I suppose if I ever get married, a time will come, after several decades of marital bliss, when the topics of conversation between my wife and I will dry out. At such time, I'll turn to my bride, who by this point will be utterly bored with my existence, and I'll say, "How about this weather we're having?"
The weather, you see, was invented merely as a fallback plan for human beings to have something to discuss when all else fails. And so, such particularly inane phrases as "Hot enough for ya?" came to be.
I despise conversations about the weather, because, frankly, it gives me little emotional comfort to commiserate with strangers in line at McDonald's about the rain in the forecast.
That being said, how about this weather we're having?
Last week in Boston, as temperatures topped 100 degrees and the heat index (whatever that is) reached upwards of 115 degrees, it dawned on me that this isn't your average summer. I reached this rather perceptive conclusion right about the time I made the 30-minute trek from my hotel to Fenway Park, lost 10 pounds of sweat and began having hallucinations that the fire hydrants were giant bottles of Gatorade.
Some say this heat is caused by global warming, but that's a tough sell to anyone who's ever endured a Cleveland winter. All I know is that, yes, it is hot enough for me.
All right, enough with the fallback plan. Let's get to your questions.
Fausto Carmona has made a lot of progress this year. He went from Minor League starter to Major League starter, back to starter in the Minors, then was brought up to be a reliever with the Tribe. He rose from middle relief to setup man, where he excelled with an ERA around 1.00 in that setup role. In the last week, he has blown three saves and also given up four runs in the ninth to Seattle in a tie game. Are the Indians undoing all of the progress Carmona has made by giving him another mental hurdle to overcome in one year? It seems like a lot to ask of a young player. -- Rich S., Columbus, Ohio
That's probably the most practical question to ask of the closing situation at this point, Rich. Now that Carmona has lost his first three save opportunities, the Indians will start putting together a closer-by-committee scenario. Carmona will remain in that mix, I'm sure, but he won't be the only one.
In this lost season, Carmona and Jeremy Sowers were the best two stories going for the Indians. But this past week has really been a test for Carmona's mental makeup. You can't help but hope this whole experience doesn't ruin the kid, though he seems to be holding up pretty well.
When all is said and done this year, we'll look at the bulk of Carmona's work and see a 22-year-old who rose up to several challenges placed in front of him and jumped all over the organizational radar. His raw stuff and confidence gave the Indians every reason to take a chance on him as their closer, but after the roughest of debuts, I think the club is doing the right thing by scaling his job back to more of a setup role.
If the Indians' closer for '07 is already in-house, he has yet to convincingly present himself. Fans are now calling for Jason Davis to get more closing opportunities after his impressive debut last week in Boston, and I'm sure he'll be considered when those situations arise. But one save does not a closer make, nor does one blown save. If the offseason began today, the Indians would be exploring the trade or free agency route to find their ninth-inning guy.
I once read that Richie Scheinblum, an outfielder who played for the Indians in the 1960s joked that "Maybe we should change our name to the Cleveland Utility Company. All we have are utility players."
With the exception of Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, and Travis Hafner, the Indians' roster is now full of position players who go to the stadium expecting to platoon. Looking back at the recent (and distant) history of World Series champions, there's not one team who won with a roster like this. Do you think that this is simply something us fans will see for the rest of this year as the front office sees who can play, or do you think this will be something we will have to look forward to for next year? -- Jason D., Avon, Ohio
It appears the Indians lead the league in versatility, Jason. Yes, versatility is nice to have, but relying on it solely to win a championship is like trying to win a beauty pageant solely with personality.
This obviously wasn't the Tribe's goal for '06, but desperate times call for desperate measures. It doesn't take an astute baseball mind to see this team has questions that will need to be addressed this winter. So with the time that's left this season, the Indians hope to get a firm read on what their needs are and will be. Do they need to go after a second baseman? A first baseman? A corner outfielder? All of the above?
Still, regardless of what holes the Indians fill, I'm expecting the team to utilize its versatility -- the organization's favorite buzzword right now -- next season. You'll still see Victor Martinez get some starts at first, you'll probably see Casey Blake in more than one position and you'll probably see Joe Inglett and/or Hector Luna play all over.
