After missing the first portion of last night’s game while visiting friends who had just welcomed a new son (Ryan Michael Joyce – UD Class of 2027), I stepped into the elevator at the hospital and learned (via text messages) that Westbrook was getting shelled and the Tribe was down 10-1. Is there anything more deflating than hearing news like that, especially when you’re excited to hear good news?
I was reminded of the day in 1995, when the Indians were in the World Series while another national event was happening in L.A. On my walk back to the dorm after a shocking outcome to the event in L.A., a friend asked me what I thought of Ogea (Chad Ogea was starting the World Series game that night). I frantically asked, “What happened to Ogea?” When I was told that he was acquitted, I said, “Oh that O.J.” It’s all a matter of perspective.
Since the Tigers suddenly have Westbrook’s number (after he dominated them last year), and the end result was depressing, I’m not going to wallow in my misery by recapping the game.
Just one question to ponder: Maybe the Indians aren’t as good as we thought they were going to be, or maybe the Central is stronger than we originally thought. Things have to turn around soon; timing it with the ChiSox imminent fall to earth would be ideal.
On a lighter note, C.C. signed a two year extension, which puts him in the teepee through the 2008 season (they also picked up his 2006 option). The contract numbers aren’t that big, especially when you look at what Clement/Lieber/Wright got last off-season. This signing (even more so than Martinez, Hafner, Westbrook, etc) is a fantastic sign at the Dolans’ willingness to spend money to keep their home-grown, talented players in an Indians uniform. Call it the Twins Model for Small Market Teams: to keep core players by signing them early and using an abundant farm system to fill holes as players hit arbitration, free agency, or become unproductive. It just stinks that the Twins figured this out three years ago...and are in our division.
I’ll be at a wedding in Milwaukee all weekend, so I’ll see I can put in some posts from the In-Laws' house; though the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel doesn’t give a lot of ink to happenings of our beloved Wahoo Warriors.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
After missing the first portion of last night’s game while visiting friends who had just welcomed a new son (Ryan Michael Joyce – UD Class of 2027), I stepped into the elevator at the hospital and learned (via text messages) that Westbrook was getting shelled and the Tribe was down 10-1. Is there anything more deflating than hearing news like that, especially when you’re excited to hear good news?
Monday, April 25, 2005
Hopefully, Tribe bats are doing what the weather in Cleveland is finally doing- heating up for good. The first few games of the Seattle series were very encouraging with C.C. and Cliff Lee shutting down a pretty potent lineup (Ichiro, Sexson, Beltre, Boone) before my boy Elarton came in to blow up. Even when Elarton was in that 1-0 "pitcher's duel" with Moyer (was anyone really expecting a victory when looking at the probable starters?), I'm just waiting for the lit wick to hit the TNT. Whenever Elarton is on the mound, I feel like that overbearing dad who coaches the Yankees in the Bad News Bears, just as Kelly Leak is stepping to the plate. You know what's going to happen, you're helpless to stop it, it's really only a matter of time. I guess that whole dynamic played out with the Yankees coach smacking his own pitcher (Wedgie are you listening?). I've said it before, but by mid-May, look for a different #5 starter. My NEW guess is Tallett.
Jason Dangerously pulled a Wild Thing after working one solid inning. I was waiting for Harry Doyle to say, "Ball 4...Ball 8...Ball 12, and Vaughn has walked the bases loaded on 12 straight pitches." Where does JD go now? I still think he's a one-inning pitcher, not a starter or a middle reliever. I think it will take one more REALLY bad outing, but perhaps he should go to Buffalo to hone a one inning repertoire.
Lost in the Elarton/Davis disaster is that Cliff Lee is pitching with more confidence than I've ever seen him. He doesn't have that scared look when he gets into trouble, he just seems to get it done. With Lee in the fold, our 4 top starters and the bullpen (Wickman's hiccups notwithstanding) have been a real strength. Yet, we're still losing ground in the Central.
There's no way the ChiSox can keep this up, can they? The Central is shaping up as one of the tougher divisions in the league.
All right, with an off day today we'll do a quick draft recap.
- Edwards is an immediate upgrade over anyone on the roster. But, who's the odd man out at WR? I think Bryant (remember Carthon was his O Coordinator in Dallas, who tired of his antics) while others think Davis (can't stay healthy), or even D-Cutt (just because I don't really like him). Whoever it is, they weren't very productive and I'm not going to shed any tears over any one of them moving on.
- Pool is a versatile, big FOOTBALL player (not a big athlete with potential) who gives depth to the secondary. I think what Crennel is trying to do is build a defense with flexible players who can play multiple positions. If you look at the NE defense, all of the players are smart, versatile players - comfortable handling their spot in the zone. Pool also gives insurance if Jones isn't healthy, or Uncle Butch missed on him too. Interesting comment by Savage on Jones tonight on WTAM. He said that Jones would've been a mid second-top third round pick this year. Translation - He's OK, but Pool (my guy) is better.
- Frye is a great pick, who's going to have enough time to develop and whose drive and work ethic (that I've read about) should endear him to Cleveland very quickly. I know that last year I thought that McCown would develop for 2 years under Jeff Garcia, but I REALLY think that Frye will be able to develop for 2 years under Dilfer and get comfortable in this system.
- Perkins, I think, was the first example of "best available". As I freaked out that we hadn't taken any OL, DL, or LB's, Savage calmly took Perkins (whom he called a 2nd round talent). Does this spell the end for Cutch, who is obviously a better nickel corner, or Northcutt, who may lose his PR job and doesn't seem to fit in with these big receivers? We'll see. For both Perkins and Pool, they were rated as "Best in Zone Coverage" at their respective positions, which plays well into Crennel's defense.
- McMillen is a big, fast DE in college who should be a nice speed rusher in this system. Think a poor man's Jamir Miller (remember Crennel was the D-Coordinator then) or a very poor man's Willie McGinest in the 3-4. I just hope that he gets consistent, which was the big knock on him at Kansas.
- Speegle (who did not get invited to the Combine) is a smart player with experience in the 3-4 at New Mexico. He visited the Browns twice, so this isn't a blind pick. I hope that he can play the Vrabel role in this offense (by the way, how cocky and idiotic did Vrabel sound on the Cold Pizza Set all weekend), but to ask that of a 5th round pick is a stretch.
