Opening Day/Late Late Night Thoughts

Who is in charge around here?

Who the hell decided it was a good idea to have an opening day gameCalvin and Hobbes start at 10:00 PM.  The boy can’t stay up to see the first pitch and I will be lucky to make it till the 9th inning.  Probably the same guy who decided it was a good idea to bring the San Diego Padres to Cleveland on April 7th – 10th.  You just know it’s going to rain/snow one of those days, and they will try for 8 hours to get the game in because the Padres will not want to come back to Cleveland.

Lets review my 25 man roster predictions.  Elliot Johnson grabbed one of the extra spots on the bench as expected.  He can play any position except catcher and is fairly good at defending each position I hear.  So the Indians are carrying two utility infielders who also can play the outfield.  The big surprise was Jeff Francour was released and Nyjer Morgan made the team in the outfield.  I thought the one position the Tribe could use help in was DH/Outfield.  Jeff Francour who has had success as a power hitter and has a cannon for an arm looked perfect for the part.  I think the deciding factor may have been Michael Bourn starting the season on the DL with hamstring problems.  I was already worried about Bourn and it looks as though he may be the main reason the one free agent signing I really liked this winter is not on the team.  Strike one Bourn!  On the pitching side the Tribe added an extra arm in the bullpen which is not surprising.  Acta loves extra bullpen arms.  Vetern Scott Atchison who had played for Francona in Boston made the team.  Francona’s last day in Boston he told Atchison he was probably not going to be back but if he ever managed again he would gladly have Atchison on his team.  Well welcome to Cleveland Scott.  That’s why Francona gets the most out of his players.  The other spot I predicted would go to Josh Tomlin.  The Indians sent him back to Columbus which isn’t a big surprise.  Blake Wood took one of the other slots available in the bullpen.  He had a great spring and has a 95mph plus fastball.  The Tribe wanted to keep Tomlin stretched out as a starter and not flipping between starting and the bullpen.  I see the logic and last year every starter was on the DL at least once. So Tomlin will be called back to Cleveland at some point, that is certain.

Money Money Money…….Money

The Tribe announced that they were suspending contract negotiations with Justin Masterson.  A few weeks earlier it was reported that Masterson would be willing to negotiate a shorter contract to stay with the Tribe.  Most pitchers want longer contracts and that is what keeps most teams from bidding on them.  Masterson was looking for a 3 year contract at 17 million per year I hear.  Now this should be a contract the Indians jump on, but they didn’t.  Look if your going to offer Ubaldo Jimenez a 14.1 million per year qualifying offer, you damn well better be willing to give Masterson 17 million for 3 years. There was a rumor that the front office told Masterson that they wouldn’t have the money to sign him unless they made the World Series.  Later in the week when asked about the failed negotiations Masterson said no big deal ” we just have to win the World Series.”  I have met Masterson before and seen him in a few interviews.  He is the most laid back individual with a great sense of humor.  He leads by example and I believe is a leader in the club house.  When Jack Hannahan was on the team and his wife was giving birth to their first child, Masterson got the players to rent a private jet so that Hannahan could be there to witness the birth of their daughter.  If there was one player I want on Cleveland’s roster no matter what it would be Masterson.  Not to mention that 17 million per year is pretty cheap for a top of the rotation starter.  In fact 17 million a year probably buys you a #3 or #4 starter who makes you swear like a sailor.  I don’t know what to say other than “Go win the World Series Cleveland,” or man up Dolans.

The Tribe signed Brazilian Yan Gomes to a six year 23 million dollar contract that could keep him in Cleveland through 2021.  I think that tells you what the Indians think of Gomes plus the fact the Tribe is bound and determined to get Santana to 3rd base.  It is a very team friendly contract with not a lot of risk for the Tribe.  Lets all go get a Brazilian waxing to celebrate.

Waxing

Brazilian Anyone?

 

Speaking of Brazilian waxing, check out this story about the Jason Giambi’s Golden Thong.  A must read!

Golden Thong

Detroit signed Miguel Cabrera to an absurd contract this week.  The big question is why.  He was going to be in Detroit for 2 more years no matter what.  They could have waited till the end of this year and offered him the same contract and he would not have hesitated to sign it.  Miguel Cabrera does not project the image of being in shape.  In fact he lHomer Simpsonooks like Homer Simpson at age 31 and this contract will pay him until he is 41.  Someone in Detroit better have Jenny Craig on speed dial.  He is so slow now on the base paths, wait until 2024 when they use a sun dial to time him from 1st to 2nd.  Cabrera has had bouts with alcoholism in years past also.  I think the bigger problem is the team chemistry in Detroit.  The Tigers a week earlier broke off contract negotiations with Max Scherzer, last years CY Young winner.  I don’t think Detroit is as invincible as some would like you to think.  The have a few holes on the team in left field and now at short stop with the injury to Jose Iglesias.  The moved pitchers from their pen to the starting rotation and the bullpen was their biggest weakness last year.  They gave money to a player signed for two more years after stopping negotiations with Scherzer who will be gone after this year.  I don’t think some people are going to be happy in Detroit.

Predictions:  I am going out and saying the Tribe wins 89 games and makes the playoffs.  They are going to play better against Detroit this year.  I don’t know why other than Francona (Great Manager), Kipnis (always seems to get done what needs to be done), and team chemistry ( I loved hearing that Swisher went after Kenny Lofton).  No matter what they should be competitive making it a fun summer.

I’m going out tomorrow and buying a Thong just in case.

Thong

THE STATE OF THE RESERVATION

Who needs a Groundhog!

Who needs a Groundhog!

For the first time in awhile I saw the top of my Cleveland Indians yard gnome.  He has been buried in snow and sitting in sub zero weather for the last few months.  I had to smile.  I guess that is a sign spring is near.  A sure sign is the Cleveland Indians 1st spring training game.  You can’t take a lot out of the first spring game, but it is stimulating to see warm weather and baseball.  It means the boys of summer are close to returning to Cleveland and warm weather can’t be far behind.

I haven’t posted since those heartbreaking loses last September to the Tigers.  The Tribe had an incredible last 2 weeks to make the post season and grab the north coast’s attention.   Then the Tribe entered the off season and the only real headlines were who had left the team.  Still hopes are high for another run to the postseason.

Let’s look at where we sit at the beginning of spring training in:state of the union

THE STATE OF THE RESERVATION:

As I already mentioned very little seemed to be done in the off season other than let two starting pitchers go and the 8th inning set up guy (Kazmir, Ubaldo, & Smith); releasing our closer (Perez); and trading our starting right fielder (Stubbs).  All to be replaced with players most fans would hardly know.  Yea last year had a little more excitement due to the free agent signings of Nick Swisher, and Michael Bourne.  But in all honesty it was the ho-hum signings/trades from last year that made the biggest contributions (Yan Gomes, Ryan Rayburn, Scott Kazmir, and Mike Aviles).  With both the Browns and the Cavs imploding from the front offices out, I would liked to have seen the Indians be more active this winter.  It was a great chance to excite and solidify the fan base.   A major signing was not in the plans this year, but I still think some of the minor signing could end up being significant.

Pitching:

Last year I said that Scott Kazmir was my pick for the Cy Young award.  He ended up with highest ERA of all the starters but it was a respectable 4.04.  Ubaldo Jimenez was the player who pitched like a Cy Young award winner the second half of the season.  Ubaldo compiled a 6 – 5 record in the second half of the season with a 1.82 ERA.  Max Scherzer who won the Cy Young last year had an 8 – 2 record with a 2.44 ERA in that same time frame.  Ubaldo only walked 25 in those 13 second half starts while striking out 100.  The stats show that he began to control his pitches and thus be in charge of the game.  No matter how well he pitched I never felt comfortable.  I was so relieved to know that Danny Salazar (a ROOKIE) was pitching the playoff game other than Ubaldo who had been pitching like a Cy Young candidate.  The Tribe reportedly never talked to Jimenez about resigning, which I believe speaks loudly about what the Indians think of Ubaldo.  Jimenez is now in Baltimore.  He may have figured out his problems last year and continue to pitch like a #1 starter.  My guess is there is going to be a lot more cursing every 5th day in the Chesapeake Bay area, and my finger nails are going to look a lot better.  Kazmir is the one player I thought the Tribe should have been more aggressive about signing.  They did not put a qualifying offer in of 14.1 million, so they did not get a draft pick for losing Kazmir.  He ultimately signed with Oakland for two years at 22 million.  He may have accepted the Tribe’s offer but I think for a one year deal it was a price the Tribe could have lived with.  Kazmir was the one lefty in the rotation, and the options to replace him are all right handed.  The Indians are going into the 2014 season with a completely right handed starting rotation.  Not as deadly as their past all right handed batting lineup, but not the ideal situation.  Overall I believe the starting pitching will be fine.  Masterson has grown and proven to be a top of the rotation pitcher.  Remember when some wanted to put Masterson in the bullpen?  Kluber and McAllister had great seasons and they came up through the minors projected as middle of the rotation talent.  Kluber especially has shown throughout the minors to be able to get strikeouts when needed.  Danny Salazar looked dominate during the last couple of months of the season.  I can’t remember ever seeing a pitcher look that good just coming up from the minors.   Sabathia struggled his first year and Jaret Wright helped get the Indians into the World Series, but he certainly didn’t pitch like Salazar.  (Anyone else think of an Indians pitcher who looked as impressive as Salazar to start their career)  The fifth spot in the rotation is undecided at the start of spring training.  Candidates are Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Shawn Marcum, Aaron Harang, and Josh Tomlin.  My thoughts are Carrasco fills the spot as he is out of options and cannot be returned to the minors.  If he doesn’t fill the spot then one of the other candidates who pitches the best will.  Carrasco seemed like a different pitcher when he returned last year and pitched out of the bullpen.  Hopefully he can settle in, settle down, and become the dominate pitcher the Indians have been talking about.  If not then I believe Josh Tomlin may get the next try or Marcum if he is healthy.  Tomlin is smartest pitcher on the staff and does the most with the least “stuff”.  Tomlin is pitcher that Francona and other managers love.  He will be on the team as a starter or out of the bullpen.  Marcum is coming off an injury, but he has proven in the past to be a very good pitcher.  Again if healthy I expect him to contribute to the Indians staff this year.  Rarely do five pitchers start a season and the same five end the season.  The Indians have starting depth and I am sure that it will be utilized this year.

