World Series Buried Lead: The Cleveland Factor

(The Big Dead Sidebar will try to provide readers with a buried lead before each and every World Series game.  This is the first in a series.)

Unless you're totally oblivious to playoff baseball, you know that former Cleveland Indians pitchers CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee are the Game 1 starters for the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, respectively.  The fact that they are no longer members of the Tribe could be one of the primary reasons Manny Acta has a job in Cleveland and Eric Wedge is somewhere in an unemployment line.

Lee went 22-3 with a 2.54 earned run average in a little more than 223 innings en route to a Cy Young.  In eight seasons with Cleveland, Lee posted an 83-48 record including 14-win seasons in 2004 and 2006, sandwiching an 18-win season in 2005.

Then there's Sabathia, who wile he was in Cleveland was known as C.C. Sabathia.  (Yes, he took out the periods after being traded to Milwaukee.)  Watching Sabathia start a World Series in a Yankees uniform has to be painful for fans of the mistakes by the lake.  It would have been different had Sabathia returned to Milwaukee, gone west to be closer to home, stayed in the National League or went west and stayed in the National League.  Instead, he took the money and pressure that comes with playing in the Bronx.  And he performed.

Sabathia went 106-81 in his eight year career in Cleveland, but really didn't put it all together until his 2007 Cy Young season.  He went 19-7 with a  3.21 ERA while making a league-most 34 starts and pitched a league high 241 innings.  Those numbers aren't eye-popping enough for you?  How about the ridiculous amount of hitters he faced, 975 in total.

After struggling in the playoffs, and out of the gate in Cleveland, Sabathia regained the magic touch in Milwaukee (I'm convinced it was the bratwurst) and went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA while racking up 128 strikeouts in a little more than 130 innings.  Sabathia single-handedly carried the Brewers into the playoffs.

Honestly, how often does a team develop two true aces who end up bringing home Cy Young Awards in consecutive seasons and then are traded away in consecutive seasons?  Not often?  How about not ever.  But if was going to happen anywhere, it would be in Cleveland.

But it doesn't stop there.  The Tribe could field a team of players they've cut ties with that happened to reach the playoffs this season.

The Indians could have had Manny Ramirez (Dodgers) in left, and Ryan Ludwick (Cardinals) in right field.  Casey Blake and Ron Belliard (Dodgers) could have been playing third and shortstop, respectively, with Mark DeRosa (Cardinals) at second.  Jim Thome (Dodgers) could have handled first with Victor Martinez (Red Sox) at catcher.  Out of the bullpen, Acta Wedge could have called upon Rafael Betancourt out of the bullpen.  Heck, they could have thrown Ben Francisco as the designated hitter.

Did I mention a healthy Grady Sizemore would have made the Indians an elite American League team?  It would have. 

Instead, Cleveland is back in rebuilding mode, even though they probably shouldn't be.