift wrapping Tuesday's game to them).
Cleveland always seems to struggle with the Pirates, particularly at PNC...I was at the game last year when freaking Ross Ohlendorf matched Cliff Lee as both gave up two runs through seven innings, then Matt Herges blew it in the ninth. Alas.
Anyway, the Tribe looks to struggle in the NL parks this year since Hafner has been hitting the ball so well as of late. At best, I see the team going 2-4 this week.
Dale Thomas: It all depends on which Tribe team shows up, but I don't expect to take either series. We need good solid 'little ball' to beat either team, and I just haven't seen much to indicate that we make good use of our base runners, or that our base runners make good use of the base paths.
We need starters that go seven innings, relief pitching without the walks and timely hitting.
I don't think my strategy would be all that different from the Mets to the Pirates, but I hope Huff pitches in Pittsburgh since he's a (self-proclaimed) hitting machine.
I think both teams will take advantage of our error-proned infield and challenge our outfielders to make strong accurate throws. They're going to run on us.
Generally speaking, I don't think losing the DH will have much impact this year. The bench players can hit every bit as well as the DH's across the league. As for our Tribe, I think not having a DH is going to hurt us. Travis hits better than our bench players, and he's showing some spark this year.
4. While filling in at closer for Kerry Wood earlier this season, Chris Perez got off to a pretty rocky start, appearing to be more focused on doing his hair than commanding his fastball.
But Perez worked through his troubles and now boasts a 2.59 ERA with six saves in 25 appearances.
There are business-related and financial reasons for keeping Kerry Wood in the closer's role for the time being, but Perez is certainly putting himself in line for the job whenever it becomes available again.
If sending Wood out there to increase his trade value weren't a factor, would you consider benching him in favor of Perez?
What about down the road when Wood is no longer part of the equation? Do you see Perez as the Indians' closer of the future, or do you feel he doesn't have what it takes to succeed in the role over the long haul?
Samantha Bunten: For now Perez won't be swiping Wood's job since we need to put Wood on display with the hope of trading him. Unless of course Wood hurts himself again, which is highly possible.
As for the Perez's chances to be our future closer, I'd say maybe erring on the side of yes. Mostly this is because he's certainly good enough, so we're not going to spend our very limited funds to bring in another closer on top of him, especially after grossly overpaying for Wood.
But does he have the skill to truly succeed at the job? Remains to be seen. He definitely has the requisite unflappable, dominant personality for closer's role (Fun Fact: major league closers profile similarly to assassins on personality tests).
He also has the power and the movement on his fastball to do it. I only question whether he has the command. So far this season, we've seen Perez make appearances where his command was flawless, and others where he looked like Nuke LaLoosh.
If he can settle down and keep his control with regularity, I wouldn't hesitate to hand him the job in the future.
Scott Miles: I'd definitely say Perez looks to be our closer of the future.
The Indians, though, continue to send mixed signals on the future of the franchise - Branyan over LaPorta, for one - so I don't see Wood getting benched for Perez unless he blows about six saves in a row. (A possibility if he keeps throwing that straight fastball over the middle of the plate.)
I like Perez's moxie...he seems to have the makeup of a closer with his brash personality. I think he can definitely succeed in the closers role when his time comes.
Dale Thomas: Well I like Perez. He comes into some really tough situations and handles himself pretty well. He just seems to have nerves of steel and doesn't appear to get rattled.
Yes, he's thrown some really fat squishy stuff that's been knocked to kingdom come...but I blame Trevor for that.
Anyway, I still don't see him as a viable closer. I see him as the set-up guy who gives a hard throwing closer the opportunity to take the mound. Just because Wood totally sucks isn't a good reason to "make" Perez the closer by default.
To answer part of this question more directly though, I'm totally in favor of benching Wood. Put Trevor out there.
5. As amateur sports writers, we strive to put out as much original content as we can about our Tribe, but we still need media sources to get information on the team.
Tell us, where do you go first to get Tribe news, stats, and information both to assist with your writing and for entertainment? Do you have any favorite Indians blogs, writers, or columnists whose material you read regualarly?
Please share your most helpful or entertaining sources for all things Tribe here!
Samantha Bunten: I think Indians.com is actually a very well-rounded site. Considering that their content is at least somewhat tempered by their association with Major League Baseball, their writers are surprisingly frank and straightforward. And you have to like Anthony Castrovince, who probably knows more about the Indians than just about anyone.
The Plain Dealer Indians' beat writers do a fair job. Sometimes they're dead on, and sometimes they just sound bitter. Kind of like us here at Tribe Talk, heh.
For statistics and historical information, I like baseball-reference.com, and thebaseballcube.com. And if anyone knows a good source for spray charts, please share in the comments below. I'm desperately searching for a go-to site for this and have yet to find one.
Scott Miles: Anthony Castrovince of indians.com is my go to source for information. Love the blog, love the inbox, love the "excruciating minutiae"...he's a treasure trove of Tribe information.
Behind him, Hoynsie is solid and reliable, but nothing earth-shattering.
And of course, my man Terry Pluto, although he did dupe me into thinking this team could hit a little bit this year - though to be fair, they did hit decently over the past few years as well.
Dale Thomas: Let's get one thing straight first. I'm a Professional Amateur Writer. A PAW. I am that by which dogs travel. I am the mechanism into which claws retract. I am the magnetic stick-on symbol for Penn State. I'm completely non-apposable. Now what was the question?
Oh yeah, well realistically I haven't achieved amateur sports writer status in any form, and have no real writing skills whatsoever. The other writers on this forum run circles around me. When I have questions, I consult the Guru: Samantha Bunten.
I do, however, like to go to the ballpark, watch the Tribe, then spout off. I utilize television often: Channel 76 (STO). I read Tribe Talk whether or not I'm a part of it, and... Oh! I also have a Blue gnome on my desk that gives me insight, who works like a magic 8-ball. I'd apologize, but it's all totally Trevor's fault.