"Each wash brings him one step closer to dying. That's what makes the T-shirt such a tragic figure."

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
http://www.twitter.com/castrovince

Went on a little hike in the White Tanks with Indians iTrac vision coordinator Jason Stein, known both here on flat ground and up in mountainous terrain as “The Master of Self-Promotion,” during yesterday’s off day.

Lo and behold, an argument erupted, as it usually does.

I had come straight from the gym and was wearing my usual workout apparel, which consists of running shoes, shorts and a ratty old t-shirt. Stein, a minion in an increasingly vain society, found my shirt offensive.

rocky.jpgConsider Stein a fitness fashionista. He’s one of those people who is willing to plop down 30 bucks for a T-shirt billed as “performance gear,” falling for the sales pitch promising an “ergonomic fit” and “higher efficiency output.”

In reality, of course, a workout shirt is just a workout shirt. All you’re doing is wearing it while you run and lift and sweat. When Rocky Balboa was drinking egg yolk, jumping rope, chasing chickens, hustling up the steps of the art museum and punching raw meat, he was wearing your standard-issue cotton tank-top, not a “compression sleeveless T with accelerated moisture transport.”

Stein, of course, disagrees. He says if you’re going to a fitness facility, you better look the part. New shoes, new shirt, microbe-reducing socks with scent suppression. In our debate, he actually used the verb form of the word “wick,” which had previously only been used by Under Armour pitchmen. (Job well done, fellas.)

I countered by saying that if looking the part is so necessary, why weren’t we walking the mountain trail in buckskin jackets and carrying a canteen?

My readers — most of them, anyway — are sane, rational people, and I assured Stein they would side with me on this one.

Make me proud, folks.

ADDENDUM: Stein would like me to include in here his “golf course analogy,” which goes as follows: Being the guy in the fitness center with holes in his shirt is like being the guy on the golf course in jean shorts. I’m not sure if that strengthens his case, but there you go.

ADDENDUM No. 2: The most rational response to this comes from Stein’s girlfriend, Liz: “There’s no difference,” she said, “unless you’re trying to pick up women.”

