The Indians lost out on two high-profile players they felt they had made "aggressive" bids for. The negotiating rights for ace right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka went to the Red Sox, and the rights to third baseman Akinori Iwamura have been won by the Devil Rays.
Losing out on Iwamura, in particular, was disappointing for the Tribe, because the team was hoping to land him as an insurance policy at third base, second base and the corner outfield spots. Indians scouting director John Mirabelli had been cautiously optimistic the Indians had made a suitable bid to negotiate with the Gold Glove winner.
"We're disappointed," Mirabelli said, "but we'll move on and congratulate the Devil Rays. These are tricky bids, and it's kind of a 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' situation. We made what we thought was an extremely aggressive bid, above and beyond what we valued the player at."
The blind-bid system, in theory, can be beneficial to small-market teams such as the Indians, because Japanese teams can't take a Major League team's offer and shop it to other clubs. But when the Red Sox of the world shell out $51.1 million for the rights to talk to Matsuzaka -- a number that shocked the Indians -- the small-market clubs can get left out.
In general, the posting system creates quite a bit of guesswork for clubs. Teams don't know exactly which other teams are bidding or how much they're bidding, so going with a conservative offer comes with its share of risk.
"The industry is flush with cash," Mirabelli said. "We've been following a lot of the Japanese media and their projections, and they apparently didn't understand our market, either. It's certainly an educational process."
The Indians, anticipating that this would be an active year for the posting system, have been aggressively scouting Japanese players the past three years. Mirabelli made a special visit to the country over the summer to get a firm read on players of particular interest, Iwamura and Matsuzaka included. Those efforts have not yet led to an acquisition, but the Indians still have their sights on several Japanese pitchers.
"Every step we take is into unchartered waters," Mirabelli said. "We've spent the past three years educating ourselves, exploring the markets and getting a feel for the lay of the land. This is really our first step in this process, and we're learning as we go."
The Indians are expected to make a bid on left-handed pitcher Kei Igawa, who was posted by the Hanshin Tigers on Friday.
"We still think there's a lot of value [in Japan]," Mirabelli said. "[Missing out in Iwamura] isn't going to deter us. We're going to keep going."
Here's the question:
Rookie left-hander Jeremy Sowers tossed consecutive shutouts on July 22 and 28 this season. Can you name the last Indians pitcher to achieve this feat?
Handing out hardwood: All those Grady Sizemore headfirst dives for line drives and legged-out extra-base hits, even in late September, didn't go unnoticed by the Cleveland chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
The group has seen fit to bestow upon Sizemore the honor of being named the Tribe's 2006 Man of the Year.
The budding young star, who signed a historic six-year contract with the Indians before the season began, was certainly deserving. His uncompromising hustle helped him put together a season in which he led the Majors in runs with 134, and he led the American League with 92 extra-base hits.
Sizemore, batting from the leadoff spot and manning center field, was just the second player in Major League history to record 50 doubles, 10 triples, 20 homers and 20 steals in the same season, and he was the Tribe's lone representative in the All-Star Game.
Those numbers, as well as his workmanlike attitude, allowed Sizemore to be a fixture in the Tribe's lineup. He started all but one game in manager Eric Wedge's lineup and appeared in every game.
"I have so much respect for the way he plays," Wedge said earlier this year, "his discipline and the way he carries himself."
Sizemore narrowly beat out a co-winner ballot entry of himself and Travis Hafner by one vote. Ace left-hander C.C. Sabathia was also nominated for the award.
The Steve Olin Good Guy Award went to right-hander Paul Byrd. The award seeks to recognize a player or club official who displays professional behavior in interacting with the media, and that description fit Byrd quite well. Even in defeat, Byrd was gracious and thoughtful in his dealings with the press.
Outfielder Casey Blake and Sabathia were the other nominees for the Good Guy honor.
The Indians filled their director of Latin American operations post with in-house candidate Lino Diaz last week. Diaz, the brother of former Tribe catcher Einar Diaz, has been with the organization for five seasons, most recently serving as assistant director of player development in Latin America. Diaz will replace Ross Atkins, who was named the club's farm director last month, in overseeing the Tribe's facilities in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. ... Hafner has been trying for some time to get Amy Beekman to refer to him as "Pronk," his now-famous nickname. Perhaps Amy will be known as Mrs. Pronk now. The couple was married this past weekend in Cleveland, with several players and members of the Indians' coaching staff in attendance. ... Generous contributions from Indians fans Wednesday morning at Gateway Plaza produced nearly 2,500 meals for those served by the Cleveland Foodbank. The Indians front office will assist at the foodbank this Friday in packaging, shipping and preparing foods to be distributed to hunger programs. For more information, call the Cleveland Foodbank at (216) 738-2265 or visit them online at www.clevelandfoodbank.org. ... Tickets for 2007 Opening Day, opening weekend and the six-pack packages will go on sale at 10 a.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 24. Fans can buy tickets at indians.com
, Jacobs Field box office, Indians Team Shops, Ticketmaster locations or by phone at (216) 241-5555 or toll-free at (866) 48-TRIBE. Single-game tickets for the 81 home games go on sale March 3.
And the answer is:
Bud Black, who was just named the manager of the Padres, tossed consecutive shutouts for the Tribe in 1989.