Tuesday, February 28, 2006

SportsTime Ohio

This SportsTime Ohio controversy has taken on legs of its own recently, mainly because of cable companies complaining about the “outlandish” fees the Indians are asking to obtain Indians’ games, and because of negative coverage in the media.
Most of the onus for the negative feelings can be traced to the work of (surprise, surprise) Roger Brown, who must fancy himself as the Bob Woodward of modern-day Cleveland, sniffing out controversies and rumors, based purely on hearsay.
Brown has decided to turn this STO-Cable deal into his own Watergate. The main difference (and it’s a pretty big difference, among many, MANY others) is that while Woodward covered something that actually mattered, Brown covers the Cleveland sports media; which, ultimately, is rather sad.
Brown has portrayed the Indians as the big bullies in this dispute, mocking their rejection of the FSN deal and acting as the mouthpiece for the different cable providers, namely Cox Cable. I suppose it’s business as usual for Brown, who could be the least objective “writer” I’ve ever seen in a large-circulation paper. And while the PD must think that because his columns “get the town talking”, all he does is diminish the credibility and readability of the sports page on a weekly basis.

By the way, Brown recently moved from his $750 apartment in Lakewood, where heat and water were included in his rent.
Word on the street also persists that he prefers cats to dogs.
OK, in the spirit of Brown’s Town, I made that last stuff up.

But here’s my main thought process on this STO contract:
Whenever it comes to a dispute with a cable company - put me down for being in the corner of the adversary of the cable company. Whether you currently use the Dish, DirecTV, cable, or whatever, most people feel that the cable company generally does not make decisions with the interests of their subscribers in mind. They are more concerned with THEIR bottom line than what their subscribers think.
To wit, here are just a few things that I’ve always been confused by:

  • Why do I have to choose a package of channels, 50 of which I’ll never watch?
  • Why can’t I pick the 15 to 20 channels I watch, and pay only for them?
  • Who decides these packages? I get TLC, the Speed Channel, and HGTV, but no ESPN Classic

I believe that there’s actually legislation in Congress to regulate the practices of the cable companies and the way in which they handle their “packages”. However, the Indians are the ones being completely irrational and obtuse, right?

If history is any indicator, the cable companies are the 800 lb. Gorillas in the dispute, no matter how they try to position themselves as fighting for the end consumer. That’s why these “negotiations” with STO make me leery of all of the reports. The cable companies know how to play this game and position themselves to the masses as the victim, when in reality; they go swimming in pools of money, a la Scrooge McDuck.

Of course, once the Adelphia-Time Warner merger goes through, about 70% of Northeast Ohio will have access to the games, leaving those not on board to explain to their customers why they didn’t want to charge them the extra $1.50 a month, but feel that Oxygen, Court TV, Style, and QVC are all must-haves. If those are the channels that you watch - fine. But I don’t complain that they are part of my cable bill. Don’t complain that something that I watch is on yours.

This, of course, is not the first instance of a situation like this arising from different parties. If you’ll remember when George Steinbrenner introduced his YES network (really, the model for all of these new team-owned networks), Charles Dolan, who owned Cablevision, didn’t want to include YES on his cable system. That situation did turn ugly (the 2 men never liked each other to begin with) for a while, but eventually cooler heads prevailed.
That being a completely different set of circumstances, I certainly don’t think it will get to that point and, as the Indians have said all along, “If you saw Tribe games last year, you’ll see them this year.”

However this all plays out, I imagine that the Indians wouldn’t risk a large portion of their already distrustful fan base missing games over all of this. Regardless of the costs they feel they can charge based on ratings that they typically bring in (which I believe are pretty high; and really, how often do you watched programming on FSN not related to the Indians or Cavaliers? Unless you’re a BIG Summer Sanders fan, I’m betting not to often), this should be resolved in the next month in time for Opening Day.

With all of that said, I’m very excited about the advent of a channel devoted to sports in Northeast Ohio and the possibilities, which seem limitless.

I think, though, there is always room for improvement in content and programming. One issue that I have with the advent of STO is the announcement that the current teams of broadcasters will continue to work the games in their 2005 format. Maybe it’s because I still resent John Sanders for essentially taking the place of Jack Corrigan, but I think that the broadcast teams should look like this:
Matt Underwood & Rick Manning on STO
Jim Donovan would do the WKYC games with Manning, allowing Underwood to still broadcast some games on the radio; but, really, Underwood has always struck me as more of a TV guy who can’t seem to find his voice on radio. That may be due to the fact that when he announces, I pine for the return of Hammy to the booth. Whatever the reason, I think that Underwood and Manning would have a nice rapport that translates well to TV.
Tom Hamilton & Mike Hegan on WTAM/Radio
I know that these guys need to take innings off, but the only time I’m OK with Hammy not doing the play by play is when Hegan is doing his “WAAAY BACK” imitation of Hamilton that sounds like he just finished a pack of unfiltered Camels. These two are the best at broadcasting on the radio and could trade-off doing play by play and color to keep them fresh throughout the game.

Maybe I’m delving into the depths of Roger Brown’s “articles” and “analysis”, but those are my ideal 2006 Indian broadcast teams.

