Sunday, July 31, 2005

Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick...Nothing

The July 31st trading deadline has come and gone with the Indians (and most teams, for that matter) standing pat. One of the bigger trades involved two familiar names as Matt Lawton was traded for Jody Gerut (making a short stay in Chicago for Gerut); but the Tribe, A's, Twins, Yankees, Rangers, and Orioles made no moves today. The Blue Jays were the only Wild Card team to make a significant move, trading John McDonald to the Tigers for a PTBNL on July 22nd (oh wait, they traded him away). The Tigers, interestingly, traded Kyle Farnsworth for a highly touted Braves prospect (despite the fact the Tigers are 3 games behind the Tribe).

While there is disappointment for not adding the needed right handed RF or 1B, it sounds like the "Sellers" are asking for the sun, moon, and stars to make significant moves. The report this morning from the New York Times that Soriano was going to the Twins for Lohse, Bret Boone, and two minor leaguers was probably the most ridiculous one that was circulated. That would be like the Tribe trading Elarton, Aaron Boone, and two minor leaguers for Soriano. Nice work, did Jayson Blair come back to write that article?

While looking at the Wild Card standings and seeing those teams stand pat made me realize that the teams in the hunt for the Wild Card are all "flawed" teams, just like the offensively-challenged Wahoos. So, here are the contenders (assuming that the Red Sox, White Sox, and Angels win their respective divisions) in their current pecking order with a bit of analysis:

  • A's - The A's are probably the most dangerous team in the hunt due to their momentum, their tremendous starting pitching, and the fact that GM Billy Beane filled their two needs with the additions of Jay Payton and Jay Witasick after the All Star break. Oakland's offense, though, is still not the strongest. Though the pitching staff can overcome a lot of their offensive flaws, the A's have 33 less HRs, and only 20 more runs, than the Tribe. The A's look like the front-runner, riding Harden and Zito for the rest of the season.
  • Yankees - Despite a ridiculously strong lineup, the Bombers were forced to acquire Hideo Nomo, Shawn Chacon, Al Leiter, and Alan Embree (with 3 of the 4 being released by their former teams) to shore up a pitching staff that looks like a Veterans' Hospital. With Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, and Chien-Ming Wang (not to be confused with the immortal Long-Duck Dong) on the DL, the Yankees are going to have to outslug their way into the playoffs. Unable to add another arm, the Yanks are going to have to go with what they've got on the mound and hope that they can win a lot of 12-9 games (when the Big Unit and Mussina aren't pitching).
  • Twins - The injury to Torii Hinter and the struggles of Justin Morneau have made the Tribe offense look like the 1927 Yankees compared to the current Twinkies O. Bret Boone has knocked all of 9 hits (all singles) and 13 Ks since joining the Twins. On a sidenote - this is the same guy that hit 37 HRs in 2001 and 35 HRs in 2003, before the advent of any kind of drug testing; not that I'm saying anything. Santana, Radke, Mays, and the bullpen will be pressured to throw some gems with the way that the Twins offense is producing. For comparison, the Twins have 16 fewer runs, 29 fewer HRs, and 18 fewer hits that the "anemic" Tribe offense. And now Spiderman is gone for 4-6 weeks, which means mid-September is the target return date. Can Kirby Puckett still suit up?
  • Rangers - Failing to move Soriano for any pitching help means that the Rangers are going to have to MASH to try to stay in this. Factor in that Kenny Rogers will be suspended for 20 games and Chan Ho Park is in sunny San Diego, and Chris Young will be their "ace" through August, not to mention their only available pitcher with more than 8 starts this season (the immortal Ricardo Rodriguez has 8). Is that enough to discount the Rangers, despite a phenomenal offense (does that sound familiar to any Tribe fans?). If the consensus is that pitching wins championships, why hasn't John Hart caught on?
  • Blue Jays - Despite a strong push by this forgotten team, Ted Lilly just hit the 15 day DL, leaving Gustavo Chacin, Dave Bush, and Josh Towers behind the dominant Roy Halladay. Toronto is capable of a run, but seeing as most of their remaining games will come against the Red Sox, Yankees, Angels and Orioles (with a series at the Jake in late August to boot), the Blue Jays have a tough path to follow to October.
  • Orioles - The Orioles' young pitchers have struggled and injuries have mounted for the fading O's. Unless Tejada can pitch from the SS position and Sammy gets back on the juice (allegedly), the O's are on their way down. The O's dropped under .500 yesterday and look like more of a spoiler down the stretch (against the Sox, Yanks, and Jays) than an actual player in the Wild Card race.

Feel any better about the Tribe's chances? With Millwood, Lee, and Westbrook leading to a solid bullpen, the Tribe needs a few offensive players to find their groove to really stay in this.

Combine The Stick's revival, SuperSizemore's hot streak, and Jhon's nice transition to batting higher in the order to the return of Hafner (who is 2nd in the AL in OPS, behind the other-worldly A-Rod) and I like our chances. With all of the negativity surrounding the team, though, I feel like the only optimist in town. I feel like Lloyd Christmas telling Mary Swanson (after being told his chances are "more like one-in-a-million"), "so, you're telling me there's a chance".

Seriously, watching the Baseball Tonight Deadline Special, the focus on the Indians was whether they would be "Sellers", with Steve Phillips saying that Millwood and Wickman were their two biggest chips. Meanwhile, according to Harold Reynolds, Minnesota just needs to add that one big right-handed bat. What!?!

Wait, aren't the Indians one game back of the scuffling Twins? And isn't the Indians' schedule littered with games against Tampa Bay and Kansas City? Why the lack of respect or national attention? It's baffling.

On another note, with the Tribe not making a deal for a bat, Terry Pluto has an interesting suggestion to get a RH bat into the lineup. Call up Ryan Garko (the Sharko), when B-Phil goes to Buffalo to test his "Atomic Wedgie Hitting & Life Lessons", to platoon with Broussard. Broussard has been shredded by left-handed pitching, while Garko's hit .292 with 15 HRs and 60 RBI in Buffalo. Sounds good to me - as always, the level-headed Pluto simply calls it like he sees it.

A win today puts the road trip at 6-4. 16 of 28 games in August against the Royals, Devil Rays, and Tigers.

"So, you're telling me there's a chance"

Friday, July 29, 2005

What to Do, What to Do?

