Thursday, September 28, 2006

View(s) from the Mezzanine

After spending the last couple of games with some different folk, who all have different opinions on what the Indians should do during the off-season – I thought it would be interesting to see how some of these perspectives stack up against each other.

Opinion #1
The Indians need only to add a 2B/SS and fortify the bullpen.

This line of thought says that the Indians’ offense is strong enough as it is (mainly at 1B with Garko, 3B with Marte, and in the corners with Blake, Michaels, Gutierrez, and Michaels…maybe even Kouzmanoff) otherwise to compete in 2006. The rotation is set for next year and the bullpen needs to add 3 back-end arms to join Cabrera, Betancourt, Davis, and a pitcher already in the organization to be determined later.

This is the most optimistic view – one that believes that this team is very close to contention and only needs to make nominal moves to contend in 2007.

Option #2
Take Option #1 and add a run-producing corner OF.
Perpetuated by those tired of seeing “AAAA” player Casey Blake in the lineup everyday (their words, not mine) and nervous about a platoon of Choo and Michaels to fill another spot in the lineup, the answer would come in the form of a corner OF to slot behind Hafner in the lineup.

One problem with this option is that these players do not simply grow on trees and generally don’t play for the league minimum (Manny Ramirez ain’t donning the Chief next year). Either Garko-my-God-did-you-see-how-far-he-hit-that? and Marte (nice adjustments Andy!) could mature into that RH run producer, but putting that onus on a young player can wreak havoc on a lineup (Exhibit A: Jhonny Peralta in the 3 hole, circa 2006).

Option #3
Take Option #1 and trade Paul Byrd to fill other roster spots, move Carmona into the rotation.
With the knowledge that the FA class (particularly at 2B/SS) is very weak, the Indians may have to move a valuable chip (valuable being a relative term here) to get some value back. Some NL teams could be interested in Byrd, where he could find a little more success than he did this past year.

With the contract that Byrd’s working off of, he’s much more attractive than other FA’s out there – so this option may not be that far-fetched. That is, of course, considering that the Indians think that Carmona can move into the rotation next year. His last few starts have been encouraging, but 2 starts does not a season make. It’s possible that the Indians give Carmona first shot and keep guys like Guthrie, Slocum, and even Miller on speed-dial in case Fausto struggles out of the gate.

Option #4
Blow it up and start over because this team sucks.
Oh, wait…that was from the idiot who was sitting behind us last night, who must call WKNR in his spare time. He also doesn’t realize that C.C. has become a true ace, Hafner is among the top 3 hitters in baseball, and that Sizemore has 92 extra base hits (third in Tribe history, behind Joey’s 103 in 1995 and Hal Trosky’s 96 in 1936) and that he turned 24 on August 24th.

There’s merit to all of the first 3 options and I expect some combination of them to determine the roster for 2007. Option #1 is pretty much a given, but how and where Shapiro decides to spend the Dolans’ money and use the cards in his hand are going to make this the most interesting off-season in memory.

Those are just a few of the seemingly endless options going forward, so submit your own if you didn't spend the ChiSox series in the Mezzanine.

Lots of options this off-season for the Indians means lots of fun for the DiaTriber during the cold winter months on the North Coast.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Final Chapter at the Jake

On an evening that served as a microcosm for the 2006 season (moments of excitement and promise, but ultimately short-lived optimism and, finally, disappointment), I have left Jacobs Field for the last time.

The next time I walk into the structure at the corner of Prospect and Ontario, it will no longer welcome me to “the Jake”; it will be “the Key” or “National City Field” or something else that will make us long for the originality (even if it was fan-created) of lovingly giving an identity to the ballpark.

Much more to come later in the week, but here’s the highlight of the last night - Big League Choo comes out to the song, “Trying to Catch Me Riding Dirty” by Chamillionaire.

There may not be anything funnier that has happened at the Jake this season.

A whole Hot Stove League off-season full of conjecture and second-guessing looms, but as the rain fell while we made our way out of the park, The DiaBride expressed the thoughts of Clevelanders everywhere:

“There’s always next year…right?”

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Long Lazy Sunday

With the inexplicable 4PM start time (in Cleveland, no less) for the Ravens’ game, it’s time for an extended Lazy Sunday:

In lieu of Terry Pluto’s regular Sunday column, here’s his newsletter, Direct from Pluto, which discusses the whipping boy du jour, Jhonny Peralta.

This whole Peralta thing has become difficult to watch, in that Wedge has taken his frustration public and suddenly, Peralta has become the poster boy for what has gone wrong with the 2006 Tribe.

Has he been a disappointment? Sure, but let’s take a an overview here:
Is this not the same player who was 2nd in OPS for all SS last year, 2nd only to Miguel Tejada?

Is this not the same player who was the International League MVP in 2005 at age 22, then set the Tribe single season HR record at age 23, batting 3rd?

Isn’t he still 24 years old, and in his 2nd full season in the Majors?

Is there no leeway for pitchers adjusting to Peralta’s tendencies? It’s up to Peralta now to make the adjustments to thrive again, but why is everyone so certain that he won’t?

A lot of the frustration with Peralta has to do with his demeanor, or the look on his face that he simply doesn’t care or isn’t trying. Is it Peralta’s fault that he has an even demeanor and heavy eyelids? When other players keep an even keel, they’re seen as calm and in control, yet with Peralta, even his own team bashes him.

It’s true that this public display of frustration may be a motivational tactic for a coaching staff that may be running out of ideas, but to give up on Peralta at this point would be absolutely asinine.