- Hoffman is a big guy, again with experience in the 3-4 as NT, whose frame is big enough to bulk up to 310-315. He should provide depth at the DL (which looks very thin to me) while developing into a rotational player on the line. He dropped a keg on his toe as a sophomore in college. Andrew Hoffman, meet Ross Verba.
- Dunn is a developmental RT, who along with Chambers (last year's developmental LT) gives the O-Line coaches a project.
Funniest thing I heard all weekend was that my friend's brother was upset about McCown getting traded, but not for the reasons that you think. Turns out he had a custom McCown jersey made after the draft last year, thinking he's the first one on board with the QB of the future. Now, the jersey goes into his closet, next to the Wali Rainer jersey (no lie). Now hearing that someone has those two jerseys, I ask you, how badly do the Browns need a star?
All told, it seems like they drafted football players from big schools who performed over a period of time, and seemed very disciplined to take the best player. There were more glaring needs, but I can't argue with anything yesterday. But, ask me again in 3 years.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
With the Big Event (whom one person has called "his Christmas") happening at noon today, a few random thoughts:
- I woke up this morning to find my paper completely soaked through, thanks to a beautiful 4o degree rainy day in Cleveland. As I pulled out the hair dryer muttering to myself, "of all the days that I actually want to read Grossi" and "there goes your tip Helen Malloy" (our local paper carier, whose name for some reason I know off of the top of my head), I was hoping that the heat would kick in so I could dry the paper from 2 sources. My bride then bounced down the stairs and said, "you want me to go out and buy you a dry paper?" Gentlemen, when you find someone who is able to know you better than you know yourself (without immediately judging or mocking a 27-year old in his pajamas sitting Indian style on the dining room floor holding a hair dryer over the sports page), don't let her go.
- Am I a loser to sit by myself in a Browns jersey in the middle of April, surrounded by draft magazines and depth charts? Don't answer that.
- I'm watching Channel 19's pre-draft coverage with Bob Golic and I'm reminded when I ran into Golic at a bar before a Browns game this year. After marveling at the size of his head and admiring his mullet, my buddy C-Badd asked him what the most challenging part of playing "Mike" on "Saved by the Bell: The College Years" was. End of conversation.
On to some Tribe thoughts, as I did watch the game last night with the Crooked Cap looking very strong. Maybe the light switch has finally been switched on for C.C.
Here's a note from Peter Gammons latest column on the potential free agent pitchers after the 2005 & 2006 seasons:
Soon C.C. Sabathia, who would be a top free agent after the 2006 season, will begin working on an extension because of his belief in what the Indians are building. For some perspective: Sabathia won't be 25 until July. He has 54 career wins. The next highest total for any pitcher under 25? Jake Peavy has 33.
Think about that. C.C. (after last night) has 55 wins. Let's do the math-if C.C. pitches for 10 more years, until he's 35, and averages 15 wins a season; he's got 205 wins. And that's a pretty cautious estimate. Say he pitches until he's 40 (15 more years) and averages 16 wins a year-that's 295! In this day and age when, after Greg Maddux got his 300th win, most pundits said that the era of 300 game winners is essentially over, that's incredible.
C.C.'s return means even more to this team when you look at the impact of his place in the rotation to Westbrook. If C.C. can bring it against the #1's (Santana, Buehrle, etc.) that frees up Jake to take on lesser pitchers, which (hopefully) means more wins for Sinkbrook.
Does Travis Hafner look skinnier all of the sudden? I know that is difficult for a man who's 6'3", 240; but his neck, in particular, suddenly looks thin. Maybe it was just the TV's at the West End.
Question: Who got the best of the Randy Winn-Lou Piniella deal? Answer: Every other team in the AL West.
Carlos Silva and Justin Morneau came off the DL for the Twins yesterday. Did you see how Gassner (who shut down the Tribe in his first start, and was sent down when Silva came back) got shelled in his second start? I don't want to think about that.
I still can't get used to seeing Grover in another uniform. It would be like seeing Thome or Omar in another uniform. Oh, wait...
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Westbrook's bad luck continued last night as the Fatolo Colon shut down the Tribe's bats, running Jake's record to 0-4. This despite a 3.81 ERA, a WHIP of 1.04, and 2 complete games. Outside of his one hiccup, he's been very steady and the worm will turn for him. Let's hope it's sooner rather than later.
Some items of note I saw on the Tribe Website (which annoyingly asks me to download Macromedia Flash THREE times every time I go on the site):
-Tribe is last in AL in Batting Average and RBI's (on a related note, also Runs)
-Tribe is 2nd last in AL in OPS (only Jose Hernandez is over .800, at a blistering .802)
-Tribe is 2nd best in AL in team ERA (behind the ChiSox)
-Tribe is 3rd best in AL in team WHIP (behind Minnesota and ChiSox)
The bats have to turn around. Don't they? Last year, the offense cruised while the bullpen blew up. When will everything come together all at once?
On another note, the Cavs fired Jim Paxson today, giving a sense of closure to The Collapse. Watching the scores last night and hearing that the Cavs would not be in the playoffs, it made me think:
People in their 50's often say that they remember exactly where they were when JFK was killed, then a later generation knew where they were when the Challenger exploded (Miss Vercilleno's 3rd grade classroom).
As a long suffering Cleveland sports fan, there are certain events that I can pinpoint where I was. Though they certainly pale in social significance to the events listed above, I can clearly remember where I was for The Drive, The Fumble, and The Shot (all in my old house's family room), Game 7 (236 Kiefaber, Dayton OH), and when the Ping Pong ball turned up for the Cavs to get LeBron (in my current kitchen, listening to the TV in the other room). I don't think The Collapse makes this list. Are there any events that I'm missing? Where were you when these things happened?
After The Shot happened, I ran up to my bedroom to tear down all of my Jordan posters and ripped up my Air Jordan Flight Club Membership Card. After Paul Alten told me that the Browns had moved (in my freshman year dorm room, Sheehy Hall 3rd floor), I tore my Browns shirts and posters apart in a fit of rage.
