Monday, May 23, 2005

Back in the Saddle

With a week away, I thought I'd get some Quick Hits in:

  • At the ChiSox game last Tuesday (which I attended), they drew 18,000! They have the best record in the majors and a 7-0 Jon Garland was going, but fans are more concerned about the woes of the Cubs than they are with the hot start by the South Siders.
  • My buddies from Minnesota, who I sat with, still think that the Central will come down to the Twins and the Tribe. The consensus in both camps remains (as it has for over a month) that the White Sox cannot keep this up. WHEN (not if) they fall apart, the Twins are in a great position to barrel right past them. The Indians need to position themselves similarly. As a side note, this conversation did not make us popular guys in the 3rd Base Field Boxes.
  • US Cellular Field is located in Beirut. I've never been so scared to walk 500 yards from my car to a stadium (with Chicago's "Finest" in sight at all times) than I was after I dropped $18 to park as close as humanly possible. There were cops on ATV's after the game controlling the crowds! It was like a scene from Mad Max. I was half-waiting for Tina Turner to come over the loudspeakers with "We Don't Need Another Hero".
  • True to White Sock Fan stereotype, a drunk fat guy whipped his shirt off in the 8th inning. With his body covered in tatoos, he implored the crowd to get fired up. As the Security Staff came swarming, the crowd egged him on, forcing him to remove his skullcap, then chug 2 full beers. To his credit, he did not charge the field and attack a coach.

Enough about the Sox, on to our beloved Erie Warriors:

  • Games from now until June 5th are going to determine a lot about the 2005 season for the Indians in the Central. After 4 against the Twins in Minnesota and 3 more at the Jake with the A's, it's off for 3 game sets in Minnesota, then Chicago. If the Tribe can piece together a hot stretch, they can make up some serious games in the Central, and not continue to be 10-12 games back.
  • They've won 4 out of their last 6 series. As I've said before, I don't know if this team is a team that just rattles off 10 in a row, so this is what we're going to have to do- inch our way back into it and hope that the leaders go ice cold. What's needed though is to take 3 of 4 in long series and get one or two sweeps in the month of June.
  • We all wondered where Jody Gerut would fit in. As has often been said, things in baseball just work themselves out. With Coco in Baltimore seeing a hand specialist, we'll see if Joseph Diego (Jody) can recapture the success of his Rookie season. So far, I've been encouraged.
  • Now we wonder where (or if) Gonzo will fit in, then Ludwick goes shoulder first into the fence. Baseball has a funny way of working this stuff out.
  • As was hoped, Davis went to Buffalo. However, they did so to keep him as a starter!?! Hoynes described the Indians' handling of Davis as "unusual". That's being diplomatic.
  • I still don't like the makeup of the lineup, but can't figure out what I would like to see as an everyday lineup. C.C batting 3rd or 4th? Any ideas?
  • When FSN introduces the Indians' defense, they show a picture of the lawyers of Elk & Elk (those 2 elves from the front of the Yellow Pages) while Hegan says, "let's take a look at the Tribe defense". The timing of it is hilarious.
  • The Reds CUT Danny Graves and his mullett after yesterday's meltdown. Who's got the itchy trigger finger over there? Rather than demote your closer to a bullpen pitcher to build some confidence, you just cut him? I realize that he made an obscene gesture to a fan, but this is in the same town that Rob Dibble (he who launched a ball over the center field fence, striking a woman's chest AND attacked his manager in the clubhouse) thrived.

I'll be down at the park tomorrow night. Hopefully it's over 4o degrees. Seriously, it's almost June.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Little by Little

Tough loss today for the Crooked Cap and the Tribe as they ran into a buzzsaw in Roy Halladay. Though it would be nice to rip off 10-12 in a row and get right into the thick of things in the Central, let's be a little more realistic. A VERY good sign is that the Indians have won 3 of their last 4 series, most against playoff caliber teams (MIN, LAA) while the team seems to be hitting its stride.

Interesting that the players getting hot and carrying this team recently are Coco, Sizemore, Jhonny, and Broussard. With the exception of Broussard (who has 2 years 33 days in the majors), all have less than 2 years ML experience. With the young guns seemingly adjusted to pitching, all we need is for The Stick and Pronk to find their strokes and we'll be rolling. The interesting thing is that these young guys seem to have said, "well, the veterans haven't exactly shown us the way, let's figure it out for ourselves."

The lineup is still in flux and the White Sox are still steamrolling through the AL, but my confidence is much higher than it was after the KC series.

