Monday, June 29

Something has got to give

The title of this post is a little misleading. Either the Indians have to start playing real baseball, or I have to reach a new low on more interesting things to do before regular Tribe-related posts return. So, welcome to the sports wasteland known as July. Don't worry - football in NCAA and NFL form are right around the corner. Until then, here are some random thoughts on the Indians.

Masa Kobayshi continues to collect his $3 million this year in AAA, where I hear he sucks. I forget the source, so this is an unoriginal thought, but I hope the scout in charge of this signing is seriously reevaluating his methods.

The trade of Mark DeRosa to the Cardinals for a reliever and PTBNL isn't too hot when compared to what we gave up to the Cubs. Of course I can say that since everything blew up this year. Had the 2009 Indians competed, no one would care.

If the Indians trade Cliff Lee, they'd better get a lot in return, which I just don't see happening. We will be paying Lee all of $9 million next year. Can you imagine a rotation next year anchored by anyone but Lee? Well if you can imagine that I'm sure that picture wasn't too pretty, was it?

Luis Valbuena still can't hit.

Ryan Garko is a guy I like. Garko is the kind of regular player ever team needs. However on a team with so many people underachieving his lack of ability becomes more obvious. Or maybe I'm just nit-picking.

My biggest disappointment this season? Carmona. Second biggest? Maybe Joe Smith.

During spring training the Indians said they weren't going to try to resign Cliff Lee because of the economic turndown. Either the Indians were convinced that Barack Obama was heading this country towards fiancial armageddon, or just maybe they said "You know what? This team isn't very good. If we sign Lee to a big contract and we tank and people stop wanting to see this team lose in person his contract could weigh us down," or maybe they were worried he would regress a lot. Eitherw ay I think not signing him was probably the best move.

Next season is going to be interesting, kind of like how this season is interesting.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Thursday, June 25

How many more headlines do I need to come up with to describe series I'm not interested in?

–verb (used with object)
1. to evade (work, duty, responsibility, etc.).
–verb (used without object)
2. to evade work, duty, etc.

This is officially what I've done with my blogging duties as the Indians slipped farther and farther into an bottomless abyss. Luckily I've had other things to distract me. Ha, look at that squirrel. Anyway yes the Indians keep playing like someone hasn't told them this season will quickly be forgotten like so many 1980's seasons were. This time we played the Pirates, a team we should beat.

Game one Tuesday saw David Huff, yes our David Huff, pitch eight scoreless innings while surrendering only four hits. And with the Pirates' starter getting pulled after 2.2 innings I know what you're thinking (maybe). "This one is a lock to be a win." Of course if you're an up-to-date Indians fan you're probably thinking "we blew it again, didn't we?" Actually you're both wrong, whoever you are. Matt Herges somehow can't get more than one Pirate out, Kerry Wood still surrenders two hits and walks two, but the Indians win. Since the horrible rotation/bullpen this season has drawn all the attention I'm going to make a concerted effort to get back to actually highlighting decent offensive performances. Just because the pitching usually tells the whole story doesn't mean those guys should go unrecognized. Jhonny Peralta is the clear standout in this game with a home run, number four, and three runs batted in. Grady Sizemore's return to the lineup was capped by a two-hit night that included a triple. Tribe(30-42) win 5-4.

Wednesday's game two unfortunately was started by the very human-looking Carl Pavano. Is he hurt? He'd better be with numbers like 3.2 innings and eight runs on 11 hits. Sure only three of those runs were earned but good lord, man! After that we got guys with ERA's like 5.17, 3.72, 4.91, and 10.02 asked to pitch. Pittsburgh starter Zach Duke did a fine job shutting down the Indians at the plate, finishing six innings of work allowing only one run. I'm sure getting that kind of run support doesn't hurt a pitcher either. Yes, the Indians did make a ninth-inning comeback, scoring five, but they would have needed five more to get the win. Tribe(30-43) lose 6-10.

Tonight's just-completed game was actually close until the end. Yeah I don't know if that means anything. Cliff Lee, he of the maybe only dependable arm in our current major league and AAA system, took the mound and did pretty much what Cliff Lee does, seven innings, four hits, and two runs. Offensively the Tribe was led by Victor Martinez, who had a home run and scored twice. Hey that's all of our runs right there. Long story short: Matt Herges comes in to pitch the ninth in a tie game and gives up three straight hits to end the game. Tribe(30-44) lose 2-3.

A lot has been written this week about firing Wedge and what's wrong with the Indians. The DiaTribe has a good article up today about it, Pluto wrote up a piece the other day, and now you get my watered-down take.

Pitching-wise, this team is almost bankrupt. Sure, not too many people can predict regressions like the one Fausto Carmona has had and injuries to Aaron Laffey, Scott Lewis, and Anthony Reyes didn't help either. On top of that you have Jensen Lewis giving up a home run every four innings, Rafael Perez not only not getting guys out but walking a surprising amount as well. When it comes down to it it doesn't matter what I think should be done, but someone at some level has to be wondering if 2007 was the outlier, not all these terribly inconsistent years. I remember right before last year thinking no matter what happened that at least the Indians would play good ball and finish above .500. Of course we didn't do either until the end of the season finishing 81-81.

Titles not used for this post:

- Oh the humanity!
- Won't someone please think of the children!
- You can't put God Damn in a post title! Don't worry. Nobody's reading, anyway.

Next up we have the homestand against the Reds, a team we haven't played well the last few years.