With the trading deadline mere days away, Indians' fans still seem to be on the fence about whether to be a buyer or a seller. The Indians, though, apparently have no such reservations. Shapiro told Kenny Roda (that awful hack who, somehow, broadcasts in afternoon drive on the only all-sports station in Cleveland) that the Tribe is definitely on the "Buyer" section of the ledger.

I love this organizational statement, but I don't think that there is one player (who is going to be available) that's going to join this team before the Yankees series. All the critics say, "Dolan won't spend money to go get a RH bat that can produce runs". Folks, if it was that easy, wouldn't most teams in the playoff chase just go down their grocery list and check off needs. The Yankees (the team with no limitations...and no prospects) just made the HUGE acquisition of Shawn Chacon to remedy their starting pitching woes. And people complain about Let's Hear It For Dubois not being a big name.

The trade that I think will be more likely is the Indians, dealing from a strength (bullpen), trading to another team in contention, who will also deal from a strength (offense).

So, who are these teams? The obvious is Texas, who apparently would like Hafner, Sizemore, and The Stick for Gary Matthews (do you think Hart is afraid of another Giles for Rincon deal?). However, John Hart's hair plugs must be invading his gray matter with his recent counter-proposals, regardless of how awful their pitching is, so they're out. Other options include Florida, the Angels and the Mets. While Mike Cameron and Juan Encarnacion are both veteran RH bats that can play RF, I'm not sure that the Metropolitans or the Fish would be willing to part with them.

If I were Shapiro, I would dangle Arthur Rhodes (not to be confused with his half brother Dusty Rhodes), Jose Hernandez, and maybe a Billy Traber and see if anyone bites. Another piece that could go as part of a package would be Benny B. Broussard might be attractive to a team in need of a good defensive 1B who has some power (Boston).

Losing those four players would not register under the "Seller" side to the fans (who are terrified of seeing that White Flag), particularly if you can add a nice bat. Rhodes can be replaced by Riske taking the Art role. Then Betancourt, Miller (when he returns), and Cabrera can combine with Sauerbeck to keep the pen strong. Kasey Blake can move into the role of Hernandez, which hopefully will mean less AB's with runners in scoring position for the farmboy. And Traber seems to have fallen behind not only Davis and Tallet, but also Carmona in the pecking order at AAA , so he may become bait (maybe they should mail out video of his masterpiece against the Yankees a few years ago). Broussard would be expendable if the Tribe brass felt that Garko was ready (not bloody likely) or if they felt Jason Dubois could carry the load.

I've started to look at the FA list for after 2005 and the pickings are slim and none. More on that later.

Why have Gammons' articles gone to the ESPN Insider? Is it because he's a Hall of Famer? What a crock! A man who made his name as a baseball WRITER is now only available on TV or for a monetary fee. And while I'm on, why do they break up those long stories (re: Sports Guy) into multiple pages or make it more effort to make it a single page view. No, keep it on multi-page view, I love it. also listed 40 current players bound for the Hall. Of note, #14 The Baby Bull (plus this comment is great, "Prediction: Manny's Hall of Fame speech will be the shortest of all time.") and #39 Little O. Noticeably absent is the Thomenator, whose injuries may prevent from ultimately getting the numbers he needs. Had he only stayed and played DH until he hit his 600th, he would've seen #25 under #455 on the right pillars.

My computer illiterate mind figured out how to do links without listing the whole website's URL. Only took about 5 months to figure that out.

3 games out of the Wild Card with 59 games to go, 20 of which are against KC, Seattle, and TB.

All we need now is for Lou Brown to (magically and accurately) predict the number of wins needed to go to the playoffs and get a cut-out for the locker room, and it's on.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Worth a Read

Tom Reed wrote a good article about whether to be buyers or sellers (in the next few days, really) in the Akron Beacon Journal. Check it out.
Imagine that, a good columnist for the ABJ.

Meanwhile, Shaw and Livingston exchange snide comments, gumming up the left side of the PD and polluting the minds of Cleveland. Throw Roger Brown in and the PD has 3 of the worst regular contributors of any large city paper in the country.

Let's hope Clifton Phifer Lee can get the series off on the right foot tonight.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Some Tomahawks

