Thursday, September 29, 2005

Complete Control

Or do you prefer Cruise Control...or Captain Control...or the Crooked Cap? Whatever moniker you want to use for our hefty lefty, C.C. was absolutely dominant tonight. Benefitting from some early fireworks from Pronk, Jelly, and Jhonny Cool (who broke the Indians' all-time HR record held by Woodie Held), C.C. pulled his cap on and went to work. He dismantled the Rays lineup, striking out 9 and spreading 5 hits over 8 strong innings. I think that we should have dealt him for Adam Dunn at the deadline, don't you? C.C.'s turnaround lends some credence to the belief that C.C. wasn't far away from being dominant when he struggled earlier this year. After a few tweaks to the mechanics and streamlining his delivery, C.C. has been an ace. There, I said it.

The offense woke up early tonight, though the reliance on the longball and the lack of hitting with runners in scoring position still worries me. But those worries are for another day, because the Erie Warriors took care of their business tonight.

Hafner's night (3-4 with a HR and 2 RBI) gives hope that his "slump" (for Pronk, at least) is over and he's ready to go nuts on White Sox pitching again. He was only a triple away from the cycle. Anyone who's ever seen the triple he hit in Minnesota last year to complete the cycle was hoping he would go hauling around the bases again tonight. He looks like a fullback rounding second: wide-eyed, a little out of control and very scary.

The White Sox clinched the AL Central today, which means a few things:

  • The Indians are now only competing with the Yanks and the Sawx for the Wild Card. Seeing as how they're playing each other this weekend, scoreboard watching will be pretty easy at the Jake. I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to root for either of those teams this weekend, but whatever it takes.
  • The White Sox have nothing really to play for in this weekend's series. I'm not completely sure how home field advantage works, but the White Sox have very little incentive to give it their all this weekend. They may even set up their rotation for the playoffs. The way it stands right now, the Tribe is scheduled to face Buehrle, Garland, and McCarthy (not Contreras, thank goodness), but that could certainly change if Ozzie thinks that he's going to retire after the season.
  • The ChiSox SHOULD be celebrating tonight in Detroit, meaning that there could be a bit of a hangover for Chicago in Friday's game. I hope that Johnny Blackout is planning on hanging out with a few South Siders tonight.

You can't say enough about the starters this year (Elarton's stinker on Tuesday notwithstanding) because the Indians are in EVERY game. Regardless of whether this team plays fundamental baseball, or great defense, or hits well in the clutch - the Indians' pitching staff has kept the team in virtually all their games.

Yankees up 8-4 in the 9th, Red Sox down 4-3 in the 8th.

Go Blue Jays!

Remember it doesn't matter how you get there, as long as you get there. Let's get there, Wahoos!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Seth McClung

Seth McClung...Seth McClung...Seth McClung...
Wild Card
Red Sox
92-66 -
92-66 -

AL Central
White Sox
95-63 -
92-66 3.0 GB

4 Games left. They are killing me. Seth F'n McClung...

Kickstart My Heart

Despite the picture shown in the previous post, we're going to heed Monty Python's famous advice to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life". Tuesday's game was a gut-wrenching thriller, as the Tribe couldn't punish Kazimir for putting guys on, then came up a bit short in the 9th.

As one of the 23,000+ (who, despite the small number, were very loud and very into the game), I sat there in the 9th, with the Tribe down 2, and looked at the scoreboard to see the hitters for the bottom of the 9th. My thought was that if Coco and Peralta got on, it could set the scene for some Jake magic with Pronk at bat. Alas, after Coco and Jhonny Cool did their part, Pronk grounded out (Peralta mowing down Lugo was the only thing that prevented the DP) to break all of our hearts. But wait, The Stick keeps things alive, so the always loose Jelly Belliard just needs to put one in the air to score Gutierrez from 3rd. No sooner had I said, "As long as he doesn't hit into a DP", did he hit into a DP. It was like the air had been let out of the Jake. Disheartening? Yes, but not enough to kill my enthusiasm and positive vibe. It may be enough for the jinx (yours truly) to contemplate skipping Friday and Saturday's games (for which I have tix), but not to put a damper on Indians' Fever.

