We get that it is far different covering a major league professional sports team now than it was, say, 20-25 years ago.
The executives and the manager/head coaches don’t like answering pointed questions, mainly because the players, who have come up in an atmosphere of coddling, don’t like to be criticized in the media.
That leads to politically correct responses, and probably a conversation behind close doors with the parties who earned the coaches’ ire.
So, we understand that it is not in the beat writers’ best interests to ask Terry Francona, GM Chris Antonetti, or team president Mark Shapiro tough questions, particularly ones that they have no desire to answer in public.
However, here are some things that deserve answers from the management.
Why Does Michael Brantley Continue to Play Centerfield? Brantley’s numbers as a LF and a CF aren’t very different, he has an OPS of 788 playing in the middle of the outfield compared to a 797 figure in LF. However, it is clear to us that Brantley’s defense is not up to par in center, and his power numbers are off dramatically (70 points) from a year ago.
Covering more ground in a more demanding defensive position likely puts more pressure on his back, which has been bothering him all season.
When last year’s all-star doesn’t play the field, when he’s used as a DH, his OPS is 860, a figure very comparable to 2014’s 890.
With the offense struggling mightily, doesn’t it make sense to put one of the Tribe’s primary offensive threats in a less demanding defensive spot?
Is There a Need For a Situational Lefty in the Bullpen? The pure numbers say Marc Rzepczynski is doing a solid job, with 23 strikeouts and 10 walks in 17-2/3 innings. The stat guys will point out he’s got a good strikeout to walk ratio.
On the other hand, last season, the man they call Scrabble allowed left-handed hitters to bat just .180 against him, with an incredibly low 441 OPS.
This season, those figures are a .234 batting average against, the OPS has risen to 640.
Worse, Francona seems to have lost some trust in the southpaw, bringing in Cody Allen in today’s game with lefty swinging Joey Votto at the plate with a man on and two out in a 3-1 game.
Last year, Tito would’ve definitely went with Rzepczynski in that situation.
Do They Really Need Eight Relievers? This ridiculousness has now gone on for about a month.
We know Francona likes to keep his relievers fresh, but now that the starting pitching has stabilized, there is no need to carry that many guys in the bullpen.
There simply isn’t enough work.
The guys who can be said to be taking up a roster spot that could be better utilized are “long” relievers Jeff Manship, Ryan Webb, and Austin Adams.
If ALL of those pitchers are used more than one in a seven game span, it would be shocking. Adams came into the game Friday night, and quite frankly, we forgot he was on the roster.
Again, with the offensive struggles the Indians are going through, wouldn’t an extra bat on the bench make more sense?
And we haven’t even mentioned questions like “Why is Francisco Lindor still hitting second?” or “Why do we keep playing Mike Aviles in the outfield?” or “What was it that finally made Lindor ready for the big leagues?”
We would just love to hear how the Tribe management would avoid these questions with their normal corporate double speak.
Instead, we will have to speculate our own answers.