Game 1: Aaron Harang, RHP (5-7, 3.66) vs. Jeremy Sowers, LHP (1-5, 5.95)
Game 2: To be announced vs. Tomo Ohka, RHP (0-1, 4.70)
Game 3: Micah Owings, RHP (4-8, 4.87) vs. David Huff, LHP (3-2, 5.71)

Back in the day, a girlfriend of a friend commented that she didn't like Aaron Harang because he threw too slowly - let's hope she doesn't tune in to tomorrow's game. Come on Cincinnati - the Indians have the testicular fortitude to put Tomo Ohka's name in pen for Saturday's game - certainly you can find someone. Hey maybe whoever throws batting practice for you guys. David Huff's winning record is on the line Sunday. Speaking of domingo at 2:30 PM the USA soccer team is scheduled to most likely be beaten by Brazil in the final of our Confederations Cup.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Diesel power

It happened about four months too late, but Shaquille O'Neal was finally dealt from the Phoenix Suns to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The deal, finalized in the wee hours of Thursday morning, brings the Big Diesel to the North Shore in exchange for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, the Cavaliers' second round pick in tonight's draft (number 46 overall), and $500,000.

This was a financial move for Suns, plain and simple. If Phoenix cuts Pavlovic and his partially guaranteed contract ($1.5 million of $5 million), as most expect, they will save close to $10 million next season when you factor in the luxury tax. If Ben Wallace either retires outright (unlikely) or negotiates a buyout for less than the $14 million he's owed, the Suns can save significantly more. The $500k is probably the reason the Cavs were able to hang onto their first round pick, as that was rumored to be part of this deal prior to its announcement.

No tears will be shed for the departed Cavaliers. Ben Wallace, though gutsy and very fun to watch in his prime, had little or no petrol left in the tank, and was pondering retirement. Wallace was only in town to make the salaries match in the Larry Hughes trade, but in spite of his diminishing skills, he made some positive contributions during his time here. Sasha Pavlovic may yet develop into a consistent rotation player as a sixth or seventh man, but that wasn't going to happen in Cleveland. In addition to the fans, Mike Brown had clearly grown weary of Pavlovic's tease routine: showing flashes, but ultimately taking two steps back for every one step forward.

The 37-year old O'Neal is coming off his most productive season since 2005-2006, averaging 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, all while shooting an efficient 60.9-percent. During his stint in the desert, O'Neal's conditioning saw a marked improvement, and his work with the vaunted Phoenix training staff allowed him to play 75 games, his highest total since the '99-'00 season when he wore purple and gold. As another testament to his improved durability, Shaq was able to average 30 minutes per game for the first time in the last 4 seasons.

Let's not pull any punches -- even entering his 18th season, Shaq will be the most talented teammate LeBron James has ever had. Although he's getting a bit long in the tooth, Shaq is still one of the game's most dominant post presences, and putting him on the floor with number 23 will cause some serious match up headaches for the opposition, in addition to creating even more open looks for guards Mo Williams and Delonte West. This trade won't be as beneficial as the infamous "Pau Gasol and some waffle fries...FOR FREE" deal was for the Lakers, but it should still be a major boon to the Cavs' championship chances.

It is far from surprising to see Shaq end up in C-Town, but it is a little unexpected to see it happen so quickly. Personally, I thought there was a 50-50 shot of Shaq ending up in Cleveland, but it seemed like Danny Ferry was content to make Shaq his safety option, and keep shopping the Wallace/Pavlovic expiring contracts to see if something better came along.

Seeing this trade consummated so swiftly leads me to believe a couple of things. Number one, this is at the very least a partial reaction to the Eastern Finals loss, during Cavs had serious problems guarding Dwight Howard. If the Cavs had played the Celtics in the Eastern Finals, win or lose, I'm not sure they'd have felt such pressure to get this done. Number two, Ferry might have been trying to keep Shaq away from another club. Not sure who that might be, but especially if it was a competitive Eastern Conference team (Chicago, perhaps?), that may have encouraged Ferry to pull the trigger sooner rather than later.

The alleged contingency plan if Shaq was unattainable was New Orleans' Tyson Chandler. Chandler would have been an upgrade, although not as significant as O'Neal, as the wiry Chandler wouldn't have solved the Cavs' problems with Dwight Howard. Shaq won't stop Howard altogether either, but we've seen Howard have problems with bulky centers under the hoop, with Kendrick Perkins being the latest example. It might change as Howard matures, but at present he can be frustrated under the rim by players whom he is unable to merely out-muscle with his imposing physical gifts.

On offense, Shaq is a definite upgrade over Chandler and any of the other bigs on the Cleveland roster last season. While Chandler is a solid rebounder who can certainly run the floor better than O'Neal, his offensive game is largely limited to dunks and garbage buckets. Chandler also has a player option worth almost $13 million for next season which he will almost certainly exercise, so adding him would limit the Cavs' financial flexibility during the Free Agent Armageddon of 2010.

Unfortunately, Shaq does not arrive completely risk-free. Injuries are always a concern for players of his size, and their frequency usually doesn't diminish with age. Conditioning has also been a problem for O'Neal during his illustrious career. However, Shaq's expiring contract might encourage him to stay in shape, in addition to having other incentives for the Cavaliers.

