Regular readers of the mailbag will remember that I began occasionally using this space to provide ballpark reviews for potential baseball pilgrims last season.
I'll continue to do so this year, randomly reviewing three parks at a time. If you missed the first couple installments, fear not. Once completed, the entire, 30-park collection will be compiled in my upcoming book, titled "One-Paragraph Ballpark Reviews." The book will be five pages long and will sell for $21.95.
Considering I'm Anaheim-bound, I figured I'd go with a SoCal theme for this installment.
Angel Stadium of Anaheim: Yes, that's the official name, because the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim can't name things without having "of" somewhere in the mix. I love this park, largely because of "The Big A" that greets you in the parking lot (I hope to have a similarly sized "Big A" in my front yard someday). It's hard to believe this ballpark has been around since 1966. The renovations done in the 1990s make it feel like a new facility, and I don't even mind that it's been given the Disney treatment. I even like the Rally Monkey, though I'm not sure I really understand why. Grade: A.
Dodger Stadium: The Indians play here for an Interleague series this summer. If you're a traveling Tribe fan, and you've never been to Chavez Ravine, do yourself a favor and go. It's one of three parks where you can really feel the history of the place (Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are the others -- and, yes, Yankee Stadium is intentionally absent from this list). My only knock is on the configuration of the facility; unfortunately, it does not allow you to wander outside your own section. But if you somehow end up in the field-level seats, celebrity sightings are par for the course. Last time I was there, I saw Rob Reiner and somehow resisted the temptation to tell him I found his work in "Throw Momma From the Train" inspirational. Grade: B.
PETCO Park: I'm willing to forgive the fact that this park is named after a pet supply store. And I'm willing to ignore the fact that said pet supply store insists on its name being capitalized. That's how good this facility is. The sandstone exterior is a nice change of pace, and the way the Western Metal Supply Co. building was incorporated into the design picks up where Camden Yards left off. The excellent views of the San Diego Bay and the city skyline and the close proximity to the Gaslamp Quarter District are added bonuses. I'm struggling here to find a negative, but then I just go against my word and remind myself they actually call this place PETCO Park. That bumps it down a notch. Grade: A-.
Let's get to this week's questions ...
Will we see Asdrubal Cabrera running more this year? He stole 25 bases between Double-A and Triple-A last year, and the Tribe sure could use some more speed in the lineup. -- Josh F., Coshocton, Ohio
Good question, Josh. Cabrera is not what you'd call a burner, but the youngster is a smart runner, as evidenced by those stolen bases in the Minors.
Eric Wedge believes Cabrera will eventually be an asset on the basepaths. But, at this stage of the game, that's about the last thing the Indians are concerned with when it comes to Cabrera's progression. For now, they want him focused on his defense and maintaining his offensive approach at both sides of the plate.
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When Cabrera does learn to utilize his speed on the basepaths at the big league level, he'll be all the more valuable in the No. 2 spot of the lineup. I wouldn't expect him to make a major impact in the stolen-base department this season, but I'm sure he'll swipe a few.
Are the Indians really afraid that Andy Marte will turn into a player if they trade him away? It seems like their only option is to play him every day to find out. Or is that too risky?
-- Lou K., Durham, N.C.
Ideally, the Indians want Marte to be a realistic option for them at third base next season. But as things currently stand, it's very difficult to see Marte getting enough playing time for the Tribe to get a firm read on his big-league readiness. I'd say the over/under on his number of April at-bats is 15, and I'm leaning toward the under (he currently has three with 22 games to play).
The initial rationale in keeping Marte around is defendable. But when Shin-Soo Choo comes off the disabled list, this could get interesting. As much as Marte has struggled, I have little doubt that some big league team would pluck him off waivers if he was available. He's still young and does have potential, even though he seems to have regressed as a player since joining the Tribe in '06.
The question will be how much the Indians need Marte next year. Wes Hodges and Beau Mills are two intriguing third-base prospects down on the farm, but it's hard to know when they'll be ready.
Fans generally seem to love the idea of moving Jhonny Peralta to third, Asdrubal Cabrera to short and bringing back Josh Barfield to play second. What they don't consider is that Peralta made 14 errors in 59 games at third base for Triple-A Buffalo in 2004. His transition to the hot corner wouldn't necessarily be an easy one, though it's still conceivable.
Occasionally, I can pick up the Indians' flagship AM station (WTAM 1100) here in D.C., but I was wondering if you know of anywhere I can listen to games online for free?
-- Michael D., Washington, D.C.
Nothing worth having comes free, Michael. Well, except for those cheese samples at Giant Eagle. (Grazing for free samples, by the way, is a fine art, passed down to me by my father, who might have learned it from his father, along with the unsuccessful pick-up line, "Hey, we're having chicken. Wanna neck?")
Where was I? Oh yeah. While nothing comes free, out-of-market fans such as yourself can always subscribe to MLB.com's Gameday Audio package, which allows you to listen to the home or away broadcasts of every ballgame. It costs $14.95 a year and is a good service, even though it doesn't come with cheese.
Why isn't Rafael Betancourt the Indians' closer? Granted, Joe Borowski is a veteran, but his ERA last season made me cringe.
-- Ivan R., New York City
Betancourt isn't the closer because Borowski saved an American League-leading 45 games last year and, last I checked, he's still here. Taking his job from him after that performance would be uncouth.
That being said, if Borowski bombs this season for a significant stretch, Betancourt would probably be the next ninth-inning option. The two-year deal he recently signed with the Indians even includes clauses built around the possibility of him notching saves.
It's important to note, though, that Betancourt has not had much success in his limited closing experience. He's only converted 12 of his 29 career opportunities, including three of six last season. The ninth inning is an entirely different animal, and it gets into many guys' heads.
Jensen Lewis strikes me as another potential closing option down the road.
What is the status on moving the Bisons to Columbus? Have the Indians extended their agreement with Buffalo?
-- Mike L., North Royalton, Ohio
No, the Indians have not extended their agreement with Buffalo. And as long as they have an agreement with Buffalo, they are precluded from entering an agreement with Columbus. I'm sure this will be a hot topic in the fall. I still suspect the Indians will make the move to the land of scarlet, gray and Wendy's, but that's not for certain.
Why hasn't anyone signed Kenny Lofton yet? I know the Indians have little interest in him, but surely there are other teams that would want a guy that hit .296 last year and can still run pretty well.
-- Vince C., Willoughby Hills, Ohio
I'm still getting five or six e-mails a week about Lofton, and that's five or six too many, as far as I'm concerned.
The bottom line on the guy is that he turns 41 in May, still wants to be an everyday player in center field and the leadoff spot and still wants to be paid handsomely for his services. The Reds and Rays were among the teams who showed moderate interest in him during Spring Training. I know the Rays offered him a deal in the neighborhood of $1 million, and Lofton, who made $6 million last year, was offended by it. So he's out of a job right now and will remain that way until a team gets desperate or he becomes willing to take an ego hit.
And finally ...My father is a lifelong Indians fan, and today is his birthday. It would mean more than anything if you could put this in the Indians' mailbag. Please! Happy Birthday, Michael N.!
-- Andy N., Cleveland
This e-mail is at least a week old, but here you go. Warm wishes go out to this and any other Michael N. who has celebrated a birthday recently. I just hope this wasn't some cop-out to avoid getting your dad a gift, Andy. Mailbag mentions rank right alongside tube socks on the gift-giving totem pole.
That's all for this week. The mailbag is on an every-other-week rotation during the regular season, so the next edition will be up April 21. Keep those questions coming.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.