2012 WILL Be The End of the World: The Tribe Will Win the World Series

Note: I started this a while ago, but finally got around to finishing it.  Given the events of the last few days (big signings by the Red Sox and Phillies), I'm honestly not as optimistic about baseball in general, let alone the Indians.  Evidently, I wrote this in a simpler time...

You're probably thinking, Kyle, you're insane!  What possibly reasons could you have for thinking this, particularly given how bad the Indians were this year?  Well, notice I didn't say they were going to win the World Series NEXT year.

In fact, I have some advice for the Tribe front office going into the winter of 2010: don't spend any money.

Two Team Town

Anthony Castrovince, the former Tribe beat writer for MLB.com, once mentioned that Cleveland is a 2 sport town that has 3 teams.  If you look at the area's economics, its media market, and the amount of competition around it (I have a friend who grew up in Toledo who's a Tigers fan -- an Ohio native who supports a team from another state!  But Detroit is closer than Cleveland), Castrovince is totally right.  There's no reason to believe that a city like Cleveland could ever truly support 3 teams, aside from keeping one on life support while the other two flourish.

Sadly, one of the two teams supported by Cleveland will always be the Browns.  I don't say "sadly" because I don't love the Browns -- Ernest Byner's fumble made me cry -- but because the Browns sell out every game no matter how bad they are.  What kind of a message is that sending to their front office?  I'm sure the people in charge are very nice and truly want to win, but they are making money even when they lose.  There's no real accountability for the Browns.

(There are legitimate factors for why the Browns always sell out, not the least of which is the fact that you can go to all 8 home games and have seen 50% of the Browns' season, whereas 8 home games in basketball is 1/10 of the season, in baseball it's 5%)

This leave the Cavs and the Indians to fight over the second spot in Clevelanders hearts and wallets.  Over the last few years, obviously, this hasn't been much of a battle, given one particular player.  But that d-bag is gone now, which means the #2 spot is, in theory, up for grabs again.

So wouldn't it make sense for the Indians' front office to start shelling out the cash to put a better team on the field since, in theory, the fans are there to be won over?  Doesn't it seem like the perfect opportunity to actually invest money and know they'll make it back?

Hold Steady

Looking at it from a strictly marketing standpoint, it's going to be a year before those fans buying Cavs tickets will be looking at other options.  A lot of this will be out of defiance in the fact of King D-bag.  Fans are going to support the Cavs perhaps like never before, although I'm sure a certain percentage will jump ship right away.  But slowly fewer and fewer fans will show up, no longer willing to spend cash on a team that's lacking the entertainment value it once had.

Again, this will probably take another year, and while that means the Tribe could take advantage of it for the 2011 season, it's not the only opening they'll get.

Then there's the most obvious reason to not spend money this winter: what would they spend it on?

Even if the Tribe added $50M to their payroll, who would they sign?  This team currently has holes pretty much everywhere, and $50M would be like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping chest wound.  Not only that, but any truly talented players would go elsewhere, as it's clear the Tribe won't compete next year because of the aforementioned holes.  On top of that, most high end players aren't going to sign single year contracts, which means any deals signed this winter would be on the books for the following year, at least.

No, the absolute best thing the Tribe can do this winter is save their money for the winter of 2011, when they have a better idea of what they need.  Because they have to fill SOME holes from within or they are completely done.

Why Is There Hope For 2012?

Over the course of a full season next year, we'll see if Matt LaPorta will get better at first and if Jason Donald will get better at second.  I have reason to believe that both will, as they seem to have the type of make-up that suggests they'll only get better with time.  LaPorta has been a streaky hitter, so a full season at the major league level (without getting booted for a rental like he was this year) will show us just which way his streakiness is going to take him.  Donald's actually been pretty consistent at the plate, so given a full season next year I'd expect him to be a .260 hitter with a good OBP.

Next year also gives the Tribe time to find a third baseman.  Is it the much hyped, now cooling Goedert?  Or will Chisenhall make a smooth transition to Columbus next year, proving he's ready to take the reins in 2012?  Or will they have to take that money they saved and go get a free agent?  I have no idea, but we'll know better AFTER 2011.

