Friday, October 06, 2006

My Cleveland Indians Exit Interview

Bud Shaw wondered what a Tribe fan's exit interview would look like.

Well, with the power of the internet, an active imagination and too much free time, I'll show you.

Mark Shapiro: Hello Ben. Thanks for coming.

Ben Cox: No problem Mark, glad to see ya.

MS: Alright, let’s get right down to it, shall we?

BC: Let’s do this

MS: Ben, how would you critique your performance as an Indians fan this season?

BC: Well, I think I did alright.

MS: Could you elaborate? What were some areas you could improve?

BC: Certainly. When your season started I was kind of busy. The Cavs were in the middle of a playoff run, so my Cleveland fan focus was on LeBron and co.

MS: Understandable.

BC: But, truth be told, I really was excited for the Tribe’s 2006 campaign, you guys played pretty well last season and I was looking forward to an entire season of competitive baseball.

MS: Ah, I see.

BC: But by the time the Cavs got bumped from the playoffs, a lot of things had already gone wrong with the Tribe.

MS: Okay, okay, we’ll come back to that. Tell me, what were some things you thought you did well this past season, as a fan?

BC: Well, I did go to a few games. I bought some merchandise- I got this sweet Travis Hafner jersey, its pretty badass. I paid somewhere around 90 bucks for that thing, I’d say that’s being a good fan. I wrote about you guys, followed the team and even defended some of the more unpopular moves. Plus, I voted for Pronk roughly 1,000,000,000 times that stupid All-Star Final Vote thing.

MS: Glad to hear it. You said you defended ‘unpopular moves’, which moves in particular did you defend?

BC: Well, I was in your boat for the Coco Crisp trade, but a lot of people thought it was a salary dump.

MS: Did you make sure to tell them it wasn’t? We were looking towards the future and trying to shore up our 3rd base position for years to come.

BC: Of course, of course, but that’s the thing… you guys won 93 games last year and you traded one of your more popular players for a prospect, albeit a very, very good one. That seems like a step back.

MS: Any more moves?

BC: How much time you got? Your whole off season was kind of a mess. Jason Johnson? What? Guillermo Mota? Danny Graves? Steve Karsay? You guys had one of the best pitching staffs and the best bullpen in baseball last season, why fix something that wasn’t broke?

MS: Well, we thought Bob Howry wanted to be a closer and was going to demand too much mo-

BC: But he signed with the Cubs for 3 years 9 million, what’s the deal? I thought the Tribe was going to spend money when it warranted?

MS: We messed up on that one, plain and simple. We were trying to get Hoffman and BJ Ryan and we neglected Bob.

BC: But it’s not just that Mark, you guys went bargain hunting again. Look, I understand shopping for deals when your team isn’t that good, but you guys won 93 games last season! How the hell do win 93 games and still go after damaged goods? Graves? Karsay? Why not just find Eric Plunk, Mike Jackson and Paul Assenmacher?

MS: Look, we took risks on our bullpen before, last year it worked out, but this year it didn’t.

BC: But that’s my point, Tribe fans understand the high risk– igh reward signings when we’re re-building. But now that the Indians are (were) contending, why not go after ‘sure things’?

MS: Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t; these are the problems we face in a small market. What were some of the moves you liked?

BC: I thought Paul Byrd got a bum rap for some early season struggles. He started off kind slow, but he had a decent year all around. That’s really the one off season move I can really get behind.

MS: You sure you don’t want to give Todd Hollandsworth another shot?

BC: Honestly, how could anyone have an opinion on Hollandsworth, one way or another? He was just kind of there.

MS: Okay, fair enough, what about some of our in-season deals?

BC: Well, I thought you gave Jason Johnson too many starts. I mean, honestly, that guy sucked major ass. Did you even get anyone in return?

MS: Honestly, I forget.

BC: Ya, getting rid of Johnson was addition by subtraction. Plus, that opened a spot for Jeremy Sowers, who looks like the real deal. As for the Broussard and Perez deals, I have to tell you, not only am I impressed that you found someone to take both of these guys, but you pawned them off on the same team, how’d you do it?

MS: Thank you. As you know, Seattle’s manager is Mike Hargrove, who used to head up our scouting the department.

BC: Uh-huh

MS: For some reason, we kept giving Broussard more chances. Year after year he’d underachieve but then he’d hit a crucial grand slam late in the season, so we kept bringing him back. Finally we got fed up with him and we figured the only guy who would take him is a former Indian. So it worked out.

BC: I’ll say. I really hated that guy. Personally, I though he gave Bens everywhere a bad name. Plus, now first base is open to Ryan Garko. I think I speak for everyone when I say we need more Garko.

MS: Agreed. Who doesn’t love Garko? Alright, moving on to-

BC: Wait, wait, wait, I haven’t talked about the Brandon Phillips deal.

MS: Dammit, I was hoping you’d forget.

BC: Nice try. Mark, what were you thinking? Brandon hit .314 in spring training and you kept him for Ramon Vasquez? WTF?

MS: Well, I talked it over with Eric and-

BC: You’re the GM! Who cares what Wedge thinks? You’re his boss! Phillips is young and seemed to be maturing. Sure, no honest Tribe fan really thought that Phillips was going to take off like he did in Cincy, but Ramon Vasquez? You know that if Phillips didn’t work out you could always bring Vasquez back up? Or you could find another player out there who just as ‘good’ as Vasquez? Why didn’t you override Wedge on this?

