Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Expanding Our Horizons

Over at The Juice Blog is a piece that I wrote, in conjunction with site administrator Scott Long, on what went wrong with the Tribe in 2006.

It’s worth a read, just as the site is worth a good long look.
The link to the site has been added to the sidebar.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dog Days? What Dog Days?

Has anyone noticed, and judging by the crowd at the Jake last night from the mezzanine (no way it was close to the 19,000 announced…maybe closer to 5,000) you haven’t, how well the 2006 Indians Version 2.0 has played?

Using August 1st as the date that we use for the beginning of the “Second Season”, mainly because it’s one day after the Trading Deadline (though the only thing that the date really brought was the immortal Hector Luna back into our lives), the results are pretty encouraging.

The Tribe has gone 15-10 since that date against the likes of the Red Sox, the Twins, the Tigers, and the Angels. Sure, the Royals and Devil Rays were thrown into the mix, but the way that this team has played to a .600 clip and played the role of spoiler bodes well for 2007.

Take into account that the bullpen blew 5 of the 10 losses (1 vs. BOS, 2 vs. DET, 1 vs. LAA, & 1 vs. TB) and the outlook improves even more. Even a DECENT bullpen pulls off 3 of those games, meaning that with a serviceable ‘pen, we’re looking more like an18-7 team in August.

I don’t know how Tom Mastny has done what he has, but the trickle-down effect of having an effective closer has become apparent with the improved performances by Cabrera, Betancourt, and the rest of the bullpen.

Speaking of improved performances, or consistently improving performances, SuperSizemore is establishing himself (along with Pronk) as an elite player in the AL. Grady just keeps hammering the ball, showing new aspects to his already solid game, and asserting himself as a leader on this team. You have to think that the rest of the team (particularly this young team) sees the way Sizemore plays the game and tries to emulate him.

Plus, he’s moving up the list of players I wouldn’t mind sharing a pop with, particularly after my buddy Nick told me at the game last night that Sizemore rolled into the Winking Lizard before a Cavs game last winter, just to belly up and watch some sports.

He hasn’t reached Hafner or Wickman levels, but he’s getting there. I’m sure that the attention by his ladies wouldn’t be too much of a downer, either.

Enjoy watching this young team continue to mature and excel…as the Tribe flies high like a dove.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Lazy, Hazy Sunday

Not much going on for another Lazy Sunday:

Mainly, news that Carmona is going back to Buffalo’s rotation to recapture what was lost in those nights in Boston and Detroit. Hopefully, the organization makes a decision on Carmona and sticks with it.
If his greatest opportunity to contribute is in the rotation, leave him there until a spot opens in Cleveland.
If the bullpen is where his stuff best translates, let him fine-tune his approach to thrive as a reliever, with the opportunity to contribute eventually as a starter.
Carmona started the season with similar expectations to those of Sowers as a starting pitcher and, while he didn’t blow the doors off during his stint in the rotation, he certainly proved that his arm is ML-ready. It could simply be a matter of rebuilding his confidence and finishing off his pitch repertoire to allow Carmona to eventually slot into a top-of-the-rotation starter. Before anyone says that his time for the rotation has passed, let’s all remember that he doesn’t turn 23 until December...which makes him all of 11 months older than young gun Adam Miller.

Socker contributes his wish list for 2007.

Tim Kurkjian presents a comparison of the A’s and the Tribe and how the two teams’ performances in 2006 have confounded the sabermatricians.

And, now off the reservation:
Does anyone else think that Full Count Fernando Cabrera reminds them of Paul Shuey? When Cabrera is on, his stuff is unhittable. But, when his mechanics get out of whack, he’s a disaster. Cabrera may never develop into anything more than a set-up man, but if he can refine his mechanics, his fastball, splitter, slider mix could be a devastating 8th inning.

For those who thought that my love of the Tribe was limited to the ballclub that plays at the Jake, here’s something to disprove that. This news about Tribe Called Quest is some of the best news that I’ve heard in years. Though Q-Tip, Phife Dog, and Ali Shaheed Muhammed won’t be coming close to the North Coast – it’s great news for anyone who subscribes to The Low End Theory.

Denys Reyes signed a 2-year contract extension with the Minnesota Twins, so cross him off the list of possible LOOGY’s for the 2007 Tribe bullpen.

Speaking of the Twinkies, Luis Castillo’s Team Option for 2007 was vested last week when he reached 501 plate appearances for the season, so cross him off the list of potential 2B/Leadoff Hitters for the 2007 Tribe lineup.

Is Pronk’s Legend reaching Bill Brasky proportions?

Caught “Warrior” by Scandal featuring Patty Smyth last night on the radio. For those who have never seen NBA Superstars, here’s the Chuck Barkley video. Anytime that you think that Barkley is inappropriate with his comments, remember what a legend he truly was as a player and cut him some slack.

Tom Mastny, he of the 9 1/3 career Major League innings is now settling into his role, closing games for the Indians. The fact that I’m OK with that could be the most telling sentence for the 2006 season.

I’ve been struggling with a nickname for Mastny, and all I have so far is Nasty Boy Tom Mastny. If he could come out to the music that the WWF’s Nasty Boys came out to, all the better. If Pronk could use his wrestling connections to have Nasty Boy Brian Knobs (a Tampa D-Rays season ticket holder) do a JumboTron intro – that would be even greater.

