I guess this is karma coming back on Wickman (and me) because of all those saves he almost blew, but it was an awful time to receive it. Again, there’s a lot of season left, but with virtually everyone in the AL still in the race, merely keeping pace with the peloton isn’t good enough. What makes the loss even more frustrating is that the Indians collected 14 hits, and had but 4 runs to show for it. Whether it’s due to the lack of getting hits at the right time or just plain idiotic baserunning, wasting opportunities just grates on me. But if you look at the stats, Oakland left just as many runners on base (11), and had as many hits (14). That’s baseball, I guess.
Let me once and for all enunciate my thoughts on Casey Blake, which dovetails with a bit of my philosophy. Blake is disliked right now not because of who he is, but how he’s being used. I think if Blake was a platoon partner for Ben Broussard or played in the outfield once a week and still hit .223/.296/.388, some people would complain, but it wouldn’t cause much of a kerfluffle. It’s because he’s trotted out to right field every day, and his offensive struggles are there in front of you every day that it begins to gnaw at your insides. And I don’t care where he’s hitting in the order, because it really doesn’t matter all too much, but I do care that he’s in the lineup to begin with. A parallel is the animosity towards Matt Lawton during his stint with the Indians; it wasn’t Matt Lawton per se, it was the fact that the Indians gave him a huge contract after trading for him. Heck, at this point I’d take Lawton’s cement-shoed range in right field right now, because he’s still a pretty decent hitter. But I guess that’s besides the point right now. It wasn’t that the Indians should have kept Matt Lawton, it’s that they replaced him (essentially) with Casey Blake.
And it goes a bit farther than just saying the Indians made a bad move signing Blake to a two-year deal last winter, because there are instances where a team made the absolute correct decision and the player bombs despite everything. No, the Indians signed Blake to a two-year deal, knowing they’d be moving him to outfield, knowing that even at 2004 levels he’d be an average right fielder, knowing that he was 31 and didn’t have much of a track record. The good news is that Blake can play the outfield, and he probably can make out a career as a fourth outfielder/utility man. The bad news is that he’s not hitting enough to be a backup catcher right now, and as a result, the Indians have a gigantic hole in the outfield. I’m just glad Grady Sizemore has played as well as he has this season; if not, the outfield would have been Coco Crisp, Jody Gerut (assuming they wouldn’t have traded him), and ????.
How do you make the best of this situation? Well, I think you go to Jason Dubois, tell him that he’s the right fielder, and see what happens. Or Jeff Liefer. Or Ernie Young. Or Andy Abad. Whoever they decide to pick. Obviously besides possibly Dubois, none of these guys are much of a long-term solution, but they don’t need to be. All you want is a .250/.350/.450 line for two months.
I guess my point is that good organizations get the most out of the players they have, and they find the right roles for them. For two years, the Indians did exactly that with Casey Blake, a minor-league free agent who gave them two good years at third base. Then they gave him a two-year deal to play right field, effectively canceling out the great return they received in 2003 and 2004. Hopefully he serves as a warning, so whenever the next Casey Blake appears, they know what to do with him.