Peralta’s defensive deficiencies have been magnified by the fact that he’s played with Aaron Boone, a less mobile Ronnie Belliard, Joe Inglett, and Hector Lunesta around him. We’re not talking about Robby Alomar and Matt Williams here.
Is it a coincidence that his 40 game errorless streak coincided with the arrival of a better defensive 3B in Andy Marte?
Give Peralta a DP partner that can turn the DP quickly and cover more ground and his defense becomes solid, if not spectacular, as it was last year.

It’s often been said that players have trouble leaving their difficulties in the field, and not taking them into the batter’s box. Perhaps that’s true of Peralta, whose defensive lapses and lack of confidence in the field could have affected his performance at the plate.

Bottom line, as long as Peralta understands that he’s being counted on for a rebound year for 2007, to prove that 2006 was the aberration, not 2005 – let’s allow this young player continue to develop without running him out of town before his confidence is shattered beyond salvation or only to watch him continue his maturation as a player elsewhere.

Elsewhere, Socker takes a look at where the Tribe rookies fit in for next year, concluding that some may be trade bait for veteran players.
But who? Isn’t this what everyone remembers about John Hart (rather than his building a championship-caliber team) – Giles for Rincon? Indians fans can’t have it both ways, they complain that there’s no home-grown talent (which is laughable – Sabathia, Sowers, Martinez, Peralta) and that the organization is unwilling to part with prospects in a move for a veteran (which has some merit, until you consider that other teams aren’t willing to part with regular contributors for young players off of the scrap heap).

Look at what the Red Sox did this past off-season, acquiring Josh Beckett. The move was heralded as being Boston’s masterstroke, that the one-two punch of Schilling and Beckett would be unstoppable. Um, except that they gave up Hanley Ramirez, and are now devoid of middle infielders, and Aribal Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter.

The point is that these moves are a crapshoot, you may think that you’re fleecing another team, getting much more than you give up, only to have that trade look dreadful in 20/20 hindsight.

The Indians do have some prospects, but the ones that other teams truly covet (Miller, Lofgren, Crowe) are the kind of players that you hate to give up on for two reasons. One, you hate to see your home-grown talent develop elsewhere (ask the Nationals if they’d like Lee and Sizemore in Washington), and two, those young players are under your control, at a manageable salary, for multiple years. So, when these deals get made, you either have to bring in an absolute stud, or you have to trade from depth so it doesn’t affect you long-term plans.

That is, unless you can get someone to bite on a tantalizing package of Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Davis, and Hector Luna for a regular contributor at 2B or in the OF.

Andy Call weighs in on Jason Michaels and his role for 2007. The fact that the Indians haven’t definitively said, “this is one of our guys going into next year” doesn’t bode well for Wet Haired One.

Ken Rosenthal examines the 2007 FA starting pitching class, wondering what player will be vastly overvalued and overpaid. It’s a great piece, pointing out the lack of quality starting pitching in the Majors and teams’ willingness to overpay for it.

Next time that you think that the Indians are in a lot of trouble for next year, read the piece and realize that those players (Cory Lidle, Ted Lilly, etc.) are going to be signed by a rival team to compete with the Tribe rotation. The Indians’ rotation is not a lock-down unit, but I’m glad that we don’t have to think about what Vincente Padilla or Jason Marquis is worth in the off-season.

Another thing about the Rosenthal piece, Miguel Batista is a name that has been forgotten as a potential closer, because of the fact that he started in Arizona this past year. However, 2 years ago, he saved 31 of 39 games for Toronto. Don’t be surprised if this is the “out-of-the-box” thinking that is going around the Tribe offices.

One final thought on the Rosenthal piece, do you think that Jake Westbrook’s agent reads something like that and absolutely salivates? Compare Westbrook to any of those guys, most of whom will likely get 2 to 3 year deals worth between $5M and $8M (yes, $8M) a year. Say what you will about Westbrook (too many hits, not dominant stuff), but he consistently takes the ball every fifth day and keeps the team in the game. With a solid infield defense around him, he could approach Brandon Webb numbers (not match, approach) in that both are sinkerballers who pitch to contact.

For as much grief as I gave Jake at the beginning of the season, I’ll take a serving of crow and say that Westbrook is (at worst) the #3 starter in this rotation and should be considered this off-season for an extension. Think about it this way, both Byrd and Westbrook will be FA at the end of 2007, is there anyone who prefers Byrd? How about Westbrook and Five-And-Fly Cliff Lee?

Finally, for the sake of serial poster, the Baltimoran, who teaches 12 and 13-year olds who are past the “at-risk” stage in their lives in Greater B-more, let’s all hope that the Browns can take out the Ravens.
Otherwise, it'll be another “case of the Mondays” in Maryland.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bay Area Butchery

The Drive for the .500 season became a pipe dream today with loss #82. This has to be one of the most frustrating seasons in recent memories, with the unfulfilled high expectations.

A quick barrage of Tomahawks:

  • Do you think that Peralta is in the Atomic Wedgie’s doghouse? This quote came after Thursday’s non-play that contributed to a 4-run inning:"[Peralta] should have made the play," manager Eric Wedge said, clearly frustrated with a season's worth of watching his defensively challenged infield. "I'm tired of talking about the guy. We've challenged him in about every way you can -- in terms of his pregame work, in terms of his first step and just what he needs to do out there. He's going to have to do better for him to be the defensive shortstop that we need him to be."
  • The way this bullpen audition is going, it’s apparent that there’s a LOT of work to be done in the off-season to cure the ills.
  • How about this nickname for the perpetually sleepwalking Hector Luna? Lunesta.
  • During Wednesday’s game, the camera showed Carmona in the dugout talking to Victor. Suddenly Garko appeared in the foreground. It took a while to figure out what he was doing, pacing around the dugout, bending over, walking somewhere else, bending over. Then I saw it – the stack of used cups in his hand. He was picking up TRASH in the dugout! It made me think of the beginning of “Dazed and Confused” when O’Bannion says to Melvin, “What are you doing? Picking up trash?!?”
  • How sweet would it be if the White Sox got hot, climbed back into the WC race, only to have the Tribe keep them out of the playoffs in the last weekend? On second thought, who cares who puts them out of the playoff race, so long as they’re sitting the same place as me on October 2nd – at home.
  • In case you missed it, Wickman re-upped with the Braves for next year for a little over $6M. Meaning he isn’t retiring, he isn’t coming back to Cleveland for a swan song, and the FA closer market for 2007 just got a little thinner. Guys with real closer experience still out there are down to Octavio Dotel, Francisco Cordero, and Eric Gagne. No sure thing there.
Since it looks more and more like the additions to the 2007 Tribe are going to be coming via trade, I’ll take a look at the players that may be out there at the positions of need that would be attractive to the Indians.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Final Harvest of the Season

