It is difficult to write a bad word about Indians general manager Mark Shapiro.
Given a small budget, the Indians boss has to be right on almost every move. Make a mistake, and there are no band-aids.
Shapiro has been terrific given his team's limitations. Despite the Indians' struggles this season, Shapiro built a 93-win team a season ago with a payroll just over $40 million. He deserves a great deal of praise.
Having said that, the Indians sit in fourth place right now and are 18 games out of first. Forget a great second half. The Indians will need Christopher Lloyd of Angels in the Outfield fame to turn the season around.
So I don't want to bash Shapiro for sending second baseman Brandon Phillips to Cincinnati for what amounts to sunflower seeds. Maybe Single-A 22-year-old reliever Jeffrey Stevens, who was obtained from the Reds to complete the deal, will turn into Doug Jones. But until then, the Phillips trade makes Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas look like an even deal.
Certainly, I was among those who doubted Phillips would ever become the type of player the Indians thought he would when they aquired him for Montreal. Last season, he looked lost at the plate during the brief period he was up with the club.
What was known is Phillips had a great spring. That usually means nothing.
Still, the Indians don't have any promising middle infielders ready to come up from the minor leagues. Current second baseman Ronnie Belliard is having another solid season, but if the Indians thought he was a long-term answer, he'd have been signed last winter. Well, actually, if the Indians were interested in giving him a deserved pay-raise, they would have already done it.
So who plays second next year? The Indians will probably be looking for another Belliard — a solid, effective and cheap veteran, to fill the void.
Also, shortstop Jhonny Peralta has been improving offensively, but is a disaster with the glove. Do they keep him at short, one of the toughest positions, or do they move him to first or the outfield (Third base belongs to Andy Marte)? And then who plays short?
Much of this could have been avoided had the Indians held on to Phillips. While Peralta (11 errors) and Belliard (six errors) have been spotty at times, Phillips has been at least as good defensively (six errors), with a .310 batting average and seven homers.
There has also been talk of moving Grady Sizemore to the third spot in the order. But then who bats first?
Phillips on-base percentage (.358) is not what Sizemore's (.381) is. But anyone who can steal 15 bases in 15 attempts and hit over .300 can work his way into a good leadoff hitter.
Phillips is just what the Indians need. As it turns out, he was just what the Reds needed. The Reds are in the National League Central hunt. The Indians are not likely to do any hunting until November.
When deer season starts.