Wednesday, July 28

FCF vs. the Zangmeisters

FCF Racing made its 2010 triathlon debut this past Sunday, participating for the first time in the Huntington Triathlon/Duathlon, held at Huntington Park in Bay Village, OH. You'll be pleased to learn that our rain-during-a-tri streak still extends back to 2008. In a related story, the weather has been postcard-quality since about an hour after the event ended.

As the name implies, this event featured both a duathlon (run-bike-run) for people who can't swim and a triathlon (swim-bike-run) for those who can. This arrangement caused all sorts of shenanigans, as I'll detail.

As for the title, well, Nick and I have a couple of erstwhile nemeses for our forays into multisport: the Zangmeisters. This is a father and son combination (or maybe an uncle, or a remarkable concidence, who knows) that defeated Nick and I at Lorain last year, as you may recall. The younger Zangmeister edged Nick by just 10 seconds last year in the Sprint category thanks to a strong run, and the elder Zangmeister crushed me by like 22 minutes in the International race. The Zangmeister men bring it. Plus, they have a terrific nemesis name, let's be honest. It's ideally suited for storytelling, if not super-fun to type.

So, even though we don't know them and thus it's not necessarily really a rivalry in the traditional sense, we were pleased to see that both of the Zangoes registered for this year's Huntington. It's nice to have actual people to compete against, even though it's friendly and half-joking, instead of just battling yourself and the course.

In this case, it was a weird course. First off, the beach was way, way the hell far away from the transition area. Like, as in across the street and down a huge staircase far away. Very unusual. Because I forgot to grab a swim cap my first time through the pickup line, I was not able to secure one of the black ones that my wave was sporting, because they ran out. Instead, I was given a lavender cap. Nice. Additionally, I was in group F, which was printed on a pink tab on my race number. A big pink F (female?) and a lavender cap. Badass.

So we swam, and I kinda sucked because I've gone swimming like twice this year, but that's no big deal. Then we had to run about what seemed like a half mile barefoot on fairly bumpy pavement, which I did not enjoy. At all. I know it's hard on the race directors to lay the course out ideally, and I'm not criticizing their efforts because there wasn't really space on the beach side of the street for a transition area, but crossing streets barefoot is not my idea of a good time.

I hopped on the Excitebike after a brief stop in the transition area and set out for a 12-mile ride. I enjoyed the bike course - smooth roads, well-directed, except for the occasional car that snuck onto the course. In case you've never been in a race like this and don't know how people drive when they're near a triathlon, let me tell you: like fucking idiots. That's all I have to say on that topic.

The other menace on the bike phase were these jokers with blue/green cycling jerseys representing some race club or another. I've written before how the hardcore cyclists who come out for these races are easily the most annoying participants, and these guys lived up to that billing. Someone tell these guys it's not the fucking Tour de France. Passing close, yelling stuff at people, expressing annoyance at every little move someone makes. Hey, I'm allowed to pass other cyclists too - if you want to pass me, go to my left. This isn't Russia. Is this Russia? This isn't Russia. I make it a point to ride very considerately, but my entire bike leg is not going to be devoted to making the Aquamarines as happy as possible.

Ah, and lets not forget Oblivious Woman, this dumb-looking lady who was running in the street (not participating in the race, just out for a run) opposing the bike traffic. Yes, she was right in our way. Yes, there was a sidewalk she could have used. Yes, we all had to swerve out of her way. I saw her after I'd finished, now moving with traffic, still in the middle of the street getting in cyclists' way. I simply can't understand how someone could be that unaware of herself and/or disrespectful of others that she would do this. Unbelievable.

Despite my many foes, I did indeed reach the end of the bike, evidenced in part by the fact that I am no longer riding - I'm typing. As you approach the transition, volunteers implore you to slow down, in part because you have to walk in the transition area, and also that particular day because of wet pavement. Another cyclist and I are pulling in, where basically the road leading into the transition area is split into two halves. The magnetic mat that you have to step on to record your time is on the right half, and is maybe wide enough for two people to step on at once. I slowed properly, went wide to the right, and allowed for the other person to stay to my left at a reasonable speed.

Then a member of the BlueGreen Man Group (of course) comes flying in, having disregarded all advice to slow down, and just barrels into the whole transition area, running past both of us on the left...and missing the mat entirely. It would have served him right for such an unsafe, selfish, and, frankly, unsportsmanlike maneuver to take a DQ, but I informed him that he had to go back. Sometimes I'm amazed at how nice I am.

Racked my cycle, donned the headband, and struck out on foot, feeling good. The strangest thing about the course was that, apparently, the duathlon required its cyclists to roll on the same narrow multi-purpose path that also was handling two-way foot traffic (and a high-five between the FCF racers). WTF? I felt bad for the cyclists, assuming they had been following the course properly, because that puts them in a tough spot. Oh well. The rest of the run was relatively free and open, except for one part where one group of runners has to cross past another group, which could get thorny. It's like one of those football stadia where the visiting and home sidelines are on the opposite sides as the tunnels to their respective locker rooms and the teams have to sort of run through each other at halftime.