As I write this the bases are loaded in the first against Washburn (a solid lefty, something we've struggled against). Hernandez just hit bases-clearing double. God, I love this game. There's some run support K-Mill.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
The Tribe split a pair in KC, thanks to the sudden transformation of Angel Castillo from a light hitting Royal to Albert Belle in his prime (Lee Smith, Troy Percival), and the Indians head to the Left Coast for a 3 game set with the Angels.
I didn't get to see the end of the game, as it was not shown on local TV. After my initial outburst (thinking I would get home to catch the last few innings), I calmed down and got to listen to the mellifluous tones of Hammy.
Elarton started the season on my bad side and he's slipping into Scott Stewart, Chad Durbin territory for me. I know that I should be patient, but it's hard with Tallet tearing it up in Buffalo and JD fighting for innings. I would say by the middle of May, if Elarton hasn't put together some solid outings - it may be back to the scrap heap.
Cliff Lee and Rocky Betancourt were very tough last night. I hope that Lee can build on the strong outing, and the strong starting pitching (Elarton included) can continue.
The D seems to be improving. Even though Boone hasn't yet found his swing, his defense has been strong. Peralta ("Einar's little brother" - Cy Slapnicka) seems more comfortable every day too. But Jelly seems slow at second. His transfer hasn't been the lightning fast exchange of last year. But again, it is mid-April. I will hold serious reservations and comments until the quarter mark of the season.
Here's one vote for The Stick and Belliard to take the braids out to maximize the 'fro factor on the team. Coco's has never looked better, and Grady can't seem to decide if he's on board or not. The addition of Martinez and Ronnie would give an Oscar Gamble look to the lineup.
With the late games of the next few days (sorry 1AM is past my bedtime on a school night), I'll peruse the Media Guide for items of note that caught my eye.
As I write this, Boston just pulled to within 2 at 83-81. Will this collapse become known as a two word descriptor? The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, Joe Table, The Collapse? Why, oh why, am I a Cleveland sports fan?
Sunday, April 17, 2005
Pronk's HBP let the Indians FINALLY win a run one game against a division opponent. C.C. looked great today - getting ahead of hitters by throwing strikes. His pitch count hit early though as he seemed to be trying to punch everyone out as opposed to letting his teammates do some work for him. He still seems emotional, at times, on the mound. Whether that means a real long look into the ump after what he thought was a strike (a quick way to endear yourself to the home-plate ump) or yelling at himself after letting one hang (the last LeCroy at-bat), C.C. continues to wear his emotions on his sleeve. Whether that becomes something that he and the team can feed off of, or it becomes a distraction, remains to be seen.
I saw the C.C. "fan club" in the bleachers posting "K"'s for C.C.'s strikeouts. Is there no originality in Cleveland? At least post "C"'s! How is this obvious only to me?
Matt LeCroy facing Wicky to close the game was weird. It was like that fight in Lord of the Rings (Fellowship, I think) when the two wizards who look very similar are going after each other and the only way to tell them apart is the color of their clothes.
I hope that Wedgie finds a lineup to his liking soon. So far, I haven't seen one that I really like. Today's was the closest to feeling right and they barely scored 2. This is an issue that needs to be resolved. Seeing Hernandez 3 or Boone 4 is making me nervous.
Tough break for Matt Miller, who has been very efficient in this short season. It turned out to be a numbers game. My bet is that if Sauerbeck had options (or was remotely hurt) he would've been the one leaving the pen.
As has been noted on the Cleveland Indians Report and Indians Compendium (two of the Cool Links), Ben Sheets' contract (and maybe Chris Carpenter's) could serve as a nice prototype for contract talks with the Crooked Cap.
If you ever want to know anything, and I do mean ANYTHING, happening on the farm- check out the aforementioned Cleveland Indians Report. John Farrell could be writing the CIR. It's that detailed and complete.
Only about 37,500 fans attended two afternoon weekend games on the most beautiful weekend of the young year. Did someone say Browns' Town? I guess there were only 6 more days to finish Kiper's Draft Guide.
Next up is 2 in KC, where the Indians can play some early catch-up on the division leaders. Then an idiotic 5 day trip to the West Coast. Who schedules these games, some morons in Pittsburgh? This year, yes.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Lest anyone think that I'm shamelessly plugging the new John Stamos sitcom (which I can sum up in one sentence: Unbelievably hot girls can't resist Stamos' smirk and charm - chaos ensues.),
I am not. I'm referring to Jake Westbrook. At the beginning of the game, it looked like the Twins were swinging early, knowing that Jake puts it over the plate-making pretty solid contact. Then he had his high throw into center, and suddenly started mowing 'em down. He stayed pitch for pitch with Santana (no easy task) and really had his sink going in the middle of the game. It seems that Westbrook really responds well to adversity and buckles down when things get tough. Let's hope that C.C. and Jason Dangerously (Davis), who seem to get very agitated and unglued when things go wrong, use Westbrook's ability to deal as an example to follow.
Watching Grady "Super" Sizemore (say it out loud, while thinking of Extra Value Meals), it makes me hope that Gonzo's hammy stays tweaked. The comparison of Sizemore to Erstad (which I heard when he was coming up) doesn't do justice to the potential completeness of Grady's game that he shows flashes of.
I hope that the Jose Hernandez in the 3 spot experiment has one test case. I know he kills left handed pitching (allegedly), but he whiffed 3 times, and looked bad each time doing it.
As I said in past reports, the Central should be tight all year, which I'm really looking forward to.
Honey Peralta (the J is silent as far as I'm concerned) has looked a lot more comfortable at short in the past few games. To quote the the great 80's poet, "All we need is just a little patience...patience."
Time to watch the Tribe in a rare day Saturday game, something there should be a LOT more of.
Friday, April 15, 2005
Excellent comments on the last couple of posts, if you haven't clicked on them - please do. While in attendance to Wednesday's game (there were less than 10K there), many things struck me about Jacobs Field and how it has evolved over the course of the last 10 years + 3 games.
-the scoreboard layout was changed this year, making it much easier to read. However, they are a little slow on getting what each player has done in previous at-bats onto the screen because of all of the graphics. While I can always peek over the shoulder of the guy who always sits in front of me who keeps score, I'd rather just have the information readily available.