carrasco.jpgEXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…

  • The rotation battle is a little more complicated than previously expected (or reported). Carlos Carrasco has really made an impression on the new coaching staff, and pitching coach Tim Belcher told me Carrasco is officially a contender for one of the last two rotation spots. Though Belcher didn’t say so directly, Mitch Talbot seems to have won a job. Meanwhile, the inconsistent outings from David Huff and Aaron Laffey (who looked really good today), combined with two superb outings from Carrasco his last two times out, appear to have made it a three-way battle for the last spot. Here’s the full story on Indians.com.
  • I mentioned to Belcher that perhaps all the attention that’s place on the starting battle is a bit overblown, considering it could be a revolving door in the rotation this season. “Now what would make you believe that?” he said with a wry smile.
  • That being said, Belcher seems to feel better about the rotation than he did a month ago, thanks to the spring performance of Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona. “They’re right on track,” Belcher said. “Justin [Masterson] has been a little up and down. But there’s still time for him to get where he needs to be.” Belcher mentioned Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Rondon and Yohan Pino as three guys he’ll be paying close attention to at Columbus this season.
  • Masterson had trouble finding the strike zone in a Minors game against Triple-A Columbus (he was pitching for Double-A Akron) on the off day. He went five innings, allowing two runs on three hits with five walks and two strikeouts.
  • Today’s lineup might have been an Opening Day preview – SS Cabrera, CF Sizemore, RF Choo, DH Hafner, 3B Peralta, 1B LaPorta, 2B Valbuena, C Marson, LF Brantley. The wild card, of course, is the Russell Branyan situation and how it pertains to Brantley. (Branyan took soft toss today and was actually in the dugout for the game… that’s a start.) Manny Acta had said he wanted to get his regulars together for the last week to 10 days of spring camp, and we’ve reached that point.
  • The Indians had three recently signed members of their Dominican Summer League squad test positive for steroids. All three had their contracts (which were not yet finalized) voided, at no cost to the club. But John Mirabelli, the Tribe’s assistant GM in charge of scouting, said the team is close to doing its own drug testing prior to international players signing a contract. This is one way the Indians hope to combat a deceptive culture in the Dominican. DNA testing, which the Indians decided to initiate in the wake of the Wally Bryan/Jose Ozoria situation, is another.
  • But Mirabelli said it’s going to take a true overhaul of the scouting and signing system to make the situation more tolerable for teams. MLB recently rehired Sandy Alderson to oversee reform efforts in the Dominican. “You’ve got a culture now,” Mirabelli said. “This is a rampant part of their culture. It’s dog-eat-dog and very short-term thinking down there. That’s how it’s evolved. Until you change the culture and we make some very, deep changes in how you conduct business down there [it will remain this way].”
  • What changes can be made? The establishment of an MLB academy would help, Mirabelli said. “You’re almost going to need a clearinghouse,” he said. “Players are going to have to be cleared and vetted by Major League Baseball so we know they are who they say they are, they’ve been drug-tested and these are the guys eligible to be signed right now.” Mirabelli said he’d also like to see the Dominican government get involved to register player agents (known as “buscones”) and penalize them when their clients test positive for performance-enhancing drugs or misidentify themselves.
  • Saul Rivera (0.00 ERA in six innings) and Jamey Wright (1.04 ERA in 8 2/3 innings) both seem deserving of a bullpen spot, though their fates could be tied to what the Indians do with the remaining combatants from the rotation race. Belcher has been impressed with Rivera and Wright, two veterans who have been durable in the past. “They’re nice options to have to be considered for the bullpen, because they can give you length multiple times a week,” Belcher said. “Saul looks like he can pitch every day. He’s so effortless and there’s not any overthrowing in his delivery. Both those guys have experience, too. It’s just a matter of finding a way to keep one or both.”
  • The Indians (4,267) and Reds (4,220) had the two lowest average attendance totals in the Cactus League, entering today.
  • The deck of cards sitting in the middle of the Tribe locker room this morning was a promotional item from the 2004 season, with members of that team on each card. The ace of spades was Jason Davis. Wow.
  • Plain Dealer columnist Terry Pluto demanded that my minutiae today include mention of his invention of “The Pluto” at a nearby QuikTrip gas station this morning. He took unsweetened iced tea, added a little bit of peach iced tea and a splash of lemon. Voila… “The Pluto.” Even by minutia standards, this bit of info qualifies as minutia.

~AC

25 Comments

I’m with you, AC. If one is so inclined, they may throw down whatever they wish for “workout gear.” However, they are the sort that I usually laugh at as well. My attire consists tennis shoes, generic gym shorts and T-shirts, and a Tribe or Tulsa Drillers hat to keep my hair out of my eyes. Speaking of Tulsa, the Tulsa-based chain of convenience stores are known as “QuikTrip.” My Tulsa blood ran a little cold when I saw it spelled “QuickTrip.” This could inspire a debate about why companies feel the need to shorten or misspell words in their company name. Quite frankly, it bugs me. However, QuikTrip is the one exception. They can do nothing wrong in my book.

QuikTrip correction duly noted. Thanks for the catch.

Anyone who spends extravagant sums of money on workout clothes or infant’s clothing is confused about life. Though they’re not as bad as the weirdos I used to see at the gym in Philadelphia who’d wear these trashbag shirt things while running on the treadmill, apparently under the misguided impression that forcing themselves to sweat more would mean they’d lose more weight — which I suppose would be true if they also never drank water again after completing their workout … Interesting that they’re considering Carrasco for a rotation spot. I don’t know that Laffey has done anything to show that he shouldn’t be in there, he had one bad outing, really one bad inning, and otherwise has been very good–really after today I’d say that Laffey should be given the last spot, and Huff should not be in consideration. But, they could go with Carrasco in the rotation and Laffey in the bullpen as a long relief/double play specialist, I couldn’t argue with that approach, since I otherwise wouldn’t be too comfortable with Wright, Rivera and Lewis all in the bullpen. … whose fault was it that Garko stole a base? Joe Smith or Marson? I think letting Ryan Garko steal a base should be grounds for demotion to the minors.