Bullpen:

Dog Smoking

Chris Perez’s Dog?

The biggest move was releasing Chris Perez.  Good bye.  It was fun while it lasted, but the last few months were terrifying.  September 26th and the Tribe was leading Minnesota 6 – 1 in the 9th inning, enter Perez.  The guy next to me says he can’t watch Perez anymore and goes to the bathroom until he is done pitching.  15 minutes later the inning is still going but the score is 6 – 5 Tribe as Perez is relieved of his duties.  The gentlemen returns and I too could never watch Chris Perez pitch again for the Tribe.  Luckily he will never get another opportunity.  John Axeford should be able to handle the job.  The Cardinals do a good job of identifying talent and he pitched well for them last year.  Hopefully Axeford shouldn’t make me want to join other fans in the bathroom when he pitches.  Other than losing Joe Smith, whose sidearm action brought a different look for hitters, the bullpen should be good.  Smith has quietly been very reliable for the Indians in the 7th and 8th innings.  Cody Allen should slide into that spot and hopefully Vinny Pestano can return to form this year to fill 7th inning.  The Tribe brought in a few different options at the end of last year who performed well, in Marc Rzepczynski (took me only 2 tries to spell that right) and C.C. Lee.  Rzepczynski should continue to stabilize the pen along with Bryan Shaw and either Carrasco or Tomlin.  The final spot will be won in spring training by Josh Outman, Nick Hagadone, Scott Atchison, or C.C. Lee in that order.Overall most people are worried about the Indians pitching staff.  I think they are fine in this area.  I feel much better about the starting pitching than I did last year at this time, and they have options.  The bullpen should not be horrible and there are alternatives in the minors.

Hitting/Fielding:

The consensus is that if the Indians starting pitching is good the Tribe will be good.  Yes you’re only as good as your starting pitching.  I previously discussed my confidence in the Indians pitching staff.  It is the offense that worries me and I have the most concern.  Last year the Indians were 5th in MLB in runs scored.  That came from a team that had off years from a number of players.  Asdrubal Cabrera suffered through his worst year offensively, while the big free agent signings of Bourn and Swisher did not meet their past production.  The Tribe received little production consistently from 3rd base or from the DH Jason Giambi.  Brantley and Kipnis did have a productive year, but nothing they can’t repeat.  The real surprises on offense came from the part time players, Yan Gomes, and Ryan Raburn.  So why am I so concerned about the offense?  I felt that the Indians offense could be sporadic at times last year.   I am not sure they will get much increase on offense from any position (other than Asdrubal), and they might see a drop off from some of the players who had a great season last year.  Finally I don’t think they addressed over the winter one of their major weaknesses, not having a true power hitter.

Here are the positions I am not worried about:

Left field:  Michael Brantley is called Dr. Smooth.  He will probably never be a superstar, but there is little that he doesn’t do well.  I wouldn’t be shocked if he improved any part of his game this year.  I would be surprised if his game regressed much.  Maybe he doesn’t hit 10 HR’s this year, but I don’t see why he doesn’t hit .280 with 70 RBI’s, and 15 stolen bases.  Francona bats Brantley in any spot in the order, and Brantley is capable of handling it.  Brantley just goes out and does his job and he does it effectively.

Second Base:  Not to toot my own horn, but I have been telling you that Jason Kipnis was coming and y’all was going to like him.  He led the team in RBI’s, runs, and stolen bases.  He was second in batting average, doubles, and third on the team with 17 HR’s.  His style of play makes him a fan favorite and I see him becoming the face of the franchise.  Could he regress from his All-Star year?  Yea, but Kipnis hasn’t done anything but produce at every level.  I don’t see much changing except for Kipnis becoming better well known.

Expecting Good Things But Not Betting The House On It:

Catcher: Yan Gomes had a break out year last season.  He led the team in batting average and posted decent numbers in only 300 AB’s.  I assume he will get more AB’s this year so he should be able to match last year’s numbers if not improve upon them.  If Gomes can bat .290 this year again great, I am just expecting a little regression this year. His defense is the aspect of his game that stands out and I don’t see any drop off.  Although I am not sure if he can throw out 20 of 29 base stealers again.  Tip to opposing base runners, Don’t run on Yan!

Shortstop:  It is a contract year for Asdrubal Cabrera.  I see him having a good if not great year.  Asdrubal has wanted to be in those pressure situations, and until last year he has succeeded in them.  This will probably be Cabrera’s last year in Cleveland.  If the Tribe is out of the playoff race he could be gone by the trade deadline.  Francisco Lindor is coming and there will be no stopping his progress towards the majors.  If you don’t know who Lindor is you haven’t been following my blog (Superstar in waiting).  There are some defensive metrics that say Asdrubal is the worst defensive shortstop in the game.  He is better than Johnny Peralta, I don’t care what computer you use.  I like Asdrubal and hope he has a career year.  Then hopefully he signs another contract with the Tribe and slides over to third next year.  I will settle for a career year in his final season in Cleveland.

Expecting The Usual:

First Base:  I’m putting Nick Swisher at this spot.  In realitContortionisty the Tribe is MLB’s version of a contortionist.   Their roster is probably one of the most flexible in baseball.  1st base, right field, 3rd base, and DH can be manned by numerous players on the roster, and this isn’t your David Dellucci/Jason Michael platoon.  THANK GOD, I still shiver thinking about it.  Swisher will be the DH, and in right field, but I see him playing mostly at first base.  Swisher did not have a bad year in 2013, but he didn’t have a great year either.  I see more of the same for Swisher in 2014.  He is 33 and not surrounded by hall of famers as he was in New York, so I don’t see much improvement.  He did turn it on the last month, and shined during the stretch for the playoffs (7 HR’s in September).

Sweet Memories
Dellucci and Michaels

Centerfield:  Michael Bourn had his worst season as a professional in 2013.  Not that it was horrible, but he did not put up the numbers he had in years past.  His average, steals, and runs were career lows except for his rookie season in Houston.  Why am I not expecting more from Bourn?  Bourn came from the Atlanta Braves and was advertised as a speedster on the base paths and the best centerfielder in the game.  His 23 stolen bases were nearly half his career low while his 12 caught stealing was his career norm.  No big deal maybe he moved to a team where they don’t push the stolen base as much, or he is adjusting to the American League.  What really concerns me is when I watched Michael Bourn last year I did not see the best defensive centerfielder in the game.  Not even close.   Bourn lives on his speed, and when that goes so goes Michael.  Bourn slowed on the base paths and he not did dazzle in the field.  I wonder if he lost a step last year.  He also had surgery on his left hamstring this winter.  Just a feeling and I hope I am wrong, but I think Bourn may have already played his best baseball.

3rd Base: Lonnie Chisenhall is like the Cleveland Browns.  Ok that is a little rough, but I keep expecting better results and I keep getting subpar performances (with the Browns it is plan lousy performances).  So I have given up on the Browns and until they actually win consistently I will expect them to lose (consistently).  The same goes for Lonnie.  Until he proves otherwise I am expecting a subpar performance.  I believe he is capable of putting up more than a .225 average as he did last year.  He has not played a full season in the majors and yet he put up 11 HR’s in only 289 AB’s last year.  If he could match his career minor league batting average of .282 we might be on to something.  The problem is he struggles mightily against lefties. Thus he needs to be in a platoon.  Enter Carlos Santana and Mike Aviles.  I don’t think there is any way in hell Santana takes over 3rd base.  I have seen him behind the plate where umpires hate him.  He doesn’t move his body and block balls, so the umpire takes the hit.   I swear I could see steam come out of umpire’s helmets last year as they stared down Santana after getting hit.  I saw him enough at first that I loved Casey Kotchman and his .229 average.  He can man each position but by no means is he skillful at it.  I assume he could play third but ultimately it wouldn’t be pretty.  Just wait for that first bunt attempt and he throws the ball into the stands.  I imagine Santana is going to man third against lefties due to Chisenhall’s ineffectiveness against them.  I will give Santana credit that I have not heard one complaint from him and he has tried to do whatever is asked of him (catch, 1st, 3rd, or DH)

Regression Coming?

