Last week, I asked readers to submit their suggestions for the 2010 Indians Inbox theme. Hundreds of you weighed in (though only a handful of you took the time to actually write in).
Those who have been reading this space for the past four years know the tradition. Somehow, either through happenstance or a careful selection process eerily similar to that of the Electoral College, quotes from or references to some element of pop culture are peppered in Inbox questions and answers throughout the season. Past participants include "Weekend at Bernie's II," "Seinfeld," "Saved by the Bell," and, most recently, "Anchorman."
I received nominations for the brilliant, all-too-short-lived sitcom "Arrested Development," for various classic rock songs, for "The Hangover" and for "Major League." I gave strong consideration to a nomination for "Groundhog Day," as the prospect of repeating the same day, over and over again, seemed to resonate with me when thinking about the 2010 edition of the Indians.
In the end, I've made a selection that will probably seem obscure to most (if not all) of you at first, but hopefully it will catch on and inspire you to broaden your horizons. And if not, well, we can always just change course in a couple weeks.
The reveal comes at the end of the Inbox. But first, we have plenty of other things to discuss here in the waning weeks before the Spring Training report date.
The Orlando Hudson situation confuses me, mostly because it seemed to come out of nowhere, at a position that seemed to be filled. How close were the Indians to signing Hudson? Could the money offered to him be used elsewhere (maybe on a starter), or did management see Hudson as that much of a difference-maker? -- Mike R., no location givenIt appears you spent an entire article listing reasons why the Indians wouldn't, couldn't, and shouldn't sign the "O-Dog," Orlando Husdon. I agreed with you, but then why were the Indians among the final three bidders for Hudson? Does this mean they don't project Luis Valbuena as their second baseman of the future? -- Sean V., Milwaukee
The confusion over the Hudson situation was understandable, and I was as confused as anybody. I've been told all winter by front-office members and agents that the Indians have very limited financial resources to put into their 2010 team. And yet reports began surfacing last week that they were "in on" a guy who wound up signing a one-year deal worth $5 million with the Twins and was, in fact, seeking much more.
So, what happened?
Well, the Tribe's decision-makers saw the price dropping on Hudson, who made close to $7 million last year. They considered the impact he could make on this club, both offensively and defensively, and decided to take a stab at him. But in order to do so, they had to get creative. Their 2010 budget isn't any bigger now than it was a month ago. So they offered Hudson a $10 million guarantee over two years, with the vast majority of that commitment backloaded into the 2011 salary and the buyout of a 2012 club option. The 2010 commitment, I'm told, was not at all substantial.
If you're familiar with the Indians' payroll situation and their plans for a more earnest effort toward contention in 2011, these financial details make much more sense than if you simply heard "two years, $10 million." It would have been a clever deal, had Hudson accepted. But he saw a better chance of contending (and, possibly, earning himself a greater payday a year from now) in Minnesota.
What does all this mean for Valbuena? Well, I was told the Indians viewed Hudson as the one middle infielder on the open market worth pursuing in such a manner. In fact, he was probably the only player on the market they were willing to work out a creative, two-year contract with.
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The Indians still have concerns about their infield defense and, specifically, about Valbuena's range, as well as his ability to hit lefties. If they had their choice, they'd have Valbuena in more of a utility role where he could bounce around between second base, shortstop and third this season. But as things stand, Valbuena still projects as the regular at second, getting spelled against left-handed starters.
I saw [elsewhere] a report that attempts to start the clock for Grady Sizemore leaving Cleveland. And while I don't pretend that Grady's going to be an Indian for life, this was something I have not seen. The report said the Indians have an option on Sizemore for 2012 for $10.5 million, which Sizemore can decline and thereby declare his free agency. Is this right? -- Paul C., Cleveland, Ohio
In a word, no.
I've tried to use this space to prepare fans for the probability that Sizemore will not be with the Indians in 2013. It's a very real scenario because of the economic realities of the sport and the doubts, at this juncture, that the Indians could come up with the financial means it would take to be the top bidder for the services of a superstar-caliber player such as Sizemore when he reaches free agency.
Of course, last I checked, it's 2010, so any talk of trading Sizemore -- even when we're talking about a team that traded Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez a year and a half before they were eligible for free agency -- is premature. The Indians do hold an option on Sizemore for 2012, and it remains a club option as long as he's a member of this club. It only becomes a player option if Grady is traded. Otherwise, why would they even bother to call it a "club option"?
