Over the course of the next month or two, we will be previewing the Yankees’ competition in the American League. To do this, I will interview one blog for each team in the league.
Today we’ll finish up the AL Central by looking at the Cleveland Indians. I interviewed Matt Van Wormer of Did The Tribe Win Last Night?…
1) The Tribe finished in 2nd place in the AL Central with a 80-82 record last year. What are your reflections on the 2011 season?
The 2011 was a very fun, exciting and memorable season. The Tribe started off hotter than the sun and cooled just a bit too much to make it into the playoffs. Magic seemed to intervene every single game, from walk-off Grand Slams one night to a walk-off single the next. There was a game winning run scored via the suicide squeeze. It was ALMOST a great season. Hopefully, 2012 will be a bit more successful.
2) At the trade deadline last year, the Indians traded a sizable package of prospects for Ubaldo Jimenez. How imperative is it for Ubaldo to return to his elite 2010 form in 2012 and make the trade worth it for Cleveland?
The starting rotation is going to be very important in relation to the Indians success in 2012. Ubaldo has worked much more this offseason than he did last offseason and I think that will definitely help him return to the form that we saw him in while playing for Colorado in 2010. If we can get 2010 Ubaldo, we are in for a real treat. If not, well, it will just be one of those moves that gets questioned for the next 3 or 4 years.
3) How do you feel about the Indians’ offseason to this point? Do you feel that GM Chris Antonetti has done a good job in addressing the team’s possible weaknesses?
The one thing that is really irking me is the handling of the 1st base situation. Matt LaPorta can NOT be part of the plans when it comes to setting the lineup for 2012. He showed us over and over that he cannot handle the duties of an everyday 1st baseman and Antonetti has not addressed that position at all. It also doesn’t help that we traded a 28 year old Fausto Carmona for a 31 year old Roberto Hernandez Heredia. But that’s a whole other story.
4) Considering the Tigers just signed Prince Fielder and look to be the clear favorite for the AL Central, currently what is the general confidence level of Tribe fans?
The Prince Fielder signing was huge for the Tigers but that move was a necessity for them after the possible season-ending injury to Victor Martinez. While a lineup with Miguel Cabrera and Fielder is scary, the Tigers have a lot of people who will need to step up to make the Tigers go like they did in 2011. Cabrera and Fielder can’t bat before and after themselves and Justin Verlander won’t be able to start 162 games. Yes, the Tigers are a good team but they aren’t unbeatable.
5) What do you think of the Indians’ farm system at this time? Are there any noticeable strengths or glaring weaknesses? Are there any young prospects that could have an impact on the 2012 major-league club?
The Indians farm system is consistently ranked as one of the best in baseball. The Columbus Clippers, Akron Aeros and Lake County Captains have experienced quite a bit of success over the past few seasons but I don’t know that any of them will be ready to jump to the Show in 2012. Jason Kipnis’ success during the 2nd half of 2011 wasn’t a surprise to anyone but it was surprising how quickly he became successful. When you can turn two prospects into a player like Ubaldo Jimenez, you know your farm system is good.
6) Finally, how do you project the team will do in 2012?
Simply answered, better than 2011. I see this team making a nice jump as they come together and fight for a win each and every day of the season. The only thing I am weary of is the 1st base position. Other than that, I am very confident about the prospects of the 2012 season.