Right field: Ryan Raburn had a career year in only 243 AB’s.  He hit 16 HR’s with 55 RBI’s in what amounts to a half year of at bats.  I assume he will come back to his norm this year which should be around 10 HR’s and 40 RBI’s in 250 AB’s.  He will platoon with David Murphy.  Murphy replaces Drew Stubbs so we should see a better average, and maybe a few more HR’s.  What worries me is Murphy is coming from Texas which is a hitter’s park.  This team is in desperate need of a power hitter and Murphy needs to hit more than a dozen HR’s.  Stubbs could hit a dozen and was the best base runner I have seen in an Indians uniform.  Murphy and Raburn need to combine for 30 plus HR’s and 100 plus RBI’s.   I am just not sure if they do that this year.  I like the signing of Jeff Francour.  I see him somehow making this team and being a big part of it, possibly as the DH.

DH: It has taken me 2 weeks to finish this blog. (That is because they are so damn LONG Randall)  When I started, my thoughts were Giambi would make the team but probably start on the DL as he did last year.  Well it was reported a couple of days ago that Giambi had a cracked rib and would start the year on the DL.  A cracked rib sounds serious to me for a player who solely relies on power.  As I mentioned this team is in desperate need of a power hitter.  I see Francona using a lot of his interchangeable parts to fill the DH role as he did last year.  I believe Santana may end up getting a good portion of these at bats.  Santana may produce at last year’s level, but that is putting a lot of pressure on Gomes to improve upon last years numbers.  Otherwise that is a decrease at the catchers position.  Definitely the DH spot is wide open and may have to be filled at the trade deadline if the Tribe is in contention.

Overall I see Left field, 2nd base, and Shortstop matching last year or improving.  2/3 of last year’s super sub bench of Gomes and Raburn will be playing more of a full time roll thus weakening the bench.  I don’t see much improvement from the other positions, maybe even a slight decline.  The team also needs a true power hitter and possibly has an open spot in the lineup they could fill.  The Indians don’t have players in the minors who are ready at the start of the season to help the offense.  They do have a group of players in AA and AAA, but they are 1 to 2 years away.  The positive is that Francona is leading this team and seems to know exactly how to put his team in a position to succeed.  If anyone can do it Francona can.

Here is my 25 man opening day roster predicitions:

C: Santana and Gomes

Infielders: Swisher, Kipnis, Cabrera, Chisenhall,  Aviles, and Elliot Johnson/ Justin Sellers

Outfielders: Bourn, Brantley, Raburn, Murphy, and Francour

Starting Pitchers: Masterson, Kluber, Salazar, McAllister, and Carrasco

Relief: Axford, Allen, Shaw, Rzepczynski, Pestano, Tomlin, and Outman

If you read all 3000 plus words, wow!  I will try and cut back on future post.  I really enjoy reading comments, and hearing how others enjoy reading my post.  Thanks and pass along the blog to others.

The Weekly The Good, The Bad, & The Good?

The Tribe just finished their west coast road trip and now are facing a critical week.  I think I said last week was critical.  They are all critical when your team is fighting for a playoff spot and the Tribe IS in the hunt.  So lets “Hit it” as Joliet Jake once said.

The Good:

Ubaldo Jimenez !? Really, Ubaldo leading off in The Good column? Ubaldo has a 1.88 ERA over the last month.  Last Saturday in an important game against the Oakland Athletics, Jimenez threw 5.2 innings giving up only one run, on one hit while striking out 8.  Oakland is one of the teams the Indians are chasing for a wild card spot, and this was the only game the Tribe won vs Oakland.  Jimenez now has a lower ERA (4.00) than Kazmir (4.39).

If you watch a game he pitches you will bite all your nails off.  He hasn’t allowed many hits, but he still walks plenty.  Ubaldo is 3rd in  the league with 70 walks even though he has thrown significantly fewer innings.  For comparison, David Price of Tampa Bay has thrown more innings and walked only 19 so far this year!  Ubaldo has started 24 games and walked 70 batters, he averages 5 1/3 innings per start.  I’ll do the math for ya.  That means he walks about 3 batters every game he pitches, or 5 innings.  So with hits included basically there are multiple runners on base every inning.  Hey this is The Good column so enough of the scare tactics from me.  Ubaldo is keeping those runners from scoring, so keep up the good work.  The Tribe may just have to consider picking up that option on Ubaldlo for next year.

I’m hoping to head down to the game tonight for fireworks set to the Blues Brothers, and another start from Ubaldo.  Hopefully he will continue to “Gimme Some Lovin”, but I will take the finger nail clippers just in case.

The Bad:

The Bad is how you felt the next morning if you stayed up and watched Tuesday nights game vs the Los Angeles Angels.  The game ended at 3:30 in the morning after 14 innings.  At one point Tribe broadcaster Rick Manning said that ” only insomniacs” were watching.   I realized then my wife is right, I may have a problem.  I proceeded to watch the post game show that was broadcast live from Cleveland.  It ended at 4 AM.  I was thinking of calling my friend Paul Longfellow who would have been getting up for work.  If not for waking the rest of his family I would have called.

Luckily the Tribe won this game.  The real Bad was they only had 5 hits through the first 13 innings.  The pitching staff was incredible this game and preserved the win despite the offenses’ troubles.

The Ugly:  The Good

There is no Ugly only Good when your team goes on their west coast road trip and finishes above .500.  In fact the Indians went 6 – 3 on the west coast trip and  4 – 2 for the week.

Everyone is talking about the wild card spot, but I keep saying the Indians should focus on Detroit.  They may not catch them, but they will still be in the wild card chase if they don’t.  Detroit had another losing week going 3 – 4.  Detroit left town seven games up on the Tribe two weeks ago.  Last week they were 6 games up, and after this week they are up 5 games.  Detroit plays Oakland four games next week and then start a 3 game home series vs the Tribe.  Hopefully by the start of that series next weekend the Tribe will be within 4 games.  As long as the Indians take care of their part they will be making up ground on Detroit or Oakland this week.  The Tribe has its work cut for them.  They face the Atlanta Braves who own the best record in baseball and the best home field record in the major leagues.  Next weekend they visit the Tigers followed by a visit from another wild card hopeful, the Baltimore Orioles.  A very import next 12 days for the Tribe.  After that stretch the games will hopefully be even more important, because that is what each game becomes for playoff hopefuls.  No rest for those playoff bound!  First things first though.  Ubaldo needs to go out and beat the Twins tonight.

Hit It!

Is It Really The Middle Of August?

It is the Dog Days of Summer, at least that is what they say.  It feels more like October.  The Tribe is on their very difficult West Coast road trip, and have upcoming games against Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels.  12 of their next 18 games comes against first place teams (Atlanta & Detroit) or teams ahead of them in the wild card standings (Oakland & Baltimore).  So the weather outside may not be so hot, but for a team trying to make a playoff push things should be pretty warm.

Here is a look back at the week:

The Good:

Asdrubal Cabrera gets thrown out of a game.  Usually that is not a good thing.  Last Sunday the Tribe was riding a 7 game losing streak and they were about to get swept for the second consecutive series in a row at home.  Down 5 – 0 in the sixth inning with two outs, the Tribe bats came alive.  One of those bats was from Cabrera’s replacement Mike Aviles.  Nick Swisher and Aviles both hit two run homers.  Cabrera, who has looked awful lately at the plate and in the field, did the Tribe a favor by getting sent to the showers early.  By one out in seventh the Indians had the lead and stopped their losing streak.

Yan Gomes continues to push for more playing time.  Francona has been working Gomes into the lineup more often.  Gomes has responded by not only hitting the cover off the ball (.429 average for the week), but he is also great defensively behind the plate.  Gomes has thrown out nearly 50% of would be base stealers.

Go Ahead Make My Day

Go Ahead Make My Day

The Bad:

Thanks for Nothing:

I mentioned last week the Indians only needed to make up one game a week to catch the Tigers.  They made up a 1/2 game this week to sit at 6 1/2 games back.  Not bad.  Unfortunately the Indians only went 3 & 3 this week, the big bad Tigers went 3 & 4.  The Tigers leave Cleveland and have a losing week, but the Tribe can only catch up 1/2 game in the standings.  Indians must take advantage of their chances if they want to make the playoffs.

The Ugly:

Other than Gomes .429, Kipnis .273, Aviles .250, and Brantley .250, the offense was putrid this week.  None of the other nine position players batted over .200.  That happens when one of the games you play a rookie pitcher (Andrew Albers) making his second start ever throws a 2 hitter with no walks.  Uh doesn’t this happen always when Cleveland faces a pitcher for the first time.  Even the great 90′s teams had trouble with rookie pitchers.  Note to self -  Next time Tribe faces pitcher for the first time bet HEAVILY on the other team.  That should put an end to that curse.