Any other suggestions for the tall glass of water that's taken over the 9th inning in the wigwam?

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Has anyone noticed how the Incredible Shrinking Chief just keeps getting smaller?

It had become obvious to me in past years that the Indians’ all blue cap featured a smaller Chief, as can be seen on Thursday night on C.C.:

To realize how small he has gotten, how about a look at Eddie Murray in 1995:

Or Ellis Burks as recent as 2003, after the uniform color changes of 2002, when navy blue replaced red as the accent color:

While I have noticed that the all blue cap’s Chief was MUCH smaller, I didn’t notice until last night how small it had gotten on the red-billed cap. Here’s Sowers from last night:

If the Chief keeps up this rate, this could be the next stop:

There’s no mention in the Media Guide section of uniforms about the Chief’s imitation of Pudge Rodriguez, so when did this happen?
Was it so gradual that this was just a progression?

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Wisdom of Wiggum

In honor of the BLC's return to the lineup, I'm reminded of a gesture made by a confused young man (who thinks that his cat's breath smells like cat food) to an unrequited love on a Valentine's Day many years ago:

I like to think that the Atomic Wedgie has a stack of those that he presents to the BLC at his locker when his name is on the lineup card.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Modest Proposal

A quick shout-out to the Tribe for the improbable comeback, and this from a guy that went to bed as the bottom of the 8th started (the Indians tied it in the top of the 9th and won it in the top of the 10th).

It’s amazing what finding out that the Indians won, unexpectedly, can do to the start of your day on the way to work. A little surprising, but certainly uplifting.

While watching the see-saw battle though, I came up with a potential trade (and it had nothing to do with Byrd’s 2/3 of an inning pitched last night as Paul Byrd’s presence in the rotation is OK for me…not great, but OK):

SP Paul Byrd, 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff, and a minor-league pitcher to the LAA for RP Scot Shields and 2B Erick Aybar.
If the Indians are able to upgrade any spot in their rotation during the off-season, I’d like to see Byrd replaced. I realize that the team could get more for Lee or Westbrook, but there’s something I don’t like about trading an affordable starter under the age of 30. With those 2, there is always a chance that they will continue to mature and improve. With Byrd…it is what it is. Byrd thrived in Anaheim and could give the Angels the pitching depth and experience that they lack, particularly if Bartolo Colon continues to break down.

Kouzmanoff’s trade value may never get higher and he could certainly be an upgrade over Maicer Izturis or the disappointing-so-far Dallas McPherson for the Halos.

Finally, let the Angels choose from a list of minor-league pitchers not named Adam Miller.

Shields has been a lights-out setup man for years now, though he’ll never displace K-Rod at the back end of their pen. He’ll be a FA at the end of 2007, so the Angels may be looking to get something for him while they can, particularly if they feel that he is replaceable. Shields could close for the Indians next year and fill a MAJOR hole, while Aybar (who Shapiro asked for when shopping Broussard) could enter the 2B derby, possibly as the front-runner.

The trade would also clear about $4M off of the payroll for next year that can be used to give Shields a multi-year deal or to throw at a RHSP (Jason Schmidt, Mike Mussina, Mark Mulder…I know I dream big) that gives the Tribe a devastating 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation

Looking at the Closer FA class, there’s not much there (though Francisco Cordero is moving up the list by pitching well in Milwaukee), so the answer may have to come via trade.

And you can’t get something for nothing.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Dollars and Sense

With the Indians saying that they’ll spend more than they take in next year and increase the payroll significantly, it’s time to put on a little green hat and grab the abacus.

Reading between the lines of the linked story, I’m estimating that the Indians are going to go into the 2007 season with a payroll between $65M and $70M.

But how much of that money is already spent, and where would the surplus be best served?

This is how the players that figure into the 2007 roster break down in salary:
C.C. - $8.75M
Byrd - $7M
Westbrook - $5.6M (team option)
Blake - $3.75M (team option)
Hafner - $3.75M
Victor - $3M
Lee - $2.75M
Peralta - $750,000
Sizemore - $750,000

Major League Minimum Salaries

That’s 16 players of the 25-man roster that I would assume to be included in the mix (if not on the team) for 2007. Figuring that the ML-minimum salary for next year will be about $400,000 (it hasn’t been determined yet, though it was about $365,000 last year and my math-challenged mind need a nice round number), we can see that those 16 players are scheduled to make $38.9M.
The remaining 9 players, then, would fill out the roster with about $25M to $30M to make those additions.

Now, on the current Indians not listed, Michaels made $1.5M this year to avoid arbitration and would likely get a pay raise to avoid arbitration again. That, of course, is assuming that Michaels is even part of this team next year, which I find unlikely as the Indians have players like Gutierrez and Ben Francisco that can do what Michaels does for the league minimum.

So add Frank the Tank to the list above to make 17 players taking up $39.3M.
Down to 8 spots and, still, that $25M to $30M number.

Rafael Betancourt is also arbitration-eligible and will make more than Jake Taylor money. Will Betancourt and his spotty pitching be given a spot in the bullpen or could that money be better used elsewhere? The guess here is that Rocky will be elsewhere when the sun rises on the 2007 season.