Luckily for the Tribe, all four principals in the race lost as well, with the ChiSox leaving 22 RUNNERS ON BASE (!) in their loss to the Motor City Kitties. I thought Blake leaving 5 on was bad. Oh wait, that is bad. Can someone please find for me MLB leaders in Men Left On Base for 2005. I've tried in vain now for two weeks, and I can't find it anywhere. Blake has to have a double digit lead in that category. Even the wife (who used to count Casey as her favorite groaned last night, "Why does he always come up in these situations", right before Blake whiffed) has taken notice.

A few positives out of last night's game:

  • Fernando Cabrera looks untouchable at times. I've recently heard a few broadcasters compare his impact to what K-Rod did a few years ago with the Halos. Just remember where you heard that first.
  • Broussard coming off the bench for the perpetually ineffective Jose Hernandez and lacing one down the RF line. If Benny can get hot now, look out. I know that we're facing 2 lefties (Fossum & Buehrle) in our last 5 games, but that could mean that Benny becomes a factor late in the game as a PH.
  • Not necessarily related to last night's game, but did you know that Barry Bonds has 708 HR? He's 6 away from Babe Ruth, and it doesn't even get a mention locally. To me, that's good news.

By the way, you can't help but get jacked for a game by sitting in the Jake as The Crue's epic Kickstart My Heart from Dr. Feelgood (you know, right before Without You on the LP)blasts to start the game
Ooh, yeh
Kickstart my heart
Give it a start
Ooh, yeh, baby
Ooh, yeh
Kickstart my heart
Hope it never stops
Ooh, yeh, baby

Let's hope that tonight we don't need a kickstart from a broken heart.


Hitting newstands tomorrow:

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Grady losing the ball in the sun today allowed the Royals to sneak away with the last game of the series. A meaningless win for the Royals, a huge loss for the Tribe. I understand that the Indians aren't going to win every game and that it's difficult to sweep a four game series (particularly on the road), but this game frustrating in that it was winnable.

Victories by the White Sox, Yankees, and Red Sox put the Tribe 2 1/2 back in the Central and only 1/2 game up in the Wild Card. Since the Yankees and the Red Sox play Monday (while the Indians have a day off), the Wild Card race could conceivably be tied at the end of Monday night. That means that a six game stretch will decide the season.

It's time for the Tribe to come home, rest up for the Rays series and take care of the business that they can control.

Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Train Kept a Rollin'...All Night Long

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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A Mess

Since the conclusion of Tuesday night's game, I've run the gamut of emotions. After the crushing HR by Crede, I sat there asking myself all the questions in the world:

  • Is our weakness at 1B and RF going to be our ultimate downfall? Despite Blake's HR on Tuesday, those two positions have batted .235 with 2 RBI in the first 2 games, leaving a staggering 10 men on base (including Broussard leaving 6 on Monday). Throw in that 2B is 0 for 8 for the series and you see that everything is magnified in October...I mean September.

  • Why is Wedge messing with the bullpen? All year long, all I've heard is how Wickman allows everyone to settle into their "role". Why then did Sauerbeck start the 8th on Monday and Howry pitched the 7th on Tuesday, while Rocky B-Court pitched the 8th?

  • How much do I wish that Bobby Jenks pitched every game? This guy's going Donnie Moore on us. He is a basket case, blowing 2 saves in 2 nights. For comparison, the Robot (Howry) blew his first save in 70 odd games last night. Despite the fact that he's not the closer, that's incredible.

When I woke up and read the doom and gloom of the PD ("All is lost, let's turn our attention to the Browns"), I was on suicide watch. My shoelaces were taken out.

Then I realized something:
The Indians aren't going to win every game. This is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. Losing one game to the White Sox isn't the end of the world. It's just the law of averages.

Confidence is still very high heading into the balance of the schedule, realizing that the Royals are still 4 of the last 12 games, while the Sox have the Twins to tangle with and the Yankees and Red Sox will finish their seasons beating each other up. The Indians magic number is 12, meaning that any combination of Tribe wins or Yankees losses to add up to 12 puts us in the playoffs.

I have a spy (the wife) in attendance tonight to put a hex on the Yankees. I just hope she makes it out of the Bronx in one piece. I told her to pull an Elaine Benes and wear an Orioles cap, and refuse to take it off. We both decided with the animals that call themselves Yankee fans liable to do anything, she'll just quietly root for the O's.

