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Indians Indians Archive View from the Porch: Risk-Reward Edition
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

HRPorchViewSometimes, I find myself wondering how professional athletes come to be professional athletes. Do they have obvious talent pouring from their pores when playing catch in the backyard with Dad at five years old? Is it because athletics is the chief example of survival of the fittest and the fittest have survived?

Is it a matter of intelligence/academic drive? By no means am I saying that all athletes are stupid or would get single digits on the Wonderlic. But maybe they have a harder time grasping mathematical concepts or comprehending what they’re reading. Their sentence structure is poor and they hate to study. They would rather field grounders from a brick wall or work on their spiral with a friend in the front yard.

There comes a point in every kid’s life where his path becomes evident. Though a kid may not understand what that path is, subconsciously, there is a level of acceptance. A seven year old in his second year of coach pitch hitting toppers to short knows that he probably will never be the teammate of his hitting lasers to the gap. For some, that’s a harder lesson to learn and understand. But, in most instances, the kid who accepts it right away has an altogether different path. He may become a physicist. Or a dentist. He continues to play the sport because he is perceptive enough to know that Dad really enjoys watching him pull dandelions out of the ground while the ball rolls past him four feet to the left. The one who has a harder time realizing why he will always be selected in the bottom third of the gym class dodgeball team could be in for a difficult run.

You may be asking yourself, what the hell is the point of this? Why is he talking about this?

valbuenafailBecause I really wish Luis Valbuena would have chosen a different career path.

Most of us have watched the majority of the 2011 Cleveland Indians season. Lately, we have been fighting against a large silhouetted monster with Adversity on its chest and Injury on the nameplate on the back of its jersey. I have been an avid baseball watcher for most of my life and I have never seen a team lose three starting outfielders during an eight-game road trip. Luckily, ass chafing from hotel room toilet paper is not going to land Michael Brantley on the DL. Luckily, Travis Buck’s marbles are still in tact and Francisco Liriano’s lack of control has not cost us another outfielder.

However, that led us to the Luis Valbuena Experience in LF. Somewhere between meeting an angry Lorena Bobbitt wielding a knife (two weeks in a row with a Bobbitt family reference!) and coming face to face with a protective mother grizzly bear lies experiencing Luis Valbuena in left field. In other words, definitely one of the most horrifying and potentially painful experiences of my life. As it turned out, it was painful because Loser Luis and his outfield foibles may have cost the Indians a four-game sweep of the (Teddy KGB voice) hanging around Minnesota Twins.

The LVE lead to the call-up of @TheJK_Kid, Jason Kipnis. If you’re looking for Kipnis to be the miracle elixir for the offense, you’ll need to look farther. Kipniskipnisfield should come up and play an adequate, if not slightly above average 2B, but more importantly, will be a competent bat with extra base hit ability. I’d venture to guess that the biggest thing we will gain from this is a solid 2+ months of experience at the big league level for Jason Kipnis. That is monumentally important entering 2012. Same reason that Chisenhall is here.

Will Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis outperform Jack Hannahan and Orlando Cabrera? Absolutely. Is it enough to put the team over the top? Probably not, given the loss of Shin-Soo Choo and the inconsistency of Santana. Ultimately, it cannot hurt. It’s a shift in philosophy from what we have seen. We used to hold these guys back in the interest of saving money six years down the line. Now, they’re here and getting a taste.

With all the talk going on about the trade deadline, I continue to be unsure of what position the Indians should take. I’m a big believer in the “Get in and see what happens” philosophy. So, with that, and my overall distrust of prospects’ minor league statistics, I would be more willing than others to trade some of our prospects in order to make the big league roster better. I would prefer guys who aren’t rentals or guys we would have a shot at re-signing, but I’m a realist. Teams don’t trade guys under contract past the end of this season and we have very little to offer a player to stay here and not test baseball’s broken open market.

I have heard rumblings about how the “Indians have to do something”. Heard this one on the Porch last night. Everybody seems to have a different reason as to why. Some say it’s because they need to take any shot they can at the playoffs. Others say it needs to be done as a sign to the fan base that they are willing to try. Others say it needs to be done to show that Antonetti is not a Shapiro clone.

For my View from the Porch on the subject, as I said above, I believe you have to get in and see what happens. The Indians are 4-2 against Boston and 3-4 against the Yankees. At times, it has not been pretty against those teams. In a five or seven game series, it probably would not be. You have to take that risk. Even one playoff game of experience for Brantley, Santana, Chisenhall, Kipnis, and the bullpen mafia is big for the future. The stage does not overwhelm you once you have experienced it.

hiroki_kurodaI want a playoff race. I want a pennant chase. Even if we get our hearts broken on the final weekend in Detroit, I want the team to experience it. I want them to know what it takes to make the postseason. I wouldn’t mind if they had to feel the agony of falling one game short. It makes you want it that much more. It gives you a chip on your shoulder and revenge on your mind.

While I said above I’m not the type to put a lot of stake in minor league statistics, the Indians are reaching the perfect storm of talent territory that they had in the mid-90s. Consider the Columbus Clippers. As I type this, they are a ridiculous 64-36 with an 11.5 game lead. Many of these guys, including some who are in Cleveland, won the 2010 Eastern League Championship with the Akron Aeros. Further below are members of the South Atlantic League Champion Lake County Captains. That competitive window that Mark Shapiro used to preach ad nauseum is rapidly approaching.

Getting the guys who are currently in Cleveland a taste of a pennant race and a postseason series in Boston or New York would be invaluable. If making a trade and giving up assets we normally wouldn’t is what it takes, then it must be done. There’s no substitute for living something. You can see a picture of Niagara Falls and form thoughts and opinions, but you don’t appreciate its full beauty until you’re on the Maid of the Mist with the roar of the falling water and a sense of how big it really is.

Then there’s the flip side. How much do the Indians need to get in the playoffs? Again, we’re talking about a team that is 21-32 over the last two months. Injuries, youth, whatever excuses we want to use, they are 11 games under .500 in a two month span. They’re still in the hunt, but for how long? Even with help, how long do they stick around? It’s a hard position to be in.

What if the Tigers get James Shields or Hiroki Kuroda? What if they get Hunter Pence to supplant either Raburn or Ordonez? How do the Indians answer? Can they answer? These are all questions that people way smarter than us are paid to figure out. How can we replace the talent we lost trading for what we got? Does it send a negative message to who is already here? How does this acquired player fit in our clubhouse? So much to consider. I could write 15 pages of my opinions on all those questions, but I’ll spare you.

Either way, playoff teams do not deal with the Luis Valbuena Experience, a sixth infielder, and “Oh My God There Are Meteors Falling From The Sky and I Don’t Want Them To Hit Someone Valuable” emergency outfielder starting in a meaningful series. Extreme circumstances aside, it doesn’t happen. They do not have two reliable pitchers, two highly inconsistent pitchers, and a collection of revolving doors of suck in the back end of the rotation.

It’s a big week for the front office to send the fans a message about what they think of the 2011 version of the Cleveland Indians. There is no consensus right answer. Everybody knows the names that are available. Everybody has their idea of who we should get. Everyone will invariably blow whatever overall decision is made out of proportion. It’s the nature of the business.

But whatever happens, if I ever see Luis Valbuena playing left field in a Cleveland Indians uniform again, I’m renting a grizzly bear and looking up Ms. Bobbitt’s address.

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