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Living in the moment is hard at the Corner of Carnegie & Ontario

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It’s hard to live in the moment here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

To be a Cleveland Indians’ fan often equates to where the team or players have come from, or where the team or players are going. It’s simply the nature of the proverbial ‘lack of championship’ beast. This mentality isn’t unique to the North Coast, but it’s certainly been prevalent over the past 10 years or so, as the Indians have struggled to play playoff baseball.

Let’s put this into perspective a bit.

Think about the one and only Ubaldo Jimenez.

When you mention Jimenez, there are several things that likely pop into your head. The first may or may not be how horrible he has been for the Indians since they traded for him midway through the 2011 season.

The second is more than likely whether or not the Indians are going to offer him a deal of mammoth proportions at the end of the 2013 season, and whether or not he’s deserving of any of the riches that he’ll likely get.

It’s also likely you’ll ponder whether or not he can maintain what he’s doing right now.

The focus is rarely on the right now.

The right now is miraculous and I never in a million years believed it to be possible. Nobody did. Jimenez had lost velocity, and we’re talking 4 MPH. Jimenez couldn’t throw many strikes. Jimenez couldn’t win baseball games.

Jimenez. Was. Done.

Except he wasn’t.

To focus in the now, you can see that Jimenez has won 10 ballgames, and is likely to make a push towards 180 or more innings this year. He’s struck out 147 batters in 147 1/3 innings, and has an outside shot at 200 K’s before the year ends. His K/9 is sitting at 9, and over the past month it’s over 10. His ERA in eight games since the All-Star break is 2.22.

He’s never perfect, and he always has innings that make you want to compare him to the past, but he’s just not that pitcher anymore.

Today, he’s just not that pitcher.

If it sounds like I’m trying to convince myself, it’s because I am.

When I look at Jimenez, I can’t help but think about how the Indians never followed up with their Jimenez acquisition until the firing of Manny Acta at the end of the 2012 season. I can’t help but worry about how the ‘House of Cards’ mentality he showcased in 2011 and 2012 may show up again in 2013, and more than likely, 2014.

When I look at Jimenez, I see a pitcher that has seemingly struggled in every big game. I see a pitcher that throws too many pitches an inning. I see a pitcher that isn’t the ace we were getting. I see a pitcher that can’t stay at 96. I just can’t let go of that stud that dominated the National League for much of 2010.

He’s just not that guy anymore.

If you talk to Ubaldo-apologists, they’ll say things like, “He’s having his best year since…” bringing up comparisons to the past.

He’s just not that guy anymore.

This is a new Jimenez. This is a guy who fights and scrapes and gives his team a chance to win every time he’s on the hill. He’s not a potential Pedro Martinez from the late 90’s and early 2000’s that could blow it by you with a myriad of pitches. Instead, he’s starting to look a bit like Jake Westbrook, but instead of trying to beat a guy into the ground, Jimenez still has the ability and mentality of a strikeout pitcher.

He’s what Jake Westbrook could have been with a bit more velocity.

In other words, looking at Ubaldo Jimenez today can be complicated when you compare him to his old self. That’s what I do. That’s what I shouldn’t do.

He’s not that guy.

Instead, Jimenez has gone from being a dominating thrower, to a battling pitcher. He’s gone from a guy that can throw 15 pitches, to a guy that will throw whatever it takes to get a guy out.

He’s gone from a white collar bottle of talent, to a blue collar mainstay.

In a bubble, Ubaldo Jimenez is exactly the type of pitcher that Cleveland Indians fans could love. He’s no ace, and he never will be.

He has managed to turn himself into a guy that will have bad days, just like us, but can dust himself off, and show up five days later and do it all over again….and 9.5 times out of ten, will win.

Can he do it over the next two or three years? Probably not, but maybe he can. Did he do it in his first year-and-a-half? No.

But today, Ubaldo Jimenez just might be the most consistent pitcher on the staff when you look at his starts from top-to-bottom. He certainly isn’t the guy you want for one start, like his old self. He certainly isn’t the guy that’s going to blow it by a guy by climbing the ladder with 98 MPH fastballs. He certainly will have 40-pitch innings, and walk the bases loaded, and give up three-run bombs.

But somehow…Ubaldo Jimenez seems to keep this team battling for a playoff spot in baseball games…and that’s good enough for me…

…today.