Mark Reynolds has been released and replaced by Asdrubal Cabrera

Cabrera has been especially weak at the plate for the last month (batting only .175).  Asdrubal has not looked good at the plate.  He is consistently down in the count and swings at everything.  Hence his 3 walks and 20 strikeouts over the last 30 days.  Chisenhall has been just as bad as Asdrubal over the last month batting .176 with 1 RBI.  Michael Bourn who has had a decent year only batted .212 in the last 30 days.  If Bourn doesn’t change his pace his decent year will turn out to an average year.  The Indians can ill afford to have numerous players batting under .200 for any length of time.  Especially when two of those players are batting lead off and cleanup.

No Time To Panic People

I am trying to find what works for me in this blog.  I would like to write just a little more often, but keep the content much shorter.  This is a very difficult assignment for me.  I have a very hard time putting my ideas down and it can take days for me to finalize my post.  I have always struggled with writing, and I never considered myself very good.  I appreciate all the comments on the site and those who have told me in person they enjoy the blog.  That encourages me to try harder so thank you.    So with that said I am going to try and post a weekly recap.   Hopefully I can find a rhythm that works for me.  Hopefully the Tribe can get back into rhythm soon.

I liked my idea last year when I recapped the season using the theme of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  So lets run with that.the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly

The Good:                                                                                                                        

Yan Gomes & Ryan Raburn

Yan Gomes & Ryan Raburn

The Tribe locked up Ryan Raburn for two more years with a club option for a third year at a very reasonable salary of roughly 2.5 million.  The Indians bench has been one of the strengths this year, and should be for a couple more years hopefully.   After trading for Mike Aviles this winter the Indians signed him to a contract extension through 2015, while catcher Yan Gomes is making the league minimum through 2015.  The Tribe’s bench gives Francona a lot of options when it comes to roster management during a game.  Gomes has been looking superior defensively to Carlos Santana behind the pate, and Rayburn and Aviles can play almost any position if asked.  If fact Rayburn pitched in the 9th inning of Thursday nights fiasco against his former team the Detroit Tigers.  The bullpen was decimated from the previous nights 14 inning loss and Raburn took one for the team by going out to pitch in a lost cause.  Actually he posted a perfect inning and struck out Detroit’s Matt Tuiasosopo.

Pitchers IP  H  R ER BB SO HR PC-ST ERA
R  Raburn 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 13-8 0.00
raburnk_original

Click picture to see video

Matt Tuiasosopo, Ryan Rayburn owns you!

The Bad:

The Tribe went 2 – 5 for the week.  They started out the week playing the lowly Miami Marlins.  After getting beat down 10 – 0 on Friday the Tribe won the next two to take the series from Miami.  The Indians then came home to start a four game series against the 1st place Detroit Tigers.  BIG SERIES…. Big Let Down.  I could of put this in the Ugly column but lets not panic.  Yea the Tigers have a good team.  Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Tori Hunter, Victor Martinez, not to mention a CY Young pitching staff.  They own the Indians this year.  They do have problems with the rest of the league.  I am not saying that the Indians will win this division, but I don’t see why they can’t stay close to Detroit.  The Tigers are not good defensively and if they don’t hit extra base hits they move base to base.  They are the slowest team I believe I ever saw.  Fans use to think Travis Hafner was slow, but he really wasn’t that bad.  Victor Martinez on the other hand couldn’t out run my friend JJ.  And for those of you who know JJ that’s slow.  Prince Fielder makes Miguel Cabrera look small and Cabrera is a fat ass!  The point being the Tigers are not perfect and they do lose quite regularly to everyone but the Indians.  If you take away the games between the two teams the Tigers record would be 55 – 42 while the Tribe would be 59 – 40.  They play 3 more games against each other in Detroit, so the Indians could theoretically make up ground over Labor Day weekend, and there is 7 weeks of baseball left.  That is one game a week.  Don’t forget that on June 11th the Tribe was 5 1/2 games behind Detroit, but by June 30th was in 1st place.  I don’t think the Tribe wins the division, possible but not probable.  I do think if they keep chasing Detroit ultimately they will be in good position to win a wild card spot.  I don’t see this group of players quitting on Francona.

I was talking to my friend John at Thursday nights game.  He thought the Tribe should get into a fight with Detroit.  The way that Detroit has pushed us around lately I am starting to think that’s not a bad idea.  The Indians might want to get physical with the Tigers just to let them know they are not intimidated by them.  I don’t see Francona going there, but by that last game in Detroit if the scenario hasn’t changed… I would throw down.

Nolan Ryan

The Ugly:

  Corey Kluber has been one of the biggest surprises this year for the Tribe.  Kluber came out in the first game against Detroit and pitched 7 1/3 innings of shut out baseball.  He should of won that game if not for a melt down by Chris Perez in the ninth.  I am glad Perez is not talking to the media.  What do you want to hear him say after that mess.  Just shut up and go do your job, I don’t need to hear any excuses.  Any way Kluber was fantastic.  He comes to the game the next day complaining his middle finger hurts.  Now he is on the DL for 6 to 8 weeks.  For a team that needs things to go their way this was a major blow.  Danny Salazar has looked impressive so far but it still can’t be good when you lose one of your best pitchers.  Last night Scott Kazmir left the game early and I am not sure why.  I was hoping the Tribe would sign Kazmir next to a new contract.  Hopefully this is only a minor setback and nothing serious, because the Indians are not in a position to lose starting pitchers in a playoff race.

Is it “Trade Time Now?” for the Tribe

I’am with the family camping on Edisto beach in South Carolina. I may be on vacation, but I am still following the Tribe. Before I left the callers on the local radio were wanting the Cleveland Indians to trade for starting pitching. I have been telling some of my friends for the last month that I did not think the Tribe was going to make much of a move. As the trading deadline grows closer I don’t see much happening. Here are my thoughts.

Starting Pitching

The majority of callers on sports radio I consider morons who couldn’t run water with out screwing it up. There are a lot of people who just want to put down the owner, Larry Dolan. Most are still pissed that he traded two CY Young award winners in C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee. Callers continually whine that Dolan never puts money into the team and that he should sell it. I disagree that the Dolans have not put money into the team, they have. They have not spent every year, but when the Tribe has been in the hunt they have. Unfortunately most of the time the players signed did not perform up to the expectations. Chuck Finley, Kerry Wood,Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore twice, along with other players. The Dolans have not gone wild spending money, they are what we might say thrifty. Most callers to the local sports radio have been saying the Tribe needs starting pitching to make the playoffs this year. I don’t see the Indians going in this direction. For one any pitcher who is a top of the rotation guy is probably out of the Tribe’s price range. I really doubt the Tribe goes out and spends 15 -20 million a year which is what most #1 pitchers would command (Cliff Lee who is possibly on the market). If the Indians are not getting a stud pitcher then I don’t really see the point of trading for a pitcher. The starting rotation of Masterson, Kluber, Kazmir, McAllister, and Jimenez have pitched quite well this year ,and especially so of late. One of the starting 5 would be kicked out of the rotation. I don’t see Francona wanting to upset the team chemistry to add another starter unless they were a significant upgrade over one of the current 5.

The Indians are not going to give up top prospect Francisco Lindor. They have a superstar on their hands. He is only 19 but I saw an interview with him last week and he seemed much older. I don’t think the Tribe is keen on trading any high level prospects unless they get a major league ready player who’s contract they can control for a few years. Normally teams don’t trade good young players who they control for years to come. Plus the Tribe has young pitchers in the minors who should be ready to help the club this year and in the upcoming years. (Bauer, Carrasco, Salazar, and Tomlin who will be returning from Tommy John surgery shortly). Ultimately I can’t see any scenario where the Tribe trades for starting pitching. So the callers can moan and groan for a little longer now about the Indians not trying to win and the Dolans being cheap.

Bullpen

The bullpen was believed to be a strength at the start of the season. A few holes have developed as the season has unfolded. Vinnie Pestano who was stellar the last two years as the 8th inning set up man has stumbled. His velocity is down and he has not been reliable in consistently getting outs. Sidearmer Joe Smith has not been himself the last month, but hopefully this is just a rough patch. The Tribe does have others who could step up into the 8th inning role, but this ultimately weakens the bullpen if they are not replaced. Cody Allen being the first choice for 8th inning duty. The most glaring problem has been left handed relief. Nick Hagadone and Rich Hill have not been good so far. Chris Antonetti mentioned earlier this week that the lefty bullpen situation was probably his biggest concern. This is the one trade I do see the Tribe making. I am pretty sure they will bring in a lefty reliever and possibly another bullpen arm. Don’t expect any big names but do expect a new face in the bullpen.