-Chief Wahoo is no longer a part of Jacobs Field...anywhere. Why is it that the Tribe doesn't embrace their nickname and use it for clever marketing ideas, rather than shunning it like the plague. Are they that afraid of offending that tiny, tiny part of the population who takes offense to the name?
-the new Batters-Eye Bar in Center is brilliant, but they didn't go far enough. It is a great addition to the Market Pavilion (which has very good and cheap, relatively speaking, food) and now the area leading down to center field, next to the Tribe bullpen has tables and seats set up. This area should have been fully cultivated, with the area with tables having TV's and places to buy beer there. Advertise that it's open early and late, make food and beers available for discounted prices before the game and make it a party atmosphere. Name it "The Reservation" and have those girls behind those big tubs selling to the crowd that you want in there, the pre-game Panini's crowd. Have a big machine that sends up smoke signals when the Indians are threatening, make them correspond with John Adams banging on the drum. Make port-a-potties out there that look like teepees. Go all the way! I'm tired of these decent ideas down there being half-baked and not fulfilling their potential. There's a segment of the fanbase that would embrace that atmosphere, love the proximity to the bullpen and center and make that the "place to be" for a game.
-please, get rid of Slider!?! My hate for him grows and his profile seems to grow from year to year. Why can't the Indians have MoonDog (who's not quite as annoying) and the Cavs, oh I don't know, actually have a Cavalier for a mascot?
-I swear that I could get 5 guys together and bring back that party atmosphere at the Jake, while not turning off the segment of the population that the Indians seem so afraid to offend.
On to the actual games - last night, the bats woke up (particularly Pronk and the Stick) to save the team from Elarton and a sweep. I agree with the comment on Alex Cora, I think that the further that the season goes on, the more and more he's going to factor into the future. We'll see if the hitters can figure out Santana tonight and if Jake's sinker is actually sinking.
More to come on steroids in an upcoming post. I have some thoughts on this that may surprise. As a teaser, I've got two words, "Ripped Fuel".
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Another one run loss to the White Sox last night, which makes me wonder who our competition is going to be in the Central this year. The Twins seemed to be the sexy pick going into the season, and they continue to look strong. If injuries mount up for them (Silva, Morneau, Mauer) though, they may be forced to lean a little too heavily on players not quite ready for prime time. The White Sox are an interesting team. At the beginning of the season, I thought that the small ball philosophy that had been adopted wouldn't play itself out, this year at least. But they've gotten solid starting pitching and have squeezed out close games. If their starters hold up, they may be right in the thick of things all year, as well. Finally, the Tigers seem to think that they have as good of a chance as anybody. Dmitri Young said that the Central is a 2 team race, the Tigers and the Tribe. Dmitri might be alone in that corner of thought. I heard Gardenhire on the radio today say that, "everyone says the Central is weak, but we've got some of the best trash-talkers out there." Then, C.C.'s comment hits the wire that he hates the Twins.
Bottom line is that if all of these teams stay in contention, it could be a war of attrition - but also very fun to watch. I think that someone will emerge as a true "rival", complete with bad blood, beanballs, and a full blown Wedge meltdown. The Central hasn't really had that in a while as the Tribe used to run away with the division, followed by the Twins' recent success. I would welcome a rivalry that both teams are equally into. Let's be honest, despite Tribe fans' feelings, no Yankee sees Jacobs Field as enemy territory. My guess is on the Twins, but never underestimate that rat, A.J. Pierzynski.
In other news, Pronk signed a 3 year deal worth $7 million, with a club option for a 4th year. This, like the Martinez signing, is a great move for the Indians, who lock up another player (hopefully) on the upswing of his career for what could turn out to be a true bargain by the end of the contract. As Sheldon Ocker wrote in Sunday's ABJ though, the real test of the Dolan's willingness to spend will come with the Sabathia negotiations. All media outlets are reporting that Shapiro will wait to make sure that C.C. is fully healed and effective before moving forward. I've also heard that Johan Santana's contract will be the model for what C.C. will get. Maybe, if you take a couple million off of each year. Keep in mind that Santana handily won the Cy Young last year and was untouchable in the second half. If C.C. pulls that out of his crooked hat, give him all the money he wants. Until then, proceed with some restraint.
More thoughts on the 2005 changes to the Jake in the next DiaTribe.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Off day today, which gets me off on a few topics…
…I realize how early it is in the season, far too early to panic; so, I’ll temper my concerns about the offense.
…Eric Wedge continues to state publicly that Peralta is the starting SS, despite two straight starts by Cora. I hope so, and truly believe that Peralta will continue to start. Cora is a nice fallback option, though.
…While watching the Tribe game on Friday night at a local establishment, I spied a middle aged guy wearing a 1970’s throwback Tribe Jersey (blue knit top with the Flintstones writing) at the bar. I had seen the throwback online before and thought it might be worth the investment as it looked pretty cool. That is, until I saw it tucked into the khakis of a slightly overweight white guy killing oil cans of Fosters.
It begs the question: what jerseys are acceptable for wearing without looking like a complete tool. It’s a look that not many white guys in their 20’s-50’s can pull off with much ease. I think that the T-Shirt jersey (and its brother – the long sleeve T Jersey) baseball-wise represents the only safe bet. Otherwise you end up looking like “that guy”, wearing the same tired replica jersey to the same seats at every game you go to because you have to get your money’s worth off of a $200 investment that you can’t wear while doing yard work. I’m tired of seeing Travis Fryman sit 3 rows ahead of me in the mezzanine, regardless of the weather. Even worse is putting your own name on an authentic playoff jersey with your old high school number on it. Trust me, DEL VECCHIO #8 never played for the Tribe.
I got a Cliff Lee T-shirt jersey last year as he blazed to a 10-1 start. After his flameout, I was thanking God that I didn’t go for the MLB replica. It remains to be seen if the Lee jersey will be filed under the Jerry Browne file (quality, even if for a short time), the Odibe McDowell file (truly awesome), or the Reggie Jefferson file (a little embarrassing and destined for Easter Seals pick-up).