By the way I’m assuming that Boone’s $3.75M option will not be picked up, which I feel is a pretty safe assumption, unless they’re going to pick it up to act as Andy Marte’s mentor (which would be akin Kenny Banya in the Mentor-Protégé relationship). Seriously, Boone does seem to have a good relationship with the team and could pull a Travis Fryman and offer to help the young players out. That is, assuming of course, that the interest in him in the off-season is comparable to the apparent interest in him now.

Back to crunching numbers - I haven’t included any bullpen arms, though all of the in-house candidates (Carmona, Mastny, Cabrera, Davis, Brown, Perez, Mujica, Sipp, Matt Miller) except Betancourt fall into the ML-minimum category. My guess is that 3 or 4 of those players will be a part of the bullpen next year, with the other players to make up the 7 relievers being acquired via trade or FA.

If 3 to 4 of the names above make up a portion of the bullpen (let’s say 4), we add $1.6M to the above number, bringing the total committed salary to $40.9M for 21 players.

That still leaves that $25M to $30M to acquire 4 players to get to a final number between $65M and $70M. By the way, don't expect a firm number to come out of the offices at The Jake. It’s doubtful that the team would ever come and identify a number because that would allow everyone to second-guess every one of the moves even more.

So, where can that money be best spent?

The bullpen, obviously. And that would break down to a closer, and two proven set-up guys (preferably one RH and one LH). How the Indians go out and achieve that goal is something that I haven’t wrapped my head around, but by acquiring some proven arms allows the young pitchers to learn to pitch out of the bullpen in low-stress situations.
That would facilitate those arms (Carmona, Mastny…Whoever) the luxury of developing at their own pace and seeing how a veteran prepares everyday (remember what Millwood did to the rotation’s approach last year) and not forcing them to pitch the 9th inning in Fenway, then Comerica in consecutive series.

I’ll still bang the drum for a 2B that can bat leadoff, unless the Indians feel that Trevor Crowe is that close to contributing. In that case, you let Luna and Inglett battle over a spot at 2B until Crowe is ready at some point in 2007. The winner of the battle (and former starter) moves to the utility spot, while the loser of the battle (and former utility player) goes the way of Ramon Vazquez.

But more than that 2B, I’d like to see a solid corner OF (who preferably bats RH) that can slot into the cleanup spot behind Hafner and in front of Victor to knock in some runs. That would allow the Tribe to allow Blake to play one of the corner OF spots, as well as be a bit of a super-utility guy while playing Choo against RH. Frank the Tank (or Ben Francisco or even Jason Michaels) cover the real 4th OF spot as Blake’s versatility allows you to do that, in order to give Sizemore some relief in CF.

If Choo or Gutierrez force their way into the plans - great. Blake moves to even more of a utility role and gives the Tribe insurance if Marte or Garko (or Kouzmanoff) aren’t ready for the Bigs at the corners.

So the 25-man breaks down like this (and I’m throwing darts at the youngsters who end in the bullpen next year):
Corner OF

LH Set-Up Pitcher
RH Set-Up Pitcher

So, by my math, there are 4 players to take up the $25M to $30M in available payroll.
That's a pretty significant chunk of change for a few spots.

How Shapiro decides to use that money, and how high the Dolans allow that number to go are going to be the most important factors in the most important off-season in recent memory.

Make the right decisions and spend the right amount of money in the off-season and the Indians set up nicely to contend for a few years.

Identify the wrong needs or acquire the wrong players and it’s back to the drawing board, having wasted another contract season of players like Pronk, Grady, and C.C.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Conversations in the Pen

With a nod to Backdraft, Bobby DeNiro, and Donald Sutherland this exchange was overheard between Luis Isaac and the Indians bullpen after Friday's blow-up.

Isaac: Remember Boston, Fausto? Remember what happened?

Carmona: Mm-hmm.

Isaac: What did you do to those leads that were handed to you?

Carmona: It's not fair, Luis.

Isaac: What did you do to that leads?

Carmona: I burned them.

Isaac: You burned them. What do you do in games C.C. starts, Sikorski?

Sikorski: Burn them.

Isaac (addressing the room): And what about the world, fellas? What would you like to do with the whole world?

Relievers (in unison): Burn it all.

Isaac: See ya next year, guys…or not.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Thomas A. Hawk, Esq.

After watching Paul Byrd baffle the Twins (to avoid the sweep) in a bar at Cleveland Hopkins Airport, we're coming to you from the Western Shores of Lake Michigan...Milwaukee, which as Alice Cooper told us means...forget it.

And with that, let the Tomahawks fly:

  • Mike Hegan (or Rick Manning) had an interesting comment about Carmona falling off of (or twisting off of) the mound as he followed through his pitch, causing the balls to run up. The end result being that he's not throwing strikes, and when he does, it's over the plate, letter-high, and in the hitters' wheelhouse. He also mentioned that JD and Cabrera have the same problem. If he notices it, and we all notice it, can we have someone work on this to see if these guys can develop a consistent delivery where they work downhill, that will produce strikes, and notably strikes that don't land over the fence?