I'm hoping that these types of games don't continue and that we just roll everybody by a 10-2 margin for the rest of the year, but I realize that just isn't going to happen. In the meantime, I'm going to have to walk around like a zombie at work and try not to lie awake thinking about pinch runners until the alarm goes off.

Playoff baseball is in full swing, and I'm loving it!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Objects in Rearview Mirror...

Due to FSN's inexplicable decision to not televise today's 11-0 win to complete the sweep over the Royals, the meliflous tones of Tom Hamilton and crew relayed the utter dominance that took place at the Jake. C.C. was outstanding, with 8 innings of shutout baseball (allowing only 5 hits, no walks, and striking out 8), and the offense coming through with a full scale onslaught of Jose Lima.

Baseball Tonight led their telecast off with the scorching Tribe (as the clocked ticked down in Lambeau), with the boys at ESPN seemingly finally on board with the Indians' bandwagon. It only took the Indians tying for the 3rd best record in baseball for anyone to sit up and take notice.

The ChiSox took a 2-1 game from the Twins, so the Tribe remains 3.5 games back, with a big series in The Cell for the next three days. The way that the Tribe is rolling, particularly with their starting pitching, this could be a monumental 3 days. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. This team bullied its way into the Wild Card lead and into AL Central contention by keeping its collective head down and taking the season one game at a time. To their credit (and Wedge's), they didn't overlook the Royals, with an eye to the Chicago series. They did what they were supposed to do - sweep an inferior team.

Granted it is a Sunday night, after a Tribe sweep and a Browns victory (which didn't make my bride - a Milwaukee native - too happy), but I've got a pretty good feeling going into these last two weeks of the season.

Going down to the Jake Saturday night, we arrived about 5:30 at the Box Office. After buying our tickets, we hit E. 9th to grab some food. One problem - you couldn't get in to any of the places. Panini's - packed, Winking Lizard - packed, The Clevelander - packed, Thirsty Parrot - packed. So much so that you couldn't get in the front 5:30! I realize that the OSU and ND games were on, but it was quite a return to the days when all those places were packed all the time with Featherheads. We opted for the Batter's Eye, which was also packed, but was having a halfway to St. Patrick's Day party, complete with live Irish music, Guinness on draft, and scantily clad ladies giving out green shamrock beads. Finally someone in the Tribe front office is doing some heavy thinking. It was a great game to attend as the Tribe exploded for 5 in the first, then held on (thanks to Mr. Roboto Bob Howry and the usual tightrope act by Sticky) to win in front of 32,000. Plus, with a victory, the jinx may be behind me as a 2 game winning streak has improved the season record to 5-12.

Hitting the team shop before the game on Saturday, I have a prediction to make. May I present to you the Cleveland Indians 2006 hat. I know that I've mentioned it before, but that C logo with the Chief is everywhere on shirts, hats, or anything. I dont' mind the hat. In fact, I think that it's a nice way to incorporate the C for Cleveland into the uni. I do, however, believe that it is the first step towards the elimination of the Chief from our uniforms. He's already gone from the Jake. Now if they could only do something about those hideous sleeveless jerseys.

Watching the Tribe take a game, knowing that the White Sox had lost made me think of a line in the Metallica song that Casey Blake comes out to, "The soothing light at the end of tunnel, is just a freight train coming your way."

White Sox, there's a freight train bearing down on you, picking up steam daily, and it's got Indians emblazoned across the front of it.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Jelly on a Roll

Wednesday night's game at the Jake was the closest to playoff baseball that I've experienced since the late 90's. From Jake's no-no until the 6th to Bell-i-YARD going deep in typical Jelly fashion (a swing-out-of-your-shoes effort that he admired as it went deep in the SRO area in left), to Wickman's exciting 9th.

Best scene of the night:
A fan in the right field seats catches the HR that Sticky gave up in the 9th. The fans start chanting, "Throw it back, throw it back". Realizing that throwing a ball onto the field gets you ejected from the Jake, I find the usher to see if she's telling the guy not to. But, she's cheering and pumping her fist to throw it back like everyone else. As the ball flew over Blake's head onto the field, I saw her look up towards the concourse (presumably to another usher), shrug her shoulders, mouth the words "no way", and sit down to watch the final two outs.