Position Players

There is one more area that I would like to see addressed, but generally gets little mention on the talk radio stations. That is the need for another bat in the lineup. I don’t have the stats in front of me here on the beach. (We are tent camping not staying at a resort. So I’am roughing it – with my iPad) The Tribe is 4th in the league in runs scored which is good. They are 11th in batting average with a .257, and 5th in OPS ( On Base plus Slugging Percentage). Not bad marks for the offense especially with Reynolds and Giambi’s averages. The OPS showing they get on base and hit a good amount of extra base hits. The problem is the fore mentioned Reynolds. He has hit below .200 since mid May. As I mentioned in my last post the Tribe would be hard pressed to play the year with both Reynolds and Giambi hitting .200. Rayburn and Aviles have been getting more at bats lately in Reynolds place which has worked out fine. I don’t think you want the bench (all be it a great bench) of Raburn, Aviles, and Gomes playing every day. The holes in their games will become more apparent. Reynolds is signed to a one year deal. Next year the Tribe could be looking to replace Reynolds. He makes 7 million and they will also have Brett Myers 5 million to spend (Free Agent Flop). If the Tribe was looking towards the future this might be a good time to trade for a position player who can help us now and in the future. The team has lost plenty of games because they can’t score 3 or more runs. They have a great record in one run games, but consistently waste good pitching efforts by having low scoring games. The Tribe is very good at running up pitch counts on opposing teams. When they do this they generally get to see a lot of the opposing pitchers pitches thus getting a better feel for each pitch. They then have big innings against the starter. The 5th inning is the Indians signature inning to score this year. They have scored more runs in the fifth than any other inning. This being the inning when they are facing the starter for the 3rd time in a game. Running up the pitch count also gets the Tribe into the other teams bullpen sooner. Once into the bullpen it is only a matter of time before they face a subpar member of the other teams staff and put a hurting on his ERA. One more good hitter in the lineup could help this team I believe. Not only this year but in the future too.

Again I don’t think Francona wants to mess with the teams chemistry. He will give Reynolds every opportunity to succeed. So ultimately I see the lineup remaining the same with Raburn and Aveiles getting more at bats in the mean time. Reynolds is notorious as a streaky hitter, and Francona knows he is going to turn it around at some point. I have a feeling Reynolds is going to get hot at a time that makes Tribe fans forget his horrible summer. Lets hope!

Surfs Up! Gotta run, Go Tribe!

Stretch Time, Time For A Beer

So here we are at the All-Star break 1 1/2 games out of first and 7 games above .500. I really don’t believe this team is going to collapse like years past. The Tribe is not perfect.  They have their faults, but this team has a drive/desire to win.  The schedule is going to play into their favor and I think a few of the position players can increase their output. Overall they seem to be a close knit team that is having fun. Winning is usually a good recipe for fun, and the Indians have been winning.

It is the so called half way point of the season, and I thought I should evaluate the players so far. I was listening to the radio the other day and the host compared a player to Keystone Light beer. He said he was cheap, but not very good. I got a chuckle out of that and decided I should rate the entire 25 man roster like that. Pull up a case of your favorite and lets get going.

#27 & 26 Genesee Bock – Nick Hagadone & Rich Hill

Image

I remember in college buying a six pack of Genesee Bock beer with my buddy Emery. I can’t think of any reason why we bought it other than we thought the can looked funny. Who in the hell puts Goats and Flowers on a beer can? If the beer was any good they wouldn’t be putting it in a can! I remember that I didn’t like it and I never drank it again. The same can be said for Nick Hagadone and Rich Hill. I don’t like the way they have pitched as the lefties out of the bullpen, and I don’t care to see them pitch anymore like that. O.K. Hagadone is not technically on the roster at the moment, but he has been for the majority of the season. He has pitched so poorly that he is player who gets sent to the minors repeatedly when they need a roster spot to bring someone up. Lefty relief help is the one glaring weakness on this team. Francona has consistently shown faith in both of them, so Hagadone and Hill need to step up.

#25 Old Milwaukee – Ubaldo Jimenez

Image

How Old Milwaukee is made

In high school most of my friends drank Old Milwaukee. When I went to college the same was true. I was not a fan, but when your buying cases of beer and sharing you go along with the majority. I really thought this beer tasted like crap, but it was beer so I kept drinking it.

Ubaldo Jimenez is a pitcher and they keep pitching him. He is not a great pitcher, but he serves a purpose just like Old Milwaukee. To be fair Ubaldo has not been horrible. He actually seems to be pretty good at times. Unfortunately every game by the fifth inning he is approaching 100 pitches or is past it already. The bullpen has had it troubles this year. Ubaldo can take part of the blame, because every time he pitches the bullpen never gets any rest. If this team is going to challenge for the entire year the bullpen needs to improve. The starters going deeper into games will help the bullpen. Ubaldo can not just go out and pitch, he also needs to be good and go deep into games. Who names something “Old” anyway?

Image

Maybe I would have liked it more if this was true!

#24 Busch – Vinnie Pestano

ImageMy friends drank Old Milwaukee, I liked Busch. It was cheep but I liked it. What more can I say. It can’t be that bad, the St. Louis Cardinals stadium is named Busch Stadium. Milwaukee is not named Old Milwaukee Stadium.

Vinnie Pestano is my Busch beer. How can you not like him. He runs from the bullpen to the mound at a full sprint whenever called on to pitch. He accepts blame when he pitches bad and does not shy away from the media. He answers questions honestly and has been dominate the last couple years. Unfortunately this year he stinks. I am not sure if he is healthy, but whenever he comes in get ready for a home run. I like Pestano and I want him to be good, but the truth is right now he is not a top reliever.

#23 King Cobra – Mark Reynolds

ImageKing Cobra’s can mess you up if you drink it, but be careful.

Their slogan is “Don’t let the smooth taste fool you.” Same can be said for Mark Reynolds. Don’t let his awesome home run power fool you. Yea he can mess another team up sometimes, but he can also hit under .200 for two months straight. Better yet he has hit .091 for the month of July. Yikes! Don’t let the 15 homes runs fool you. Four home runs since May 10, He was unstoppable in April/May, but now he looks like he drank some King Cobra. The one position player that I am truly worried about.

#22 PabPBRst Blue Ribbon – Jason Giambi

Pabst Blue Ribbon, the beer that won a blue ribbon at the Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893! You won an award in 1893 and your still bragging about it. I go to find out that there is doubt whether they even won an award at this event.  If the last time you won was in 1893 then you had better try something else.

Giambi was great at one time and it wasn’t 124 years ago. He is not the same player he once was. That being said I still think he brings a lot to this team. He has about 1/2 the HR’s and RBI’s of Mark Reynolds in 1/3 of the at bats. He produces when runners are in scoring potion and I think he brings a great veteran presence to the team. His hustle and face slide into first earlier this year motivated this team. They went on a nice winning streak after this event. The problem is you can’t have Giambi and Reynolds both hitting .200 and getting everyday at bats.  They need to start producing or the Tribe needs to move on to something else.

#21  Coors Banquet Beer – Nick Swisher

Coors Banquet

Does Coors come in a soup can?

I am not really sure what Banquet beer means. It is cheap and you can supply a banquet if you need to? I just remember as a kid that when anyone went past the Mississippi river the neighbors would give them money to bring back Coors beer. Just because it wasn’t sold here it was special if you got it. Big time free agents don’t generally come to Cleveland. So when one does it seems special. Unfortunately Swisher is not preforming up to his capabilities. He may just be average and not the masher he was when surrounded by superior talent in New York. While not a failure he should be capable of more than he has showed so far.

#20 Miller High Life – Lonnie Chisenhall

Miller High Life

I was told never to mix my Alcohol. That includes beer and champagne

Miller High Life calls itself the champagne of beers.  Uh O.K.?  It still stinks and I can’t stand that crap.  Any half ass  brewer knows you don’t put beer in clear bottles.

Chisenhall has one of the prettiest swings in baseball.  His swing is the champagne of swings.  To bad his production is more like High Life’s taste.  Alright his production isn’t nearly that bad, but it could better.

#19 – 16 Budweiser – Matt Albers, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, & Joe Smith

Budweiser I drink Budweiser all of the time. It is not my favorite but I can always count on it. It taste the same and I am rarely surprised. Same goes for the majority of the Tribe relievers. They have pitched pretty well so far. The few mistakes they have made seemed to be at the most inopportune times, or the defense has let them down. I am not to worried about them, but like Budweiser we don’t need to use them every day.

#15 Carling’s Black Label – Scott Kazmir

Black Label There was a time when Carling’s Black Label was one of the most popular beers. Just watch the movie Animal House. A reference is made to this fact in the bar scene. I still will have one when I find it.

A few years ago Kazmir was one of the best pitchers in baseball. He has not been dominate with the Tribe, but you have to be encouraged with the way he has pitched this year.  After all he was out of baseball for a couple of years. I like Black Label and I like Kazmir. I think he only gets better as the season goes on.

#14 Red Stripe – Chris Perez

Red StripeJamaica’s Red Stripe has to be Brody Baum’s beer of choice. That would be Chris Perez’s dog who gets packages of marijuana sent to their house. Perez has had a couple of bad games, but overall he has been o.k. He did spend a few weeks on the D.L. but seems to be over that. The Tribe needs him to be solid with the rest of the bullpen having some problems. If Perez can’t keep it together this team may be in trouble.