  • Did anyone else see the Twins series as how this team was supposed to play in 2007, excluding of course the travesty of a bullpen that continues to get the ball? Solid starting pitching, enough offense, and...and...God, that bullpen is a killer. Wedge is stretching out his starters, mainly because this bullpen reminds me of the Donald Sutherland character in Backdraft. They want to see everything burn to the ground, and they're doing a bang-up job so far.

  • Ryan Garko has continued to impress, but not just at the plate. Garko has proven himself to be an adequate 1B and, while he will never evoke thoughts of JT Snow at 1B, he is certainly a valid option for 2007. As long as he continues to hit through the end of this year, he should be given the first opportunity to go into WInter Haven as the starting 1B.

  • Apparently Trevor Crowe has made the switch to 2B in Akron and may be closer to being ML-ready than originally thought. That readiness SHOULD affect the type of player the Indians pursue in the off-season, which is to say that they shouldn't be doling out 4 year deals if Crowe is close to contributing. That certainly will downgrade the players available to them, but if they think they can get by with a Band-Aid at 2B in 2007 (and don't think that means Inglett or Luna), they can use the dollars elsewhere.

  • After golfing with a Cubs fan this afternoon, he mentioned that he thinks that the Cubs are a starting pitcher (he mentioned Barry Zito) and a power corner OF (he mentioned C. Lee and Soriano) away from contending in the dreadful NL Central. Nothing surprising about that (unbridled optimism from the North Side), but noteworthy in that those two spots (SP and OF) are where most teams feel that they need to upgrade (including the Indians, particularly in the OF), so the competition is going to be fierce (as usual) for quality FA.

  • By the way, the Cubs payroll was north of $95M this year and the team is worse than the Indians. There are worse scenarios than the one we face on the North Coast.

Off to the sanitary confines of a closed-roof Miller Park for a Brewers-Astros game. There's something about watching a game in a dome (or closed roof stadium) that just doesn't feel right.

Feel free to go nuts on the comments section as I don't know how frequently I'll be able to get to a computer until Monday.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Point - Counterpoint

Watching this team perform over the last week, it got me wondering. Isn’t this the team that we were expecting when the season started?
Solid starting pitching, a potent offense, and a reliable bullpen (well as Meat Loaf said, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”) is what this young Indian team has shown and it has been exciting to watch.

The Positives
Starting Pitching
The starters have performed admirably, working deep into games and keeping the Tribe ahead or close, where they have the ability to come back with some late-inning rallies. Considering that all 5 of these guys are locked up for next year (at least), this is certainly the strength of the team going forward. Having starting pitching being the strength of your team? Yeah, that’s OK. It being the strength of the organization, as well, with Miller and possibly Carmona in the future, mix means that the Indians could use the rotation to deal from a position of strength to improve this team in the overall sense.

Big League Choo and Garko-my-God-did-you-see-how-far-he-hit-that?
Both players have proven (in short periods of time, I know) that they are ML-ready players. Choo’s defense (which was counted as a weakness when the deal was made) and Garko’s approach at the plate have been especially impressive. Choo and Garko have realized that their opportunity has arrived and are taking advantage. Could these guys turn into Luis Medina and Beau Allred? Sure, but, here at the DiaTribe, the mug of MGD is always half-full.

Catcher – 1B Platoon
With Garko impressing and Shoppach proving himself worthy of some ML at-bats, these 2 positions set up nicely for next year. If Garko continues to thrive, I have no problem giving him consistent innings as the starting 1B in 2007, with Victor behind the plate. Substituting Shoppach behind the plate for Victor once or twice a week would keep Victor fresh and would improve his offense, and possibly, his overall defense in keeping him fresh. If the Indians want to upgrade the lineup in the offseason, I would rank C/1B under the 2B/Corner OF priorities.

The Core of the Core
Grady and Pronk should be locked up until they’re in their late 30’s. That’s how you use some money to keep two of the best players in the AL on the North Coast for a long time. Both players are legitimate MVP candidates, an aberration for a team this far under .500. Keeping these two hitting close in the lineup assures that every inning in which they both bat will be interesting.

Works in Progress
The Bullpen

This is a running audition, and right now it looks like Dr. Tobias Funke's turn on the casting couch - a little disturbing.
Guillermo Mota has been cut loose, Fernando Cabrera can’t put consistently impressive outings together, Brian Sikorski is proving himself to be a journeyman who throws a 95 MPH-straight-as-an-arrow fastball, Carmona is still working his way back, and Jason Davis always presents the risk of going Jekyl-Hyde with Jason Dangerously taking the ball from Wedgie. The highlight has been the Indonesian, Tom Mastny (the 1st Indonesian-born player in MLB) who the Tribe stole from the Blue Jays for Johnny Mac. This is, and will remain, an audition for 2007 and it’s going to stay ugly.

The Dominican Dandy
Just as Choo and Garko have impressed in a short time, Marte has struggled at the plate. While his defense has been solid, if not strong, he seems lost at the plate. Whether he’s pulling off of pitches or weakly grounding out, he needs to establish some confidence in himself to realize that his talent translates to the Bigs.