There's no doubt that Shaq is nearing the end of his career, but the question is whether or not he'll continue to play after this season. If he intends to keep playing, he'll need to post another solid season in order to sign another expensive contract. On the other hand, if Shaq is going to retire, what better way to ride off into the sunset than with a fifth NBA title? The facts that Kobe Bryant just won a title, and that Kobe now can match O'Neal's four rings should also serve as motivational tools. Regardless of Shaq's intentions, if he wants an extension immediately as some have suggested, that's going to be a very tough sell to Cleveland management.

Let's consider how adding O'Neal will alter the front court. You still have Zydrunas Ilgauskas under contract assuming that he exercises his player option for next season, and Anderson Varejao and Joe Smith may or may not be back. Shaq will start, and Ilgauskas will likely come off the bench and see a reduction in minutes, as it would be difficult to match up defensively with both Z and Shaq on the floor, neither of whom are fleet of foot. JJ Hickson and Darnell Jackson will return, and we know that Danny Ferry sees Hickson moving into the rotation this season. That may be somewhat presumptuous, but we'll have a slightly better read on Hickson's development when the exhibition season gets underway.

Danny Ferry still needs to add at least one more quality big, and two would be a safer number. I'd love to see Joe Smith come back depending on his price tag. Smith is heady, consistent, a good scorer, and can deliver 15 to 20 quality minutes off the bench or start in a pinch. As for Varejao, I'm not so sure. While it'd be great to keep him on the team, he seems more and more expendable, given his contract demands. Varejao can't be counted on for any offense in the playoffs, and he can't guard bulkier bigs. Although A/V's a good rebounder who brings plenty of energy, can't we find unskilled spark plug bigs who rebound in either the draft or free agency?

If Varejao thinks he can cash in for eight figures a year, Ferry will let him test the market. About $8 million a season is probably what Varejao ends up receiving, but do you commit that kind of cash long-term to a guy with no offensive tools to speak of, especially with all the talented players hitting the market next season? If it's me, I'd rather overpay Varejao for one season than commit to him for the next three or four. That gives you another year to decided whether or not Varejao fits into the team's long-term plans.

While the acquisition of the Shaqtus will undoubtedly be the biggest splash of the summer for the Cavaliers, the O'Neal deal should be the first of several dominoes that fall for Danny Ferry and his management team. We've established that the Cavs need to add at least one more big (and we're treating Smith and Varejao like they aren't on the team), but they are also keen to add a wing player, and possibly a backup point guard. It is with that wing player, especially, that the Cavs should look to add a young player with whom LeBron James can grow and improve.

We need to face the fact that the Cavs haven't exactly done a bang up job of positioning LeBron to build a dynasty thus far. Instead of building things from the ground up with draft picks and moderately-priced, up-and-coming free agents, the Cavs chose to expedite the process with expensive veteran free agents. Unfortunately, Ferry's deal with the devil backfired, and our GM is still suffering the consequences of the ill-fated summer of 2005 (Hughes/Marshall/Jones). The Cavs have some good supporting players who should be around for the foreseeable future in Delonte West and Mo Williams, but that's still not a very strong case for LeBron to stay in Cleveland, based solely on basketball reasons.

During our Cavs podcast Monday night, Erik Cassano and I chatted with Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer, and Windy floated the concept of the Cavs pursuing a young player like Charlie Villanueva. A guy like Villanueva strikes me as a great fit in Cleveland, and Danny Ferry should go after him like gangbusters.

Villanueva is long, a good rebounder, a solid scorer, and has the ability to stretch the floor. His shooting would only improve if playing with Shaq and LeBron, and Villanueva, who turns 25 in August, would be the youngest Cleveland starter whose last name isn't James. If Ferry could find a way to get Villanueva, then he has a solid core of West, Williams, Villanueva, and (fingers crossed) LeBron James. Add a quality center to that group next summer and you've got yourself a strong starting five.

Shaq is the first piece of Danny Ferry's off-season puzzle. Although O'Neal wasn't the ideal addition, he should provide the Cavs with the best low post scorer they've had since Brad Daugherty, and he also won't compromise the team's cap flexibility next summer. The Cavs are a much better team today than they were yesterday.

But Danny Ferry's work is far from over. After firing his two biggest bullets by dealing the expiring contracts of Pavlovic and Wallace, Ferry will now have to find more creative solutions to add more depth at forward and a wing player who is at least good enough to enter the rotation from day one. One of those needs could be satisfied during tonight's draft, and we'll have a far better idea of what the Cavs opening day roster will look like after the draft's completion.

Wednesday, June 24

Quickie Downtown Report

The Medical Mutual Cavaliers-flavored "A Parade Would Be Nice" signs have been taken down and replaced with Indians-themed posters, and not a moment too soon. Wisely, unlike the recent vintage Cavs and Browns ones, the Tribe posters aren't implying any sort of championship contention in 2009. (Neither is the team.)

It'll be interesting to see what they come up with in the fall, with expectations for the Brownies currently at a pretty low level.

Monday, June 22

75 Days Till Kickoff

This is my first post in quite some time, but with Ohio St in the off season and my fellow bloggers discussing the latest embarrassments and disappointments of the Cleveland franchises, I've had some time off. I get this feeling of anticipation every year around this time once the realization sets in that the Tribe is out of contention. I absolutely cannot wait for football season to start. I'll provide a much more in-depth Buckeye preview once the season gets closer, but for now I just wanna take a quick look at the schedule and overall outlook of this year's squad. Let's get after it.