#13 Sam Adams Cherry Wheat – Drew Stubbs

Sam Adams Cherry WheatS.A. Cherry Wheat is one of my favorite beers. We carried it at the bar I worked at, but I was the only one who drank it. The distributor kept dropping it because no other bars would buy it. Drew Stubbs is player I really like. Others don’t enjoy his contributions as much as I do. Stubbs doesn’t have the highest batting average and he does strike out often. I just enjoy the other aspects of his game. He is the fastest player on the team, and his speed changes the game. He is a very good outfielder with a pretty good arm, and when he gets on base watch out. He causes the other team to panic sometimes which leads to big innings. He also has some power to hit a home run. Maybe one day more people will join me in enjoying a Cherry Wheat and watching Drew Stubbs.

#12 Yuengling – Asdrubal Cabrera

YuenglingYuengling is America’s oldest brewery. Asdrubal has been a member of the Tribe longer than any other member of the team. Their are a lot of rumors that the Tribe may trade Cabrera. Fransico Lindor is now at double A Akron and could be in Cleveland by late next year. Lindor looks to be a star. Cabrera has had some difficulties especially in the beginning of the year, but he is definitely one of the players I see stepping it up. I do give Cabrera credit that I have not heard any complaining from him with all of the rumors. I think Cabrera thrives in pressure situations and I can see him becoming a force down the stretch in a close pennant race.

#11 – #9 Fosters – Yan Gomes, Ryan Raburn, & Mike Aviles

FostersFosters comes in the big oil cans and you get a lot of beer. Same could be said for Gomes, Raburn, and Aviles. The Tribe has found three players who give them a lot off of the bench.  Aviles filled in for Cabrera when he was out for a month. He can play multiple positions and has some pop in his bat. The same can be said for Raburn who can man the corner outfield positions. Either one can play everyday if needed. Gomes might not be an everyday player, but he is much better than past  back up catchers.

#8 Michelob – Carlos Santana

Michelob
Michelob comes in those fancy bottles that look all high class. In reality I think it’s just Budweiser in a fancy bottle. I expect a lot more out of it. Carlos Santana is pretty good and critical to this teams offense. I just expect more from him, and his defense can be atrocious sometimes. I am waiting for him to hit .300 and be a home run threat every time he steps to the plate. Teams do pitch around him but I am looking for that MVP type player to show up. Santana is probably just what we see, a really good offense player but not elite.

#7 Blatz – Zach McAllister

BlatzI loved Blatz beer.  I could drop those little oblong bottles and they would just bounce.  But whenever I drank it I was worried about what was going to come out the next day.  McAllister was one of the Tribe’s best pitchers before going on the DL with a finger injury.  He had a better ERA than Masterson.  He has done a spectacular job so far.  I am worried about what going to happen tomorrow with McAllister.  If he can come back and continue pitching like before that will be a big boost to this team.  Hopefully he bounces back from his injury.  If he does lets pray he is not a flash in the pan and the league doesn’t start figuring him out.

#6 Milwaukee’s Best – Michael Bourne

Milwaukees bestMilwaukee’s Best was the beer of choice when playing any drinking game in college.  It was cheap and it got the job done.  When you were drinking the beer super quick it didn’t need to be the best.

Michael Bourne came relatively cheap to the Tribe.  He is doing what he does best and that is use his speed.  He plays a very good center field and when he gets on base he is a threat to score from first.  He might not be the best player on the field, but he is just what the Indians needed.

#5 Bud Light – Cory Kluber

bud lightI don’t drink light beer usually.  If that’s all there is I have no problem drinking it.

This is one player I was not expecting much out of this year.  Kluber has turned into one of this seasons more pleasant surprises.  If not for Kluber and McAllister becoming good starting pitcher, this season could have been disappointing.  I wasn’t buying Kluber this year, but since he is here I will keep drinking it.

#4 Labatts – Michael Brantley
labatt

Labatts is my beer of choice. On a day in day out basis I choose Labbatts over any other beer.  It is not expensive.  I like the taste and I can find it in most stores as long as I don’t cross the Mason -Dixon line. It is everything I want. Michael Brantley is my Labattt. He plays a great left field along with being able to play the other outfield positions. Zero errors so far and he is amoung the league leaders in outfield assist. When the Indians need a hit Brantley is the man. He is batting .370 with runners in scoring position. That is 4th in the American League trailing Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis. The two AL MVP candidates this year. I had a bad experience once with Bradley. If I could just get past that he could be one of my favorite players. I have had a few bad experiences with Labatts and that hasn’t stopped our relationship.  So no more hard feelings Michael.

#3 Guinness – Justin Masterson

GuinnessGuinness is different.   It doesn’t come any darker.  It is a meal in it’s self, and has a distinct taste.

Justin Masterson is not your everyday ball player.  He seems like a player you might actually be friends with in life.  He is funny and joking around all of time.  Last year he got money together from the players to fly Jack Hannahan home on a private plane to be there for the birth of his child.  I think he keeps the team loose while also being a leader.  Not to mention he is having an All-Star season.

#2 Fat Tire – Jason Kipnis
Fat Tire Beer

Fat Tire still has not made it to Ohio. It is the one craft beer I truly enjoy. When I get some I hoard it and drink it only on special occasions. It is in my opinion a great beer. I have been telling you for a couple years now about Jason Kipnis. Like Fat Tire the entire nation has not got to enjoy his play. I think he is an incredible ball player. He doesn’t lead the league in any categories but he does everything. He leads the Tribe in average, hits, triples, home runs, and stolen bases. He is only one behind Santana for team lead in doubles. This guy is a tough player and should become the face of the franchise. His teams have won championships wherever he went, I hope that holds true in Cleveland.

#1 Tequilla – Terry Francona

Francona has been the biggest factor in the success of the Cleveland Indians El Toro Tequillathis year. I don’t think the Tribe would be where they are at today without Francona. The team believes they can win, and they play as a team.  They never look ahead playing one game at a time.  Eric Wedge use to preach about taking it one game at a time, but he never seemed to connect his message with the players like Francona has.  Francona has won two world series in Boston so he has a reputation.  Players respect him and they want to play for him.  I am not sure if the Indians would have signed all of the free agents they did this past winter if not for Terry Francona.  He definitely brought a different way of thinking to the Indians and that alone has been the biggest positive so far this season.

Let The Fun Begin

Ok one week down, a .500 road trip vs. the American League East and they beat the two reigning Cy Young winners.  Not to shabby.  You can see they are starting to come together, forming a bond, becoming a team.  Swisher is vocal and high fiving everyone.  When someone hits a home run they form a tunnel in the dugout with their hands held high that the player goes through.

Home Run Tunnel

The Tribe is having some fun together.

Here is a Recap of the Week:

Game 1 vs. Toronto:

Ahh Not Again!

I know it is a long season and Masterson did pitch well after the 3rd inning, but those first three innings were torturous.  It was last season all over again.   1st inning Masterson walks the first batter, gives up a single and then hits a batter.  2nd inning he issues a walk to a batter and then gives up a double.  The 3rd inning Masterson gives up a lead off single which turns into a double on an error, followed by two more walks.  Three innings – 4 walks, 2 singles, 1 double, 1 error, and 1 hit batter.  Uggh!  Luckily Masterson can get hitters to put the ball on the ground and he got two double plays, thus only giving up one run.

What is worse than Masterson’s line?

Masterson settled down and only gave up that one run.  R.A Dickey a knuckle ball pitcher had this line – 6.0 innings pitched with 5 hits, 4 base on balls, 1 wild pitch and 3 passed balls (accredited to the catcher J.P. Arecibia for not catching the ball – happens with a knuckleballer).

 

Just as planned

5th inning:  Michael Bourn singles and is at first.  R.A Dickey tries to throw a fastball by B.A. (Bad Ass) Cabrera.  He promptly knocks it out of the park.  Tribe wins 4 -1.

Game 2 vs. Toronto:

Knew this was coming:

Toronto pitcher Brandon Morrow had 8 strikeouts through the first four innings.   It looked to be a long evening for the Tribe hitters.  They only had three strikeouts for the rest of the game and Mark Reynolds hit his first home run as a member of the Indians in the 11th inning to win the game.

 

I was hoping to see this coming but didn’t expect it:

Jimenez throws six innings giving up only 3 hits and 2 base on balls, while striking out six.

Game 3 vs. Toronto:

For God’s Sake Someone Wake up Tito and Tell Him to Take OUT the Pitcher!

Every year there is at least one player that fans rally around to become their whipping boy.  Jason Michaels and David Dellucci to name just a few.  Brett Myers made his debut in a Tribe uniform and he may have jumped to the head of the list for this year’s hate list.  5.0 innings and seven earned runs, all coming from the 4 home runs he allowed.  Cody Allen promptly relieved Myers and gave up his own home run.  Matt Albers comes in the next inning and walks two and gives up a run without giving up a hit.  All three struggled this spring.  Francona was asked in spring training when he would become worried about Myers struggles.  He said ask him in June.  Someone better ask him on May 1st.

