Matt LaPorta limped his way through the final weeks of the 2009 season because of a lingering left hip issue. But while the Indians had said rest would be good for what was ailing LaPorta, it turns out surgery was necessary.
LaPorta will be behind schedule in Spring Training camp as a result of left arthroscopic hip surgery performed by Dr. Marc Philippon in Vail, Colo., on Tuesday. LaPorta also had a surgical procedure performed by Dr. Thomas Clanton to address his left big toe, which he injured while running into the wall at Fenway Park on the last day of the season.
Head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff is expected to address LaPorta’s situation with reporters Wednesday afternoon.
According to a release from the Tribe, LaPorta will need four to six months to recover from the hip procedure, in which Philippon performed a debridement of a bony impingement in the hip joint. That would obviously affect LaPorta’s preseason conditioning in Spring Training. His situation might be comparable to that of Travis Hafner this year. Recovering from shoulder surgery, Hafner was a couple weeks behind his teammates in camp and wasn’t ready to play on an everyday basis at the start of the season. The Indians are obviously hopeful LaPorta’s recovery will be quicker.
LaPorta will remain in Vail for a week before spending most of his offseason rehabbing in Goodyear, Ariz.
LaPorta is the third member of the Tribe to have surgery at season’s end. Last week, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow, while reliever Chris Perez had surgery to remove a loose bone and a cyst in his left ankle. Center fielder Grady Sizemore had season-ending surgeries on his left elbow and left lower abdominal wall in September.
The interview process for the Indians’ managerial position will formally begin next week.
General manager Mark Shapiro and assistant GM Chris Antonetti, through conversations with and recommendations from people around the industry, have compiled a list of around 30 potential candidates, and that list will be whittled down to eight to 10 candidates in a matter of days.
The Indians hope to conduct phone interviews next week with each of those eight to 10 candidates from Goodyear, Ariz. (where the front office will be holding their annual player evaluation meetings). From the phone interviews, the field will be narrowed down to three to five candidates, each of whom will come to Cleveland for a more formal interview. Those candidates will also be required to meet with the local media — a prerequisite that the Indians will use to gauge their communication skills.
Based on his talk with reporters this afternoon, this is what Shapiro is looking for:
- Communication counts. “
Somebody who can effectively demonstrate good awareness and the ability
to communicate across a broad spectrum of players, cultures and personalities,
and then being an effective communicator to our market, as well."
- Pitching is a priority. Given the current construction of the Major League roster and the problems of the recent past, the Indians are placing a high emphasis on the new manager's thoughts on what qualities a pitching coach should possess and how to manage an effective bullpen.
- Staff selection skills. One of the knocks on Eric Wedge revolved around the makeup of his Major League staff and how it was dominated by ex-catchers. Shapiro didn't mention that specifically, but he alluded to it when he said he'd be looking for "somebody who
has the ability to build a diverse staff -- and by that I mean a different set
of backgrounds, complementary backgrounds, different skill sets and talents. And
then the ability to utilize those talents."
- Experience isn't everything. The Tribe's next manager doesn't have to possess Major League or Minor League managerial experience.
"In every guy's case, there are competencies, attributes and
experiences that can make a guy fit what we think is a specific profile for a
Major League manager. You want to find all three, but you often are going to be
choosing between what is the best possible combination and fit. The perfect guy
is probably doing it already right now. We look for that best combination. If the
guy has no experience in doing one thing we're looking for, you hope the other
two are overwhelming."
- A wee bit of Wedge. The Indians aren’t looking to drastically change course. So the new guy will probably have some similarities to Wedge. “
It's a leadership position," Shapiro said. "Our philosophies as an organization are
the same. Because it's a leadership position, some of the attributes will be
identical, some will be complementary. But every single individual is going to
have his own set of strengths and his own set of limitations. I'm not going to
get in the business of comparing and contrasting with Eric. That's just not
productive. But I'm sure there will be some things that are similar and some
that are different, just because of different backgrounds."