And at this point in the tale, we once again return to our rivals, the inimitable Zangmeisters. You can see from the results that the Team Z once again ruled the galaxy as father and son, or at the least got the best of us in a local triathlon. What can I say, these guys are good. Worthy adversaries. Jason nailed 10th and John 20th in a tough field - John even knocked off Nick (25th in 1:04:31), an impressive feat for anyone, let alone an over-50 athlete. I hope I'm half that diesel when I reach that age. I, um, got 60th (1:11:45). It's safe to say that I'm not an elite triathlete, though there were a whopping 314 entrants.

But I did salvage a small victory over the Meistern. Heading towards the end of the run, I was feeling good even as the rain picked up - I'd moved up a few places in my age group and was moving well as I approached the finish. I was conscious of someone coming up on me, and didn't want to lose a spot, but knew there was a good chance I would. I was running harder at that point because I thought we would just make a left off of Lake Rd., make another left, and cross the finish line.


Instead, we had to make a right, cross the street, backtrack through a parking lot, re-cross the street under that ridiculous pedestrian walkway, go back up the hill, then basically make a quick 180 turn and head in to the goal. More distance than I had planned for. As I prepared to make the first right turn, there was a volunteer waving us in that direction. As I passed, I heard him yell, "great job, Mr. Zangmeister!" ZANGMEISTER?!

Oh, it's on now. I knew I had to beat him. Just had to, even though my poor race planning was leaving me a bit short on gas. As a competitor, he clearly wanted to beat me too, even though he has no idea who I am. Zangmeister passed me in the parking lot and maintained his edge as headed up the hill, but I managed to overtake him before the 180. He tried to take this questionable inside tack on me as I made the 180, which I found a tad aggressive, but nevertheless I sprinted to the finish line and crossed first. Boo-ya!

Of course, he's in a different division than me and his wave had gone off eight minutes after mine, so all it meant was that he beat me by "only" like 7:59 instead of 8:00 (indeed, the official race numbers say 7:59), but hey, it was fun at the time. The question is: did our competition help him edge out Nick? Probably not, as the difference was 45 seconds, but it's an interesting thought.

Either way, good race, congrats to the Z's, and here's to a good rest of the season!

Tuesday, July 27

Alex Rodriguez used performance-enhancing drugs

What can I say? I like subtle titles for my posts.

I suppose I could spend this whole article railing against the yankees, how even the sight of their "fans" here in Cleveland makes me sick, and how a yankees "Sabathia" jersey shirt is not fundamentally different than a shirt that says "I'm a moron AND a jerk," but who has the energy anymore? Besides, we're up 4-0 in the 7th, Josh Tomlin is pitching the game of his life (literally - this is the only MLB game he's ever appeared in), and given the disparities in payroll and talent between the clubs, simply avoiding a sweep is something of a success. Go Tribe!

I would, however, like to make a few remarks on cheater Alex Rodriguez's quest for his 600th home run, or as Ken Tremendous twittered, his "444th non-performance-enhanced home run." The yankee third baseman was (is) sitting on 599 headed into his club's visit to the Forest City, and I actually heard a discussion on WTAM over whether baseball fans would want to see the historic blast here in Cleveland, or if they'd rather the Tribe staff kept A-Rod off the board in the interest of Tribedom.

I honestly don't see how this is even a topic for discussion. Show me an Indians fan who wants Rodriguez to get a home run this week, and I'll show you a person who isn't an Indians fan. If you support the Tribe, you want to see Rodriguez get out every single time he comes to the plate, without exception. I don't care if we're up 12-2 in the 9th or whatever - get him out, get everyone out. Fuck 600 home runs - I want to see A-Rod and the spanks go down, and go down hard. Ask Manny Acta or any of the Wahoos whether they'd be interested in watching A-Rod sail one out of Progressive Field and see what they say. Anything else goes against the competitive spirit of the game.

As I was typing this, he hit a ball to right-center that didn't quite reach the warning track. Baseball is, apparently, harder when you're playing by the same rules as everyone else - not that the yankees know anything about that. Go Tribe.

Monday, July 26

The Tribe on the WARpath

No, I'm not referring to the Wahoos' recent thrilling six-game post-All-Star win streak; I'm talking about their WAR (Wins Above Replacement) thus far this season. I typically use OPS+ and ERA+ to quickly describe a player's performance (100 is league average and higher is better), and I think they're both excellent metrics. WAR is nice too because it provides a convenient benchmark: a value of 0 means that a given player is no better than a "replacement player," i.e. some Average Joe just called up from AAA. WAR then measures how many team victories this player is better than worse than Average Joe (Average Crowe?). Sabermetrics Library has this to say about WAR:

If you had to pick one statistic – and only one statistic – to use in evaluating players’ value to their teams, Wins Above Replacement (WAR) should be it, end of story.