With the Tribe on the Left Coast, I thought it would be a good time to take a final look at the top players in the upper levels of the Minor League system.

The final numbers for the players show the numbers achieved at the highest level at which they appeared for an extended period of time.

I kept the list to prospects only or players who may fit into the Indians’ long-term plans, mainly guys that we didn’t get to see too much of in Cleveland.

Buffalo Bisons (73-68)
Player – BA – HR – RBI – OPS
Kevin Kouzmanoff - .353 – 7 – 20 – 1.056
Franklin Gutierrez - .278 – 9 – 38 - .806
Ben Francisco - .278 – 17 – 59 - .799
Asdrubal Cabrera - .263 – 1 – 14 – .632

Guys like Marte, Inglett, and Garko were excluded from this list because of the extensive time that they spent in Cleveland. Cabrera will get another year in Buffalo to season him as a hitter, because, by most accounts, his defense is already ML-ready. A decision will have to be made on Francisco, who needs to be added to the 40-man roster or he’ll be exposed to the Rule 5 draft. Gutierrez and Kouzmanoff will be given a shot to make the 25-man, though both have options remaining for 2007.

Pitcher – Won/Loss – ERA – WHIP – K/BB
Edward Mujica – 3/1 – 2.48 – 1.10 – 29/5
Andrew Brown – 5/4 – 2.60 – 1.41 – 53/36
Brian Slocum – 6/3 – 2.61 – 1.22 – 91/37
Tom Mastny – 2/1 – 2.61 – 1.08 – 46/16
Rafael Perez – 0/3 – 2.63 – 1.02 – 33/8
Juan Lara – 1/1 – 3.00 – 1.33 – 15/3
Jeremy Guthrie – 9/5 – 3.14 – 1.23 – 88/48
Jake Dittler – 5/12 – 4.70 – 1.55 – 54/50

Obviously, Sowers and Carmona are missing from the list as we’ve all seen the good (Sowers and Carmona as the set-up guy) and the bad (Carmona’s rapid descent from “This Guy Can Save Games” to “We’ve Got To Save This Guy”). These players have all made the trip West to Cleveland, except for Dittler. The results have been fair to middling in Cleveland with Mastny and Lara having the most success. Guthrie and Brown are out of options and may not fit into the 2007 plans; but, then again, maybe none of these guys do.

Akron Aeros (87-55)
Player – BA – HR – RBI – OPS
Brian Barton - .351 – 6 – 26 - .919
Ryan Goleski - 296 – 17 – 63 – .898
Brad Snyder - .270 – 18 – 72 - .796
Ryan Mulhern - .268 – 15 – 69 - .773
Wyatt Toregas - .258 – 4 – 29 - .711
Eider Torres - .273 – 2 – 42 - .650
Trevor Crowe - .234 – 1 – 13 - .643

Barton, Torregas, Goleski, and Crowe all spent most of the season in Kinston, where they justifiably earned the trip to Akron. Goleski, who is 2 months younger that Brad Snyder is starting to outpace the former 1st rounder from Ball State as a possible future corner outfielder. Mulhern will likely move up to Buffalo to take the spot vacated by Garko (assuming he’s in Cleveland). Torres, who is a slick-fielding MI, has numbers that show why he doesn’t fit into the Tribe’s immediate plans at 2B. Overall, it was an underwhelming offensive year for Akron as the brighter prospects, like Crowe, were brought in to help the team with their playoff push. The disappointing offensive output is what makes the pitching performances even more impressive.

Pitcher – Won/Loss – ERA – WHIP – K/BB
Bubbie Buzachero – 8/3 – 2.72 – 1.25 – 71/25
Adam Miller – 15/8 – 2.75 – 1.12 – 157/43
Tony Sipp – 4/2 – 3.13 – 1.08 – 80/21
Aaron Laffey – 8/3 – 3.53 – 1.37 – 61/33
Travis Foley – 4/5 – 3.83 – 1.38 – 86/31
Sean Smith – 10/5 – 3.88 –1.28 – 94/45
Bear Bay – 7/8 – 4.33 – 1.31 – 114/48
Dan Denham – 6/2 – 4.88 – 1.58 – 40/39
Nick Pesco – 6/8 – 5.81 – 1.58 – 64/40

Gaze upon the “Next Wave of Arms”, led by Adam Miller, who could be pitching in Cleveland this time next year. There may be one other spot in the rotation available in Buffalo, with Laffey, Smith, and Bay the most likely candidates. Sipp figures in, down the line, as a match-up lefty while Buzachero may not be in the organization after getting into a fight in the Canal Park locker room, breaking Eider Torres’ jaw. No word on whether Torres made fun of his name to provoke the onslaught.