- Market mindset. The new guy will have to understand the Indians' financial limits and the emphasis on young, developing talent. He should possess the ability to ease young players into the big leagues. As Shapiro said, "speeding up that timeframe where
possible, and, in light of our operating conditions, [understanding] not just the importance but the
essential nature of young players to our success."
- Popularity not important. For those clamoring for the returns of Mike Hargrove or Sandy Alomar Jr. or Omar Vizquel (whose still planning to play next year, by the way), prepare to be disappointed. “
I’m not looking for short-term popularity,” Shapiro said. “I’m looking for a
guy to come in here and lead this organization effectively and maximize our
chance of winning ballgames. I’ve said it before: A popular decision in
December or January is very often your downfall in July or August.”
The goal is to have the new guy selected by the end of the month, with an announcement following the World Series. The timetable could, of course, be affected by the postseason, and whether any of the final candidates are still active in the playoffs.
Regarding candidates, Shapiro, as expected, did not name names. Until the Indians get to the final three to five guys, he’s going to remain secretive.
Obviously, John Farrell remains a popular possibility. I’m still not convinced he won’t be a candidate, regardless of the ESPN.com report over the weekend. It could be that Farrell is just trying to avoid any distractions to the Red Sox postseason run.
Anyway, the search is on, and it will get heated in the next couple weeks. You can read more shortly on Indians.com.
For now, I’m going AWOL — or, more accurately, on vacation — for the next couple days, so this blog will be on hiatus until next week. But I’d like to sincerely thank you all for the kind words in the comments section under the last post. That was certainly not expected and definitely appreciated on this end. Thank you all.
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Back in the halcyon days of … oh, early April… I asked those of you who frequent this space to offer up a prediction on how the Indians would finish.
As I sit here in eager anticipation of the season’s final game, which will feature a lineup that would have been considered second-class even in the Cactus League season, I thought I’d take a trip back in baseball time to see how those predictions shook out.
Here’s the rundown:
- One of you (and I say “you” in the most general sense, in that readership of this blog has, I’m sure, decreased exponentially in these waning weeks of the season) said they’d finish with 101 wins.
- Twenty-one of you predicted the Indians would finish with 90-99 wins.
- Eight of you said they’d finish with 80-89 wins. (I was right with you there, so, should I make any future predictions in this space, please consider the source.)
- Two of you said they’d finish with 70-79 wins.
- On the extreme side, one of you made the bold prediction (proven wrong, sadly, on Opening Day) that the Tribe would finish 162-0. (This guy also thought Chicago would land the 2016 Olympic Games.)
But we play by “Price is Right” rules here, and reward the closest without going over. So step on up and take a bow, henryscott35, because you’re the big winner with your incredibly not-as-inacurrate-as-you-might-have-suspected guess of the Tribe finishing 32-130.
I have a feeling that prediction will be much closer to the norm next year.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
- The beginning of the end of the Eric Wedge era took place in this ballpark, when the Indians lost Game 7 of the 2007 ALCS. And the era comes to its official close here today. Alanis Morissette — oh, no, wait… it was a reporter — asked Wedge if he believes in irony, and his response was rather cryptic. “Irony can work both ways,” he said. “There’s the kind of irony you’re talking about. But I think you’ll probably see some irony beyond this, too.” Nobody in the room knew what to make of that. “I’ll let you chew on that for a while,” Wedge said. Consider it done, Wedgie.
- All irony aside, the appropriateness of Tomo Ohka, of all people, making the final start of the season was pointed out to Wedge. In a season in which nothing has gone to plan, Ohka getting the final nod seems just about right. “I figured we’d have a day-night doubleheader today to really top it off,” Wedge said. “I’m glad I’ll be home tonight.”
- General manager Mark Shapiro will meet with reporters Wednesday at Progressive Field to discuss, among other things, the managerial search and what it will entail. According to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, John Farrell has pulled himself out of the running. If that’s the case, then the most obvious candidate for the job is taken off the board, as was the case when Bud Black pulled out in 2002. But it could also be that Farrell is merely trying to get the focus off of him as his team gets ready for the postseason. We’ll see as the next few weeks evolve.