Going into this year's season, things are looking awfully familiar to the start of the '08-'09 campaign, with a little lower expectations. The non-conference schedule offers three gimmie games (Navy, Toledo, and New Mexico St.) and one showdown with Sothern Cal. This year the game with SC is at home, so it might not quite be as bad as the beat down they put on us last year, but I'm certainly not holding my breath for a W in this one. Both teams have some big losses to overcome, but both programs are known for reloading with superior talent year after year.

Sticking with the recurring theme of looking a lot like last year, the rest of the Big Ten isn't too strong. As long as Ohio St. can avoid slip ups at home against Illinois and Wisconsin, they should breeze through conference play, save for a late season date in Happy Valley on November 7th. With Daryll Clark and Evan Royster back, the Lions' expectations are through the roof, and you'd have to think anything other than an appearance in the title game will be a disappointment for JoePa and his boys. The toughest test of all will be at michi...HAHAHAHA, I can't even get through that.

Back to seriousness, this season seems fairly easy to predict. The Bucks get smoked by USC early on to dash any pipe dreams of a National Title, then we roll our conference foes and take on Penn St. for the Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth. But of course, as is the case in all sports, anything could happen.


Super-in-depth Cubs series review

Friday: The Indians had a 7-0 lead thanks to 3-run homers from Victor Martinez and Luis Valbuena (!), squandered it all, Kerry Wood blew the save, Cubs win 8-7 in 10 innings.

Saturday: The Indians had a 5-4 lead in the 13th on Luis Valbuena's second homer of the day (!!), Kerry Wood blew the save, Cubs win 6-5 in 13 innings.

Sunday: Unable to deal with repeated painful losses, the Indians refused to take the field and the Cubs were awarded a 6-2 victory. That didn't actually happen, but that's roughly the same level of effort as they actually showed.

3 games in lovely PNC Park Tuesday through Thursday. Can we at least win a few games against the Pirates?

Friday, June 19

The Tribe inside the numbers

Well, it's almost impossible to sit through the Indians' performance on the field, so I say we fire up baseball reference and reduce them to a set of easily-digestible numbers!

My first impression of the Tribe overall is that they should simultaneously be not as good as they are, and also not as bad as they are. For one, their run differential is only -13, corresponding to a Pythagorean W-L record of 33-35 that is quite a bit better than their actual 29-39 mark. Of course, the 22-4 win over the Yankees has a lot to do with that; make that a 6-4 win, and we're probably back pretty close to reality.

Hitting-wise, we find something surprising, at least for those who follow the club day-to-day. It seems that the Indians have an extremely hard time getting runners in from 3rd base, like they're constantly squandering opportunities to score. Yet here they are, 7th in the AL in OPS+ (100), both the very definitions of average, and they've scored the 3rd-most runs in the AL! It seems that the Tribe has indeed been rather opportune with maxing out scoring chances for their actual run output to outstrip their OPS+ rating like this. It should also be mentioned that they rank 4th in the AL in OBP, yet another illustration of the importance of getting on base.

On the pitching side of the ledger, there are no surprises. The Tribe is dead last in ERA+ at 85 (Baltimore is next at 90) and have of course allowed the most runs in the league. Looking for a culprit? Look no farther than the Indians' staff issuing a league-leading 272 free passes, exactly four a game. That's terrible, and serves as yet another commentary on how important simply reaching base is.

A few Tribe batters are enjoying very good seasons, especially Victor Martinez. The guy is simply mashing - .424 OBP, .550 SLG, and a 152 OPS+, good for 7th in the AL - would you believe Ben Zobrist is first? Amazing. Shin-Soo Choo and Mark DeRosa have been strong as well, posting a 127 and 113, respectively. Both have solid power and Choo gets on base at better than .400; Choo is also our best defensive outfielder and DeRosa has 5-position flexibility. On the negative side, Jhonny Peralta seems lost at 75, Ben Francisco has nosedived (nosedove?) to 73, Kelly Shoppach's 85 is mostly from getting hit by pitches, and Grady Sizemore has been a complete nonfactor at 89. Balancing that out has been a few bonus contributions: Travis Hafner posting a .970 OPS in limited action, and Jamey Carroll getting on base at a .388 clip. Wait, how are we 3rd in runs scored again?

For the sake of completion, let's say a few words about the pitchers. Hey, Cliff Lee! Despite allowing the most hits in the AL, he ranks 7th in ERA+ at 157. Now that's how to work out of jams. Maybe he should always pitch from the stretch or pretend ghost men are on base. Zack Greinke still leads the league at 222, down from the superhuman number greater than 500 he had about a month ago. Jered Weaver and Edwin Jackson (both on the FCF fantasy team) are 2-3. So is Felix Hernandez (8th at 155). Why is our fantasy team so lousy again?

Matt Herges is somehow at 167, and a spot starter (Tomo Ohka) and two injured players (Rafael Betancourt and Aaron Laffey) are the only other ones above league average. The rest of our rotation: 79, 61, 69, 88, 64. I can't bring myself to name these men. I hope no young children read that line of numbers. In case you're wondering, Rafael Perez is at 41, which is apparently thus the lowest possible value of ERA+, because there is no way a reliever can be less effective than has Perez been this year. Yuck.

Bottom line: we're going nowhere with this pitching staff.

Thursday, June 18

Oh No!

Well, that sucked. I didn't pay my usual obsessive amount of attention to the Indians for three series and they go ahead and win all three. I'm excited and back on board for some Interleague play, and the Tribe go a lay a goose egg on a home series.