Well, alright then. What I was wondering the other day is: how well does this statistic correlate to salary? Since I'm a Tribe fan, I wondered this specifically for the Indians, because it seems that everyone on the team is either wildly overpaid or wildly underpaid. You can figure out who is who. So, I went ahead and charted WAR vs 2010 salary for those who've donned the Chief thus far this season, using a generic salary figure of $200K for minor-league callups and players who haven't been with the club all year. I took all other salary and WAR data from; I understand Fangraphs uses considerably different calculations for WAR, but that's OK.

If players are actually being paid properly for their talents, then there should be a strong correlation between WAR and salary; in other words, the points on these graphs should trend up and to the right. If there's no correlation, it should be a random scatter plot, and if there's an inverse correlation, points should trend up and to the left (lower salary brings greater performance). Clearly, the most value to the team is gotten from players who appear at the top left of the chart; cheap and good, the way we like them. Let's see the hitters first, with selected players noted with text. Click the graph to enlarge.

I find this graph utterly fascinating. There is almost zero relationship on the 2010 Cleveland Indians between pay and performance. In fact, if you take off the Hafner data point (which skews the set because of how damn much he makes), the R2 becomes 0.002, which is for all intents and purposes completely random.

While I'm on the topic of Hafner, have you ever noticed how much noise players, especially NFL ones, make about wanting "fair" deals when they signed a long-term deal that they want re-done because they've exceeded expectations? "Fair" is athlete code for "as much as possible." Funny, they never say a word about wanting a "fair" deal when they're underperforming their contracts.

Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana are by a far sight the most valuable members of the club on the field, and this graph adds another dimension to their performance; they're dirt cheap as well! WAR is a cumulative stat, so don't be surprised at all to see Santana end the year in the 4-5 range, on a league minimum deal. For all the bellyaching people have done about Rusty, note that he was worth more on a $1.5 million deal than Travis Hafner ($11.5M) and Grady Sizemore ($5.77M), and just about as much as Jhonny Peralta ($4.85M). Eat it, Rusty-haters.

Austin Kearns was a nice value signing at $400K and a WAR of 1.2, while Mike Redmond (-0.6) and Mike Brantley (-1.0) have thus far proven themselves quite unworthy of Major League roster spots. Perhaps we should stop allowing Mikes on this team. Beyond those players I've noted, you can see the hallmarks of a rebuilding and slightly overachieving team, as most players have posted WAR numbers above or near 0 on slim contracts. Let's just say that the blue dots on the Yankee graph would be shifted considerably to the right.

To me, this graph says quite a lot about baseball economics. Essentially, young kids who can play a bit are terrific values, and big contracts absolutely kill you. Every time I see Hafner hit for the rest of the year I'm going to think of his little blue dot way the hell out to the right but below five of the Tribe's regulars, all of whom make less than half what he does and four of whom make less than a seventh. Consider the combination of Hafner and Sizemore, our two most highly-compensated position players. Their WAR combined is: 0.1. That's not a typo. We're shelling out over $18 million (over a quarter of the total payroll) for one-tenth of a win more than two average bench players provide. I'm speechless.

Let's take a look at the chuckers:

Same story here, too. The R2 is a miniscule 0.007, dropping to 0 if you take away Jake Westbrook. Once again, we're getting staggeringly little value from our two highest-paid players. Add Jake and Kerry Wood together, and you've paid $23 million (about 38% of the team payroll) for a grand total Wins Above Replacement of:

Zero. 0.0.

This is literally saying that you could have had, for about $800K, what the Indians have received for $23M this season. Now, I understand that there's always risk in signing a player to a big deal, but this shows just how tough of a proposition paying veterans competitive salaries is for MLB ownership.

You can argue that Fausto Carmona has earned his money; he's paid a lot, but at least he leads the staff in WAR. Mitch Talbot and Chris Perez are both very good values, pulling in about $400K each and posting solid WAR numbers. Way down at the bottom of the chart, one can see that it might have been more than just his fondness for Twitter that kept David Huff in AAA last weekend.

After looking at these numbers, I think maybe I understand the Pittsburgh Pirates' ownership model. I also understand why the Indians have chosen to devote an increasing share of their resources to drafting and player development. Why pay $10M for a guy to nab you two wins when you can pay $400K? These data should also come as a rebuke to those who chastise Indians ownership for not shelling out more for free agents. If I saw these graphs, I wouldn't either.

Thursday, July 22

Twins avoid a sweep at the hands of the Indians. Really.