- Shin-Soo Choo’s 20th homer was an opposite-field shot over the Monster. “He did it in style,” Wedge said. With that blast, Choo became the first Asian-born player to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases in a single season. “A lot of players have done it, but no Asian players,” he said. “And I did it in my first full season in the Majors.” Choo hopes to reach 30-30 someday. “Every year, I want to get better,” he said. “Maybe some years will be worse, but I hope better.” Choo had 13 homers in the first half before slowing down considerably. But he’s hit six homers in the season’s final month.
- Wedge felt it was important that Asdrubal Cabrera work his way back from tightness in his hamstring to play Saturday. Cabrera will finish with a .308 average — .309 against right-handers and .306 against lefties.
- Chris Perez will have surgery Wednesday at the Cleveland Clinic to remove the extra bone that formed in the back of his left ankle. It’s not considered serious. It only affected him running, not throwing.
- As I’m typing this, Luis Valbuena just hit the first leadoff home run of his career.
- The Indians are 30-50 on the road this year — their worst road record since going 30-51 in 2003.
Well, that about does it for the 2009 in-season minutiae, though there will still be plenty of other blog posts throughout the winter. Still, I want to take this occasion on the last day of the season to once again thank all of you for your support of the blog over the last couple years. It’s been fun watching it develop. We’ve had some good dialogue, broke a few news items and, I hope, had some fun, even in a lost season such as this one. See you next year… and next week, for that matter.
And so it ends. Today’s 1:35 p.m. ET game at Fenway Park will be on WTAM and WKYC Channel 3.
Lineup of the Year right here…
INDIANS (65-96): 2B Luis Valbuena, CF Trevor Crowe, RF Matt LaPorta, 3B Jhonny Peralta, DH Kelly Shoppach, 1B Andy Marte, C Wyatt Toregas, LF Chris Gimenez, SS Niuman Romero. RHP Tomo Ohka (1-4, 5.45).
RED SOX (94-67): CF Jacoby Ellsbury, 2B Dustin Pedroia, C Victor Martinez, 3B Kevin Youkilis, DH David Ortiz, LF Jason Bay, RF J.D. Drew, 1B Casey Kotchman, SS Alex Gonzalez. RHP Clay Buhholz (7-4, 3.74).
Eric Wedge is the fall guy for what’s transpired with the Tribe over the last two years, though it’s been commonplace for people to say the blame doesn’t rest with one man.
But perhaps it should rest with one man — the man is taking the mound for the Red Sox tonight.
He’s the one who got the Indians in this mess. It was his dominant performance in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series that returned the series to Boston, with the Indians holding a 3-2 advantage they would end up squandering. Once the Tribe was unable to clinch at home, it was painfully obvious that they wouldn’t be doing so on the road, either.
Blame it on Beckett, who very well might have been ticked off that night by the Indians’ decision to have his ex-girlfriend, country singer Danielle Peck, perform the National Anthem. He used any and all pent-up aggression to allow just a run over eight innings, with 11 strikeouts.
In some parallel universe, the Indians won that game, disposed of the Rockies in the World Series, celebrated with a parade up E. 9th Street, sold out the 2008 season, re-signed CC Sabathia and have just wrapped up their third straight AL Central crown.
But in reality, everything that has followed that game, in which 44,588 fans at Jacobs Field were silenced, has been a nightmare, where the Indians are concerned.
Sabathia, the guy who was outdueled by Beckett that night, is long gone. Fausto Carmona, the guy entrusted to be the stopper in Game 6 at Fenway, is a shell of his former self. The roster is completely revised, The Jake isn’t The Jake, Wedge and his coaches got the axe, and the Indians are either rebuilding or reloading, depending on your definition.
Even Peck’s career has gone downhill. Her last two singles didn’t reach the Hot Country Songs Top 40.