The atmosphere was electric, giving high-fives to anyone around you, on your feet for the last 3 innings, giving standing O's to anyone - Belliard, Westbrook after his 5th inning of no-hit ball, Wickman coming out of the pen, Broussard during his PH at-bat in recognition of his two bombs on Tuesday. Even the grounds crew got one for clearing the field after a monsoon reminiscient of the Steve Miller Band Concert in 1992 at Blossom...if you were there, you know what I'm talking about.

21,000+ was pretty loud last night, though I think most of them are the same people who have been there all year, who know and enjoy baseball, and are taking great enjoyment out of seeing a talented team mature in an exciting playoff race. This is going to be a great couple of weeks here, right up to and including the final showdown with the White Sox.

Speaking of the Pale Hose, they dropped a game to KC today, meaning that the Tribe is 4.5 games back in the Central. Ozzie Guillen called out another one of his players, Damaso Marte, for a "questionable injury". The White Sox may be coming apart before our very eyes.

As I looked at the standings this morning, the Tribe has the 4th best record in all of baseball! Then I check out the official site, where this quote appears:

"If we don't sign Jim Thome, it'll erode a significant core [of the fan base], and we need to sign Jim Thome for performance and for that core. But I think the only thing that'll bring fans back to the three million range is for us to build a winning team again. That's what we have to do." -- GM Mark Shapiro, in 2002

Mission accomplished, on your end, Mark. Now it's on the fans to realize it.

Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle said on PTI yesterday that he thought the Yankees would win the Wild Card, but Indians' fans shouldn't fret because the Tribe will be good for at least the next 10 years. Actually Rich, I think we'll take our cake and eat it too this year.

Just got the new SI (with Aaron Brooks on the cover) and there's a 3 page article about the Indians. A great shot of Super Sizemore, Jhon, Coco, The Stick, and Pronk (shown here) starts the article off and, surprisingly for the national media, it almost presupposes that the Tribe will make the playoffs. If you don't subscribe to SI, it's worth the time and newstand price.

We're talkin' baseball...Indians baseball...TALKIN' TRIBE!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Power Outage, Until...

A very strange scene at the Jake tonight with about half of the lights going out, causing about a 15 minute delay in the game. Up to that point, the Tribe bats had been ice cold and the team hadn't even had a chance to be fired up from Wedgie's meltdown and ejection. Why weren't they hitting? What, was Millwood starting?

But the lights came back on and the light operator may have turned the switch as well on Benny B., who popped a 2 run HR in the 7th to tie the game, then a 3 run jobber in the 8th. I also love how Millwood didn't miss a beat and came back after he delay to get the third out of the inning.

What a game, though as Benny's bat (Garko who?), Millwood's grittiness (he now leads the AL in ERA), and Sticky's ballet moves in the 9th (imagine seeing that keg of beer falling down in front of you as you move down the first base line) contributed to the Tribe improbably coming back to win.

The power outage did allow me to catch some of the classic New Jack City on BET, with the incomparable Wesley Snipes (pre-Passenger 57's "Always bet on black") as Nino Brown. The movie is such a blatant attempt at recreating Scarface, having Nino quoting Tony Montana the whole movie, it's ridiculous. But to an 8th grader, the movie and the soundtrack (which includes Color Me Badd's I Wanna Sex You Up) were great. Speaking of Nino Brown, did anyone catch Braylon Edwards' press conference upon signing with the Browns, when he wore a New Jack City T?

After Jelly Belliard turned some of those magical DP's (particularly the one where he faked the flip to Jhon and tagged the runner, so Swisher didn't go Belle-Vina on him), Shapiro should have his contract extension in the locker room to be picked up.

Art Rhodes left the team for the year on personal reasons, which means that Rocky B-Court, Sauerbeck, Riske, and the F-Cab will move up in the bullpen as well as meaning that some of the young arms (notably, Andrew Brown) may see more action than originally thought. Watching Cabrera throw in the second half of this season makes me think that he could have a similar impact to the one that K-Rod had in the playoffs a few years back for the Halos. I'm not saying that Cabrera is K-Rod, but F-Cab's stuff is filthy and Rhodes' departure may expedite his trip towards the back end of the bullpen.

A sign seen Monday night on FSN - "Super Sizemore". Looks like the copyright office is going to be keeping my checks.

