Saturday, October 9, 2010

Put me in coach, I'm ready to play

One of my pet peeves with the Indians, especially recently, is their maddening infatuation with AAAA and fringe major league/career backup players.  This year they started a season where they had little or no chance of even playing .500 ball with FIVE of those guys on the roster: Mark Grudzielanek, Jamey Wright, Austin Kearns, Mike Redmond and Russell Branyan.

Now if a team doesn't have prospect alternatives then sometimes those teams are forced to use these types of veterans, guys who have ML experience and who are willing to sit on a ML bench and know how to come off that bench.  As I said, at the beginning of the season there were plenty of alternatives for these guys with the likes of Trevor Crowe, Wyatt Toregas, Jess Todd, Frank Hermann, Jason Donald, Chris Gimenez and even Josh Rodriguez and Wes Hodges ready for extended ML shots.   Obviously injuries to Jordan Brown and others muddied the water as far as prospects getting good ML shots in a lost season, but still, we were CRAWLING with prospects we could have plugged in instead of these guys.

However, even if you hold to the premise that a number of Indians' prospects weren't ML-ready at the beginning of the season, it is hard to argue statistically that they weren't ready by the middle of the season and certainly they were ready by September.

That is what puzzles me.  In addition to the AAAA guys who started the season, we had to endure AAAA guys like Jayson Nix, Anderson Hernandez, Justin Germano and Shelly Duncan getting significant playing time during the middle of a season INSTEAD of seeing our own prospects.  All of these AAAA position players showed why they own this AAAA designation and why they had been kicked to the curb by their former employer(s).  Plus, even though Justin Germano performed well, his history shows he is a AAAA player.  In the meantime our prospects were putting up monster numbers. 
AND, even if you want to drink that Koolaid and say that our prospects needed more seasoning all the way up to close to the end of August, it is hard to argue that giving those prospects September callups was the wrong thing to do.  September callups of Drew Sutton and Luke Carlin, both of whom were acquired as minor league, essentially FREE signings and are well on their way, or already at, AAAA status, were unforgiveable slaps at our real prospects.  You have guys in your organization who have put up MONSTROUS years and your September callups were more AAAA guys?  Embarassing.

In addition, by September you knew what you had in Trevor Crowe and Andy Marte.  The former, with plenty of playing time, proved himself to be a dime-a-dozen 4th outfielder.  The latter proved that his prospect star had faded.  Both had established themselves pretty convincingly as AAAA players by then.  They both could have had their playing time eliminated and given to other guys and Marte could have easily been DFA'd at no real loss to the Indians.

This trend has GOT to stop.  There is no reason that some or all of these guys should not have seen ML time this year, especially in light of the pathetic AAAA guys who paraded through Cleveland during the season.

Some fans want to explain this away as the guys aren't really ready or that bringing up a bunch of prospects will create 40-man roster issues in the off-season and these guys might be lost to waivers if they are DFA'd.    Some even claim that these "prospects" aren't really prospects at all, just AAA guys waiting to happen.

Well, if you think that a 27 year old super-utility guy like Head is not a prospect then what do you think the 27-year old Sutton who is with his 3rd organization is?  Plus, Sutton had all of about 15 minutes with the organization when he was called up to Cleveland and Head, in his 5th season as a loyal, hardworking employee of this organization, was polishing off a great season by leading Columbus to the AAA championship.

I am SICK AND TIRED in 90+ loss seasons that are, essentially, over by Memorial Day if not opening day, of seeing undeserving, irrelevant or AAAA/fringe major league guys like Niuman Romero, Luis Vizcaino, Greg Aquino, Jose Veras, Vinnie Chulk, etc. (2009) and Grudz, Redmond, Kearns, Nix, Duncan,  Hernandez, Wright, Sutton and Carlin (2010) get ML playing time when our minor leaguers who are having GREAT seasons and who have been scratching and clawing for years just to get one little taste of the majors, are constantly passed over and not even given the ML experience that they deserve based on their performance and their servitude to this organization.

I think it is disgraceful and I really, really think the Indians need to rethink how they treat their employees to say nothing about maybe rethinking their scouting process as many times guys perform better when they get a chance than when they are struggling to get that chance and are stuck at AAA (see Brandon Phillips and Jeremy Guthrie as prime examples of that). 

Let's change this method of operation, Indians.  It is embarassing to the organization and spits in the faces of players who have been dreaming of playing in the majors since they were little kids and have earned, by their performance, a chance to prove they belong in the majors.

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