Saturday, August 04, 2007

Tom-E-Hawk's Time

A few things to celebrate today as the Indians sit atop the AL Central after becoming the 1st team ever to beat Johan Santana 3 times in one year last night. If the Indians can celebrate the “birthday” of a confusing combination of pink fur, yellow spots, and dripping snot in an Indians’ uniform, it’s time to one-up them and recall a better time in the days of Indians’ mascots.

A day when political correctness didn’t remove all portions of “Indians” from the Cleveland Indians, when a mascot actually looked like something, and a time when Slider didn’t exist to ruin my game experiences. That’s right, in honor of the long-gone mascot Tom-E-Hawk (I do have the whole Wheaties set from the early ‘80’s), it’s time to release some tomahawks:

With Lofton, Sizemore, and Gutierrez patrolling the OF, how many balls are going to find their way to the wall in the gaps? Last night, in the Metrodome of all places, K-Love and Frank the Tank were cutting balls off in the alley, limiting Twins’ hitters to hard-hit singles.

The more I see this defensive alignment, the more I like it. Michaels should still be playing against LHP (and Nixon should spend the whole game BAKING pies in the clubhouse), but Lofton should be running wind sprints in the tunnel when Michaels starts so he’s loose as a late-inning defensive replacement.

The Scarecrow, Rafael Perez, is quickly working his way up a short list of ridiculously effective middle relievers for the Indians in the past 5 years. Opposing batters are 1 for 8 against him with the bases loaded, including two swinging K’s on Wednesday night. His stuff is lethal against LHP, but also tremendously effective against RHP, meaning that he translates very nicely into a back-end-of-the-bullpen arm instead of a LOOGY.

The fact that he has a pitch that is virtually untouchable (his slider) means that he falls into that small category of pitchers who throw a pitch (Mo Rivera’s cutter, Trevor Hoffman’s change-up) that renders hitters helpless. By no means is The Scarecrow in the class of upper echelon relievers, but the stuff and poise (as witnessed by his pitching with RISP) could mature into something pretty special at the back end of the Indians’ bullpen.

Speaking of “future closers”, but on a much more somber note, the DFA of Fernando Cabrera (who once was K-Brera, but quickly devolved into CaBBrera) signified a sad end of a career in a Tribe uniform for a player that flashed SO much potential just a few years back. Coming into Spring Training last year (yes, 18 months ago), the question was WHEN Cabrera would assume the Closer role from Wickman.

Whether he was screwed up by the World Baseball Classic, was a victim of not being able to handle the pressure of the back end of the bullpen, or if his mechanics just became completely altered and out of whack, Cabrera’s downward spiral goes down as one of the bigger disappointments in recent Tribe history. More so than Jason Dangerously, who was never able to find his rhythm out of the bullpen, Cabrera had all the potential in the world (I believe that I once claimed that, “F-Cab is our K-Rod”) but, for whatever reason, was never able to put it all together in Cleveland.

Perhaps he’ll catch on somewhere else and thrive, but his taking up a roster spot (with the inability to be used in a game of ANY consequence) became too much to handle for a team in a pennant race.

Anyone else worried that Aaron Laffey’s pro debut will come in a nationally televised game on FOX? Perhaps he’ll go Bullet Bob Wolcott (remember him from Seattle) and thrive on the big stage; but The Taffy Man turned 22 in April and had a mere 20 starts above A ball when the season started, so let’s hope that Laffey can keep his emotions in check and not get flustered by the Minnesota “Piranhas” on their home turf.

He’s such an unknown quantity that had a picture of Brad Snyder (as Aaron Laffey) as part of the game preview. How’s that for some bulletin board material? No respect.

I haven’t been this excited for a debut since Carmona’s last year (proof that I was excited), as we see if we can add Aaron Laffey’s name to the roster of LHP that could impact the Tribe rotation going down the stretch and into next year.

As crazy as it sounds, because of Victor’s fantastic season, the disappearance of Pronk, and the continued frustration of the all-too-frequent Trot Nixon sightings, lost is the fact that Grady Sizemore is putting up another historic season in an Indians’ uniform.

Grady? The SI cover boy? The guy who steps to the plate with 2Pac’s “All Eyez on Me” (the second time up) not in the spotlight?