Another disappointment that I have had was the announcement that STO would not broadcast minor-league games. Rather, they will produce shows on top prospects, which is all well and good, but…could you imagine the scenarios and possibilities?

They could show the Bisons & Aeros games from the previous nights in the afternoon (prior to any Tribe pre-game) and sprinkle Kinston & Lake County games on late at night. The advent of TiVo would allow most people to still catch these games.

This would allow fans the opportunity to watch Adam Miller start a game in Akron, watch Jeremy Sowers or Fausto Carmona pitch a game in Buffalo, critique the early season lineup in Buffalo (consisting of Marte, Garko, Gutierrez, Snyder, and Francisco), or monitor the transition of last year’s top draft pick, Trevor Crowe from CF to 2B.

They can still have shows that highlight their top prospects, but this is their opportunity to build up their own prospects by allowing Indian fans to become acquainted with players before they arrive in Cleveland.

They can appeal to hard-core fans to allow them to learn more about these players somewhere other than the Sunday PD and the Internet, which simply states their stats, and appeal to the casual fan, who may just want to watch an inning or two of someone they've read about.

People can see them with their own eyes to determine for themselves if Franklin Gutierrez has a swing reminiscent of Alex Escobar's, or to break down how Jeremy Guthrie handles himself on the mound, or allow opinions to form over whether Adam Miller is the real deal or a hard-thrower who has merely blown away inferior competition?

Maybe I’m alone on this one (as I did stay up until about 2AM to watch a Chuck Lofgren Lake County start on Adelphia last summer) but what’s the harm? You’re filling air time and you’re connecting with your fan base who is thirsting for more. Can you imagine the baseball IQ of these fans, intelligently discussing whether Ryan Garko’s defense is sufficient to make the leap to the Majors and having a point of reference to base it on, as opposed to “I heard” or “I read” replacing it with “I saw”?

The Indians have a golden opportunity with SportsTime Ohio and, once all of the contracts are in place, they should nurture it to allow to fulfill all of its limitless potential.

On another note, first intrasquad game today with Cactus League starting tomorrow.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Gang's All Here

The position players are engaging in their first full workout today in Winter Haven, so let’s continue our look at the players in camp and their expected destination:
On the Team
Ronnie Belliard
Aaron Boone
Ben Broussard
Travis Hafner
Jhonny Peralta
Eduardo Perez

The only real change from the infield of 2005 is the replacement of Jose Hernandez with Eduardo Perez, who will likely be part of a platoon at 1B with Benny.
How much of a platoon Wedge utilizes remains to be seen (whether he gives Broussard the first crack, until he goes cold, or goes straight platoon from Day 1), but the streakiness of Broussard nearly guarantees that Perez will see some AB’s.

Boone and Belliard are both potential FA at year’s end, so it will be interesting to see how each performs in a potential contract year. While Boone has uber-prospect Andy Marte possibly bearing down on him at the hot corner, Belliard is essentially the only answer at 2B, with no other viable option available.

Hafner and Peralta are now known quantities, and should remain among the elite at their respective positions again in 2006.

Candidates for Utility Infielder Position
Brandon Phillips
Ramon Vazquez
Lou Merloni
This is probably the most intriguing “battle” in camp as Phillips is out of options (meaning he cannot be sent to the minors if he doesn’t make the team), and Vazquez was on the team instead of Phillips in 2005, after the Cora trade.

Many think that Phillips is the front-runner (because he is out of options), but I would disagree, mainly because since 2003 (when he was handed the starting 2B job out of camp), he has been on a downward spiral. He has been unable to hit consistently in Buffalo, and still seems to exude that confidence (or cockiness or sense of entitlement) that, to this point, is unfounded. Phillips’ biggest cheerleader in the organization, Buddy Bell, is in Kansas City, which doesn’t exactly help his cause.

Vazquez is the likely choice out of camp with Merloni a serious contender for this spot. The Indians know what Merloni brings – versatility, leadership, grittiness – and may give the nod to the high character guy. Of course, if Merloni is not yet ready to play (he only played in 5 games in LA last year), Vazquez can fill the role of a 2B/SS. Merloni, though, is the more interesting player, as he brings the ability to play 1B/2B/3B/OF and even SS (he did play 23 games at SS in 2003) while giving the Tribe a more experienced right-handed bat off of the bench.

So, when all is said and done, the guess here is that Merloni (if healthy) gets the nod. If he’s not fully recovered, Vazquez will come North, while Merloni goes to Buffalo to get healthy. Sadly, I think that this Spring will be the final chapter of the Brandon Phillips Experience in Cleveland, as he’ll probably be traded for some bullpen depth at the end of camp. Both entities probably will benefit from the separation.

Headed back to the Farm
Michael Aubrey
Ryan Garko
Andy Marte
Jose Flores
Jake Gautreau
Joe Inglett
With the news that Aubrey’s back problems (and ongoing injury issues) have continued, the only players who figure seriously into the Indians’ future who will see time this Spring are Garko and Marte.