The corollary to that is what jersey (assuming anything was possible) you would wear to honor your favorite Indian. If I worked at Mitchell & Ness, I would be printing Pat Tabler jerseys, circa 1988, all day and night. The current Indian that I would get a jersey for is #48, but it would say “PRONK” on the back. I mean, if Ichiro can have whatever he wants on his jersey, why can’t Hafner? I’m still waiting for the late ’80s jerseys to be customizable online. You know the ones that have the blue and red lines up the sides. I’ll stock up with a Tabler, Jacoby, Dorn, Harris (he who puts snot on the ball), and Leach (Pepper, the 3rd base coach from Major League).
If I could customize any jersey, I’d get an Atlanta Falcons #7 with RON MEXICO on the back, but that’s a whole other story. I’d like to hear some other ones, if possible (outside of the obvious Jim Thome warm-up jersey with Chief Wahoo on the right breast).
But I digress…
…now that posting comments has begun, please identify yourself. This is not the Jungle, where self-glossing is forbidden. Whether honoring an Indians great of the past (Chris James, Alvaro Espinoza, Von Hayes, etc.) or giving yourself a ridiculously crude nickname, just sign it in.
…I’ll be in the right field mezzanine seats tomorrow night, 7:05PM – right where I belong.
Monday, April 11, 2005
The offense wasted a phenomenal outing by Millwood and Riske today by scoring only 1 run. This is not a good sign if Buerhle and Garcia are having their way with this lineup. I got in the car after work, only to hear Podsednik's RBI - to paraphrase Kramer from the Keith Hernandez/JFK episode, "my day was ruined".
I caught the last couple of innings on TV and noticed the revolving sign behind home claiming, "Season Ticket packages starting at $36." Yeah, that's for 6 games up in the right field corner, where you can hardly see the game. I sat up there once, for about two innings with my friend C-Badd, and it was a zoo. Nobody's watching the game, kids are everywhere, and the sound of the crack of the bat reaches you while the team is running off the field after the third out. What a misrepresentation of season tickets.
The offense better wake up, and soon. Before the game (out of 14 AL teams), they're ranked 11th in Average, 13th is OPS, and 11th in runs scored. Time to figure Contreras out and make him wish he was back on a raft halfway between Cuba and the Florida Coast.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Well, it's never a dull day watching the Indians post 6 in the 1st, then hang on to win 7-6. Jason Davis looked OK. Every time I see him, it makes me more convinced that he belongs in the pen. Watching him blow away the Tigers in the 1st, while struggling some in other innings (particularly the 2nd and 3rd time through the lineup) proves that he would be very tough coming out of the pen for the 7th, 8th, or 9th (someday). I understand the Indians' thinking that with Davis' arm, it's better to get 5-6 innings from the flamethrower, as opposed to one; but, Davis' place in the future is out of the pen. When C.C. comes back, look for Davis to move to long relief, transitioning into a later inning pitcher as the season wears on. The bullpen looked good today, with Howry's 7th inning (Guillen, Pudge, D. Young) proving huge as Wickman let up a cheap run in the 9th.
The Tigers' starting pitching will determine where they end up in the Central. With Pudge (and his "scary looking eyebrows", as reader Michael Swytowski points out), Carlos Guillen (if only Omar would've passed that physical), and Magglio Ordonez (assuming he ever gets healthy), the lineup has great potential. Taking 2 of 3 from them in Detroit is necessary though.
Opening Day tomorrow, 3:05PM. Should be a city-wide holiday, but that's just me.
No sooner had I mocked the Tigers' starting outfield of Marcus Thames, Nook Logan, and Craig Monroe did they begin to turn the Indians inside out. Thames hits a grand slam and makes about 14 put-outs and Logan and Monroe don't seem to let one ball drop in the outfield. I'll take some of the blame for this one. Never again will I mock an opponents' lineup prior to game time.
Westbrook looked horrible, leaving all of his pitches up, as it seems that the Tigers have figured him out, after being owned last year. Peralta and Belliard still haven't formed any sort of consistency in the middle of the diamond, consistency that is critical to the pitchers' success (particularly Westbrook). Please stop all of this talk of sending Jhonny to Buffalo though. What happens then? B-Phil comes up and tries to hit home runs, while batting .180? No - stick with Peralta through some growing pains. He won the MVP in AAA last year, meaning that he does have talent, he just needs to find his comfort level. Probably reading Paul Hoynes' daily condemnation of him doesn't help.
Jason Davis better last for a while today, otherwise the bullpen is going to be a wreck for the Home Opening Series. Don't be surprised if Jason Dangerously lasts less than 4, that Brian Tallet comes up from Buffalo for a short stint to give some much-needed rest to the pen. Not sure who would be sent down/placed on the DL, but fresh arms are needed.
As an aside, Wedge has joined the ranks of the mustached for the year. With Carl Willis already on board, it's only a matter of time before the rest of the coaching staff are all sporting some upper lip fur. A caller to the Tribe post-game said that Wedge looked like Lou Brown from Major League.
"Can I call you back? I've got a guy on the other line asking about some whitewalls."
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Watching the Tribe take Friday night's game in Detroit, my mind was racing...
...why does Wickman always have really red cheeks while breathing uncomfortably hard when he's pitching?
...since when have the Indians' hats gotten a lighter shade of blue? It certainly is no longer navy.
...the Chief Wahoo logo is getting smaller and smaller. Next time you're at the Jake, try to find him anywhere in the stadium. It' all script "Indians" or the "I" that's supposed to look like a feather.
...Friday's PD carried a picture of CC in his Akron rehab assignment. I thought that I read that he was in the best shape of his career. He looked huge. Maybe it was a tighter uniform, toit like a tiger.
...I like the renewal of the longer hair by players. Boone, Riske, and Ludwick just to name a few have that "baseball curl" coming out of the back of their hats. It certainly isn't a Danny Gravesesque mullet, but it is a step in that direction.
...if Wickman, Rhodes, Riske, Miller, and Rocky keep pitching like they have (Wickman's meltdown notwithstanding), it will go a long way to keeping the Tribe in contention all year.
...you have to like the flexibility of the current lineup. Boone batted 4th last night and came through with the big homer. Hernandez, Cora, and Bard give Wedge the necessary bench players to keep everyone fresh (something that was sorely lacking last year).
...why doesn't Cleveland have a cool "C" for a logo. We used to have the Reds "C" with Chief Wahoo, then the Flintstones "C" of the late 70's, and finally the block "C" of the Andre Thornton era. What would be wrong with the script "C" from Cleveland on the front of the road unis. I've seen guys outside the Jake selling them and they look pretty cool.
