"01 Days Until Opening Day!"
So says the banner hanging from Progressive Field today, and as always, I'm psyched for baseball season to begin. In case you haven't noticed, and judging by our stats, you haven't, my posting has been a bit lax around here. Well, Opening Day motivated me to crank out some serious content here today. I've gone dark on my phone for the night, I have a fat 40 of King Cobra in front of me, I'm sporting my white Indians #24 Sizemore jersey, and I'm ready to write. This jersey has more mustard/beer stains on it than you can imagine - bottles of mustard and beer have fewer mustard and beer marks than this thing. But thanks to the Tribe's weird signing of Grady for another year, it lives on another year. Let's do this.
Did I mention that it's Opening Day tomorrow?
For the first time since my arrival in C-Town for the '08 season (I didn't arrive specifically for the season, just a coincidence), I'm not attending the Tribe's home opener. Instead, this year I'm hitting up Game #2, Saturday at 1 pm. The opener is on a Thursday, and I got me some science work to do. The Saturday game is a lot easier to slot into my schedule for viewing and partying purposes. It must have been convenient for others too, because my crew is rolling 14 strong for the game. Granted, there are even odds that we're going to have to murder Nick for complaining about Ubaldo Jimenez, but we'll at least start with 14.
My excitement for pulling back the curtain on the 2012 campaign is tempered a little bit by my view that, unfortunately, I think we're going to suck. I don't want us to suck, that's just my view of the club - too many things have to break right for us to be competitive. Our rotation is anchored by Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, who both have relatively brief track records. Masterson was tremendous in 2011 (ERA+ of 124) while Ubaldo put up ERA+ numbers of 118, 136, and 164 in 2008-10 before crashing back down with a 92 (78 with the Wahoos) last season. Both of these cats need to be on point for this club to succeed.
The rest of the rotation...can I interest you in Derek Lowe, David Huff, Kevin Slowey, Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez, and maybe...Roberto Hernandez? I don't know, you guys, I'm not sure we can get enough quality starts out of our staff this year to stay in a division race.
The bullpen was a strength of the club last year, and according to our recent history, that portends disaster. Look it up: our bullpen excels in odd-numbered years and blows in even-numbered ones. We're the Bret Saberhagen of bullpens. We had a ridiculous crew in 2005 (SIX relievers over 170 in ERA+), seven dudes with gas cans and matches in 2006, the Rafael video game 'pen in 2007, a year where Jensen Lewis apparently closed in '08, whatever in 09-10, and a really strong year last year I don't want to read too many entrails here, but I believe the word Mr. Shapiro has used is "volatility." Let's hope the Perezes and Messrs Pestano, Sipp, and Smith can buck the trend.
I just listened to "Talkin' Tribe." Nobody plays harder than the Tribe.
Our lineup is similarly thin, I'm afraid, particularly in the outfield. Nick hyperbolically said that we have "one Major League OF," but he's not that far off, as we break camp with Michael Brantley, Shin-Soo Choo, Aaron Cunningham, and D. Shelley Duncan patrolling the greens of Progressive Field. Choo was a turkey last year, posting only a 105 OPS+ and .344 OBP after three years of cumulative 143 OPS+ and .397 on-base. The guy has to be better - let's not spend all day here as I cue up Girl Talk's All Day. Brantley has flashed potential, but an improvement upon last year's .318 on-base and 96 OPS+ will need to happen for the soon-to-be 25-year-old Brantley. For what it's worth, the various projections on Fangraphs have him at .270/.328/.703, which I can accept.
We're good at catcher, thanks.
How many games will Travis Hafner play? The guy posted a .280/361/.811 last year in 94 games, virtually identical to his past two seasons of 94 and 118 games - that's what the guy is at this point, and I'll take another 100 games with an OPS+ of 125 and the merciful end of his contract.
I like our infield! New first baseman Casey Kotchman can get on base (.378 a year ago, up from a .280 on-base in 2010 before his eye surgery). Jason Kipnis at second base has the makings of a star (OPS+ of 131 in 36 games) and Asdrubal Cabrera at short already is one. I like our 3B situation too - Jack Hannahan is the best-fielding third baseman I can ever recall seeing and Lonnie Chisenhall is waiting in the wings.
