God bless gift cards -- saviors to the pathetic, uncreative shoppers of the world. And if you think I'm talking about myself, you're dead-on.
Gift cards must have been invented by the same genius minds that brought us the straw, the escalator, the elevator and the drive-thru. They all make life just a little bit easier for the lazy.
Thanks to the proliferation of gift cards, I can spend a little less time in the mall this week and a little more time answering your Tribe questions. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy holiday season. My Indians information and lame attempts to perk up your Monday would be nothing without the input of the many, many Indians fans who fill up my e-mail inbox each week. Thank you all for a great year (off the field, that is), and here's wishing you a fantastic and fulfilling 2007.
Please be aware that the mailbag will take a backseat to Christmas next week, but we'll be back in action the first Monday of the new year. Now, let's get to the business at hand.
Riddle me this, beat writer. Why is it that during the 2005 offseason we didn't hear much about Jhonny Peralta's defense being an issue? He had a fielding percentage of .970 with 19 errors in 413 attempts. This offseason his defense is a problem, even though his numbers are actually better -- .977 pct., 16 errors in 459 attempts. Could it be because he batted .292/24/78 in 2005 and only .257/13/68 in 2006? Why are people making such a knee-jerk reaction to what seems to me to just be a sophomore slump? -- Joe M., Akron, Ohio
Well, Joe, you pretty much answered your own question. When a player is producing at the plate, his defensive shortcomings are much more forgivable. And Peralta didn't produce nearly enough this season for the Indians to ignore his lack of range.
Range is the key with Peralta. While those numbers you just threw at me might look like an improvement, it was obvious to those who have watched this club day in and day out over the past two years that Peralta was struggling to get to balls he should have been getting to. Plain and simple.
The Indians claim Peralta, who must have been eating his Wheaties, grew an inch and a half between the '05 and '06 seasons, and it was pretty clear he had added a few pounds to his frame. Those physical changes were probably the key to his defensive struggles, which, it should be noted, were much more prevalent in the first half than the second.
If you want to talk statistics, let's not forget that 13 of Peralta's errors came in the season's first half. So when the Indians still considered themselves in contention in the American League Central, he was letting them down on the field.
All that being said, the Indians' reaction to Peralta's tough season hasn't been "knee-jerk" at all. They have stuck with him and will continue to stick with him at the outset of '07. He was much better defensively in the last couple months of the year, particularly in the final homestand. But the Tribe is smart to want to protect itself with a good glove to back Peralta up.
Several readers had suggestions for who that backup should be. But as you'll see, realistic ideas are difficult to come by right now.
Can you provide an update on the status of Asdrubal Cabrera? When we acquired him via trade, it was said that although he is a light hitter, he has a Major League-ready glove, reminiscent of Omar Vizquel in his early days. With all the talk of trying to find a backup for Peralta, is Cabrera a candidate? -- Scott L., Cleveland
Cabrera is not a candidate yet. He'll begin the year at Triple-A, a level he's been playing at since the end of the '05 season. Keep in mind that he played a full season at Triple-A at the ripe old age of 20, when most players of his rank would have been at Double-A.
The fast ascension through the Minors has led to some tough adjustments at the plate for Cabrera. Because the Tribe feels he has the potential to be an everyday player in the big leagues, the club wants him playing every day. He wouldn't get that opportunity on the Major League team, so he's best suited to remain in the Minors for now.
Ronnie Belliard is still available. We know he can play second base. How difficult would it be for him to move to shortstop? Would he be a reasonable choice to back up Peralta? -- Tim J., Cleveland
Uh, no. Belliard's arm is strong enough that he can play a deep second base to account for his lack of range, but that is simply not going to happen at shortstop. By the look of things in the free-agent market, Belliard's days as an everyday second baseman might be over.
OK, so I know that Aaron Boone didn't pan out like we had hoped, but why couldn't we make the offer for him to be our backup second baseman, shortstop and third baseman? He seems like somebody that would be good to stay in the locker room, and I am sure he is not getting many offers, so why not give him a shot? -- Zach R., Milan, Ohio
No again. Exactly 31 of Boone's 974 big-league games played have been at shortstop. He'd hardly fit the profile of the defensively solid shortstop the Tribe is looking for.
I just read that John McDonald agreed to terms with the Blue Jays for one year at $750,000. Is there any chance the Indians could trade for him? He would be the defensive-minded utility player the Indians are looking for. He could fill in at shortstop, second or third. -- Ryan E., New Philadelphia, Ohio
Johnny Mac would be perfect for the job. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays have just as high an opinion of him as the Indians do. He could be their backup to veteran Royce Clayton, who also signed a one-year deal with the club, or McDonald and Clayton might end up platooning at short.
The Jays are coming off a season in which they saw their shortstops commit 36 errors, the most in the AL. It's possible the club might seek yet another alternative at the position. If that's the case, perhaps McDonald will be a tradable commodity. For now, it doesn't look that way.
Is Scott Boras the agent for any Indians players? -- Kevin C., Bedford, Ohio
Jeremy Guthrie is a Boras client, which helps explain that four-year, $4 million big-league contract he received straight out of college. There was speculation at the time of the '02 First-Year Player Draft that Guthrie slipped to the 22nd pick in the first round because of teams' hesitation to deal with his agent.
Josh Barfield's agent is Tommy Miranda, a member of the Boras Corporation.
Some people say Boras is bad for the game. But as a former GM told me at the Winter Meetings, "Show me one contract that only has Scott Boras' signature on it." In other words, it takes two to tango. To Boras' credit, he's often the lead dancer.