...does anyone else see Ben Broussard as a cross between Herbert Perry and Paul Sorrento. I just don't see him on this team when they really start to put it together.
...Jhonny Peralta's inconsistency thus far can be chalked up as inexperience. I think that once he figures it out, he'll be fine.
...who put Ivan Rodriguez's head on Derek Jeter's body. That is scary looking. Just goes to show what can happen when you "eat right in the offseason", you drop 60 lbs. and completely change your body type. Right.
Friday, April 08, 2005
As Sticky Wickman blew a 3 run lead in the ninth, all I could think was, “This cannot be happening again”. Rewind to the opening of 2004, where most thought that Jimenez and Stewart, while by no means spectacular, would be serviceable relievers in lieu of the injured Wickman. Well, both turned into gas cans who couldn’t be in the rear view mirror soon enough. Are we fooling ourselves again this year? Coming into the year, I thought that the bullpen had been significantly upgraded, then this. Wickman’s only recorded out was on the sac fly that won the game! But, before we hit the panic button, let’s look at Rivera and Foulke getting pummeled and chalk this one up as an aberration. Lost in the meltdown was the strong showing of Kevin Millwood. If he can turn in a performance like that when he toes the rubber, then “Bravo, Mr. Shapiro”, and let’s see if Clement and Lieber fare as well.
Today, the Indians snuck one out of Chicago by coming back in monster fashion to take the game in extra frames. The hits kept coming, after Contreras handcuffed the Indians’ lineup (as usual) and the bullpen bailed out a shell-shocked Cliff Lee. Most impressive was Rocky Betancourt (if you listen to Wedge’s press conferences, his Raffy sounds like Rocky; thus, heretofore, he will be referred to as Rocky) who did what he does: throw strikes, with great results. Big mistake by Ozzie Guillen, only having Luis Vizcaino left in the pen. Tony LaRussa, he is not.
Also, the Tribe locked up Vic the Stick…until 2010! This contract is a great deal for the Indians, assuming the Stick stays healthy. Don’t be surprised if other players begin to follow suit, with the line starting with C.C., Hafner, and any other young player (maybe Coco?) who proves he belongs in the majors with continued productivity. After John Hart issued his masterstroke in the early ‘90s, I thought that most player agents had wised up to this strategy, to avoid being paid below market value in the prime money earning years of a player’s career. I guess that the security of guaranteed money and a long-term deal is too compelling to a young player still establishing himself in the Big Leagues.
1-2 against the White Sox in Chicago isn’t bad. I know that it could’ve been 2-1, but let’s figure that Wickman and Takatsu’s meltdowns balance each other out, and hope that the Indians study some tape of Mark Buerhle and Jose Contreras before we meet again.
Next game tomorrow night, 7:05 vs. the Motor City Kitties.
Monday, April 04, 2005
Just finished watching the Take 2 broadcast in under 2 hours (gotta love that Westbrook), and Mark Buerhle still owns the Tribe. I hope 2 hits isn't indicative of how this team hits against tough leftys, seeing as how Buehrle and Santana (just to name 2) will probably go against "one to nine" more than a few times this year.
The Peralta error was a tough play, but he should've made it. But PLEASE don't get going on the "Omar would've had it..." Turn the page, embrace this team. Bottom line, the ChiSox capitalized on a leadoff hit in the 7th, while the Martinez 5-4-3 snuffed out the Indians' best chance, also in the 7th.
I don't think that the White Sox can play this "small ball" all year. After Buerhle and Garcia, their starters are a crapshoot and Carl Everett and Paul Konerko are not exactly "small ball" prototypes. Nice idea, but GM Ken Williams doesn't have all of the necessary parts for Ozzie Guillen to pull it off this year, particularly in New Comiskey (or whatever they call that place now).
I really liked the way that Westbrook looked, particularly against a bona fide #1. The infield defense has to be very solid for him to have a great year, which is very possible.
Off day tomorrow, game on Wednesday afternoon.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Perusing most national and local prognostications for the 2005 season, the consensus puts the Indians in 2nd place in the Central, behind the Twins, winning between 88-92 games. I would certainly take that season to continue the growth of this process. I think that those goals are attainable and see the Indians sticking around the AL Central race up to the end, when the Twins will unfortunately pull away. Contrary to popular belief, I think that the Tribe will be in the Wild Card race, though it won't be as close, or for as long, as the Central.
Here's the predictions I've seen thus far:
Sports Illustrated: 2nd in the Central, behind the Twins (10th best team in ML)
ESPN the Magazine: 2nd in the Central, behind the Twins
(with Eric Wedge as AL Manager of the Year, Charlie Manuel as NL Manager of the Year!)
Peter Gammons: 2nd in the Central, behind the Twins
-lists Victor Martinez as MVP Candidate
-lists Coco Crisp as a Breakout Player
-lists Aaron Boone as a Comeback Story
-lists Franklin Gutierrez as a potential late-season rookie impact player
Buster Olney: 9th best team in ML (Twins #4)
Plain Dealer: Consensus 2nd in the Central, all behind the Twins with a few exceptions
-Burt Graeff has them winning the Central, with Wedge winning Manager of the Year
-The all-knowing Roger Brown has the White Sox winning the division
Jim Caple of ESPN.com has the Tribe as a Wild Card
Terry Pluto: 2nd in the Central with 88 wins
In anticipation of the Season Opener, I'd like to introduce some nicknames, and re-establish the ones that should, by now, be standard fare for our Tribesmen:
Victor "Vic the Stick" Martinez
"Big" Ben Broussard
Ronnie "Jelly" Belliard
Travis Hafner "Pronk"
C.C. "Colonel Curveball" Sabathia
Jake "the Snake" Westbrook"
Coco Crisp (no need for a nickname, you can't top that)
Casey "and the Sunshine Band" Blake
David Riske "Business"
Bob "Slick" Wickman
Grady "Babyface" Sizemore
Ryan Ludwick "van Beethoven"
Some are cheesy, some are decent, but with Chris Berman no longer doing SportsCenter on a regular basis, I thought it was necessary.