Are the Cleveland Indians the most dangerous team in the AL Central right now? Probably, but the best part of a 162 game season is that for a small stretch almost any team can put together a streak like we just saw the Indians put together. Starting 6-0 after the All-Star break for the first time ever is still impressive. The fact that I saw some of that baseball in person with friends makes it even better. Where would teams like the Indians be without streaks like this?

With Andy covering the Detroit sweep I'll just stick to the series against the Twins here. This was the Indians' first trip to not-the-baggy-dome Target Field. You know that things are working for the Tribe when the much maligned (by this blogger even) Trevor Crowe collects four hits. Luckily for the Indians, Scott Baker somehow pitched worse than Aaron Laffey, who did a decent job fooling the Twins for five innings with a fastball that topped out around 84 mph Jamie Moyer-style. Baker was tagged for six runs in 4.2 innings of work with five relievers following him accounting for another four runs. The Indians bullpen, on the other hand, has been solid for most of this post-break streak. Specifically Frank Herrmann (paging Mr. Herrmann) has been a pleasant surprise (which is what you say about any Indians reliever performing well). Of note is that the Indians racked up 20 hits with only Austin Kearns and his bum knee failing to register a hit in his two at bats before being replaced by Shelley Duncan, who did have two hits. Tribe (39-54) get the win 10-4.

Pretty much all of the Indians reporters in attendance raved about Target field. There is pretty much no excuse for a bad ballpark to be built in today's MLB. Sure, occasionally exuberance gets the best of people and things like Comerica Park and Yankee Stadium happen, but after Camden Yards this baseball park thing seems to be solved. I'm glad the Twins have a new stadium and that they're not hitting as many home runs anymore too.

The second game of the three-game series was a much closer affair. Justin Masterson pitched a solid 6.1 innings before being relived by Rafael Perez, who quickly allowed both of his inherited runners across, setting the Indians back to a tie ball game at 3-3 after having taken a 3-1 lead on Duncan's two-out two-run double.. Offensively the Indians put together enough good at-bats to score four runs with Travis Hafner's eighth inning double that scored Carlos Santana all the way from first (having a catcher that can run is nice) was the decisive run. This game also saw the return of Asdrubal Cabrera who was placed back in his familiar leadoff spot and did his best Michael Brantley impression by going 0-5. Tribe (40-54) win 4-3.

Thursday's day game against Francisco Liriano went as was to be expected. After going 6-0 after the All-Star break for the first time ever, the Indians couldn't score a run off of seven hits, leaving eight on base and going 0-6 with runners in scoring position. Unfortunately Jake Westbrook didn't help his trade value much by giving up four runs over 6.0 innings. Tribe (40-55) lose 6-0.

The Indians playing well is definitely easier to watch and way easier to write about. Hopefully this team doesn't fade in the second half and the return of Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo should help prevent that from happening. Next up is the Tampa Bay Rays, battling the Yankees and Red Sox for a playoff spot in the rough AL East.

Game 1: Jeff Niemann, RHP 8-2, 2.92 vs. Fausto Carmona, RHP 9-7, 3.65
Game 2: David Price, LHP 12-5, 2.84 vs. Mitch Talbot, RHP 8-8, 3.89 ERA
Game 3: Wade Davis, RHP 7-9, 4.41 ERA vs. Aaron Laffey, LHP 2-3, 4.62 ERA

- Wow the Rays have some good pitching.
- Mitch Talbot should be motivated, pitching for the first time against his old team.
- If Laffey and his "dead arm" pitch Sunday I will be surprised.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Tuesday, July 20

Tribe Weekend 2010

It would have been easy to fold up the tent after Tribe Weekend 2009.

Last year's outing took place during Memorial Day weekend, which turned out to be the most atrocious sports weekend, or in fact any weekend, of the year. The Tribe lost both games we went to, to the hated New York Yankees. The Penguins lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Cavs dropped another one to the Orlando Magic. I have to imagine that someone on the Browns contracted staph that weekend as well. Plus, the Lake Erie Midges were in town, and for various reasons, several thousand of them infiltrated them my apartment. Any time you say the words "I can only handle one crisis at a time," you know it's not the sort of freewheeling, fun-loving sports weekend you had in mind.

But we didn't give up, and Tribe Weekend 2010, held this past weekend, was a smashing success. The Tribe played great ball, the weather was (mostly) superb, ad the crew was festive. Just an epic endeavor. Here's a recap.

As host, I've gotta be on my game for Tribe Weekend, but man was I ever tired. I'd flown in from San Fiasco on the red-eye, arriving back at my place around 7:30 am on a restless flight, and even going into work (!) from 11 to 4. I know, right? But my crew was set to start rolling in soon, and I had some preparations to make, so I cracked open a PBR and toughed it out. Milkey and JHH rolled up around 5:45 with some of JHH's home-brew, as well as 30 Stones. The latter got us several compliments from the denizens of Reserve Square. We kicked things off with a few readings from the Journal and Courier. Nick showed up a little later with a year's supply of eggs and some beers for people who prefer 16.66% less liquid per can. The brothers Fanuc joined us shortly after 6 pm as well.

