Mailbag: Why not trade Westbrook?
Beat reporter Anthony Castrovince answers fans' questions
When he came over to the United States from Dublin about 17 years ago, Shaun Clancy didn't know a thing about baseball. Bartending in New York City, where the game emanates incessantly from the lips of fans and the gleam of the tube, changed all that.Other sports have their merits, Clancy admits. "But baseball," he told me in his thick Irish accent the other night, "is the only sport you can talk about 365 days a year." Yes, between a 162-game schedule, the playoffs, Spring Training and the Hot Stove season, it is a year-round treat. And Clancy treats it as such at his baseball-themed pub, Foley's NY, on West 33rd Street, just across from the Empire State Building in Manhattan. This is where umpires, writers, public relations people and even managers come to drink and dine after a day at the yard. Clancy celebrates this fact with an extensive collection of baseball memorabilia, including a display of more than 1,200 autographed baseballs that line the bar's walls. Scanning the impressive arrangement, one can view the John Hancock of such baseball luminaries as Joe DiMaggio and Derek Jeter. And when Clancy showed me the location of a ball I autographed for him last fall and assured me that memento -- if you can even call it that -- is in his "Top 10," it was a wonderful example of "when Irish eyes are lying." With the spirit of Foley's in the air, let's make like two fans at the end of the bar, talking all things Tribe over a pint of Guinness, shall we? The contract money should go to players like Travis Hafner and C.C. Sabathia. Why didn't the Indians trade Jake Westbrook and get somebody good, and allow Adam Miller or Fausto Carmona to take his spot? I sure hope we don't lose Pronk or Sabathia because money went to Westbrook. Is it still possible to trade Westbrook?
-- Sean O., Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii When you look at the market for starting pitchers, the Indians' signing of Westbrook appears to be a steal for the club. Including this season, he'll make $39.1 million over the course of the next four years, plus performance-based incentives. And while Westbrook hasn't had the smoothest of starts to '07, the general reliability he's provided for the Tribe is worth all that and more in today's game.
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Westbrook, however, had at least one key demand of the Indians in return for the "hometown discount" he gave them. Mainly, he wanted some no-trade protection. So if the Indians were to trade Westbrook over the course of this contract, he'd probably have some veto power with regard to where they send him.The majority of readers who wrote in about the Westbrook signing thought it was a good deal. Some, though, wondered why the Indians don't let go of Westbrook and Paul Byrd at the end of this season and simply fill their spots with Carmona and Miller. It's just not that easy, folks. For one, we've already seen Carmona's up-and-down tendencies as he gets acclimated to the bigs. And Miller, while incredibly talented, will have some growing pains, as well. In general, big-league rotations are often one injury away from disarray. So the more quality arms at an affordable price, the better. The Indians wouldn't have given Westbrook the money they did if they felt it crippled their ability to sign Hafner and/or Sabathia. I still think they're much more likely to lock in Hafner than Sabathia. I don't see them being able to compete with the ridiculous dollars sure to come Sabathia's way in a couple of years, but I've been wrong before. I noticed the Indians gave drum-banging fan John Adams an all-expenses-paid trip to Milwaukee for the Angels series. I was wondering if he gets complimentary tickets to all the home games or does he purchase them every year?
-- Dave K., Findlay, Ohio No, that was a one-time deal for the special occasion of home games being played 435 miles from Jacobs Field. The Indians wanted to make it feel like home as best they could. Ordinarily, Adams pays for a season ticket for himself and his drum, which takes up its own seat. With all this hype regarding on-base percentage, it should be a no-brainer for manager Eric Wedge to have Grady Sizemore lead off against right-handers and Josh Barfield against lefties. All you have to do is check the stats. That would be 10 more wins this year.
-- Paul N., Youngstown, Ohio Let's check those stats, Paul. In 2006, Sizemore hit .214 with a .290 on-base percentage, 10 homers and 25 RBIs in 220 at-bats against left-handers. Barfield, meanwhile, hit .331 with a .338 OBP, seven homers and 20 RBIs off left-handers. That was somewhat of a small sampling, though, as he only had 121 at-bats against lefties. Based on those numbers, your idea does have some merit. But Sizemore, in the early going this season, has shown some improvement in his performance against left-handers, and Barfield has been going through the growing pains that come with changing leagues at a young age. Even if Wedge does move Barfield toward the top of the order by the end of the year, he would probably bat second, not first. I've got a scenario for you: It's late August or early September 2007, and the Indians are neck and neck for the division title. Miller is pitching well in Buffalo, and he has a few dozen innings left on his arm before he gets shut down. Would Miller finish out the season as a Bison starter or would he get called up to the big-league bullpen for the stretch run?
