April 20, 2014

Booooo-baldo – It is time to cut the cord

Ubaldo JimenezThe Indians series with the Boston Red Sox certainly didn’t lack for storylines. First and foremost, you had the Boston Marathon bombings, which took place just after the Red Sox Patriots day game with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Sox came to Cleveland with heavy hearts to face their old manager Terry Francona. Tito did put it out there right away – this series isn’t about him. But he has to want this one just a little bit more than the others. Then there is Ubaldo….

All spring long, the Indians brass would tell you how well Ubaldo Jimenez was throwing. Few believed it. Then in his first start of the season Jimenez bobbed and weaved his way through six innings for a win. He got the ball from Francona on Opening Day in Cleveland and reverted back into the Ubaldo we all know and…well I won’t say love. He couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning, giving up seven earned runs in front of 40,000 plus at Progressive Field. With the back to back rainouts last week, the Indians smartly moved Ubaldo back in the rotation, giving him a couple of extra days to work out the kinks with pitching coach Mickey Callaway. Again, we were told by the Indians that Jimenez had a “great side session” and would be ready for his next start.

Did anyone buy that?

With another chance to show his improved mechanics, the much-maligned right-hander took the mound last night seeking redemption for the Opening Day debacle. Things started well enough for him – he retired the Sox 1-2-3 in the first. After that, Jimenez went completely south. Mike Napoli doubled to open the second. Will Middlebrooks then started the base on balls party. He came back to strike out Daniel Nava, but that was just a stay of execution. Ubaldo fell behind in the count on one hitter after another and completely lost his way. He walked Johnny Gomes to load the bases and David Ross to force in the first run of the game. Pedro Ciriaco fought off a pitch for the other way for a sacrifice fly to score Middlebrooks. Ubaldo could have easily made his night a lot easier and minimized the damage right there if he could get Jacoby Ellsbury.

He didn’t.

Ellsbury hit a sharp single right up the middle off of the glove of a diving Asdrubal Cabrera. Another run scored. Ellsbury stole second without even a throw from catcher Carlos Santana. It is like pouring salt in the wound when Ubaldo can’t even come close to holding a runner on at first. Up stepped Shane Victorino, the man the Indians offered a four-year deal to before signing Nick Swisher. I bet you can’t guess what he did? Yep, walk number four to re-load the bases. Ubaldo’s final act on this night was…you guessed it…a walk to Dustin Pedroia which forced in another run.

He walked off the field, as the late Nev Chandler once said, to a “chorus in boo flat.”

Enter Cody Allen, who promptly gave up a two-run double to Napoli, his second of the inning. That closed the book on Ubaldo with this stellar line: 1.2 innings pitched, seven earned runs, two hits, and five walks.

“In the first inning, I felt good, and the ball was coming out of my hand good,” Jimenez said. “In the second inning, I couldn’t control the ball. I don’t know why. I really felt good, I just wasn’t able to close out the inning after there were two outs.”

I’m going to be completely reactionary here. I’m one for patience, but this is an extreme instance. The time has arrived. We have all seen enough of Ubaldo Jimenez. What more does he have to do to prove that he isn’t a viable starting pitcher? He has horrific mechanics that a third pitching coach in three years can’t seem to fix. His velocity is a shell of what it was during his half-season peak in Colorado in 2010. The Indians cannot continue to trot this guy out there every fifth day and hope that he can somehow make it through five innings. It taxes the bullpen. The upside isn’t there. He isn’t a power pitcher anymore, he has serious command issues, and he can’t hold runners on base.

Other than that, Ubaldo is great!

You look up today and the now infamous Jimenez for Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, and two other prospects deal has been an abject disaster on both sides. Colorado received what has essentially become two failed first round pick pitching prospects for a guy whom they knew had issues, but still had plenty of value on the trade market. Jimenez has been a hugely spectacular failure in Cleveland at the cost of $11 million and their two biggest trading chips at the time.

Make no mistake, there really are no winners in this trade. White bounced back and forth between AAA and the majors and flamed out of the Rockies rotation. This winter, White was dealt to Houston. He will miss all of 2013 after Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow. Pomeranz made 22 starts in 2012 going 2-9 with a 4.93 ERA and couldn’t make the 25-man roster this Spring on a pitching starved team.

It is all hindsight now, but we can’t forget that this trade was made by the current front office, who bet their two biggest trade pieces on a pitcher with major mechanical issues. Shouldn’t there have been huge red flags up when the Rockies were willing to give up a then-27 year old starter on a club friendly deal that had a year and a half left on it and additional $5.75 million and $8 million team options for 2013 and 2014?

Our friend Jordan Bastian of Indians.com came up with this stat that should tell you all you need to know:

I still can’t wrap my head around what is worse –  the Indians wasting their best trade assets on a suspect Ubaldo Jimenez or the fact that it was Brad Grant and his scouting staff – who are still with the team – that drafted two guys in the first round who thus far haven’t proven they are Major League worthy.

My guess is that Jimenez will get one or two more starts to re-establish himself, but at this point he is too far gone. The second he gets in trouble, he starts to overthink and loses it. His issues aren’t just mechanical, they reside between his ears.

After the game, Ubaldo said he will go back to throwing twice between starts with Callaway. “I have to erase everything,” Jimenez said.

Can we erase the trade?