Beckett, meanwhile, endures. He’s won 16 games this year, and he’s playoff-bound once again. You can blame Wedge for the Indians’ plight. You can blame CC or Carmona or Joel Skinner. But if you want a healthy exercise, blame Beckett. It will make tonight’s otherwise meaningless game feel a little more pertinent.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
- After last night’s loss, it’s official. This season will not only be the worst in Eric Wedge’s tenure (second prize goes to the 68-94 season in his rookie year, 2003), but it will also be the Indians’ worst since 1991, when they finished 57-105 and finished last in the AL East. All that remains to be seen is whether the Indians will finish last in the AL Central for the first time in the division’s history. The Indians and Royals entered today’s action in a deadlock.
- Actually, that’s not all that’s on the line. As Jay Levin of LetsGoTribe.com points out, the Indians have already clinched a Draft pick in the top five next year. They’d have to finish behind the Royals in the standings to move up to No. 4, because the Royals had a worse record last year, and that’s the tie-breaker.
- The good news? The Indian’s bullpen has posted a 3.42 ERA over the last 31 games and a 2.56 ERA over the last 16 games.
- The bad news? The Tribe is batting .238 over its last 19 games and has scored runs in just one of its last 29 innings played. The Tribe has been shut out 11 times this season, third-most in the AL.
- Aaron Laffey enters tonight’s start having induced 26 double plays this year, the third-most in the AL. He’s allowing just .53 homers per nine innings (five homers allowed in 78 1/3 innings).
- Last night’s loss not only set a new club record (13) for consecutive road losses, but it also ensured the Tribe will drop four of five and six of eight season sets against the Red Sox. The Indians have not won a series against the Red Sox since April 25-27, 2006. They are 5-15 against them since the beginning of ’07.
- A tarp on the field meant downtime in the cramped clubhouse before tonight’s game. Some players tuned into the Twins-Royals game, while others were locked into college football. First-base coach Luis Rivera had more fun than anybody, as he began playing “Deal or No Deal” on the computer. He “won” $25, then $50, and then, finally, $500,000. “I can go home happy now,” he said proudly.
It’s been raining all day in Boston, but the Indians and Red Sox still hope to get their 7:10 p.m. ET game in and avoid a day-night doubleheader tomorrow. Tonight’s game will be on WTAM and STO.
UPDATE: Lowell scratched with a sore thumb.
INDIANS (65-95): CF Michael Brantley, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Shin-Soo Choo, DH Travis Hafner, 3B Jhonny Peralta, LF Matt LaPorta, 2B Luis Valbuena, C Lou Marson, 1B Andy Marte. LHP Aaron Laffey (7-8, 3.91).
RED SOX (93-67): 2B Dustin Pedroia, LF Jason Bay, C Victor Martinez, 3B
1B Kevin Youkilis, DH David Ortiz, SS Jed Lowrie 3B Mike Lowell, 1B Casey Kotchman SS Jed Lowrie, RF Brian Anderson, CF Joey Gathright. RHP Josh Beckett (16-6, 3.78).
What’s that? This is still the regular season?!
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
- A long season could get longer. The word around Fenway is that inclement weather might put Saturday night’s game in jeopardy. There’s already talk about a day-night doubleheader Sunday, if that’s the case. We’ll see if Mother Nature is merciful.
- Asdrubal Cabrera is still out of the lineup with right hamstring tightness, but available off the bench tonight.
- Carlos Carrasco, smacked in the left leg by a Jacoby Ellsbury line drive last night, is bruised, but fine.
- If you read Thursday’s blog entry, you know that tracking down Victor Martinez and John Farrell was no easy feat. Well, both of them were available today.
- Farrell said what you’d expect him to say (and, sadly, did not allow my dream scenario to come to life): “I’m committed to the Red Sox, and my whole focus right now is to prepare for the postseason. We’ve got three games left, and, from pitching standpoint, we have to get some things in order, to make sure that guys come out of those games healthy. The whole focus right now is on our pitchers and getting prepared for the playoffs.”
- Martinez, meanwhile, addressed the dismissals of Eric Wedge and his coaches and took a couple shots at the Indians’ ownership. “It’s pretty sad how everything ended up. It’s not their fault, man. It’s way easier to blame one guy than 25. What else can they do? The owners give whatever they give to them, and you just go out and compete, and you know how it is. If you want to really compete in the big leagues, you’ve got to put a really good team together. The team we had, they didn’t want to keep it together. That’s their thinking. That’s their own stuff.”