Kinston Indians (85-54)
Player – BA – HR – RBI – OPS
Jose Costanza (OF) - .327 – 1 – 27 - .855
Jordan Brown (OF) - .290 – 15 – 287 – .831
Stephen Head (1B) - .235 – 14 – 73 - .696
John Drennan (OF) - .239 – 8 – 37 – .656
Matt Whitney (3B) - .206 – 10 – 39 – .656

Once again, like in Akron, the offense in Kinston was not the motor that took this team to a Mills Cup Championship. Jordan Brown is the most impressive of this largely unimpressive group. Drennan is still a youngster who started the season in Lake County (where he hit a HR off of Roger Clemens), and Matt Whitney has ceased to be a prospect, much less a top prospect.

Pitcher – Won/Loss – ERA – WHIP – K/BB
Scott Lewis – 3/3 – 1.48 –0.97 – 123/28
Chuck Lofgren – 17/5 – 2.32 – 1.16 – 125/54
Joe Ness – 9/6 – 3.62 – 1.31 – 120/55
Reid Santos – 2/0 – 3.44 – 1.17 – 65/28
Jensen Lewis – 7/6 – 3.99 – 1.28 – 94/29
Kevin Dixon – 6/3 – 5.19 – 1.43 – 40/23
TJ Burton – 2/5 – 5.36 – 1.69 – 46/18

Again, just like in Akron, the pitchers carried this team. 4 of the 5 starters had ERA’s under 4.00 and Chuck Lofgren cemented his top prospect status. Scott Lewis led all of the Minor Leagues in ERA, earning him the “Most Spectacular Pitcher” Award, three years after undergoing “Tommy John” surgery. Jensen Lewis (21) and Joe Ness (22) are the type of pitchers who progress through the system, never blowing anyone away – just winning

The fact that 2 of 3 of these teams were in the running to win their leagues (with Kinston winning, Akron losing) and the one team that was out of the running (Buffalo) was picked clean by the parent club is pretty encouraging for the future.

Now it’s time for Shapiro and the boys to make the difficult decisions on the 40-man roster so they don’t expose the wrong guys to the Rule 5 Draft and determine which of the higher level prospects will contribute, and when to keep the product at the corner of Prospect and Ontario exciting.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Place Your Bets

Starting off with a little Lazy Sunday round-up:
Paul Hoynes suggests that if the Tribe can’t find a proven closer this off-season, their attention could turn to set-up guys.

The top 10 pitchers leading the lead in “Holds”, or essentially the stat that measures how many 7th or 8th innings are pitched, without incident, by a set-up guy, are:
Scot Shields – LAA
Scott Linebrink – SD
Aaron Heilman – NYM
Joel Zumaya – DET
Juan Rincon – MIN
Dan Wheeler – HOU
Brandon Lyon – ARI
Arthur Rhodes – PHI
Luis Vizcaino – ARI
Kiko Calero – OAK

Shields, Linebrink, Wheeler, and Calero would fit that “emerging set-up guy” that Hoynes speaks of.

Terry Pluto examines the Dominican Dandy and how the 3B battle in Winter Haven may take shape next year.

Tim Kurkjian identifies the Tribe as a “spoiler” for the last 2 weeks.

Ken Rosenthal comes out as the 1st national writer (I think) to board the SuperSizemore bandwagon.

Andy Call thinks the Indians’ big problem is their defense and touches on Guillermo Mota taking some parting shots at Victor Martinez on his way out of town.

With the roll call out of the way, it’s time to head to the Clevelandalay Bay Sports Book:
Going with the idea that the rotation will stay in its current state for 2007, let’s look at how the Bullpen Casting Couch is going.

With apologies to Danny Sheridan, these are the odds I’d give the current Tribe relievers at being out in the good guys’ bullpen in 2007:
Betancourt – 4 to 3
Brown – 25 to 1
Cabrera – 1 to 1
Carmona – 30 to 1
Davis – 4 to 1
Guthrie – 250 to 1
Lara – 100 to 1
Mastny – 20 to 1
Miller – 10 to 1
Mujica – 100 to 1
Perez – 50 to 1
Sikorski – Google to 1
Slocum – 250 to 1

So, if you’re scoring at home – I have Betancourt, Cabrera, Davis, and Miller in the 2007 bullpen. The 3 relievers to be named later will join them to form the 2007 pen.

Mastny, Carmona, Lara, Mujica, Perez, and Slocum would go to the Buffalo staff to refine their pitches as they all have options remaining. Tony Sipp (who will be added to the 40-man in the off-season) will join that group in Buffalo. Carmona and Slocum (and possibly Perez) would likely start in the Buffalo rotation to join Adam Miller and either Aaron Laffey or Sean Smith

The team likely will cut ties with Brown, Guthrie, Sikorski as all are out of options and have done little to play their way into this team’s future. Whether the Indians can package Brown or Guthrie in a deal in the off-season remains to be seen. Sikorski should make sure that he has his passport in order, because his days of pitching stateside are through. Add Jason Stanford to that list of players unlikely to be in the organization next year as his options have also run out.

After the abomination that has been the 2007 pen, expect Shapiro to spend a lot more attention (ergo money) on the back end of the bullpen in the off-season. Whether the arms come in through FA or via trade, the bullpen should have a decidedly different look next year.

If things get ugly in Browns’ Town today (and they might), take a listen to the Aeros’ game as they try to capture the Eastern League crown at 1PM. It’s free on MiLB Gameday Audio.
Bear Bay gets the start over Adam Miller, who has reached his inning total for the year.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Filling Out the Lineup Card

Watching the lineups that have been trotted out there since Pronk’s injury, it’s frustrating to see guys like Boone, Michaels, Luna, and even Blake taking plate appearances away from players that need to be evaluated for next year.

Unless the Tribe is showcasing Michaels for an off-season trade, there’s no reason for him to take time away from Choo or Gutierrez; we know what we have with Michaels – a nice 4th OF who thrives only in a platoon situation. Do Choo or Gutierrez project to be more than that? We’ll never know without seeing them in the lineup with some regularity.