Game one might be the straw that finally broke the back of the 2009 season of these, your Cleveland Indians. What else can you say about a game in which the Indians scored 12 runs and couldn't get the win? Obviously you put these games at the feet of the usual suspect circa 2008 and 2009: the bullpen. Allowing the Brewers to score six runs in the top of the eighth is pretty much the game summary. You can't give up six runs in the eighth and expect to compete. Matt Herges and Rafael Perez were each tagged for two runs and recorded no outs, so how about we blame them instead of spreading it around a little more? Offensively the Indians obviously were on fire but this game set a tone for this series and it wasn't a good one. Tribe (29-37) lose 14-12.

I'm going to categorize Tuesday's game as a hangover from the realization that this team had after Monday's 26-run affair. The good news? We only allowed three Milwaukee runs in the top of the eighth. Who we blaming this time? Jensen Lewis for giving up four in 2.2 innings of work. Asking Stomp Lewis to go out there for a third inning is pretty much Russian roulette and the Indians pulled the trigger and probably didn't like what they got. The offense was still in it, scoring five runs, including two in the bottom of the ninth. I feel bad for glossing over what would normally be offense-heavy summaries but I don't have a lot of space here so I just to stick to blaming people in our bullpen. Tribe (29-38) lose 7-5.

Thursday's series finally is a tragedy the likes of which only this team knows how to put together. After the first three innings the Tribe is down 3-0. After the fourth tied 3-3. Bottom of the ninth? Down 8-4, then they score four in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game and send it into extra innings. However this is our bullpen so we end up losing. Who do we blame tonight? Everyone except Kerry Wood, who hopefully is one to find happiness in finacial security since he's probably not getting it at work. Tribe (29-39) lose 9-8.

When was the last time we beat the Brewers?

Are David Huff and Jeremy Sowers the exact same pitcher? And if so, is pitching them back-to-back a good idea?

Who would believe we would average over eight runs a game and still get swept, at home?

I hear Pavano's shoulder is a little sore, which may be the cause of his last couple of outings being less than quality. Obviously the number of innings he's pitched over the last four years isn't too high, so this is why we have all those qualifiers in his contract. As of right now the Indians have decided to skip his next start. Hopefully he's OK because we are thinner than thin on pitching until Laffey is OK to go again.

Series like these are an ugly reminder that your team sucks. Wedge has obviously been feeling the pressure, which is to be expected. I suspect this is the most his job has ever been in doubt.

Off to Chicago and a series at Wrigley.

Game 1: Cliff Lee, LHP (4-6, 2.88) vs. Rich Harden, RHP (4-3, 4.53)
Game 2: Tomo Ohka, RHP (0-1, 4.24) vs. Ted Lilly, LHP (7-4, 2.94)
Game 3: Jeremy Sowers, LHP (1-4, 5.14) vs. Randy Wells, RHP (0-3, 2.55)

Hooray, only three games over a five day span!

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Tuesday, June 16

House of Horrors

As much as I like the Indians, enjoy going to baseball games, and admire Progressive Field, this has been one rough year for me going to the ballyard so far. It probably seems worse by comparison since I have a seven-year win streak going at the neighboring Q and my hockey team just won the Stanley Cup, but even taken objectively, this year has been trying for a team whose home mark is near .500. Check it out:

April 10 (Opening Day): I bolted right at the start of a three-hour, 49-minute rain delay, only to later see the Tribe set a precedent for the season with an eighth-inning bullpen meltdown that turned a 7-7 game into a 13-7 loss to the Blue Jays. I can't believe anyone stayed through that.

April 25: A beautiful day for ugly baseball, as the Tribe and Carl Pavano fall 7-1 to the Twinkies. Describing the Indians as "lifeless" on this night is insulting to the dead.

May 28: Another damn rain delay spoiled the free tickets I got for purchasing some Tribe gear at the previous game. The Indians actually went on to beat Tampa Bay 12-7, but I wasn't about to sit through 1:55 of watery goodness just to see a game I could watch in my house.

May 30: The return of CC and the first day of a disastrous Tribe Weekend saw the Tribe get mauled 10-5 by the Yankees. I left an 8-3 game after 6 to go watch the Cavaliers and Penguins both lose. Hey, one of those series turned out alright.

May 31: The lone bright spot on my season attendance, as the Tribe posted a 5-4 win over the Spanks thanks to Jhonny Peralta's game-winning hit in the 9th. The silence of Yankee fans is a joyous noise.

June 15: One of the most frustrating games in a season defined by them. The Tribe pitching staff ruined a perfect night with a poor start by Pavano and a collapsing bullpen that turned a 12-7 7th-inning lead into a 14-12 loss. Remember how I said Toronto's Opening-Day six-run eighth-inning explosion set the tone for the year? Milwaukee seems to have liked it so much that they put up their own six-spot in the 8th.

I hated, hated the way we blew this game. Pavano had a lousy start, but you extrapolate his 6 ER in 5 innings of work over the full nine and we win this game. To me, the two major culprits were a little-heralded defensive non-play and the bullpen issuing walks, walks, walks.

Tribe pitchers put seven men on base via the free pass last night, and seemed hell-bent on putting people on ahead of the Brew Crew's two main mashers, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, who combined for ELEVEN of the club's RBI on the night. Wow.

In the 5th, Craig Counsell walked and scored. Don't walk Craig Counsell!

In the fateful 8th, backup catcher Mike Rivera walked. Don't walk the backup catcher! Then Craig Counsell walked again. We just talked about this!