  • The blown save by Wickman was bound to happen. You can't dance on the edge of the cliff that frequently and never take an occasional fall. It did look like there were a few grounders hit that were just out of the reach of Broussard and Boone. Move those over a few feet and we've got a W.
  • That being said, the Tribe just played the hottest team in the AL at home, and almost took the series. A C.C. meltdown notwithstanding, the Tribe played the A's at their own game and played them tough. Granted, we didn't see Rich Harden (who's on fire), but we also didn't throw Millwood or Lee.
  • To watch the A's series (again, omit the C.C. debacle), it's easy to see how a team can be built on pitching and win the majority of their games. The starters were great, and the bullpen pitched well (until the 9th today). The A's beat them in the area that the Indians are still weak in - situational hitting. The amount of Indians left on base is staggering.
  • I wish that this town would decide what kind of team they want. Back in the '90s, everybody said, "The offense is great, but pitching wins championships". Now, despite a solid pitching staff and some very promising young players, people seem to lament the fact that there isn't an All-Star at every position. NEWS FLASH - That's a good thing. Look at John Hart's Rangers - they're very exciting to watch because they play in 13-11 games on a regular basis. Remind you of anyone? I'll take Westbrook tossing 2 hit ball for 7 innings over empty offense anyday. The A's are a perfect example of how strong pitching and timely hitting by solid, but not necessarily spectacular, players can win ballgames and make the playoffs.
  • Now, onto the elephant in the room: C.C. His start on Monday was an absolute train wreck. He started the game throwing nothing but fastballs (RockDawg's comment about how Zito said that the A's were sitting "Dead Red" is a telling sign), then suddenly threw nothing but breaking balls. He's shaking off pitches, he's not mixing pitches, he never throws change-ups, and (as always) he lets his emotions get in the way. His comments after the game that he's "forgotten how to pitch" and that he "doesn't know a good pitch from a bad pitch" reinforce the belief that the problems are all between his ears. It's certainly not physical - the fact that he's throwing 98 MPH regularly shows that there are no mechanical problems. What C.C. needs to do is skip a start (Davis' and Carmona's next scheduled starts in Buffalo coincide with Sabathia's next turn), throw a simulated game with Willis and Wedge (and Nagy?) to teach him game situations, then ease him back into the rotation. When he gets back, though, Wedge should call the entire game from the dugout and NOT allow C.C. to shake off pitches. Maybe he'll pick up how to mix pitches and locate his pitches better than he has. I don't think that sending C.C. to the minors is going to do much. C.C. would be able to blow away minor league hitters with a 98 MPH fastball, so he wouldn't learn how to pitch, he would just continue to throw hard. If that doesn't work, I'm at a loss for what can straighten out the ol' Crooked Cap. Maybe bring in Rick Sutcliffe or Moose Haas to talk to him?
  • On to some lighter notes: Is Bobby Kielty the ugliest player in the Major Leagues? He looks like a clown. In fact, he has to be up there with some of the wierdest looking guys in sports. The ugliest guy, still, in the history of sports (in my lifetime) was a basketball player for N.C. State in the mid-90's. I don't know what his name was, but he was a point guard, and I would watch most NC State games just to try to figure out what was wrong with him.
  • The rest of the A's look like a crowd from a Candlebox concert. They're all in the late 20's with scruffy hair, are unshaven, and look like they're more comfortable in a baggy flannel shirt than a baseball uniform. Have you ever noticed that the whole team is white? The only player that is not full blown caucasian is Eric Chavez, and he was born and raised in LA.
  • The A's, wearing those white hightops, look like they're wearing the crappy shoes that every 5th grader wore in CYO back in the day. Why do they wear white shoes? Is there any other team that does it?
  • Jeff Liefer had a nice debut, with an RBI double on Tuesday night. Looking at Liefer in the media guide made me wonder about his career stats against our own Kasey Blake (yes, that was misspelled for a reason). So here it is, Liefer's career numbers over 723 AB's vs. Kasey' career numbers over 1569 AB's:
  • Liefer - .232 Average 30 HR 105 RBI .693 OPS
  • Blake - .254 Average 58 HR 193 RBI .753 OPS
  • Jeff Liefer, in about half of the AB's of Kasey Blake, averages out pretty comparitively. Plus, Liefer's a year younger. So what does this tell us, that Jeff Liefer is the answer in RF? Certainly not, but neither is Kasey.
  • So where do we go with the position players for 2006, namely RF, 1B, and possibly 2B and LF? Forget about 3B, Boone needs 500 AB's to vest his 2006 option, and he's over 300.
  • The way that I see it, I would target a run-producing RF and a more consistent 2B in the offseason. Let Belliard, Broussard, Hernandez and Bard go. Let Ryan Garko take over at 1B (with a contingency plan), allow Jake Gatreau and Blake to play infield utility (I know that we would lack a back-up SS, maybe Ramon Vazquez). Get a C who can actually hit to give the Stick an occasional night off (or at least an Eddie Perez type). And, if it's possible I would look for a LF, only if he's an upgrade over Coco.
  • On the pitching staff, I would sign Millwood (now, if he'll entertain offers) for about 3-4 years at $9-$10 million a year. That way, you pencil Millwood, Lee, Westbrook, C.C. (I hope), and Davis (or whomever) into the rotation. Elarton pitched his way out of Cleveland the past two months. I would try to sign Wickman again and let some of the young arms in Buffalo meld with some holdovers and some new arms to form the pen.
  • Can you tell what I think about in bed when a Tribe game is going on? And don't tell me to take a nap so I can stay up. It's not a good scene when you come home from work, have dinner with the wife, then take a nap, only to wake up when she's going to bed. That formula is not in the marriage handbook for success.

This crucial 10 game set (which goes through the Yankees series) can still finish at 6-4, but the Seattle series has to be pretty one-sided (in the Indians favor, of course).

Matsafooey Yamamori, of the Hank Yu Braves - on top of the wall...and OUT!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Right in the Thick of It

Despite the woeful home stand, the Tribe remains 2 1/2 back in the Wild Card with series' against Oakland and the Yankees (two main competitors for said Wild Card) in the next week and a half. This has been said many times, but the next few series are going to be huge for this team to set a tone going into August and September. If they go 6-4 or 7-3 through the Yankees series, they'll be in a great place with the next three series against the Motor City Kitties (who are tearing the Twinkies a new one), KC, and the Devil Rays.

If the team lays down and lets the A's and Yankees run over them, not even a four game set in Seattle will offer a silver lining. If this team (and particularly the offense) wants to make a statement to the league about where they plan on being for the rest of the year, this is the time to do it. It will be interesting to see how the youngsters on this team respond. Will it be a replay of last year's meltdown, or will this team gel and realize that they're just as good as the rest of the AL and regain the swagger they had in Boston and Baltimore? Looks like the TIVO will be running overtime as 10:05 starts are way past bedtime.

Enough about Wedge and his "inability" to manage. Last year, the beef was his handling of the bullpen. That had a little bit more to do with the arms available in the pen than it did Wedgie's handling of them (Scott Stewart and Jose Jimenez were slated to set-up and close). Much the same is true of the offense this year. Yes, I hate the constant juggling of the lineup and the insistence of giving Casey Blake and Jose Hernandez AB's, but unfortunately (barring a big move), Wedge has to play with the hand that's been dealt.

That being said, I would hope that he continues to find AB's for Dubois to see if we've got anything, keeps Jhon in the 3 or 5 hole (even when Hafner returns), and forgets to tell Jose Hernandez and Josh Bard when the team bus is leaving.

The only major issue that I have with Wedge is the lack of fundamentals that becomes more apparent almost on a daily basis. The inability to bunt, move a runner over, or hit with runners in scoring position is the difference between pulling away with the Wild Card and fighting tooth and nail to stay in it. Look where the issues are again, though - the offense. Wedge can't go out there and make the plays for them. That being said, there should be a new face in Spring Training next year to explain situational hitting and baserunning (and please don't say Rick Manning).

Let's see what C.C. does tonight against Zito. Historically, the Crooked Cap has pitched to the level of his competition (can anyone say "Lima Time?), and Zito is a former Cy Young winner. He will be playing in the Bay Area, as well, so it will be good gauge of emotional stability.

A warm Wahoo welcome to the new posters on the blog, both former members of the Little Indians' Fan Club.

