Other than waited on baiting breath for vague rumors about Mark Buehrle's contract status, or trying to prod Brett Ballantini into saying something revealing about the media on Twitter, there's not much going on with the White Sox. Guess what? There's not much going on with the Indians either! They didn't even go through a strangely-conducted manager-hiring process!
Matthew Van Wormer from the Cleveland Indians blog Did the Tribe Win Last Night? offered me the chance to exchange questions about each other's teams, and I jumped at the chance because 1) He seems like a good dude, 2) talking baseball is fun, and 3) Oh God! Something to do!
(Note: In case you were wondering, Matthew's work does indeed cover more ground than whether or not the Cleveland Indians won their most recent contest, and no, he is no way affiliated with that robot Twitter account that just retweets anything Indians-related.)
If you want to check out the bit of unhinged vitriol I dropped about the Sox in response to Matt's questions, you'll have to check it out on his page, and give him the traffic he richly deserves.
My questions are in italics. Matt's answers are in regular type.
1. 2011 was another year where Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner (Hafner moreso than Sizemore) demonstrated that they are fantastic offensive players when healthy, but were decidedly not healthy. Where do you see them in the team's long-term plans and where do you think they should be?
Hafner isn't going anywhere unless it's via trade due to the amount of money he is owed. Hopefully he will take the necessary steps over the winter to get healthy and be ready to play the entire season in 2012. As for Sizemore, I think it would be great to see him back in a Tribe Uniform, but not for the 9 Million dollar option the club holds on him. If they can re-work his contract and get him for a lot less than that amount, they should. Otherwise, the Indians should move on with Brantley, Choo, Crowe and whoever earns the 4th outfield spot in the Spring.
2. The Indians made a big splash at the deadline, cashing out prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White for Ubaldo Jimenez, and didn't get the most inspiring version of Jimenez for their troubles. How do you feel about the decision to go for a proven starter and what do you see for Ubaldo going forward?
I liked the move when it happened and I still like it. Obviously, Jimenez has some things to work on in the off-season to improve his command and limit his walks in 2012. If the coaching staff can help him out and get him comfortable I think 2012 could be a return to form for Jimenez. Even if Jimenez would have pitched lights out down the stretch, the Indians still would have been on the outside looking in with the Tigers playing the way they did.
3. Shin-Soo Choo had a rough--though not quite as bad as it appeared--2011, what are his prospects for recovery as he enters his age 30 year in 2012?
Choo started the season off with an episode that he felt extreme shame for. He put so much pressure on himself to come out and redeem himself that it was a train wreck waiting to happen. Choo is going to be fine. I can only imagine the training regimen he is putting himself through to make up for his down year. We saw some flashes later on in the season until an oblique injury ended his season. Look for big things from Choo in 2012.
4. The front of the Indians rotation and the heart of the order says win now, but there are a lot of young pieces still being slid into place. What is the Indians approach to 2012 after falling around .500? Are they players in free agency? Do Chisenhall and Kipnis come into Spring Training with starting slots?
The Indians plan on being a big contender in 2012. That was the plan all along. 2011 was a lot better than most people thought it would be and it was because of the contributions of players like Kipnis, who will definitely have the starting spot at 2nd Base. Free Agency is a maybe for this club. I see them more in the Trade market than anything else. Ownership isn't willing to open up the coffers for players like Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols.
5. The Indians are known to be one of the most advanced statistics-friendly organizations in baseball. What are some of the visible benefits of that approach? Any pitfalls?
When you are advanced statistics-friendly, it's a nice way of saying you don't have the ability (or in the Indians case the willingness) to spend the big bucks on the premiere players. The biggest challenge in that aspect of things is marketing your team to the city. Luckily in Cleveland, we are so starved for a championship that the slightest sight of success gets us in a good mood. But of course, not spending the money on super-stars does present the problem of not having those players on your team.
If given the chance, I'd probably want to follow up with Matt more on what he was getting at on question 5, and what the city's perception of the ownership's spending and front office philosophy is, and especially how the post-2007 salary-cutting phase was received. Hopefully another time.
Thanks to Matt again for setting this up, and be sure to check out his counter-piece.