Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Browns' Town

The Tribe did it again last night as they pulled victory from the jaws of defeat through persistence, solid bullpen work, and surviving a Wickman 9th. My buddy Dozer, who was among the 17,000 actually in attendance (his estimate, not mine), said that the standing ovation that the team received after coming back to take the lead in the 1st was like nothing he's ever seen at the Jake. This from a guy who STILL wears a Thome jersey regularly and has Chief Wahoo on his ankle. It must have been a pretty special moment, which could've been more special if more than 20,000, much less 40,000, people were there.

I'm not going to harp on attendance much more, but please don't ever tell me that Cleveland is a baseball town and that 455 consecutive sell-outs proves anything. I remember mocking Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and (particularly) Atlanta for not selling out playoff games, thinking, "How could people be that nonchalent about an exciting baseball team". Well, it's happening here, so let's hope that the Jake is filled if the Tribe makes the playoffs in 2005.

With Katrina dumping water on the North Coast and Tuesday's game cancelled (with Wednesday's game very much in question), I thought that I'd share a letter written to Bud Shaw, in response to his column in Tuesday's PD. The letter was written by serial poster Cy Slapnicka and articulates many of the issues that I'm having with the support that this team is receiving, both from the fans and the local media.

After reading your column today, I have a question. How was it a throwback night? Was it because they came from behind to win or was it because they won based on runs and not pitching?

This team is completely different than the 1995 Indians. They embody the word team. They are well rounded and seem like quality people. While they have taken some time to gel, the result is far supierior to that of the late 90's Indians. Not to take anything away from that team, as I still fondly remember that summer working as an usher at games and watching them hit the cover off the ball. However, that is the past and I've moved on to the new team. The Kool-Aid Shapiro is serving tastes like wine.

I find it a lot more fun to watch Grady evolve into one of the best players in the AL. Jhonny Peralta has shed Omar's shadow and become his own brand of SS. The class clown Hafner brings a constant threat to the plate and a smile to everyone's face. Boone's bat has reappeared to complement his glove and leadership. And of course, there is the pitching. Bob Wickman wears his heart on his sleeve and as Joe Ladd (wickman's warriors) said in an ESPN article, "He looks like he's from my neighborhood." Kevin Millwood has shown this staff what veteran leadership is, both in the clubhouse and on the mound.

I am tired of Cleveland media comparing this team to the team of the late 90's. Can we just embrace this team as its own and get over 1995? What is not to like? Yes there are flaws, but the Indians of 1995 had theirs as well. And why hasn't the media questioned the faith Indians fans? Where have they gone? Is it because the novelty of the Jake has worn off? Did we ever have that many fans or was it just the thing to
do at the time? Its obviously not good baseball that will lure them to the park.

How can the PD not be interested in this? If attendance at Browns games dropped off to 30,000 a game (their play warrants it), I can only imagine the media uproar. Especially if that continued even after they started winning. I am not sure if you or anyone at the PD will respond to this (I've grown used to responses from Beacon Journal writers). But I'd be very interested to hear why you aren't writing about some of these things.

Why isn't this a big deal and why are there only fluff pieces on this? Lets face it, the Indians are a good baseball team and are contenders, yet the fans refuse to come. That's not worth writing about?

Well said. I'll let you know if he gets a response.

Rumor has it that Todd Walker may be coming to town, which is fine with me as an extra bat off of the bench and glove in the field.

While most are excited that Walker can also play 1B, did you realize that Broussard, after a hot stretch, now has the 9th best OPS for 1B in the AL, ahead of Morneau, Millar, Erstad, and Hatteberg? The position is certainly in line for an upgrade next year, but let's remember that when Benny gets hot, he adds another run-producing bat to an increasingly potent lineup.

Wednesday is the last day that the deal can go down though. With the second trade deadline on Wednesday and rosters expanding on Thursday, how could you not love this game?

I'll work in the "building through FA" vs. "building from within" soon.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

1994 vs. 2005

Despite taking the series (2 of 3) from the Jays, the Tribe finds itself behind the Yankees, who took advantage of playing the Royals to stake a lead in the Wild Card. Interestingly, the A's have pulled ahead of the Angels, who were swept by the Rays in St. Pete, in the West. That's right, those same Rays, that the Tribe took 3 of 4 from, knocked the "mighty" Halos off of their perch in the AL West.

Elarton will lead the Tribe into the Jake tomorrow to face Jeremy Bonderman. I'm hoping that a crowd of more than 20,000 show up; we ARE in a playoff race at the end of August. I guess that taste of letting Sandy Alomar go is still bitter in a lot of mouths.

Speaking of Sandy, I was thinking about how this year's Tribe reminds me of the 1994 team, with young talent sparking the way to meaningful games late in the season (strike notwithstanding). This team, however, seems to be made up of more players that fit into the "Cleveland" profile of hard-workers, accessible players, and overachievers.

The teams of the late '90s had players that, while immensely talented, never embraced the city the way that Cleveland begged to be embraced, particularly after the Browns left. In addition to the obviousness surliness of Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton always carried himself with an arrogance (remember how he dropped his bat on home after ball 4?) that Cleveland fans believed was a "swagger" that set the tone. In fact, I think that most of those players were out for themselves and their stats while subscribing more readily to the old "25 players, 25 cabs" relationship, allowing their unbelievable talent to make up for shortcomings in chemistry. How many of those players were genuinely likable? Carlos Baerga was, as was Alvaro Espinoza. The argument can be made that Manny, Thome, and Omar were likable; or was it that we wanted SO badly to have that one true hero that we threw the mantle of "Cleveland's Best" on those three, in that order, until they ultimately left town for greener (pun intended) pastures.

Those teams were likable for the brand of baseball that they played (pummel opponents into submission) and because of the improbable 1995 season, when it seemed like they won every other game in the bottom of the 9th. That season is what truly captured the city's attention. You feared to miss a game, lest you miss Belle's bomb off of Lee Smith or Eckersley walking off the mound saying,"WOW" after Manny did what he does. The players became heros because of what they did individually, not how they played as a team.

The 2005 team, however, seems to have players that play well together, often conveying a chemistry that probably isn't seen too often in an MLB clubhouse. Between Victor's ridiculous handshakes, Grady's almost otherworldly confidence (not to be confused with Lofton's arrogance), and Pronk's quotability (he said that he finished in the top 10 academically in his high school class, later chiming in that it was a class of 8), I cannot help but root for this team.