Will Hafner be having surgery in the offseason for his arm? If so, does this make him a prime candidate for first base next year? He wouldn't be any more of a liability defensively that any of the other infielders. -- Dave B., New Cumberland, Ohio
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Hafner, as you might recall, underwent surgery on his right elbow after the 2004 season to remove bone spurs and "loose bodies" (sounds gruesome) from the joint. His problem now, though, is arthritic in nature, and the best thing for his elbow is rest -- plain and simple.
It doesn't look as though we'll ever see Hafner play in an everyday role in the field, because the elbow proves problematic for him if he tries to play more than a couple days in a row. Luckily, the elbow doesn't give him nearly as much trouble at the plate.
I'm new to the trade concept and was wondering if you could tell me the difference between waiver- and non-waiver trading? -- Julie W., Reynoldsburg, Ohio
The non-waiver trading period ends July 31. After that point, all members of a team's 40-man roster involved in any trade must first clear waivers. The waiver trading period ends Aug. 31.
I'll give an example. Say the Indians were to trade Aaron Boone. Before July 31, they would see what offers are out there for Boone, and if they find one they like, they pull the trigger, and that's that.
It's a bit more complicated in August. First, the Indians would have to place Boone on waivers to gauge what, if any, teams have an interest. This move wouldn't be announced publicly, but Boone's contract would be made available to every other club, in reverse order of the standings. If, for instance, the Padres claimed him, the Indians would either have to give Boone up to San Diego, work out a trade with San Diego or rescind the waiver, keeping Boone on the club. If a player clears waivers unclaimed, he is free to be dealt.
I used Boone as an example because it wouldn't surprise me one bit to see him traded this month.
Regarding a nickname for Shin-Soo Choo, please consider my personal favorite: "Coo-Coo-Ca-Choo." I am the walrus! What do you think, Beatles fans? -- Lynn von Kaenel, Clovis, Calif.
Sorry, Lynn, but I've been informed by the good folks at letsgotribe.com that Choo's official unofficial nickname is "Big League Choo." Frankly, I see no reason not to close the door on any other nickname opportunities for our buddy, Sin-Shoo, because that's just perfect.
What responsibility, if any, should Eric Wedge shoulder for the Indians' miserable season? I've heard, for example, that he convinced Mark Shapiro to keep Ramon Vazquez over Brandon Phillips. On the other hand, it was Shapiro who traded Coco Crisp. I guess what I'm asking is: Should Wedge be a lock to keep his job next year? -- Al N., South Bend, Ind.
Wedge and his coaching staff, Shapiro and his front-office staff and the players all shoulder the responsibility for this sour season. Will that responsibility cost Wedge his job? Well, it won't during the season. That much is known. As for the offseason, I still can't help but doubt it.
Shapiro has long stood in Wedge's corner, stressing that the two work as "partners" in the running of this club. Though the partnership has, no doubt, been challenged at unforeseen levels this season, I've seen no evidence that it's dissipated.
Though the Indians have often played like the type of club that fires its manager (most often through poor defensive execution and sloppy baserunning), many of their problems this season are just as attributable to those who built the club as those who oversee it on the day-to-day level. If the clubhouse was running amuck, my answer might be different, but for now my best guess is that Wedge is still at the helm in '07.
Do the Indians use a sports psychologist? If not, do they plan to add one soon? Because most people on the team and outside seem to think a big part of the problems are in their heads. -- Fred C., Palo Alto, Calif.
They do, indeed, use a psychologist. In fact, they have used the same one for the past 10 years -- Dr. Charles Maher, who, in the past, has worked with the White Sox, Yankees and Tigers, among others.
Maher works with Indians players at both the Major League and Minor League levels. He also administers psychological testing of prospects for the First-Year Player Draft.
And finally...I was thoroughly disappointed and borderline offended that "Weekend at Bernie's II" was not included in this week's mailbag. Could you please include it in some way, shape or form next mailbag? -- Ricky W., Westlake, Ohio
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.