-- Tyler C., Milwaukee Right now, the Indians have no plans whatsoever to move Miller to the bullpen, as he and the organization are best served with him stretched out as a starter in Buffalo. But if that above scenario were to play out, and the Indians felt they could benefit from Miller's arm in the late innings, I think they'd consider such a move for the pennant race. The Indians are careful in the way they groom their prospects, but they're also willing to make those players adapt when a need arises at the big-league level. Carmona's bullpen stint last season is proof of that. Is there any chance of Cliff Politte being on our roster during the '07 campaign? -- Nick M., Cleveland The Indians took what can best be described as a shot in the dark with Politte. He could be their next Bob Howry-like success story or we might never see him in an Indians uniform. It could go either way. But keep your eye on the notebooks for updates on his progress, because he might emerge as an intriguing relief option. Politte, who had rotator cuff surgery last August, is hoping to be back on the mound sometime in June. How he performs down on the farm would determine whether he's ready to help out the big-league club. What Politte did in 2005 with the White Sox -- serving as a key bullpen cog with a World Series winner -- was real, though one can't help but wonder if the grind of the postseason caught up with him the following year, when his numbers were horrendous and his arm health went down the drain. So what are the odds of Joe Borowski keeping "Wild Thing" as his song? I think it's a good tribute to something loved by many Indians fans, plus it's a good fit for his style of closing a game down.
-- Brenton B., Mercer, Pa. Well, "Wild Thing" would have been an appropriate theme song for that debacle in New York on Thursday, but forgive Borowski for not wanting that tune to be the one that sums up his work. He prefers to take the mound to "Price to Play" by Staind. I told the guys at work before the first game of the year that Sizemore would be the American League MVP. Everyone thinks I am nuts. What do you think?
-- Ben B., Mansfield, Ohio You could very well be nuts, for all I know, Ben. But not because of this particular opinion. Sizemore certainly has MVP-potential capabilities, from a run-scoring and run-production standpoint and from his exploits in the field. Of course, if the Indians made a run to the playoffs (which is what it would likely take for the club to have a legitimate MVP candidate), Sizemore would have in-house competition from Hafner and, perhaps, Victor Martinez. Hafner's power numbers might be more eye-catching to MVP voters, though Sizemore's all-around game is hard to ignore. When the home opener was postponed, Byrd had a no-hitter going. Had Byrd gotten the last out in the fifth inning and the game was called, would he have been credited with a no-hitter? And, do you think the fact that he had a no-hitter going caused the umpires to wait a little longer before calling the game?
-- Tyler S., Lakewood, Ohio Byrd would not have been credited with a no-hitter. Major League rules state that a no-hitter must last nine or more innings. No-hitters in games shortened by weather don't qualify. The umpires had plenty of reason to try to get that game in, beyond Byrd's no-hit bid. That was the Mariners' only scheduled trip to Cleveland, the forecast was dreary for the remaining games of the series and, of course, it was the home opener with a sell-out crowd to appease. At the very least, the last time the Indians played in Milwaukee they went to the World Series. Here's hoping life imitates art.
-- James D., Sarasota, Fla. Yes, "Major League" was filmed in Milwaukee. But correct me if I'm wrong (and James, you were far from the only reader who sent in such a statement) in saying I believe the fictional Indians team from that flick didn't reach the World Series. In the original film, the club is shown winning its division in a one-game playoff with the Yankees. Yet I seem to remember the sequel informing us the Tribe went on to lose in the American League Championship Series. With the recent "home" games being played in Milwaukee, who was given the duty of being the official scorer for the games? Did the Indians send their official scorer or was the Brewers' scorer given that duty?
-- Andy A., Indianapolis The Indians used the Brewers' scorer for those games. At home, the Tribe has several scorers it uses over the course of a season. It's just too bad the Angels series wasn't being played over a weekend. With Bernie the Brewer being the mascot in Milwaukee, it could have been a "Weekend at (the remainder of this mailbag question has been edited by the indians.com staff).
-- Pat D., Warren, Ohio Sorry for the Bernie's reference, folks. That one was too good to pass up.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.