Laffey’s ground ball outs are remaining pretty high for each outing this spring, which, to me, means he is being effective. I think he should get the last spot (assuming Talbot is locked up). That’s a lot coming from a guy who is pretty high on Huff.

I think you’d have to be high to be high on Huff

I’m with you AC. Workout clothes are supposed to be ratty. You’re supposed to smell when you work out. It’s just the nature of the beast. To try to deny it is to deny the very nature of the universe . . . and to get ripped off.

Stein may have won the last round, but AC wins this one, hands down.
You have to feel a little bad for Huff. He had a solid outing today only to see the guy he’s competing against come in and have a BETTER outing.
I’m surprised by the Carrasco comment, or I was until I went and compared his spring numbers to Laffey’s. There’s a decent argument to be made for Carrasco, although I think Laffey’s big league experience might be worth something.
Does Masterson have options? Because I kind of wonder why he’s always been considered a sure thing for the rotation to start the year.

Why no love for Laffey in the Indians organization? Laffey has a 3.07 ERA in 14 innings. He gave up 4 of his 6 runs this spring in one bad inning against SD and half of his walks were in that game. Then the story about the rotation battle says that the performances of Laffey and Huff have “left a lot to be desired” … huh? I guess we’re aiming for spring training perfection? It’s funny, out of the entire Indians pitching staff that has a shot, the only guys who I would say their performances have “left a lot to be desired” would be Huff, Masterson, Sipp and Joe Smith. That’s all. Everyone else has been good to very good … I would hardly characterize Huff’s outing as “solid”, LACF. 3 walks, lots of hits and lucky escapes against what I doubt is Seattle’s “A” lineup. I will say this about Huff, he has this Borowski-esque ability to somehow manage to escape with minimal damage and a positive result, like Borowski, it seems like half of the outs he gets are pure luck, with balls crushed but directly at someone.

I can’t believe I actually skipped over every single one of your Indians minutiae in order to check out to see the results of the vote in the comments section. I have reached a new low. All that being said, I vote for Castovince on this point. I don’t exactly agree with your friend’s comparison of jorts = ratty work out attire. Maybe a more appropriate comparison is Under Armour-like work out clothes = wearing compression shorts and shirt for the casual cyclist. You’ve seen these people, right? I mean, you’re riding a bike on rout 57, not the Tour de France. Are they really trying to cut down on their aerodynamics? Each time I pass one of those “avid cyclists” in my car, I am tempted to see how close I can get my mirror to their elbow.
Castrovince wins!

ST, Huff’s ERA in this game would have been a little over 2, yeah? I don’t think “solid” is effusive praise.

The only time I have specific garb for a gym outing is when I play basketball. Then I wear some compression shorts and an ankle brace etc. But to lift, the only rule I have is it has to be comfortable.

On another note. Why are the Indians so high on Masterson as a starter. He would be a dynamite set up man, and now that Perez is closing, we need a set up guy. He has been pretty bad so far as a starter, and I just think I would rather have a great set up guy, then an average (at best) starter.

I think Masterson has great potential, Jaime. But I think it’s odd how quickly the Tribe are making him a major league starter. He made only 9 starts in ’08 and was in the ‘pen for the Red Sox before he came to Cleveland. He’s made 25 starts over two years — Huff made 23 last year alone and we’re talking about sending HIM down to AAA. So why is that never considered for Masterson? Unless he doesn’t have any options, of course.

LACF, Masterson and Huff have 2 option years remaining, Huff has 3 per AC’s thread Novermber 25, 2009. I wouldn’t consider sending Masterson to Columbus just yet and realistically would only consider it a possibility if the FO wanted to ensure his starter status for the long term.