With a work trip to Chicago this week in the works (where I will catch a White Sox game at the Cell on Tuesday, accompanied by a work associate from Minneapolis, who happened to coach Joe Mauer in Little League - so I should be up on our Central rivals), I thought that I should do a little comparison of players signed by the Tribe in the off-season, compared to players on their radar, who signed elsewhere. I've narrowed it down to a starter (Millwood), a closer (Wickman), and an outfield bat (should be Gonzalez, but I'll compare Sizemore and Ludwick to the FA crop, as they're the ones who have benefited from the Hamstring from Hell). Also, I'll take a look at Vizquel vs. Peralta. I won't get into your boy A. Boone.

Millwood 1-3 3.54 1.30 .313
Clement 4-0 3.06 1.40 .338
Lieber 5-2 3.31 1.18 .291

So, what does this tell us? Other than that the Tribe brass targeted the right FA pitchers, Millwood and his salary represent the best bargain. While both Clement and Lieber would be nice in the rotation, not a bad call by Shapiro.

Wickman 11 3.77 1.26 .310
Benitez 4 5.79 1.61 .366
Percival 3 3.65 1.14 .308
Hermanson 8 0.00 0.76 .222

Given that Benitez and Percival are both on the DL, not a bad call to take the Sticky One. Even though the appearances are wet and wild, hyperventilating seems to help him with the last 3 outs of the game.

Sizemore .269 3 14 .724
Ludwick 200 3 4 .774
Alou .271 3 12 .865
Burnitz .287 6 21 .848

This is a tough one to call, though who really expected Juan Gone to play this year. Keep in mind that Grady is 22 and plays center field like he's covering a kick-off. Giving Sizemore at-bats is a plus for the maturation of this club. I could take or leave Ludwick.

Player BA HR RBI OPS Fielding
Peralta .268 5 10 .886 .950
Omar .283 0 14 .748 .983

Keep the Thome Rule in mind here (broken down early with a long-term contract) and I like the way that Jhonny has settled into the lineup. Omar was and is a great player, but Peralta still is only 22 years old, so I'll take the Honey P.

Call me the Eternal Optimist, but I think that the Tribe made some good choices. Sure there are better ones out there, or else they wouldn't be 10 games back in mid-May, but we have to be patient. Victor and Pronk haven't yet hit their strides and Boone HAS to start hitting (doesn't he?)

I'll see you in Comiskey on Tuesday night. I'll be the one encouraging the shirtless drunk onto the field.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The Reason I Don't Manage the Tribe

After debating whether to make the trip to the Jake last night, WEWS' Chief Meteorologist Mark Johnson (he of the plastic hair and uneasy sense of humor) convinced us not to, because Hurricane Andrew was supposed to sweep across the North Coast. After a 15-20 minute downpour and an hour rain delay, the Tribe came back on the field and hung onto victory against the Jays. Should've been watching Tanchak.

When the game started, the lineup looked like a disaster. I see Hernandez batting clean-up and Ludwick hitting 5th while the Indians are trying to put together a winning streak and get some offensive momentum on a crucial homestand. I think to myself, "looks like Wedge picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue." Then, the Atomic Wedgie makes me look like an idiot as the top of the order goes nuts in the first and Bono Broussard (have you heard his cover of U2's With or Without You?) comes through with the big bases-loaded hit. That's why the Atomic Wedgie and his mustache make out the lineup card, not me.

Westbrook still looked shaky last night, though early errors didn't help him. He doesn't seem to be throwing with the same confidence and at the same breakneck pace as he did last year. Maybe his rhythm is off, or maybe he lacks that swagger that he had after owning the Tigers to burst out of the gate in 2004. But, at least Elarton wasn't on the mound.

JDangerously looked like he was going to let it come unglued, instantly giving up the HR to Rios, then bore down and went 2 1/3 of decent ball. Why Wedge would use 5 pitchers, and sap his bullpen, on the first day of a 5 game homestand is beyond me. Maybe so he could have the cameras on him while his face twitched uncontrollably. But, again, I don't make out the lineup card.

Did you notice that a few of the players singled out in the Things That Can Happen at the 40 Game Mark from Monday - Coco and Bono - went absolutely nuts in the Angels series. I mean, I know they want pub for their new CD, but that was unreal.

So, let's see if I mention the Sub-Mendoza boys again, if we can get the reverse jinx going on them:
I don't think Boone and Blake are long for the Tribe Lineup.
There, let's hope that will get them above .200.

Harold Reynolds said the other night on Baseball Tonight that the White Sox are by no means a lock to take the Central. He said that they will lose 6 of 10 or 8 of 10 at some point, just because of the nature of the MLB season. The Tribe just needs to make sure that they're hot while the ChiSox are not. Watching them beat up on the Orioles though, it makes you wonder if they're ever going to slow down.