- Martinez still seems genuinely upset over the way that 2007 team dissipated over the last two years. But he’s also genuinely happy to be in Boston and in the playoff race. “I was leaving my house,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I never get tired of saying, these guys [on the Red Sox] made everything a lot easier for me. They’re great teammates, a great coaching staff and training staff. Everybody. They made me feel like I’ve been playing here for a couple years, and I really appreciate that.”
- Martinez paid Wedge and his coaches a visit late last night, after the game. They ended up sitting in Wedge’s office talking for a couple hours. Wedge said it was a great, reflective conversation.
- Here’s what Martinez had to say about playing for Wedge: “He made me a better player. Not only myself. He was a manager that made sure he got everybody ready to play the game. That’s big. He lets the players take care of things in the clubhouse. That’s something that’s great, too. Sometimes it’s hard to hear the truth, but he was a guy that’s going to tell you the truth. You’ve got to be a man to play this game, and he really helped me a lot.”
- OF Jose “Can’t Stand Ya” Constanza, a CastroTurf favorite, has been resigned to a Minor League contract. He was eligible for Minor League free agency. Constanza batted .282 with 15 doubles, seven triples and 46 RBIs at DoubleA Akron this season, leading the league with 49 stolen bases and 98 runs scored and finishing second with 75 walks.
- Shin-Soo Choo is one homer away from being the fourth player in the AL this year to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases. The others are Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz and Curtis Granderson.
- The Indians have scored three runs or less in 10 of their last 18 games, batting .239 in that span.
- If the Indians lose tonight, they’ll set a new franchise record for consecutive road losses, with 13. Go get ’em, men.
Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game at Fenway Park is on WTAM and STO.
INDIANS (65-94): CF Michael Brantley, 2B Jamey Carroll, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Jhonny Peralta, DH Travis Hafner, 1B Matt LaPorta, SS Luis Valbuena, C Kelly Shoppach, LF Trevor Crowe. LHP Jeremy Sowers (6-10, 5.09).
RED SOX (92-67): CF Jacoby Ellsbury, 2B Dustin Pedroia, 1B Victor Martinez, 3B Kevin Youkilis, LF Jason Bay, DH Mike Lowell, RF Rocco Baldelli, C Jason Varitek, SS Alex Gonzalez. RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-6, 6.08).
Plain Dealer beat reporter Paul Hoynes and I spent a lot of time in the Red Sox clubhouse before tonight’s game. We were lost dogs in search of scraps.
We were waiting out Victor Martinez, who seemed excited to see us, but pleasantly informed us he’d have to talk to us later, after he sat in the hot tub, stretched and took batting practice. After we stood outside the Boston dugout during BP, freezing our you-know-whats off, Martinez pleasantly told us he has to go into a meeting, so he’ll get us first thing tomorrow.
No worries there, because we were also waiting on Red Sox pitching coach and potential Tribe managerial candidate John Farrell.
Unfortunately, Farrell, as expected, was nowhere to be found. He was tucked away in the Red Sox coaches’ room, which is on a separate floor from the clubhouse and inaccessible to the media.
Even if we had the opportunity to speak with Farrell, it’s obvious he would just say something like, “While I would like to manage someday, my responsibilities and focus lie with helping the Red Sox win a world championship” — or words to that effect.
Our brains fried from a season of watching bullpen implosions, chasing down trade rumors and, most recently, waiting for the gauntlet to fall on Eric Wedge, Hoynes and I began to invent a dream scenario — the type of scenario that, if you spent 100 years covering Major League Baseball, would never take place. It goes kind of like this:
Us: “Hey, John.”
Farrell: “Hey, great to see you guys! Since you’re here, I might as well tell you that I’m 100 percent interested in the Indians’ job. In fact, I just got off the phone with Mark Shapiro. I start Tuesday.”
