When they built you, brother, they broke the mold

Before I write another word today, I must first pay tribute to my friend Hal McCoy.

mccoy_hal.jpgFrankly, I’m honored to call McCoy a friend. He is, as many of you know, the Hall of Fame beat writer covering the Cincinnati Reds for the Dayton Daily News. But not for much longer.

The 68-year-old McCoy is the latest victim of a recession that has hit newspapers particularly hard. That McCoy is retiring from the business at season’s end after 37 years on the beat is significant, in and of itself. That the Dayton Daily News, a paper with a vaunted tradition of churning out Hall of Fame writers, will no longer cover the nearby Reds next season is another sad commentary on the state of journalistic affairs.

But the point of this post isn’t to bemoan a dying business or speculate about the future of sportswriting, as it pertains to Major League Baseball. It’s to use this modest forum to voice public appreciation for a man who deserves every accolade being thrown his way in the wake of his announcement last week that he’s leaving the beat.

When I took over the Reds beat for MLB.com in 2005, the thought of working alongside McCoy was intimidating. I wasn’t sure how he’d treat the 23-year-old punk who was new to the scene. Most guys in Hal’s position wouldn’t have given me the time of day.

But Hal, in many ways, took me under his wing. He introduced me to players. He shared insight. He pointed me to the best Italian restaurants in the league (and even picked up the tab at a few of them). And when I left that beat after one season to take over this one, he sent me an e-mail in which he called me a “real pro.” It was about as high a compliment as I could have possibly received.

Somehow, I get the feeling this isn’t the bottom of the ninth inning of Hal’s career. I’m sure some other opportunities will present themselves, and I hope I’m right. But whatever his future holds, my personal past in this profession was better for having Hal in it.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY… 

  • Sorry to hear the news on Jake Westbrook getting shut down, as I know how much it would have meant to him to make it back this season. It’s too soon to tell what this means for Westbrook and the rotation in 2010. The Indians had hoped a healthy Westbrook would front the rotation. That might still happen. But the recovery time from Tommy John surgery is billed as 12-18 months, and Westbrook, who will soon turn 32, will fall on the latter end of that timetable.
  • With Westbrook out of the picture, the Indians will have more room to get a feel for the younger arms in the system. Carlos Carrasco and Hector Rondon are both in line for exposure to this level in September, with Carrasco further along and more likely to get a start.
  • Brad Grant, the Indians’ director of amateur scouting, said the Indians continue to have consistent dialogue with Alex White, the No. 15 overall pick in the Draft. The club is still optimistic that it will sign White before Monday’s midnight deadline. But 19 players from the first round remain unsigned, and everybody is waiting for the dominoes to start falling in earnest.
  • In case you missed it, here’s the link to my video interview with Mark Shapiro about the recent trades and the current state of affairs. Not sure when I’ll receive my local Emmy. The people in charge of such things have not yet responded to my phone calls and e-mails.
  • LHP Scott Lewis, who has been told to pitch through elbow soreness, pitched four innings and threw 50 pitches in Goodyear, Ariz., on Sunday. He’ll make his next start in four days.
  • RHP Anthony Reyes, about 10 weeks removed from Tommy John surgery, has regained motion in his arm and is in Cleveland rehabbing. He won’t be ready to return to action until midseason 2010, at the earliest.
  • Eric Wedge said he views lefty Tony Sipp and right-hander Joe Smith as his setup men, and he feels they complement each other well. Chris Perez is also slipping into more of a setup role. As for Jensen Lewis and Rafael Perez, Wedge said the Indians are just trying to “pick their spots” with when to use those guys to try to eke out some semblance of consistent effectiveness from them before season’s end.
  • Wedge said Chris Gimenez could become an everyday player at this level if his bat comes. But if in case it wasn’t already apparent, Wedge said Gimenez’s best chance of sticking up here initially is as a versatile utilityman.
  • Always good to see Omar Vizquel, and he had these dates circled on his calendar when he signed with the Rangers. Nice of Ron Washington to give him the start in the leadoff spot tonight.
  • The Indians haven’t signed White, but they did sign 32nd-round selection Matt Packer, a left-hander from the University of Virginia. The Tribe has now signed 27 of its 50 picks.
  • LHP Scott Barnes, acquired in the Ryan Garko trade with the Giants, has been promoted to Double-A Akron, where he’ll make his debut Wednesday at Connecticut. Barnes was 0-0 with a 2.13 ERA in three starts for Class A Kinston.
  • In other acquisition news, right-hander Jason Knapp, considered by some to be the most high-upside pickup in the Cliff Lee trade, will make his organizational debut tonight for Class A Lake County. Knapp had been shut down about a month with right biceps tenderness.
  • You’ve probably seen this note by now, but it bears repeating. In the wake of the Carl Pavano trade, the Indians are down to just four players who have been here all year without any trips to the DL or the Minors. They are Jhonny Peralta, Shin-Soo Choo, Kerry Wood and Kelly Shoppach.
  • The Indians have won five of their last six series and 12 of 18 games overall. During that stretch, their offense is averaging 6.17 runs per game and the pitching staff has a 3.93 ERA. It’s all coming together… and only two months too late.