The Tribe went on to lose this one 7-2 and you have to credit the work of Allen, Nick Hagadone, Rich Hill, and Bryan Shaw who kept the Red Sox scoreless for the final seven innings, striking out 15. That is about the only silver lining you can find in this one. “Our bullpen was unbelievable,” said Francona.

The good news is that Tribe stopper Justin Masterson (3-0, 0.42 ERA) goes tonight in game two of the series. The Red Sox will send out Alfredo Aceves (0-0, 6.57 ERA), who was actually their closer a year before.

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan) 

  • mgbode

    I mentioned most of those pitchers before they signed Myers and as better alternatives to him when they did sign him for that amount. I’m not using hindsight here.

    Hey, maybe he turns it around and his last start was what he provides. We can all hope.

  • Slooz

    Don’t forget the Fister trade. I know the Mariners were looking for bats, not pitching, but that really bites that the Tigers pulled that off at the same time we burned White & Pomeranz for Ubaldo.

  • Steve

    It assumes that you could get any of those guys to come here for the exact same amount, which we can’t do. I would have liked to have taken a flyer on a couple guys too, but the difference we should have expected between them and Myers is almost nonexistent. It’s just a bunch of shots in the dark.

  • Harv 21

    That’s the right business analysis. But you have to consider the human element: Antonetti the new exec already has this blemish on his resume and he may tell himself that his first big deal might still be salvaged. Just like how it’s often easier for a new NFL front office to dump the old regime’s high draft choices.

  • Harv 21

    never had. Will look for it.

  • Harv 21

    I was happy with the FA signings but don’t think signing 30-something OFs is a long-term solution so much as a “sorry I forgot our anniversary” bouquet to the fans. The Dolans have to plow their new TV money into the farm system and start cranking out good ML players, much as the Jacobs did when the bought the team and hired Hank Peters to develop it. Pitching lets you compete, and good FA pitchers will be out of the Dolans’s price range.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cb.everett.9 CB Everett

    That’s true, and I get Antonetti’s personal interest/motivation in salvation–but respectfully I think the blemish is already there, regardless of whether he wants to publicly acknowledge it (by cutting bait). I’d even argue that he would get more credibility from fans if he chalked this trade up earlier, rather than later, and moved on.

  • Harv 21

    oh for sure, fans like me would give him props. I’m just saying he knows that to the Dolans (and potential future employers) the cold-eyed decision to admit error and cut bait pales in comparison to the bonehead decision to make that deal in the first place. The human impulse is to assure your employer, and yourself, there’s still a chance.

  • Harv 21

    I might be wrong but not sure they can just take Ubaldo off the active roster due to ineffectiveness without his consent and still retain his rights. Believe he’s considered a 5-year veteran and can demand to stay on roster or be released, in which case the Dolans would still be paying him (less what a new team signed him for).

    Are we ready to just flat out say adieu without further tinkering? Trade him for some A-level outfielder and financial considerations? My blood pressure says yes, my season calendar says, it’s April. Pull him out with a um, strained oblique, let him talk some more with the new pitching coach, let the weather warm up, see if Francona’s player-friendly aura does something for him. It’s not Francona’s first rodeo, he should know when the guy is so hopeless he’s just dragging the team down.

  • Woods

    Time to consider sending Ubaldo to go to long relief, mop up duty. One or two more ugly starts should be the length of his leash.

    He can pitch when the tribe has already “pre-disasterd” his entrance to the game.

    Let him work through his issues at the major league level and contribute to the team by saving the bullpen in blowout losses. If he corrects his problems he can earn a spot back in the rotation.

    The trade of two years ago cannot be undone. No one was fleeced. Both sides look like losers in the deal. No sense in bitching about it. Time to move on.

  • nj0

    Part of me hopes we’ll flip Bourn and Swisher later this season.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    You are dead right about the human element. You hear that phrase as a business term all of the time, but in my experience it is rarely ever applied to a business. Case in point, my company recently implemented new software that the lead developer told everyone needed to be scrapped and started anew as it was worse than the old software. But some big manager’s name & reputation were attached to the project, so it got pushed through and our developers are now less productive using this software. I think Antonetti is doing the same thing here… he’s got a bad pitcher who can’t be fixed, but doesn’t want to admit to the failure. The cost to the Indians will be possible wins.

  • Harv 21

    And certain execs totally confident in their position can do it – in the NFL I’m sure Belichik wouldn’t hesitate to flush a high draft choice, nor would Parcells, Bill Walsh, Chuck Noll or Paul Brown. But when a young guy begins his GM career with a high profile signature trade like that, an attempt at reputation damage control is the order of the day. He’d definitely need to feel Shapiro and the Dolans have his back before he’d just cut Ubaldo loose mid-season.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Troof.

  • mgbode

    apparently, Bud Norris took Ubaldo’s game last night as a challenge:

    http://scores.espn.go.com/mlb/boxscore?gameId=330417111

  • http://www.facebook.com/cb.everett.9 CB Everett

    It’s times like that where you want to quote the great Marsellus Wallace, “You may feel a slight sting. That’s pride f—ing with you. F— pride. Pride only hurts. It never helps.”

  • nj0

    Good God… the carnage we may see this weekend…

  • mgbode

    we get: Harrell, Humber, Bedard

    so, we miss an epic Norris v. Ubaldo matchup on Sunday. that may have almost been worth sticking around Houston an extra day.

    I am mildly happy that I get to see the first Indians Kazmir start in person.