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Indians Indians Archive View from the Porch: A View Without Sizemore
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

HRPorchViewBefore I dive in to this week’s View from the Porch, I have to amend something I discussed in last week’s column. I basically gave Jon Garland the fifth spot in the rotation, assuming that his mandatory pre-contract physical was not going to be a stumbling block for the team. To paraphrase what they say about assuming, well, it certainly made a donkey out of me and for that, I apologize. The fifth starter battle continues onward without Jon Garland between Kevin Slowey, David Huff, Zach McAllister, Jeanmar Gomez, and possibly TCF’s own Al Ciammaichella’s favorite fifth starter candidate Scott Barnes.

It was reported this week that Garland simply was not in good enough physical condition to pass the required exam, and furthermore, compete for a job. With so much smoke and a couple burning embers regarding Garland, there’s still a chance that the Indians’ interest blossoms into another contract offer closer to the start of the regular season or during the season if and when he is healthy. Teams can never have enough starting pitching depth and Garland would be under no pressure to hurry back. He could build up his arm at extended Spring Training at the Indians’ Goodyear, AZ complex and possibly be an option later in the season. So, I apologize for making an assumption about Garland and his future with the Indians.


grady catchIronically, this week’s View from the Porch is about a player I won’t see from the Porch on Opening Day. News broke on Friday afternoon that Grady Sizemore will likely miss Opening Day with a lower back strain, sustained while fielding grounders two weeks ago as part of the rehab process for his knee. So, to reiterate, Grady Sizemore couldn’t even make it to Spring Training before he got hurt. The most questionable move of the Indians offseason was signing Grady Sizemore to a one-year, five million dollar contract. The questions have officially been validated and it took less time than some of us expected.

For the purposes of this column, I’m not totally sure what approach to take. I could take the sarcastic approach I took on Twitter by saying that “Grady Sizemore was injured running away with the $5M he stole from the Indians this offseason”. I could be more sympathetic toward all parties by saying that Sizemore was a decent gamble given the free agent market and the power production he did show during his brief 2011 season. I could blast Grady Sizemore for not having done the necessary stretching or weight training exercises to strengthen the muscles that he really hasn’t used a lot due to injuries. I could blast the Indians front office for giving Grady a contract at all. I could shrug my shoulders and say “Well, at least it happened now and not in June”, keeping in mind that muscle strains and pulls can happen to anyone in the sports world.

Instead, I’ll walk you through the 19 minutes between WTAM 1100’s Nick Camino tweeting that the Indians were about to provide injury news and then finding out that it was about Grady Sizemore.

3:20 pm: Read Nick Camino’s Tweet about Indians injury news coming down shortly and the Indians granting reporters a “Twitter window” between the statements from Indians GM Chris Antonetti and head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff.

3:21 pm: Focus on the “Twitter window” part insinuating that this was big news that needed to be reported. Immediately think the worst.

3:23 pm: Text TCF’s own Nick Allburn to alert him of impending doom, adding that I predict Tommy John for one of our pitchers.

3:25 pm: Frantically search Rotoworld and Hardball Talk to see if someone got inside info from a “source”.

3:28 pm: Look at’s Free Agent Tracker to see who remains unsigned. Think to self “Well, Vlad Guerrero might work if the injury is Hafner. These pitchers all suck.”

3:30 pm: Start to assume “Cleveland scenarios”. Shin-Soo Choo tripped over a sprinkler head and tore his ACL. Justin Masterson felt a pop in his elbow during pitcher fielding practice. Derek Lowe slammed his pitching hand in his car door. Chris Perez accidentally hit Carlos Santana with a pitch and left a three-foot hole in his abdomen. Lou Marson broke every bone in Jason Kipnis’s hand with a throw down to 2B. Rafael Perez talked to the media and tore all of his vocal cords. Matt LaPorta lost the bat swinging at a slider in the other batter’s box and gave Casey Kotchman a third-degree concussion when the bat inadvertently hit him in the head. Vinnie Pestano was playfully chasing a squirrel around the outfield when he collided with Joe Smith and both of them broke their right arms.

3:35 pm: Get tired of furiously refreshing my Twitter feed.

3:36 pm: Realize that if I don’t keep refreshing my Twitter feed, the suspense will kill me.

3:38 pm: Tweet at TCF’s Al Ciammaichella (@gotribe31) that the whole “Twitter window” sounds ominous to me.

3:39 pm: Suspense ends. Grady Sizemore will miss probably miss Opening Day with lower back strain.

3:39 pm: Swear at self for not immediately thinking that the injury news was Sizemore. Shrug and say to empty room “I’m not surprised.” Look at glass of water on desk next to me. Note that it’s still wet.