We rolled on over to the stadium with some tickets on which my Mom helped get us a fabulous discount, and watched the Tribe maul the Tigers 8-2. The Wahoos fell behind early, but rallied quickly, got a great start from Jake Westbrook, pounded a couple of two-run home runs (an opposite-field job from Austin Kearns and a titanic blast from...wait for it...Andy Marte). Really just a tremendous effort in all phases of the game from the Indians, matched by a stellar effort from us making jokes in the RF Lower Deck. I'm not at liberty to repeat many of the jokes, but one of the key rules of Tribe Weekend is to never let a joke die.

Since we were playing the Tigers, I decided to wear my "2007 Division Champions" t-shirt to stick it to visiting fans a bit. We missed Bucko and his legendary purple jersey at this point; we also missed Figgs back at the apartment while pre-gaming. Nick decided to sport a Hawaiian shirt to the game, apropos of nothing, and took a suitable amount of ribbing from us. Coincidentally, however, it turned out to be Beach Weekend at Progressive Field. Who knew? At this point, I made the executive decision that we would all be wearing Hawaiian shirts to tomorrow's contest, though unlike Nick I planned to support mine with some actual Indians gear as well.

We enjoyed a couple of nightcaps, checking out the post-game fireworks from a spot on Prospect, hitting up Harry Buffalo and Pacer's, and wrapping up the evening with some hot NES action up at my place. In a related story, I am 30 years old.

Of course, this morning, I felt about 60. Nah, it wasn't bad, but we stayed up late and you're not going to be 100% the next day, but it was all good. As you can see in the photo at right, I was pretty much the coolest cat in the hemisphere this morning. Bear in mind that I was dealing with some sleep deprivation at this point too. We donned the Hawaiians early and got some breakfast at the always-reliable Grumpy's in Tremont. Our waitress asked us, "you guys got big plans for those shirts?" which still strikes me as funny. At this point, I made the decision to point my thumb at Nick and shake my head in disapproval at Nick, regardless of what he had said. Big plans for those shirts.

Saturday was a day-night double-dip between los Indios and las Tigres; we decided that our best bet would be to watch the 1 pm game from my house or some similar location, and attend the night game. Given the heat out, this was a wise decision indeed. With about 90 minutes to kill, we elected to squeeze in a screening of Caddyshack, which always delivers the goods. I was roundly criticized for fast-forwarding through the scene with Chevy Chase and Bill Murray, but look at the facts. We needed to cut some time off the film to be on-time for the Indians game. I'd already whizzed through every scene with Maggie. Something had to go, and this scene simply isn't one of the film's best. What, was I supposed to edit out Judge Smails? You'll get nothing and like it!

Anyway, a flaw in our plan was revealed: no TV for the 1 pm game. I'm not sure if that's because it was a makeup game, a consequence of MLB's idiotic blackout policy, or some horrible combination of the two, but that's how it was.

Worked out great.

I have MLB radio, so we were treated to the sounds of Tom Hamilton, Mike Hegan, and Ron Rosenbaum while we spent the afternoon playing epic contests of RBI Baseball and Wii games that involved characters dressing up as chickens and flapping their wings to complete a course. I can neither confirm nor deny reports that I played this game while sporting a Hawaiian shirt and a sombrero.

We also scored some pizza, which did not arrive a moment too soon. Neither did the end of the Jimmy Buffett CD we were tragically listening to. The Tribe made it two straight over the Motor City Kitties with a hard-fought 4-3 win over Justin Verlander. Fausto Carmona spotted the Detroiters three runs in the first inning, which is not the recommended way to win baseball games, but he, Joe Smith, and the Perezes wouldn't allow another run the rest of the way. Assisting in the effort was Andy Marte, who played the defensive game of his life. Meanwhile, the Tribe offense chipped away with two in the third, tied it when Shelley Duncan scampered home on a wild pitch in the 6th, and went ahead for good in the 7th on Trevor Crowe's RBI single. Ballgame!

Around that time, other members of my crew started joining our jolly foursome, keeping the turnstiles spinning. We watched a bit of Major League to celebrate, learning later that Mr. James Gammon (Lou Brown) had passed on the day before. What a performance that was. Around 5:30, we busted out Tribe Trivia, a Jeopardy!-style game featuring questions authored by none other than me. Nick absolutely wrecked this game, turning in a performance on par with Gammon's outing as the fictional Tribe manager.

Unfortunately, all of my friends arrived well past their scheduled arrival time, so I had to kick them all out so we could get to the game on time. As for the walk over, for the record, I liked "Quitness" shirts better than the unsubtle and frankly awful "Fuck LeBron" shirts. Really, that's all the more clever idea you have?