Two big factors in considering 2011 another lost season are the injuries to Grady SizemoreSizemore and a healthy, experienced Santana in the middle of our line-up.  That's big time.

Another season also gives Michael Brantley time to mature.  He's looked like the guy we all expected him to be since he got recalled from Columbus this last time, and it would be shocking if he weren't in the line-up every day next season.  Again, a full season at the major league level will only help him.

That's two injuries, three guys who need more experience, and a giant question mark that will start to clear up over the course of the 2011 season.

But What About Pitching?

Of the 8 starters the Tribe has used so far this year, only 2 of them have really earned starting spots next year: Fausto 4.0 and Mitch Talbot.  Fausto 4.0 is clearly better than original Fausto (the closer) or Fausto 3.0 (send to rookie league), but I'd love to see movement towards Fausto 2.0 (4th in Cy Young voting).  I think that a full season with his new mechanics will start moving Carmona in that direction.  I would not be surprised to see him have a great year in 2011, ideally to set up him up for another fantastic year in 2012.  Talbot, on the other hand, appears to be fading as the season goes on, but that's not surprising, considering a stint on the DL to go along with his first year in the majors.  Another year will only bring maturity.

What do we do after those two?  Carlos Carrasco is definitely in that group.  Yes, he had a horrid time of it last September, but I think he was rushed up to prove the Lee deal wasn't a complete bust.  He's really turned his season around in Columbus and he definitely has the raw stuff to dominate.  I'm hoping he finds his way into the rotation next year so he can get a full season under his belt before the championship campaign of 2012.  I think he could be a front of the rotation type of guy.

I consider Carrasco and Justin Masterson to be equals, but only because they came over at the same time.  But Masterson clearly has front of the rotation stuff and proved it a few times over the season.  He also proved that has some work to do.  Again, though, the talent is there.

The last member of my 2012 rotation will most likely be a rookie, but he's a guy who is dominating in Akron right now and also has the stuff to be a front of the rotation type of guy.  That would be Alex White, and if you don't believe me go check out his numbers for the Aeros.  Assuming he keeps up his performance, I would be shocked if he didn't start 2011 with the Clippers, then ideally fighting for a rotation spot in Cleveland come 2012.

Moving up along with White from Akron will be big time arm Nick Hagadone, who has been used out of the bullpen, but who could get moved to the rotation.  I'm going to assume they'll stick with him as a reliever for now.  He came over in the Victor Martinez deal.  He's a lefty, which is nice, as I don't have much faith in Rafael Perez or Tony Sipp, regardless of how well they've pitched as of late.  I don't see R. Perez returning to his 2007 form.  I figure the 2 lefties in our 2012 bullpen will be Hagadone and Laffey, who also gives the Tribe length.

I don't know if I consider Joe Smith a part of the bullpen's future and I'm not entirely sure when his contract is up, anyway.  I think we've seen the real Frank Hermann who, like Josh Tomlin and Jeanmar Gomez, managed to pitch well despite himself when first getting the call.  Germano is interesting, but I honestly can't imagine a guy who was formerly in the Japanese league and could only get an audition from the Tribe is going to maintain the level he's pitching at now.  If so, more power to him, but I just don't see it.

Still, that leaves 3 spots open in the bullpen for guys like Jess Todd, Josh Judy, and perhaps even a free agent.  At the very least, I think the back of our bullpen should be pretty tough.

I Know

Yes, I realize there are a lot of "if's" up there.  There are an awful lot of players who need to pan out, but in my defense I've left out a bunch of guys in the minors who could step in if need be.  And, again, not spending any money during this off-season means we should have some money for next off-season.  I also think that if we should real improvement on the field, to the point of ending the year above .500, the front office will pounce and add the free agents we need.  Because at that point we'll have fewer holes and at that point time will be on the Tribe's side as far as winning over fans is concerned.

So, yes, the Indians will win the World Series in late October and then six weeks later the world will end...

...but it will end with me happy.