This was why acquiring depth was so important this offseason. The Indians lacked depth last year and paid for it. This year, it looks like they’ll already have to tap into it from Day One. Right now, it’s hard to project if the replacement player(s) for Sizemore will be able to match his numbers or not. What this does do is cement Michael Brantley as the leadoff hitter and center fielder on April 5. With Sizemore’s injury history, the kid gloves will come on and I would be shocked to see him by mid-April. The “will likely miss Opening Day” is just pumping optimism into the fan base. I’ll print off and eat this column if Sizemore is ready on April 5.

grady runThe fact that this Sizemore news doesn’t even faze me is sad. Many scouts and other people in the baseball media used to refer to Sizemore as one of the best players in baseball. He’s four years removed from the last of his four straight seasons with 157 or more games played. Initially, it was a disappointing loss because he was a key component of the team, both offensively and defensively. Lately, it’s hard to determine if he helps or hurts by being in the lineup. He’s a shell of what he used to be at the plate and patrolling CF. His contract was really the only justification for writing him on the lineup card. Now, it’s just a regular occurrence to see a lineup without #24 in it.

What have the Indians been left with?  A player who still exhibits varying degrees of promise when he does play but would be lucky to see 300 at bats this season.

Whose fault is that? Clearly, it’s the Indians. In the business of professional sport, personal feelings need to be compartmentalized. Grady Sizemore is not the same player he once was. It’s sad, but it’s reality. Operating under the constraints of a small-to-mid market, five million dollars is a hefty chunk of change. There is no justification right now for giving Grady Sizemore a contract. He couldn’t even show up to Spring Training without an injury. How is he supposed to validate a five million dollar contract? He isn’t. To gamble on a pitcher like Ubaldo Jimenez is one thing. To gamble on an oft-injured player who plays a position where your legs are everything is indescribably short-sighted. Not to mention the physics of hitting and what the lower half of the body needs to do.

Luckily, contingency plans for the health of Grady Sizemore were written and in place long before today’s news. The members of the Indians front office would be lying to themselves if they expected Sizemore to be healthy all year. They probably didn’t expect him to get hurt so soon, but this is what the acquisition of depth was for. The Sizemore injury is nothing more than another sad chapter in a depressing story.

From a personal standpoint, I can’t help but feel for the guy. Four years of playing every night with a balls-to-the-wall attitude and giving everything he’s got really took a toll on Sizemore and his body simply couldn’t do it anymore. He tried to push through it for a while and probably made everything worse. He has never given the impression that he’s a bad teammate and has been as cordial as he can with bands of screaming women making up the bulk of his fan base.

grady swingingGrady Sizemore (laugh at me if you want) was trending toward a potential Hall of Fame career from 2005-2008. At the end of 2008, Sizemore was just 26 years old. His four-year average would amount to 180 hits, 41 doubles, eight triples, 27 HR, 81 RBI (as a leadoff hitter), 29 SB, and a slash line of .281/.372/.495/.867. He was also trending toward a major contract with a big market team where his numbers could have thrived even more. If we give Sizemore 10 more years at these numbers, which may be generous on my part, that’s 2,520 hits, 378 HR, 406 SB. Again, this is purely speculative, but we truly witnessed a phenomenal baseball player for four seasons, as maddening as his strikeouts were. The number of players in MLB history with over 300 HR and 400 SB? One. Barry Bonds. Add in the possibility of 2500 hits, which is being really generous, and you have one extremely special player.

Instead, we get to view Sizemore as a former extremely special player and ask what could have been. We all would have had our opinions had Sizemore bolted for greener (and I mean money) pastures at the end of his contract and if we had to follow him with a chip on our shoulder and a scorn in our voice. But, there would have been no denying his talent and the numbers would speak for themselves. Injuries are a cruel, cruel mistress. In this case, a mistress who completely derailed the promising career of one of the most gifted athletes to ever play on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

This entire column may read like the obituary to Grady Sizemore’s career as a Cleveland Indian. Odds are, that’s not the case. He’ll get healthy from this back strain and suit up for the team for a few games this season. After the 2012 season concludes, Sizemore will be looking for work from another team willing to take a chance on him and his failing health. However, another setback for Sizemore just signifies how improbable it is that we ever see the player we once saw.

Really, I think this is my ode to Grady Sizemore. Even during his 2005-2008 run, I overlooked the production he put up, focusing instead on bitching about his untimely strikeouts. I complained about his long swing and not being a good fit for the leadoff spot. I took for granted his defense and range in center field, instead choosing to criticize his weak arm.

After this latest setback, the reality sets in. The player we once knew as Grady Sizemore is probably long gone. It’s at times like this that we reflect upon what we actually saw because we have time to process it without emotion. I no longer have to throw the remote through the TV because Grady Sizemore struck out with a runner on third in a one-run game in the bottom of the eighth. He rarely gets the chance to be up in that situation.

Grady Sizemore will forever be one of the most athletically gifted and talented players to wear Chief Wahoo on his head and have Cleveland or Indians across his chest. It’s sad that he’s been reduced to a frequent disabled list veteran and operating room tenant. He’ll always be the guy who you’ll tell your kids and grandkids about where you add at the end “but, he just couldn’t stay healthy”. Every organization has the chosen few. Sizemore is one of ours.

At least I had one of the best views to see him when he was a superstar.

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