It would appear as if Talbot (unquestionable IMO) and Laffey (reasonably debatable) have secured the final 2 spots. I brought up Rivera and Wright previously winning the bullpen spots and I find it interesting that ST is so adamantly against those 2 guys. What exactly are our other options at this point with Judy demoted and Todd having spring troubles? The opening day roster means practically nothing in the grand scheme of things. The roster will continue to be a fluid situation all year.

And IF Branyan starts the year on the DL and Brantley makes this team, how long will it be until he supplants Cabrera as the leadoff hitter? Brantley, Cabrera, Sizemore, Hafner, Choo, Peralta, LaPorta, Marson, Valbuena.

Regarding the low attendance in Goodyear. I spent a week there for Fantasy Camp this year. The complex itself is quite nice. The problem is that there is nothing adjacent to it except ther airport/plane graveyard. Not exactly Orlando we’re talking about here, so apart from die hards don’t expect the place to be overwhelmed with visitors.

Nope, LACF, that’s lucky, not solid. His ERA might’ve been decent but his WHIP was disgusting. If a pitcher kept giving up 7 BB/9 with a WHIP of 2.00, his ERA would not stay at 2.00 … I’m fine with Rivera and Wright, I’m not fine with Jensen Lewis, or, let’s say out of Wright, Rivera and Lewis, I’d be fine with 2 out of 3 of them. The other option is Laffey, Wright, Rivera in the final bullpen spots, and Carrasco as the number 5 starter. With the questions about the staff, that might not be a bad idea to have a good long man like Laffey (depends on what Carrasco does in his next start) Also, the last 2 years Laffey has seemed to burn out at the end of the year. He had a 3.36 ERA on Sept 2, after about 100 innings, and then got lit up pretty much the rest of the way. That 3.36 ERA is why I considered Laffey a much better option than Huff regardless of what they did this spring, but there is a question of whether Laffey could make it through a whole season, or is he going to pitch well for the 1st half and then fade out? In the bullpen that wouldn’t be an issue … I think they guaranteed Masterson a spot because they want to see whether he works out as a starter. It forces him to work hard on his secondary stuff. I’d wait to the regular season to make any judgment on Masterson, when guys are using spring training to work on particular pitches rather than fighting for a spot it’s pretty normal to have some rough outings. His strikeout rate has been impressive.

Here’s why Stein is wrong: wearing jean shorts on a golf course is taboo because golf is a “gentlemen’s game” with standards of dress and behavior (now, whether or not said standards are snobby/unnecessary is a whole other debate, and jean shorts probably shouldn’t be worn by men anywhere at all …ever). The gym, on the other hand, is just a tool. It’s a means for accomplishing the task of getting exercise. It has no rich tradition, and no standards of dress to warrant a requirement of expensive clothing. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll ever feel welcome in a Beverly Hills yoga studio…

Here’s why Stein is wrong: wearing jean shorts on a golf course is taboo because golf is a “gentleman’s game” with standards of dress and behavior (now, whether or not said standards are snobby/unnecessary is a whole other debate, and jean shorts probably shouldn’t be worn by men anywhere at all …ever). The gym, on the other hand, is just a tool. It’s a means for accomplishing the task of getting exercise. It has no rich tradition, and no standards of dress to warrant a requirement of expensive clothing. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll ever feel welcome in a Beverly Hills yoga studio…

Huff obviously made pitches when he had to, ST. No one’s lucky for four innings. So, yes, “solid.”
I don’t think the debate is Laffey vs. Huff. I don’t think anyone could rationally make that argument — the numbers don’t support it.
But if we are looking at number then it does raise the question of Masterson’s automatic inclusion into the rotation. There are six starters currently with the team that have better ERAs and WHIP (since ST brought it up).
I like Masterson and I think he’s got potential as a starter, I just find it odd that he was automatically given a spot.
On the flip side, maybe they believed that guaranteeing him a spot would allow him to relax, and that they only wanted to leave two spots open for competition.