I caught Wedding Crashers last night and, if you have not seen it, stop reading this and go see it. Watching the middle portion of the movie is akin to the first time you saw Fletch (for those who don't feel as strongly about Fletch, rent it again). You miss half the jokes because everyone is laughing so hard. It immediately joins Old School, There's Something about Mary, and (some would argue) American Pie (the first, not the 97th time, you saw it) as great modern comedies of the past 5 years.

Sadly, I think those are the only recent comedies that I left the theater wanting to buy a ticket right then and there to see it again, or at least anxiously awaiting the DVD (if for the extras alone). It's that funny.

Vince Vaughn has become the first actor in a long time whose movies I would see solely on the basis of his starring in them. He and Owen Wilson are unbelievably funny together, as are the bevy of beauties that populate the film. Every comedy should star Vaughn, a Wilson, and Will Ferrell (whose cameo makes you really want meatloaf).

Let's hope Jhon, the Stick, SuperSizemore, and a healthy Le Pronque can figure out some Oakland pitching, because we need it.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Back on Track?

After the debacle of the last 2 games, the offense exploded for 10 runs today to give Jake a W. With C.C.'s performance and the anemic offense against the Royals, this was a much needed boost for the skidding Tribe.

Casey Coleman had an interesting point in today's pre-game that had to do with last night's lineup (which looked like the Buffalo Bisons', maybe worse). His comment was that with the night game followed by the day game, Wedge had to sit some starters for one of the games. One could argue that Wedge would want to play them in the game that he thought he had a better chance of winning (with Westbrook or Sabathia on the mound). Whether or not that was the case, it was certainly an interesting perspective.

Looking at this team, there are some things in an overview that are becoming obvious:

  • The starting pitching will continue to be the strength of this team for years to come. Guys like Millwood and Elarton may come and go, but the groundwork is laid with Lee, Westbrook, and C.C. (warts and all) to consistently put a strong rotation together. Mix in the fact that the rotations in AAA and AA are absolutely stacked with young talent (not to mention High A players like Adam Miller) and the future looks good, assuming of course that championships are built on pitching (which they are).
  • The core offensive players on this team right now are Sizemore, Hafner, Peralta, and Martinez (slow starts and all). The complementary players on the team are Coco and Boone (if healthy). The rest of the positions, as far as I'm concerned, are up for grabs at the end of the year. Much more consistency is needed from 1B, 2B, and RF. Broussard, Belliard, and Blake are all decent players in their own right; but, if and when the Indians put a serious push together, I don't anticipate any of them to be around. Broussard and Blake are too streaky (and when they're cooler than cool...they're ICE COLD), and Belliard's annual swoon (coupled with the fact that it looks like he's not trying half the time) lead me to believe that FA's will be added in those spots (unless Dubois or prospects like Garko or Gatreau are given a chance). An All-Star is not needed at every position, but a player who doesn't constantly leave runners on the bases by whiffing or hitting into DP's is needed (and would be a welcome change).
  • The bullpen will remain a work in progress, as evidenced by the high expectations and dismal performance of 2004 and, conversely, the early uncertainties and steady production in 2005. The pieces are there for the future in Riske, Cabrera, Betancourt, and even The Frisbee Thrower, Miller. There will always be relievers available in the offseason, and there are a few nice arms in the minors who translate well into the big league bullpen (Brown, Mujica, and Sipp). After 2004, the Indians' front office will never take this aspect of the team for granted.
  • This team still needs to do a lot of maturing and learning how to win by playing smart baseball. A veteran presence (who's not hitting .220) is necessary to help this team establish some consistency, rather than letting streaks dominate their season. This team still gets too high and too low and can't find that middle ground of consistency. That, though, comes with time and experience of being there.

This team still has a legitimate shot at this Wild Card. Despite a lot of teams making a STRONG push right now (A's, Spankees), it is the middle of July. There are 2 1/2 months left in the season, where a lot can happen.

The Saturday Seattle game is on FOX nationally at 3:15. Who are the ad wizards who came up with this one? What's the angle? Grover coming back? Rhodes facing his old mates? My guess is the programmer who scheduled this one is back working at the FOX Tulsa affiliate.

How bad is summer TV? Between the 2nd rate reality shows (The Scholar, I Want to be a Hilton), and reruns of those AWFUL shows on during the normal schedule (Joey, every comedy on ABC), I find myself watching those VH-1 and E! "lists" more and more. If I see 101 Celebrity Oops' one more time, I might throw up. God forbid I go outside, for fear of melting. Seriously, though, when do Lost and Arrested Development start back up? Thank God (and the in-laws) for the Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld DVD's.

But I digress. Tribe faces Moyer tomorrow, who turns into Sandy Koufax in his prime whenever he faces the Indians' lineup. Hopefully, the Tribe can sweep and finish the homestand at 5-6 after a disastrous start.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Goodbye, Joseph Diego

The trade of Jody for Jason Dubois is probably not the kind of splash that Shapiro was hoping to make in his pursuit of a RH upgrade. I doubt that the walk-up ticket lines tonight exploded to see Jason "Let's Hear it For" Dubois (a dime to TB) bat 8th and DH.
But could this move be the first of a few to get this team ready for the home stretch?

Dubois looks like a solid RH minor leaguer who hasn't had much of a chance in Wrigley, blocked in years past by Sosa and Alou, and by his own defensive shortcomings this year. Whether he is this year's Ryan Ludwick/Josh Phelps or can become another Tribe "find" (in the vein of Broussard, or dare I say, Hafner) remains to be seen. We'll have to see how the next few weeks play out before passing judgment on Dubois.

Jody wasn't fitting into the Indians future, with Grady and Coco entrenched in the outfield, and Wedge forcing Blake into the lineup. Add into the equation the strength of the Indians' farm system (offensively) is in the outfield and at 3B, and Jody becomes expendable (and probably marketable as a 4th outfielder). Better to get something for him now before his already long swing gets longer and he is further exposed as a career singles hitter who burst on the scene in 2003 after a new summer "training regimen".

The question now is whether Dubois will be banished to the bench (as Phelps was) in favor of Blake, Boone, and Broussard or if Wedge will give him some AB's. The guess here is that he gets some AB's quick, but at whose expense? The most likely candidates are Blake, Broussard, and Boone; as Dubois is a RF, 1B, and DH (with Pronk pretty entrenched at DH). Blake may be used as more of a 4th outfielder and reserve 3B/1B, with Hernandez becoming trade bait (along with Howry, Broussard, and Blake).