The Negatives
Hector Luna
After deriding the trade as exchanging our 2B for nothing more than an inferior utility player (maybe inferior to Joey Inglett), I took a step back and decided to give Luna a chance. That has passed and this trade still looks horrible to me (though my StL Cardinal fan friend would disagree, based on Jelly’s performance). Luna is disinterested and fundamentally weak, not exactly the balm for what ails the Tribe’s infield. Due to his versatility, he may make the 2007 squad, but if he is given serious consideration for the 2B job, I’m logging a formal complaint.

The Record

The fact that the Tribe is 53-65 on August 15th? That’s a negative. A big negative, particularly with the Tigers coming back to Earth and watching the Indians mount an offensive. Too little, too late.
I still think this team can finish at or around .500, but it disappoints me to no end to write that in mid-August.

Let’s hope that the positives outweigh the negatives for the final 6 weeks, as they have for the last 2 weeks.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

It's Always Sunday in Cleveland

Riding a 5-game winning streak, we run headlong into a Lazy Sunday:
Terry Pluto weighs in on some of the players acquired at the trade deadline, mainly from the Mariners, and touches on the option of Kouzmanoff as a legitimate contender to play 3B in Cleveland next year.

Apparently, Ramon Vazquez was, somehow, wronged by the Indians and would like to put his Cleveland years behind him. That makes two of us, Ramon.

Hoynsie says that the Tribe is interested again in Octavio Dotel, who could factor into the 2007 bullpen. I wouldn’t want to see HIM as the closer, but he does have a longer track record than the other candidates for the job.

Some luminary wrote into Hoynes and asked how the Indians could trade Hollandsworth. The surprising thing is not that an “Indians fan” can be that obtuse, it’s that the PD would print it.

Hoynes also mentions that Bengie Molina will be available in the off-season if the Indians want a C. So, this team, trying to get more athletic in the off-season is going to throw money at probably the least athletic, and slowest, player in the Majors? Uh, no.

Adam Miller registered as the #1 prospect on Baseball America’s Hot Sheet.

Also, Jeremy Guthrie has been sent down, probably never to return to Cleveland, after yesterday’s games and Big Bad Andrew Brown has been called up for his turn on the casting couch.

More on the excitement in watching this young team win (albeit against the Royals) and thoughts on individual players and how their performance impacts the plans for 2007 on the way.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Best Regards, Mark

Before heading down to enjoy a lovely Cleveland evening on Monday at the Jake (and watch Jeremy Sowers take on Jered Weaver), I opened the mailbox to see that my friend, Mark Shapiro, had penned me a letter.

OK, it’s to all season ticket holders and I don’t have a scanner to scan the whole document, but here’s the gist of it:

  • The Indians organization is just as, if not more, disappointed about this year’s performance as the fans are.
  • They remain confident that the core is in place to make the playoffs in 2007. That goal – the playoffs in 2007 – is reiterated many times throughout the 2-page letter.
  • They admit that, once the team was out of contention, they began making moves with 2007 in mind.
  • Shapiro speaks for the owners’ spending capabilities, saying they are “committed, both economically in the FA market and philosophically in our trades, to achieving the playoffs in 2007” and that they will make “the resources available to add the players necessary to bring us back to our championship-caliber level.”
  • The “core” is very distinctly listed as Grady, Hafner, Sabathia, Martinez, Peralta, Lee, Westbrook, and Blake. The youth of these players is stressed, as is the fact that Hafner, Sizemore, and Victor have matured into three of the best hitters in all of baseball. It’s also pointed out that “C.C., Cliff, and Jake remain several of today’s best starting pitchers after leading last year’s staff to the top ERA in the AL.”
  • The complementary pieces that have already been added are then listed as Sowers, Carmona, Marte, Inglett, Choo, and Luna.
  • The letter ends with thanks for support and a statement that “we remain steadfast in our belief that this organization is poised to bring another era of championship baseball back to Jacobs Field.”

Maybe T-Bone will put a link up of the letter (with all of his fancy toys) that you can view in the comments section, but it’s an interesting letter in what it says and what it doesn’t say.

It’s interesting in that it’s a pro-active stance to ask the Season Ticket Holders to keep the faith and, while it’s an admission that they are not where they want to be (as evidenced by this year), they still believe that this Indians team is not far away from contending next year. It also nearly promises that players (and payroll) will be added, saying “it is of utmost importance to communicate our dedication to making the necessary adjustments and acquisitions to achieve our goal of reaching the postseason in 2007”.

The other VERY interesting thing to do is read between the lines to take note of the players omitted. Nowhere is there a mention of Paul Byrd, Jason Michaels, Kelly Shoppach, or any members of the bullpen (except Carmona, and the letter is dated 8-7-06, so the 9th inning meltdowns were common knowledge). Eric Wedge’s name also does not appear anywhere in the letter

Where does that leave Byrd and Michaels for next year?
Make your own assumptions, but the fact that Westbrook, who is signed for fewer years than Byrd and has comparable numbers this year, is mentioned but Byrd is not is pretty telling.
Also, I think that Michaels’ omission is an admission that the Indians realize that they need to have a run-producing corner OF at one of the positions and, if Choo/Blake is going to patrol one of those spots, Michaels would be the odd man out.
Shoppach is not as noteworthy as it’s rare that a backup C is identified as an exciting player. The only thing that it shows is that Martinez is seen as the starting C for next year, not a straight Vic/ShopVac platoon.
The bullpen not being mentioned as having any players worth saving is, well…taking it easy on the beleaguered pen.

