Goat or Scapegoat?

August 10, 2012

The Radinsky firing is a head scratch and sad portent of the future. Yes, the staff ERA of 5.10 was third worst in the AL and during the losing streak the starting pitching was brutal (0-8, 10.44). But where does the fault for this really lie?

In an interview just 3 days prior to the firing, Antonetti admitted it’s “certainly possible” the front office overestimated the roster talent and “we’re in the process of trying to review what may have caused that”. He went on to add, “If we can’t ride our starting pitching, it’s going to be difficult to sustain any kind of momentum or success.”

But what made the Indians think the starting pitching was ever more than marginal? Take a closer look.

The Culprits

Masterson. Dominant much of last year but erratic most of this season. Reports at the trade deadline indicated the Indians quietly shopped him, perhaps to gauge value or perhaps an indication the club does not view him as a long term solution. Also note the lack of any known progress to sign him long term, a necessity if he remains with the club since there simply is no one else at the top of the rotation. Improvement or at least status quo was a reasonable expectation.

Jimenez. Antonetti’s big play for an “ace” last season, he’s just 13-15, 5.20 in the last year and hardly an ace. On occasion he shows glimpses, like last night against Boston, but continues unable to repeat his quirky delivery and release point despite major efforts by the coaching staff. Last year’s pitching coach, the well-respected Tim Belcher, couldn’t fix him either so why is Radinsky suddenly to blame? The fault here may well lie with wishful thinking by Antonetti:  first, that he could magically fix another team’s broken player and second, that Jimenez has to improve to make the trade look better than we all know it was.

Lowe. He was 9-17, 5.05 for Atlanta last year and the Braves so desperately wanted him gone they agreed to pay $ 10 million for him pitch in Cleveland. Presumably Antonetti saw him as a veteran innings eater who could stabilize the middle of the rotation. But why? A closer look shows on May 15 Lowe was 6-1, 2.05 for the Tribe before he self destructed, going 2-9, 8.40 over the next 2 months. Last year with Atlanta Lowe was 5-7, 4.30 before the break and 4-10, 6.20 after. What made Antonetti think this year’s version of Lowe was any different than last year’s? The truth is he was exactly the same, a quick starting 39 year old veteran who fades badly. How do we blame Radinsky for this? The fault lies with Antonetti.

Gomez. Pitched well at times last year and a strong Spring forced his spot on the club. However, he’s a back of the rotation guy with little margin for error who can be hit. After a decent beginning he lost his slider and was sent down where he remains hot and cold. Why was it reasonable to expect more?

Tomlin. Tomlin’s uncanny control produced some good moments in 2011 and 12 wins. However, like Gomez he walks a fine line between success and failure and once the league adjusted he became prone to big innings and long balls (24 in 165 IP). That adjustment continued in 2012 and Tomlin has been poor with a 50% increase in walks. The Tomlin on paper looked much better than the Tomlin we saw in the games. Radinsky’s fault or rose-colored expectations by Antonetti?


—  Radinsky was very popular as bullpen coach and seemed to have a good grasp of the pitching staff. On trips to the mound he often had a wry smile and projected a calming influence. His replacement, Ruben Niebla, is well considered at AAA and worked with McAllister, Kluber and Seddon but has no major league experience. He faces a steep learning curve.

—  If this move is an indication of the future rotation (Kluber, Seddon, MCAllister), trouble lurks.

—  If this move reflects a larger housecleaning (including serious, hard looks at Acta and Antonetti), then it can be justified. Hitting instructor Bruce Fields is likely next.

—  However, more likely this is a CYA move by Acta and Antonetti.

In the press conference to announce the move, Acta said “we lost a good member of our staff” which begs the question, if Radinsky was that good, why fire him?

Acta also noted, “We’re all responsible.”

Amen, but for now Acta and Antonetti hold immunity cards and Radinsky got the door prize.


  • Drew says:

    fully agree. Seems like Radinsky drew the short straw.

  • SeattleStu says:

    good piece will….as we say in the office…dont confuse activity with progress….

  • Steve Alex says:

    There has to be accountability for the steep decline in the starting pitching this year, period. The people at or near the top know they are on the bubble and need to do something to deflect attention away from themselves if at all possible. It is so bad right now that change is an end unto itself. But Stu is right, that doesn’t necessarily mean progress.