We also know what we have in Luna, an IF with less range than Peralta (never have I longed to see Jhonny at SS than when Luna takes the field) who is incapable of being a starting 2B, and is an even worse option as a Utility IF.

Not that anyone’s asking me to fill out the lineup card, but this is how the lineup should look for the last 16 games of the season- ½ of which are against playoff contenders:
C – Martinez
1B – Garko
2B – Inglett
SS – Peralta
3B – Marte
RF – Gutierrez
CF – Sizemore
LF – Choo/Blake
DH – Kouzmanoff

Kouzmanoff would rotate at DH with Blake, and Martinez/Garko when Shoppach catches so Victor’s legs don’t fall off.

That should be it.

Tell Michaels that you need to evaluate some of these young players and that you are aware of what Michaels brings to the table, other than his perpetually wet hair.

Tell Boone that you appreciate his professionalism and the influence that he’s had on this young team. Thank him for his time here in Cleveland and tell him to enjoy his lovely wife in the off-season.

Tell Blake that he hasn’t been the same since he came off of the DL and that he’s not going to play every day so he doesn’t overcompensate for his aches and pains during the remainder of the season, allowing him to keep his 2006 season a positive one to build on.

Tell Luna to take that frying pan that he calls a glove and make some crepes for the team.

The role of spoiler takes you only so far and evaluating players in Spring Training is far less productive than putting young players in game situations, particularly against teams like the Twins, White Sox, and the A’s – all of whom are still fighting for their playoff lives.

By the way, if you’re looking for Paul Byrd on a Saturday morning, he’s at First Watch at Crocker Park. His Lexus SUV is parked right next to Carl Monday, on his way out of Trader Joe’s with a case of wine.

Just in case you were wondering.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

View from the Mezzanine

About 7,500 at the game last night, with an interesting end to the night.

After Betancourt gave up the HR to make it 6-2, I exited stage left. Walking towards Bolivar and the car, I ran into a posse of some meatheads, in crazy outfits, on their way into the Jake from the Thirsty Parrot. Assuming that the costumes were part of some Fraternity Hazing, I averted my eyes and walked away.

As if I was that skinny freshman once more, one of the guys yelled to me, “Hey, buddy…where you going? Game’s not over!” As the testosterone level in the group far outweighed what I was bringing to the party, I quietly walked away as the catcalls persisted.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this picture in the PD with the accompanying caption:

A few of the Minnesota Twins' rookies were on hand to witness the Indians' loss to the Royals last night. They were dressed up in costumes as part of a hazing ritual new players generally endure at the end of each season.

So, essentially, the Twins’ rookies were half-in-the-bag, walking from the Thirsty Parrot to the Home Run Porch when they spotted yours truly. Had I known it was them, I obviously would have asked them where Francisco Liriano was…then ran like hell.

A couple of thoughts about the game:
If the Indians are serious about improving their infield defense, there’s no way that Hector Luna can be on this team next year. He has zero range and, even when the play involves him, seems to sleepwalk through innings. With groundball pitchers like Westbrook and Byrd on the staff, Luna is a liability that cannot be tolerated. As bad as he is as a 2B, he’s worse at SS. If he's a Utility IF next year, it may be the first time a Utility IF is the worst IF on the roster.

With the powers-that-be at the Jake (or Eaton Jo-Ann, or whatever) likely to keep the whole “Betancourt Is In Session” going when Rocky comes in, let’s go all the way. I like the graphic they show on the JumboTron that shows Betancourt as a judge, complete with gavel in hand. But how about this scene to accompany his arrival from the bullpen?
A simple re-creation of the People’s Court wrap-up, with a Tribe fan walking out of the courtroom to a waiting Doug Llewelyn:
Llewelyn – Let’s get some feedback from the principals here…what happens now?
Tribe Fan (as the camera pans in) – Betancourt’s In Session.
If they could get Rusty the Bailiff to escort said Tribe fan out, all the better.

Was anyone else expecting this face to accompany the Twins' starter, Boof Bonser tonight?

Finally, a plea for the Sykestown Slugger, whose presence in the lineup has been greatly missed:

Pronk, Pronk! Wherefore art thou Pronk?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Let 'em fly:

  • Regardless of Sowers’ effort vs. the Royals, you can’t argue that his time in Cleveland has been unreal. Think about this – the 4 ER vs. the Royals were the most ER he’s given up since JULY 16th. That means he had 9 straight starts giving up 3 ER or less! In 7 of those 9 outings, he went longer than 6 innings, including two CG! His name has been written in pen (if not permanent marker) for that 2007 rotation for about 6 weeks.

  • Why is Kouzmanoff not getting AB’s, at least at DH? Is this an indication that the Tribe doesn’t think he’s ready to take over 3B? Or are they trying to keep his trade value high for the off-season by having his phenomenal 2006 minor league numbers stand on their own (not to mention a few ML HR’s)? Something that bears watching over the last 20 games or so.

  • Terry Pluto had some interesting thoughts on “More Sports with Les Levine” this week. He said that he expects the Indians to be more active on the trade market than in FA, mainly because (as we’ve looked at) the FA market is dreadful at the positions they’re looking for. He said that they’ll look for guys with manageable contracts, with multiple years left that can fill their holes. A caller asked him is Jose Vidro fit that description, to which Pluto responded, “Absolutely, that’s the type of players the Indians will look at”. Remember, this is the guy that was given unlimited access to Shapiro/Antonetti and their decision-making processes of the past few seasons in “Dealing”.

  • Watching the way that this Front Office has dealt with its top prospects, does anyone else see Adam Miller playing the Jeremy Sowers role next year? Start him in Buffalo, build his confidence, then use him to bolster the rotation around July, using the first half of 2007 to find out where the weak link might be.