As I said earlier, I think that this is a first small step to re-creating this lineup to compete for the Wild Card. Shapiro sees what he has and realizes the strengths and the deficiencies.

The positions that have been lacking in production all season are 1B, 3B, C, RF, and to some degree LF. Dubois MIGHT be able to fill one of those holes. But with the asking price so high on the established hitters on the market, Dubois presents a nice alternative without disrupting the team too much.

Now, though, I have to convince the bride (whose 2 favorite players are Gerut and Blake) to embrace Dubois for putting on the Tribe uni. It did not go over well that he chose Jody's #9. It was likened to taking the clothes off of a corpse at a funeral.

New links on the right bar to check out at your leisure.

At 2-0 in the 6th, let's get some offense for Millwood tonight. He's earned it.

Gerut for Dubois Trade Analysis

Jerry Crasnick has some interesting thoughts on his analysis of yesterday's OF swap:

More in the next posting.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Cure-All

Looks like Royals pitchers D.J. Carrasco and Jimmy Gobble were just what the doctor ordered for the struggling bats.

The way that the Tribe plays against the Royals, in comparison to the tone of the team when playing the Yanks or the Pale Hose, is remarkable. The Tribe comes out hungry and takes advantage of mistakes made by the lesser Kansas City team. Actually, it's similar to the way that the White Sox came out against the Indians on Friday night.
The only exception to this rule was when the Wahoos went into Boston, then Baltimore, and went right after some good teams in their stadiums. That attitude, or maturation, is the next step for this team. Whether it comes this year or not is unknown, but you have to think that the Atomic Wedgie knows WHAT needs to be done, maybe just not HOW to teach this team to do it yet.

Cliff Lee was dealing tonight when the rain hit. The Royals were obviously overmatched when Lee had his good stuff going (striking out the side in the 5th as the tornado siren blared). Also, Lee didn't let a rough first blow up into a 6 on the board and toughened up to shut the Royals down, giving the Tribe a chance to take the lead and take advantage of the Royals pitchers. Can C.C. watch tape of that, and take notes...please? Lee's got great stuff and could be a solid 3 or even a 2 starter for a long time on the North Coast. His attitude is second to none either: no frills, just his best stuff challenging hitters.

It was reported by WTAM tonight that the Soriano rumor (Soriano for Brad Snyder & Andrew Brown) from was created by a Dallas columnist, completely from his imagination. In reality, the Rangers asked for SuperSizemore and Le Pronque for Soriano. OUCH! Can we throw in the complete Aeros roster while we're at it, Mr. Hart?
Gammons also reported that the Reds are looking for 3-4 Major League ready prospects for either Randa or Kearns, essentially making them unattainable/undesirable.
That RH bat might be more unlikely as the calendar draws closer to August, particularly if the Rangers stay in the Wild Card (and Mench becomes entrenched as a vital cog of their offense).

Time to get fat on some Kansas City BBQ.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Concession of the Central

To say that the Indians conceded the AL Central this weekend is not entirely true. The White Sox went out and took away any chance that the Indians had of making a run at the division. They did so with their superior pitching, defense, and timely hitting. While the Indians left an alarming amount of runners on base, it seemed that every White Sox player that got to second (or first for that matter) scored. The Sox are a very good team who do most everything correctly in their victories, by making very few mistakes and capitalizing on ANY and ALL opportunities afforded to them.

The bats have gone silent again, and typically at the worst times. GIDP's are becoming more frequent (usually after the leadoff hitter of an inning gets on) and the patience that was the hallmark of the lineup during their hot June is gone. No White Sox pitcher was forced to throw a lot of pitches the way that C.C. was on Friday (comments on C.C. and his emotions are an upcoming topic), and it was apparent as the Chicago starters dominated what looked like an overmatched team.

Not a great start to the second half, but as our little red-headed friend said, "the sun will come out tomorrow", in the form of the Royals, then the Mariners. An 0-4 start to a homestand could still end up at 5-6 or 6-5. And, the Twins haven't exactly put a winning streak together to pull away in the Wild Card, while the AL East continues to batter each other. The Tribe is still very much in this (despite the humiliating sweep), but they need to cure what ails them in a hurry, before the Wild Card becomes a distant memory.

All indications from different sources indicate the discussions to acquire that desired RH bat (Soriano, Mench, Kearns, Pena, Randa, Alou) are not going very well. Most articles that address the issue end with phrases like, "it doesn't look like anything is going to get done soon".

Matt Miller hit the DL on Saturday and, after a little Buffalo shuffle, prized prospect Fausto Carmona joined the parent club (presumably until Rocky Betancourt is ready). This was an interesting move in that there are more experienced relievers in Buffalo (Brown, Robbins, Diaz) that were passed over to give Carmona a look. Now the two pitching prospects most confused for each other, Fernando Cabrera and Fausto Carmona (also two of the brighter prospects), will be taking some throws in the CF pen. Could this be precursor to trading a veteran bullpener, to see what the young guys can do to determine if Howry, Riske, or Rhodes is expendable?

After a loss on Friday night, I'm passing up tickets to Tuesday and Thursday's games to do my part.

Indians Fever feels more like a hangover right now.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Squarely on These Shoulders

I'll be hitting the game tonight, then getting out of town. The next three days will be the real test of my 1-8 record (including 6 losses in a row).

I couldn't help but envision Soriano in the lineup last night as a WHOPPING 21,000 watched the 1-0 game with me. I would make the trade of Soriano for Brad Snyder and Andrew Brown in a heartbeat (mentioned in the comments by TB, straight off of the ESPN pay to read section). In fact, I'd give up A LOT more. Can he play RF? Who's the odd man out? Hernandez? Blake?

Actually, the 21,000+ crowd was the most into the game that I've seen this year (no wave, standing up for 3rd strikes, nice ovations to Millwood).

I'm in for retiring Olin's #31 jersey (again, see the comments if you're confused). Though I think that the current set-up probably makes more sense.

If they lose tonight, I may never go back to the Jake.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

At the Break II

After the enthralling Midsummer Classic last night (has anything good happened in the All Star Game in the last 20 years outside of Bo Jackson and Sandy Alomar's HR in the Jake?), it's one more night without baseball.