The Lee and Martinez examples taught us that the Indians are open to exploring the trade value of their star players well in advance of their free-agent eligibility. But the option clause in Sizemore's contract makes his situation quite a bit different than those Lee and Martinez examples. If the Indians traded Sizemore in 2011, the team acquiring him would (most likely) only be getting him through that season, as one would figure Sizemore would then decline his 2012 option because of its low value relative to his free-agent value.
Sizemore, therefore, probably won't have the trade value in 2011 that Lee and Martinez had in 2009. So the Indians, it would appear, would not have a compelling reason to trade Sizemore until 2012, which is the final year he is guaranteed to wear the Tribe uniform.
Since the Indians missed out on Hudson, do you think they'll take a shot at Felipe Lopez? To me, he's a better fit than Hudson was. Lopez can provide above-average defense at second and third and adequate defense in the outfield corners, with an above-average bat. He's so much more versatile than Hudson, is younger, and could come at a cheaper price. -- Al B., Columbus, Ohio
As far as offense is concerned, Lopez would make sense for the Tribe as a right-handed bat that can complement Valbuena at second, in addition to helping out at third base and the outfield. But the Indians are anything but enamored with Lopez's defensive capabilities and won't be pursuing him.
In your last Inbox, someone asked about Gaylord Perry not being in the Indians Hall of Fame. I was thinking Bob Wickman should be on this list as well. The fan base used to complain about his ability to close out games. However, many people are now beginning to realize how consistent he really was. -- Mike D., Medina, Ohio
Good point, Mike. I'm sure the Tribe's Hall of Fame will one day make room for the club's all-time saves leader. Keep in mind that the Hall collected dust for more than 30 years. No updates were made to it from 1972 to 2006. So there is still a certain amount of catching up to do.
How does Detroit, with a worse economy than Cleveland and a similar market size, sign Justin Verlander to an $80 million contract, and Cleveland can't retain Cliff Lee or CC Sabathia? Is it that the Tigers have an owner with deeper pockets that wants to win? -- Doug W., Denver
It does seem a bit incongruous, doesn't it, Doug? Despite all the failings of the Michigan economy, the Tigers have managed to have one of the top 10 payrolls in baseball the last three seasons, and they were in the top five in '08 and '09. This season, their payroll figures to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $120 million, despite shedding some obligations with the trades of Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson.
Tigers owner Mike Illitch obviously invests a great deal of money into his team, and he certainly has the financial means to do so. Illitch, who also owns the NHL's Red Wings, made his millions selling Little Caesar's pizzas. Should he blow all his money on mediocre ballclubs, his family still won't be hurting for cash. His wife, Marian, owns Detroit's MotorCity Casino, which, according to Forbes, rakes in more than $400 million each year.
I'm sure it's frustrating to Tribe fans to see the Tigers lock up their young ace, while the Indians traded away not one but two Cy Young Award winners the past two seasons. As the payroll figures illustrate, the Tigers are clearly operating in a vastly different financial realm than the Tribe right now.
If it's any consolation whatsoever, this might be a good time to remind you that the Tigers, despite those top 10 payrolls, haven't won anything the last three years. When they last reached the playoffs and the World Series, it was in a 2006 season in which their Opening Day payroll ranked 14th in the big leagues (precisely where the Indians ranked on Opening Day 2009). It just goes to show you don't always get what you pay for, and sometimes you get more than you pay for.
And finally...The best Inbox theme ever would be Tommy Wiseau's cult classic "The Room." Imagine the quotes: "Manny, you are tearing me apart!" or "Oh, hi Pronk" or "I did not hit that batter, I did not!" If you have no idea what I'm talking about, then I would recommend you clear some time to watch "The Room." It won't be wasted time. -- Chris D., Champaign, Ill.
Chris is on to something. I had the bizarre pleasure of watching "The Room" over the weekend, and it did not disappoint. With awkward acting, dreadful dialogue and a pitiful plot, its atrociousness cannot be overstated. It has been accurately called "the 'Citizen Kane' of bad movies."
Yet, it just might be the perfect theme for the 2010 Inbox. "The Room" was made on a low budget and was initially panned by the few people who paid any attention to it. Slowly, however, it has built up a following and is reaching levels of popularity that no one could have imagined.
That's a course the rebuilding Indians hope to follow.
So if you have an Inbox question that can be tied to a quote from "The Room," by all means pass it along. But if you have any comments, leave them in your pocket (that's the first official "Room" reference, friends).
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.