In other news, Todd Hollandsworth is gone (yawn), which means that he can’t pinch-hit for Marte in the 9th inning and that the DiaBride can no longer call him Dutch.

Finally, here’s an interesting story on Juan Gonzalez and steroids back in 2001, when he was still an Indian. The story, inexplicably, not getting any play in the local (or national) media. It’s a pretty damning article and, once again, makes you wonder how widespread this whole steroids thing was (is).

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lee for Three

The Tribe locked up Cliff Lee for 3 years with a $14M contract with an $8M club option for 2010 this morning.

The Lee signing is another move to lock up that “core” that has become the buzzword around Jacobs Field. The Lee signing gives the Tribe 3 solid lefties (with C.C. and Sowers) around which to build the rotation until at least 2008 (that’s how long C.C.’s current contract goes).

Seeing as how the rotation is typically the hardest, and most expensive, portion of the team to build, this is a pretty major move.

Some speculation exists that the Tribe gave Lee this contract to make him more attractive on the trade market (see Arroyo, Bronson), but I’m more inclined to think that the Indians think that Lee projects as the 3rd or 4th starter through the length of this deal.

Considering what solid starting pitching is going for (and I’ll put Lee in that category – solid, but unspectacular), this deal is a real value for the Tribe, at a pro-rated clip of less than $5M per.

Additionally, the contract puts the amount of money that the Indians have tied up to their “core” to over $100M (it’s actually $103M in guaranteed money to Lee, Hafner, Peralta, Sizemore, Sabathia, and Martinez) over the life of their deals.

In other news, Casey Blake was sent to the 15-day DL, with Ryan Garko-my-God-did-you-see-how-far-he-hit-that making the return trip west on I-90 to Cleveland.

Garko should probably take over the 1B/C platoon with Victor and Shoppach, while Big League Choo should now get everyday player status in RF.
Nothing quite like attrition to force evaluation.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

This Pen is Dry

Consider the Fausto Carmona-Closer Experiment over. Unless the Indians plan on trotting the kid out again, only to develop a Byung-Hyun Kim complex, it’s time to move Carmona to a different role in the bullpen.

You don’t want to send Carmona down to Buffalo, as that would completely destroy his fragile psyche right now. Sending him down would essentially relay the message that he’s gone from the best arm in the bullpen to the worst arm on the team.

Remember that he’s still a 22-year-old that proved that his stuff translated to the Majors for 2 months. The last week has proven that he’s not ready to close, not that he’s ill equipped to stay in Cleveland.

Carmona’s quickly entered the national spotlight, and not really for something that a young pitcher aspires to be known for. The guys on “Baseball Tonight” were just groaning after the Pudge HR. Carmona’s even a part of the Sports Guy’s mailbag.

Put Carmona in the long relief role for now and let him work some bullpen sessions to iron out whatever has suddenly gone wrong (if that problem is not strictly between his ears).

As soon as Wedgie remembers that he has more than 4 relievers in the bullpen (did anyone realize that Tom Mastny is on the roster, and has been for 2 weeks) there will be the opportunity to evaluate all of these young arms on the ML level.

Does anyone think it’s time to see if Jeremy Guthrie can succeed in the Bigs, before the Indians need to make a decision on him next year (he’s out of options)? Can’t we see someone like him, rather than castoff Sikorski?

When Mujica was sent down to Buffalo, I thought that the reason was that he could get “regular work” in AAA rather than getting inconsistent work in Cleveland. But you’re not going to get an idea if you can bank on these guys next year (Mujica, Perez, Guthrie, and even Andrew Brown) by having them throw against AAA hitters.

If the remainder of the 2 months of the season is all about evaluation and determining where the team needs additions in the off-season, shouldn’t these spots in the bullpen be Priority #1, #1a, #1b, and #1c?

While it’s true that the rest of the team can’t be enjoying this whole “go into the 9th innings with leads in 6 games against two of the best AL teams only to get 1 win” thing, they have to understand that the Indians aren’t exactly going to be able to pull Mo Rivera off of waivers to correct the bullpen.

GM Mark Shapiro was on WKNR with Kenny Roda on Friday and had some interesting thoughts (outside of comparing Roda to Roger Brown on the air). He stated that the pitching and defense are what let the team down this year and that the Indians will make moves that would be deemed “unlike” what they’ve done in the past to correct the problems.

He singled out C.C. and Westbrook as having career years, while pointing out that Lee should be having a better year. He made no mention of Sowers, who has done nothing BUT impress, or Byrd, who has nothing TO impress.

The crux of the conversation sounded as if Shapiro didn’t sound opposed to moving one of those veteran arms (likely Lee or Byrd) if he can improve the team in other spots.
Carmona, if the decision is made to move him back to the rotation in the latest yo-yo act for a young pitcher, could factor in as a starter next year, Adam Miller (who likely needs more seasoning) or a FA pitcher would have to be counted on for them to make that kind of move.

Also, from the Department of Obvious Statments, he intimated that the bullpen would be completely redone in the off-season.