Some things will break right, some will break wrong, and the Tribe will win 75 games in 2012. And I will love baseball, as usual.
This might seem like a strange thing to say coing from someone who is sitting directly in front of a turned-off television during a Cavaliers game, but hasn't this been kind of an ideal rebuild year for the Cavs? Hear me out.
There was a lot of angst early in the year as the Cavaliers posted a respectable 16-23 mark by mid-March and remained within striking distance of a postseason berth. There were those who argued that Cleveland should be losing as many games as possible, and others, like me, who root for their goddamned team to win. I was enjoying watching the young guys play, the career year for Anderson Varejão, the emergence of Kyrie Irving as a top-line player and legitimate closer, Alonzo "Gordon" Gee's breakout year, and Antawn Jamison's quest to become the first player to average 17 a game without shooting any overhand shots. I understand losing for draft slot, but I also understand winning to build chemistry and confidence, and I enjoyed watching the undermanned Cavs post some great wins: the frantic comeback at Boston, the fantastic effort to dispatch Oklahoma City on the road, a home win against defending champion Dallas, and victories over solid playoff squads Indiana and the LA Clippers.
And now they've lost eight straight and sit ahead of only three clubs in the ping-pong ball derby on the precipice of what is highly regarded as the deepest draft in years and holding roughly 46 picks over the next two seasons. To the extent that a fan of a 17-34 team can have his cake and eat it too...that's what we're doing. Kyrie can play, Tristan is getting minutes, Gee is a baller, and the cavalry is coming directly. Go Cavs.
Frankly, I don't have much to say about the Browns, because I don't give a flying fuck about the NFL Draft until the players hit the field, and by hit the field I mean lose the opener. Thus, I'll fill this space with enough miscellany so the Browns and Buckeyes logos don't overlap.
I just downloaded the song "Liquid Swords" by the GZA. Look, either you like this jam or something is wrong with the way your brain processes rap. I don't know what else to tell you. When I swing my sword, they all choppable.
You're not going to believe this, but I actually did not spill tomato sauce on my jersey while typing this. I would have laid (-250) on my doing so.
Have you ever noticed how much people overuse the word "myself"? It's unreal. Unless you've already used "I" in the sentence, don't do this. "Hey, you can call Rob, Dave, and myself whenever you get a chance." No! It's "me!" It's a reflexive noun - it needs a subject pronoun upon which to reflect itself. Sports!
I'm going down for a while because of my knee surgery on April 20, but mark my words - I'll be back racing my ass off in the second half of 2012.
Figgs has single-handedly kept this enterprise going with Buckeyes coverage during the tournament, though I did contribute a few potshots at michigan. Whatever, I'm the editor, I can do whatever I want. Back when I was an editor at Carnegie Mellon, I used to write half my section's stories, lay out the whole section, and one magical Sunday, listen to the Browns' win over the steelers in '00 where the inbreds ran out of time and couldn't kick a FG. But I digress.
The loss to Kansas sucked, we all know that. I was Twitter-following a guy who usually writes about Ohio and Cleveland sports but who is also a fanatic Jayhawk fan and kept posting about them, and I finally had to drop him. I got no beef with Kansas - my Mom was born right near campus, represent - but stop cluttering my Twitter feed! I suppose I can re-follow now.
As Figgs pointed out, Kentucky would have rolled us in the title game. Too good.
I'm going to get a bit political here, with an open letter to the President of the United States.
Dear Mr. President Barack Obama,
I know you have faced attacks from the political Left and Right and been through much while leading this nation over the past three years. It is not an easy job that you hold. I hate to pile on.
But couldn't you have put that OSU hat on when Clark Kellogg was interviewing you? It would have been awesome, and we're totally a battleground state, and I voted for you in the general even though I voted Hillary in the primary.
It's cool that you play b-ball. Rock on,
Thursday, April 5
"01 Days Until Opening Day!"