Garko and Marte should both start the season at Bufffalo, but as I’ve said before, I would expect one of the two to be a regular in Cleveland by June. I don’t know which one, but I expect both to start fast out of the gate in Buffalo; if either Boone or Broussard falters or is injured, Garko or Marte should inject some pop into the bottom of the lineup.

By the way, if you haven’t seen a picture of Garko in Winter Haven, he’s a big guy wearing #25. Only difference from that “other” #25 1B: Garko’s a righty. It did cause a double-take though.

Flores, Gautreau, and Inglett are all minor leaguers who will probably stay in extended Spring Training before heading back to Buffalo or Akron, where they will fill their infield/utility roles.I

On the Team

Casey Blake
Jason Michaels
Grady Sizemore
These look to be set in stone, barring a youngster making a HUGE impression in camp, or an injury. The hope is that Blake will rebound after a tough 2005, that Michaels can fill the shoes of Coco’s (I feel that I will be able to), and that Grady continues to progress as most feel that he will, on his way to stardom.

Candidates for 4th OF position
Ben Francisco
Todd Hollandsworth
This, along with the final bullpen spot and the utility IF spot, is one of the few question marks in camp. Hollandsworth is the clear front-runner, as he represents a veteran LH bat off of the bench. Although he usually doesn’t play CF, Michaels is able to take over in CF when Grady needs a day off (which could be a frightening day - with an outfield of Hollandsworth, Michaels, and Blake).
Hollandsworth’s main competition will come from Francisco, who mainly played in Akron last year, but excelled this winter and could ride the momentum of a strong winter into a strong Spring.
Francisco is more of a true 4th outfielder, capable of playing all 3 positions, while getting on base and bringing some speed off of the bench. He probably ultimately projects as a 4th outfielder in the Majors, but his power this winter certainly did raise his stock in the organization.
Does anyone else remember some other guy who projected as a 4th outfielder who kept raising his stock? What was his name?
Now, by no means am I comparing Coco to Francisco, as Coco is only currently 2 years older with much more experience, but where most people thought Coco would top out at in the Majors is what is thought of Francisco.

Headed back to the Farm
Jason Dubois
Franklin Gutierrez
Brad Snyder
Trevor Crowe
Todd Donovan
Ryan Mulhern
Gutierrez and Snyder are the big names here, but both will start in Buffalo to get some more seasoning. There’s a chance that one of these players could come out of the gate quickly and force the Indians’ hand, but both players are still young and both strike out A LOT.
Dubois is still a man without a true position as he’s ideally a DH (he’s a butcher in the outfield), but is blocked by Le Pronque. Dubois has taken over the Ryan Ludwick role in the organization as the AAAA outfielder who will probably be little more than filler at the big league level.
Trevor Crowe and Ryan Mulhern are two lower level prospects to watch. Crowe is last year’s 1st round pick, who should (hopefully) move through the organization this year. Mulhern raked his way through the minors last year and could see some time in Buffalo this year if he’s needed.

There will be other names in camp, but I kept the analysis to players on the 40-man roster and non-roster invitees as it's unlikely that a player in the organization not on the 40-man will make too much of an impact.

With all of the talk of prospects, here are some links on top Indians’ prospects entering the 2006 season.

Minor league guru John Sickels breaks down his list.

Let’s Go Tribe has 2 lists, one from each primary contributor, which are both excellent.

Baseball America lists the top 10 and a “Best in the Organization” List.

Another good link is Sean McAdam’s breakdown of the Indians’ collapse and Spring Training tone on ESPN.com.

Off to Milwaukee this weekend, so no Lazy Sunday.
I’ll try to pick it up with the posts now that Spring Training is in full gear and the articles and photos have gotten me all excited again.

Heard a Hamilton call of the end of a game in the car yesterday and I got chills.
38 days until Opening Day.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Lazy Sunday...

The Indians are planning to put in a Hall of Fame in the old Davey Tree Park in center.
My idea to make it an extension of the Batter’s Eye Bar called The Reservation that had a machine that sent up smoke signals was probably unrealistic because the center field backdrop needs to be devoid of white or movement (so batters can pick up the ball).
This Hall of Fame is a great idea and is a great first step towards acknowledging some of the great players who have worn Tribe uniforms through the years.

Some old Indians (Karsay, Graves, and Diaz) are trying to make the team out of camp, armed only with minor league contracts and some optimism.
This piece, written by Burt Graeff, has been one of many good articles written by Graeff while Hoynes is in Torino, covering something (what is it again?).
Why isn’t Graeff given more latitude to write about the Indians? His analysis is always even-handed and insightful, yet the PD insists on letting the beat writer of a particular sport also be the analyst.
I would think that a third party writer, who doesn’t necessarily travel with the team or go into the clubhouse every day, would provide a great perspective on the team, without getting personally involved with the players or coaching staff. Whether Graeff would be that guy or not, it’s just a thought.

Terry Pluto addresses some of the principals in the Tribe’s bullpen.