Since 2001, I've been determined to live by the idea that you cheer for the name of the front of the uniform, not the back. As the end of the '90s showed, becoming emotionally attached to individual players only leads to resementment towards the modern professional athlete.

However, I'm on board of this talented group of players, who seem to play their guts out every game (to use a Butch Davis term), never giving up.

Let's look at this weekend. Grady had a straight steal of home with 2 strikes on the player with the 3rd highest Average in the AL! Hafner hit two MONSTER bombs! The Stick had 7 straight hits! Millwood responds to the fact that he gets ZERO run support by saying, what's he going to do cry about it? He'd rather have a beer.

How is this town NOT embracing this team?!?

Off of the soapbox, with Miller and Rhodes on the DL, the bullpen remains lights-out as Bobby Howry seems to have hit another level as a set-up man. Seeing as how Wickman, Howry, and Sauerbeck are the only relievers not under contract next year, I see the 2006 bullpen shaking out like this:
Howry, assuming we sign him to close
Rhodes (not a true match-up lefty)
A Match-Up LH (either a FA or Tallet, Stanford, Traber, etc.)

Now, assuming that Scott Elarton signs a deal with the team (he apparently realized after Colorado that being in a comfortable situation is more important to him than counting every last dollar, which Millwood and Boras will certainly do this off-season), the Tribe has 4 starters in line:
The fifth spot could go to a FA, though the names out there aren't going to set the Cuyahoga on fire, or giving Fausto Carmona a shot at the fifth spot, with more young stud starters (Sowers, Miller, etc.) in the pipeline. I'd like to see what Carmona could do, though I'd like to see it as an open competition to force him to earn a spot, as C.C. memorably did a few years back.

Who's noticeably absent from this list? Jason Davis, who I believe will be part of a trade to land either a 1B or RF for next year. I would guess a RF because Ryan Garko (the top 1B prospect) seems a lot closer to being major league ready than the outfield prospects (Gutierrez, Snyder, and Cooper, to a lesser degree). Davis is still young and has a live arm, but as has happened to Tallet, Traber, and Cruceta (claimed off of waivers by Seattle), more talented arms have emerged and staked their claims into figuring into the future of the organization, perhaps more than Jason Dangerously.

With all of the thoughts and options on my mind about next year, I'll touch on building through Free Agency (a la the Yankees and the Cardinals) vs. building from within (a la the A's and the Braves) in the next post.

In the meantime, if you're anywhere near the Jake in the next three days, head to the game. I'll be there on Wednesday, which coincidentally is my anniversary. The Bride's comment after sweeping the Orioles, "If they're hot when they get back to town, we'll skip dinner and hit the game". That date will also be the year anniversary of the 22-0 drubbing of the Yankees in the Bronx.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Keeping Pace

Big win tonight as the Tribe keeps pace to stay tied at the top of the Wild Card Standings. Tonight's game was indicative of how crazy baseball can be, losing 13-3 one night and winning 12-4 the next. The ability to put a bad loss behind them is a sign that this team is maturing, in stark comparison to the 9 game slide of 2004 after the tough Minnesota loss.

Cliff Lee looked great again tonight to run his record to 14-4 and has actually been mentioned in some articles as a Cy Young candidate, in only his second full year! Is he ace material? I'm not sure, but you can't argue with his record over the past 2 years (28-12). The only certainty about Clifton is that he should be getting his best pen ready to sign the contract that will be offered by the Tribe this offseason. Westbrook's deal, signed this past offseason, is probably a good barometer of what the Tribe will offer Lee (maybe 3-4 years for $12-$16 million).

Nice to see Wedgie give a couple of days off to Peralta and Grady the past few nights as young players do tend to wear down over the course of the 162 game grind. It is amazing how much better the lineup looks with both 23 year olds on the card.

The goal posted here (on August 7) was to end August with a 75-59 record to remain relevant in the Wild Card. After tonight, they're 71-57 with games against Toronto and Detroit, hoping to close the month out strong. If they can take both series, they'll hit that goal with the opportunity to take advantage of a Toronto team that took a couple on the chin in Gotham and a Tiger team minus Rondell White.

Tomorrow night's Browns exhibition and Tribe game happening at the same time is the reason that TiVo was invented.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Thanks Blue

The umps' non-call for Wicky's balk (and it WAS a balk) allowed the Tribe to steal their 9th consecutive victory on the road. It also allowed us the pleasure of seeing one of the truly entertaining moments in sports - a Lou Pinella meltdown. After he launched bats everywhere after Coco's triple in the 7th, Lou really lost it after the non-call. Even the most elementary lip-reader could tell that Lou was not quoting Scripture.

Those types of games, though, are the types of games that the White Sox, not the Indians, were winning earlier this year. Now the Tribe seems to have all sorts of momentum (and a little bit of luck) on their side. Don't look now, but the Tribe is only 7 games back of the "uncatchable" ChiSox with 36 games (including 6 more against the White Sox) remaining. How great would it be if that last weekend series over the end of September/beginning of October at the Jake against the Sox was for the Central? I'll file that thought away for the moment to focus on the business at hand, keeping pace in the Wild Card.

Good article by Terry Pluto on the attendance at the Jake this year.

On the topic of attendance, to watch the camera pan the crowd at the Trop, there's no way that 8,500 people (as it's being reported) are there. How long can the Rays stay in Tampa? They entered the series with the Tribe on a bit of a hot streak, with the bizarre looking Jorge Cantu, and their other young talents, leading the way. Yet, there have probably been 15,000 people ACTUALLY at the first 3 games, with reported ticket sales around 25,000. It's kind of sad.

The Atomic One said that the Tribe will probably call up a third catcher, an extra starter (Jason Davis and Fausto Carmona were specifically mentioned), an extra outfielder, and an infielder for the September call-ups to go with the reinforcements in the bullpen when Miller and Rhodes return. It sounds like Phillips, Dubois, and Davis will join Tallet and Cabrera (who will likely stick around when Miller and Rhodes return) as the September call-ups. An appearance by Andrew Brown or a Kaz Tadano wouldn't be too surprising in that they're both on the 40 man and can add innings to the pen after a long season. I'm not sure what third catcher they'll add as The Stick and Bardo are the only catchers on the 40 man. They could always add Garko (who was drafted as a catcher) and make a move on the 40 man to get him on (dropping off Juan Gone, if his contract allowed it?).

