As a native of Euclid, Ohio (home to the National Cleveland-style Polka Hall of Fame, as if you didn't know), I am outraged by the news that the Grammy Awards will drop the "Best Polka Album" category from future ceremonies.
How will such timeless classics as "Polka's Revenge," "Bulletproof Polkas," "Polka Freak Out" and "Dueling Polkas" attain the national attention they deserve?
I suppose the award had lost some of its luster. Jimmy Sturr won it 18 of the last 23 years. And three years ago, only 20 albums were even eligible for consideration for the award, with five of those 20 nominated.
Essentially, then, if you recorded a polka album in 2006, you had a better chance of being nominated for a Grammy than the folks who write into the Indians Inbox have of seeing their question selected for this column.
So, put in those terms, the people who have their question answered below should feel pretty good about themselves. Not even Jimmy Sturr achieved this status.
When Grady Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera return from the disabled list, and if Matt LaPorta gets called back up because he's hitting well at Columbus, do you think we will see less of Jhonny Peralta and Ben Francisco?
-- John L., San Diego
In a word, yes, unless Peralta and Francisco show improvement in a hurry.
I've never seen Eric Wedge more dissatisfied and more discouraged with Peralta than he is now. And that's saying something, seeing as how Peralta is in Wedge's line of fire at least once a year.
Though Wedge isn't saying so directly, it seems there's disappointment over the way Peralta is handling the shift to third base. Wedge feels Peralta has a chance to become very good at the position if he commits to it wholeheartedly, and he has implied that Peralta hasn't done so. And Peralta's plate performance has certainly been subpar. He's all but completely stopped driving the ball, as evidenced by his two homers and 14 extra-base hits through his first 249 plate appearances. The Indians say he's not injured, which means his approach is flawed.
As for Francisco, it's clear opposing pitchers have adjusted to him in what amounts to his second full season in the bigs, and he hasn't responded well at all. He's gone through multiple stretches this season where he looks completely lost at the plate, and this latest stretch (5-for-47 and 1-for-22) is the worst yet. You'd have to assume his starting job is in jeopardy.
Any updates on Fausto Carmona in rookie ball? What does it mean to send a pitcher so low into the Minors?
-- Glenn B., Herndon, Va.
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Not much to report here yet. Carmona is throwing bullpen sessions, trying to get his head and his mechanics straight. The Indians took the drastic option of sending him to the rookie level and the Player Development Complex in Goodyear, Ariz., because they feel he's not currently fit to handle a competitive environment.
Wedge said this early stage of his demotion is aimed at getting Carmona to understand why he's in Arizona, what was working on the big league stage and what wasn't working. The Indians haven't announced a timetable for when Carmona will begin pitching in games. And they certainly haven't said when they hope to have him back in the Majors, because that timetable doesn't exist.
Carmona is working with pitching coordinators Dave Miller and Steve Lyons. He's also working with mental skills coordinator Julio Rangel.
When should we expect to see Alex White with the Tribe, and why are the Indians moving him to the bullpen?
-- Dylan M., Akron, Ohio
While the Indians don't draft for Major League need, you better believe they considered the increasing difficulties of building a Major League 'pen when they selected White and immediately announced they intend to convert him. The reason the Indians want to convert him is to accelerate his ascension to the Majors and take advantage of his power-pitching profile. It's difficult to speculate when that ascension could take place, but given his age, experience and a move to the 'pen, late 2010/early 2011 would be the best-case scenario.
First things first, the Indians have to sign White. Last year's No. 15 overall pick -- the Dodgers' Ethan Martin -- received a $1.7 million signing bonus. So that could be a decent barometer of what the Indians can expect to have to pay White, though MLB has reduced its slot recommendations by 10 percent for this year.
Once White is signed, don't expect him to pitch much, if at all, in the Indians' system this year. He's already logged 107 innings for North Carolina this season, including an appearance in the Tar Heels' first game of the College World Series in which he worked nine innings against Arizona State and threw 131 pitches. I'm sure the Indians loved that.
Why have the Indians refused to draft high school prospects in the first round under Mark Shapiro? Since 2001, they have not drafted a high school player, even though they traditionally have higher upside than college players. Only one first-round pick (Jeremy Sowers in 2004) has even managed to impact the club significantly. As a team that needs to succeed via developing its own players, what kind of reasoning can back the Indians' Draft philosophy?
-- Brett G., Erie, Pa.
Higher upside, in this case, comes with higher risk. The Indians have opted to go the supposedly safer route by taking more advanced/experienced players who -- and I'm speaking purely in conceptual terms -- have a quicker big league timetable.
But it's clearly difficult to defend the Tribe's No. 1 selections over the last decade. Perhaps Beau Mills, Lonnie Chisenhall and White will improve that reputation.
With all the talk about the Draft over the last few days, I was compelled to look over the projected top prospects for 2009. I wanted to get an update on left-hander Kelvin de la Cruz. Has he been injured?
-- Ben C., Chicago
De La Cruz made two starts for Class A Kinston in April before he was shut down with a left elbow strain. He recently began a return-to-throw program in Goodyear, and farm director Ross Atkins said he's taken advantage of this time away from both a mental and physical standpoint. If all goes to plan, De La Cruz should be back pitching for Kinston by late July or early August.
The 6-foot-5 De La Cruz had shown an improving, sinking fastball and a strong curveball last season at Class A Lake County and Kinston.
I can't talk about the bullpen. I'd lose my breakfast. Do you see any possible help down on the farm?
-- Jack H., Clermont, Fla.
The Indians were fortunate to get Vinnie Chulk through waivers when they designated him for assignment last month. Now, he's 1-0 with a 0.66 ERA in 12 appearances for Triple-A Columbus, walking three and striking out 11 while serving up 12 hits in 13 2/3 innings. It might be worth the Indians' time to give "Chulkamania" another chance to run wild.
Or with Rafael Perez still clearly a work in progress, maybe the Indians will see fit to give left-hander Mike Gosling a shot at some point. He's allowed just one run on six hits with one walk and eight strikeouts in his first eight innings with Columbus since the Indians signed him to a Minor League deal.
That's all for this time. As always, I apologize to those whose questions I have not been able to get to in this forum. You are free to express your inner anguish through the majesty of song. Or you can join us over at the CastroTurf blog for occasionally intelligent discussion of all things Tribe. And yes, Mr. Sturr, you're invited, too.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.