You would think the PD would have an analysis on the first half today, but nothing. Maybe Hoynes is getting it together for tomorrow, or maybe they'll do a big piece on Doug Johnson (the new backup QB). We wonder why the town hasn't embraced this team yet and you have to look no further at the negativity and overall lack of optimism in the local sports page. People read the same sarcastic comments from the luminaries at the PD and scoff at the progress being made. Don't even get me started on WKNR.

This perception that Dolan is a cheapskate (despite the Tribe spending the most of any ML team on player development in the past few years) is truly ignorant. People rant and rave that Omar and Thome and Manny aren't here, neglecting to remember that Dolan offered Manny $18M to stay here, Shapiro was right on the length of Thome's contract because of his back, and Peralta is a budding star at age 23.

Let's look at what we would have if we had kept that "Golden Era" team intact (just counting the players still in the league):

  • Manny - too much $, remember the Sawx tried to cut him
  • Thome - will be unproductive for the remainder of his contract, which runs through 2008
  • Omar - the Giants are already trying to move him, and he's under contract until he's 41
  • Lofton - once he lost his legs, was exposed as an athlete playing baseball
  • Sean Casey - would look nice here, but has no power
  • Sexson - again, would look nice here, but not for his contract
  • Giles - a mistake
  • Colon - I'd make that trade every day and twice on Tuesdays
  • Sandy - a backup catcher

Who am I missing? Where have you gone Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga, Matt Williams, Travis Fryman, Robby Alomar?

There's such a thing as fiscal responsibility in baseball. That's why what the Indians are doing is the right way to approach building a baseball team. Call it the Atlanta Braves method: develop home-grown talent and add pieces, where needed, to put a consistent product on the field. Is anyone arguing that the Braves do it correctly? Right now, the Indians are at the stage where they're developing young talent and finding out what they have before adding the needed pieces.

As as been said many times, it's time for the fans of this town to turn the page and embrace this team. Root for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back.

Moving on to the pitchers, here's what the starters are on pace to achieve:
The stats are listed as Wins - Losses - ERA - K's - WHIP
C.C. Sabathia
11 - 9 - 4.50 - 129 - 1.33
Kevin Millwood
5 - 13 - 3.58 - 133 - 1.30
Jake Westbrook
11-20 - 4.67 -127 - 1.23
Cliff Lee
17 - 7 - 3.89 - 145 - 1.31
Scott Elarton
11 - 5 - 4.72 - 114 - 1.31

The Sticky one is on pace for 42 saves. Looking at these numbers, you can't help but be optimistic for the second half. No way that Westbrook continues his losing, or Millwood doesn't get W's.

Biggest Surprise:
The consistency of Lee and Elarton has given the Indians a shot all 5 days of the rotation. Expect Lee to get Westbrook money in the off-season, with Elarton getting a long look.

Pitching MVP:
Wicky gives balance to the strong bullpen and, though he quickens the heart rate, gets the job done.

Biggest Disappointment:
The Crooked Cap, in a landslide. I can't get into it right now, or it will ruin my night. Just for a snapshot, look at C.C.'s numbers against Elarton's.

Enjoy the second half. Against the protests of everyone, I'll be in the stands for the first game of the White Sox series tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

At the Break

With the Indians pulling into the station at 47-41, I decided to look at the rest of the schedule to attempt to predict an overall record. If the Tribe keeps up their current pace (.534 winning percentage), we're looking at a 86-76 record. However, as has been noted before, 31 of the final 74 come against KC, Seattle, and Tampa Bay. If we take 2 out of every 3 of those games and play .500 ball against the rest of the schedule (a pretty conservative estimate), the record would look like this:
47-41 Current Record
21-10 Against the dregs of the AL
22-21 Against the rest of the schedule
90-72 Final Record

I think that the 90-72 comes about after a pretty conservative approach. I don't know if that record is good enough to win the Wild Card, but it puts us right there "in contention" (those 2 magic words that the naysayers have been throwing in Shapiro's face since the Colon deal). We have to remember that this is a maturing team, taking steps in the right direction. I'd rather have the team take progressive steps towards the playoffs, as opposed to one big leap (like the ChiSox this year) and be destined to be knocked out in the first round (like the Mariners of the 116 win season). That way, when it's time to contend for the World Series (and not just the playoffs) the team has been through a few battles together, ready for the war.

Since baseball is a statistic driven sport, here's the breakdown, by position, of what we can expect from the Tribe players (assuming they keep their current pace). I kept it to the regulars for position players:
(Numbers shown are Average - HR - RBI - OPS)
Victor Martinez
.236 - 16 - 64 - .692
Ben Broussard
.255 - 16 - 65 - .750
Ronnie Belliard
.283 - 14 - 63 - .740
Jhonny Peralta
.297 - 20 - 60 - .874
Aaron Boone
.211 - 16 - 57 - .628
Coco Crisp
.297 - 14 - 60 - .806
Grady Sizemore
.287 - 16 - 74 - .810
Casey Blake
.228 - 18 - 53 - .697
Jody Gerut
.276 - 2 - 20 - .741
Travis Hafner
.319 - 33 - 116 - 1.020

What's alarming about the numbers is how similar they are. Look at how many players are on pace to hit between 14 and 20 homers and have 55 to 65 RBI! Despite different players getting hot and cold, everyone's numbers are very similar.

Biggest Surprise:
The development of SuperSizemore and Jhon has been astounding. Had Peralta been anywhere in the lineup, other than behind Boone and Blake, he and Sizemore (who is driving those runs in from the leadoff spot!) would be on pace to be the second and third run producers on this team. And they began the season as 22 year olds!

Offensive MVP:
Not a surprise, but unbelievable to watch is Pronk (the AL Player of the Month for June AND the Player of the Week for the first week in July). Look at those projected numbers, and if he stays this hot, they could go higher! The only thing that reminds me of Pronk's hot streak was when Joey Belle used the HR Derby as a launching point for his 50 HR/50 2B season. Vive Le Pronque!

Biggest Disappointment:
Besides the obvious choice of Boone's anemic start, The Stick's inability to protect Pronk has hurt this lineup badly. Victor is finally starting to get some consistency, but he's going to have to step it up even more to protect our MVP candidate. His numbers are way off from last year's breakout campaign. Broussard has better numbers (even Boone's HR & RBI numbers are there), while people rail about how we are getting no production from the corners.