What's the deal with Mark Mulder? He's a good talent, a little dinged up, but he's young enough, he's a lefty, and he's pitched in big games in the American League. Is GM Mark Shapiro seriously looking at making a bid on him? What would the Indians do with him when there are already three lefties in the rotation? -- Brad D., Salem, Ohio
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The Indians know the type of pitcher Mulder can be when healthy, but he's coming off surgery on his rotator cuff and isn't expected to be ready to join a rotation until June.
The Tribe is among about six teams in the final hunt for Mulder, but it would take a two-year contract loaded with incentives to land him, and the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Padres and Rangers are reportedly the front-runners. It's hard to imagine the Indians going with a rotation of four lefties, and even harder to imagine them trading C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee or Jeremy Sowers. So, for now, I'll file this one under "unlikely."
Which teams are allowed to select picks during the Rule 5 Draft? How is the order determined? I noticed that the Indians surrendered two players, but didn't have any picks. What's the deal? -- Vince C., Willoughby Hills, Ohio
All teams with at least one available roster spot are able to select a player in the Rule 5. The Indians' official roster was at 39 at the time of this year's draft, though that last spot was about to be filled by Roberto Hernandez, pending a physical. That's one reason why the Indians didn't select anybody. The other reason is they didn't see any available players that they felt were worth placing on the big-league squad.
The draft order for the Rule 5 is the same as the order for the First-Year Player Draft the following June. It is determined by the final standings from the previous season. This year, the Indians were slotted 13th overall. Once a team opts not to make a selection, that team is no longer called upon again in the draft. Generally, the Rule 5 only takes about 20 minutes to complete.
Why is everyone in Cleveland upset with signing David Dellucci? Your fans do not know what they've got! Dellucci has always been the odd guy out on every team, even when he was in Arizona. But Dellucci does everything you ask of him for the team. If you ask him to play every day, bat second, drive in 100 runs, hit 35 home runs and provide leadership, that's what you will get. In a nutshell, Indians fans, by the end of the year, this guy could be your most beloved player. -- Joe D., Tucson, Ariz.
Last week's mailbag featured a few e-mails from fans upset about the Dellucci signing. Thought I'd share this one from an unabashed Dellucci supporter. And before you ask, no, I have no idea if the "D" in Joe's name stands for Dellucci.
Well, that's about it for the business portion of this final mailbag of '06. But if the 'bag will be remembered for anything this year, it will be for the shockingly consistent string of "Weekend at Bernie's II" references that invaded our weekly dialogue.
With the year drawing to a close, I asked readers to give me their ideas for a new, random reference -- preferably a song by a washed-up rocker -- to take Bernie's place. We'll see if any of the following submissions hold up over time.
I'd love for "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey to be the thing that replaces "Weekend at Bernies II," but that was the White Sox's theme song during their championship run. I think a better song for you guys would be "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult, because we need some more cowbell in this mailbag. -- Kevin B., Chicago
My apologies for not remembering the White Sox connection to that Journey classic. Can't believe I forgot. I must be coming down with something. And if it's a fever, the only cure is more cowbell.
You want a washed-up rock band? There is only one viable candidate. The Michael Stanley Band! Like our team that shows so much promise, endears itself in the hearts of everyone in northeast Ohio (and nowhere else), but never quite seems to be able to get over the hump to the big time, MSB was THE rock sensation in Cleveland in the late 1970s and early 80's. Of course, that one big break never came, and Stanley became the host of "PM Magazine" on Channel 8. Maybe, by returning to our roots, we can make up for our past transgressions and allow this year's team to do what others couldn't. -- Len S., Edison, N.J.
MSB might not have enjoyed sustained success at the national level, but I give Stanley credit for creating such a regional following. Then again, I also saw him once at a John Hiatt concert wearing creased jeans. Come on, Michael. You're better than that.
Sometimes I live "Life in the Fast Lane," and sometimes I "Take It Easy." But really, I'm just a "Desperado," hoping that "One of These Nights," you'll answer one of my questions in the mailbag. I've decided to "Take it to the Limit" and move to the "Hotel California" if you don't use this one. I think I can skip the "Heartache Tonight," though, because I get a "Peaceful Easy Feelin'" every time I think about the "New Kid in Town," or rather, the several in the bullpen. Just so this isn't completely "Wasted Time," do you think that, "After the Thrill is Gone," Joe Borowski could be next year's closer, or is he "The Last Resort" if they don't get someone else? Oh, and before I forget, "Please Come Home for Christmas," and make sure you wear "Those Shoes." -- Laura H., Barberton, Ohio
Yes, she went there, folks. To answer your question, Laura (and yes, there was a question buried in there somewhere), Borowski would clearly be the closer for '07, unless the Indians surprise us with another bullpen move. Borowski, who may or may not be an Eagles fan, is a guy who might remind Tribe fans of Bob Wickman. He doesn't dazzle you with his stuff; he just knows how to work himself out of prickly situations.
In response to your vintage rock song request, here goes. Let's "Turn the Page" on the '06 season and "Weekend at Bernie's II" and get the '07 season going with a little "Start Me Up." Even though the '06 season was a disappointment, "Don't Stop Believing" that the Indians will be a winner in 2007. With the solid starting pitching staff, the fact that Shapiro spent some "Money" on relievers, and with guys named [Grady] Sizemore, [Travis] Hafner, and [Victor] Martinez in the lineup, you never know if we could be playing "We are the Champions" next October. -- Mike F., Cleveland
Well, OK, maybe the rock references aren't working out quite as well as I hoped. But Bernie is a tough act to follow. After all, as several readers -- including Brian S. below -- pointed out, the Bernie references have even made their way to the small screen.
Have you seen that CBS show "How I Met Your Mother?" On its most recent episode, there was a "Weekend at Bernie's II" reference, and the main character on the show is from Cleveland and has been known to wear an Indians hat on the show once or twice. Coincidence? I think not. -- Brian S., Indianapolis, Ind.
Somebody call my lawyer.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.