Fausto Carmona's name was mentioned as a potential call-up, but the Tribe will probably opt for the more experienced Davis for now. Carmona will be an interesting pitcher to watch this coming Spring, though, as he has dominated AAA as a 21 year old, going 4-4 with a 2.51 ERA in the 10 games since he's gotten called up. He's gotten 44 K's in 68 innings, while giving up only 55 hits and 11 walks. I wonder if his success will allow the Tribe to move Davis to the pen (to battle Cabrera, Brown for available spots) in Spring Training and give Carmona a legitimate shot to make the rotation next year. Between Carmona (he's the starter) and Cabrera (he's the reliever), the Tribe can add some serious firepower to the pitching staff from within for next year.

The business at hand, of course, though is still keeping pace for the Wild Card and Elarton's egg tonight (it was bound to happen sooner or later) more than likely means that the Tribe can only scoreboard watch for the Yankees (Toronto up 9-0 in the 6th) and A's (Oakland up 9-0 in the 7th).

Can't win 'em all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Tied at the Top

Heading into Tuesday's game with the Rays, the Tribe has tied the A's and the Yanks atop the Wild Card standings (though they are behind in percentage points, due to playing 2 more games). And, watching Monday's game, nobody can argue that this team is peaking at the right time.
Think about these stats from Monday's game:

  1. Grady and Coco each had 3 hits
  2. Jhonny went 2 for 4 with his third hit being robbed by Gaithright in DEEP centerfield
  3. Hafner went hitless (though his sac fly was about as good of an at-bat as there's been this year) and the team still scored 11 runs
  4. The always streaky Broussard hit his second HR in 9 at-bats
The top 5 of the lineup seem to be likely to always produce a few runs, so anything that 6 through 9 can get is gravy. That's why that last point is so important. If Broussard is getting hot and the other Filler B's (Belliard, Boone, & Blake) can produce in the last month, the Indians are looking at a great combination of pitching and hitting for the month of September.

If, in fact, the offense turns the faucet on to a full pour after Monday's game, it may be traced to Grady beating out an infield hit in the 7th. For those who have not seen it, Grady pounded the ball off of the carpet towards second and looked like a sprinter coming out of blocks as he began his trip down the line. About halfway down, the look on his face changed to such determination that, watching later in slow motion, you knew he was going to beat the ball down the line. As he tore down the line, he looked like a halfback putting it into another gear when he hits the secondary. Finally, as Grady barely beat the play out, he reacted as you would expect only Grady to react. He simply clapped his hands once, while his face showed only his constant look of confidence and determination. He didn't go nuts or try to get rah-rah to pump up his teammates. He acted like it was an everyday occurence and sparked the 7 run seventh.

There was a question earlier this year about who the leader of this team is. I don't know if a 23 year old, with less than two years in the majors, can be the leader of a playoff team, but the whole team followed Sizemore's lead and put their collective foot on the throats of the Devil Rays. At the time that he beat out that grounder, the game was still 4-4 and Casey Blake had what could have been a disastrous K in the 6th.

That is what a leader does - he doesn't get up on the top step to lead a hollow cheer - he simply becomes the best player on a team by busting his hump every day, and carries himself in a way that makes other players want to do the same. Isn't that what Jeter does?

A big thanks to Tim for putting his ESPN Insider subscription to use for the common good as he put all of the Tribe articles on ESPN.com in yesterday's comments. Also listed on ESPN's MLB home page was a point that Jhonny has become the OPS leader among SS. But what's even more amazing is the fact that Jhonny has only 2 less HR and 16 less RBI than Tejada in 123 less at bats(!) and 2 more HR and 6 less RBI than Michael Young in 145 fewer at bats!

Omar who? Which leads me to a great comment I heard on the radio today, as WTAM was singing the praises of Jhonny and making fun of the people who are STILL upset that Omar is no longer an Indian. A Vizquel fan made the comment that Omar did more for the city than any other player since Rocky Colavito. The quick retort was that what she meant to say was that Omar had done more women in the city than any other Indian in recent memory. Well played.
Please note in the above link that Omar is 11th in OPS.

As the Tribe tries to pull themselves out of an early Westbrook sink hole (it's 4-2 in the 5th), the feeling that this offense can pull it out is starting to become a regular feeling. Not quite 1995 "we're never out of it" feeling, but it's a start.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Hitting Their Stride

With the Tribe 1/2 game out of the Wild Card and an opportunity to pull into a tie with the A's if they can pull out the series opener in Tampa Bay, this team really seems to be running on all cylinders.

The solid starting pitching and bullpen work has been complemented by a lineup that looks to be cemented. Those factors should be enough to keep the Tribe in the Wild Card race deep into the season. Watching the national highlights while in Milwaukee, though, made me realize that the out of town posters are certainly correct in their complaining about lack of national coverage of the Indians, or even their inclusion in playoff discussions. It's almost as if the Indians aren't even involved, which is very frustrating.

In the most recent Sports Illustrated, Tom Verducci names his All Under 25 Team (players younger than 25). The only Indian on the team is Grady Sizemore, who is compared to a young Jim Edmonds, with Jhonny Peralta getting a mention at SS (Bobby Crosby was Verducci's pick). C.C. also gets a mention as the youngest active pitcher to reach 50 wins, but doesn't make the team.

Shapiro was also quoted in the article as to how the quality of young talent is much more evident in pitching than position players. He added, "At the trading deadline it seemed everybody was looking for a hitter, and there was a reason they couldn't find one: They're not there. It's a cyclical thing - and now it's a down cycle for position players."
If that's true, the fact that the Indians are very talented and young at C, SS, CF, and DH bodes well for the future of this team and franchise.

Let's hope that the Tribe can take a couple from the red-hot Devil Rays (is that an oxymoron?) to keep their momentum going into the stretch run.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Jhonny Be Good

An afternoon win, keyed by our young SS, for the good guys today with the offense and the bullpen coming through to get Westbrook a W despite not having his best stuff.
An interesting note from Justice B. Hill on the official site:

At 64-55, the 2005 Indians have a better record than the 2000 team, which was 63-56 after 119 games. The starting lineup for the 2000 Tribe in game No. 120:
Kenny Lofton
Omar Vizquel
Roberto Alomar
Manny Ramirez
Jim Thome
David Segui
Travis Fryman
Wil Cordero
Sandy Alomar Jr.