Fortunately, at this point, we relieved the non-strike-throwing Greg Aquino with Matt Herges...then Casey McGehee walked. Stop it! STOP IT!

Then came the biggest play of the game. The play-by-play records it simply as "R Braun reached on infield single to shortstop." In my own book, I charged Jamey Carroll with an error for not staying on the second base bag. Three game recaps that I read say nothing of this, but I still don't see how he didn't make this play after a nice stop in the hole by Valbuena. [I found one that said the throw was in the dirt, but Carroll needs to stay on the bag regardless. I'll split the blame in half.] That play changes the whole inning - he holds his ground and makes the pick and we probably win the ball game.

Instead, Rafael Perez comes in, throws one pitch, and Prince Fielder turns it into four runs and a 13-12 Brewer lead. A single, gratuitous walk, and an RBI single later, Perez was finally yanked and the final margin of 14-12 was set. Yuck.

In case you're wondering, Perez and Herges combined to yield 4 hits, 2 BB, 4 ER, and zero outs. Go Tribe.

Monday, June 15

Excuse me but baseball is still being played.

I'll admit that being a unpaid baseball blogger isn't the most glamorous part of my existence. Actually, sometimes it is right there with mowing the lawn. But seeing as how no new content has appeared here in five days (what, did sports just stop?) I felt a Tribe update was in order.

Even though there was a subway series and the Red Sox were playing...well, anyone really, you have to commend ESPN for going with the Cliff Lee/Chris Carpenter matchup everyone probably wanted to see. That, and it completely ruined a bachelor party my brother-in-law was to attend by pushing the start time back seven hours. Still neither pitcher really disappointed.

Lee took a no-hitter into the eighth, where Yadeiradew Molina hit a double off the right field wall. This stirred some obvious debate on if the ball was catchable by right fielder Shin Soo Choo. Sure it was catchable - have you seen the kind of catches they show on baseball highlight reels? Now, whether Choo could have been expected to catch that ball is a different story, as he was playing a little in to make sure nothing fell in as a hit. I agree with Indians writer Anthony Castrovince in that Choo could have put in a better effort but shouldn't be called out for not making that catch.

In injury-related news, Grady Sizemore's elbow is supposedly healing nicely, Jake Westbrook's third rehab start has been delayed due to pain on his Tommy John-ed elbow, and Aaron Laffey is looking to make a rehab start at Columbus.

The Indians are 15-11 since May 20th. While that has kept them sort-of in the race for the AL Central, it still leaves them six games back and in last place. This team hasn't so much been hot as it has been playing more like we expected from day one, which isn't so bad considering all the injuries. The real surprise is the bullpen being settled by the old Shapiro scrap heap signings. Maybe one of these days these Indians will finally put a good string of games together and really start making up some ground. Until then we've won three series in a row, which I'll take any day.

Here's the probables for this series against the Brewers who we haven't beat since 2001 or something.

Game 1: (going on right now) Dave Bush, RHP (3-3, 4.58) vs. Carl Pavano, RHP (6-5, 5.40)
Game 2: Yovani Gallardo, RHP (6-3, 2.88) vs. Jeremy Sowers, LHP (1-3, 5.10)
Game 3: Jeff Suppan, RHP (5-4, 4.48) vs. David Huff, LHP (2-2, 7.39)

There you go, and with the Indians getting a day off Thursday I promise a series wrap-up.

One more thing - The Tribe Daily had this mini rant about Luis Valbuena that I mostly agree with

"You can't get caught up in his numbers because his at-bats have been better than that," Wedge said. "He's going to continue to figure it out. Defensively, he's been outstanding for us. He's hard-nosed, tough and a fierce competitor."


Thank you.. I feel better... I like Wedge, but that just downright PISSES me off.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Wednesday, June 10

Timeless wisdom

Joe Morgan, on managing, prior to the LA-Philly game (slight paraphrase):
"If [Philadelphia manager] Charlie Manuel was the manger of the Dodgers, I believe they'd still be in first place."

LA currently sports an 8.5-game lead over the 2nd-place Giants. Their +82 run differential is already EIGHTY-FIVE better than the Giants, and 74 better than the next-closest team in the division (the 4th-place Rockies). That's more than one a game. I'm pretty sure I could pilot the '09 Dodgers to an NL West flag.

Morgan went on to flip it around, saying that if Dodger skipper Joe Torre was the Phillies' manager, they'd be in first place as well. Philly is currently up 2 games on the Mets, and are one of just two teams in the NL East with a positive run differential (+38 to New York's +20). Saying otherwise would be the same as saying that Torre would somehow manage the Phillies out of that two-game cushion and into second, which is silly.

The funny thing is that Morgan was earnestly trying to praise both managers but didn't really do any such thing. He inadvertently made the good point (and one he likely disagrees with) that: managers don't make a big difference. Thanks, Joe.

Monday, June 8

The Indians are still playing?

I have to admit I enjoyed my Indians sabbatical. I didn't really pay too much attention to the Indians except for the two nationally-televised Yankee games of over a week ago. One of those turned out OK. So lets review what I might have missed.

- Sizemore is on the DL, finally.

- Hafner is off the DL, hopefully for good this time.

- Some guy named Chris Gimenez is now on the team.

- Fausto Carmona is pitching in rookie ball.

- Asdrubal Cabrera went down with a separated shoulder.

- Jake Westbrook pitched a few scoreless innings in limited action at AA Akron.