I know that I just preached about staying in moment with regards to Ubaldo Jimenez and the Cleveland Indians, but I need to hop back into normal mode with regards to this team for a moment. IT was reported by several sources in the past 24 hours that both Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir will give the Indians a chance to bring them back for 2014 and beyond.

Jimenez has reportedly said that he would listen to an offer, and it feels like home. Kazmir has also said that he has enjoyed his time in Cleveland, and would like to continue here In the Forest City.

I’m not even going to talk numbers here, because you can speculate all you want about what teams will offer these two surprise stories of the Indians’ 2013 campaign, but we’ve all heard this before.

What are they supposed to say, “I hate Cleveland, and want to get out as fast as possible?”

The two starters aren’t idiots.

There’s no doubt that the Indians will make an offer to one or both of two, but at the end of the day, it’s likely that the two hurlers have priced themselves out of Cleveland. The question then becomes whether or not the Indians can do anything to counteract the two leaving.

Might they tender Scott Kazmir a one-year offer next season in hopes of signing him to a longer deal? Think about this.

Kyle Lohse signed a three-year, 33 million dollar deal with the Milwaukee Brewers after nobody came after him through the entire hot stove league season. Lohse had gone 30-11 over the previous two seasons, with an ERA just over 3.00.

Scott Kazmir hasn’t pitched in the league in two years.

Then, the question becomes whether or not you risk the chance that he takes that one-year deal, and if he’s worth the $14 price tag?

Then there is Ubaldo. While I want to look at him with blinders, I still can’t help but remember his 2012 season, in which he was arguably one of the worst ten starters in all of baseball, if not THE worst.

Would you sign the enigmatic one to a multi-year deal in the realm of $10 million, banking on the 2013 version being real, or would you back off, banking on the 2012 version returning?

It’s not an easy question to answer, but there is one stark reality: It’s doubtful the Indians will sign both.

At that point, you have to ask yourself which pitcher would provide the Indians with the most value?

Remember, Kazmir didn’t play big league baseball since 2011, and really, since 2010. He only pitched one game with the Angels in 2011. This season, he’s pitched in 130 innings, which is 20 less than Jimenez, and has an ERA over ½ run worse than Ubaldo.

The difference between the two from start-to-start is also interesting. Kazmir can look like the dominating guy from his heyday from 2005-2009. Ubaldo rarely does, but somehow pulls out starts with 10 K’s, 0 walks and painful-to-watch innings.

It’s just odd.

Kazmir, while he’s had dominant games, has also seen a decline in his numbers over the year. Is this due to a ‘dead-arm’ issue that would be normal for a guy that hasn’t pitched 150 innings since 2010? Is this the same issue that ultimately led to his disappearing off a major league roster for the better part of two seasons?

Seriously, I can’t figure out if this is a good problem to have, or like choosing to either reach in a bucket of vipers or cobras.

Good luck with this one Chris Antonetti, and as much as I think that at least one of them will be back for 2014, I’m also likely not to be too disappointed if both head off into the sunset for way more money than I would pay for either.

Who would replace them?

That’s a question for another day.

One other interesting tidbit of information for both Kazmir and Ubaldo. I love baseball reference’s similarity scores. I don’t put a ton of value into either the similar pitchers, or similar ages rundown, but it’s always fun to see who pitchers are compared to, stat-wise.

I took a breeze through both today, and found something that actually took me a bit by surprise.

At the top of the list for Ubaldo Jimenez with regards to similar numbers? You guessed it, Scott Kazmir. Of course, Jimenez tops the list for Kazmir as well.

Who is most similar to Ubaldo Jimenez at age 28?

Len Barker is at one and Ben McDonald is at two. Take that for what it’s worth.

Danny Salazar is scheduled to start on Sunday, against Dice-K. So much for the ‘end of the road.’ I don’t know when they are going to shut him down, but I do know that he’s now gone one or two starts past what most thought.

It just goes to show you that trying to predict these things are pretty impossible with a front office that handles information like a pile of gold.

Danny Salazar is special, and they realize that. I doubt they would risk his arm if they didn’t think he was capable.

My guess here though is that next year, the cap is off.

Let’s all welcome our 2014 ace on Sunday’s edition of Messing with Salazar.

Oh, and before I go, the Cleveland Indians are going to make the playoffs this year. I said it at the beginning of the year. I said it in July, and I’m saying it in September. I don’t think they’ll advance, but I do think they have one more run in them…even without Masterson.

There’s something special about this team, and they are going to show it.

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