Looking at that lineup and reading that the current team has a better record at the same point in the season illustrates a point that has been hammered away at - pitching wins championships. The lineup above boasts 2 probable HOF's and 2 possible HOF's (though Thome's chances are getting very slim). Yet the current incarnation of the Tribe, with two 23 year olds leading the offense has a better record. And the reason is simple: solid starting pitching and a strong bullpen.

Which leads to the question of the day: With Millwood, Wickman, Gonzalez, Elarton, Howry, Sauerbeck, and Hernandez off the books for next year, where do you put the money? Do you invest in a stud starter and fill in the holes on the offense on the cheap? Or do you make a big splash offensively, sign Elarton and another reclamation project and hope for the best for the staff.

If I'm in the front office and I'm given carte blanche, here's the plan (keep in mind that I'm talking ideal situations):

  1. Throw a 3-4 year deal at Millwood worth $10 million per to stay. Millwood is 31 in December and will command some big dollars on the market, but make him think about staying in Cleveland. Granted, when Scott Boras is involved, he may ask for one of Dolan's grandchildren in the deal.
  2. Offer Wickman the chance to sign another one year deal and when he turns it down, give Howry an offer to close with something like a 3 year, $7.5 million contract.
  3. Sign Elarton to a 2 year deal at about $2-$3 million per. His relationship with the Tribe (and Shapiro in particular) is strong enough that a deal like that makes him stay.
  4. Promote Cabrera and Davis into the pen full-time and let either Tallet or Traber become your go-to lefty. If neither pans out, find a lefty and trade them.
  5. Package some prospects to the Brewers for Lyle Overbay, a solid LH bat to shore up the bottom third of the order.
  6. Package a boatload of pitchers who may not fit into the long term Indians' plans for Kevin Mench. The Rangers are desperate for pitching and may take a combination of arms to part with Mench.

Both Overbay and Mench are arbitration eligible this offseason, and both the Brewers and Rangers may be willing to talk about getting some prospects as well as some "major league talent". The Tribe could sign Overbay and Mench to manageable contracts and get two young hitters who would fit in well, not only in the lineup, but in the clubhouse as well. I purposely didn't throw names into the trade options, as I have no idea who Milwaukee or Texas would ask for.

We'll see how the Tribe plays against the resurgent O's this weekend and whether they can continue to make up ground in the tightening Wild Card race.

I'll be cheering from the in-laws house in Milwaukee, where I'll see if Overbay's name hits the local news for trade talks.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Welcome to the Big Dipper

The ups and downs continue as the taste of getting swept by the Rays AT HOME is finally starting to leave the mouth after watching the Tribe take the first game from the Rangers and the Gambler last night. Lots on my mind, so here come some tomahawks:

  • Watching Howry work the eighth, in free and easy fashion, lead me to believe that he's the front-runner to close for the Tribe next year. He's closed before and Shapiro went on record to say that he's not going to throw a rookie into the closer role (sorry, JDangerously and the F-Cab), which means it's either Wickman, promoting a bullpen arm under contract for 2006 (Rhodes/Riske - both of whom have closed with disastrous results), re-sign Howry while giving him closer money, or signing a FA. As Let's Go Tribe wrote, I think that Sticky's arm is shot and he's currently saving games on guts and guile. Local 26 also doesn't strike me as the type to stick around just for the paycheck. As for promoting Rhodes or Riske, not only does that option look the scariest, it also means you weaken the pen by needing a new set-up guy (those in the Rocky Betancourt and F-Cab corner are OK with that, but it's too early). Looking at recent FA closers (Percival, Urbina, Benitez), the best two words are "Buyer Beware". And so, you're left with giving Howry a nice contract and letting him save for 2 years, until Cabrera is ready to take the reins (a la Anaheim & K-Rod of the past few years). Plus, Howry's got good stuff, rarely gets rattled, looks like a bit of a bad ass out there, and has closer experience. Bottom line - Give Wicky a shot if he wants it, but keep Howry's agent on speed dial.
  • How great has Honey Peralta looked? He's suddenly a solid 3 hitter in this lineup and seems to be getting more comfortable; not only at the plate (where he's scorching), but also in the field (where he realizes that he no longer needs to be Omar). The only uncertainty with Peralta is whether he'll eventually outgrow SS and make the move to his right to be a 3B of the future. To me, I'd rather have a left side of Boone/Gatreau/Kouzmanoff & Peralta than Peralta and Phillips/Torres/Ochoa in the next few years, if only for the fact that most 3B are going to be more productive offensively. For now, let's enjoy the maturation and development of a special talent.
  • It looks like the bell has tolled for Benny Broussard. Limited to being a late inning defensive replacement, he may as well put the house on the market. As good as his swing normally looks, it's too bad that Ben can't seem to put together enough consistency to force himself into the future (the way that Coco and Westbrook have in the last 2 years). As I've said before, don't be surprised if Broussard is packaged with a young pitcher or pitchers (Traber/Dittler) to a team that would like to have a solid defensive 1B and young arms (Boston) in exchange for an outfielder (Trot Nixon?).
  • It seems as if the Atomic Wedgie has a longer leash on C.C. when it comes to pressure situations. Last night was a perfect example as Michael Young strode to the plate with men on first and third and one out. The Crooked Cap had thrown about 100 pitchers, but Wedge let him pitch to the righty. C.C. responded by getting the 6-4-3 to end the inning, but it seems that Wedge wants Sabathia to learn from these situations (remember pitching from the wind-up lesson in NY last year?) more so than the other pitchers. There is some merit to it, as well. Every time Westbrook or Millwood (two pitchers who handle adversity well) are asked how they stay so calm in tough sitiuations, the answer invariably is that experience is the only way to cope and learn how to deal with the pressure cooker of a potential big inning. We must remember that the Hefty Lefty is only 24 and still needs some refinement to become a pitcher, as opposed to a thrower. Maybe there is a method to Wedgie's madness.
  • An off-season name to watch for the Tribe: Lyle Overbay. He's keeping 1B warm for Prince Fielder in Milwaukee, so the Brewers will probably look to move him. He would fit into the lineup very well as a LH bat to hit 6th after The Stick, while providing some stability to 1B. Is he going to make the splash that acquiring Ken Griffey Jr. would make? No, but he's unquestionably a better target for this team. Acquiring him and a solid RF would go a long way to filling out the lineup.
  • Shapiro's comment that Garko is hitting under .200 against leftys in Buffalo is baffling. He's a RH stick that can't hit lefties, and crushes righties? Further explanation is needed on this one.