- The savior of Cleveland baseball, Dick Jacobs passed away.

The Sizemore thing was something I thought should have happened at least a week earlier. No one is questioning the character of Grady because he went on the DL. Hafner comes back and hits a home run. Well that probably makes David Ortiz jealous. Carmona got sent down and I totally agree with this move. Whatever was wrong with Fausto was not getting solved in his three-inning-long starting appearances. Luis Valbuena should most likely be sent down to AAA. Give Barfield and Carroll and DeRosa the bulk of the playing time and let Valbuena get regular at-bats in Columbus. David Huff has improved immensely over his last three starts, probably because he had nowhere else to go. Now all we need is for him to start going an inning longer and we may have the beginning of a rotation forming.

Next up the Indians return home to face the Kansas City Royals in a battle for fourth place in the AL Central.

Game 1: Brian Bannister, RHP (4-3, 4.97) vs. Cliff Lee, LHP (3-6, 2.96)
Game 2: Gil Meche, RHP (2-5, 4.08) vs. Carl Pavano, RHP (6-4, 4.63)
Game 3: Zack Greinke, RHP (8-2, 1.55) vs. Jeremy Sowers, LHP (1-3, 5.40)

Well games one and two should be good. Cliff Lee and Carl Pavano are as good as this team can hope for in back-to-back pitchers. The only reason Pavano isn't our number one guy right now is because reigning Cy Young winner Cliff Lee is also on this pitching staff. Even though Greinke was roughed up his last start against the Blue Jays I still wouldn't bet on Sowers in game three.

Finally I wanted to say a few words about Richard Jacobs. I don't know what would have become of the Cleveland Indians had the Richard Jacobs and his brother not purchased them in 1986. What I do know is under his ownership the Indians made two World Series appearances, sold out 455 straight games at The Jake, and became my favorite sports team, period. Thank you Dick Jacobs, thank you.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Friday, June 5

Breaking down the Cavs loss, Onion-style

The Onion's take on the Cavaliers' loss to the Magic (too soon?):

- Team chemistry somewhat disrupted by LeBron James practicing in Knicks warm-ups

- After the Cavs missed their first shot in Game 1, Coach Mike Brown just shook his head and left the arena

- To avoid getting into foul trouble, many key players left games in the second quarter

- At one point, LeBron passed the ball to a man named Tarence Kinsey

- Flurry of ill-advised, off-balance jump shots didn't pay off as intended

- Wally Szczerbiak broke the "Wally Szczerbiak doesn't get to shoot" rule

- Thought America would just vote them into the championship round

My personal favorite, saving the best for last:
- After years of remarkable good luck fielding many successful sports franchises, karma finally caught up to the city of Cleveland

Wednesday, June 3

There's Always Next Year

A few tidbits in my first post in months...

Congratulations to the Orlando Magic for convincingly establishing themselves as the best NBA team in the Eastern Conference by knocking off the defending champion Boston Celtics and number one seed Cleveland Cavaliers.

In the common occurrence of an opponent eliminating a Cleveland team from the playoffs, I am normally inclined to root for the victor's next opponent. However, I have three solid reasons for becoming an Orlando Magic fan for the next two weeks:

  1. They are playing the Lakers -- 'nuff said.

  2. I can't find a good reason to dislike Orlando. The management didn't build their team by outbidding for free agents. While there were a few elbows in the Cavs-Magic series, overall it was well-played and respectful by both teams (sans one LeBron James snub.)

  3. I was in Daytona in June of 2006 when the Cavs opened the NBA Finals at San Antonio. To my amazement, nearly everybody drinking beer in the same sports bar as myself was cheering for the Cavs. It is only right to temporarily become an Orlando fan with the situation reversed.


I vowed last November after the Cavs made their first road trip to New York that I would not address the 2010 free agency hype. Instead, hundreds of sports writers across the country who get paid for their expert opinions have written thousands of articles about this topic for me.

The problem is that none of the experts can agree with one another. Ultimately this means that half of these opinions will be correct while the other half will be proven to be nothing but humbling dreck.

Let's hope the Stephen A. Smiths of the journalistic world fall into the latter category.

My Take?

LeBron James's free agency is Danny Ferry's burden. That being said, Ferry has excelled as the GM of the Cavaliers until now and there is no reason to assume he will suddenly fail at his role during this critical offseason.

Stay tuned.

And Finally...

My personal favorite post of the past year in the Cleveland Plain Dealer Cavs forum:

"I just flushed a Rondo."

Tuesday, June 2

At least they're not coming back this year

The Lake Erie midges made their annual appearance in the City of Cleveland this week, and so did the New York Yankees. Neither was particularly welcome, and I'm glad the Yankees' supporters are going back to their caves for another year. The Indians lost 3 out of 4 in a pretty uninspiring series, but here I am to recap anyway.

Friday's game was pretty blah start to finish, ending in a 3-1 win for the visiting Yankees. Andy Pettite was the story, holding the Tribe to 1 run over 5 innings before being lifted due to injury. Cliff Lee pitched well also, but yielded 3 runs in his 6-inning stint. Solid start, not good, not great, but not enough to beat Pettite and the Yanks this evening. Lee now sports a very strong 3.16 ERA but an ugly hard-luck 2-6 record to go with it. Both bullpens were effective this evening; Matt Herges (2 IP) and Rafael PĂ©rez (!) (1 IP) held the visitors scoreless on just one hit and a walk. The New York 'pen was up to the challenge, as Alfredo Aceves (3 IP) and Mariano Rivera (1 IP) each allowed a hit and kept the Tribe from even coming close to rallying. New York got 2 runs in the 2nd and a tally in the 3rd, pushing runs across with a single, groundout, and sac fly, while a Shin-Soo Choo sac fly plated Mark DeRosa in the 6th for Cleveland's only run. Asdrubal Cabrera and Ben Francisco each collected 2 hits, but that was about it for the Tribe's weak attack. Like I said, blah.