ESPN’s first Power Rankings are out for 2006, with the Indians showing up in 4th, behind the White Sox, Oakland, and the Yankees. The White Sox, being World Champs, and the Yankees, with their payroll, are obvious. But the A’s, with their questionable acquisitions of the perpetually injured Big Hurt, Loaiza, and the combustible Milton Bradley doesn’t make sense to me.
It’s also funny to see the Mets (#5) and the Blue Jays (#8), who both spent the mother load this offseason in Free Agency, behind the “mid-market” Indians and their “cheap” ownership.

Sheldon Ocker’s piece on Ryan Garko discusses his conversion from C to 1B and has a good story about Jason Stanford’s engagement (what he fails to mention is that Stanford’s fiancĂ© is a Cavaliers Girl…nice work, Stanny).

Ken Rosenthal’s piece on C.C., the WBC, and Carl Willis is probably more insightful than most articles I’ve read on C.C.’s mechanics.

Finally, Mark Schwab of WTAM has started to post a Spring Training Blog from Winter Haven which is pretty insightful, and full of cool pictures to get you ready for Spring Training.
I’ll link the page on the sidebar as long as new posts keep going up.

Parked in our seats, movie trivia's the illest.
What Friends alum starred in films with Bruce Willis?
We answered so fast it was scary.
Everyone stared in awe when we screamed Matthew Perry!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

They Made It, Dammit, They Made It

While I have yet to actually see footage of pitchers and catchers in camp (catching up on TiVo’d episodes of 24 and Lost, as well as watching The Goonies 8 times since AMC put it into heavy rotation, have taken up some time), all reports indicate that there are 23 pitchers and 7 catchers who have reported to Winter Haven.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at those two subsets of players, examining what players are in camp and, without getting into too much detail, where they are expected to be when the big-league club breaks camp:

C.C. Sabathia
Paul Byrd
Cliff Lee
Jake Westbrook
Jason Johnson
Barring any injuries, these 5 pitchers are essentially set in stone, and will probably pitch in the order in which they are listed this season. Without getting into who the #2 starter is vs. the #3 starter (which are really just arbitrary classifications), it’s assumed that the rotation will set up to separate the LH and RH and the styles of pitchers (power pitchers vs. sinkerballers).

As an aside, C.C. was named one of the starters for the U.S. Team in the WBC. Regardless of your feelings about the WBC, that’s a pretty big deal for C.C., who joins Roger Clemens, Jake Peavy, and Dontrelle Willis as the only starters on the roster. I know that a lot of players declined invitations (notably Tim Hudson), but that means that C.C. was selected over the likes of Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Ben Sheets, Mark Buerhle, Jon Garland, Kevin Millwood, Chris Carpenter, and Roy Halladay.
Do you think that the rest of the league thinks that C.C. is a bona fide ace yet?

Bob Wickman
Guillermo Mota
Rafael Betancourt
Fernando Cabrera
Scott Sauerbeck
Matt Miller
From back to front, these are the arms that, by all accounts, have spots in the pen. Again, barring injuries, this should constitute the 6-9 inning crew.

The final spot in the bullpen will be up for competition, with these players thought to be in the mix:
Final Bullpen Spot Candidates
Andrew Brown
Jason Davis
Jason Stanford
Kazuhito Tadano
Steve Karsay
Tony Sipp
Danny Graves
Ben Howard

The final 4 (Karsay, Sipp, Graves, and Howard) are not on the 40-man roster, meaning that someone would have to be removed from the 40 man for any of those players to make the team.
The question facing the Indians will essentially come down to what they want in this final bullpen arm:
If they want a long man, who can also serve as a spot starter, Davis, Stanford, and Tadano (probably in that order) would be the main candidates.
If they want another lefty to complement Sauerbeck (and replace Rhodes as the 2nd lefty in the pen), Stanford and Sipp are the lefty options.
If they want a young power arm that can evolve into a more important role, the way that Cabrera has, Davis and Brown would be the guys.
If they’re looking for experienced arms, Karsay or Graves (or even long-shot Howard) would be the obvious candidates.

You get the idea. The Indians’ brass will probably enter Spring Training with a good idea of what they’re looking for out of the last bullpen spot. They will then whittle the list down to 2 or 3 and let those guys go after it.

My thinking would be that they’ll be looking for a long man or someone who can develop into a top flight reliever, thus Davis would be the front-runner with Stanford and Brown being in the mix. Karsay and Graves would have to really impress to break camp with the Tribe while Tadano and Sipp will probably need more seasoning in the minors before making a serious push to stay in Cleveland.
Young Pitchers Getting a Taste
Fausto Carmona
Jake Dittler
Jeremy Guthrie
Edward Mujica
Rafael Perez
Brian Slocum
Jeremy Sowers
This group is going to Winter Haven knowing that they have little chance to make the 25 man roster, but will benefit from the big-league coaching at camp.
The starters (Carmona, Dittler, Guthrie, and Sowers) will all see some action before being sent to Buffalo to comprise their rotation (which should be pretty impressive). There is an off-chance that one of the starters (Carmona or Sowers) completely blows away the Indians, like C.C. memorably did in 2001, and breaks camp with the big boys; but that is an unlikely scenario.
The relievers (Mujica, Perez, and Slocum) will also get some innings (and likely stay in extended Spring Training) until they are sent to Buffalo and Akron. Mujica and Slocum are two interesting names to watch as Mujica is a big 21 year old who has moved up the ladder quickly, while Slocum is a 24-year old converted starter who made his first foray into the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League, where he held his own.