The Tribe got the tough arm out of the way last night in the Gambler, so hopefully they can make a move on the suddenly scuffling A's.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Minor Matters

Rather than dwelling on the aberration that was last night's loss to the Rays, (the team flight did get in at 3:30 AM and anyone who has ever flown knows that means that they actually probably got home closer to 5:00 AM), I thought that we could take a look at what's happening on the farm and how the September call-ups may be affected by recent movement on the farm.
The pitching staff at Buffalo has been loaded with some of the best young arms in the organization. And, I do mean young. Their starting rotation, with ages listed, is as follows:
Jason Davis - 25
Fausto Carmona - 21
Dan Denham -22
Brian Tallet - 27
Jeremy Guthrie - 26
The old men in this rotation, Tallett and Guthrie, probably figure into the bullpen in the future or will be packaged in the off-season to acquire more depth at positions of need. Billy Traber, who is the long reliever in Buffalo (you read that correctly), would fit into that category as well. It will be interesting to see if the Tribe tries to turn Tallet or Traber into a left-handed specialist in the event that Scott Sauerbeck moves on for 2006.

For September, I would expect Davis, Carmona, Tallet, Guthrie and more bullpen arms (Francisco Cruceta, Andrew Brown, Jose Diaz) to be brought up to give some depth and also to audition for (presumably) 2 spots that will open in the bullpen for next year. All of these players are currently on the 40 man roster. Those arms would probably be replaced by the studs in Akron (Jeremy Sowers, Jake Dittler, Mariano Gomez, Bear Bay, Edward Mujica) for Buffalo to make a run at the International League title.

Looking at the pitching in this organization (and even realizing that injuries are inevitable and not everyone will pan out), the depth and quality of arms is alarming. Every minor league affiliate's pitching staff is talented, with a nice mix of arms.

The recent call-up of Franklin Gutierrez to replace the DL-bound Ryan Ludwick gives the Bisons an outfield of Gutierrez, Jason Dubois, and Jason Cooper. The only missing major prospect in that mix is Brad Snyder, who remains in Akron.
The Bisons lineup looks like a who's who of upper-tier hitting prospects, with the exception of 2B Joe Inglett (who is a nice little player) and DH Andy Abad. Every other player - 1B Garko, SS B-Phil, 3B Gatreau, and C Cardona (to a degree), and the outfielders listed above - represents a viable option for a September call-up and for a push in Spring Training in 2006.

For September call-ups, don't be surprised if Garko, Phillips, Gatreau, and Dubois are the only prospects getting called up. There remains a possibility of calling another catcher up to rest Victor, but do we really want to rest Victor for Dusty Wathan in the middle of a pennant race?
A catcher will probably get called up, if only for insurance purposes, as well as a few veterans - probably Ernie Young, Andy Abad, and Jose Morban (if only to give the Tribe 40 warm bodies). Those players, again, would probably be replaced by deserving Akron prospects (Ryan Mulhern, Eider Torres, Pat Osborn, and Brad Snyder), to keep Buffalo in the mix for another IL title.

In addition, the way that Buffalo and Akron are lining up for next year look like the Indians should be able to add impact rookies into holes for the next few years. This would avoid the mess of Free Agency as well as allowing the Tribe to lock up their own young in-house talent (Sizemore, Peralta, Lee, etc.) not already signed to long term deals, by not overspending on an aging FA who may or may not pan out. Compare today's situation to the dearth of minor league talent at the end of the 90's, and the scouting department and Front Office (as well as the Dolans for pouring money into the farm system) have to be commended.

Let's hope thatlast night's hiccup against the Rays is rectified tonight and tomorrow.

Unfortunately, I won't be watching tonight, as I'll be witnessing the (miraculous) nuptials of loyal poster Cy Slapnicka in Akron. Interestingly, Cy's namesake was mentioned in a recent Sports Illustrated article as the REAL Cy Slapnicka was the Indians scout who signed the greatest Indian of the all, Rapid Robert Feller.

Congrats Cy and good luck finding Tribe broadcasts in the Mexican Riviera (I couldn't find a Browns' game for the life of me there in 2002). Then again, if you're looking for Tribe broadcasts every night on your honeymoon, we need to have a talk.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The St. Margaret Mary Royals

Some scenes from the last 24 hours:

  1. After Berroa's HR off of Tallet in the 8th, I say to myself, "Well, there's no way they're going to get 6 in the 9th without some divine intervention." And headed to bed.
  2. The Hand of God came down and apparently holds the Royals' gloves hostage (seriously did you see the Berroa and Ambres drops? They looked like a rec league softball team I knew sponsored by Merry Arts) for the 9th inning, allowing the Tribe to score 11 runs in the 9th, winning the game! 40 winks were commencing for yours truly.
  3. Driving into work, WTAM reports, "And after the news, we'll tell you how the Indians won that game last night." I let out an audible, "What?!?" and nearly blow through a red light.

Unbelievable comeback (truly facilitated by the Royals' ineptitude and the fact that I wasn't waching) last night. Mark your calendar for August 9th as a possible turning point of the season - the moment that the pendulum swings all of the momentum into your favor. As I wrote that sentence, SuperSizemore just hit a Grand Slam. Did someone say momentum? Nothing like having Old Mo' on your side.

The CIR pointed out that Wedge's comment after the game was that he wanted Liefer to bat in place of Broussard in the 9th is interesting in that Broussard has actually been swinging a hot bat. Do you think that Benny is in the plans for 2006? Me neither.

Speaking of 2006 and beyond, here are some snippets from Paul Hoynes' Tuesday article about the Tribe's "Young Guns" - SuperSizemore, Jhon, The Stick, and Pronk:

The best thing about those four players is they could still be together at the end of 2007. Hafner signed a three-year deal in April. It includes a club option for 2008. Martinez is signed through 2009 with a club option for 2010. The Indians control Peralta and Sizemore through 2010.

Not a bad way to spend the next 3 (at least) summers, watching these players mature and improve with each other while the young arms in the majors and the minors provide a steady stream of solid innings. I call that a blueprint for success.

FSN's video montage of showing the Bad News Bears clips (the Mattheau version, of course) interspersed with the lowlights of the Royals' 9th inning was pretty great. How bad did the Royals look that inning? I don't think I've ever seen anything like that happen before, outside of a 5th grade CYO game.

Yankees lost today, so a victory puts the Tribe all by themselves in second place for the Wild Card. It's time to pile on the reeling Royals, and Wedgie seems to have this team primed and ready to do just that.