Saturday's game was supposed to be the first of FCF's annual Tribe Weekend, but about 500 things went wrong, including the demise of the Cavs and the aforementioned midges infesting my downtown apartment. Yeah. If my Saturday was a baseball game, I would have been handed a lot bigger beating than the 10-5 drubbing the Tribe absorbed from CC Sabathia and the Yankees. I left after 6 innings in a damned-if-I-do, damned-if-I-don't situation. I gave CC some cheers when he came out, but then it was back to business, and my business is despising New York's American League franchise.

CC was his usual self, ho-hitting the Tribe through 4 and giving up just 3 runs over 7 innings to collect the win. Fausto Carmona, unfortunately, was also his usual self (ERA=6.60), giving up 7 runs (4 earned) in just 4 innings of work to drop his record to 2-6. Like everything else that night, this game was exceedingly frustrating. The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the 2nd on home runs by Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada. Two Indians errors in the 5th (Ryan Garko and Choo) and a questionable call at 2nd base opened the door for three Yankee singles plating 5 runs for an insurmountable 7-0 lead.

The Indians finally got to CC in the 5th, cutting the defecit to 7-2 on RBI singles from Garko and Jamey Carroll, but they would get no closer. Grady Sizemore, playing his last game for possibly quite some time, hit a solo shot in the 6th, Choo (the only Tribesman with more than one hit) added a longball in the 9th, and Ben Francisco (who's been playing well of late) knocked in the Indians' 5th run with a double, but some Yankee cheating along the way meant they already had 10 by then, providing the final 10-5 margin. Yuck.

Sunday - now that's Tribe Weekend! Johnny Peralta's RBI "single" scored Trevor Crowe for the second time on the afternoon (Peralta had 3 hits and 3 RsBI) in the 9th to give Cleveland a 5-4 walkoff win. Carl Pavano continued his string of strong starts, going 7 and allowing just 3 runs. Were it not for some bullpen shenanigans (Rafael Betancourt faced one batter and was injured while Herges allowed the game-tying hit) Pavano might have claimed yet another victory. I never got tired of wondering loudly if Pavano ever played for the Yankees as he repeatedly set them down. Good times, which were sorely needed in the face of so much Yankee fan stupidity. Ugh.

Mark Teixeira was a one-man gang for the Yankees, driving in all 4 New York runs with a 2-run home run in the 6th and 2-run double in the 8th. The latter wasted a fine outing from Pavano, but Herges settled down to get a double-play ball from Jorge Posada to end the Yankees' 8th-inning threat. The Tribe 9th started with a Trevor Crowe walk, after which the Indians wasted an out from one of their best hitters, Cabrera (who already had 2 hits and 2 runs on the afternoon) via sac bunt. Francisco walked, and Peralta ended the game by driving a hard grounder down the third-base line and past a lame dive from Alex Rodriguez.

This game was a total bonanza for the FCF team, lifting us from the basement of our league. Kerry Wood's 9th-inning work netted a W, while Peralta and Texeira's big days propped up our offensive output.

Monday's pitching matchup looked to strongly favor the vistors, with Joba Chamberlain facing Jeremy Sowers and all the midges (at least the ones in my apartment) dead, and New York did indeed win, 5-2. Chamberlain held up his end of the bargain, alowing just two runs (a Victor Martinez home run and a Shin-Soo Choo single and station-to-station march around the bases), but Sowers matched him with 5 scoreless innings. He left a 1-1 game in the 6th after loading the bases on 3 straight walks, but Greg Aquino bailed him out and preserved the tie. That wouldn't last long, as New York exploited Aquino's own wildness problems in the 7th and broke the game open with a 4-run inning sparked by Nick Swisher's bases-loaded 2-run double. The Tribe and Choo cut it to the final margin but otherwise never threatened in a rather tame loss to fall to 22-31 and even farther into last place in the AL Central.

Notwithstanding some tough results against the AL East leaders, the Indians have been playing more consistently competitive baseball of late, which of course means it's time for the injury bug to bite the poor Lake Erie Warriors. Betancourt and Sizemore are now on the DL, leaving the Indians with just two relievers who've ben with the club all year and without their best player (when healthy). Victor Martinez' injury doen't appear to be serious, evidenced by his home run last night, but our depth is really being tested here. Add these losses to the injuries suffered by Aaron Laffey and Anthony Reyes a week ago and Travis Hafner's continued absence, and we're looking pretty AAAA these days. Let's hope the youngsters can come through on this upcoming 6-game roadie starting with three in the abomination that is the Metrodome.

Tuesday: L David Huff (0-1, 10.97) vs R Kevin Slowey (7-1, 4.11)
Wednesday: L Cliff Lee (2-6, 3.16) vs R Anthony Swarzak (1-1, 2.08)
Thursday: R Fausto Carmona (2-5, 6.60) vs R Scott Baker (2-6, 6.32)

Go Tribe!

Excellent photo by Tony Dejak/AP