While you're reading this, I'm probably on a bus somewhere.
No, I haven't signed up for one of those senior-citizen bus trips to Windsor, Ontario, to get my slot-machine fix. At least, not this week.
Rather, I'm on the Indians' Winter Caravan, which is winding its way throughout Tribe Country all week. Be sure to look for me in Walnut Creek, Ashtabula, Erie, Pa., Akron, Canton and Youngstown. I'll be the only one who looks like he'd have significant trouble fielding a ground ball.
But while I'm inhaling bus fumes, you, no doubt, have some questions you want answered about the '06 Indians. Perhaps your questions will be answered here. If not, be sure to send one of them in through that handy submission box with my ugly mug on it below.
Your submission, I should point out, comes with no guarantee of a response, but at least you'll have the satisfaction of having your voice heard. It's kind of like voting, though slightly more important, if you ask me.
All right, the bus is leaving, so let's get to it.
All I have to say is economically, the Coco Crisp trade makes no sense to me. Crisp has a breakout season in '05, hitting .300 with 42 doubles, and we have the opportunity to lock him up longterm for next to nothing. This would seem the way to go, instead of looking elsewhere. I do think that Guillermo Mota is a nice addition and Andy Marte would be potentially good in '07, once Aaron Boone's contract is up. But sacrificing one of the main "core" players (and a fan favorite) for a Jeff DaVanon, an unestablished relief pitcher, and a "potential" superstar prospect, doesn't seem to be in proper timing. -- Joe W., Athens, Ohio
I received my first e-mail about the reports of this trade at 4:28 a.m. Sunday and had roughly 50 more e-mails about it within a matter of hours. Not one of them was from a fan in support of this deal.
As of this writing (Sunday evening), nothing is official. The Indians haven't given any confirmation that the reports from the Boston newspapers are legit.
Personally, I'm a little skeptical about what the Indians would be getting back for Crisp. Trading a player as popular as he is will get the requisite groaning, of course, but this is a move that would seem to benefit the Indians' future much more than the present. Marte is a top third-base prospect who could probably take over the reins from Boone in 2007, but what does that do for the Tribe in '06? Not much.
I'll reserve further judgment until a deal is official (if that happens), but if my inbox is any indication, fans are rather peeved at the prospect of this move.
So now that the whole Crisp fiasco has happened, where do we line up for our slice of your paychecks? -- Scott C., Phoenix
Hey, hey, hey, Scott. Let's hold off on putting me in bankruptcy until it's guaranteed Crisp will be in another uniform next season. And if that is the case, you better believe I'll be coming after Justice B. Hill, who had the audacity to bet my paychecks on Coco staying put.
I hear rumors that C.C. Sabathia will be joining the World Baseball Classic Team America. This will mean that he will miss the majority of Spring Training. We need him to get off to a good start and not be terrible like the rest of the team last year. How does Mark Shapiro feel about this? -- Mike M., Monroe, N.Y.
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It's nice to hear a rumor that's actually true, Mike. Yes, Sabathia is on the provisional U.S. roster for the WBC and could very well be in the club's starting rotation.
Shapiro, as you might guess, is a tad nervous about Sabathia pitching in a competitive situation before the season starts. Though C.C. is hoping to keep his adrenaline in check, he acknowledged that it will be difficult to not give his all for this event. He didn't make the final roster for the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, so he's been hungry for some international action.
But if you're Shapiro -- or any other GM sending a top pitcher to the WBC -- you're almost backed into a corner of being supportive of this tournament, which MLB is clearly excited about. He has already been given assurance that Sabathia would not be used in a relief situation, and I'm sure any starts he'd make would be limited by a strict pitch count.
The Indians' organization has 12 other players on the provisional rosters for the WBC. They are: C Josh Roberts, Australia; RHP T.J. Burton, Canada; INFs Ronnie Belliard and Jhonny Peralta, Dominican Republic; C Einar Diaz and OF Cirilo Cumberbatch, Panama; RHP Fernando Cabrera and INF Eduardo Perez, Puerto Rico; RHP Rafael Betancourt, OF Franklin Gutierrez and C Victor Martinez, Venezuela.
With the Indians missing out on some of the bigger free agents and therefore saving money, do you think this might open the window for Larry Dolan to OK a trade for a high-priced veteran when needed during the season? -- Brad M., Solon, Ohio
It's possible, Brad. If the Indians find themselves missing one piece of the puzzle come late July and that piece is out there on the trade front, I don't think Shapiro would be shy about unloading a prospect or two to get him.
But I suppose the answer to this question also depends on your definition of "high price," because while the Indians might have saved some money by losing out on guys like Nomar Garciaparra and Trevor Hoffman this offseason, we can't very well expect them to take on any players in the upper tier of MLB salaries. Not in this market.
I'm a bit shell-shocked as to why the Indians let go of hope with Brian Tallet. Tallet has great talent, and I don't see any reason to trade him to the Jays for pretty much a no-name guy. Can you help me and the rest of the Tribe fans out here with this one? -- Andrew Z., Struthers, Ohio
It's a simple matter of the Indians running out of room on their 40-man roster, Andrew. They needed to create a spot for Eduardo Perez, and they deemed Tallet the least likely member of the roster to make a significant impact at the Major League level this season. When you consider how long it's taken Tallet to come back into form after his '03 elbow surgery, I guess it's hard to argue with the Indians on this one.
