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January 27, 2006

Mailbag: Will the Tribe get run over?

Hey, Scott Stapp is getting married soon, and I was wondering if, as an employee of MLB.com, which is promoting his debut solo album, you would be invited or had an in for an invitation?
-- Brad M., Solon, Ohio

Unfortunately, I don't. But thanks to MLB.com's recent promotion of the new Bon Jovi album, I am invited to attend Richie Sambora's daughter's ninth birthday party. Yeah, that's right. Be jealous.

Mailbag: Will the Tribe get run over?

Reporter Anthony Castrovince answers Indians fans' questions
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com

The Hot Stove is not so hot these days.
Come to think of it, neither is my house. Can we move up the reporting date for pitchers and catchers? I could use a Florida fix.

We're drawing ever closer to the '06 season, as evidenced by the upcoming Winter Caravan and the fact that I recently signed the lease for my 14-bedroom estate (aka two-bedroom condo) in Winter Haven.

Opening night in Chicago is just 76 days away, and that's amazing to me. It feels much more like 78.

My jokes are clearly not in midseason form (as if they ever are), but you, the readers, are. Your questions about all things Indians keep flooding the Tribe Mailbag inbox with inspiring consistency. So why don't we take a peek inside?

I hear Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson have some defensive and running-game control issues -- bad news when you see Scott Podsednik so often -- and I'm worried about Victor Martinez's arm behind the plate. Are we in trouble with the defensive running game in 2006?
-- Tyler C., Milwaukee

That's an astute question, Tyler. I've heard those same reports on Byrd and Johnson. Both have slow deliveries, neither is very athletic and neither has a very effective pickoff move, so their ability to defend the running game should be a concern this coming season.

As for Martinez, he threw out 20.7 percent of the baserunners who tried to steal against him last season (fourth among catchers in the AL), which is a sign of improvement, but he still has a ways to go as a defender.

Speaking of Vic ...

Are you serious?! We might see Victor at first base this year? Wouldn't they put Hafner there before Vic, and have Vic be the DH?
-- Timmy K., Worthington, Ohio

Mark Shapiro told me the team will try to get Martinez a few starts at first base this season. The Indians don't want him starting 142 games behind the plate again, and they want to open up more starting opportunities for Josh Bard.

We'll probably see both Hafner and Martinez sparingly at first this season. Obviously, Hafner has spent some time at first in the big leagues, but this would be Martinez's first shot. Shapiro said Martinez handled first base pretty well in the Minors, though he has some catching up to do in terms of knowing where to position himself in various situations.

What talent is left on the market, and who is worth the price to see in an Indians uniform next year?
-- Colin W., Willoughby, Ohio

The free agent market was thin to begin with this year, and it's really slim pickings now, Colin. I think the team you see now is the one that will report to Winter Haven, barring a trade.

Uh oh, there's that trade word, which brings us to the next question ...

Now I know both you and Justice B. Hill have told many of us to not listen to the majority of the rumors that are swirling, but I cannot help but cringe every time I hear Coco Crisp's name pop up involving trades to Boston. So let me sleep easy and tell me there is no chance of Coco being traded. I honestly don't think there is a better one-two combination next to Grady Sizemore and Coco.
-- Chris N., Avon Lake, Ohio

I can't ever say there is "no chance" of something happening in this game, Chris. It's far too unpredictable.

That being said, I think you can sleep easy on this one. While I'm sure the Indians have listened to plenty of offers for Crisp (to say nothing of the other young, talented players on hand), I don't think they're seriously considering shipping him anywhere. In fact, the club is in talks with Crisp, who is eligible for arbitration, about a multiyear deal.

Besides, in a previous mailbag, Justice bet two of my paychecks that the Indians won't deal Crisp, so they'd darn well better not.

I am always so baffled about how down Tribe fans are on Aaron Boone because of his bad start to 2005, even though he played very well the second half of the year. Do you have Boone's second-half statistics? I think he is an excellent defender and great leader in the clubhouse.
-- Keith, Westlake, Ohio

Boone perfectly fits the mold of the type of character player the Indians want in their organization. His clubhouse leadership is second to none, and he's one of the nicest guys in the game.