  • In Akron, Miller finished the season at 15-6 with a 2.56 ERA and 157 K’s to 43 BB’s in 153 2/3 innings. Miller is that classic RH power pitcher, and would slot nicely between C.C. and Sowers in the rotation going forward.

  • Following the Sowers-Miller path is Chuck Lofgren in Kinston, the High A team for the Tribe. Lofgren, who won’t turn 21 until January, went 17-5 with a 2.32 ERA and 125 K’s to 54 BB’s in 139 2/3 innings. WOW! That’s comparable to the numbers that Miller put up 2 years ago (at Lake County, then Kinston) to put him on the map.

  • Where Miller will start 2006 as the Bisons’ ace, Lofgren will start the year as the Aeros’ ace. Between the two of them, who wins the Bob Feller Award for top Minor League pitcher?

  • To the question in the last comments section of who may be in the running for naming rights for the Jake this off-season, here are the Fortune 500 Companies Headquartered in NE OH (Greater Cleveland & Akron). They are listed in order of annual revenue:
    First Energy
    National City Bank
    Parker Hannifan
    Sherwin Williams
    Nacco Industries
    RPM International
    Aleris International
    American Greetings
    Jo Ann Stores
    Medical Mutual
    Applied Industrial Technologies
    Lincoln Electric
    The new name could come from a larger company not headquartered in NE OH (Continental comes to mind), but if the name becomes something like AT & T Field or Verizon Wireless Park, I may reconsider my Season Tix.

  • The new TV season is starting soon and the only shows that I can say I’ll make a point of watching are going to be “The Office” and “Lost”. Anybody have any suggestions for anything I’m missing. Somebody told me that “How I Met Your Mother” is funny, but I don’t know if it’s DVR-worthy. One thing’s for sure, the whole pregnant wife thing means that the DVR will be in overdrive for the Fall and Winter. I need something to sprinkle in there between the DiaBride’s “Grey’s Anatomy”, “ER”, and “House” – can you say “Medical Drama”?

  • After the Saints took the Browns behind the wood shed on Sunday, I’m considering following Aston Villa, Randy Lerner’s team in the English Premier League. Lerner, with his billions, has to have a successful football team somewhere, right?

  • A few FA relievers to keep an eye on this off-season, in addition to current Brewers closer Francisco Cordero:
    Steve Kline
    Ray King
    Mike Stanton

    Octavio Dotel
    Justin Speier
    Mike Timlin

  • After Sunday, when the Browns and Packers played so poorly (the DiaBride is from WI), I wonder if I can subject my own flesh and blood to this suffering. Throw in the fact that the Tribe’s closing in on 60 years since a WS championship and I’m setting this child up for a major inferiority complex.
With tix to Wednesday’s game, I’ll let you know if attendance at the Jake (people at the game, not tickets sold) tops 5K.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Blusters from the Windy City

With the Tribe splitting in Chicago (thanks to the aCCe on Sunday), I thought it would be a good idea to get a field report from the Cell. Serial poster Cy Slapnicka (who must have text-messaged me 15 times during the game) drew the assignment.

Without further ado, here's our 1st Report from the Road:

I am 0-3 at the cell and 0-6 in my last 6 Tribe/Sox games, going back to the season ending sweep last year. To show how bad my luck is, this is the second Sox game in a row where my wife cleaned house in mound ball and I won nothing. The loss Friday night rests solely on my shoulders. In the bottom of the 9th, I sent a text message to PC suggesting a new nickname, "Nasty Mastny?" (DiaTriber’s Note – that name has already been suggested, along with the idea that he comes out to Janet Jackson’s “Nasty Boys”). About 2 pitches later I was racing to the train to try and get on with the fewest number of belligerent sox fans, still numb to the fact that it was AJ that beat us.

A few observations:

  • Is it just me, or does Garko just look like a first baseman?
  • Shoo has a cannon for an arm. It brings back memories of Hard Hittin’ Mark Whiten's howitzer. The ball seems like it picks up speed as it reaches the infield.
  • Did anyone notice the Indians runners' weak slides into second to "try" and break up double plays? My seats were looking straight down the base path between 1B and 2B. Did you notice Ryan Garko's grass stained pants during the game? Amazing diving play at 1B? Nope, his slide into second on a DP was actually in the grass. This happened twice, I just can't remember if it was Vic or Choo that had a weak slide. Disappointing to see.
  • I was talking smack to a Sox fan after we took the lead in the 9th, telling him they would not even make the wild card this year. His response? "That’s okay, we won the World Series". I quietly took my seat. I even had an usher (couldn't have been older than 15) in my section busting my balls.
  • Speaking of Sox fans.... they sure aren't the most refined individuals I've spent any length of time with. I saw a guy in a wife beater being hauled off in hand cuffs (presumably for umpire safety) and I overheard a couple girls discussing their visit to the men's room, the hostility the encountered and the ensuing argument they had while in there. Somehow I don't think they washed their hands.
Thanks, Cy. I'm glad that the cops in riot gear on ATV's from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome got you out of that place in one piece.

After yesterday's debacle at CB Stadium, the Tribe's not looking too bad.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Lazy Opening Weekend Sunday

O-H-I-Oh no! Not Pronk!

Le Pronque’s record-breaking season has come to an end, which is too bad because of the phenomenal numbers he continues to put up.

However, it could provide the rest of the team (namely guys like Garko and Kouzmanoff) the opportunity to learn how to produce runs without the Sykestown Slugger around. When Hafner comes back next year, it can only help the development of the lineup.

Terry Pluto believes that the bullpen next year will consist of Mastny, Cabrera, Betancourt, and Davis with the other 3 spots being filled by a mix of youngsters (Carmona, Perez, etc.) and veterans that will be brought in.