C.C., although he lost his first game in 8 decisons Monday night, showed the maturity that has often been lacking for the (Not so) Crooked Cap. C.C. didn't have his best stuff, but still limited the A's to 1 ER in 6 innings. I realize that the A's are not the 1927 Yankees, but C.C. was able to bear down and work his way out of jams, something that has always been lacking in his repertoire. It seems as though Millwood's composure on the mound has had the desired effect on C.C., Cliff, and Jake. All three calmly work their way out of jams, rather than letting the big inning kill them.

Great game tonight. As Johnny Cougar Mellencamp tells me as I'm leaving the Jake after a good night, Again Tonight.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Can You See the Light?

Great moment - Entering the cab at Hopkins Airport on Sunday night around 10:30PM, I ask the cabbie how the Tribe is doing. He utters the three sweetest words I've heard in some time, "We're killing 'em".

Let's recap - the Wahoos beat Johan Santana, knock Carlos Silva out after one inning, and sweep the Twins right out of playoff contention. And, they win in a large way in front of 38,000+ (though as Cy has stated, 20,000 of which have jumped the bandwagon), to show Cleveland what they've been missing all summer (or at least since the All-Star break). What a weekend for the Friends of the Feather.

Perhaps realizing that the OSU loss and the Browns' continued misery has put Cleveland in its normal September Sunday night doldrums, the Indians came to the rescue. First, Grady hits a triple to start the game, then puts on a display, offensively and defensively, that should make the naysayers that say that "the team has no known players" want to learn about this talented bunch. But the people who read this already knew that.

A few things though pondered while out of the Eastern Time Zone:

While tailgating before the Wisconsin-Temple game in Madison (which is without a doubt the craziest college town I've ever been to) on Saturday afternoon, my buddy Krems said that he thought that this Indians pitching staff is the best staff that we've seen in our lifetime. I have to agree. From the rotation, which has been unbelievable, to the bullpen, which "locks it up" in the late innings, I can't remember a time when the Tribe has legitimately been in EVERY single game because of pitching. It may be a stretch, but I'll go back to the days of Feller and Lemon to a time when all 5 guys in the rotation are capable of winning games and keeping the team in the game. This staff has been incredible.

They should show the scene in Wedding Crashers when Vaughn and Wilson are telling each other to "lock it up" every time a reliever comes on.
John Beckwith: You better lock it up.
Jeremy Grey: No, you lock it up!
John Beckwith: You lock it up!
Jeremy Grey: You lock it up!
John Beckwith: You lock it up!
Jeremy Grey: Lock it up!

With a lot of travel time, I thought about the holes for next year (which I promise I will take a break from because WE'RE IN THE PENNANT RACE), which are 2 starters, 3 relievers, a RF and a 1B. Now there are different strategies on how to fill holes in a lineup that is more or less solid.

The two main strategies being adding pieces through FA or adding major league ready pieces from the farm:
The two main success stories of adding pieces through FA would be New York (obviously) and St. Louis/Boston (who normally trade their prospects for established players, then sign those established players to long-term deals). These teams started with a core group of young talent (for example: NY with Jeter, Posada, Rivera, and Williams emerging at the same time in the mid 90's), then add proven major league talent, obviously at a premium. The pros of this process is obviously to acquire players that have experience and a track record. The cons are obviously the costs associated with signing premium FA, and signing older players, who may be more likely to incur injuries. Two obvious busts using this strategy in recent years have been the Orioles (Lopez, Tejada, Palmiero, Sosa) and the Tigers (Ondonez, Rodriguez, Percival), who tried to add players to a depleted roster, attempting to create chemistry using the Fantasy Baseball approach.

The other strategy used has been to continue to build from within once that core group of players is established. Two teams that have used this strategy very effectively have been the A's and the Braves. The A's are more of an extreme case, often trading players at the peak of their trade value (Hudson/Mulder), or allowing a FA to move on (Giambi/Tejada), but they always seem to have another player ready to plug in. Whether it's Bobby Crosby replacing Tejada, or using the arms acquired in trades to replace the studs (Haren came in the Mulder deal), they seem to have mastered the art of knowing where their weaknesses will be two years from now and planning accordingly.
The Braves are a bit of a mix of the strategies, but always have seemed to have that player in the minors ready to contribute (Chipper, Giles, Furcal, Andruw, Estrada, and now Francouer) at the exact position that they need help. In the off chance that the minor leaguer is not ready, they'll add that veteran (Brian Jordan, Julio), but never seem to make that huge splash in FA, relying instead on Leo Mazzone bringing out the best in pitching retreads and Bobby Cox mixing vets and youngsters to win a staggering string of division titles. There are obvious teams that have tried this strategy (for the last 10 years) without any luck (Pirates, Royals), but they haven't had that core group of talent to add to.

