Mailbag: Wood's contract, Scott Lewis, team speed, The Boss at halftime and more

If you had told me a few years back that Bruce Springsteen would play halftime of the Super Bowl and would chop up his songs (leaving out the second verse to four of them and plugging some football-related lyrics into two of them) and would allow fireworks to go off during "Born to Run" and would call upon the talents of a gospel choir and would have an actor dressed up as a referee come up on stage and penalize him for a delay of game, I would have cringed. Actually, I'll go further and say a little part of me would have died. All these things appear to fly in the face of everything the Boss represents, from the standpoint of artistic integrity and the protection of his image.


And then this happened last night, and I absolutely loved every second of it. Even the ref.


No, it didn't take me to another place, the way U2 did with their 9/11 tribute in 2002. That halftime show will never be topped. But Bruce brought a 12-minute burst of energy to the proceedings. And really, as long as he didn't pull a Paul McCartney and say, "Hello, Super Bowl!" you knew he was going to blow the roof off the dump (I know there was no roof... it's just a figure of speech, people).


Obviously, I've got Bruce on the brain. But you've got the Indians on yours, so let's see what's up this week...


Do you think that, in retrospect, Mark Shapiro regrets signing Kerry Wood for $10 million a year? I can’t blame him for it, but with the way that market’s taken shape since, it seems we vastly overpaid. Instead of signing Wood, they might have been able to sign both Ben Sheets and Juan Cruz for the same kind of money, or, depending on how much his price falls, they might have even been able to make a play for Manny, if they were inclined to.

— Seth P., Philadelphia


Interesting, Seth. I doubt Shapiro regrets it, given how highly he regarded Wood in this winter's closing market. He viewed Wood as an elite arm, and he didn't want to risk losing him to another club (namely, the Tigers).


Yes, the Indians could have saved money by waiting for the market to develop further, but, in doing so, they likely would have had to settle for a closer they don't regard as highly. Would you rather have Wood at $10 million a year or Brian Fuentes at $8.75 million a year? Personally, I'd side with Wood (and, obviously, so would the Indians), but some might disagree.


I don't see the point in bringing up Cruz's name. He's not a proven closer, and whoever signs him will have to forfeit a top Draft pick. And Manny was never going to happen. Finding a closer was the Indians' No. 1 offseason priority. They picked their favorite arm in the lot, they were aggressive in their pursuit of him and they left themselves enough room in the budget to address their other concerns.  


Every article I read lists Dave Huff or Aaron Laffey as the likely fifth starter for the Tribe. I like both pitchers a lot, but I thought Scott Lewis did a tremendous job for the Tribe at three levels last year. How does he fit into the Indians’ plans for 2009 and the future?

— Elia F., Hillsboro, Ore.

No doubt, Lewis did a tremendous job. Of course, sometimes teams don’t put as much weight in September performance because it’s a time when rosters are expanded and many teams are out of the race. But what Lewis did was nothing to scoff at.


Still, I don’t think the Indians are on high on Lewis, at this juncture, as they are on Laffey and Huff. That’s merely the perception I’m getting, and Lewis obviously is considered to be in the mix for that fifth spot. But I think he’s more likely to start the season at Triple-A Columbus. He’s only pitched 24 innings at that level, and I’m sure there’s some thinking that he still has a lot to prove before landing a full-time role in the big leagues.


I saw a picture of Juan Rincon pitching for his Venezuelan Winter League team. Any word on how he’s doing down there and if the Tribe is possibly going to throw him a Minor League contract and an invite to Spring Training?

— Cody S., Scranton, Pa.


Rincon signed a Minor League deal with the Tigers. Apparently he's going to try out every team in the AL Central before all is said and done. The Indians never showed any interest in bringing him or Brendan Donnelly back.


When the Tribe traded Jason Michaels, it was announced -- as well as written by you -- that Michaels was traded along with cash considerations to the Pirates for a player to be named later. After doing a net search, I could not discover any player having been named. Is it possible that the amount of the cash consideration was subsequently adjusted in lieu of the PTBNL? -- Jennifer, no location given


Yes, that turned out to be a cash deal.


One concern of mine — or perhaps more of a slight irritation — is that our beloved Tribe is one of the slower teams in baseball (save Mr. Sizemore). This fact was strengthened when we traded Franklin Gutierrez, who had base running potential. I think Ben Francisco has the potential to do so as well. He did a bit of base stealing in Triple-A, with much success. Will we see a more nimble Tribe in ’09? More importantly, with Garko discovering his new versatility with a chance in the outfield, maybe we can see him extend this versatility a bit further with some base stealing. (Tongue inserted firmly in cheek.)

— Jacob K., Claremore, Okla.


You can’t teach speed, and you can’t miraculously inherit it over the winter, either. The Indians haven’t done anything to improve on that front, unless Francisco inproves his on-base percentage.


I think it’s certainly an area worthy of concern, and it would have been nice if the Indians could have addressed it while simultaneously filling their infield hole. Brian Roberts would have been a perfect fit, but the Orioles’ asking price was too high.