This is kind of a silly argument, but … pitchers and hitters have been lucky for entire seasons, much less for 4 innings–that’s why stat analysts look at BABIP. In this case, it’s pretty clear that Huff didn’t pitch well, no matter the runs total, he gave up 3 walks and 4 hits in 4 innings which managed to account for 0 runs. Had Ichiro, Guitierrez or some of their other starters been in there they may have made him pay for that a little more. ERA is definitely going to pretty much be a direction function of WHIP and strikeout rate, and, in this case, if Huff kept up that performance for an entire season he’d almost certainly have an ERA above 7, can’t really argue with that … if they didn’t guarantee Masterson a spot then he’s going to pitch differently in spring training because he’s going to be coming to the games with a different perspective, he’s going to to be using his current best pitches, i.e. his sinker, rather than working on something like his changeup, because he’d be more concerned about results rather than simply working on what he needs to work on. That’s why veteran pitchers who have guaranteed spots often have pretty bad spring training numbers, they’re just out their to work on specific things and aren’t overly concerned with results. I haven’t seen Masterson throw since early on, when he looked good, so not sure what his problem’s been the last couple starts, just saying that to me there’s a valid reason for guaranteeing him a spot (frees him up to work on his secondary pitches), and that it may be best to give him a pass on his spring training results, they might look much better if he were in there competing for a spot. Let’s wait to see what he does in the regular season before sending him back to the bullpen

It is silly argument, given that “solid” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement — and that most teams would take four plus innings of 1 run ball regardless of how he got them. It’s also silly because I don’t think Huff deserves a spot in the rotation to start the season.
I’d counter that Masterson might have benefited from the competition. But here’s another question: why is he given that benefit as opposed to the others? Why doesn’t he have to compete? I’m sure Aaron Laffey would love to have spent the spring working on his secondary pitches.
I honestly wonder if the FO is sticking him into that spot because they want to show some immediate payoff for dealing Martinez.

AC – gotta agree with you, Gym clothes should be ratty. It shoes you’re there to work out and not be seen. I don’t buy the golf analogy because dudes just shouldn’t wear jean shorts. I personally don’t spend a ton on golf clothes becuase a $100 shirt is not going to fix my swing. I do have good golf shoes, but I walk the course and 18 holes is a lot of walking.
It’s kinda like when you show up for the 1st company softball practice of the year, a couple of the guys will usually look all spiffy – One of them is usually the boss trying to be a regular guys, the rest of them are just tools

Sounds like Stein is wearing an Olympic speed skating outfit to the local ice rink to me.

Well I always thought Laffey should have been guaranteed a spot in the rotation, or at least been told one was his to lose. I think they’ve always had in the back of their minds that they might need Laffey in the bullpen though, so they didn’t want to peg him as a starter. Masterson’s a completely different story, he’s had success in the majors as a reliever and in the minors as a starter, he doesn’t have much to gain by going back to the minors, the question is just whether he’ll be in the big leagues as a starter or reliever. I’m sure they didn’t want it like last year, where it was always a question of where he’d be used, they wanted him to go into this season concentrating on starting. The alternate really was to have him come into this season as a reliever with a spot in the bullpen. I think the Indians clearly benefit if Masterson can make it as a starter, so it makes sense to me.

I think you and I have always seen eye to eye on Laffey. I always considered a spot his to lose. What I find funny is that the idea of using Laffey in the bullpen, while perfectly reasonable, seems strange given the same theory wasn’t applied to Masterson, since he actually has far more bullpen experience.
I suppose it probably comes down to a matter of logistics. They’ve made a lot out of trying to balance their line-up since they’re so left heavy. I would imagine they’re probably concerned about having so many ground ball pitchers in the rotation, too.
Although it’s kind of funny to see how quickly our rotation went from being packed with lefties to having only one.

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