Monday, August 08, 2005

From the Guy on the Other Line, Asking About White Walls

In light of the recent disrespect that the RockDawg pointed out on SportsCenter (saying that the Wild Card would come down to the Yankees, Angels, and A's; with no mention of the featherheads), I thought it would be a good idea to adapt a beloved cinematic moment to imagine a speech before tomorrow night's game in Kansas City:

The Atomic Wedgie: [at a team meeting] Can I have your attention, please?
[picks up a bat and leans on it like a walking stick]
The Atomic Wedgie: I have something I think you all ought to know about. It seems that the folks at ESPN and other national media outlets doesn't think too highly of our worth. They think Mr. Dolan and Mr. Shapiro simply put this team together because they thought we'd be bad enough not to make the playoffs, allowing Baseball Tonight and SportsCenter to continue to ignore us and allowing them to assume that we're playing for next year.
Coco Crisp: Even me?
The Atomic Wedgie: Even you, Coco.
Sticky Wickman: What if we DO make the playoffs?
The Atomic Wedgie: You'll be ignored again, predicted to be on the short end of a first-round sweep, then picked to finish second or third in the division next year...or (looking at Jose Hernandez) given your outright release.
SuperSizemore: [Grady stands up] Well then I guess there's only one thing left to do.
The Stick: What's that?
SuperSizemore: Win the whole f***ing thing. [long pause]
Jhon P.: [stands up] Yeah.
Le Pronk: [pounds his hand] YES!

Don't let the lack of media attention get to you (particularly those from outside of Cleveland). This team will thrive on the perceived lack of respect to plow through August and into September. Let the Angels and A's get all of the attention while they beat each other up in the AL West. The Wahoos will simply slide in through the back door.

Would it be any more perfect? After all, Grady Sizemore does come to the plate to The Doors' "Back Door Man". After that revelation, is there any question which jersey the Baltimoran will be purchasing this weekend?

Sunday, August 07, 2005


The Tribe motored out of Detroit with a three game sweep, which should get the month off on the right foot. Even Kasey Blake is making a move to have his name spelled correctly, with a 9 game hitting streak. Another big step was taken as the Tribe won while giving some players some days off (Belliard yesterday and Martinez today).

However, with the A's, Angels, Red Sox, and Yankees all staying hot, the Tribe hasn't moved up much in the standings. But they're taking care of their business and can hope that those teams beat each other up through the end of the season. The Orioles are officially out of the Wild Card (barring a miraculous turnaround) and Minnesota's offense is causing the Twins to go south in the standings.

As promised, following is the list of Free Agents after this season, which I've heard called "thin" and "weak". No argument here with only a couple of attractive names. I would say the Indians' needs would be RF, 1B, backup C, and dealing with the FA pitchers to make sure that the staff stays solid in 2006. So, without further adieu:
Ken Huckaby
Gary Bennett
Kelly Stinnett
Todd Pratt
Ramon Hernandez
Benito Santiago
John Flaherty
Brad Ausmus
Eddie Perez
Mike Piazza
Alberto Castillo
Bengie Molina
Pat Borders
Ivan Rodriguez (Poss. Team Void Option)
Einar Diaz
Todd Greene (Team Option)
Gregg Zaun (Team Option)
Paul Bako
Mike DiFelice

First Base/DH:
Rafael Palmeiro
Jose Offerman
Frank Thomas (Player + Team option)
J.T. Snow
John Olerud
Dave Hansen
Brad Fullmer
Julio Franco
Tim Salmon
Doug Mientkiewicz (Vesting Option)
Kevin Millar
Paul Konerko
Dimitri Young (Team Option)
Scott Hatteberg (Team Option)
Eduardo Perez
Robert Fick
Greg Colbrunn
Mark Sweeney
Tino Martinez (Team Option)
Tony Clark
Travis Lee
Olmedo Saenz
Erubiel Durazo
Brian Buchanan

Second Base:
Ray Durham (Player Option)
Carlos Baerga
Damion Easley
Mark Loretta (Team Option)
Frank Menechino (Team Option)(arb.)
Tony Graffanino
Bret Boone
Todd Walker (Team + Player options)
Eric Young (Team Option)
Damian Jackson
Manny Alexander
Marlon Anderson
Mark Grudzielanek
Pokey Reese (Team Option)
Miguel Cairo
Enrique Wilson
Denny Hocking
Dave Berg
Joe McEwing

Third Base:
Bill Mueller
Lenny Harris
Abraham O. Nunez
Jared Sandberg
Wes Helms
Joe Randa
Chris Stynes
Jeff Cirillo
Geoff Blum
Brandon Larson

Royce Clayton
Ricky Gutierrez
Jose Vizcaino
Chris Woodward
Alex Gonzalez (FLA)
Nomar Garciaparra
Deivi Cruz
Jose Hernandez
Jose Valentin
Luis Lopez
Ramon Martinez
Alex Gonzalez (TB)
Desi Relaford (Team Option)
Rafael Furcal
Benji Gil
Lou Merloni
Chris Gomez
Rich Aurilia
Rey Sanchez
Neifi Perez

Left Field:
Reggie Sanders
Eli Marrero
John Mabry
B.J. Surhoff
Quinton McCracken
Carlos Lee (Team Option)
Bobby Higginson
Rondell White
Randy Winn (Mutual Option)
Jeff Conine
Todd Hollandsworth

Center Field:
Jacque Jones
Carl Everett (Team Option)
Craig Biggio
Preston Wilson
Kerry Robinson
Jay Payton (Team Option)
Marquis Grissom
Bernie Williams
Kenny Lofton
Roosevelt Brown
Johnny Damon
Dee Brown
Peter Bergeron
Trenidad Hubbard

Right Field:
Michael Tucker
Sammy Sosa (Team Option)
Larry Walker (Team Option)
Juan Encarnacion
Gabe Kapler
Matt Stairs
Orlando Palmeiro
Jose Cruz Jr.
Jacob Cruz
Richard Hidalgo
Dustan Mohr (Mutual Option)
Moises Alou (Player Option)
Jeromy Burntiz (Mutual Option)
Brian Jordan
Matt Lawton
Brian Giles


