I've been going through the AL in order of 2010 record, best to worst. So far, every team I've covered has been above or right around .500. Wins in the AL went like this: 96, 95, 94, 90, 89, 88, 85, 81, 81, 80,
69, 67, 66, 61.
Yeah, so we've just hit the wrong end of that big ol' gap. The Angels were OK, and have gotten at least a bit worse; Cleveland was already really stinky, and hasn't really done anything to get less stinky.
1. Who is Grady Sizemore now?
Two years ago, Sizemore was coming off a third straight All-Star season, with two Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger and a bunch of down-ballot MVP votes. From 2006-08, he averaged 160 games played with 28 homers and 31 steals, hitting .279/.380/.499. In the two seasons since, he's played only a total of 139 games, hitting .239/.328/.410 with just 18 homers and 17 steals (in 27 tries).
A knee surgery sidelined him for most of 2010, and it's unlikely that he'll ever have the speed he used to (and the team won't miss the steals, but it's potentially kind of a problem for a center fielder). But he's still just entering his age-28 season, and the bat, at least, certainly could bounce back.
It's hard to pretend he's a key to the future success of this team, really; his contract ends after either 2011 or 2012 (it's a player option), so if he's still around to help the next contending Cleveland team, it'll be under a whole new contract. But the current team is a lot more interesting when Sizemore is healthy and good.
2. Is Carlos Santana feeling better?
That's a really obscure and terribly unclever reference to an obscure single by an artist I don't know anything about. Thanks Wikipedia! Anyway.
This is the other big injury question, and it is one that has big implications for the team's future, because if he's healthy, they could well have a superstar for basically no money for about the next five years. Santana was stolen from the Dodgers back in 2008, and the first 42 games of his MLB career, in 2010, were pretty fantastic: .260/.401/.467, with 2.2 WAR (something close to an MVP pace). It remains to be seen, of course, whether Santana can actually keep that pace up over a full season even if healthy, but between that sample and his minor league performance, it's pretty clear that they've got a very good hitting catcher on their hands. Santana badly injured his knee in a collision at home plate in August. He's reportedly doing great right now, but that's the kind of thing you hear a lot of in January. This doesn't figure to be a terribly exciting year for Cleveland, but it'll be an awfully important one for their future.
3. Is the next really good Cleveland team already in the system?
The big club has Santana, Matt LaPorta, Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Brantley, and maybe the most underrated player in baseball (I'd probably still put him second to Chase Utley), Shin-Soo Choo. The minor leagues have Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall, future star infielders who could be in the majors for good before the end of the season, and Drew Pomerantz, the 2010 first-round pick and left-handed pitcher with a chance to turn into a superstar. The system doesn't have nearly the talent of the Royals', but it's got some high-quality pieces, and coupled with the young talent already in the majors, they could be a pretty excellent squad in a couple years. Following those guys' progress promises to be a lot more fun than paying attention to the team's wins and losses this year.