MS: I’d rather not talk about it.

BC: Fine. But now you’re out looking for a second baseman (or a good defensive short stop) and you gave one away for a bag of baseballs.

MS: Okay, I get it, so you didn’t like Wedge’s decision on Phillips, do you have any other complaints about Eric?

BC: I think his biggest improvement was not wearing that terrible mustache at the start o the season. That dude looked like an 80s TV cop. It was awful!

MS: Okay, anything else?

BC: Well, sometimes I think he doesn’t have the cajones for the job but at other times I wonder how we can judge this guy as a manager with that crappy bullpen.

MS: Hey!

BC: Sorry, but come on, Mark. That thing was awful. But even when the bullpen faltered, it wasn’t like Wedge was completely blameless.

MS: Go on.

BC: Well, that whole Carmona fiasco. You what sounds like a great idea? Having a rookie closer face David Ortiz, in Boston, on ESPN for his very first save. That worked out well. And you what was sweet? Putting him out there the very next night. Well done. I’m not the biggest Wedge hater, but his handling of Carmona makes a convincing argument for his dismissal.

MS: I see your point, but Eric and all his staff are all returning next year.

BC: But what about the dumb base running errors? The lax defense?

MS: Eric and his staff will be returning.

BC: Look, I’m not saying fire Wedge to hire Joel Skinner. John Hart already did something like that, he fired Mike Hargrove and hired a ‘new voice’- Charlie Manual. Good call, a ‘new voice’, the hitting coach. Look, you only have a short window with a lot of these guys, Hafner and Sabathia won’t be around here forever. If Wedge is gone, you have to bring in a ‘name’. I think this has to be a Rick Carlisle/Larry Brown situation. Detroit had a pretty decent coach in Carlisle, but they had a chance to get Larry Brown. Sure, Carlisle didn’t really do anything to get fired, but they had a chance to get a great coach.

MS: I see where you’re going with this.

BC: Do you really? Cause I’m talking Lou Pinella here. If you hear that he’s looking to come back to managing, you gotta give his agent a call.

MS: We’ll see. Moving on, besides your crasy Lou Pinella ramblings, where do you see yourself and this team in a year.

BC: Well, this off season I’d really like the team to address the relief pitching via trade or free agency. And I’d really like to see you guys pursue Carlos Lee or Alfonso Soriano pretty hard.

MS: Lee, Soriano?! We scored the second most runs in the league, hitting isn’t our problem, the bullpen is.

BC: But what about your record (18-26) in one run games?

MS: Okay, not that good.

BC: To the naked eye, it looks like you guys won a ton of games with scores 8-2 or 14-5, but lost a lot of games 2-0 and 4-1.

MS: What’s your point?

BC: When you face a good pitcher, you guys struggle.

MS: But we scored the 2nd most runs in the league!

BC: But your corner outfield spots are manned by Casey Blake and a combo of Shin Soo Choo and Jason Michaels. Those are prime spots for power and we don’t have a lot of it out there. Plus, this lineup could really use a right handed bat. You could really use another right handed bat in that lineup. Did I mention you could use a right handed bat? Because I really think you need a righ handed power bat.

MS: But what about Garko? You said you love Ryan Garko.

BC: I do, I do, but I also loved Jhonny Peralta and look how he did in his second year. I really do believe that Garko can play first every day at (at the very least) the same level Ben Broussard did. Personally, I think he could be better, but signing a Carlos Lee will A) give the Tribe a right handed power bat I've mentioned, meaning that B) you won’t have to depend on Garko, anything he produces is just extra gravy and C) if Garko does falter, you can plug Blake into first base. Also, a signing of a Lee or Soriano will show the fans that you guys actually give a shit.

MS: What do you mean?

BC: The Dolan’s said they’ll spend money when the time is right. Well, you guys won 93 games last season and you went dumpster diving for Danny Graves and you traded Coco Crisp for a prospect. If we get to spring training next season and the only additions you made were Todd Hollandsworth/Eduardo Perez level free agent signings, no one is going to show up for these games.

MS: I see.

BC: You guys are close, we can all see that. This team isn’t like the Pirates; you’re doing pretty well. All you really need a power OF, a bullpen that doesn’t completely suck major ass and a second baseman. Good call on trading Phillips BTW.

MS: Stop bringing that up!

BC: Fine, fine, but your rotation looks pretty good, you got Sizemore and Hafner, two all world players, some decent guys in Martinez and Peralta and some young guys to plug in at the corner infield slots.

MS: So you’re saying…

BC: I'm saying this may be the make or break offseason for you. I really think this is your last chance on your 5 year plan, you gotta go balls out this offseason. If you don't show your fans that your serious, you may lose a bunch of them. If we start next season and Paul Shuey is playing a large role in this bullpen, you might get some hate mail.

MS: So next year...

BC: In one year I hope to see myself at a Indians playoff game instead of writing a fake exit interview after a disappointing season.

MS: Very good. Alright Ben, this concludes our interview, have a great winter.

BC: Thanks Mark, you too.

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