First Pitch tomorrow 3:05PM vs. ChiSox. Jake Westbrook vs. Mark Buehrle. Go Tribe!
Saturday, April 02, 2005
The addition of Kevin Millwood should be the main determining factor in the role of the starting pitching in the AL Central race. Millwood's health as the season progresses will determine whether the Indians stay with Minnesota for the Central or have to depend on young arms to carry the burden. Oblique muscle notwithstanding, C.C. Sabathia remains the "ace" of the rotation, if only because he has the highest cieling and seems to embrace the thought of being a true No. 1. If reports are to be believed, C.C. is in the best shape of his life and is ready to tackle the opponents' ace every 5. There is no questioning C.C.'s stuff, but he must become mentally tougher to establish himself as an elite pitcher. Though he is still young, Sabathia often lapses into mental mistakes and lets his emotions get the best of him, affecting his performance negatively. This year should decide whether the Indians approach Sabathia with a long-term deal (a la Johan Santana) or let C.C. ride out his current contract. Here's hoping that Sabathia enters that elite status and carries the Tribe during his starts as he is capable of doing.
Jake Westbrook parlayed a few tremendous middle relief outings into an exceptional 2004 season. When his sinker is working, Westbrook gets ground ball outs while working quickly and efficiently. If Westbrook is cruising, expect a game under 2 1/2 hours at the park. The loss of Omar may affect Jake the most as Jhonny Peralta is an unproven commodity as SS. Boone, Belliard, and Broussard are all solid defenders, but Westbrook is so dependent upon good fielding that the loss of Omar's ability to get to the hole may affect Westbrook's performance in 2005. Kevin Millwood steps into the 3 spot with less expectations than a Matt Clement or Jon Lieber, but also less certainty about his health. If Millwood is healthy, his signing is a major coup for the Tribe as he is a veteran innings-eater who learned at the knees of the Big 3 in Atlanta. His tutelage could be vital to the development of some of the Indians' young arms. However, if Millwood is not healthy, he pushes everyone behind him in the rotation up and puts more pressure on Cliff Lee, Scott Elarton, and Jason Davis/Brian Tallett/Billy Traber/whoever. And that "whoever" is big because Millwood's presence stabilizes the rotation and allows everyone to settle into their "spot", just as Bob Wickman does in the bullpen.
Cliff Lee lived through 2 seasons last year that saw him cruise through the All-Star break, only to completely break down for the stretch run. The experience that the lefty must build upon is a strong finish to last year, which will hopefully lead to a strong start and increased confidence. The innings and experience under his belt from last year can only help as he makes his push to be a solid 2 or 3 in the rotation of the future.
Scott Elarton, who was pulled off of the scrap heap last year to perform adequately for the Tribe, is a potential solid 5. His delivery scares some as he has experienced mechanics problems in the past, but as long as he can keep the Indians in the games that he pitches against the other number 5's, he is a bargain.
Waiting in the immediate wings are Jason Davis, who will get his shot with Sabathia's oblique injury, Brian Tallet, who impressed in Spring Training, Billy Traber, who is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Kyle Denney, still trying to shake off the go-go boot incident (just kidding), Jason Stanford, another Tommy John victim, Jeremy Guthrie, who after being derailed last year is still trying to justify his signing bonus, and Francisco Cruceta, whose temperment may keep him in Buffalo or make him part of a package. Some of those pitchers, notably Davis and Tallet, may translate to the pen as time progresses.
On the horizon are Fausto Carmona, who may also eventually end up in the pen, Adam Miller, the shelved Golden Boy of the organization, Brian Slocum, J.D. Martin, Jake Dittler, and Jeremy Sowers, last year's first-round pick.
After last year, it couldn't get worse...could it? Not with this year's revamped bullpen, of course assuming that Bob Wickman can stay healthy. The bullpen begins with Wickman, who is out to prove that he can stay healthy for a whole season. His saves aren't pretty, but he is effective and his presence allows the rest of the bullpen to sort itself out into defined roles. Setting up for Wick will be Bob Howry, who was impressive last year after coming off an injury. Howry will step in for Wickman if need be, though let's hope he doesn't have to. The presence of Scott Sauerbeck and Arthur Rhodes give the Indians something they were sorely lacking last year, a veteran lefty who can come in to get one guy out, Paul Assenmacher style. After suffering through Scott Stewart, then Cliff Bartosh, one of the two of Sauerbeck and Rhodes has to step up to take some pressure off of the rest of the bullpen. The guess here is that Rhodes will return to his Seattle form, now that the lofty expectations of Billy Beane are far away. Rhodes' salary should be enough to make sure he sticks around. The rest of the bullpen is what remains from the disaster of last year. David Riske, who proved that he can't close, will be back doing what he does best: working the 7th inning effectively. Matt Miller and Rafael Betancourt won the final two spots in the pen this Spring, after a spirited run by Brian Tallet. Miller, the bespeckled sidearmer, is particularly effective against righties while lefties seem to crush him. Betancourt lives his life throwing strikes, for better or worse. Both should do well in their new roles, to which they are better suited than setting up and closing (which they did last year).
Should injuries or ineffectiveness get to the pen, help is not far away. Brian Tallet's strong Spring should tranlate into his name being the first called in a pinch. Sabathia's return could mean the return of Davis to the pen, where his stuff and his tempermant are better suited. Davis, with some seasoning, could turn into another Joe Nathan, capable of closing games very effectively. Another potential closer in the organization is Fernando Cabrera, whose lights-out stuff hasn't translated in the bigs yet. Also just a phone call away are Kaz Tadano, who seems to be the only Japanese reliever not instantly successful in America, and Andrew Brown, a big righty acquired in the Milton Bradley deal who needs to learn how to relieve in the minors for a while.
Whew, with that out of the way, next up is predictions and random thoughts, which will be more in line with the flavor of the blog.