Looking at the Tribe with all of these models in mind, I hope that they lean more in the way of the Braves than anything else. Shapiro seems to have players ready in the minors, who seem to be available at spots of most need (Garko at 1B) and a ton of arms to choose from to keep the pitching staff well-stocked. If, by chance, they feel at some point in the future, they feel that they don't have anyone in-house or down the pipeline capable of contributing, add a player. But I don't think it's necessary to add a huge signee to create buzz (just ask the Mariners how Sexson and Beltre have worked out). Rather, they should continue to develop strong prospects and add savvy veterans when needed.

We'll revisit how to address the holes after the season, for now let's concentrate on the matter at hand. The Tribe is 82-61 with 19 games to play. If they can go 12-7 (which is VERY doable with their schedule), they finish with a record of 94-68! They have 7 games against KC, which they could go 6-1 in, meaning they could split the other 12 and still finish with 94 wins. Do you think they're going to split the other 12 the way that they're playing? Me neither. 94 wins should put them right in the thick of things for the Wild Card, if not atop it (I'm not addressing the Central until after the first series with the ChiSox).

The Tribe put the nail in the Twins coffin this weekend with the opportunity to do the same to the A's (in the Wild Card at least) early this week.

Coco won the AL Player of the Week with some sickening numbers. Jason Davis and Fausto Carmona were called up from Buffalo, whose playoffs ended on Sunday.

Enjoy Tribetember and The Hunt for October.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

HRD (Home Run Derby)

With the Tribe taking 4 in a row from the Tigers, it's amazing that the last 15 runs scored by the Tribe have all come on home runs. All of that with Jhon and Pronk in extended slumps. To show how prevalent the HR has become recently, Casey Blake knocked his 20th HR today!

Before Wednesday's game, The Architect (Shapiro) was on the radio with some interesting insight. The thing about Shapiro's comments is that you often have to read between the lines for his true meaning. The high points and some thoughts:

  • Shapiro said that SuperSizemore projected to eventually become a 25 to 30 HR guy, "once his power comes around". He also said that Grady will become the "prototypical #3 hitter". Let's think about this, Grady is having one of the most exciting seasons in recent Indians history, particularly for a 23 year old. Adding 25-30 HR power to what he's already shown may make Gammons sound prophetic when he said earlier in the season that the American League should write Grady's name in for CF in the All-Star Game for the next 10 years! Shapiro's other comment that Grady was the prototypical #3 hitter blew me away. Not in that it was a surprise, but let's do some math. How many current Indians are legitimate #3 or #4 hitters? I count 4 (SuperSizemore, Jhon, Pronk, and Tthe Stick) with another solid young hitter in Coco. I think that makes up 5 of the 9 batters in the lineup. With that kind of talent in the lineup for the next few years, other players (like Boone and Belliard) don't have to be spectacular, only solid. If they do, however, add one more big bat, we're on our way to watching an offensive juggernaut.

  • When asked about Sticky's future, Shapiro said that he'll first find out if Wickman wants to come back. If he does, the Indians will determine if Wickman fits into their plans. When asked about moving a young arm to the closer role, Shapiro firmly stated that the closer role is not one that he would entrust to a youngster. He went on to say that if Wickman did not return, there were some solid options already in the Tribe pen. Translation: Wickman is unlikely to return (either by his choice or the Tribe's choice) and Shapiro will keep someone that he's comfortable with (saw pitch this year) to close games effectively (Howry/Rhodes). He also said that the bullpen's success will be difficult to duplicate. But you have to think that there's only three guys eligible for FA (Wickman, Howry, Sauerbeck). If they bring back Howry and sign a situational lefty, there's Cabrera, Brown, Miller, Tadano, and possibly Davis battling for one spot.

  • Shapiro said that Peralta is going through an adjustment period as pitchers have now seen him and know what he's been successful against. It's now up to Peralta to adjust (as he has at every level to become a consistent presence in the lineup). Coincidentally, it was mentioned in today's PD that Peralta has been to the postseason for the past 5 years in the minors. Did someone say something about an environment of winning?

Enough of Shapiro-speak and analysis.