The Jody Gerut situation will be an interesting one to watch. While the logical move would be to send a struggling Boone to find his stroke (Gerut to RF, Blake to 3B, Boone to Buffalo), Shapiro is unlikely to send Boone to Buffalo; you have to wonder where else Gerut would find a spot. Unbelievable on a team whose offense has struggled so mightily that it seems difficult to find a position for a player who led the team in RBI's 2 years ago, but that seems to be the case. One option would be to platoon Gerut and Blake in right, but after giving Blake a contract over the winter, you have to think that the commitment would be stronger to Casey. Or, you bring Gerut up to take Ludwick's spot. But Ludwick is a Wedge favorite, so Gerut will probably have to prove his worth in upstate NY. Stay tuned to this as Gerut was obviously upset about the assignment to AAA. He may pull a B-Phil and pout (unlikely) or he may pull a Coco and just mash (more likely), forcing Shapiro's hand.

More tomorrow on a comparison of the potential Free Agent signings of the 2004 off-season vs. the actual Free Agent signings of the 2004 off season.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Editors' Note

I would be remiss if I didn't point out my mistake yesterday that Wayne Kirby is not Buffalo's Hitting Coach, he is Akron's hitting coach. Thus, Terry Kirby's brother, a career .252 hitter with 119 career RBI's, would be bringing his huge lips north on I-77, not on I-90.

The Buffalo Hitting Coach is...are you ready for this? FELIX FERMIN! "El Gato", a career .259 hitter with 4 HR and 207 RBI in 903 games, is teaching the Herd's AAAA (Andy Abad, Mike Kinkade, Ernie Young...I know, who?) players how to hit. I guess that he had to work at his hitting to be a good hitter. He did only strike out 147 times in 2,767 career at-bats, so maybe he knew what to do, he just couldn't do it himself.

So, to rectify the past statements about a possible replacement for Eddie Murray, Felix the Cat (and his El Guapo mustache from Three Amigos) would be making the westbound trip on I-90 if needed. I'm rooting for it only so when they show Fermin on TV, I can say "Heffe, what is a plethora?"

Maybe I should reserve judgement on Eddie. I know that great hitters do not make great hitting coaches (see Mattingly, Don), but to put Murray's career accomplishments in perspective, he had more RBI than Kirby and Fermin combined by 1980 (his 4th year)! Keep in mind that 15 years after that, he was still a cog in the 1995 Tribe lineup. Plus, he has a head that a baseball hat simply cannot fit onto. Someone explain that to me.

Nice game by Woody last night. I hope that C.C. takes it as a challenge to put up some 0's on the scoreboard.

I also hope that Mike Hegan smokes a whole pack of cigarettes before the game, because he is more insightful than usual when he's got a nice nicotine buzz going. On a related, but equally ridiculous note, does Manning wear a piece?

Monday, May 09, 2005

Time for Some Action

Taking instruction from the immortal B-Real of Cypress Hill, it's time to figure out why the Indians are 12-18 and 11 1/2 games back of the White Sox. I know that I said that I would reserve judgement until we hit the quarter pole (40 games), but something's gotta give.

Things that need to happen now

  • Scott Elarton (or as he has been dubbed - "my boy") needs to be given his walking papers. He was picked up off of the scrap heap from Colorado and was a nice story, while certainly never blowing anybody away, but his time has come and gone. Let's call Brian Tallett up from the Herd (where he's pitching extremely well to the tune of 1-0, 2.10 ERA) and let him pitch every 5th. Giving Elarton the ball every fifth game was a message to the team and to fans that the Indians will never rip off more than 4 in a row. Elarton, to me, at best is a no decision; and at worst, a lopsided loss. If Tallett struggles, there are other options at Buffalo, just please no more Elarton.
  • Send Jason Dangerously to Buffalo to give him one thing to focus on. It's time for the Indians' brass to decide if he's a starter or a reliever. This kid's getting signals from the Mariners dugout in the Naked Gun. They're coming fast and furious and they make no sense. Call it the Baez Syndrome, they're not sure where he should go, so they just keep him confused. He pitches 1 inning...He pitches 3 1/3 innings...He's a spot starter, etc. Enough. Send him to Buffalo to start or let him pitch in the 8th or 9th inning. My preference would be to make him a reliever in AAA. Let him get comfortable with a routine, get some confidence in a few pitches (not the 8 he tries to master as a starter) and ease his psyche into the idea that this is his future. Call Matt Miller back up to reward him for swallowing his pride and pitching well in Buffalo (2.08 ERA, 3 hits in 4 1/3 innings). There's still enough depth at Buffalo (Tadano: 2.22 ERA in 24 innings, Cabrera: 2.13 ERA with 18 K's & 1 BB in 12 2/3 inning) that if someone goes down, reserves are available.
  • The offense is not as easy, though I'm through saying, "It's just a matter of time..." Wedge needs to set a lineup and stick with it. If that means Belliard leads off and plays every day, so be it. Let's get back to Hafner 3, The Stick 4, and maybe Broussard 5. I don't like seeing Broussard batting 3rd. I'll give the offense about 10 more games, and if we're still scuffling - well then,