We went for the bleachers next to Mr. John Adams this time - I figured we'd want to be out of the sun for this one, and it was the right call. At this point in time, a question arose in my mind: who invited all these Tiger fans? Ugh. The Tigers loaded the bases with no one out in the first but failed to score, yet tallied the first marker in the 2nd inning to take an early advantage on the Indians for the third straight game. No matter - Carlos Santana jacked one out of the park to tie the game in the 4th, and it stayed that way for quite some time.

Around the 7th inning, my lack of sleep finally caught up with me, as I passed out for the top of the 7th. I needed that 10 minutes. Hey, at least I didn't miss the Hot Dog Race (had to watch that idiot Ketchup win twice), the 7th-inning stretch (the Indians org really, really needs to work on synching the music and the people singing), or "Hang on Sloopy." Then, tied 1-1 after 8, the rains came. And it looked bad. And I'm a short walk away. So we left.

I don't regret that decision at all. The delay ended up lasting nearly two hours, which we used as productively as possible: drinking Stones, playing RBI, busting out the cards, and rocking iTunes. Then at 11:20, it was Game On once again. Around 12:30 on Sunday morning, the Clevelandes claimed their third straight W over Detroit, as Austin Kearns' two-out single in the 11th plated Jayson Nix to secure the doubleheader sweep. Ballgame!

You're probably wondering whether or not we finished off the Stones. We did. Milkey and I also played one of the more epic RBI games in history. Trailing 19-15 heading to the bottom of the 9th, I tallied five for the win, walking off on a two-out two-run home run by Gary Gaetti that didn't so much clear the fence as tunnel through it, my second quantum round-tripper of the game. It was no weirder than, say, Jhonny Peralta hitting an inside-the-park home run, plus I had been jobbed on a couple of calls earlier, including a Milkey homer down the line that refused to hook, so it was fair.

If we've learned one lesson from previous Tribe Weekends, other than not to open windows when the midges are out and about, it's not to try to go to games all three days. It's just too much.

Not only that, but the Indians apparently finished their sweep of the hapless Tigers with a 7-2 win that featured an inside-the-park home run from Peralta, as well as 9 innings without yielding a single earned run by Jeanmar Gomez and Hector Ambriz. Inasmuch as this game clearly took place in another dimension, perhaps even a Multiverse, we would have been wasting our time trying to attend it. Plus it was hot out.

Tribe Weekend was a success in all facets of the game, much like the Indians' endeavors on the diamond. Here's looking forward to the 2011 edition.

Go Tribe!

Sunday, July 18

Bye, bye, Detroit

Saturday, July 17

A proud day for Cleveland sports

Screen capture from today's headlines on ESPN.cpm, cropped but otherwise unaltered:

Friday, July 16

The Indians at the break

After 88 games, the Indians stand at 34-54 and 15.5 games out of the AL Central, and if that wasn't depressing enough, the Tribe are 14th of 14 in AL attendance. So, during the All-Star break and before the FCF Tribe Weekend arrives, I felt I should do a general Q&A regarding the Indians' performance after these first 88 games.

What has been the biggest surprise so far in 2010?

JHH: My biggest surprise is that the pitching isn't the liability I thought it was going to be. Some of that might be due to the offense being so bad at times, but major injuries all around hasn't helped that either. Jake Westbrook, Fausto Carmona, and Mitch Talbot are OK in the starting role. Of course our team OPS+ sits at 94, which in the AL only bests Oakland's 92 and Seattle's 79 (Ouch!) while the team ERA+ is 86 which is tied for last with Baltimore. David Huff's 66 probably isn't helping out there.

Andy: Asdrubal Cabrera: out two months. Shin-Soo Choo: out two months. Grady Sizemore: out for the year. I really thought this club was going to score some runs - who on Earth could have predicted we'd lose our three best regulars for extended periods of time? No team can withstand that sort of punishment, especially a team like Cleveland who was shaky to begin with.

Figgs: Carlos Santana. I'm surprised it took the Tribe so long to bring him up, and surprised that he has made such an immediate impact.

Nick: I'm with John - it's definitely been the stability of the rotation. Mitch Talbot has been a Godsend so so far, and although it's questionable whether he sustain this success, if he can just settle in as a consistent #4 or #5 he will still be a cost-controlled mainstay in the rotation for several years. Carmona has bounced back, even if he's only about 75% of his 2007 version. Westbrook has brought a veteran presence and has provided something of a stabilizing force. Masterson is the wild card. He's come around, but he's still been very inconsistent. Masterson is the only starter other than Carmona with top-flight stuff, so if he can find a way to get lefties out, the Victor Martinez trade becomes a huge coup for the Wahoos.

What player is your first half Indians MVP?