Steve Sparks
Pedro Astacio
Andy Ashby
Woody Williams (Team option)
Matt Morris
Scott Elarton
Ariel Prieto
Elmer Dessens (Mutual Option)
A.J. Burnett
Jeff Weaver
Jason Schmidt (Team Option)
Jeff Suppan (Team Option)
John Thomson (Team Option)
Steve Trachsel (Team Option)
Brett Tomko
Kevin Brown
Brian Moehler
Jason Johnson
Paul Byrd
Joe Mays (Team Option)
Aaron Myette
Jamey Wright
Jose Lima
Ismael Valdez
Kevin Millwood
James Baldwin
Rick Helling
Esteban Loaiza (Mutual Option)
Aaron Sele
Roger Clemens
Scott Erickson
Ramon Ortiz (Mutual Option) (arb.)
Tony Armas Jr.
Greg Maddux (Vesting Option)

Dennys Reyes
Kazuhisa Ishii (Team Option)
Tom Glavine (Mutual Option)
Al Leiter
Brian Anderson
Mark Redman (Mutual Option + Player Option)
Jamie Moyer
Kenny Rogers
Kirk Reuter
Ted Lilly
John Halama (Mutual Option)
Shawn Estes
Jarrod Washburn
Glendon Rusch (Player Option)

Jamie Walker (Team option) (arb)
Donovan Osborne
Scott Eyre
Valerio de Los Santos
Mike Stanton
Mike Remlinger
Felix Heredia (Team Option)
Alan Embree
Joey Eischen
Ricardo Rincon
Scott Sauerbeck
Terry Mulholland
Mike Myers
Jason Christiansen (Team Option)
Chris Hammond
John Franco
Mike Matthews
Buddy Groom
B.J. Ryan
Tom Martin
C.J. Nitkowski
Gabe White

Bob Howry
Dan Miceli
Danny Graves (Team Option)
Byung-Hyun Kim
Grant Roberts
Mike DeJean
Kyle Farnsworth
Cal Eldred
Steve Karsay
Russ Springer
Ryan Dempster
Julian Tavarez
Tim Worrell
Felix Rodriguez
Paul Quantrill
Tom Gordon
Mike Timlin
Scott Sullivan (Team or Player Option)
Doug Brocail
Shigetoshi Hasegawa (Vesting Option)
LaTroy Hawkins (Player Option)
Matt Herges
Lou Pote
Rudy Seanez
Jason Grimsley
Todd Jones
Shingo Takatsu (arb)
Al Reyes
David Weathers (Team Option)
Antonio Alfonseca (Vesting Option)
Brian Meadows
Terry Adams
Chad Fox
Roberto Hernandez
Scott Williamson (Team Option)
Jay Witasick
Antonio Osuna
Ricky Bottalico
Steve Reed (Mutual Option)
Jay Powell
Jeff Nelson
Jim Mecir
Kerry Ligtenberg

Trevor Hoffman
Octavio Dotel (Rehab)
Braden Looper (Team Option)
Billy Wagner
Jose Mesa (Team Option)
Bob Wickman
Eddie Guardado (Mutual Option + Player Option)
Ugeuth Urbina
Matt Mantei
Danys Baez (Team Option) (arb)

After viewing the list, I was struck at how many of the more attractive names (Millwood, Howry, Sauerbeck, Elarton, Wickman) are OUR players.
Terry Pluto's column this morning mentioned that Elarton is inclined to re-sign with the Tribe, as reward for sticking with him. It doesn't hurt that Elarton is represented by Shapiro's father's agency.
I still would like to see them re-sign Millwood, to make that big splash for the fans. I would give him a 3 year deal worth $9-$10 million per.
Wickman's possible return seems more based on his willingness to pitch another year and Howry may have pitched himself into closing for someone next year (maybe at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario?)

As for the position players on the list, no name jumps off of the screen. Jacque Jones, Juan Encarnacion, Preston Wilson, Reggie Sanders and Brian Giles all would look nice in RF; but we're not talking Vlad Guerrero here. That's why I'm more inclined to think that Shapiro will make a deal (giving up some young pitchers) to acquire a young bat to fit into the lineup. The Rangers reportedly broke off contract extension talks with Kevin Mench, which means that he may be available in the offseason.
Additionally, I don't see a 1B that is an automatic, leading me to believe that Broussard and Garko will platoon next year, if Garko isn't given every chance to win the job in Spring Training.
As for backup catcher, Josh Bard (as bad as he is offensively) rates pretty comparably to those listed.

The next 6 games are against the Royals (who just made wholesale call-ups from the minors) and the lowly Devil Rays. The Indians stand at 60-52 with 22 games remaining in August. With the weakness of the schedule, there's no reason they can't go 15-7 in that stretch (at the worst) to end the month at 75-59. We'll see if that's enough to pack the Jake in September.

Did someone say we'd be contending in 2005?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Eyes on the Prize

After last night's BRUTAL loss in the 9th (which proved that the victory on Tuesday with me in attendance was an aberration as I saw Giambi's homer come into my kitchen in the 9th), I could rant and rave about Millwood, Wickman, and Wedge. But I can't force myself to revisit the pain.

Not surprisingly, Terry Pluto's article sums up many of the emotions felt last night and this morning. Pluto always clearly articulates the emotions of Cleveland fans.

And we did take 2 of 3 from the Yankees in August, so let's not get greedy. It would've been great (I was chanting SWEEP, SWEEP up until the A-Rod moon shot), but I think that this team realizes now that they can play with any team at any time - a huge step for a young team. One can only hope that the swagger that they took into Boston and Baltimore in June is back for a very winnable stretch of the schedule.

The next three weeks schedule should be a cause for optimism as the Tribe has a chance to really make some ground up (assuming that the A's don't remain on this tear).

Breaking it down, the Indians have games against the following teams to end August (rankings in parentheses refer to ESPN's current power rankings, out of 30 teams):
Tampa Bay - 7 games (25/30)
Detroit - 6 games (23/30)
Kansas City - 3 games (30/30)
Baltimore - 3 games (18/30)
Texas - 3 games (16/30)
Toronto - 3 games (10/30)
For comparison's sake, the Tribe is ranked 9 out of the 30 ML teams.

What all of that means is that all but 3 of their next 25 games are against teams in the lower half of the league. This is the time of the schedule to put together a major run and put some pressure on the other teams fighting for the Wild Card. Maybe then, the fickle PD writers will decide if this team is good or bad, as opposed to taking a different view every day.

