Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Standing at the Edge of Happiness

So much happening, so little time.
Ken Rosenthal lists the Indians among the big winners this off-season, then throws the Rockies’ Jamey Carroll as a name to remember for the Tribe utility spot.

Next, the Tribe signs Cliff Politte, adding another arm to the bullpen mix, further clouding the 7th bullpen spot battle.
But there’s plenty of time for analysis and roster breakdown. Trust me, lots more coming.

For now, let’s celebrate some frivolity.
Why?
Because…we made it.

Pitchers and Catchers report tomorrow and all is good in the world, despite shoveling all day long. As a bit of a reward, here’s the latest round of the popular “Soundtrack of Life” to further whet your palate.

In case you’re new to the site, here’s last year’s edition, which essentially makes suggestions as to the entrance music for Tribe players. I was able to link them to YouTube clips (although Viacom’s wishes made it an exercise in creativity), so you can click on the player and song title’s name to hear the song in case you aren’t familiar.

And with that introduction out of the way, away we go:
Sizemore – Superhero
Not only does Grady lead a charmed life, like the boys in “The Adventures of Ari Gold”…I mean “Entourage”, but he’s developing a Vinnie Chase-like following with the ladies. The fact that the song is called “Superhero” fits the SuperSizemore persona and I could see him hanging with Turtle, E, and Johnny Drama over a few Dortmunders at Great Lakes.

Dellichaels – Endless Love
Two hearts…two hearts that beat as one. As Dellucci and Michaels try to combine do the work of one man by platooning in LF, one can only think of Diana and Lionel. Or the two in the video linked, which is a must-watch.

Pronk – Bulls on Parade
Regardless of whether Hafner in the field is like a bull in a china shop, have you ever seen the big guy walk up to the Batter’s Box? He’s like a bull, lowering his head, charging toward another extra-base hit. Plus, the guitar riff from Rage rules.

Victor – My Hips Don’t Lie
Since the salsa song that The Stick’s been coming out to for the past few years has become tiresome, it’s time to get some different Latin flavor for him. Since I recently found out that Jon Secada is no longer considered “HOT” in the Latin scene, it gave me an excuse to do some searches of Shakira…hours later, I give you the linked treat.

Blake – Seven Nation Army
The White Stripes’ simple opening riff on this one can get you fired up for just about anything. The addition of the drums is simple and amazing. All of that aside, I would have Casey (the Wichita State Shocker) come out to the verse starting, “I went to Wichita…”

Nixon – Rambo Theme
If Lou Merloni can come out to “The Godfather” score (and he did), then Trotman can come out to the memorable “First Blood” score (the horns in the clip, not the song). I’ll go with that or that classic exchange between Richard Crenna and Brian Dennehy regarding the availability of body bags in the Pacific Northwest.

Marte – Andy, You’re a Star
As long as they don’t play the line after “Andy, You’re a Star” from The Killers (which is “…in nobody’s eyes but yours”), it works for the Dominican Dandy.

Peralta – My Mind is Playing Tricks on Me
I like to think that last year’s regression for Jhonny was between his ears and easily fixed. Perhaps after waving at another breaking ball low and away he would go home to “sit alone in a four-corner room staring at candles”. Oh, that thing is on?

Barfield – Numb/Encore
Still one of the all-time faves, particularly the version from the 2006 Grammys. Hopefully Barfield won’t succumb to a Peraltaesque sophomore slump and provide us with an encore of his rookie season…because we do want more.

Garko – Tuff Enuff
Chosen because it has to be the question that Garko asks himself after producing on the ML level (45 RBI in 50 games) and hearing that he still needs to earn his roster spot, mainly for defensive purposes. Though I can't find the old “NBA Superstars” video, which included some classic Mark Price highlights, the linked video is pretty good, particularly with the Bateman siblings cameo.

Sabathia – Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems
Hopefully, whenever the ol’ Crooked Cap takes the bump, he’ll allow the words of Puff and Biggie (or these guys in the video) to seep in and forget about that big payday that’s coming in the fall of 2008. Hopefully, he’ll realize that he has it pretty good on the North Coast (when people aren’t booing him without reason or questioning the Hefty Lefty’s conditioning), and sign on that dotted line. We can dream…can’t we?

Lee – Finish What You Started
The master of the “5 and Fly” needs to heed the words from the Red Rocker and give the Indians a little more than his standard 6th inning meltdown. A complete game may be too much to ask, but maybe pitching into the 7th…or dare I say, the 8th?