Things That Can Happen at the 40 Game Mark

  • Coco Crisp, unless he improves, will become the 4th outfielder that everyone thought he would always be. He can't hit consistently (particularly for power), he doesn't walk, and his arm is weak. Not your prototypical left fielder. The guess here is that whoever is ready to come back first (Gonzo or Jody G.) will come back to right, Blake will go to left, and Coco will become the 4th outfielder/pinch runner/Ruben Amaro type. I cannot believe that I just wrote that I'm holding a spot in the lineup for one of the Rehabbers, Juan Gone or Gerut.
  • Ryan Garko may get a look. Where? I don't know, but he continues to tear apart every level that he plays at (.929 OPS in Buffalo). Maybe he platoons with Broussard, maybe the Indians work him into another position on the farm. Maybe I'm jumping the gun.
  • Boone and Blake either need to step up or step aside. I'm not sold on Jose Hernandez playing 3rd, but what about Cora at short and Peralta at third? That would've been a ridiculous premise at the beginning of the season, but when my mom thinks that Boone should be cut, things are close to rock bottom.
  • If nothing gets better, Eddie Murray takes the bullet for this team's struggles. I know that last year's team hit like crazy, but something has to change. Maybe Wayne Kirby can bring his batting acumen and huge lips on westbound trek on I-90 to try to save this sinking ship.

Maybe I'm grasping at straws, maybe I'm overreacting, but I can't listen to Hamilton call the play of this team, "just awful, in every sense of the game," and not have a reaction.

They're killing me softly.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

What in the Wide, Wide World of Sports?!?

After watching another roller-coaster save by Wickman on Friday (spirits high), I get to return to Cleveland after two abysmal outings by the Wahoo Warriors. Before I start a complete overhaul as a knee-jerk reaction, I'm going to sleep on it and think about what I think is wrong with the 2005 Tribe and what can be done to fix it, which will be forthcoming.

So, with that in mind, and with Ryan Drese throwing a 6-hit shutout on Saturday night, I thought that I would recall one of my favorite stories.

To set the scene, for my bachelor party, myself and about 20 other guys sat in the bleachers for a Saturday game with thoughts of hitting every watering hole in sight after the game before retiring for the evening. While watching the game, my buddy TB mentions to the group that Ryan Drese (who was pitching that day for the Tribe) is his second cousin on his mom's side. He says that his mom has invited Drese (who hails from California and was spending his first year in Cleveland) over to the house for a family dinner; a nice offer which Drese had not yet taken up. TB tells us (as Drese is getting shelled) that he thinks he met Drese once or twice, but not recently. The conversation is forgotten until later...much later.

Fast forward to the Shooters' deck, about 1:00 AM. TB runs over to us to tell us that Drese just came in with some other guy and they're hanging out. I convince TB to go over to him and introduce himself. "What's the worst that could happen?", I ask him, telling him that I'll go so it doesn't look too gay (while it actually probably made it look MUCH more gay). TB sidles up to Drese, who looks annoyed that someone not wearing a halter top has come within 5 feet of him. And the exchange:

TB-Ryan! My name's Tim. I'm your second cousin. My mom and your mom are cousins!

Long pause.


Long pause.

TB- So...nothing.

TB walks away red-faced and fuming, tosses his full beer across the deck cursing like I've never seen him curse before. I'm dying to know what happened in the conversation, which TB plays back for me. Drese is called every name in the book when word spreads of the encounter. About fifteen minutes later, TB is still visibly upset. I tell him not to worry about it, that Drese is a prick, and who cares? TB's classic response, "I don't care that he blew me off. If my mom ever found out that Ryan is a jerk it would break her heart." TB didn't tell his mom for a few years, for fear hurting his mom's feelings.

Apropos on Mother's Day. Always thinking of mom.

Speaking of which...Happy Mother's Day to Nikki Addington, who miraculously gave birth to a 10+ pound baby (Gavin Thomas) BEFORE her due date.