Other tomahawks:

  • Millwood and Riske's suspensions (though deserved) are made difficult by the fact that Hasegawa, the pitcher who started the beanings, only received a fine and no suspension. The reasoning by MLB is that K-Mill and Riske hit players after warnings had been issued. To me, that's just semantics, not a legitimate reason.
  • The way that this lineup is set up now (with the streaky Broussard apparently getting hot) looks good for the stretch run. Did you ever think you would hear that? Seriously though, Peralta and Martinez stepped up in Pronk's absence and should only improve with the return of the big North Dakotan. The top 5 players in the lineup (Sizemore, Crisp, Peralta, Hafner, Martinez) should be written in ink for the next 4 years. With Boone and probably Belliard (assuming they pick up his option) coming back for next year, you have 7 of the 9 positions set for next year. The only holes are at 1B and RF. With that in mind, I'll get the available 2006 Free Agent List up this weekend.
  • Great crowd at the Jake last night (40,000+), but it would've been even better if the Yankees fans didn't have the last laugh. I've come to a conclusion: There is no reasoning with a Yankees fan, because they lack the ability to be reasonable.
  • Two great jerseys spotted last night - Rocker 49 & Torre 6. Who wears these out of the house? Wouldn't the whole "John Rocker released by the Long Island Ducks" thing prevent that jersey from making it out of the drawer? And who wears a manager's jersey? I mean, I've got a Charlie Manuel jersey, but that was because I lost a bet.

With the upcoming schedule, I feel like the Indians' next few weeks should be accompanied by the song "Something Tells Me I'm Into Something Good" that plays over the "Falling in Love" montage in Naked Gun (with the classic beach clothesline). Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, but with our pitching and young hitters coming around - Confidence is High.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

This is How We Do It!

Before we get to the Yankees' games, the Tribe picked up Aaron Boone's 2006 option and restructured his contract to include a mutual option for 2007. Before the Boone detractors come out in full force, let's remember that Boone's average has steadily risen as his solid defense has been a HUGE upgrade over Kasey Blake's of 2004. Additionally, the 3B that are available in Free Agency this offseason are as follows:
Bill Mueller
Lenny Harris

Abraham O. Nunez
Jared Sandberg
Wes Helms
Joe Randa
Chris Stynes
Jeff Cirillo
Geoff Blum

Brandon Larson
Any of those names really jump out at you?
Me neither, which makes Boone at 3B for (probably) the next two years look even better. Rather than complaining about extending a player's contract who's hitting under .230, I wish that people looked at the big picture in these instances. No, Boone is never going to give the Tribe great numbers from 3B, but the fact that Peralta and Martinez are two run-producing players, playing positions that are not traditionally power positions allows this team to take advantage of Boone's glove and solid, if not spectacular, offensive numbers.

The offense is still without Le Pronk (who continues to shake the cobwebs out in Akron), but he may be back for the finale of the Yankees series or join the team in Detroit for the weekend. The offense, though, has looked good in the first two games, mainly because of Jhon and the Stick (plus a renewed commitment to patience and seeing pitches). But, boy, adding Pronk to the mix really makes this lineup look better for the dog days of August.

I love watching Cliff Lee work when he's rolling. He, like Millwood and Westbrook, looks like he's in total control - dictating the tempo of the game by throwing strikes and retiring batters seemingly the way that he wants to. He doesn't let a 3 run job by Georgie Porgie Posada allow him to become unraveled; he bears down and gives the team a chance to win.

Breaking the 9 game personal losing streak (though, barely), I was at the Jake last night to shout down Yankees fans and lose about 10 pounds in water weight. The crowd was solid last night, though (as always), I'm floored by the bandwagoners. I've never seen so big-boned girls in Jeter jerseys. One of the best comments was that only girls whose weight starts with a "2" can comfortably wear the "2".

I ended up yelling at some kid in an A-Rod jersey, asking him what borough he was from, then pointing out that Wadsworth and Brunswick are not technically boroughs of NYC. He shot back that A-Rod was better than Boone. REALLY?

The infuriating thing about Yankees fans at the Jake (outside of their obnoxiousness) is their sheer ignorance of baseball and their belief that counting World Championships ends arguments.

I'll take the Indians and their brand of baseball, strong pitching combined with timely hitting (of late), over the Yankees current strategy (outslug all opponents) any day.

The game was not broadcast on ESPN (as promised) tonight, so I'd be interested to hear from our out-of-towners how the game was handled by the national announcers. We got to hear the enthralling banter of Rick Manning and Mike Hegan, 2 color guys without a lot of color.

Assuming that the bullpen can hang onto a 7-4 lead over the last two innings, Millwood will go for the sweep tomorrow night against Shawn Chacon.

Indians Fever is thick in the air, like the humidity. Can you feel it?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Bring on the Bombers

Assuming Pronk has a good rehab start in Akron tonight, he should be in Tuesday's lineup against Al Leiter and the Yankees. B-Phil was sent down to Buffalo to make room for the big North Dakotan today.

With Hafner's return, it will be interesting to see what Wedge does with the lineup. This is the way that I see the lineup shaking out:
CF - SuperSizemore
LF - Coco
DH - Pronko
C - The Stick
SS - Peralta
1B - Broussard
2B - Belliard
3B - Boone
RF - Dubois

I'm still at a loss for what to do with Broussard, but (unbelievably) he's suddenly the left handed bat to break up the right handers at the bottom of the lineup.

With the Yankees still hurting in the rotation, it's time for the Tribe to make a statement that they're in this Wild Card race for the long term. Taking the series from the Yanks would (finally) force the boys from Baseball Tonight to pay attention to the Tribe and their relevance in the Wild Card.

Hopefully, it will also drown out the inevitable thousands of Yankees fans who make their homes in Cleveland who will cheer on "their" team. You know, the one that they followed through the lean 80's and early 90s.
If you go to a game, challenge a "big Bombers fan" to name their shortstop before Jeter.
It was Tony Fernandez, whose double play partner in 1995 was the memorable Pat Kelly.

There is nothing in this world more infuriating than the fan who loves the Yankees/Bulls/Cowboys/Duke/Miami or any combination of random geographic teams only because they've "always been huge fans of those teams".

Raffy Palmiero's suspension is only surprising in that he got caught.

Here's a philosophical debate: Palmiero (allegedly) began taking steroids in 1992, when he met Jose Canseco in Texas. Through 1992, he had made $5,989,500 in his career with a career high in HRs of 26. Since then, he has made $80,306,496 for a career total of $86,295,996.

If you could make that much money by breaking the rules, never have to give back the money, and only live with the humiliation IF you got caught, would you take steroids?

Get down to the Jake for the Yankees series so I am not alone.