JHH: I dare anyone to say Carlos Santana, though his 174 OPS+ leads this team followed by Jason Nix's (at least he's serviceable) 143, and Shin-Soo Choo's 139. Choo is my pick at MVP and too bad he got hurt. He easily carried this team offensively through the first third of the season despite many teams having no reason to pitch to him.

Andy: Fausto Carmona was our All-Star, therefore: Fausto Carmona. I kid, I kid: it's definitely Rusty Branyan. Alright, enough shtick, focus, Andy. Baseball-Reference says that Choo's WAR (Wins Over Replacement) is 3.3, almost twice as much as the next-highest Indians position player...yep, Carlos Santana (1.7). Therefore, I'm making the same call as JHH and giving the award to Choo. FYI, Rusty was at 1.6, Jhonny Peralta sits at 1.5, and Austin Kearns is at 1.3, making them the only Indian regulars who are more than a win better than a replacement-level player. In case you're interested, Justin Morneau leads the AL to this point with 5.3 WAR, Zack Greinke led the league at 9.0 a season ago, Albert Pujols has topped the NL six straight years, and Barrold Bonds broke the 12 mark during a couple of his steroid years. On the flipside, Michael Brantley is last at an almost incomprehensible -1.3, with Grady Sizemore not far off at -0.9. Goodness. On the chucking side, Fausto leads the Tribe staff at 1.9, followed by Talbot at 1.3 and Chris Perez at 0.9, so you could at least make a case for the Faustastic One. But I'm not going to.

Figgs: Since Andy took my Rusty joke, I guess I'll just go with everyone else and say Choo. Although Kearns was crushing it at the beginning of the year and I do love Santana.

Nick: I'm tempted to buck convention and select the Mitchman, but I'll stay away from a cute pick and go with Choo.

How do you rate Acta's performance as a manager?

JHH: Manny Acta's team current sits at two games behind their Pythagorean record which actually isn't too bad for an Indians team. I like Acta. Did he suicide squeeze with Travis Hafner on third for a go ahead run? Yes, yes he did. Does that make him a smallball manager? I don't think so; I suspect he is mainly interested in winning.

Andy: I don't think managers matter much. We'd be pretty much where we are under Wedge, Charlie Manuel, Joel Skinner, Mike Hargrove, Jerry McNamara, you name it. I do enjoy Manny's interviews, though, so he's got that going for him. And as long as you're mentioning "smallball," let's take a minute to remember the late, great FIREJOEMORGAN.COM, which dismissed that approach to the game as "outball."

Figgs: I'm also with the opinion that managers don't have too much effect on the game, unless they are especially good. I think he's done an OK job, but is nothing special. Knowing the longevity of MLB managers, he'll probably be gone by mid-season next year.

Nick: We needed a charismatic and intelligent captain to lead us, and I have complete confidence than Manuel Elias Acta is that hero.

Which Indian will be traded next?

JHH: Kerry Wood. Austin Kearns is nothing but a 4th OF to other teams so I doubt we'll get much above a bucket of balls there. I'm hoping Jake Westbrook sticks around just to have a person on this team my Grandma recognizes. Wood has some value as a reliever and has shown signs of improvement at times. That and I imagine there are a few stupid and desperate GMs willing to part with some mid-level AA prospects for Wood. Oh, and maybe some cash since those empty seats at Progressive Field aren't helping the bottom line.

Andy: Peralta. Someone will be intrigued by his ability to play multiple positions (even though he is a poor shortstop) and the power he's displayed in the past, and will take a flyer on him, thinking that maybe he just needs a change of scenery. Which could, actually, be correct.

Figgs: Andy, Peralta is clearly going to be an Indian for life. We will never be able to get rid of him. I'd say Kearns, even though we probably won't get much for him.

Nick: Peralta. Like Andy said, he actually has some value even with his mediocre production the last few seasons. He also comes at a more attractive price point than a $10M/year closer who can't close.

Which Indian will get hurt next?

JHH: Did you know Jhonny Peralta has played over 141 games each season since 2005?

Andy: Slider, if JHH has anything to say about it.

Figgs: While Santana is batting, a random hawk will swoop down and peck him in the eye, blinding him for the next six months. He will lose control of his bat, where it will fly into the dugout, taking out Matt LaPorta. Simultaneously, Carmona and Talbot will be eaten by Tyrannosaurus Rexes.

Nick: The smart money is on Hafner sustaining some type of vaginal injury.

How do you think the Indians' second half will turn out?

JHH: I suspect not well. I don't see Karim Garcia coming out to hit 52 RBI in 51 games in August and September. The hard part about being 20 games below .500 at the break is that it is hard to see this team playing even .500 ball through the season. Surely some of them will start slacking off and not trying as hard. Heck, Luis Valbuena started the season like that. I predict a final record of 57-105.

