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The June 27 trade of pitcher Tom Candiotti from the Indians to the Blue Jays may bring an American League East title to Toronto, but it also gave rebuilding Cleveland a reasonable facsimile of a big league lineup for the first time this year.
In the deal, the Indians got outfielders Glenallen Hill and Mark Whiten (plus pitcher Denis Boucher), who should help an offense so bad that it has had streaks of 21 and 23 innings in which a runner failed to get to third base. Through Sunday, the Indians had scored 63 fewer runs than any other team in the league.
Cleveland had offered Candiotti a three-year deal worth $7.2 million in spring training, but when his counterproposal of four years for $10 million was rejected, he threatened to leave as a free agent after the season if an agreement wasn't reached by the All-Star break. So the Indians decided to get some value for him while they could.
Now, with Hill, Whiten, Albert Belle, Sandy Alomar Jr., Mark Lewis, Reggie Jefferson and Carlos Baerga on hand and minor leaguer Jim Thome on the way, Indians director of baseball operations Jim Hart can reasonably say, "We have quietly put into place a team that, two or three years down the road, will have an impact-type offense."
Only time will tell if he's right. Until then, Cleveland will continue to rebuild and will avoid signing what Hart calls "large free agents." Candiotti believes the Indians are just trying to unload high salaries. "It shows me they're not trying," he said after the trade, "and that's sad."
The situation for the Indians is sad. They had the worst record in baseball through last weekend; they haven't finished within 10 games of first place in a full season since 1959; they play in an old, outdated stadium; and they aren't drawing well. Even Hart says, "You can't deny the economics of the situation here."
The Indians are negotiating with the city to build a new stadium by 1994. "We have to have it," says Hart. "There's no way we can compete in this division without it, not only from an economic and marketing standpoint but also from a psychological standpoint for the players. This organization has been down. It's been undercapitalized since the '50s. We've been one of the have-nots of baseball. The best part is, these young players together will move into the new stadium."
Here are four pitchers who have struggled this year for no apparent reason. Watch them work, and you wonder why, with their stuff, they aren't big winners.
? John Smoltz, Braves: He was 2-10 with a 4.81 ERA at week's end and had lasted more than seven innings in only three of his 17 starts. He throws extremely hard but gets flustered easily. He has to start believing that he can be the ace of the Atlanta staff.