Also interesting to see is that the RF platoon of Blake and Gerut is on pace for 20 HR and 75 RBI. Not bad numbers, though it's obvious we need a stick to be in the ballpark of 25 HR and 100RBI somewhere in the lineup.

Tomorrow, we'll take a look at the pitchers.

On another note, Z and Hughes are in the fold, but there's only $6M to get a PG (Daniels is looking for $5M) and a big body to intimidate in the paint. In Danny We Trust?

Enjoy the All Star Game. I watched Bottle Rocket, a classic film (the first one made by Wes Anderson, who made Rushmore) that I TIVOed last week instead of the mockery that is the HR Derby. Thank God for TIVO.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Damn Yankees

Why is it that it's much more painful to watch Yankees cross home plate more so than any other team? I cringe every time I see anybody in that lineup (which is truly incredible) trot up to the box. It's funny though how to Indians' fans this is one of our big "rivalries", while to the Yankees, this is like a series against the Royals.

Who is the Indians big rival? The Twins? The White Sox? Let me know what you think.

I was at a wedding last night, where I had a conversation with a guy who thinks that the Indians are on the cusp of being a great team. The way that they play the "elite" of the AL (Chicago, Twins, Yankees, Red Sox) shows that they're close, but not there yet. The always play those teams tough, but always seem to get eked out in the end (usually in one-run games).

What is VERY encouraging is the fact that they beat up on bad teams. Looking at their second half schedule (as has been noted by ESPN's Buster Olney), the Tribe faces Kansas City, Tampa Bay, and Seattle 31 times in their last 74 games! One can only hope while the AL East beats each other up, the Indians can quietly take care of business against the dregs of the AL.

I don't want to dwell too much on the Yankees series, but I did have a lousy husband moment over the weekend (due to Tribe Fever). Between the wedding and the reception, I forced my bride to sit in a smoky, hole-in-the-wall bar to catch the game, then sit in the car in the parking lot outside the reception until the end of an inning.

It was reminiscent of the Simpsons episode when Homer sues the Seafood Restaurant on their "All You Can Eat" Policy. What reminded me of the situation is Marge on the stand, testifying that after being kicked out of the restaurant, Homer had taken her to the dock to go fishing. As we sat with the Saturday afternoon crowd at this awful bar, pounding down Miller Lites, I felt a little like Homer at the end of the dock, fishing pole in hand.

Pending the result of today's game (it's currently 6-3 bad guys), it looks like the Tribe will hit the All Star Break at 47-41, just as I had hoped for (after going 8-7 in the last 15) on June 26th. Though the record certainly could've been higher, considering the way they started in Boston and Baltimore, I'm pleased with the record. This team needs the break too.

Watching Brandon Phillips last night reminded me why I didn't like him the last time he was up. He's cocky with no real good reason to be cocky. He was hitting .250 in Buffalo, yet walks around the dugout like a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I have no problem using him as trade bait (to the Reds, who need a 2B?) as part of a package. I'll take Jhonny P., with his even demeanor and solid, if unspectacular, play any day over B-Phil. Is Peralta the second best hitter on this team?

The suspension of Rocky Betancourt should surprise nobody. How a former SS, cut by the Red Sox, suddenly pulls off a mid-90s fastball is eerily reminiscent of the Juan Rincon "Rags to Riches" story. I still hope that Rocky is a part of the pen, but Shapiro's written statement didn't sound like he was too happy with the Rock. The pen in Buffalo is stacked (with Cabrera, since called up, Tadano, Robbins, Diaz, and even Cruceta and Brown) and all are a quick trip westbound on I-90 from helping out the parent club.

I'll work up some statistical analysis for the All Star Break, along with getting up an updated Depth Chart.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Crawling to the Break

The Indians have looked like a tired team the last 2 nights against Detroit, allowing Mike Maroth and Jeremy Bonderman to turn into Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, circa 1995.

They are in the midst of playing 18 games in 17 days, so there's definitely a reason for it. Maybe it's a good thing that Sticky is the only All Star, so these guys can get some rest (assuming of course they don't use the break for some sort of Vegas bender).

Alex Cora was traded to the Red Sox for a minor league utility INF this afternoon, prompting Brian Tallet to be called up from Buffalo for the Yankees series. The trade is less of a condemnation of Cora's spotty play (he really never got consistent AB's) than it is a statement on the progress of Jhon. Cora was acquired as insurance, in case Peralta wilted under the pressure of replacing Omar (who, coincidentally, may end up in a White Sox uniform before the year is out...and the next 3 years) and to prevent the annual Jelly Belliard August Disappearing Act, but Peralta has responded with a very solid first half and Brandon Phillips is ready to step into the Cora role, to give Belliard some days off.

The move also frees up about $1.3 million this year and $1.4 million next year that can be used in a bigger spot of need. And, I hate to harp on this, but at last night's game (yes, I went, to run my season record to 1-7) there were at least 3 conversations in the Mezzanine about how a RH stick would look great protecting Victor in the lineup. Hopefully the Cora money can be thrown at a RH bat, which looks more and more to me like a Mench or a Wily Mo.

After the All Star Break, expect B-Phil to be called up to play SS and 2B when Jhon and Jelly need a break. Maybe this approach of easing Phillips into the majors will have better results than thrusting him into the lineup under the title of "the next Barry Larkin".

C.C. looked horrible last night, again letting any and everything fluster him and allowing things to snowball around him. Driving home from the game, WTAM was reporting that the Crooked Cap had some choice words for a heckler that were caught on the FSN mikes. What exactly did he say? Then he said all the right things that make you think that he really gets it. That part of the act is getting old for me. If you know what you have to do, how to be an ace, blah, blah, blah...JUST DO IT!

Jody Gerut had some interesting comments after the Tuesday game's attendance of 18,500 regarding the marketing of the players on the team, who are exciting but still may be somwhat of an unknown quantity. Terry Pluto captured the feelings of many Tribe fans in his Wednesday column:

I'm still blown away that people aren't coming down to the Jake to watch this team, particularly after the 4th of July Show. I actually heard callers to sports radio asking if there's a chance of getting Omar back and moving Peralta to 3B, then another caller asking if we should try to get Thome. Are you kidding me? Are people in this town THAT clueless about the happenings of the 2005 baseball season. We're not in 1995 anymore, people. Learn about this team and embrace it.