He made no mention of the offense being a part of the big problem, only saying that the inconsistency of the lineup has been as frustrating to him as any part of the club.

He went further to say that this year has “humbled him” and taken a “considerable toll on him mentally and physically”

Finally, for all of the Dolan-bashers, he indicated that the Indians would not be as low as they were this year in the payroll rankings (they’re 24th this year), as the Dolans have apparently authorized him to spend significant money in the off-season to get this ship righted.

With that out of the way, a brief Lazy Sunday with not a lot of notable articles today. Only Sheldon Ocker’s examination of the trade-deadline deals and their impact on 2007 makes the cut.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Finding the Silver Lining

It’s true that the Red Sox series will be remembered for 2 walk-off wins for Boston, and thus will be thought of as a failure or simply as the Undoing of Fausto Carmona, or that tonight’s Detroit game will be remembered as further proof that Fernando Cabrera V. 2006.0 is an inferior product to Fernando Cabrera V. 2005.0.

That, however, couldn’t be further from the truth, due to the fact that the Indians are two horrific 9th innings away from a 4-game sweep against Boston, one of the assumed playoff front-runners for the AL and a F-Cab meatball away from taking Game 1 from the 1927 Yankees…I mean the Tigers.

What Went Right:
The hitters logged quality AB’s.
Pronk returned to his Pronkesque form to prove that he’s one of the elite (not just good) hitters in the ML (not just the AL).
There were hits with runners in scoring position.
The offense just kept coming back.
The starters put the Tribe in a position to win the games.
In the occurrence that one of them struggled (Byrd); the middle relief picked him up.
C.C. acted like an ace, playing his role as the stopper of losing streaks.

What Went Wrong:
The bullpen remains a work in progress with Carmona imploding like he did on Monday and Wednesday and Cabrera showing that, while the stuff is there, the killer instinct is not.

Despite Carmona’s and Cabrera’s troubles, Jason Davis and Rafael Betancourt have both looked good.
And guess what, these games are exactly what the Indians need to see for the rest of the season to figure out how these arms are going to slot into the 2007 bullpen.

Is it possible that JD uses Thursday’s save (his first career save) as a building block to see that he went through Ortiz and Manny in the 9th inning of a 1-run game in Fenway and has the talent and stuff to be a huge factor in the bullpen.

Remember that JD was thought to be the “Closer of the Future” before he passed that mantle to Cabrera, then Carmona. Could the torch be passed back to a more mature, still-as-nasty stuff Davis? When JD is throwing his fastball for strikes, hitters sit on it making his slider absolutely filthy.

Could it be that his confidence and maturity just needed to catch up to his unquestionable talent? That’s what we’ll find out over the next 2 months.

By the way, if I’m the Atomic Wedgie I bring Carmona in for some low-stress situations to remind him that he can get anybody out at any time and build that confidence back up.

I’d also mention something about not trying to throw 200MPH, regardless of the situation.
Maybe I’d mention it in passing, but I’d make it come up.

If that means that Davis becomes your de facto closer for the time being, so be it.
Let’s see if he has hidden Jason Dangerously for good.
Maybe he can re-invent himself as The Taxidermist coming out of the bullpen because…well…

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Growing Pains

Show me that smile again,
Don’t waste another minute on your cryin…

With some BRUTAL games in Boston, let’s go off the board for some light-heartedness that won’t remind us of a couple of heart-wrenching 9th innings (during Carmona’s Wednesday meltdown, the DiaBride was so tense she had to leave the room).

SportsTime Ohio has recently contributed one of the better Cleveland commercials of the past few years. There’s 2 versions linked, so be sure to check them both out.

Finally, a clever commercial by a local sports team about a local sports team. I don’t care how bad the season has been, when I hear that “What’s Up Ohio?...1, 2, 3, 4”, I’m jacked.

I don’t know who the band is, but part of me is waiting for the steel drums to announce the beginning of “Jane Says”.

Regardless, the commercial gets me excited, maybe not LeBron “Witness” jacked (I got chills the first time I saw that), but I’m fired up.

It’s certainly better than G.E. Smith’s dreadful “Browns’ Town”, which I can’t even find a link of – making me hopeful that I’ll never have to hear it again.

It’s also an improvement on the old, “We’re Talkin’ Baseball, Indians Baseball…. TALKIN’ TRIBE.

Unfortunately, because we sit here and watch every game, we’re also subjected to the likes of that Subway Commercial where they go to their reporter PJ “on the scene” at a local Subway, which could be the worst commercial I’ve ever seen.

Seriously, that commercial looks like it’s a high school production.

The new Pizza Hut commercial with the running clock and the guy just standing there runs a close second in the “Something a 5th grader could do with a camcorder” category.

The DiaBride and I also have an ongoing debate on the Ford commercial when the girl thanks her ex-boyfriend in Spanish, then informs her current beau of her ex. While the DiaBride swears that she shouldn’t have an accent when saying, “He’s my ex-boyfriend,” I would prefer a nice Salma Hayek accent to add to her allure.

I’d also like to see that girl from the Johnny Malloy’s commercial, the one who smells the pizza A LITTLE too long and too lovingly, eat a full meal. It would take hours.

