As I lay on the coach at seven in the evening with nothing better to watch on TV than Jersey Shore, my conscience slowly drifts its thoughts back into my head, as I engage in conversation with it.
Q: So, I take it, since you haven't been watching Tribe games lately, that you are disgusted with the team like everyone else seems to be?
A: That's not the case at all. I'm just in football mode right now. There is no real reason to watch the Indians, unless you are a die hard fan.
Q: This team was in first place in the American League Central as late as July, they fell straight off the face of the Earth like everyone expected them to, and you're not disappointed?
A: If I told you I expected them to be in first place any time after April, I'd be insincere. I don't think anyone thought they'd be as good as they were in 2011. Their future is looking bright, and right on schedule. Though the common phrase around here was that they were said to be "a year ahead of schedule" so that's why I'm not let down.
Q: So why do you think they were "a year ahead of schedule?" How did the Indians do better than projected?
A: As is always the key to a team's success; pitching. When they have it, they are pretty good. When they don't have it, it makes for a long season. But this year, just about everyone had it, and that kept them in ballgames. They just struggled to score sometimes.
Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin, and Chris Perez are some names of young guys who came into their own with a breakout season.
Q: Can you think of any other ones?
A: Look at their roster. Those are just a few. Relievers Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, Rafael Perez, and Tony Sipp all pitched in 60 innings or more and posted ERA's lower than 3.10. That's amazing, and it probably won't happen again any time soon. That is a tough thing to do. The bullpen is usually the deciding factor for the Tribe, and they just had it this year. Whether they'll have it again next year is hard to say. It seems one year, their pen is lights out, then the next they are terrible. It seems to switch on a yearly basis, but I think they've got a stable enough situation where those guys could be dominant again in 2012.
Q: What about their hitters, like Santana? Cabrera?
A: Carlos Santana, in his first full season with the Tribe, led the team in home runs. Asdrubal Cabrera's pop came out of no where to pass Jhonny Peralta for most single season home runs by a shortstop. Plus he was tremendous in the field, too. You remember that bear-handed grab and throw play he made earlier this summer against Pittsburgh? It was a beautiful play. Probably the best one I saw all summer. With him, Jason Kipnis, and Lonnie Chisenhall, the Indians infield is just about set.
Q: So that leaves first base open, right?
A: Good question. Matt LaPorta had a sluggish year, and worst case scenario, it could cost him his job; or even his roster spot. They really relied on him to be the right handed thump in the middle of the order, when he ended up mostly hitting seventh, or even eighth.
Q: What about the outfield?
A: I like it; a lot. I love Michael Brantley, he can play all three outfield positions, has good range, and an above average arm. We know what Choo can do, if he can get his mental state together. And Fukudome was a solid mid season pick up. They got him for basically pocket change.
Q: You are leaving out Grady Sizemore. Why do I sense the hesitation to mention him?
A: Well, he might be done as an Indian. The Tribe has an option on him, and I don't think that he is going to get what his agent wants. All that brutality of crashing into walls and diving in the outfield could have worn him out. His contact at the plate has seen a steady, almost annual decrease. I think centerfield is now Brantley's to roam.
Q: Could Travis Hafner be in the same boat?
A: His job is more secure than not. But there is reason to be concerned with him too. That home run stroke has been missing as of late, and thus, "Pronkville" in right field has become an all you can distant wasteland. But I don't see him leaving, even though it's not entirely out of the question.
Q: It's too bad that the Ubaldo Jimenez trade didn't really accomplish much...
A: Are you nuts? They've solidified their front three in the rotation for the next three years, at least! Think of these arms: Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin, and Ubaldo Jimenez. With those guys, they will compete with everyone next year. Starting pitching might be their biggest strength.
Q: So what is the future looking like for Fausto Carmona?
A: I really have no clue. He'd be tough to get rid of. He's making seven million next year, and nine million in 2013. They're going to have a hard time finding a taker for him. He might be here longer than most think.
Q: I think we've covered everything from the summer of 2011, any thoughts leading into the off season?
A: I'm excited. This season is just the beginning of what could be a pretty solid run for the Indians. They've got some young core hitters and pitchers locked up that will be even better next year. I think they are in a situation similar to the early 90's when they signed guys like Sandy Alomar, Jim Thome, and others to long contracts at a young age. With patience, their abilities came into full blossom that led them to a pair of World Series'. Not saying anything, but 2012 could be a heavy impact, just don't ask the Mayans.