Us: “Awesome. What’s your Opening Day rotation?”
Farrell: “Westbrook, Carmona, Laffey, Masterson, Huff.”
Us: “Great! Anything coming down the pike this winter?”
Farrell: “We’re trading Wood on Dec. 10.”
Us: “Good to know. Any word on the Press Tour schedule?”
Farrell: “Yep, I’ve got it right here. I’ll see you Jan. 15 in Ashtabula.”
Us: “Sounds good.”
Somehow, it never works out this way.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
- That was, without question, a bizarre press conference that took place at Progressive Field yesterday. It’s not often you see a guy discuss getting dismissed while wearing the uniform of the organization that dismissed him. When it was over, Wedge walked through the hallway that leads from the press interview room to the Indians’ clubhouse and passed a few White Sox players. They all had a look on their face that read, “What is he still doing here?”
- I’ve had several fans tell me they’ve never seen Eric Wedge quite like they saw him in yesterday’s press conference. They were impressed with his demeanor, his grace under pressure and his overall respect for the game. It made me wonder if fans would have been so vehemently against Wedge if he had showed this side of his personality more often. Most fans’ only view of Wedge was borne out of what they saw from him in his bland postgame pressers.
- Regarding the fans’ general distaste for Wedge, here is what Mark Shapiro had to say: “I don’t know why. I thought they would [like him] when we hired him. He’s very consistent with the values of Northeast Ohio. He’s a blue-collar worker, a hard-nosed guy, extremely honest and extremely consistent. In the end, this is an entertainment business. Maybe he wasn’t flamboyant enough and kept his feelings internal at times. Maybe fans want to feel the frustration and emotion. Eric, to protect the players, didn’t always do that. But believe me, those emotions were there.”
- CC Sabathia had this to say about Wedge (and why do I feel like I’m writing an obit as I type this?): “He was big. He was a tough guy. He was a tough guy to please. He always seemed to find something wrong with what I did. It made me a lot tougher, him not being satisfied. He made sure that I was working hard and trying to get better every day.”
- According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wedge is one of just seven Major League managers to guide a single team to at least two 90-win seasons and at least two 90-loss seasons. The others are Bruce Bochy (Padres), Bill Carrigan (Red Sox), Bobby Cox (Braves), Bucky Harris (Senators), Tom Kelly (Twins) and Connie Mack (Athletics).
- More from Elias: Justin Masterson became the first Major Leaguer to lose a complete game by a 1-0 score while pitching at least nine innings and striking out a dozen or more batters since May 6, 2000, when Pedro Martinez was beaten by the Rays at Fenway Park in a game in which he struck out 17. The last Tribe pitcher to lose a game in this manner was Sam McDowell in 1968.
- Masterson’s 12 strikeouts were the most by a Tribe right-hander since Bartolo Colon struck out 13 on Sept. 18, 2000, against the Yankees.
- Asdrubal Cabrera is out for the second straight game with a sore right hamstring. It’s still not considered a serious injury.
- Jake Westbrook is on this road trip to continue his long-toss program. He’s throwing every other day, and he last threw out to 75 feet. He’ll head to Goodyear on Oct. 18 to begin throwing bullpen sessions, and he’ll decide if he’s going to pitch winter ball based off how he feels in the bullpens.
- While Martinez was hard to pin down, I did get a chance to catch up with Paul Byrd (you can’t spit in the Red Sox clubhouse without hitting a former member of the Tribe), who said, “These guys still tease me about the ALCS [in 2007].” Good to see Byrd back in the big leagues.
- The Indians enter this final series with an 11-game road losing skid.
- Second-round Draft pick Jason Kipnis, was recognized as the fifth-best prospect out of the New York-Penn League in Baseball America’s rankings. Kipnis batted .306 with eight doubles, three triples, a homer, 19 RBIs and 19 runs scored in 29 games for Mahoning Valley this season.
- I’m pleased to report the Indians’ newest Community Outreach endeavor, “Fill the House for Charity,” raised more than $600,000 in donations for 13 Northeast Ohio non-profit organizations.