At the end of April, I wrote about this fantasy I had where Johnny Damon rode into Progressive Field on a white horse. Today, I thought I may write about how I had to shoot the horse to put it out of its misery and then declare the Damon experiment dead as well. I thought that may be a bit premature and harsh; Damon did miss spring training, is playing in the field for the first time in several seasons, and managed to hit a 3-run home run on Sunday. Plus my tongue was planted firmly in cheek when I wrote the bit about the white horse, I had no real expectations that Damon would hit .300 and crush 20 home runs.
I decided instead to write about a different fantasy, something I’ve been joking about for a while now – the players I’d like to strand on a desert island. Why would I like to strand them on a desert island? Because I just can’t stand to see them throw another pitch, or take another at-bat right now. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be rescued at some point; I’m just saying that maybe they should be sent there to give myself, and other like-minded fans a break.
Ubaldo Jimenez – I like Jimenez, I honestly do…when his stuff used to work, he was an incredible pitcher. Even now that he’s pretty awful, I’m still somehow mesmerized by his graceful pitching motion. I just can’t handle seeing another performance like Sunday, where his pitch count is nearing 100 by the 3rd inning (I know I’m exaggerating, but not by much), he walks about 40 people, and can’t seem to find the strike zone. I guess I shouldn’t complain about him not being able to find the strike zone, because when he does manage to find it, batters just tee off on flat pitches that cruise down the center of the plate. So he needs to set sail for the island, and maybe he can work through some things while he’s there. I still think there’s hope for him to turn things around, so I’m not going to cheer for some smoke monster to eat him or anything (sorry, if I’m talking about an island there needs to be an obligatory Lost reference).
Johnny Damon – I wasn’t so naive to think that Damon would solve all of the outfield’s problems; I did think he’d be doing better than .152/.239/.228 about a month into the experiment. He’s pretty much an automatic out at this point, and he can barely throw the ball to the cutoff man (not that he ever had a great arm). I feel bad about shipping him off, because I like Johnny Damon. He seems like he’s a cool guy and he had a pretty great career…I just don’t know how much more of him I can stand at this point.
Shelley Duncan – Much like Damon, Shelley Duncan seems like he’s a pretty cool guy. Unfortunately, being a cool guy shouldn’t necessarily guarantee you a spot in the starting nine. Every time I badmouth Duncan’s playing ability, I feel like I get nailed by his legions of supporters. I know he won the International League batting title a few years back, and I’ll even concede that he deserved a chance to see what he could do long-term at the major league level. So far in 2012, I think he’s proved why he’s 33, yet has never managed to stick long term in the bigs – his .200/.311/.360 line is less than impressive. At the beginning of the season, he seemed more selective at the plate, and was rewarded by coming through in some clutch moments. For the past month or so, Duncan has completely lacked plate discipline…just throw a pitch low and away and he’ll swing and miss. Really throw a pitch anywhere at this point and it’s likely to turn into an out somehow. He’s on pace to strike out much more often that he did last season – so far in 2012, Duncan has managed to strike out 32 times in 119 at-bats, or 27% of the time. In 2011 he struck out 56 times in 247 at-bats, or 23% of the time. I still think he holds some value as a right-handed bat off the bench; I just think I’m tired of seeing him start more than a day a week. (To be fair, lately he hasn’t started in left much more often than that.)
Aaron Cunningham – I was already tired of seeing Aaron Cunningham hit by the end of spring training. In the Indians’ defense, no other options were really better than Cunningham at that point. Fred Lewis, Felix Pie, and Ryan Spilborghs were the other choices in camp, and none of them seemed to perform much better. The Indians traded minor league reliever Cory Burns (and designated Josh Judy to clear a roster spot) to obtain Cunningham from the San Diego Padres, and he was out of options. You didn’t want to risk losing him by designating him, so there he sits. Since he’s the only other outfielder that can really play center field aside from Michael Brantley (although Shin-Soo Choo probably could in a pinch), you also need to keep him around in case something happens to Brantley, or he just needs a day off. His bat doesn’t have as much pop as Duncan’s, and his .208/.300/.245 line is pretty sad as well. But hey…at least he bats right handed, even if he doesn’t do it very well.
These are people that I stopped short of excommunication to the island (but they’re still on my short list):
Jairo Asencio – The only reason he’s safe is that he’s already been designated for assignment.
Casey Kotchman – He’s been steadily improving offensively as May progresses, and actually has his numbers up to .220/.298/.327. His defense alone would probably be enough to earn him a reprieve from banishment.
Lou Marson – Marson has been pretty dreadful so far this year, but I cut him some slack due to the fact that he hadn’t gotten much playing time. There was a good reason for that – as my friends pointed out last Thursday, at the time he was hitting a “gentleman’s 0.74.” In just a few short days, he’s already pulled it up to .147/.293/.206 with a little extra playing time in the wake of the Santana injury. Plus Marson got knocked in the face on Sunday, yet spit out some blood and stayed in the game…he eventually needed three stitches. That’s pretty badass, as far as I’m concerned.
Justin Masterson – As much as it pains me to say it, after last night’s game against the Royals, I’m about ready to banish Masterson as well. Whatever disease is affecting Jimenez’s pitching, it’s obviously spread to Masterson as well. It may be best to quarantine both of them before they infect the rest of the pitching staff.
Do you have any additional suggestions? Maybe we could even turn this into a reality show – “I swear I’m a major leaguer, get me off this island!”