Victor Martinez
Kelly Shoppach
Armando Camacaro
Einar Diaz
Javi Herrera
Tim Laker
Victor and Shoppach are the only two catchers (I’m counting Ryan Garko as a 1B/DH for all intents and purposes) on the 40 man roster, so it’s likely that those will be the catchers on the 25 man roster come April. Not much needs to be said about Victor (as we all know what we’re getting), but Shoppach is an interesting player.
Acquired in the Coco deal, Shoppach was blocked by Jason Varitek and the Red Sox insistence on a veteran backup in Boston (by the way, do you think that Josh Bard will be on the Sawx Opening Day roster? Me neither). Now in Cleveland, Shoppach will get every chance to be the backup C out of Spring Training. Hopefully his defense (he gunned down 44% of baserunners in AAA last year) and the pop in his bat (he had 26 HR in Pawtucket) will allow Victor to take some days off, or play some games at 1B.
The rest would do Vic some good, as he played a staggering 147 games (way too much for a Catcher) last year and didn’t get any breaks late in the season, after Wedge lost all confidence in Bard’s ability to hit.

Einar Diaz and Tim Laker are two old Tribesman who are looking to make the team out of Spring Training, but Einar will probably end up in Buffalo (unless someone else gives him a ML contract), while Laker has acknowledged that his career is on its last legs and he will probably retire (and possibly find a place in the Indians’ organization).

Camacaro and Herrera are two farmhands who will be in Winter Haven to ease the burden of catching too many innings in Spring Training. Camacaro is an older (26) catcher who spent most of last year in Akron, though not as the starter. Herrera had that distinction, and is more of a prospect – being a 23 year old who played in the Arizona Fall League. He didn’t have very good numbers in Akron and is now essentially blocked by Martinez, and now Shoppach, from making too much of an impact on the big-league squad any time soon.

The catching position, like the 3B position, prior to the Coco deal was lacking in top-level prospects. The acquisition of Shoppach (like Marte) solves that problem by giving the Tribe another top-flight prospect at a position of need.

Not much competition is expected out of the Catcher position in Winter Haven, as The Stick and Shoppach should be the ones making the trip to the North Coast come April.

Today is the first workout for the players listed above (along with anyone else who reported early), while position players are scheduled to report on Tuesday.

We’ll take a look at the position players in camp and any issues at that time.

If you’re in Cleveland, enjoy the sub-zero wind chill temperatures and dream of palm trees and Spring Training.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Soundtrack of Life

With very little happening until Thursday, when pitchers and catchers report (and, really, not much happens even then), it’s time for one last bit of frivolity before the hearty, in-depth analyses. Thus, I present the Soundtrack of Life.

The Soundtrack of Life is a game, developed by some friends while in college, that essentially asks the question: What would your theme music be?

Starbucks made a clever commercial not too long ago under this same premise, as a twenty something worker went through his morning routine, while a variation of Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll Part II” was being sung by anyone and everyone around him.

The way that the game went was to pick a song that would accompany you as you entered a bar/party and would set the tone for your evening. Some popular choices included the intro to House of Pain’s “Jump Around”, Tupac’s “I Get Around”, and Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls” (remember that these are college students on the prowl), which would conceivably set the environment. Interestingly, bw-3 (before it changed its name) at the University of Dayton had “Fat-Bottomed Girls” on the jukebox, so the biggest guy among us would feed $20 into the machine, play it over and over, and look menacingly at anyone who complained. Ah, the good old days.

But the game was always fun for mindless Sunday morning discussions and was reinforced by some famous Soundtrack of Life moments in cinema; most notably Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey’s character) entering the Emporium in Dazed & Confused in a slo-mo saunter while Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” provided the backdrop.

To put the idea into Cleveland terms, think of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” playing every Friday at 5PM on WNCX, hyping up untold Clevelanders for the weekend and setting the tone for a Friday night.

This concept, or game, was always also fun to play at Jacobs Field, as players came out to what could be called their Soundtrack, or theme music. In years past, they have ranged from the boring (almost all of them) to the clever (Thome coming out to the chorus from Black Oak Arkansas’ “Jim Dandy” - Jim Dandy to the rescue) to the incredible (no matter what you thought of John Rocker personally or as a pitcher, when he came out to the extended version of The Scorpions “Rock You Like a Hurricane”, there was no way to not get excited). We would listen to a players' intro music and pick a song that would be more fitting for them.