With the recent move of Juan Gonzalez to the DL, the outfield remains a fluid area, where 4 players will fill the outfield, changing positions according to whether the team is facing a righty or a lefty. The 4 players in question: Coco Crisp, Casey Blake, Grady Sizemore, and Ryan Ludwick all bring different skills to the table, thus giving different looks to the lineup. Crisp is the prototypical leadoff hitter (with the exception of his limited number of walks and SB efficiency) in that he is a slap hitter with speed and occasional pop. While he does not walk very often, he has proven himself as legitimate MLB player by outlasting the Alex Escobar Experiment and Sizemore's promotion in 2004. Crisp had a phenomenal spring and should continue to grow as a player as he gets a better understanding of base-stealing. His acquisition as a throw-in for Chuck Finley (where have you gone, Luis Garcia?) remains one of Shapiro's great coups. Blake moves to the outfield after a stellar 2004 campaign at 3B. In the spring, he seems to be acclimating himself well to the outfield, both in his throwing and his attitude. After knocking around the minors for many years, Blake got his chace with the Tribe and took full advantage. After the acquisition of Boone, Blake turned it up a notch, forcing his name into any discussion regarding the future of the team. Though he strikes out more than most in the lineup, he is a steady contributor necessary on a team with a limited payroll. Sizemore, who may be the jewel of the Colon theft of 2002, is a promising player who needs more experience to fulfill his potential. Though there is no one area in which he truly excels, he is a solid, hard-nosed player who should be a mainstay for years to come. Gonzalez's move to the DL did not disappoint many, particularly those who felt that Sizemore simply needed more time to acclimate himself to big league pitching (see Martinez, Victor). Ludwick is the wild card of this group as he has never provem that he can stay healthy over the course of a full season. When given the opportunity to be in the lineup, Ludwick has produced and gives the Tribe a possible right-handed run producer. It will be interesting to see how Ludwick and Sizemore, two Wedge favorites, are handled IF Gonzalez recovers from whatever ailment is bothering him that day.
The outfield should look like this: against righties, Crisp in left, Sizemore in center, Blake in right; against lefties, Blake in left, Crisp in center, Ludwick in right. How the players, particularly Crisp and Blake, will handle playing multiple positions may ultimately determine is Sizemore stays in Cleveland for a while or is sent to Buffalo for consistent AB's. Also in the mix is Jose Hernandez, who can bring pop to the lineup when any of the outfielders may need a break. The X Factor is Jody Gerut, who burst on the scene in 2003, but fizzled in 2004 with his season ultimately ending in injury. His beginning the 2004 season as the 3 hitter to not being assured a spot in the lineup when he returns is a testament to the depth and strength of this area of the ballclub.
In the minors, Buffalo is stocked with mainly veterans, while Akron is stacked with Franklin Gutierrez, Ben Francisco, and Jason Cooper. Other outfield prospects include Brad Snyder and Ryan Goleski who will probably start the year in Kinston. Again, this is a deep position for the Indians, one which can be dipped into as trade bait as time goes on.
Friday, April 01, 2005
At the conclusion of the 2004 campaign, much of the speculation surrounding the 2005 squad revolved around the question of whether Ronnie Belliard would return, or if Casey Blake would begin a new position with the acquisition of Aaron Boone. That speculation was ended when Belliard re-signed with the Tribe. Belliard's 2004 All-Star season started very strongly, with a gradual slow-down as the season wore on. Belliard's bat and quick turn at second were a big reason for the Indians being in the race for the Central up to late August. But, as the Tribe fell in the standings, Belliard's numbers fell as well. The book on Belliard was always that he carried too much weight to last a full season at 100%. Belliard finished with good numbers, but he certainly tailed off as the "dog days" of summer dragged on. With this in mind, Shapiro has brought in some insurance in the form of Alex Cora. Cora, brought in from the Dodgers, gives Eric Wedge the opportunity to rest Belliard periodically without a dramatic drop-off. This flexibility is a stark contrast to 2004, when John McDonald (although a great clubhouse presence) could not give the lineup very much, forcing Belliard to play in many games. It will be interesting to see if Belliard can build on his strong 2004 campaign, or if Alex Cora makes a push with his slick glove and high OPS. Look for Cora, signed through the end of the 2006 season, to play more seriously in the long-term plans as the season progresses. On the farm, this is an unusually weak position for the Tribe, particularly if Brandon Phillips remains a shortstop.
Replacing a legend is never easy, and Jhonny Peralta has stepped squarely into a spot that has only known one pair of shoes for the last 11 years, those of Omar Vizquel. Peralta will try to translate his 2004 MVP season in the International League to a successful 2005 campaign. His cup of coffee when Omar went down 2 years ago ensures that Peralta won't be overwhelmed by the new experience, but let's hope that the expectations and Cleveland's love affair with Omar don't have a negative effect on this talented youngster. Peralta's glove certainly won't come close to Omar's (whose does?), but he gives a different feel to the position. That being said, the contract the Vizquel signed with the Giants was so outrageous, in length and compensation, that few can blame the Indians for letting the natural progression of a potential star continue. Peralta is more in line with the body types of the shortstops of the late 90's (Tejada, Renteria, etc.) than Omar was, though he is nowhere near those perennial All-Stars. His ability to hit consistently and drive in runs will mature over the course of the season as he becomes more comfortable. Luckily for him, he will most likely bat out of the 9 hole, where pressure is minimal. Peralta's "competition" this spring, Brandon Phillips, is ticketed to start the season in Buffalo to once again see if he can hit. Phillips' future in the organization may be tied to the way that Peralta's body develops as he matures. If Peralta gains 15-20 pounds, a move to third could clear the way for Phillips to figure into the Tribe's plans once again. If not, Phillips could be used as trade bait as he is still a high profile prospect. Brandon Pinckney, slated to started in Akron, is the only other legitimate prospect in the organization.
Casey Blake's career year in 2004 earned him...a move from third to the outfield. Though this seems to defy logic, the signing of Aaron Boone is the real cause for the move. Boone signed with the Indians after his much publicized basketball injury after a brief stint with the Yankees. Boone should add a veteran presence, that the team lost in Vizquel and Matt Lawton, that will stabilize a young clubhouse. If Boone can put up a typical year for him: solid play at third, decent average, solid numbers, the move helps the club more by getting Blake into the outfield to replace the quickly aging Matt Lawton. For insurance, Jose Hernandez can fill in for Boone adequately. Through the organization, this is a deep position. Even after the trade of Corey Smith to the Padres, the Tribe is stacked with Pat Osborn, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and Matt Whitney, not to mention Jake Gatreau (the player acquired in the Smith deal).