Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Even though I’m now 2 days removed from the horrendous Brewers’ series, the bile is still in my mouth. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights from watching the games in some unfriendly confines of Miller Park:

The Good

  • The starting pitching in Milwaukee was terrific. Take out the questionable calls by the umps in the 1st inning of C.C.’s Friday night start, and you couldn’t ask for much more. Throw in the fact the pitchers were some of the most productive hitters of the series (this is not really a GOOD thing, but you can’t blame the pitchers for being the run-producers of the weekend), and it was a pretty good weekend for the Tribe starters. Could it be that Jason Johnson (more on his release this afternoon later) didn’t see the mound in Milwaukee?

  • Jhonny Peralta looked like the Jhonny Peralta that we all got to know in 2005, and not the shell of that player that we’ve seen so far this year. The HR against the Cubs on Monday shows that Peralta may have figured some things out. His comments that he’s not going to chase balls down and away in today’s paper could be the clincher. If only he could teach that “down and away” thing to Aaron Boone.

  • Tailgating in Milwaukee is almost a birthright and they do it right. As much as I LOVE the Jake, tailgating is an aspect of a baseball game that simply doesn’t exist in Cleveland. I don’t know if it ever did at Municipal, though I can’t remember any.

  • Cecil Cooper Bobblehead Day on Sunday was great. Not because Cecil Cooper is such an 80’s legend, or because Sundays in Milwaukee are Throwback Sundays (they wear the old Mitt and Ball unis…according to my brother-in-law to sell more merchandise, as well as honoring their players, as marginal as they may be…Jerry Augustine was signing autographs and was the other honoree of the day); no, the reason it was so great is that the Brewers made 1 out of 20 of the bobbleheads with Cooper in his away blue uniform, as opposed to the home whites. It created a bit of excitement when you picked up your bobblehead and had those idiots walking around the concourse offering little kids money for their ballpark giveaways.

That’s about it in the “Good” column.

The Bad

  • The bullpen blew up, particularly on Saturday and Sunday, with Wickman and Betancourt the primary culprits. The Indians’ starters pitched well enough to win, and the bullpen didn’t perform well; but the primary onus for the sweep lies with the…

  • …Offense, or more specifically the lineups that were being put up on the scoreboard in Milwaukee. The inflexibility of this roster and its reliance on Martinez and Hafner could not have been more glaring. When one of those players is out of the lineup, the offense is going to struggle to score runs. The #2 hitters of the weekend were Aaron Boone and Ronnie Belliard. Those two don’t strike fear into anyone at the bottom of the lineup, much less at the top. Sunday’s lineup, in particular was dreadful. When Laker is in the lineup, the Indians are basically throwing up a white flag. Tell me again why Kelly Shoppach can’t catch every few days and let Victor/Hafner/Benuardo fill the DH/1B spot in AL parks?

  • A by-product of seeing those bad lineups is the realization that the Indians truly lack any sort of depth to deal with injuries. Casey Blake on the DL and Jason Michaels being day-to-day shouldn’t cripple your lineup, because there should be better options available than Hollandsworth, Perez, and Gutierrez. Gutierrez, by the way, from the RF seats, looked a lot like Alex Escobar…in his stature, the way he carried himself, his cannon of an arm, and his LOOOOOOONG swing. I hope that the comparison doesn’t hold up, I’m just saying – the similarities are hard to miss.

  • I guess the lineup eventually falls to Wedge (although if he doesn’t have the players, he doesn’t have the players), so it would be just another of Wedge’s HORRIBLE decisions in the series. Allowing C.C. to pitch, then taking him out wasn’t as much of an indication of the lack of depth as it was Wedge’s inability to make solid in-game decisions. Or how about pulling Westbrook on Saturday, after throwing 103 pitches through 8, and not being hit hard at all to “get Wickman the save”? Wedge has often been characterized as a button-pusher and not much more; but if you’re not pushing the right buttons, maybe you need someone else on the bench with you to play devil’s advocate and make some suggestions (the way that Buddy Bell used to).

And finally…

The Ugly

  • Well, the walk-offs certainly weren’t a pretty sight. I think I would have preferred blowouts, if the Brewers were going to sweep. That way, the fans lose interest, feel sorry for you a little bit, and leave early. The way that the games played out…let’s just say, wearing Tribe gear at Miller Park wasn’t the most popular thing to be seen in around the concourse.