Paul Hoynes reports that the Tribe will look at bringing back Ronnie Belliard (I hope not for a multi-year deal – though his StL performance won’t help him) or looking at Adam Kennedy. If that’s the plan, I’d almost rather see Super Joe get a longer look.

Hoynes also says that Michael Young is unhappy in Texas. Thinking outside the box, what would it take to pry Young out of Arlington? Peralta and Carmona? How good would he look batting 2nd, or even 3rd, between Grady and Pronk?

Socker examines the success of Jeremy Sowers, who’s on track for one more start on Tuesday at the Jake, where he will hopefully get a rousing ovation of appreciation around the 7th or 8th inning.

Andy Call presents his off-season wish list.

Finally…oh yeah…GO BROWNS!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Work in Progress

The way that this team has handled itself offensively in recent games (particularly with Pronk sidelined) make me wonder if the Indians truly do need to add that “big bat” that everyone’s talked about.

If Garko-my-God-did-you-see-how-far-he-hit-that can fill the role of a run producer in the middle of the lineup (I am aware that he has 103 CAREER AB’s), it allows the Indians the flexibility to utilize their in-house talent to fill holes for next season rather than throwing money at an overpriced 1B or OF. Garko’s approach and confidence at the plate, as well as the early results, bode well for the bottom line and prudent use of salary distribution for next year.

A well balanced, if young, lineup could allow the Indians to sink some money into their bullpen (which last night’s rendition of Perez, Sikorski, Lara, Brown, and Mastny – in a game they could have won – again proved it needs some major work) as well as adding some years to the contracts of Le Pronque and (hopefully) the Crooked Cap.

Maybe a part of that well-balanced lineup is a platoon in LF. Take a look at these numbers and let me know if we should get Ollie Stone on the horn:
Choo vs. LH
.294 BA/.333 OBP/.294 SLG/.627 OPS
Michaels vs. LH
.309 BA/.369 OBP/.480 SLG/.849 OPS

Choo vs. RH
.310 BA/.396 OBP/.524 SLG/.920 OPS
Michaels vs. RH
.247 BA/.300 OBP/.350 SLG/.650 OPS
Michaels and Choo may never prove to be everyday players, but their cumulative productivity could certainly fit the label of “role player” that complements that “core” that we hear so much about.

Where Casey Blake best fits into the well-balanced lineup (as a RF or as a Super Utility guy) is still an answer that needs to be answered.

I don’t think that Joe Inglett is a great answer at 2B, but he’s at least a solid Utility IF. That’s more than can be said for Hector Luna, who has done nothing in an Indians uniform thus far, except for justifying the Indians’ decision to expose him in the Rule 5 draft a few years ago.

If the Tribe should add anything on offense, maybe they should look more closely at upgrading the 2B position - or the SS position if Jhonny is seen by the Front Office as a defensive liability there.

Of course, if Trevor Crowe is close enough to the Bigs that he’s looking like a 2007 mid-season call-up, do you want to lock up a guy like Ray Durham (or someone of his ilk), which would require a multi-year commitment? Crowe’s performance at 2B in the Arizona Fall League may answer that question, as Crowe could move into LF if his infield defense is Luna-esque.

The questions are starting to be answered, and the process is entertaining enough to keep things interesting as the Indians make their Drive to 82, and a season over .500.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Hot Corner Issues

With Travis Hafner scheduled to return to the lineup (please!) any day now, the Atomic Wedgie is going to be facing some issues trying to find AB’s for the players that need to be evaluated going into the off-season. Nowhere is that more apparent than at 3B.

Kevin Kouzmanoff has subbed for Pronk at DH in his absence and has played well, though in an admittedly small timeframe. He burst on the scene with HR’s in his first two games, and in particular with the Granny on the first pitch he saw – and plans were in motion to erect a statue next to Bob Feller. Those plans have subsided, as K2 (take that Soldier Boy) has fallen back to earth. We have not seen him at 3B in the field to see how he stacks up as a defender. He’s succeeded at a ridiculous level all year in the minors (how about a .379 cumulative average with a 1.093 OPS?), and to see him handle himself at the plate gives you the answer.

He has a nice, compact swing and seems capable of spraying line drives around the field. Plus, he’s one of those lanky white guys who shaves his head, so he’s got that whole Tom Tolbert thing going for him. The Kouz is 25, so he’s an “older” rookie; but so was Hafner.

We’ve seen quite a bit more of Andy Marte in 30+ games and he’s come as advertised, only better defensively. He has a tendency to try the pull the ball, resulting in a long swing and, to this point, a low average (.206). His glove has been phenomenal, as the Indians finally have a 3B capable of making the routine play as well as the spectacular. His instincts are better than we’ve heard (remember all of the hand-wringing over his AAA errors?), but his inconsistency at the plate is disconcerting. To be fair, there was another 22-year-old who didn’t light the world on fire after making his debut in late July. SuperSizemore hit .246 in 43 games in 2004, so don’t read too much into Marte’s “struggles” at the plate.

Marte has talent, evidenced by the fact that he’s a 22-year-old in the Bigs; but he also shows, fairly regularly, that he’s a 22-year-old in the Bigs. He’s hovered around that .200 mark all year, though his OBP and SLG have steadily risen.

So, what can we do to evaluate both of these players? They’re both RH, so a straight platoon is out of the question and Marte has shown that he’s not a liability in the field. Kouzmanoff has earned a look with his numbers in Akron and Buffalo this year, but to what extent?

Regardless of how they do it this year, I have a feeling that these two players will go into Winter Haven next year fighting for the 2007 3B spot. It should be a competition based on merit, not with the idea of justifying the Coco deal.

