Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tomahawks with Cy Phifer Lee

The Free Agent period is looming large and snow is supposed to start falling this weekend around these parts, so let’s take a few quick-hitters and let the Tomahawks fly:

Cliff Lee deservedly won the Cy Young going away, besting Roy Halladay to become the second straight Indian to win the award. Not much more can be said about Lee that hasn’t been said (this piece after his 20th victory puts some of his accomplishments in perspective), but his 2008 is nothing short of astounding. To go from fighting for the 5th starter and perhaps winning it only because the other players involved still retained options to winning the Cy Young is a Hollywood movie that anyone would scoff at.

With all of the accolades continuing to flow in for Clifton Phifer, I find it amazing that most Indians’ fans are taking Lee’s 2008 season ALREADY as the aberration that he’ll never duplicate. Most of the conversations include some sort of, “well…we’ll never see this kind of success from Lee again” or that his 2009 surely won’t line up with his 2008. Truthfully, I’ve been kind of leading that “Cliff Lee v.2008 is a mirage” talk, only in that it was such a departure from his career trajectory that it’s impossible not to think that way.

But what if something DID truly click for Lee?
What if 2008 is just a taste of what we’re in line for over the next season or two?
Who’s to say that Lee hasn’t just vaulted himself into the upper echelon of consistently great pitchers…isn’t that what Cy Young winners are?

With Lee, all of us had a kind of disbelief that he was pulling off what he was in 2008, just waiting for the fall back to being…well, the Cliff Lee we’d all come to know. But the fall never came, and he just kept plugging along all the way to the Cy Young.

Who knows what we get out of Lee for 2009 – will it be close to his 2008 Cy Young campaign? Probably not (there I go again), but for today – who cares, let’s acknowledge Clifton Phifer Lee for an accomplishment that nobody saw coming and for a superb season to build upon.

Two Cy Young winners in a row after none since Gaylord was putting Bardol and Vaseline (who knows, maybe even snot) on the ball. Time to add Cy Phifer Lee to Cy Cy Sabathia and relish in the excellence of Lee’s 2008 season.

The voice of the Indians for my childhood, Herb Score, passed away earlier this week after a lengthy illness. While some still remember him as the hottest of hot shot young pitchers, my exposure to him was limited to hearing him on the radio as he broadcast the games that got me stuck on baseball. Between Jack Corrigan on TV and Score on the radio, Indians’ games were never far from my ears or my consciousness.

He may not have been the most accurate or lively announcer, but he was an Indian – a lifelong member of the organization and someone who knew the game, whether he was able to articulate in the way that the “polished” broadcasters today are or not.

He was a Cleveland institution and as much of a part of Indians’ baseball as the game, the players, the stadium, or anything else for generations of fans. But rather than me prattle on about Score, I’ll let a better writer than I tackle the impact of Herb Score on the lives of Clevelanders everywhere.

Take it away, Joe

The Hot Stove League has started to heat up with a few notable names changing addresses as Florida closer Kevin Gregg will be headed to Wrigleyville, with Kerry Wood now joining Trevor Hoffman on the “available” list as the assumption that he would re-up with the Cubs is gone.

If I’m the Indians, I certainly take a look at Wood with the words “Caveat Emptor” in big, bold letters on whatever paper is in front of me during any negotiations as Wood is unquestionably a talent, but is also unquestionably a health risk and giving multiple guaranteed years to Wood, whose arm could be held together with chicken wire and bubble gum could be tantamount to just burning money for a solid couple of years.

If it comes to Hoffman and Wood (and, hey, wasn’t the closer market supposed to stink?), I’m still going with Hoffman because he’s not going to demand as many years and he is the All-Time Saves Leader. Is he over 40? Sure, but he’s also a still-effective closer who is the All-Time Saves Leader…who just happens to be over 40 and has never relied on his fastball to get players out.

In the other significant move, Nick Swisher is heading to the Bronx for a couple of bags of balls and some Cracker Jack boxes in a trade that makes no sense for the White Sox. Sure, Swisher had a bad 2008, but his track record (and affordability if he can come close to recapturing past success) would almost FORCE you to give him another season to show you that 2008 was the aberration. For him, the White Sox got a depth starter, a utility player, and a lightly-regarded minor-league pitcher. Quite a diminishing return for Swisher, who the White Sox gave up three of their top prospects for less than a year ago.

For those keeping track, that’s Swisher, Joe Crede, Ken Griffey, Jr. (not that he mattered) and Orlando Cabrera all on their way out of Chicago with reports that Kenny Williams is actively shopping Bobby Jenks, Jermaine Dye, and Javier Vazquez. Looks like another overhaul on the South Side, where “boring off-season” is not in their vocabulary.

I would have LOVED to see Swisher make his way to the North Coast for what the Yankees gave up (or rather, didn’t give up), though I think that the relationship between the Front Offices of the Indians and White Sox are…um…strained, based on a conversation I had at a wedding this summer with someone who is a higher-up in the Chicago organization. While I was looking at her 2005 WS ring, I mentioned that the only thing that was awful about it was that it had that terrible “SOX” logo on it. When she asked me what it should be, I told her that a nice fat Chef Wahoo, all in diamonds, would suffice.

Upon learning that I was a Tribe fan (understatement alert), she didn’t really hold back as to how the White Sox Front Office felt about their counterparts on the shore of another Great Lake. Let’s just say that they’re not big fans of or great friends with the Tribe brass.

Again, to keep up with the latest and greatest rumors that float out at this time of year, I’ve found that the Yahoo Rumors page and the FanNation Rumors page do the best job of accumulating rumors while attributing the source and having the link available for you to read yourself to discern the difference between fact and fiction.

Finally, here is the link to Thursday’s “Smoke Signals” where Tony and I welcomed minor-league fireballer (and Arizona Fall League blogger) Neil Wagner into the fold after talking some about possible FA targets and off-season decisions for the Indians. Chuck Lofgren, Jordan Brown, and Chris Gimenez are locked and loaded for the next three shows, so the fun continues on the show.

Now get out there and rake those leaves before the earth is white and cold for the next 6 months on the North Coast.

1 comment:

Ron Vallo said...

Not sure why the White Sox feel they have to rip it up every year, and especially this year. Can't believe the deal with the Yanks.

As the I write this, the Yanks have had 8 hours and 40 minutes to sign CC, and nothing yet.

Herb Score has it all over today's "polished" announcers, who mostly scream at you with their "booth announcer" delivery and offer little of substance. The calming, if sometimes error-filled delivery, of Herb Score was perfect for baseball.