Because of his consistent approach, he’s quietly on pace for 28 HR and 40 SB (not to mention 89 RBI), meaning that he has a legitimate chance at being the 2nd Tribesman to hang the 30-30 plaque on his wall (Joe Carter went 32-31 in 1987).

Did I mention he turned 25 on Thursday and that he will remain in Cleveland until 2012?

Scanning the waiver wire, Futility Infielders St. Ignatius grad Matt Kata and ex-Blue Jay (among others) Royce Clayton were given their walking papers this week. Not such a great reflection on your current Futility Infielder when players cut by the Rangers and Pirates (Kata…this year alone) and the Blue Jays look like an upgrade.

With Josh Barfield struggling like he is at the plate, he becomes a prime candidate to be pinch-hit for, but that means that Mighty Rouse has to enter as a defensive replacement. Just using the past two weeks as a sample, Rouse has booted a ball in the 9th at SS, thrown a ball too high to miss getting Torii Hunter at the plate which became the winning run, and muffed a throw from Jensen Lewis at 2B in extra frames. All three plays were tough plays and none guaranteed a victory, but if Rouse is our defensive replacement in the infield he cannot be a defensive liability, particularly in the late innings.

Reportedly, Joe Inglett is getting some work at SS (where he needs it) in Buffalo, so a move could already be in the works. It’s also entirely conceivable that the newest Bison, Asdrubal Cabrera, could help the parent club with the slick glove we’ve heard about when September call-ups roll around.

Whatever the solution is, it’s pretty apparent that Mike Rouse is not part of it.

Some food for thought while watching the nationally televised game:
The Indians hold club options on Joe Borowski, Aaron Fultz, and Paul Byrd for next year.
How many should be picked up?
How many will be picked up?

Not as easy as it looked a few months ago, does it?

Enjoy Kenny Albert and Joe Girardi this afternoon!
Go Taffy Man!


Voltaire said...

The usual (great post, etc.)

The disappearance of Rouse is sorely needed. Why we haven't called up Inglett is bizarre; since Jhonny doesn't need a defensive replacement, there's no reason to say, "but Inglett can't play SS."

And I say pick up the options on Fultz and Byrd.

Ron Vallo said...

I think they should get Royce Clayton who was DFA'd to replace Rouse. He's a good fielder and can get hot once in a while at the plate.

I say pick up all three. Byrd has earned his money this year and no sense opening up holes in the bullpen that (as we fond out earlier this week) are hard to fill. Borowski's ERA is high, and my blood pressure is too when he pitches, but the saves % is pretty damned good. Eliminate that Yankee game early in the year (which I had the misfortune to be at) and one or two others and the ERA comes down too.

On the FOX picture of Laffey. I'm sure it was a mistake (incompetence) not a diss. I would comment more on the fairness, balance AND accuracy of the FOX News organization but my company just got bought out by their parent company (News Corp.) this week, so I won't. Though I guess I just did. Oh well.

A-Rod just hit his 500th as I write this. Time to go toss my lunch

Cy Slapnicka said...

damn, i think i'm getting mets/cubs! missed last nights game due to a 8 hour craps marathon at NYNY and LONG flight home. at least i have hammy....unless my internet connection dies. then i will be forced to tap my hammy bobblehead doll (courtesy of PC, can't thank you enough) and listen to him make the calls as i wait for someone to txt updates on my phone.

Rockdawg said...

As an out of towner that can't afford any type of MLB packages, I had a chance to see Aaron (great first name) Fultz pitch for the first time on Friday. Does he know that in baseball, unlike golf, it is OK to bend the right elbow? I would pick up the option on all three, but I still don't want Borowski closing next year.

Casey Blake is now hitting .162 with RISP...that is is thirty points lower than anyone else with at least 100 plate appearences this can Wedge possibly justify hitting him anywhere near Sizemore (sometimes I see him penciled in as the 2 or 3 hitter and it drives me nuts).

Kid Cleveland said...

Tom E. Hawk...where did you pull that out of your ass??? I forgot all about that set. I had both those as well as the McDonald's Browns "cards" back in the day. Sadly, I can't tell you of their fate today.

I will say if I ever see a racehorse aptly named Tom E. Hawk I will pick it.

Of course, that just means everyone else shoud avoid that horse if they want to save money...