Inbox: Will Tribe keep Asdrubal at shortstop?
Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers fans' questions
My dad was upstairs, working in his office. My mom had already turned in for the night. I was on the edge of my seat. Actually, if I remember correctly, I'm pretty sure I was on my feet, pacing back and forth as the drama unfolded on the television in front of me.
Then, it happened.
Joe Carter launched a pitch from Phillies closer Mitch Williams to left field in Toronto, where the ball sailed over the wall to unleash pure chaos. Joe jumped around the bases and I did the same in our basement. I wasn't a Blue Jays fan. I was simply caught up in one of baseball's great World Series moments.
That was Game 6 of the 1993 Series won by Toronto. How many baseball fans can immediately recall where they were when Carter touched 'em all? Now a new generation can do the same with Game 6 of this year's Fall Classic, when the Cardinals did the unthinkable, pulling off a miracle victory over Texas en route to an eventual World Series crown.
If you're an Indians fan, I'm sure the feeling that hits closer to home is that of Rangers fans, who watched their team fall short of baseball's ultimate prize with a Game 7 loss on Friday night. I won't bother revisiting the events of 1997. If it helps, I was a diehard Cubs fan as a kid. Chicago fans can relate. See: 2003; or the last century, for that matter.
Maybe the lesson here is the one that Indians manager Manny Acta likes to preach so often to his players and to reporters. In baseball, anything is possible. St. Louis faced a double-digit deficit in the standings in late August, earned a trip to the playoffs on the final day of the regular season and went on to hoist the trophy.
The Indians' 2011 "What if?" slogan seems pretty fitting for the Cardinals.
On to this week's Indians Inbox...
The Indians selected shortstop Francisco Lindor as their top Draft pick in June, and then the team signed Dominican shortstop Dorssys Paulino in July. Do the Indians still plan on keeping Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop? Or is this a case of just taking the best players available?
-- Michael C., Carlisle, Pa.
We're getting a little ahead of ourselves here. Lindor will turn 18 years old this offseason and has only 19 professional at-bats under his belt at Class A short-season Mahoning Valley. Paulino was signed as a 16 year old and is still training at the Indians' academy in the Dominican Republic.
Neither Lindor nor Paulino will be taking over for Cabrera any time soon. It could be several years before either shortstop prospect even tastes the Major Leagues. Cabrera has established himself as one of the American League's top shortstops and is only 25 years old. He's still very much a part of Cleveland's plans.
As things stand right now, Cabrera is under contract as an arbitration-eligible player through the 2013 season. Given his spike in production this year, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Cleveland might approach him about a multiyear contract. For now, just know that Cabrera is under team control for at least two more seasons.
There are a few spots on a baseball field that teams try to stockpile as much talent as possible: on the mound, behind the plate and up the middle. Elite shortstops are hard to find, so clubs will try to add as many as they can in order to create contingency plans. Not every player signed or drafted develops into a star, or even a big leaguer.
Another thing to keep in mind is that -- within the amateur ranks -- a team's top player often plays shortstop. That doesn't mean they will remain a shortstop once they turn pro. So stockpiling shortstops can sometimes be misleading. At least in the case of Lindor, Cleveland feels he is strong enough defensively to remain at short for the long haul.
Have a question about the Indians?
E-mail your query to MLB.com Indians beat reporter Jordan Bastian for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
Doesn't Jason Donald have competition in Jack Hannahan for third base? Or what's your thought on the competition between them as infield utility players?
-- Michael H., Bethesda, Md.
Lonnie Chisenhall ended the season as Cleveland's starting third baseman, but Acta was often quick to note his age (23 years old). During their sit-down with reporters at the end of the year, Acta and general manager Chris Antonetti also spoke of Chisenhall's need to develop better strike-zone discipline.
Translation: Chisenhall is hardly a lock to be the Tribe's Opening Day third baseman in 2012. While Chisenhall will likely man the position on a regular basis at some point next season -- and he very well could earn the job in Spring Training -- Donald and Hannahan certainly could be vying for the starting role out of the gates.
Donald, who is under team control, impressed the Indians down the stretch both at the plate and with his versatility in the field. Hannahan, who is arbitration-eligible this winter, had an inconsistent year offensively, but lived up to the hype as one of baseball's best defenders at the hot corner.
Either player could serve as a stopgap at third base until Chisenhall is promoted or as a utility man off the bench if the youngster is on the team come Opening Day. If Chisenhall is on the Opening Day roster, the only way I could see both Donald and Hannahan on the roster is if one can also provide depth for the outfield. The Tribe has already tried Donald in the outfield in instructional league this winter.
Of course, this is all under the assumption that the Indians do not add help for third base. Cleveland could certainly try to address the position through offseason maneuvering. Whether at first or third base, the Indians want to add some more offense to a lineup that has struggled for the past two years.
With Drew Pomeranz and Alex White doing a fine job for the Colorado Rockies, do you believe the Tribe got a raw deal in the Ubaldo Jimenez sweepstakes?
-- Jared W., Durham, N.C.
Your definition of a "fine" job is interesting. Pomeranz went 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in his debut for the Rockies and White went 2-4 with an 8.42 ERA, which included nine home runs allowed in 16 2/3 innings at Coors Field. They hardly blew away National League hitters in their first tour with Colorado.
Granted, both Pomeranz and White are young, and they still might turn into the second coming of the Randy Johnson-Curt Schilling duo. If that happens, sure, the Indians will have come out on the wrong end of the risk they knew they were taking. But if Jimenez regains his form as an ace and helps the Tribe reach the postseason?
Well, let's just give this trade some more time to see what happens.
Is Kosuke Fukudome on the radar screen for the Indians in 2012?
-- Ronald M., Lowell, Ohio
The Indians will definitely be looking at outfield options this offseason and the club liked what it saw from Fukudome in his time with the club last season. That said, Shin-Soo Choo is expected to be back in right field, which is Fukudome's primary position. If Fukudome (a free agent) is seeking a multiyear deal and a starting role, Cleveland might not be the best fit.
I watched David Justice come up in Atlanta and as a Indian. Does Michael Brantley remind you of a young Justice?
-- Derrick R., Cleveland
I would say no -- only because Justice proved to be more of a run producer. At 24 years old (Brantley's current age), Justice already had a season with 28 homers and 78 RBIs. Justice later went on to be a threat to hit 30 homers and 100 RBIs on a regular basis.
He could prove me wrong, but I see Brantley developing into a hitter who could consistently hit around .275 with 15-20 homers, 30 doubles and maybe around 60-70 RBIs with some stolen bases. Using those benchmarks, guys like Brady Anderson (minus that 50-homer season in 1996) or Andy Van Slyke come to mind.