But niceness doesn't translate into numbers -- I suppose that's why Mother Teresa never made it out of A-ball.

Indians fans want to see numbers out of Boone, and they certainly weren't happy with what they saw in the first half last season. But you're right, Keith. Boone did make positive strides in the second half, during which he hit .276 with seven home runs and 29 RBIs in 69 games. He hit .284 from June 4 to the end of the season and a combined .316 in July and August.

The Indians are banking on the notion that Boone simply had trouble adjusting after missing all of 2004 with a torn ACL. So he'll remain the penciled-in starter at third when camp opens.

Why doesn't Ben Francisco get the hype the so-called other "top prospects" get? He has been more productive and consistent.
-- Myke H., Stockton, Ohio

Good question, Myke. I kind of lump Francisco in a similar category, prospect-wise, with Franklin Gutierrez, who is two years Francisco's junior and also a right-handed outfielder.

Gutierrez was of immediate interest to Tribe fans because of the way he was acquired (Milton Bradley trade). And now those fans have seen him at the big-league level. Francisco, on the other hand, was drafted quietly in the fifth round of the 2002 draft and has been steadily working his way up through the Minor League system. You're right that we don't hear his name much on the lips of fans.

But I think Francisco has a good shot at getting his first taste of the bigs this season. He's coming off a strong year with Double-A Akron, and his numbers in winter ball were among the best in the Mexican League.

And for all the talk about the Indians' inability to land an improved right-handed bat for right field this season, the Tribe has two in-house candidates in Gutierrez and Francisco who could very well work themselves into the role by the end of the year.

What are the odds of reality TV on the Tribe's new network? Maybe "I Want to Be a Big League GM with Mark Shapiro," or "Win a Date With Grady Sizemore?" Any thoughts?
-- Pat D.

Oh my, the sky's the limit. Maybe we can throw the entire team in a big house for a "Real World" ripoff. Just imagine the drama that would ensue if Eric Wedge and Bob Wickman ever fought over the moustache trimmer.

In all seriousness, though, I'd like to take this opportunity to write a mass response to the dozens upon dozens of readers who have been e-mailing me with questions about the new network and whether it will be available in their respective areas.

The quick answer is that the team is currently in talks with cable and satellite providers outside of Time Warner (which is already inked to carry the network long-term) and is trying to ensure that anyone who had access to Indians games on FSN Ohio will have access to this new station. We'll know more as we get closer to Opening Day, and any further developments in this saga will be posted right here on Indians.com.

Why not sign Frank Thomas? He's a high on-base guy with good power who is weak at first, but he would be a good fit.
-- Dan C., Mansfield, Ohio

I'm surprised at the number of e-mails I keep getting about Thomas. I don't see why the Indians would pursue a guy who clearly can't play his position anymore and whose only value comes as a DH. The Tribe has a DH, and his name is Pronk, not Frank.

Can you explain the "holds" rule for pitchers?
-- John M., Dover, Ohio

The hold is one of those silly inventions of the last 10 or so years to give all you stat geeks something to get excited about in your fantasy leagues. Hey, that's not to say I've got anything against stat geeks. After all, someone has to do my taxes.

A hold is credited to a relief pitcher who enters a game in a save situation, records at least one out and leaves the game with the lead intact.

Bob Howry led the Indians and finished third in the American League with 31 holds last season. See, that's the difference between MLB and the NFL. Notch 31 holds on the gridiron, and you've got a one-way ticket to the practice squad. Do it in baseball, and you've got yourself a three-year contract with the Cubbies.

And finally, on the lighter side ...

Hey, Scott Stapp is getting married soon, and I was wondering if, as an employee of MLB.com, which is promoting his debut solo album, you would be invited or had an in for an invitation?
-- Brad M., Solon, Ohio

Unfortunately, I don't. But thanks to MLB.com's recent promotion of the new Bon Jovi album, I am invited to attend Richie Sambora's daughter's ninth birthday party. Yeah, that's right. Be jealous.

See ya next week, Tribe fans!

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Posted by riesambo at January 27, 2006 07:30 AM