The Tribe found a taker for Tallet in the Blue Jays, who sent them Bubbie Buzachero in return. You say he's a no name? I say he sounds like he could be a "Sopranos" character. In any event, getting something for Tallet beats the alternative of losing him to another team through waivers.
What happened to Michael Aubrey? Is he attending a hamstring seminar put on by Juan Gonzalez, or what? -- Keith P., Fayetteville, N.C.
Yes, and Ken Griffey Jr. will be this week's special guest speaker.
Actually, farm director John Farrell told me Aubrey is fully healthy and ready to go in Spring Training. The Tribe's No. 1 pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft only saw 28 games of action last year, during which he hit .283 with four homers and 20 RBIs at Double-A Akron. I'd expect him to be back with the Aeros at the outset of this season.
I have been following Ryan Garko ever since he was a catcher at Servite High School. What are the plans for Garko since Martinez has the catching spot locked up? Do the Indians see him getting any playing time at the Major League level or are they keeping him as trade bait? -- Fredy B., Crescent City, Calif.
Garko certainly won't be used as trade bait, Fredy. The Indians see this guy as every bit a part of their future as Martinez, Jhonny Peralta or Grady Sizemore.
But the key word on Garko is "future," because he won't be with the club when camp breaks in April. The Indians want him playing every day at Triple-A Buffalo at the outset of the season, as he continues to hone his first-base skills.
Barring an injury, I'd be willing to bet my extensive Chia Pet collection on Garko seeing some time in the big leagues this season.
Last year, the Tribe dropped 36 games, more than half its losses, by one run. It's often been said that a one-run loss is as much the fault of the coaching staff as it is of the players. What I want to know is was this the result of an inexperienced manager leading inexperienced hitters, in which that extra run or two could not be found, or was it the case that our great bullpen simply didn't let leads get out of reach? -- Patrick D., Warren, Ohio
The Indians did a study of all those one-run losses and found an inordinate number of them were the case of the team attempting to mount a comeback and falling just short. That could have been the result of many factors -- from a substitution that wasn't made, a clutch hit that wasn't delivered or an early mistake by the pitching staff that came back to haunt the team.
You make a good point about the youth of the coaching staff, though. We talk a lot about the maturation of the young hitters, but let's not forget that Eric Wedge is maturing as a manager, as well. I happen to think he's come a long way since 2003, but those one-run losses never look good on a manager's resume.
As far as '06 is concerned, the pitching staff has been hurt by the free agent losses of Kevin Millwood and Bob Howry. But I'm of the belief this team should be able to generate offense more consistently this season than in 2005, which should help drastically curb that number of one-run defeats.
I was surprised to see Ryan Mulhern go unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft and even more surprised to see no one take him. What gives? -- Brian P., Euclid, Ohio
It was ironic that Mulhern was named the organization's Lou Boudreau Award winner for the Minor League Player of the Year the same day he was exposed to the Rule 5 draft.
Wait, is that irony? I've had little concept of the true definition of the word ever since that Alanis Morissette song came out years back.
Well anyway, the thing we must remember about the Rule 5 draft is players taken in it must be kept on the 25-man roster throughout the season, or else be sent back to the club they were drafted from.
The Indians felt comfortable leaving Mulhern exposed, because they didn't think any team would classify him as 100 percent Major League ready just yet. Also, guys taken in the Rule 5 are traditionally pitchers or middle-of-the-diamond position players. It's rare for a corner outfielder like Mulhern to be selected.
Who would be the Indians closer if Bob Wickman gets hurt? -- Chuck H., Wadsworth, Ohio
The plan for the time being is to use some combination of Arthur Rhodes and/or Rafael Betancourt in emergency save situations. But now both of those names are popping up in trade rumors involving the Phillies, so who knows?
I was looking over Aaron Boone's career stats and I was surprised to see that his overall stats from last year were not too far off from his career stats. Is he really as good as the team projects him to be, or is he just a guy who had one big hit in one big game? -- Scott G., Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Boone's final '05 numbers barely reflect the story of a guy who struggled to hit his weight for much of the first half of the season. But you're right that he's rarely been one to hit for a very high average. His .294 mark in 2001 with the Reds was a career high.
Where Boone really fell off last year was in run production. This is the same guy who drove in 96 runs in 2003 before injuring his knee in that basketball accident. He came back with the Tribe and was a shell of his former self at the plate, driving in 60 runs last season. I think both he and the Indians underestimated how difficult it would be for him to come back after missing a year of action.
I don't think the Indians are too far off in their assumption he'll be closer to the Boone of old this year.
I was looking at the projected starting pitching roles, and I'm pretty sure that Cliff Lee had the best season out of them all. Why not make him the No. 1 starter, then C.C. and so on. Lee was up there for votes in the AL CY Young Award. What do you think about making him the No. 1 guy? -- Bill O., Medina, Ohio
I think No. 1 designations are pretty arbitrary, on the whole, but C.C. deserves the job, given his experience and leadership qualities.
It will be interesting to see how the rotation shakes out this season. I guarantee Jason Johnson and Jake Westbrook won't be pitching back-to-back, because they have such similar styles. So even though we might be able to look at the rotation and classify those two as Nos. 4 and 5, one of them will end up being slotted earlier.
My point here is that a guy's slot in the rotation is not always indicative of his true rank in terms of potential for wins or ERA or anything like that. It's more often determined by matchups and how his talents complement those of the remainder of the staff.
Well, that's it for this week's installment of the Mailbag. See you on the road!
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.