The Tribe was short two players on the roster due to them trying to get Kazmir on the roster (instead he went to the DL) and letting Carrasco serve his suspension.  They could have used the extra arm in the bullpen for this game, they lost 10 -8.  Tribe hitters had 2 home runs and 6 doubles along with 6 more hits.  Good sign that they never let up and kept coming back.  Only a couple of outstanding plays and lucky breaks for Toronto kept the Tribe from winning.

Game 5 vs. Tampa Bay

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching, – ?,?,?

Trevor Bauer made his Tribe debut.  He was called up to replace Kazmir who was placed on the DL.  He only gave up 3 runs in 5.0 innings, not horrible.  Unfortunately he struggled through all five innings.  The first inning he walked the first three batters to load the bases and completes the ineptitude by walking in a run with the next batter.  He only gave up two hits but who is swinging at the ball when you walk 7 in 5.0 innings.  Albers and Allen made appearances again, and again gave up runs.  Move over Myers, Albers and Allen would like to join you on the “who do Cleveland fans dislike list”.

Game 6 vs. Tampa Bay

Cy Who?

For the second time in two games Justin Masterson beats last year’s Cy Young winner.  This time he out pitches David Price.  Masterson pitched a great game giving up only 2 hits in 7.0 innings and striking out 8.  The Tribe offense took care of Price.  The Indians hit 5 home runs and 5 doubles scoring 13 runs.  After getting shutout 2 games in a row the offense made a statement.  Mark Reynolds had two of the home runs and has four in the first 6 games.  Santana went 5 for 5 and is batting .500 on the year.  Bring that offense home, I want to see it!

What would be more fun than beating the Yankee’s who come to Cleveland for the Tribe’s first home stand.  Let’s go Tribe, keep me smiling!

Ask Terri – Kipnis & Pestano

Let’s Get Drunk and Play Some Ping Pong

Yes spring is finally here.   Today is opening day and the Tribe will be playing tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays.  Mark your calendar, 162 games to go plus some hopefully.  It is time to start having some fun!

This has been one of the busiest off seasons ever for the Tribe.  No move was more important than the hiring of Terry Francona.  Francona immediately brought a fresh voice to the organization and a new vigor.  Francona would probably disagree with me, but this move alone could result in a .500 season.  Manny Acta had this team in first place, or within a few games at the All-Star break two years in a row.  If Acta could accomplish that, I don’t see why Francona couldn’t improve upon that final record a little.  Yea Francona had a complete collapse his last year in Boston, but that was Boston.   Everyone jumped ship that season.  The GM left and took the Chicago Cubs job.  Yeah the Cubs who make the Indians look good when it comes to winning.   They haven’t won a world series since 1908.  It has been so long that I think they should change their name back to the Chicago Orphans.  The Boston media was all over the team, especially about chicken and beer. Chicken, Beer, and Pills  Francona had to deal with some of the game’s biggest egos and prima donnas in Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, and the failed Carl Crawford signing.  He dealt with Manny Ramirez the years prior to his final season in Boston.  So Cleveland should seem like a paid vacation to Francona.  I appreciate that Francona wanted to come here.  The comercials on the radio he states how he grew up a Cleveland fan.  Acta choose to come here too over Houston, but here is where the difference lies.  Francona actually has the ability to get free agents to want to come here too.  I am not sure if any of the free agents other than Reynolds and Myers signs here if Acta is still coaching.  After hiring Francona, the Tribe proceeded to spend 117 million dollars in free agency on 1B/DH Mark Reynolds, SP Brett Myers, OF/1B Nick Swisher, and CF Michael Bourn.   The last time the Indians were relevant Trot Nixon was running around the dugout smashing shaving cream pies into everyone’s face after a win.  I get the same feeling again this year.  Francona and Swisher have made the Tribe clubhouse fun.  The team has already put together a Harlem Shake video and Siri spoof.

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This is a complete makeover of the positional players from last year’s team.  DH Travis Hafner is in New York

Hafner before joining the Yankee's DL

Hafner before joining the Yankee’s DL

and will probably be splitting time with Ben Francisco who the Tribe released during spring training.  Now stop for a minute and think about that.  The Tribe signs Nick Swisher from New York and the Yankees take Travis “I might play 100 games DH’ing” Hafner who has to share the DH role with Ben Francisco who was not going to make this team out of spring training.  What in the Wide, Wide, World of Sports is going on here?  Starting 3rd baseman Jack Hannahan is the utility infielder for the Cincinnati Reds.  I did enjoy watching Casey Kotchman play 1st base, but Oh how painful it was to watch him pound every ball into the ground while batting.  I think I can count my hands how many balls he hit out of the infield.  Kotchman is now playing for the Miami (everything must go) Marlins, probably one of the worst teams in the league this year.  2012 starting left fielders Austin Kearns (who was released in the middle of last season and did not sign elsewhere) is playing for the Miami Marlins, and Shelley Duncan is playing for Tampa Bay’s AAA team, Aaron Cunningham was with Texas to start spring training but has sense been released, and Johnny Damon is at home dropping everything and stumbling around his mansion.  (I am going to miss seeing Damon wonder around the outfield and throwing the ball around between innings.  It made me giggle to go the game and watch him in the field.  Thank you Johnny for making me laugh like a little school girl.)  Our utility infielder this year Mike Aviles was the starting SS for Boston and Toronto last year.  So as you can see even if the free agent moves this off season turn out to be horrible the Tribe should be making gains.  DH, LF, 1st base, and 3rd base gave us nothing last year offensively and LF was a mess defensively.  No matter what there will be improvements from those positions this year.

So offensively this team looks to be improved no matter how the year goes.  No more of the entirely left handed lineup that Acta had to trot out last year every game.  The Indians brought in right handed bats in Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs, Mike Aviles, Ryan Rayburn, and switch hitter Nick Swisher.  Opposing teams will not have the luxury of bringing in a left handed pitcher this year and let mow down a left handed dominated lineup.  The Tribe only hit 37 HR’s right handed last year as a team.  Reynolds has averaged 33 over the last five years.  The Tribe will be striking out a lot this year.  Every free agent starting positional player signed was in the upper ranks for strike outs last year.  Swisher was 27th in MLB, Bourn 15th, Reynolds 12th, and Stubbs 10th for strikeouts last year.  So get ready for a lot of whiffing.  I do like the speed brought to this team.  Bourn who will be playing CF and batting leadoff has a career .379 on base percentage which is great.  He has 257 steals in the last 5 years which is the most in MLB (Averaging 52 a year).  So he can easily turn a walk or single into a double.  The Tribe also added Drew Stubbs who has averaged 33 steals the last three years to join current players who are fleet of foot Jason Kipnis, and Michael Brantley.   I am going to guess that with all that speed that the aft mentioned power hitters who happen to strike out rather regularly may see a greater majority of fastballs.  The speed and power can complement each other quite nicely.  I believe the fans may see an influx of homeruns this year.  Swisher has averaged over 25 homeruns the last six years, while Mark Reynolds as mentioned has averaged 33 over his career. Not to mention Stubbs, Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, and Lonnie Chisenhall who are all capable of 20 HR’s.  Oh and there is this guy named Jason Giambi too.  Not sure why he is on the team other than he has hit a few homeruns in his career, let’s just hope he is not Johnny Damon 2.0.  I always hated seeing the Twins come to town and Denard Span in centerfield.  It seemed that no ball hit to the outfield ever made it to the ground.  Span ran everything down.  The Tribe now has their own version of Span in center and close replicas in left and right.  Bourn was rated as the best defensive center fielder last year by numerous outlets.  Stubbs isn’t far behind defensively, and Brantley is no slouch.  I anticipate seeing nightly highlights from this group in the outfield and I expect our pitchers will not be disappointed.  Don’t walk anyone and keep the ball in the park pitchers!

Pitching is one area of concern.  The improved outfield defense should help, but last year Indian pitchers usually shot themselves.  Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez regularly walked batters (7th and 3rd in the league) and then proceeded to let them steal (1st and 2nd in stolen bases allowed), threw a wild pitch (2nd and 3rd in league) or hit the next batter (1st and 2nd in the league).  Amazing!  The three remaining 2012 opening day starters were WORSE or got hurt.  I am assuming the starting pitching cannot be that horrible again.  Masterson and Jimenez have looked much better this spring.  At least they are not walking batters and then plunking the next one.  Oh yea and Roberto Hernandez aka Fausto Carmona is in Tampa as the 5th starter after posting a 5.33 ERA this spring.  I am going to enjoy watching Fausto on the other team laboring through 30 and 40 pitch innings.  I believe that Scott Kazmir will have a great season.  My dark horse for the Cy Young award.  At least that is what I am hoping for.  (As I write this I find out Kazmir will possible start on the DL, Oh well :(  If Kazmir has any kind of decent season and Masterson and Ubaldo are not terrible, the Indians may have a shot at hanging around the playoff chase.  They do have some options in AAA in Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco if one of the before mentioned pitchers proceeds to stink or Zach McCallister /Brett Myers falters.  The bullpen once again should be the strength of this team.  Even if one or two players have off years the Indians have bullpen depth in the minors to cover all but epic fails.