Another Pluto gem addresses what we've talked about here before, Shapiro's trading history:
If you're not getting his e-newsletter, sign up today. It's the only TRUE analysis of the Indians available in Northeast Ohio. Let's be honest, everything in the PD is just game summaries and notes (unless you like Roger Brown's mindless ramblings). In addition to that, I once was having trouble getting the newsletter and sent an e-mail, only to have it responded to by Pluto, who stayed on the case until the problem was rectified.

In response to some questions asked earlier:
Where does Jason Dangerously fit into this team's plans?
I think that he'll finish the year as a starter, bouncing between Buffalo and Cleveland, and will provide some insurance (along with Traber and Tallet) if Millwood (and Elarton) leave. I still think his stuff translates better to the pen (looking mainly at his success of 1st and 2nd time through the lineup), but for now, he's a starter.

Who is the leader (Varitek) of this team?
I love this question. I think that the leader of a team is based more on personality and work ethic than years in the league, strict performance, or sound bites. Current leaders of teams that I can name off of the top of my head are Varitek, Jeter, Tejada, Erstad, Chipper, and Rolen. Most of these guys are GREAT players, but they all have that intangible that makes other players follow them. The risk of just naming your best player your leader is what the Cubs ran into last year when "Cap'n Sammy" alienated the clubhouse and went to Baltimore.

With all of that being said, I would say that of all of the players on the team, Sizemore is probably the most likely to emerge as a leader. Much like Jeter when he broke in, Sizemore will establish himself as a star by quietly leading by example (his hustle, will to win, and enthusiasm). Hafner's goofiness and Victor's antics prevent them from being real leaders and C.C. seems to say everything right, but can never back it up. Give Sizemore another year, and he will have the universal respect of the locker room and will show himself to be the leader of this new Indians team.

Let's take a few from the Yanks.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Not Far Away

The Boston series last week made me think about the makeup of this Indians' team, and its similarities to the World Champs of last year. The Red Sox relied on strong starting pitching, a solid bullpen, a few run-producers, and role players to win the Series.

This year, the Tribe's starters have been great and the pen has been spectacular. Take the fact that the minors are LOADED with young arms, and you've got to think that the blueprint for the success of this team in the long run was seen in the Red Sox run to the title last year. If you think I'm overestimating the young arms in the minors, look at the Tribe Depth Chart to the right. Francisco Cruceta, a major Dodgers prospect when he was acquired for Paul Shuey (who had a couple of starts in Cleveland last year), recently lost his spot in the Buffalo rotation! Watching Cabrera blow through the Tigers tonight makes me feel good about the quality of arms in the bushes.

Back to the comparison at hand though. Looking at the Red Sox lineup, there had a few "great" players, in Manny, Ortiz, Damon, Varitek, and (one could argue) Cabrera. The remainder of their lineup was Millar, Bellhorn, Mueller, Roberts, and Nixon. Nice players, but none will set the world on fire.

This Tribe lineup is not far away from a younger version of the Sox. Take Hafner, Sizemore, and Victor as the next Ortiz, Damon, and Varitek (though Victor has a higher offensive upside). The Tribe is lacking one more big stick (the Manny - though there's really only one Baby Bull) and the continued development of, say a Jhonny Peralta, from being on the cusp of something big. The Baltimoran pointed out that Coco is a part of this future, that "everyone doesn't have to hit 35 homers", and he couldn't be more right. There's nothing wrong with Broussard, Belliard, Blake, and Coco as role players on this team - solid grinders that will get on base and give quality AB's. That leaves 3B and RF to add that final piece of the puzzle, whether it be this year or not.

That's what is so exciting about watching this team mature this year. The Indians of the '90s were a collection of VERY talented offensive players, who were very fun to watch. But the "All Star at every position" strategy never brought home a WS Championship (it won't in Texas either, Mr. Hart), becuase there was no pitching!

The way that this team is built begins with pitching. That's why this blueprint is going to work. It doesn't hurt that the team is hitting .297 and averaging 6 runs a game under the new hitting coach. I see it. You see it. When will Cleveland catch on?

Monday, July 04, 2005

Keeping It Real Up In The Feel

After the phenomenal series in Baltimore (with an assist to the History Teacher known as the Baltimoran), the Tribe has smoked the Motor City Kitties for the first 2 (assuming that the bullpen can hold them to 4). That brings the 15 game stretch record to 7-1! An unbelievable run by a team that certainly seems to be coming around, in all aspects of the game. Watching Elarton and Davis throw darts today make me think that if we put Cy in a Tribe uni, he might be able to pull off a 5 and fly.

Do Eric Wedge's comments about adding a bat (it sounds like he's OK with the team in the clubhouse) sound eerily close to Coach Norman Dale refusing to put Ray in after Buddy fouls out? "My team is on the floor" may be the model in which Wedgie is working the high confidence in the dugout.

Reading that Alou is unattainable in the PD (reading 4 copies of sports pages in one day more fun than you think), makes me think that Mench (or even Carlos Lee?) may be in the cards for the Erie Warriors. To watch Hernandez, Boone, Blake, and Gerut struggle against seemingly anyone has become painful. The bottom of the lineup presents such a hole that it kills many a rally. If you put that RH bat after The Stick or Gentle Ben, it really strengthens this lineup.

A few amazing stats though (without that RH stick), the team is hitting .293 in the past month, working their way up the charts in runs, average, doubles, and home runs.

Seeing Wickman make the All Star squad was nice, but I still think that Le Pronk and C. Lee could make it if other players beg off participation (or if Kenny Rogers encounters any cameramen en route to Detroit). Sizemore is still maybe a year away from the recognition, but check out the Gammons' article on TB's comments in the last post for some high praise for the Grady Sizemore Show.

I'm working on the Viva Le Pronk jersey. Is he hot enough? 32 RBI's in the last 20 games?!?

Coco just hit an inside the park HR. This IS my team.

Hafner just went yard into Cooperstown, then pulled the curtain call. He is my favorite player on this team. I'll work up some comparisons this week.

The smoke is rising off of the Jake after today. I hope that my boy (the Jake fireworks guy) has enough ammo for tonight.