Or how about the Erie Insurance Commercial that instructs you to contact your local Columbus agent today. Wait, where am I? Erie, Columbus, or Cleveland?

The worst could be that “AT&T See How They Live with Deion Sanders” where Prime Time follows around Big Papi and Pujols in their everyday lives. I can’t stand Deion when he’s just sitting at a desk. I’m supposed to enjoy him walking around MLers’ houses, “keeping it real”.

Who visits this website? And how does AT&T think that this improves their image?

The reason “MTV Cribs” is somewhat compelling is because it’s so ridiculous and you can’t figure out how Sabrina, the Teenage Witch is worth 8 figures.

We know baseball players are rich, we know they lead a great life, it’s not exactly what I want to do with my free time on the Web, though.

Frankly, I’m still waiting for the guy from Norton Furniture to buy some ad time during Tribe games. If you haven’t seen them yet, it’s worth watching all of them on YouTube.
Yes, they’re real. The man and the store actually exist.

Sorry out-of-towners who can’t relate to the ins and outs of an Indian broadcast; but, in case you’re wondering, this is what my summer has degenerated into.
Well, that and shopping for baby furniture.

STO has also recently started non-Indians programming, the highlight of which is the Tee-It-Up Ohio show that follows WKYC sports anchor Mike Cairns as he duffs it up with golf pros at local golf courses. No, seriously, Training Camp Daily is pretty good.
But programming, not dead air is what we need more of.

Now if we can only get them to show tape-delayed Bisons and Aeros games during the day (Aeros’ previous night’s game at 12PM, the Bisons’ previous night’s game at 3PM, the Tribe pre-game at 6PM).

Who wouldn’t DVR an Adam Miller start or for a chance to see every Trevor Crowe or Ryan Garko at-bat before the Indians game started (prior to his call-up)?

Finally, if you didn’t Vote Pronk – shame on you.

I did, with a big thanks to an usher in Section 307 over July 4th weekend.

Please take note of the corner of the Wickmans’ Warriors shirt.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tomahawk Time

The Tribe rebounds from a tough loss and the Tomahawks are loose:

  • As deflating as the Papi HR was against Carmona, all it does is add Fausto’s name to a list of very established closers who have been victimized by Ortiz. Who else knew that Carmona was in trouble when Youkilis was walked? The Loretta pop-up was nice, but I read a comparison of Ortiz coming up in the 9th at Fenway this year to the 1995 Tribe, when a walk-off is almost the expectation. Judging from the electricity last night at Fenway - that sounds about right.
  • Before anyone decides that Carmona can’t be the closer, let’s give the kid a chance. He obviously showed enough talent to earn the opportunity, now give him the chance to seize it without using one night (and, really, could there be a tougher 1st save opportunity – Big Papi in Fenway).
  • On the topic of the bullpen, how great would it be if the young fireballers (Carmona, Cabrera, and Davis) could find their grooves in the last 2 months to go into 2007 with some confidence and some defined roles?
  • Has anyone ever noticed that Ortiz’s HR numbers absolutely exploded when he got to Boston? I know the argument that he was released from the confines of “the Minnesota way” that focuses on situational hitting and that he’s a very affable, likable guy, but are we putting our heads in the sand on this one? No accusations, it just seems curious.
  • Casey Blake’s value to this team, in performance and versatility, not to mention consistent effort, is making picking up his 2007 option a pretty easy decision. Blake simply plays the field where he’s asked and has excelled. I don’t know what the guy this year has done to Kasey Blake of 2005, but he has justifiably shed the K.
  • When Victor catches, he is noticeably slower down the line than he is when he’s at 1B. I can’t think that I’m the only one who’s taken notice.
  • Realizing that a prolonged slump could cause Andy Marte to question his ability to hit in the ML, why isn’t he playing every day? Isn’t he supposed to be learning how to play 3B with the Tribe coaches and seeing ML pitchers on a regular basis?
  • Speaking of Marte and the player that he will always be linked with, Coco is under unbelievable pressure from the Boston media. Think Kenny Roda and Bill Livingston on their most irrational day and multiply it by 1000 to get an idea of the ranting heads and bitter writers in Boston that have Crisp in their crosshairs.
  • Anybody want to take note that Jason Michaels has a better average (.276 to .271), a higher OPS (.737 to .705), double the HR and RBI than Crisp? Sure, Michaels has 70 more AB’s than Covelli, but he has replaced Coco in LF more than adequately for the Tribe this year.
  • Nice to see a return of the “Free and Easy C.C.” that we grew to love in May and not the frustrated overthrower that we’ve seen since June 4th. Who says the Big Fella needs to work on conditioning? He worked 8 strong on a hot, muggy night against an outstanding lineup. If we could get that out of C.C. every 5 games, maybe the naysayers would leave C.C. alone. Who am I kidding? C.C. will always be maligned for something in this town, despite the fact that he now has 77 career wins, and just turned 26 two weeks ago.
  • Ken Rosenthal gave the Tribe Honorable Mention in the Winners section in his Trade Deadline: Winners and Losers. SI’s Jon Heyman also puts them in the category of Winners.
Tomorrow, we’ll see if Sowers can extend his scoreless inning streak from 18.