- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Now the Indians face a fascinating decision -- do they pick up Sizemore's $8.5 million option for 2012?
Here's why the Indians would pick up the option: Sizemore has demonstrated that when he plays regularly, he can be among the most dynamic center fielders in the majors. From 2005 to 2008, he hit 107 homers, drew 329 walks and stole 115 bases. In those four seasons, he missed a total of nine games, and while he's been wrecked by injuries in recent seasons and seemingly has been part of the baseball landscape for years, he's still only 29 years old and may have years ahead of him as a productive player. If the Indians cut him loose, there would be many teams lined up ready to offer him an opportunity. He would be a perfect gamble for large-market teams like the Red Sox or Yankees or Phillies, because if he gets back to being the type of player he was in the past, the payoff would be enormous.
Sizemore mostly struggled in 2011, hitting just .224, but it may be that he just didn't have enough reps to regain his timing; there were moments this year when rival talent evaluators saw the same old explosiveness in the way he moved and in his swing. It's possible that Sizemore won't ever be the same -- but nobody would be surprised if he became a really good player again.
One way or another, he probably won't be part of the Indians' organization in 2013, but the Indians could pick up his option for next season and either retain him through the year or wait for him to re-establish his value and move him midseason. If they don't pick up his option, they get nothing in return.
Here's why the Indians wouldn't pick up Sizemore's option: Over the last three seasons, Sizemore has played in a total of 210 games. He had 295 plate appearances in 2011 and batted .224 with a .285 on-base percentage. Last spring, the Texas Rangers invested a chunk of money in Brandon Webb, gambling that the sinkerballer would regain some velocity and become a good pitcher again -- and Webb didn't thrown an inning in the majors.
The Indians don't have a big payroll; they don't have a lot of money to spend. If they picked up Sizemore's option, his salary would represent more than 10 percent of their budget, and if he had the same kind of trouble he had in 2011, it's possible that the Indians would get little return on their investment -- at a time when every nickel is meaningful to them, in a year when it appears they have a chance to contend, again. It may be better for them to invest the money they would have paid to Sizemore and sign rotation help.
It's a complicated decision. It's an interesting decision.
For the readers: Would you pick up Sizemore's option?
• The status quo won't hold with the Rays, writes John Romano.
From John's column:
Other owners have no love for the bay area because we are baseball's welfare child. Commissioner Bud Selig has shown no inclination to fight for Tampa Bay, even if this market once helped get stadiums built in Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco.
Right now, [Rays owner Stuart] Sternberg may be the only person in baseball who still has hope for this market. But his patience is growing thin, and he has no desire to fight.
If solutions are not found quickly, he will move on. And good luck if you think the next owner will graciously accept a postseason crowd of 28,000.
"I'm at a point in my life where I'm only going to play nice," Sternberg said.
"Or I'm not going to play at all."
Sternberg could have waited to air his criticism, writes Joe Henderson.
The view from here: It doesn't matter when Sternberg made his comments; his words will have no impact on the Rays' situation. Winning doesn't matter; losing doesn't matter. There seems to be no hope for change so long as the Rays are in St. Petersburg, which leaves Sternberg several options:
1. He could look to sell the team and take ownership of another franchise, or walk away from baseball altogether.
2. He could keep the Rays, but with extremely low expectations and a lower payroll -- and hope that his ma-and-pa shop can continue to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox despite enormous disadvantages.
3. He could hope that somehow, the opportunity for the Rays to move to Tampa or to another city could arise.
But the St. Petersburg baseball market is dead. The only questions are whether the body will be moved, and whether resuscitations will be attempted. The best and the brightest of baseball have operated brilliantly for the Rays, and it hasn't worked.
• The baseball gods are on a roll. It was only a week ago that they gave us the greatest day in regular-season history, and this week, they will provide three winner-take-all Game 5s with extraordinary matchups. The Brewers, who have the greatest home-field advantage in the majors and perhaps the most invested fan base, will play host to the Diamondbacks, who have demonstrated time and again that they have the kind of internal toughness needed to deal with the kind of atmosphere they will face Friday night. In Philadelphia, two old friends will face off: Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals against the Phillies' Roy Halladay.
And tonight, the Tigers and Yankees -- two teams loaded with star power -- will play in Yankee Stadium. Cabrera versus Cano, Martinez versus Teixeira, Avila and Martin. Both bullpens will be fully rested, and almost all hands will be on deck.
