Bleak Outlook Could Turn Bright Quickly

Please hand me that pair of rose-colored sunglasses. And pass that half-filled glass. Why? Because as bad as things have gone for the Indians this season, it might very well be a blessing in disguise. The current eight-game trip has not gone as manager Eric Wedge hoped. Three losses in Chicago and three more in Minnesota ended any hopes the Tribe had of getting back into contention.

It also ended the Indians career of closer Joe Borowski and -- it appears -- ace left-hander C.C. Sabathia.

Losing Sabathia will hurt, even if the reported deal for prospective slugger Matt LaPorta and a couple of other prospects goes through.

Dropping Borowski, however, was long overdue. He wasn't able to use the same smoke and mirrors that allowed him to lead the American League in saves a year ago. His tightrope act of '07 was a complete fluke, evidenced by his horrendous performance this season.

His being designated for assignment undoubtedly had a lot of Tribe fans saying, "It's about time." The only problem is, the Indians have no proven closer to replace him, much like 2006 when Bob Wickman was traded to the Braves. Back then, the hope was that Fausto Carmona could do the job, but that plan backfired and resulted in Carmona getting sent back to the minor leagues.

Right now, the closing duties will initially be handled by Masahide Kobayashi and Rafael Betancourt, but neither was effective in limited opportunities earlier this season.

I wouldn't be surprised if Tom Mastny once again finds himself in that role. Remember, back in '06, when all else failed, the Indians gave Mastny a shot at closing and he responded by saving five straight games from late August through early September.

Even if Masty, Kobayashi or Betancourt steps up and does an adequate job as closer, it'll be too little, too late to save the season. Which is sad, because there was so much hope, so much anticipation coming into the year.

In reality, it might very well work out better this way, rather than see the team stay on the edge of contention, then fall by the wayside in September.

Had the Indians somehow managed to hang on and be a contender for another month or so, they would not have had the opportunity to trade Sabathia for some top-notch prospects who can provide some competition for the guys currently on the roster.

And that might very well make the Indians a contender again as early as next season.

Let me explain:

How about trading Sabathia now, then bringing him back this coming off-season?

There's nothing that says a team cannot re-sign a player it had just traded a few months earlier. Granted, it will take the biggest contract in Cleveland Indians history to bring Sabathia back in the fold, but if general manager Mark Shapiro is able to dump some of the veterans currently on the roster, he might just have the necessary funds.

If Shapiro indeed gets LaPorta and a couple more prospects in exchange for Sabathia, it would help fill what looks to be two big question marks in the Tribe's future.

The Indians definitely need a power-hitting corner outfielder and LaPorta, the seventh overall choice in the 2007 draft, might very well be the answer. He has been tearing up Class AA pitching this season and might be knocking on the major league door next spring.

Also rumored to be in the deal is young third baseman Taylor Green, though I would prefer to get shortstop Alcides Escobar.

Escobar is an outstanding shortstop prospect who should quickly make Tribe fans forget about Jhonny Peralta and the lack of enthusiasm he brings to the park on a nightly basis.

Some might contend that Asdrubal Cabrera is the Tribe's shortstop of the future, but his attitude this year makes one wonder whether he has a future with this organization. He turned off the decision-makers over the first couple of months of this season to the point that, even though he is tearing the cover off the ball at Triple-A, they refused to bring him back up to the majors when Josh Barfield went on the disabled list with a finger injury.

Cabrera has a world of talent, but when you fail to work hard and you act as though you have it made despite being in the majors for less than a year, you have to wonder just how much the player cares about winning.

There's a laundry list of reasons why the Indians are not going to repeat as AL Central Champions this year, headed by the injuries to key players such as Carmona, Travis Hafner, Jake Westbrook and Victor Martinez.

Another reason might be the fact there was virtually no competition for roster spots this past spring. The starters were not pushed whatsoever. In fact, if you think about it, the only guy who had to win a job was Cliff Lee, who has been the best player on the team all season.

Ben Francisco is another example of a guy who had to fight hard to win a roster spot and he has been one of the most consistent offensive players all season.

Competition brings out the best in players. Unfortunately, as has been evident this season, lack of competition seems to bring out the worst.

I don't ever see Wedge letting his players coast through another spring training without any serious competition for jobs.

So as I sit here wearing my rose-colored glass and drinking from my half-full glass of beer, I see a much brighter 2009 thanks to the lessons learned from what has definitely been a forgettable 2008 season.

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