Westbrook – State of Love and Trust
Like Carsten Charles, a song focusing on some level of comfort to keep him in the friendly confines of the Jake for a few more years can accompany Westbrook during his warm-up. If he comes out to Pink Floyd’s “Money”, I’ll start to explore trade options myself.

Sowers – Footprints by Miles Davis
Like the smoothness and unpredictability of Miles, Sowers makes beautiful music on the mound – even if you can’t figure out how he makes it so beautiful. Last year, Sowers was be-bopping and scatting all over the American League, using a plan of keeping everyone guessing as the basis of his genius. I don’t know if the kid from St. Clairsville is quite the epitome of cool yet, but his quiet demeanor and success certainly give an air of confidence from the mound.

Byrd – Time Intro by Pink Floyd
The ringing bells and ticking clocks that lead into the song will serve as a subtle reminder that there are arms in AAA vying to take his place if he starts 2007 like he did in 2006 – slowly. Tick, tock…tick, tock.

Foulke – Leash
I know that he comes out to Danzig’s “Mother”, but the fact that Eddie sings about him in this PJ tune makes the cut. You know that part - “Drop the Leash, Drop the Leash…Get Out of Keith’s Foulkin’ Face”.
Wait, what does he say then?

Borowski – Just Dropped In
How the fact that Borowski’s name is only 3 letters off that of Jeff Daniels’ classic character of “The Dude” evaded me for this long is surprising. But the mellifluous tones of Kenny Rogers can accompany The Big Borowski to the mound. A video screen showing flying bowling pins and Bob the Beer Guy bringing me a Caucasian in the Mezzanine would complete the perfection.

Cabrera – Slow Ride
It has been a slow ride for Cabrera to fulfill his potential as the future closer of the club. So, until he captures that magic in his right arm and translates it into the 9th inning, he is cursed with “Slow Ride”.

Betancourt – Patience
Tug the cap…adjust the sleeve…tug the cap…look in for the sign…tug the cap…reposition the jock…tug the cap…blow in the hand…tug the cap.
You get the idea.

The players aren’t alone in their need for some tone-setting tunes.
Here’s what I would suggest at certain times in ballgames:
Going into the 9th Inning behind – Win in the End
That’s right, if Scott Howard (as Scott Howard and not the Wolf) can beat Mick’s team, isn’t anything possible? Please click the link for one of the greatest MySpace pages ever.

After a Loss – Even the Losers
Think of the other team, congratulating each other on the field, when someone finally stops, listens, and asks, “Are they really playing this?” The look on those jerks’ faces would be worth the price of admission.

After a Win – Another One Bites the Dust
How great would it be if the Atomic Wedgie leapt out of the dugout to congratulate the team, taking his Tribe jacket off to reveal...the same yellow tank top that Freddie Mercury wears in the clip? Well, pretty great.

Spring Training is here and we have lots to discuss.
For now, in the immortal words of Clark W. Griswold, “we made it, dammit, we made it.”

5 comments:

T-Bone said...

Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Hot Stove 2006 [Print without images]

Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Sizemore emerging as a legitimate star
By Rob Neyer
ESPN Insider

In 2006, Grady Sizemore led the American League in runs scored (134), doubles (53) and extra-base hits (92). Granted, 92 extra-base hits isn't as impressive as it once was. In 1995, Albert Belle became the first American Leaguer since 1940 to top 90 extra-base hits, but since then it's been done nine times in 11 seasons.

What's really impressive is the sort of player Sizemore is: powerful enough to collect 92 extra-base hits and speedy enough to bat leadoff. In fact, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, those 92 long hits were the highest total for a major league leadoff man since at least 1957. Also last season, Sizemore became the second player in major league history to finish with at least 50 doubles (actually 53), 10 triples (11), 20 homers (28) and 20 steals (22) in the same season. The first was Phillies outfielder Chuck Klein, who played in the 1930s, and his home ballpark was the prototypical bandbox.

Granted, Sizemore's statistical blend of power, speed and defense in 2006 doesn't mean he's the equal of -- let alone better than -- Ty Cobb and Willie Mays, just because he's done something that they didn't do, precisely. Mays never hit 50 doubles in any season. He did hit more than 10 triples in five seasons and more than 40 home runs in six seasons. He stole more than 30 bases in three seasons. Statistics do not lie, but they can be misleading.