So, I’ve decided to make some suggestions for the 2006 Tribe for songs that they can be introduced to.
Without further ado:
2006 Song Suggestions
Grady Sizemore – Voodoo Child – Jimi Hendrix
The Seattle native memorably came out to the Doors’ “Back Door Man” last year, leaving a lot of things up to the imagination; but this year we’ll go with the guitar intro to this Hendrix classic. Some songs that were rejected include “Just a Gigilo” by David Lee Roth (suggested by serial poster Cy Slapnicka) and the “Superman Theme” by John Williams, playing off of the SuperSizemore persona. The “Superman Theme” just seemed a little too cocky.
Jason Michaels – I Want Action – Poison
Honoring his brother Bret Michaels’ band (they’re not really brothers), this 80’s anthem should fit in well with his reputation as a hard guy, and sometimes-bad boy.
Jhonny Peralta – Tonight Show Theme
Starting with the Ed McMahon “Here’s Johnny” introduction, the song is just classic for the low-key Peralta to make an intro and become a fan favorite as fans introduce him right along with Ed.
Travis Hafner – Stone Cold ’s entrance music
The way that the WWE fan (he sat front row at a recent show at The Q) swaggers to the plate, the glass-breaking and intimidating music that accompanied Austin’s way to the ring would serve nicely into making nice-guy Pronk a little more intimidating.
Victor Martinez – Let’s Go Crazy – Prince
I had a lot of trouble with this one (mainly because my exposure to Latin music consists of Gloria Estafan and Gerardo), but an upbeat song to accompany an upbeat, happy-go-lucky guy seemed natural.
Ronnie Belliard – Hells Bells – AC/DC
The tolling of the bells that begin this classic, then the guitar riff is just simple enough that it would serve as a nice intro. The connection is Belliard…Bells…get it?
Aaron Boone – Beverly Hills – Weezer
In honor of his Playmate wife, and the fact that he is a native of SoCal (and with a shout out to serial poster T-Bone, a diehard Weezer fan), Boonie can come out to the refrain of this recent hit.
Ben Broussard – Better Man – Pearl Jam
Yes, this is a bit of a dig on Benny, who is a big PJ fan. In lieu of playing his own CD, he can come out to the line, Can’t find a Better Man, which Shapiro may have sung during a recent karaoke performance, referring to his 1B problem.
Kasey Blake – Back in Black – AC/DC
Eschewing the advice of Cy Slapnicka (who suggested some Tom Petty songs, “Even the Losers”, “Runnin’ Down a Dream”, and “Free Fallin’”), I’m going to stay positive with Kasey. We’ll call “the black” hitting .250, so hopefully he can get back in the black this year, after hitting .241 in 2005. Next up for Kasey (if he goes above .250) is to earn back the C in his name by not whiffing so much. The guitar intro to “Back in Black” isn’t bad either.
C.C. – Numb/Encore - Jay-Z & Linkin Park
The Crooked Cap, who is a big Jay-Z guy, could come out to this tremendous song. If you saw the Grammy performance of this song, it doesn’t do it the justice of the track on the CD.
By the way, when are Indian fans going to figure out that when C.C. pitches someone should be putting C’s up for all of his strikeouts instead of K’s? Where are all of the clever fans in this town?
Cliff Lee – Ramble On – Led Zeppelin
This is a weak one, as it’s basically on here because Lee is a big Led Zeppelin fan and “Stairway to Heaven” doesn’t exactly fit the bill.
Jake – Once Bitten, Twice Shy – Great White
Playing off of the Jake the Snake persona, this 80’s anthem plays nicely.
On another aside, when will we see the emergence of The Snake Pit whenever Westbrook pitches? It’s such a natural. Why am I the only one who thinks of these things?
Paul Byrd – Freebird – Lynard Skynard
This is an obvious play on his name, since I don’t know very much about him. I thought about the theme music to Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, while they played a clip of the movie on the Jumbo Tron. Realizing, though, that this is Cleveland, I thought that the anthem of Southern Rock would play a little better.
Rafael Betancourt – Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
This goes back to an interview with Eric Wedge that I heard on the radio a few years back, when Wedge kept praising “Rocky” and how he really came through, and so on. As I sat there wondering who Rocky was, Hamilton came back on to say that Betancourt had done a “whale of a job”. Only then did I realize that Wedge was saying Raffy. But, for me the nickname stuck.
Fernando Cabrera – Enter Sandman – Metallica
Not because he looks like the Sandman from Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out (though he kind of does), but more because it’s intimidating the way the Eric Gagne coming out to “Welcome to the Jungle” is intimidating. I’d like to see many years of Cabrera swaggering out of the pen, with Metallica blasting in the background – signaling to the opposing team that the game has just been shortened from 9 to 8 innings.
Bob Wickman – Takin’ Care of Business – BTO
There isn’t that much to be said about this one, which is pretty self-explanatory. He grabs his lunch pail and his hard-hat and gets the job done. May not be pretty, but it’s done.

Also, while we’re at it, I would change the song played after a Tribe victory to the song they play during the final game in Teen Wolf, “Win in the End”; while Tom Petty’s “Even the Losers” can play after a loss, mocking the opposing team while they’re exchanging handshakes on our home field.

And there we have it, my suggestions for introduction music for the Indians’ Soundtrack of Life 2006.

If there’s anyone I missed, or anyone I whiffed on, let me know.

2 days until pitchers and catchers report. Feels like December 23rd.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Coo Coo for the topic of Coco

Jim Banks, of MLB.com, who gave us his superb analytical breakdown of the Coco trade, is at it again.
Banks, apparently overwhelmed by the Anti-Martes (copyright pending on that one), addresses the concerns of irate Tribe fans who flooded his e-mail box, either viewing Coco Crisp as the 2nd coming, or believing that the Tribe took a HUGE step back by making this move.