Shapiro has said that speed is perhaps the easiest area of the game to overpay for. Clearly, he has not made the acquisition of speed a priority in his free-agent and trade acquisitions.


With the Tribe’s Triple-A team moving to the great state of Ohio, any chance they’ll get TV time on SportsTime Ohio?

— Adam S., Wadsworth, Ohio


That is reportedly in the works, though I have not heard anything concrete on how many games will be broadcast.


And finally...


I wanted to let you know about a Spring Training/”Major League” party that is going to take place at Stampers Bar and Grille in Fairview Park on Thursday, Feb. 12th, starting at 4 p.m. This party was started years ago at a place called Jerry’s, where they gathered at the start of Spring Training as they watched Major League and hoped that this was our year. I am trying to get the word out, so if we could get your help it would be greatly appreciated. 

— John C., no location given

Thanks for the heads up, John. Hopefully some of the readers of the Mailbag will take interest in this event.


If you have a question for the ‘bag, send it in to and be sure to include your name and hometown. 


I’m not exactly “knocking” the Boss this time AC, but after the crotch slide and the “delay of game”, I missed Tom Petty.

AC, out of pure curiosity to your readers could you elaborate on the Brian Roberts’ price tag. According to the rumors at the end of 2007 the Orioles were asking for a starting offer of Fausto Carmona and Asdrubal Cabrera. No one in their right mind would entertain that idea then. Did that starting point change at all this winter following the 2008 season? Thanks.

Choo can run, and has the potential to be a base stealer. One has to keep in mind that he was a pitcher until relatively recently in his baseball career. Choo has speed, that was seen in all of those doubles he legged out last year, with more experience he could become a base stealing threat. Although I would not categorize them as legitimate base stealing threats DeRosa and Carroll are speed demons compared to most of the team.

I must say I do not agree with you on the ref thing AC. That bothered me but other than that it was pretty good.
I think the operative phrase in your comment bobwickman is “compared to the rest of the team.” Speed is an issue for this team I think.

I think there is an issue you are overlooking bobwickman. There is a difference between having speed and being a base stealer. Asdrubal Cabrera is a prime example of a player with speed but not the overwhelming ability to steal bases. It takes timing, intellect and a quick first three steps.

If the average pitcher throws to home plate in 2.0 seconds and the average catcher gets the ball down to second in 1.2 seconds there is only a 3 second window. Stealing bases is an art and skill that many players with speed simply do not have and while we Clevelanders were spoiled with the likes of Kenny Lofton, Robby Alomar and Omar Vizquel, the truth is our current roster has a lack of true base stealing threats as well as team speed.

Jamey Carroll has relative speed but no more than 10 SB in a given year. DeRosa has 18 SB for his entire career. And while Ben Francisco had minor league experience stealing bases I personally do not think it has or will translate to the major league level. Other than Sizemore, our true base stealers include Josh Barfield, Trevor Crowe and Michael Brantley.

I really hope to see more of Scott Lewis this year. He really caught my eye at the end of the season. People always wonder if that kind of thing is a “fluke”, but his minor league stats look pretty good and consistent also.

I feel like the Indians tend to get a lot of pitchers who seem to have troubles, but they see some kind of “spark” that they will improve. Reyes, for example, had tough times but showed a lot of improvement pitching last year. Lewis looks like he just has a lot of talent that we can expect to see rather than just hope to see.

I would also agree on the pro-Lewis front. And while I am anti-Laffey I find myself conflicted because Shapiro’s hints foreshadow with Laffey as the #5 guy. Shapiro is notorious for letting a small sample size significantly (4x the alliteration!) raise or lower his opinion when analyzing his players. His analysis and the manner in which he over values his home grown talent warps his decisions terribly. Laffey is too inconsistent for me despite his 2007 post season 4 2/3 innings against Boston and his 2008 month of May. And while Scott Lewis only has 24 IP at the Triple-A level my preferred order of depth for the 5th spot in the rotation would be David Huff, Scott Lewis, and then Aaron Laffey with Jeremy Sowers and Zach Jackson behind him respectively. Lets be honest though, this talk about the #5 SP hinges on Carl Pavano and Anthony Reyes staying healthy.

AND if I have to read one more article that states Edward Mujica as being in competition for the 7th bullpen spot I just might throw up in my mouth a little bit. Order of operations for that last roster spot: Adam Miller, John Meloan, Rich Rundles, Randy Newsom, Erik Stiller, Tony Sipp, Reid Santos, my next door neighbor, my black lab Halle, my 7th grade gym teacher, Joe Borowski, THEN Ed Mujica. IF and only IF all of those people are unavailable then we can turn to Gas-Can-Auto-Combustion-Reliever-Man.

good thing we decided against Ben Sheets, who will be out til the second half YET AGAIN…. Kerry Wood is dominant and doesn’t let up 1, 2, or 4 runs every outing

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