With the wife and the laptop back on the North Coast, here's some tomahawks coming from Chief Wahoo:
- At 91-63 after Friday's win, the Tribe has 8 games left, 2 vs. the Royals, 3 vs. the Rays, and the last big 3 against the Pale Hose. The way that the other contenders are playing (and who they're playing) makes me think it's probably going to take this team going 6-2 to ensure a spot in the playoffs. That means - take the last 2 vs. the Royals, and 2 of 3 in both the Rays and Sox series'. Watching this team go after it, though, I think that 97-65 is very possible. Think about that - 97-65 to ensure a spot in the playoffs! If someone predicted that in April, I'd like to buy you a plane ticket to Vegas to hit the Mandalay Bay sports book.
- The last two games have shown the resiliency and overall depth of this team. Lee and the Crooked Cap came out and threw two clunkers (for them, at least), but were picked up by the offense (who simply refuses to concede a lead at any point) and the bullpen (Howry's hiccups notwithstanding). The Indians are playing with such confidence that no deficit looks unsurmountable and every inning offers hope of putting more crooked numbers on the scoreboard.
- Of course, the monster that is responsible for putting a lot of those crooked numbers on the board is Pronk, who is absolutely murdering the ball. Look at these numbers, in his last 26 AB's he is hitting .462 with 7 HR, 18 RBI, 3 doubles. Plus, he has a OBP of .576 and a SLG of 1.385, computing to an improbable 1.960 OPS over that same stretch (which includes the games against Garcia, Buehrle, and Garland in Chicago)! For comparison's sake, that LF for the Giants with the giant head has an OPS of 1.813 for the same timeframe. It's time for some Vote Pronk for MVP signs to appear at the Jake. Hafner has put the Tribe on his ample shoulders and could carry them all the way into October. The only question these days during his at-bats isn't whether he's going to see at least 20 pitches, or hit a bomb - but rather, how many buttons are not done going down his jersey. At this point the record is 5, and I'm waiting for him to stride to the plate with his jersey completely unbuttoned.
- Speaking of Pronk, I caught a Tribe Time bit called Pronkspective, when Jeff Phelps interviewed Hafner, asking him questions about the couple of days after he got beaned by Buehrle. Hafner was saying that he enjoyed being on the road and that he was glad he didn't have to go on the DL. Phelps corrected him, saying that he did go on the DL and never made those road trips with the team. Pronk didn't miss a beat, saying he enjoyed his rehab and so on. The shot came back to Matt Underwood and Andy Baskin laughing, saying that the whole bit was Hafner's idea, and that he's constantly going up to Phelps to pitch him ideas that he think would be funny. Seeing as how his favorite two movies are Old School and Anchorman, I can't say I'm surprised. I would like to get Pronk to a local watering hole, as he seems like the kind of guy who would be fun to tie one on with. I mean, he wears wrestling T-shirts in the clubhouse...c'mon.
- The other sparkplug in recent games has been, not surprisingly, SuperSizemore, who went for 5 hits on Thursday night, but more importantly keeps scoring runs on instinct and hustle. On Thursday night, Grady scored on a wild pitch by just taking off down the line, beating the toss to Garland by milliseconds. Then, on Friday night, he scored from second on a grounder to SS! It was reminiscent of Lofton's sprint from 2B on Randy Johnson's wild pitch in 1995. Grady has these instincts that, as Hegan says, "you simply cannot teach; you either have them or you don't". Grady's got it.
- Will the spirit of the Hall of Fame who pitcher took over Scott Elarton's body for the past few weeks please stick around for about another month?
- I'd like to see more of Fernando Cabrera, who mowed his way through 2 innings of shutout ball on Friday night spotting his fastball and throwing a wicked splitter. No hitter even came close to making solid contact. In 23+ innings since he joined the team, Cabrera has posted a 1.16 ERA with 23 K's. With Art Rhodes gone for the year, Matt Miller hurt for the year, and the Atomic Wedgie's confidence in Riske seemingly gone, it's important for Wedge to develop some trust in Cabrera. Otherwise, Rocky B-Court and the Robot's arms are going to fall off.
- I keep hearing the national media decry the Tribe's payroll, saying things like, "Imagine what Shapiro could do with $20 million more." Well, I take issue with that. The reason that the Indians' payroll is what it is happens to be more tied into the youth of the core players of this team than it does the alleged frugalness of ownership. Sizemore, Crisp, Peralta, Hafner, Martinez, Sabathia, Lee, Westbrook, and so on would make a ton on the open market, but they've either been locked up by the Tribe already (with the players forfeiting future money for a long-term contract) or will certainly be approached in the off-season. It's not a fair comparison, because you're not comparing apples to apples. Look at Grady Sizemore vs. Steve Finley (an off-season FA CF): would you rather have Grady or Finley? The salary is arbitrary as long as you have the players that you want. It's not how much money you spend, but how you spend your money. If we did have more money, tell me where there needs to be a significant upgrade. I know that Broussard and Blake have disappointed, but there's something to be said for chemistry at the same time. To those who say that the payroll should be higher, don't worry, it will be. As Dolan locks up these young talents, the payroll will rise as the pennants (hopefully) rise in the outfield of the Jake.
- The Tribe has taken advantage of playing the Royals, but please don't say that the Indians are lucky to have their remaining schedule. Last time I checked, the White Sox (who play the reeling Twins and Tigers before heading to Cleveland), and the Yankees and Red Sox (who can beat up on Baltimore and Toronto before their final series) aren't exactly playing the toughest schedules either.
- Nice to see that Ellis Burks was named a special assistant of baseball operations, joining Charles Nagy. They were two of the more cerebral and well-liked Indians of the 90's, and should be able to impart some wisdom to the young players of the Indians. I think that other players who would also fit that mold would be Travis Fryman (doesn't want to leave his family) and maybe Sandy Alomar (still in the league) as former Indians who could become involved in the organization.
- Locked up tickets to the ALDS on Thursday, thanks to the pre-sale offered online to subscribers to the Indians' newsletter. I think that was a great idea to give some priority to the fans who have been on board all year.
Every game from here on out is a big one, just get on the edge of your seat and plan on staying there for about a month.