~AC

UPDATE: Just got word that the Indians have outrighted Josh Barfield off the 40-man and onto the Columbus roster. It’s a housecleaning move, and Barfield cleared waivers to make it happen. Quite a fall from grace for the guy once viewed as the long-term answer at 2B.

In other roster news, the recently designated Jose Veras cleared waivers and was outrighted to Columbus. He had not yet decided whether or not to accept the assignment.

The 40-man is now at 33 players. 

17 Comments

Good stuff, AC. Sports journalism is one of the few professions where the youngsters really seem to appreciate the guys who have been around for a while.
I hate to say it, but it seems like Scott Lewis has less of a chance of making a full come back than Jake Westbrook. I don’t know why I get that sense, I just do. I suppose it’s just because Lewis’ injury seems more vague.
I’ve really enjoyed the Sipp/Perez combo setting up Wood lately. I just worry they’re setting us up for disappointment (*cough*Perez/Lewis*cough*).
It does seem like we have a lot of potential starters for the next two years, doesn’t it?

AC, You’ve been pretty frank at times about what is going on with guys and why they are being treated the way they are, but what is the deal with Barfield? Is it just that with Vizcaino and Cabrera they don’t see room for him? I ‘m not a big fan of him myself, but I’m wondering if there’s something here. Wedge has treated him like a red-headed step-child for as long as I can recall. What gives?

It’s always a sad moment when someone with talent has to retire from a profession that by way of the profession itself publicly documents your work. He like a lot of journalists will be missed, but will in years to come be quoted from many times as a reminder to greatness.
~peter
Outside the Phillies Looking In
http://devilabrit.mlblogs.com

Yeah, I’d say Laffey’s looking pretty money for next year.
With Westbrook shut down for 6 weeks and Scott Lewis seemingly having to pitch in the rookie league through pain, I think we’re starting to see our rotation for next year. As good as Rondon has been, I feel like he probably still needs some time in AAA, as he hasn’t been there long, Carrasco is an interesting option, though.
I’m guessing we’ll see Carmona, Laffey, Masterson and two of the remaining three of Sowers, Huff, and Carrasco (if Sowers keeps pitching like he has, he’s sure to land a spot). If we could add a healthy Westbrook to that, I’d be pretty happy, particularly with Rondon waiting in the wings.

In the preseason, you could have gotten very, very, very long odds that Kerry Wood would be just one of four Indians to stay with the team (i.e. no DL trip) into the dog days.

Ten games out! All we need is to pick up four games somewhere and sweep the Tigers in the last two, three games series we play against them!
Clearly, it’s going to happen.

LACF, oh how I love your sarcasm. While comments like yours are fun to read I will say this: get us back to .500 by September 10 and then I will entertain that pipedream only b/c of how many times we play Central division opponents that final month of the season: Detroit 6, Minnesota 6, Chicago 3 at home, Kansas City 3 at home. Not to mention versus Baltimore and at Oakland.

I’ll up the ante, AM: we were 12 games out at this point in ’05, and only got eliminated that last weekend of the season. Sure, we ended 6 games out, but that’s because we got swept by the White Sox in that last series.
It would be pretty classic if, during the last series of this season, we’re battling for the division against the Red Sox, who are battling for the wild card. Maybe the pivotal moment can be in the last game, Masterson vs. Martinez.