Grady Sizemore
Grady Sizemore led all American League center fielders with a .375 OBP in '06.
Statistically, only one player in major league history is truly similar -- considering the raw stats -- to Sizemore through his age 23 season (2006). That player is Duke Snider, who, like Sizemore, played sparingly in the majors at 21, emerged as a top center fielder at 22, and became a legitimate star at 23. While it's hard to imagine Sizemore's someday rivaling Cobb and Mays for the affections of baseball historians, it does not seem far-fetched to suggest that Sizemore might really be considered in Snider's class. And Snider's in the Hall of Fame.

Perhaps what's most interesting about Sizemore is that few saw him coming. Yes, the Indians were thrilled when they picked him up in the 2002 trade that sent Bartolo Colon to the Expos. But after Sizemore completed that season, all of which he spent in Class A, the mavens at Baseball America did not rank Sizemore among the game's top prospects. The next season, though, he did establish himself as the Indians' No. 1 prospect. I asked the club's assistant general manager, Chris Antonetti, when they realized just how good Sizemore might be.

"It is difficult to pinpoint a specific moment," Antonetti wrote in an e-mail message on Tuesday. "Even before we traded for him, we knew that Grady was an exceptional person and competitor with tremendous athletic ability. While we certainly liked his baseball skills and thought he had a chance to be a very good player at the time of the trade, I can't tell you that we thought he would be among the best players in baseball. To his credit, Grady has achieved to his remarkable potential through an unrelenting work ethic, incomparable intensity and dedicated commitment to the game. He is a special talent but an even more impressive person, teammate and competitor."

Of course, there are a lot of impressive players in professional baseball, and few of them develop as Sizemore has. You pay your money and take your chances, and the acquisition of Sizemore might someday be hailed as one of the cannier in this century.

In terms of both ability and performance, then, Sizemore is "hot." But that's not the only reason he's the subject of this essay. He had the ability and the performance last year, and few fans outside of Cleveland and fantasyland even noticed. What makes Sizemore hottest is his team, which is poised to jump from fourth place to first place. If that happens, people are going to be looking for explanations, and "Grady Sizemore" is the best candidate, given his youth, his talent, and (yes) his looks.

But a baseball career is not a mirrored ladder, with the first half trending inexorably upward, the second half downward. The general trends might look like that -- actually, we know they do -- but if you graph a player's performance by age, you'll see what looks like a staircase that isn't sure what it's trying to do. What's most likely is that Sizemore, like Snider before him, will drop off some in his third full season, if only because his 2006 was so brilliant that a repeat is unlikely. He will rank as one of the best players in the American League, and at this point the only question is how long it takes before everybody knows it.

Senior writer Rob Neyer writes for Insider three times most weeks during the season. You can reach him via rob.neyer@dig.com, and his new book, "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders," is available everywhere.

Cy Slapnicka said...

Makes me want to listen to Centerfield.

Loved the Sowers suggestion. I wish I could get to youtube from here.

If there was a live feed this morning from Winter Haven watching the pitchers stretch, would you watch it?

Baltimoran said...

to any of you insiders...i would love to read a season preview from gammons on my 2nd snow day in a row

nice work on the links pc

Tim said...

WHAT THE FOULKE!?!? Thanks a lot, Keith.

Tim said...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Indians' Foulke retires
Bill Livingston
Plain Dealer Columnist

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- When the Indians signed four veterans relievers
in the off-season, they did not expect to hit on all four. But Keith
Foulke didn't even make it to the "turn your head and cough'' stage.

Foulke, whom the Indians expected to be one of the twin closers to
repair a leaky bullpen, retired Friday before taking the team's
official physical. The first spring training workout is scheduled for
Saturday.

An Indians' spokesman confirmed that the 34-year-old right hander had
notified the team of his retirement. Foulke had knee surgery before last
season with the Boston Red Sox, but he appeared healthy by season's end.
He did not surrender an earned run in his final 10 appearances. He was
3-1 with the Red Sox with a 4.35 ERA.

Bothered by elbow, shoulder, and back problems during his career,
Foulke reportedly experienced elbow pain recently.

The other veteran arms acquired by the Tribe belonged to Roberto
Hernandez and Aaron Fultz. But Foulke loomed larger than most of them in
the Tribe's plans. He had signed $5 million for this season, with a
mutual option for 2008.

Borowsoki, who saved 36 games in 43 opportunities with Florida, now
becomes the closer. Perhaps with an inkling that this was coming, the
Indians signed veteran Cliff Polite to a minor-league contract earlier
in the week.

Manager Eric Wedge and general manager Mark Shapiro were to discuss
the Foulke situation later today.