July 24, 2014

A Faustian Bargain: To Pitch or Not to Pitch?

Let me take you back a few years, to a time before the trades of CC, Cliff, or Victor.  We still had Jhonny at SS, and the Bearded Blunder at third.  We looked like a reasonably talented, if young, team.  The promise of the 2007 playoff team was starting to emerge, though it still felt a long way off.  It was late July of 2006, and Mark Shapiro had just traded Bob Wickman to the Atlanta Braves, leaving the Indians with a hole in the back-end of the bullpen.

In all of his Wedgian Wisdom, the Grinder turned to a shy, 22 year-old rookie who barely spoke a word of English and had been with the team all of three months to assume the interim closer duties.  And in a span of seven days, from July 30th through August 5th, Fausto Carmona recorded four losses and three blown saves, shattering an otherwise promising young pitcher’s confidence for the remainder of the season.  I still haven’t forgiven David Ortiz or Pudge Rodriguez for their roles in this debacle.  But above all, I remember blaming Wedge.  After Carmona’s fourth loss–the one that put Tom Mastny (!) in the closer’s role–I think I even remember watching Fausto do something worse than cry: he stood precariously on the mound with his arms hugging his head, looking very much like a kid who wanted to give up pitching forever.

Why do I bring any of this horror up?  A few reasons, I guess.  First, it’s striking that the following year, that same shy pitcher put together a season that put him third in the AL Cy Young voting, behind his affable teammate CC Sabathia.  He rebounded to form by remembering not to overthrow his sinker and remaining composed and confident.  But more importantly, it reminds me of how fragile Fausto can be, and how he might not be cut out for moments that put undue amounts of stress on him.  He’s always on the edge, and I keep hoping that nothing comes along to push him over.

We all know that the Indians have put the last two years into rebuilding Fausto’s confidence, his delivery, his composure, his mound presence, his psyche.  Where any of these things went is anyone’s guess, but Fausto lost himself after that magical 2007.  And guess how many relief appearances Fausto has had since that fateful 2006 stint as closer.  None.

Until next week, that is.  Since Shin-Soo Choo will not be available for the All-Star game due to injury, Fausto will represent the Cleveland Indians in Anahiem.  If he pitches, it will be in a relief role, in a situation that he isn’t used to, with gobs of media pressure, surrounded by players he doesn’t know, and with a manager he’s likely never spoken to before.  And it makes me nervous.

It makes me nervous because I don’t want to see Fausto fall apart again.  We’ve seen that movie, and it’s not pretty.  I don’t want him to lose his confidence, or overthrow, or get hit around and take the loss.  For me, only bad things can happen if he pitches.  I suppose this is the essence of Cleveland Pessimism, but I can’t help it.  I don’t want him to pitch in the All-Star Game.

I won’t spend time berating how silly the All-Star game has become because I likely wouldn’t be able to stop.  I have essentially lost interest in the entire spectacle.  But next Tuesday, I will be rooting for something–not a team, or a particular player, or even a well-played game.  I’ll be rooting for Fausto to stay glued to the bench, and get safely home to Cleveland, unscarred by all that could possibly happen to him.

  • Tommy

    Don’t think you have much to be worried about here. He seems like the perfect candidate for the “save him just in case this thing goes 15 innings” role. There will be no one demanding that Carmona get a chance to pitch, and no one particularly upset if he doesn’t get in the game.

  • Lyon

    Interesting idea Jon. Not sure it’s the same thing as closing a real game, but I’m with ya. We need all the help we can get.

  • Jim

    Well this completely ignores the “gnat” game, a game with much more pressure than any midseason implosion Fausto had experienced previously. That Fausto couldn’t even be bothered when a million insects swarmed his face, while the over hyped Joba Chamberlin melted under the same pressure.

  • mgbode

    Carmona throws in the allstar game. Meatballs right over the middle. NL scores 6 runs before Carmona gets yanked.

    Afterwards, when questioned, Carmona states:

    “I hate the Yankees. No way am I helping them get home field advantage in the World Series.”

    Hey, I can dream.

  • Tommy

    @4 awesome… he would be my favorite player in a heartbeat

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Jon

    @ Jim: I did leave out the midge-game. I was there that night: one of the best games I’ve been to, and a gutsy performance by Carmona.

    The difference, in my mind, is that the midge game *meant* something. It was worth the possibility that Fausto might crack under the pressure to get us to the World Series. Luckily, he didn’t crack. Unluckily, we didn’t make it through the Boston series.

    But to risk wrecking him for an exhibition game that will mean nothing to the Indians? The thought turns my stomach. I don’t believe he’s destined to flame out at the All-Star game. I just don’t want to take the risk of it happening for no tangible reward.

  • Ben

    That bearded blunder got us Santana…

  • The Other Tim

    My favorite moment from The Midge Game? Fausto staring into Victor’s glove, surrounded by bugs when it appears that he even eats one without flinching. Ice in his veins compared to Joba.

  • subadai

    WFNY,

    Please use your influence in the blogosphere to begin a campaign in the state of Ohio, and beyond, to donate (and match or exceed) the amount of money that, He-Who-Shall-Henceforth-Not-Be-Named (Lebron James), has donated to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

    There is no reason that he should be allowed to use his access to the media conglomerates of our nation to salve the pain of the sin he has committed against the good people of Ohio or to implicate the Boys and Girls Clubs of America in that same sin.

    It would be just and right if those of us with the means donated to the same charity with an amount they can afford. Not one of us has the means that He-Who-Shall-Henceforth-Not-Be-Named has, but there are more of us. Our voices should be heard. The people who will continue to LIVE in Ohio should support the Boys and Girls Clubs of Ohio.

    I will make the first contribution of $200.00.

    WFNY, just tell me where to send it.

    I urge all other WFNY posters to ask the same question of our moderators.