Today's PD also mentioned that with the Tribe likely to pick up Jelly Belliard's option, the only spot for Brandon Phillips next year (when he's out of options) is as a utility IF. Is anyone upset about this? I realize that B-Phil was the big name in the Colon deal, but if he doesn't work out (and it doesn't look like he's going to), are we upset? We only got an All Star LH starter and Stud CF in the deal. I have no problem cutting ties with Phillips this offseason and seeing if we can get something for him, while his stock may still be relatively high.

There's a good analysis of off-season questions, as well as how perceptions and realities change quickly in the analysis of players in Mistake by the Lake Sporting Times.

After a long weekend in Chicago (where I'll miss the Tribe, Buckeyes, and Browns - but will see a baptism), I'll analyze the holes for the 2006 season and the best way to fill them, pitting building from within against adding Free Agents.

On another Cleveland sports-related note, as if the Browns weren't up enough this season, here's more bad news.

Tampa Bay's up 2-0 in the 5th. If the D-Rays hold on, the Tribe moves into first place, all alone, for the Wild Card, with 22 left to play. The Tribe stands at 79-61 with a legitimate shot at 92-95 wins.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Back in the Basement

After a long weekend in Denver (where we hit Coors Field and looked for reminders of John Elway to defile), it's nice to come back to a couple of solid games. It is amazing, though, how the Tribe continues to get no love nationally, which becomes apparent the moment one steps out of Northeast Ohio. The reaction that I got from most people who I was talking baseball with was akin to the lady at the party telling Jake Taylor, "I didn't know Cleveland still had a team."

Yet, I won't let the naysayers get me down tonight as the Tribe heads into a critical stretch of games against Minnesota and Oakland. This has been said many times before, but this could be the biggest stretch of games that they play all year. As we get closer to October, every series (and game, for that matter) is of utmost importance. And as long as the pitching remains stellar (how about Elarton and Lee?) and the hitting picks up a touch, the last 3 weeks of the season should be very entertaining and exciting.

While on vaco (with no access to the Internet), the Tribe called up Jeremy Guthrie (who will be available to throw some innings if a starter falters early) and Andrew Brown (who may be up to stay), while activating Art Rhodes. Those three, with the return of Matt Miller, allow the Indians enough arms for the stretch run. And this is all while letting the Bisons keep some top prospects (Davis & Carmona - and even adding Jeremy Sowers to the rotation) for the AAA playoffs. That's depth.

Ryan Garko and Jason Dubois also got to take the car ride on I-90, though neither should see real significant AB's. Garko may see action in a laugher just to get rid of some jitters, and Dubois will only get up if the Tribe really needs a K.

Victor Martinez was the subject of a Tim Kurkjian article in ESPN The Magazine, in which the Tribe's lineup was described as one of the game's "scariest" and The Stick's offensive numbers were favorably compared to Mike Piazza's in his heydey. To look at Vic's numbers since May 28 (when he was hitting .193), they are absolutely incredible.

I received the Season Ticket-Holder Playoff Packet in the mail today. For some perspective, my season tickets are in the Mezzanine section for 20 games. A partial package, but enough to be at the Jake fairly regularly. Without telling secrets, the 4 seats run $12 a game, so the math works out to less than $1K a year. My postseason packet indicated that those 4 seats for the 11 possible games of the playoffs (3 in the ALDS, 4 in the ALCS, 4 in the WS) run cost...wait for it...$3,440! I called our friends at the Indians, thinking there had been a miscalculation (it works out to $78 a seat!), but was told that it was correct. ALDS games are $25, ALCS are $55, WS are $140. And they'll sell them all, as if it's predetermined to go 7 games.

Now, do the Indians offer a special discount to season ticket holders or make only certain games available for season ticket-holders? NO! You have to buy the whole package, or you get shut out. If the Indians don't make the playoffs, the money is put towards the 2006 regular season (or the 2006, 2007, 2008, and part of 2009 for me). I was in college during the '90s, so I'm not sure if this is how it's always done, but it is curious.

Needless to say, I'll be passing on giving the Tribe nearly $3,500 to tie it up for the next four years. If the Tribe makes the playoffs, there's no question that I'll be first in line for tix, but there has to be some middle ground for the loyal fans of the Indians, and the current situation is certainly not the way to endear yourselves to a fickle fan base.

6-0 in the 8th. Go Devil Rays!