Drese is still a prick, though. More on the Tribe in the next DiaTribe.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Time to Get Going

After another Wickman Stress Save on Wednesday and a C.C. (and Jason Dangerously) meltdown on Thursday, it's nice to watch the Tribe get on top early and give Cliff Lee some breathing room. Let's hope that the West Coast swing gives the Tribe something to build on.

As I wrote that last sentence, Soriano just hit his second 2 run job to make it 8-5. He just drops the bat when he thinks it's going out. Next to Milton Bradley's batting glove removal, Bonds' cocksure gaze, and Bret Boone's end over end bat launch, Soriano's bat toss bothers me the most.

Interesting Poll and Results on :
Now that C.C. Sabathia, Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez's deals have been extended, who should be next?
Ryan Ludwick 97 votes (1%)
Cliff Lee 1443 votes (19%)
Coco Crisp 3860 votes (51%)
Grady Sizemore 1990 votes (26%)
Jason Davis 171 votes (2%)
7561 people have voted so far

Coco Crisp has 51% of the vote?!? Coco Crisp?!? All he's done is proven that he can't hit the cutoff man or leadoff. Let's reward that with a long-term deal. This poll (created by the Indians) is interesting for a number of reasons:

  • These polls are often used (I think) by Tribe brass to evaluate fan reaction to what they're considering. Is this the list that's next to get extensions? I hope not.
  • Grady Sizmore JUST came up from the minors. Why would you give him an extension? While we're at, let's extend Peralta and Phillips, just for good measure.
  • Ludwick is a 4th outfielder AT BEST, yet he makes this list over Ben Broussard and others. How much do you think that Ben factors into the future?
  • How is Jason Davis even on this list? He's in the same category as Riske and Betancourt or maybe Tallett and Traber. After his appearance against the Twins, I'm leaning more in the direction of sending him to Buffalo to teach him to pitch late in the games, get some steady work, and PLEASE harness those emotions.
  • Cliff Lee is the obvious answer but, despite my best efforts, he falls short of 20%. Everyone must be preoccupied with this K2 mess (Sources say: torn ACL, cracked tibia, fractured femur, and refusing further scans on his right shoulder - cut him...NOW).
  • Most importantly, the list shows that the Indians don't have as many "core players" that they would like to have at this point of the rebuilding process. They've already locked those guys up; to identify the guys on this list as "core players" is a serious reach.

Off to Dayton to see the Boy Wonder graduate tomorrow because, as I've been told by a member of the Flying Swytowski Brothers, "nobody puts Baby in the corner".

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Back on Track?

As has been noted in the comments section, it’s been a while since a post (I was waiting for something positive to happen), but after a long weekend in Milwaukee and a day at the Clinic, it is on.

Last night’s game kept me stressed after my bedtime as Wickman (as he always seems to) made it interesting until the very last strike. Wick striking out LeCroy to win the game was like Tiki Barber running over Ronde Barber at the goal line to win the game. Despite the win, the offense still baffles in its inability to get a clutch hit.

Westbrook looked tentative and worked slower than his normal frenetic pace at first, but hit his groove in the 6th and cruised. I hope that it’s a sign of things to come. With C.C. fully operational, the rest of the rotation needs to take his lead and go after it. We’ll see how Millwood looks tonight against the Twins.

Watching the Twins lineup last night got me worried. I think that they’re deeper and have better hitters than the Tribe. Maybe it’s the Tribe’s slow start, or the amazing fact that Mauer is 21 and Morneau is 24, but I’m officially getting worried. Combine that deep lineup with Santana, Radke, J.C. Romero (mini-Johan), and Joe Nathan, and the Indians are really going to have to get hot for a long period of time to turn it around (not to mention the Amazin' Sox).

While in Milwaukee, I hit a Brewers game vs. the Reds. Seeing a game in a domed stadium (the roof was closed) is a weird feeling. You feel like you’re at the IX Center. The sausage race was a pleasure (as usual) and they have PBR on tap (also a pleasure).

Also, while there, I spent one night at a local establishment that was full of plasma TV’s. The NBA Playoffs were on, but at the end of the game, they put on “Back to School” with Rodney Dangerfield on all of the screens (no sound). I glanced over when the better parts of the movie (Kinison, Robert Downey Jr. in full drug stage, Johnny from The Karate Kid as the rival diver) were on, but made sure to catch the final diving meet. As Dangerfield completed his famous dive, I scanned the bar to see if anyone else had just caught the classic moment. Some guy from across the bar saw me and mouthed “Triple Lindy”. I love it. When I mentioned to my brother-in-law the next day that the bar showed “Back to School”, the first thing he said was “Triple Lindy, right?”. Is there anything else like that, where everyone in the world immediately thinks the same thing about some obscure movie?