  • I have no problem with getting an earful from opposing fans, as long as they’re knowledgeable and witty. But, we (or rather I) encountered too many of the “Your team sucks” arguments and “Cleveland has been bad for the last 50 years” arguments. When it was brought up that the Tribe was doing no worse than the Brewers (during Friday night’s game) and that looking up to the White Sox and Tigers in the division is the same as looking up at the Cardinals and Reds or that the Indians dominated the 90’s and had 93 wins last year, the equalizer of them all was usually brought out: “Well, we beat your beloved Indians today”. Not much of a comeback for that, except for “It’s only one game”, unless, of course it’s Sunday and your team just got swept.

  • Oh, and a 6 hour delay in the Milwaukee airport yesterday didn’t help yesterday. Nothing like buying a book in an airport shop, finishing it, and having to buy another one BEFORE YOU BOARD THE PLANE.

Back to the present tense, Jason Johnson was FINALLY designated for assignment and has likely pitched his last inning for the Tribe, in any capacity. Hopefully, Shapiro can find a taker (Cincinnati, looking for a sinkerballer in the bandbox that is Great American, perhaps) to fray some of the cost of his salary. Jeremy Guthrie will take the bus back to Buffalo, after a lousy outing in Monday’s game out of the bullpen. That appearance could have convinced the Indians to keep Guthrie in the starting rotation to stay, rather than put him on the Danys Baez plan.

Johnson, now will likely…hell, who cares? Let’s hope that’s the last time his name is mentioned on this site.

Guthrie will now fill the 6th starter role and Fausto Carmona will stay in the bullpen, which means that the Jeremy Sowers watch will soon be over. He’s scheduled to start for the Bisons tonight and will join the Indians on Saturday night to prepare for his ML debut on Sunday against the Reds.

Coming up to replace Johnson and Guthrie are Edward Mujica, a big Venezuelan who has yet to give up a run in 38+ minor league innings this year (remember that big kid who was called up from AA, then thrived in the White Sox bullpen last year), to see if he can fill a role in the still unsettled pen and Joe Inglett, a player who projects as a super-utility player. Inglett plays most positions and is a high-energy guy who won’t hit for much power, but will give good at-bats and allow the Indians some much needed flexibility.

Right now, Inglett provides insurance for a still hobbled Jason Michaels. A trip to the DL is possible for Michaels, and he may be the roster spot that opens for Sowers on Sunday. Or Inglett could go back down, though I’d rather see Vazquez make the trip up I-90, as he’s already shown what he can do for the Tribe this year. Which is…not much.

Another school of thought says that the Indians are shopping Ronnie Belliard and are bringing Inglett up here to ingratiate himself to the Majors; so if Belliard is traded, Inglett has some at-bats under his belt. If this does happen (and I’m not too opposed to it as Belliard is a FA at season’s end, and always seems to be inconsistent), don’t expect it immediately. The Mets would be the most likely suitors for Belliard and Shapiro and Mets’ GM Omar Minaya do have a history (Colon trade). The other possibility if Belliard is moved would be that Boone could be moved to 2B and the scorching Andy Marte (he’s raised his OPS by 80 points in the last 7 games) would replace him at the hot corner, probably for good.

I haven’t figured out where I am for this “give up the season or fight for it” debate, as I still think there’s a lot of baseball to play. True, it’s getting late early in the Central, but this team has most of the same components as last year’s 93 win team.

So, the talent’s there…but something’s missing.

Before I throw up the white flag, I’d like to figure out what’s missing and try to remedy the problem, rather than just throwing away the 2006 season.


Tony Ritz said...

Addendum to UGLY:
Brewers fans/Wisconsin fans respond to nothing except for a hearty "How'd the Pack do last year?" Apoplectic fits of rage are sure to ensue...

The line for hotdogs (free hotdogs + free Cecil Cooper bobbleheads + a sell out / it being Father's Day = A bad time in the lines. It's a simple equation) were atrocious and the Brewers org should have had the demonstrative foresight to recognize "Gee whiz, on Father's Day it's a sell out? Let's put a few more vendors in place..."

Rockdawg said...

OK, this is starting to get to be a little too much to bear. I feel like Rocky in Rocky 4. I've got the towel in my hand as the Indians are just being beaten senseless. I've got it cocked and ready to go. Just like Rocky watching his good buddy Apollo, I can't force myself to let it fly, so I just sit and watch them get pounded to the canvas. The only difference is, Apollo was up against a Russian Roid monster (a very formidable opponent)in Drago, whereas the Tribe is getting killed by the likes of the Brewers and the Scrubs.

A buddy of mine from San Fransisco did remind me, however, that the A's were 15 out at the same point last year, and just barely missed out on the division.

ploni said...

What's missing?

Pitching, and teamness--that is, the talent is there but the talent doesn't gel. And the manager, who's supposed to aid the gelling, isn't doing it.