Scott Lewis is being told to pitch through his elbow soreness? Honestly, what is the rush?
http://indianterritory.mlblogs.com/

LACF, realistically the problem is that we would have to leap over 3 teams to take the division which is improbable. You mentioned Masterson v Martinez. How much of a kick in the pants would it be if we took the division, Boston dropped out of wildcard contention in lieu Texas or Tampa and Philadelphia lost their division lead to Florida and Colorado took the wildcard? Now THAT would be something.

jk, I’m guessing that Lewis’ pain is something that can only be overcome by actually pitching, that it will go away as he continues to throw. But that kind of a situation doesn’t seem to bode well.

And since it hasn’t been brought up yet (and I’m sure AC will mention it tomorrow), Carrasco’s line for Columbus tonight: 8 IP, 1 ER, 10 K’s. Also, Marson was 3 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored. He’s hitting .299 now.
My guess is that, if Sowers has yet another quality start, he gets to stick around and Huff goes down when they bring Carrasco up.
Also, I really and truly doubt Shoppach is an Indian next year, which is sad for all the pitchers in the Central, as Shoppach is 4th on the team in K’s (average 1 every 2.6 AB), even though he’s 11th in ABs (just 10 above Carroll, who K’s once in every 5.38 ABs). Do the 3 K’s wipe out the 1 hit he had today?

LACF, you really think they will demote Huff for Carrasco? That’s outside-the-box thinking since most, myself included assume he will be a September call-up. Shoppach is in a numbers crunch. He’s making $1.95M and obviously headed to arbitration. He doesn’t deserve a raise but as AC has pointed out players typically don’t get their salaries cut. AC projected ~$3M for him next year so I’m agree with you, I just don’t see us taking on that contract with Marson and Toregas as capable one-year stopgaps for Santana in 2011. I said it before, the decision to NOT deal Shoppach in the off season was a missed opportunity since we were clamoring for Gimenez or Toregas to catch the two rotation spots filled by the Triple-A kids from the onset of the season.

You know they’re going to end the season like 3 games out, leaving everyone to wonder “what if” … what if Veras isn’t released one game earlier so he wasn’t available to give up 2 runs to Detroit in the top of the 12th? (8 games out) What if Wedge doesn’t inexplicably leave Huff in against the Angels in the 8th when he’d already thrown 100 pitches? (7 games out) … I swear if I or any competent fan who follows this team had been placed in charge of game and roster decisions, despite the lack of production from Sizemore, Peralta, Wood, etc, the Indians would be in 1st place in this pathetic division. Too many questionable moves to count. The moves they made that worked were moves we wanted them to make 2-3 weeks earlier (sending down R Perez, Kobayashi, trading Derosa, etc). I’ll give Wedge credit for one thing this season, the public support he offered Valbuena a couple months ago. He’s been hitting around .300 since. Too bad they don’t show this level of support for most of their other prospects.

I agree that they missed an opportunity to trade Shoppach last year, but there were very good reasons to keep him.

1) Hafner was still a big question mark and they needed a potential DH with real home run power.
2) Victor needed more rest at catcher.
3) Cliff Lee’s personal catcher.
4) Potential to still be a breakout star.

Toregas also had a very poor 2008 season (.610 OPS) and Giminez wasn’t on the radar yet (until his breakout Spring Training camp).

AM, I suppose less “going down” then “not getting anymore starts.” I realize that we’ll call people up in September, but we still need to get guys regular work. I don’t want them to bring up a starter if he’s not going to pitch every 5th game.

toxicadam, it was supply and demand. The Tribe needed pitching depth and Shoppach had value. With all the bats we have/had in AAA, finding someone to DH wouldn’t be a problem. And Victor’s a catcher — he doesn’t NEED more rest. That was some crazy idea that Wedge came up with. You don’t see most catchers getting more than 1 day off every 5 games.
Shoppach’s potential was (and is) in setting strike out records, something that was clear even last season. Pitchers were eventually going to adjust to him, and we’ve seen what has happened.

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