If Kouzmanoff wins the job outright, the then-23-year-old Dominican Dandy can go to AAA to refine his game. Marte certainly didn’t blow the doors off of Buffalo (except for the HR Derby), so maybe he could use a little more seasoning. He wouldn’t take it well, but that’s why it can’t be a redo of the Phillips-Vazquez battle that has little to do with on-field performance.

If Marte wins the job, expect Kouzmanoff to slot in elsewhere on the field (maybe the OF?) as he’s proven that he has nothing left to prove in the minors. If he is sent back down, he may regress like Garko-my-God-did-you-see-how-far-he-hit-that? did (numbers-wise) this year in AAA

Speaking of GMGDYSHFHHT (that looks weird), how quickly has he slotted in as a run-producer in this lineup? He’s been batting, well, in the 3rd and 4th hole. Which begs the question: If Garko Milicic is the RH bat that’s needed in the lineup, can the Indians use the money better elsewhere? I love the idea of playing Garko at 1B, Vic at C, and Shoppach spelling Vic in the field as the Stick flip-flops between 1B and C to keep that bat in the lineup.

Finally, in the best news of the day, Jeremy Sowers will live to pitch another day this year – next Tuesday against KC. Obviously, I have tix to the Wednesday game and two games in September versus the Royals is a stretch, even for me.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Weekend Recap

With the Kevin Kouzmanoff Era in full swing and Pronk simply day-to-day (but, really, aren’t we all?), it’s time for some Lazy Sunday:
Sheldon Ocker looks at the Tribe’s rotation for next year and where Mark Shapiro might spend the Dolans’ money.

Terry Pluto examines where the young Indians fit into the 2007 plans and how some ex-Tribesman have fared away from the Jake.

Andy Call of the Canton Repository takes a look at the BLC. Also mentioned in the article is that Burlington is changing their affiliation from the Indians to the Royals.

During the Blue Jays series last week, (the real) Pat Tabler, who announces games for Toronto, but keeps a very close tab on what the Indians do speculated that the Indians rotation could look like this in the VERY near future:

I'm OK with that. Locking up C.C. would be a priority for me in the off-season.

Prior to catching the BGSU-Wisconsin game at CB Stadium last night (which consisted of a night at the Gridiron Grille watching the ND-Georgia Tech game and watching former Badger, current Buffalo Bills WR Lee Evans’ mom do multiple shots), we took in a Jacobs Field tour. Some nuggets that were learned:

  • The Indians are in negotiations with about 15 companies right now for the naming rights for the ballpark. Dick Jacobs is not expected to be in the mix and the announcement should come around November. Get your Jacobs Field gear now, if you want, because that name will be obsolete in 2 months.
  • The dugout suites are just about the greatest thing I’ve ever seen and would kill to see a game from that vantage point, which is actually closer home plate than the pitcher’s mound.
  • The WWE belt that was bestowed to Travis Hafner earlier this year is behind the sales counter at the Team Shop. It is not for sale, nor is it available for paying customers to try on for a photo opportunity. Telling the clerk that you are a season ticket holder does not make a difference.
  • The dugout phone has a list of extensions (press box, official scorer, etc.), which includes Mark Shapiro (x4315), presumably so the Atomic Wedgie can find out when to put on the hit-and-run from the GM.
  • The player’s parking assignments are based on tenure in the ML, meaning that Aaron Boone parks the closest of all the Indians. It is not so Boone’s car is the closest for Panini’s runs for players who actually PLAY. Yes, it was asked.
  • There is a clock in the batting cages behind the Tribe dugout with a broken faceplate. Written on the broken glass, in permanent marker, is “Albert Belle Memorial Clock”.
  • The Indians are adding a permanent Hall of Fame at the park to honor the players whose numbers are retired. The site has not yet been determined.
  • When visiting the field, you ARE NOT allowed to take wind sprints in the outfield, or go onto the grass for ANY reason.
  • The clubhouse is not part of the tour and the door is marked “INDIANS TEAM & STAFF ONLY”. Below that, it stated “NO FAMILY, FRIENDS, OR AGENTS ALLOWED”. We called it the Juan Gonzalez addendum.
  • The Press Box has little cubbyholes behind where the newspaper writers sit that are filled with every ML Media Guide, except one. One of the cubbyholes was filled only by salt and peppershakers and a bottle of Tabasco sauce. So, we know where Bill Livingston takes in Tribe games.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Q & A

The Tribe finished 18-10 in the month of August (with 5 Blown Saves mixed in, as has been mentioned), which begs the question – where has this been all year?

While we’re in the inquisitive mood, here’s a few things to ponder over the weekend, while enjoying the OSU game:

Should the Indians have gone with these young players to begin the season (Sowers, Garko, Marte) and used the money spent on Johnson and Perez to fortify the bullpen, rather than hoping that Cabrera or Betancourt stepped up to the set-up role?

Is Eric Wedge a more effective manager with a young team that may be more receptive to his style than one that might have more veterans on it?

Had C.C. started the season healthy, Byrd effective, and Johnson nowhere near Cleveland, how would the Indians season have started?

Is Andy Marte the 3B going into Spring Training next year? What about Garko at 1B? With Kouzmanoff being the other option at 3B (and possibly at 1B), will Shapiro bring in a veteran 1B or give these youngsters a chance?

Now that Aaron Boone has apparently given Ryan Garko his nickname (Fred Flintstone, which is apropos), has nobody else noticed that he resembles a young John Belushi?

Can the Indians get to .500 by the end of the year?

Who will start in place of Jeremy Sowers when he gets shut down for the year (after 1 or 2 more starts)? Carmona? Guthrie? Adam Miller (unlikely, but tantalizing)?

Is Jason Michaels on this team next year, in a platoon with Choo? Or does Michaels settle into the 4th OF role, or simply find himself elsewhere next year?

No answers, just questions right now.