Again, an excellent analysis by Banks, which should appeal to most Indians fans, but I’ve learned that people will believe what they want to believe, regardless of arguments or opposing points of views. Those who don’t like the Coco deal now, won’t in May or August and probably won’t until the Indians’ winning forces them to take make a “hindsight is 20/20” proclamation, as they eventually did about the Colon deal.

One last thought on Coco and the whole deal: Fans were upset at the Indians for trading a popular player, a young player many felt was on the rise, and a hardworking player. All of these issues are certainly justified.

However, Coco is a CF and a leadoff hitter (Boston hopes) at his core and that spot is already taken in Cleveland by Sizemore for a long time. When it boils down to it, one of those players would be perpetually miscast as a corner outfielder and would eventually be moved to a team that could best utilize their skills.

Sizemore, with his youth and potential (which we got a peek of last year), is clearly the better player, making Coco ultimately expendable.

Did the move come earlier than most thought? Yes, most thought that the Tribe would wait until one of their OF prospects (Snyder or Gutierrez, or even Francisco), was undeniably ready to contribute at the Jake. But the Indians found themselves in an enviable situation, as the Red Sox were desperate for a CF after Johnny Damon left, and were willing to part with a bona-fide top prospect, probably ready for the Major Leagues (what every team tries to find when making a trade), who plays a position that needed some strengthening in the organization.

But that’s the analytical approach to it; many people are more upset about this deal at the emotional level. They feel that the Indians asked the fans, after the rebuilding plan went into effect, to accept and embrace these young players. When the fans finally did, they feel that the Front Office reneged on their part of the agreement, by moving one of those increasingly popular players.

This is understandable, and while it certainly doesn’t resonate like the shock of the Carlos Baerga deal (if you’ll remember, local TV stations went around town to measure the shock and disappointment of the fans, some of whom claimed they would stop following the Tribe), many people are having the same feelings.

First things first, don’t cry for Coco. According to Terry Pluto in a recent interview, Coco was ecstatic about the rumors that he would be heading to Boston. And why wouldn’t he? Coco will be playing in a larger market, in front of the rabid Red Sox Nation, where he can increase his national profile and develop into a nice complementary player for the BoSox (ideally for Boston), who will benefit from the hype machine that is the Boston media, the way that players like Kevin Millar and, really, Johnny Damon have in the past few years. One can only imagine Gammons’ glee as he (inaccurately and bombastically) compares Crisp to a young Lou Brock or Ricky Henderson.

Coco understands that this is a business and that his talents will be utilized more fully in CF in Fenway, just as Shapiro understands that. Coco, despite his his cursory remarks that he’ll miss Cleveland, is excited about the opportunity in Boston, and rightfully so.

Coco is a nice player who seems to be a solid teammate and clubhouse presence; and Cleveland should wish him the best of luck. But the bottom line that both parties are more than likely better off after this deal remains.

A local talk-show host is fond of saying that fans should cheer for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back. While it’s important for a fan base to get to know players and get excited about their accomplishments, baseball is, and always will be, a business.

Players will move in and out of uniforms, sometimes leaving a feeling of nostalgia (or what-ifs), like Coco probably will; other times leaving a bad taste in one’s mouth (the way the Thome and Manny, after signing for bigger money elsewhere, did). The one constant is that crazy Chief Wahoo and the electricity of the Jake in October.

The days of players playing in one place their whole careers is long gone, as the glorious memories of success are often tainted by the ensuing years and their inevitable dramas. If you told me in 1994 that, a mere 12 years later, Thome and Manny would be vilified in Cleveland as greedy, that Belle would become Public Enemy #1 (remember this is 1994), and that Lofton, Vizquel, Alomar, and Baerga all would leave Cleveland somewhat unceremoniously, I would’ve thought that you were crazy. But that’s the reality of the situation.

Recently, I was doing some cleaning and ran across an Upper Deck set of the 1994 Cleveland Indians (probably given to me as a gift from someone who thought I was still 8), and thought that I’d pick a player’s card to be a bookmark. After going through the whole team, guess which card became the bookmark? Pasta Pauly Sorrento!?! I’m not sure why, maybe the nostalgia that Sorrento never had that bad break-up with the Indians, or maybe because I still remember the Jacobs Field JumboTron that showed the plate of pasta and his name. The point is that time changes things, perceptions and otherwise.

Maybe in 2018, I’ll look back fondly on Coco Crisp’s time with the Tribe. Maybe he’ll be the one who lacked that bad-break up with the Indians. But right now, in 2006, I wish Coco the best in Boston and look forward to a long, sustained run at multiple World Series in Cleveland.

Some other tidbits:
Count ESPN’s Gary Gilette among national analysts who feel that Aaron Boone’s 2005 was not an aberration, but rather an indication of his expected level of performance. Gilette, like many others, feel that Marte will take over for Boone at 3B by June.