From ESPN Stats & Information: With Ryan Roberts' first-inning grand slam Wednesday coming on the heels of Paul Goldschmidt's grand slam Tuesday, the Diamondbacks became the second team in MLB history to hit grand slams in consecutive playoff games. It had not happened since the 1977 NLCS, Games 1 and 2, when Ron Cey and Dusty Baker of the Los Angeles Dodgers did it against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Diamondbacks have hit a grand slam in four straight home games, dating back to the regular season.
A. Jackson went to his breaking pitches more than in any start since joining the Cardinals. Thirty-three of Jackson's 77 pitches (42.9 percent) were sliders and curveballs, and all four of his strikeouts came on those pitches.
B. Jackson threw 15 sliders out of the strike zone, and the Phillies chased 10 (66.7 percent), Jackson's highest chase percentage with his slider this season. Helped by the Phillies chasing the slider out of the zone, Jackson threw 22 of 26 sliders (84.6 percent) for strikes, also his highest percentage of the season. Phillies hitters were 2-for-10 with three strikeouts in at-bats ending with a Jackson slider.
C. Phillies hitters were 3-for-14 in at-bats ending with Jackson's off-speed pitches. He had success keeping his off-speed pitches down in the zone; 29 of his 43 off-speed pitches (67.4 percent) were down in the zone or below, his fourth-highest percentage of the season. Phillies hitters were 1-for-9 in at-bats ending with a low off-speed pitch from Jackson.
D. Jackson went to only one 2-0 count, only the fifth time in 32 starts this season he went to one or fewer of those counts.
The Rally Squirrel returned in Game 4.
Ryan Howard had his 10th career three-strikeout game in the postseason, easily the most ever. Only one other player has more than half as many. Howard also has the highest strikeout rate in postseason history, according to Elias.
Most 3-K games in postseason history:
Ryan Howard -- 10
Reggie Sanders -- 6
Derek Jeter -- 5
Duke Snider -- 5
Reggie Jackson -- 5
Ivan Nova was playing catch at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, in shorts and a T-shirt, preparing for his start in Game 5, and he gave a thumbs-up as he walked off the field. The Yankees will be relying on a rookie tonight, writes David Waldstein.
• Home run tracker: Wednesday's HRs, by distance (in feet)
Chris Young -- 432 (1st)
David Freese -- 428
Chris Young -- 407 (2nd)
Carlos Gomez -- 390
Aaron Hill -- 367
Ryan Roberts -- 355
• The Rangers, who are sitting and waiting, have the look of an organization with long-term success, writes Jeff Wilson.
• The Cubs' success or failure would rest with Theo Epstein if he is hired, writes Paul Sullivan.
The Cubs should go after Theo Epstein, writes Nick Cafardo. It could be that the Cubs would bring Epstein on board and also hire someone like Rick Hahn of the White Sox or John Coppolella of the Braves to help him, writes Phil Rogers.
Moves, deals and decisions
2. A judge ruled against the Dodgers, writes Bill Shaikin.
4. The Rockies will move forward with front office continuity, says Dick Monfort.
5. The Pirates kept all of their coaches, writes Bill Brink.
6. The Dodgers declined a couple of options.
7. Chip Hale, a tremendous coach, is moving to the Athletics.
9. The Royals don't have a lot of roster issues, writes Bob Dutton.
10. The Mets made a lot of changes with their coaching staff.
11. The Astros made some roster moves.
12. It's still not clear what the Orioles are going to do.
• Twins general manager Bill Smith had a candid chat with fans.
• Bud Black is getting strong backing from the Padres' CEO, as Tim Sullivan writes. From Tim's piece:
"Bud Black can manage this club as long as he wants to," Moorad said in a telephone interview. "He's a perfect skipper for the Padres in the near term as well as the long term."
• The Mariners have to decide what to do with their outfield, as Larry LaRue writes.
• The Indians are heading into an offseason of uncertainty, writes Sheldon Ocker.
• The Jays are further away than you think, writes Dave Perkins.
• Make no mistake, the Angels' real GM is Mike Scioscia, writes T.J. Simers.
• The Rockies face a second-base dilemma, writes Troy Renck.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Buster Olney writes that the Cleveland Indians have a tricky decision to make this offseason on whether to keep Grady Sizemore.