Hopefully the Indians can make the entire year as much fun as spring has been.  For the first time in a while people are talking about the Tribe and there is a buzz in the air.  This team opens the season against Toronto who is a favorite to win the AL pennant, followed by Tampa Bay, the Yankees, the White Sox, and Boston.  Tough opening two weeks so a good start would be comforting and help spur on the enthusiasm built in the off season.  The Tribe did make some moves that I believe have to help improve the team.  They also have some wild cards.  Carlos Santana could bust out and become a superstar.  Lonnie Chisenhall could add a big bat to the bottom of the lineup, Asdrubal Cabrera becomes even a better hitter with protection around him, or Kipnis in his second year takes it up another notch.  Ultimately the team’s fortunes lie with how well the starting pitching performs.  Let’s hope they can have some fun and relax.   Maybe McCallister grows in his second year; he has the potential to become a top of the rotation pitcher.  Kazmir becomes the dominant pitcher he was when he came up with Tampa, or Bauer comes up and develops into the Ace he was touted as.   There is the possibility this year that Swisher and company can entertain us and make this one fun summer.  And hopefully a fun fall!

I have been following a web site on SI.com called Extra Mustard.  The site deals with sports related topics on the internet that are usually quite funny.  In staying with my fun summer theme I will try and add some content to each post during the year.  Make sure you check out the videos.

Who knew that Danny Mainus name was so funny?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KgeYpR5wJc&feature=player_detailpage

By the way for those who haven’t heard me and Danielle are expecting another child.  Due on October 19 right around the start of the World Series!

You Just Never Know

I am heading to Detroit today to watch my Alma mater play in its first MAC Championship game. 

Yes the Kent State Golden Flashes have had a historic year.  An 11 – 1 record with 2 more games to play.  The Golden Flashes have had two winning seasons since I came to Kent.  A 7 -4 record in 1987 and 6 -5 in 2001.  84 total wins since 1985 with 19 of those wins coming in the last three years, and 48  wins coming in the last ten years.  This has been a wonderful season to watch.

Kent has some very good players.  A couple of offensive linemen who are going to be drafted this year.  One Brian Winters, maybe in the second round.  Roosevelt Nix a junior defensive linemen who is one of their better players.  The team has two great running backs Trayion Durham and Dri Archer.  Archer a junior had scored a touchdown in every game this year until last week.  He is definitely one of the more exciting players in the country.  He has scored 21 touchdowns on the year by rushing, receiving, kick returns, punt returns, and passing.  If you get to watch any games keep your eye on Archer.  He can score at any moment.

What does this have to do with the Tribe?  The Golden flashes and the Cleveland Indians are going in opposite directions.  Kent State with a win could possible end up with a BCS birth in the Orange Bowl!  The baseball team just completed competing in the college world series and knocked off a few top five teams on the way to a top 10 finish.  Everyone is talking about the Kent State Golden Flashes and they are making appearances on national TV.  The Cleveland Indians are nowhere to be seen.  It is like they are trying not to be noticed.  The last two months of the baseball season it was hard to find anyone who could tell me what the Tribe had done in any game.  The apathy towards the Indians was staggering.  I might as well of talked politics and religion with people.  The Tribe fell out of the pennant race and out of everyone’s thoughts.  The Indians made few moves and were fairly silent.  They did fire Manny Acta and hire Terry Francona, their big headline for the last 4 months.  They quietly released Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Roberto Hernandez (I don’t even know who that guy is – oh Fausto Carmona) and a few other muffled moves.  Don’t mind us we are not doing anything, really!  They are like an actor or politician who gets in trouble and decides to lay low for a while.  I am really hoping that they turn it up a notch during the winter meeting and create some excitement about the team, but I doubt it.  There have been rumors they may try and rebuild again.  With interest in the Tribe at an all-time low this would only intensify their problems in my opinion.

Here are my thoughts on what has happened so far.

Firing Acta and hiring Francona:  I didn’t mind Manny Acta, but I thought that he didn’t have the intensity this team needed.  The team seamed listless sometimes and was going through the motions.  I was talking to my beer vendor buddy Tim and we were discussing how a team takes on its manager’s personality.  I think this was totally true.  Acta rarely argued with umpires and would calmly go about his job.  I think there are times when a manager needs to go off to fire his team up.  They don’t have to be Lou Piniella, but they can jump start a dugout. (One of my favorite games I ever attended Lou kicked his hat around the infield a dozen times, and then up into the stands.  He then tried to retrieve his hat.  The crowd cheered louder and louder with every kick. )   I don’t think the players in the end liked playing for Acta.  There was a game in New York where Dewayne Wise dove into the stands to make a catch.  He came out of the stands and the umpire called Jack Hannahan out even though Wise didn’t have the ball.  Dewayne Wise Bogus Catch  Hannahan proceded to get tossed from the game and Acta argued but remained in the game.  This was one play that called for a Lou Pinniella moment.  One of the worst calls of all time and Acta does not argue for his player.  It was events like this that I think peeved players.  They didn’t think that Acta stood up for them.  I felt Asdrubal especially became frustrated with Acta a few times.  The fans in Cleveland wanted Sandy Alomar Jr. as the manager, but I think Francona was the right choice.  He has had a great relationship with the front office in the past, working as a special advisor.  I believe he was well liked by players in Boston and could attract free agents to Cleveland.  Francona comes from a large Boston market that had intense pressure to win, and he produced.  He could have had about any job he wanted and he choose Cleveland.

Player Movement:  Releasing Hafner, Sizemore, and Hernadez does not surprise me.  Nor would I be surprised if any of them are back with the team next year.  I doubt it and hope not, but I could see Hafner signing a low contract with incentives.  He is married and lives in Cleveland now.  Our offense is better when he is in the lineup, unfortunately that was not nearly enough.   Hafner was one of the most feared hitters in the game five years ago.  In 2006 teams did anything they could not to pitch to him.  They would be better off to walk him with the bases loaded than to pitch to him. (He hit 6 grand slams that year and 42 home runs)  I wish Grady Sizemore could have made it back last year.  There was a time I thought Sizemore would be the face of the franchise and the one player the Tribe would pay to keep.  Injuries changed all of that.  I feel as though Sizemore should play for free for the Indians after last year, but I doubt he will be back.  The Tribe did make a minor move by trading Esmil Rogers to the Toronto Blue Jays for infielders Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes.  Rogers was a reclamation project who had a very good year last year.  Even if Rogers has turned the corner the Tribe has plenty of bull pen arms and can risk trading for other needs.  Aviles at the very least solves the Tribes utility infielder position and backs up Asdrubal which they sorely needed last year.  Gomes is a right handed bat with power that can play multiple corner positions and even catch.

Should the Tribe Reload or Rebuild:  There have been a lot of rumors that the Tribe may try to cash in on some of their veteran players and trade them.  Asdrubal Cabrera, Chris Perez, and Shin-Soo Choo.  The thinking is that the Tribe has very few players (other than relief pitchers) in the upper minors who will be ready to help soon.  They do have some quality players in single A.  Some of their top prospects play shortstop.  Fransico Lindor being the one name to remember.  The Indians are in need of starting pitching.  This is the one area that had a complete collapse all year long last year.  Asdrubal should allow the Indians to bring in a couple high ceiling pitchers.  Choo is one year away from free agency is very unlikely to return since his agent is Scott Boros.  Chris Perez has not been a model player with his comments about fans and the front office.  As I have mentioned the Indians strength is relief pitching and Perez could probably be easily replaced.  Trading Asdrubal would signal a significant rebuild.  Choo would be hard to replace but as I mentioned he is good as gone at the end of the year and the Tribe could try and replace him now.  I just happen to disagree with departing with any of these players other than Perez.  The time for the Tribe to win could be now.  The New York Yankees have their own problems and even though they are still good, they are not great.  I am not sure how much longer that is going to last.  If the Tribe decides to rebuild the Yankees will probably have fixed their problems by then.  No one in the American league is dominating right now.  Oakland won their division against the likes of the Rangers and Angels.  The Orioles won the wild card and just missed winning the division.  The Tribe has shown for two straight years that they are capable of being near the top of the division.  With the coaching change and some smart moves in free agency the Indians should be able to stay competitive in the American league. (I will post my free agency wish list next week, but Kevin Youkilis will be on it) I am also tired of the Tribe getting rid of star players while Detroit continues to amass them.  You need star players to win!

As I mentioned earlier, if the Tribe rebuilds they will also be fighting a marketing nightmare.  The fans and radio have tuned out Tribe in record numbers this year.  If the Indians don’t show the fans some energy then, like the players did with Acta, the fans will become more disenchanted with the Tribe.

And who know sometimes heaven smiles upon us.  My Kent State Golden Flashes have been miserable forever it seems, but this year came out of nowhere.  No one expected a year like this.  If the Tribe tries to compete with the few great players it has maybe the stars will align one day for them to.  If they rebuild I can almost guarantee those stars will not be aligning this year.

Go Flashes!

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