Kyle Denney has joined Billy Traber on the Washington Nationals, by signing a minor league contract. Both will try to make the big-league club out of Spring Training.

Brian Tallett was Designated for Assignment by the Toronto Blue Jays, a move made necessary when the Jays signed Bengie Molina. For those keeping score, the Tribe traded Tallett was traded to Toronto a mere 3 weeks ago for minor-league pitcher Bubbie Buzachero. Count this as another brilliant move, full of foresight, by Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi in an off-season that looked more like a fantasy baseball draft than the construction of a team in Toronto.

Does anyone still think that we gave up too early on any of these three?

5 days until pitchers and catchers report.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Almost There

Spring Training is drawing very near, so to whet the appetite for conjecture, what-ifs, and projections, we'll turn to Anthony Castrovince's evaluation of the outfield position on the official site, and specifically Shapiro's comments on Gutierrez and Snyder:

The Indians hope current outfield prospects Franklin Gutierrez and Brad Snyder have similarly smooth transitions to the big leagues, should the situation arise
this season. Both will begin the year at Triple-A Buffalo.
"They will both be guys that you'll see a lot of in Spring Training," Shapiro said. "That's one of the things we want to accomplish this spring. Guys who fit into our plan, we want to get a good look at. Our Triple-A club is largely going to be a prospect club. Two of those prospects are Franklin and Brad."

Gutierrez sharpened his game in the Venezuelan Winter League, batting .341 with four home runs and 31 RBIs for the Caracas club during the regular season.
"Franklin's had an unbelievable winter," Shapiro said. "He's cut down on his strikeouts. He's got to stay healthy and develop a two-strike approach. The guy's an exciting young player, but there's still some question as to what he'd be up here."
The same question exists for Snyder. Although the Bellevue, Ohio, native batted a combined .279 with 31 doubles, 22 home runs and 82 RBIs between Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron last season, he still has to prove himself defensively and at Triple-A. "He's definitely played the game the way we want it played," Shapiro said of Snyder. "He has the power, size and athleticism combo to be a corner outfielder at the Major League level. His approach fits with our approach, and he's a local kid. It's a pretty good match. But he's still got to go to the next level, which he really hasn't been to yet."

Personally, I'm of the belief that one of these two players will be a regular by August. Additionally, I think that either Garko or Marte will be getting regular AB's by that time as well. Whether that's a condemnation of Blake, Michaels, Boone, and Broussard or a testament to the talent that will be available in Buffalo, I'm not sure.
I just have the feeling that two of these players will force themselves into the situation, probably around the time an Indian hits the DL.

Things work themselves out as the season progresses.
Baseball's funny like that.

Some dates to remember:
February 16 - Pitchers & Catchers report
February 18 - First Workout
February 21 - Position Players report
February 23 - First Full Workout

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Lazy Sunday...

...wake up in the late afternoon
call Parnell just to see how he's doing
what up pas!
yo sandburg, whats cracking?
you thinking what i'm thinking?
then it's happening!

Sorry, a little around the horn on Super Bowl Sunday:
Terry Pluto addresses John Schueholz's (Atlanta's GM) impression of Andy Marte.

Ken Rosenthal, in his MLB Roundup, hits on the Indians desire to add another OF this season:

The Indians still would like to add a corner outfielder between now and the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Right-hander Jake Westbrook probably would have been too high a price for Reds outfielder Austin Kearns. Westbrook, 28, has worked more than 210 innings each of the past two seasons and is signed for $10 million over the next two. Kearns, 25, has yet to put together a full season of production ...

Dayn Perry of Fox Sports analyzes the Crisp deal.

Sheldon Ocker of the ABJ hits on the fans' perception of the Crisp deal, on the Dolan's (alleged) cheapness, and voices the concerns of many of the fans, who feel that this is a step back.

I can't tell if Ocker is just trying to state the case against the trade or if he is truly against it.

The fact is that time will tell on the trade, with most national columnists (and experts) saying that the trade does not compromise the 2006 season, while setting the Tribe up for MULTIPLE years of contention.

Finally, The Official Site has a piece on the makeup of the 2006 bullpen. It basically says that the arms that WILL be in the bullpen:

The final spot will be open for one of the following arms: Graves, Karsay, Jason Davis, Andrew Brown, or (surprise, surprise) LHP Tony Sipp.

Personally, I think it will go to Davis (who can serve as the spot starter) while Graves and Karsay work out kinks in the Spring and in Buffalo. Brown and Sipp will get consistent work in Buffalo and be the first names called on to make the trip West on I-90.

Oh, and one more thing - Mr. Pibb and Red Vines = Crazy Delicious.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

One More Bite of Coco Crisp

With a nod to the Tribe Report, check out this article on MLB.com, lending some national perspective on the Coco deal.

Very strong stuff from an unbiased source with little, or no, emotional attachment to the Tribe.

If that hasn't gotten you fully over the Coco deal, the always steady Terry Pluto weighs in.

Now whether you are chugging, bonging, keg-standing, shooting, or hooking it up to a vein, Shapiro's Kool-Aid should be into your bloodstream by now.

By the way, the Tribe equipment truck leaves for Winterhaven on Friday.