The Only Thing Constant is Change
Its funny how fickle we can sometimes be as sports fans. Consider that every year at the trading deadline we sit and hope for a big blockbuster trade that will put our team over the top. Of course we only want to trade away bench players and marginal minor leaguers in exchange for low-priced superstars. Ultimately it comes down to changing the roster. Giving something up in order to gain something else. We never seem to have a problem with this type of change,(unless of course its Brian Giles for Ricardo Rincon but, I’m not here to dredge up the past) its the changing of the roster in the offseason that seems to cause us so much more distress.
Players come and go. That’s the way baseball has always been. Even before free agency players were dealt like we used to trade bubblegum cards with our friends. Anyone remember Boston trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees? The great Cy Young pitched for 5 different teams before World War I and my broadcast partner Mike Hegan was traded 4 times during his playing career in exchange for cash!
That doesn’t make change any easier for some of us. Watching players like Scott Elarton, Bobby Howry and Kevin Millwood leave is a bitter pill to swallow. Its like feeling betrayed, either by the team or the player, and we are always in the middle of the feud. In Millwood’s case I knew there was very little chance of him returning. GM Mark Shapiro knew when he signed him last January that if Kevin was healthy and had a good year the Indians probably wouldn’t be able to afford him but, it was well worth the risk at the time. I wish Kevin all the best and I am truly happy for him and his family. That still wont make it any easier when he’s not there in Winter Haven, Florida in February.
Of course when one player exits another enters. Paul Byrd will be a welcome addition to the pitching staff in ’06 and Jason Johnson also gives the rotation a solid veteran presence. The Indians did not replace Millwood through free agency but, I believe there is a very good chance someone from within will step forward to fill the void. Perhaps C.C. Sabathia will now truly become the ace of the Tribe’s pitching staff. Maybe 18-game winner Cliff Lee or Jake Westbrook with 29 wins the past two seasons, will become the leader of the staff. Kevin Millwood’s influence on the Tribe’s pitching staff will be felt in the years to come. Sabathia, Lee, Westbrook and the rest watched very closely how Millwood handled every obstacle with professionalism and they marveled at how he was able to persevere through low-run support to win the ERA title.
Sometimes changes come full circle like in the cases of Danny Graves, Steve Karsay, Einar Diaz and Tim Laker. All four former Indians players are back after pursuing opportunities elsewhere the past few years. Graves believes he can bounce back from a disastrous ’05 season that saw him dumped by Cincinnati after the Indians scored 6 times in the 9th inning against him on May 22. Karsay just wants a chance to show people that he can still pitch after coming back from another arm injury. When I spoke to him near the end of last season he said all he needed was an opportunity and now the Indians have given him one.
Einar Diaz and Tim Laker will come to camp and try to compete with Josh Bard for the back-up job. Diaz was the part-time catcher for St. Louis last year and Laker spent the season in the minors with Tampa Bay. Diaz probably has the best overall ability of the trio but, his bat is nowhere near what it was when he first joined the team in the late 90’s. The good news is that all Eric Wedge is looking for is someone who can give Victor Martinez a few days off here and there.
Speaking of change, a number of you have been asking about the Tribe’s new TV deal. It was officially announced after Christmas and appears to a brave new venture for the Cleveland Indians. The good news for fans is that Tribe baseball will be even more available than ever before. More details will be forthcoming about this new partnership between the Indians, WKYC TV3 and Time Warner Cable.