Friday, August 04, 2006

Open bullpen burn

Thank heaven for Fernando Cabrera. Tonight, he saved Fausto Carmona from himself.
Craig Monroe's two-out homer off Cabrera in the bottom of the eighth capped off a six-run Tiger rally and ultimately prevented there from being a bottom of the ninth. The Tigers won 7-6.
Monroe's homer was a forgone conclusion when you looked at the way Cliff Lee, Rafael Betancourt and Cabrera pitched the seventh and eighth. Every ball put in play was crushed. The first two outs of the eighth, off the bats of Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez, required the quick legs of Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore to run down in the outfield, and would have been homers in Jacobs Field.
Guillen narrowly missed a homer down the right field line on a foul ball, and on the pitch before his homer, Monroe hooked a foul ball deep down the left field line.
In short, the Indians bullpen fooled no one tonight. The whole unit is a mish-mash of misplaced, inexperienced arms. It all needs to be wadded up, thrown in the trash and rebuilt this winter.
If Larry Dolan is going to pry his rusted-shut change purse open and do some spending this winter, might I suggest starting with the relievers?
Fausto Carmona, and maybe Jason Davis, are the only young arms I am interested in seeing next year. Everyone else can be sent to points hither and yon as far as I'm concerned.

Look at the comedy cast they have:

Fernando Cabrera: great stuff, if only he had the head to match. He has regressed mightily since last year, to the point where the only time he seems capable of throwing strikes is when he eases a get-me-over fastball across the plate. Hitters like Monroe thank you very much.

Brian Sikorski: the phrase "poor man's Jerry Spradlin" comes to mind.

Rafael Betancourt: a one-trick pony with a good fastball and not much else. Suitable for middle relief, but overmatched as a late-inning fireman.

Guillermo Mota: I saw him at the natural history museum last week. He was on display in the "Fossilized pitcher" exhibit.

Jason Davis: a mix of Betancourt and Cabrera, with a dash of Paul Shuey. His fastball tantalizes, the rest of his stuff bores. His splitter fades in and out like PBS reception on a rabbit-ear TV. He probably doesn't have the stomach to routinely preserve late leads in hostile ballparks.

Fausto Carmona: by the time he finally nails down a save, he might be so emotionally traumatized that he runs off to Canada to smoke pot and chant incoherently with Ricky Williams.

Did I mention the Indians have been operating without a lefty in the bullpen for weeks? A 90-year-old blind Inuit could be trucked in off an ice floe in the Bering Strait and piece together a bullpen with aptitude equal to the job the Indians' front office has done this season. And the guys in ties are drawing six-figure paychecks to arrive here.
This isn't all financial constraints. This year's bullpen is the product of a series of bad decisions by Mark Shapiro and his underlings. Andy Marte might yet be an all-star, but to get him, the Indians decimated an already-wounded bullpen in the Coco Crisp deal. They woefully overestimated the readiness of Cabrera and Davis to assume late-inning roles, and sold themselves on a rag-armed Mota when the Red Sox sweetened the pot with more cash.
They called Bob Howry's bluff and were burned when he signed with the Cubs. They were outbid for B.J. Ryan and lost out on Trevor Hoffman when he didn't want to leave San Diego.
They put stock in Matt Miller, only to have his aging elbow fall apart for a second straight year. He might never pitch again.
So we are all going to have to suffer through another seven weeks of likely-unstable bullpen work before Shapiro and Co. get a chance to redeem themselves. The Indians' brass had better fork over some gold and rebound this bullpen in a big way next year.

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