Andy: I think they'll continue on their current Pythagorean pace, while some young players will develop enough to turn a couple of their rough early-season losses into W's. 66-96.

Figgs: I think we'll play a little better in the second half than we did in the first, which won't be too difficult. Hopefully Choo will come back and Santana will continue to roll. We'll see how trades may affect the lineup and game outcomes. 64-98, stay away from the 100-loss mark!

Nick: Ready for a bold prediction? .500 ball the rest of the way to finish 71-91 and climb out of the AL Central cellar. Cue the "this team is coming together" montage!

Go Tribe!

Thursday, July 15

Tribe Weekend Preview

As the FCF staff prepares to celebrate the annual rite of Tribe Weekend, I felt it a worthwhile exercise to preview the pitching for this weekend:

Game 1: Max Scherzer, RHP 6-6, 4.61 ERA vs. Jake Westbrook, RHP 5-5, 4.75 ERA
If you don't think I like the idea of seeing our veteran Jake Westbrook taking the ball following the All-Star break then you don't know me. Looking at Max's numbers I like our chances. The only concern is that Jake might be overly rested, which baseball conventional wisdom tells you might not be the best thing for a sinkerball pitcher.

Game 2: Justin Verlander, RHP 11-5, 3.82 ERA vs. Fausto Carmona, RHP 8-7, 3.64 ERA
Game 1 of a Saturday day-night doubleheader pits each club's top starter against one another. If this truly is the pitching matchup on Saturday's day game and the high that day really does reach 88, then I'm glad this game will be viewed either from Andy's couch or a bar.

Game 3: Rick Porcello, RHP 4-7, 6.14 ERA vs. Mitch Talbot, RHP 8-8, 3.99 ERA
Talbot has dropped his last two and four of his last five after jumping out to what can only be described as a shockingly good start. I hope the break was what Mitch needed to rest and get things back on track. Porcello gets the call-up from Toledo despite less-than-stellar numbers.

Game 4: Andrew Oliver, LHP 0-3, 6.38 ERA vs. Justin Masterson, RHP 3-8, 5.31 ERA
Well, by this point in the weekend I'll be in a car back to Southern Ohio, but Oliver has only pitched a total of 6.1 innings over his last two starts. This is the kind of matchup Masterson needs.

Go Tribe!

LeBron and the NWO

Too good not to re-post:

Tuesday, July 13

The Most Comical Indians of My Fandom (1986-Present)

The Indians have had their share of successes over the 25 seasons during which I've been a fan of the club (ever since Pops introduced me to hardball), and they've also had their share of colorful characters. Inasmuch as the Tribe hasn't managed to capture a World Series title during that span, it's a good thing that they've consistently been able to put out a comedic product, win or lose. With that, I give you the Cleveland Indians' All-Comedy Team from the past 25 years.

C - Lance Parrish
Old Lance gets the call here for two reasons. One, I gave my sister the nickname Lance some 15+ years ago, in part because of Mr. Parrish (as well as a fake name "Pappish" from NCAA Basketball, which can't use collegiate players' names) The name Lance sticks even today. Second, Lance (Parrish, not my sister) was the catcher the time the Indians tried to intentionally walk a guy and the 4th intentional ball got away and the winning run scored from 3rd. Awesome.

DH - Julio Franco
What's not to like about Julio? From his preposterous batting stance (any baseball fan to this day recognizes his exaggerated way-over-his-head bat position), to his enthusiasm, to the fact that he played until he was roughly 65, Julio was quite the enjoyably ecccentric character. I loved hearing him talk about hitting in Spring Training with donuts on his bat and extolling the virtues of various health foods - he was like an eccentric uncle.

1B - Rusty Branyan
I've spilled enough digital ink on Rusty already, but suffice it to say that he's the most polarizing figure in the history of the club as I know it, responsible for all sort of invective, heckling, and hilarious debates. He was just such an absurd figure that I couldn't help laughing at his approach to the game.

2B - Ronnie Belliard
Between Ronnie's chiseled physique, Jabba-like tongue, Predator-style dreads, and his defensive positioning out near the right-field warning track, Ronnie was a breath of fresh air during a fairly unproductive time in the Indians' recent history.

SS - Alvaro Espinoza
Two things get Alvaro the spot here:
1) Those dorky glasses.
2) The bubblegum-on-the-hat thing. He could have (and did) pull it virtually game and it never got old. Alvaro's been coming to the same party for years now, and in no way is that depressing.

3B - Roger Dorn
For whatever, the hot corner is also a comedy-free corner, as I couldn't find anyone worthy and had to dip into the Major League roster. At least I didn't spike myself.

LF - Albert Belle
Throwing a ball at a belligerent bare-chested fan. Chasing kids angrily on Hallowe'en in his SUV. Becoming so psychotic about ping-pong that the Tribe management banned the clubhouse games. "Joey." Cheating with a corked bat and making a big show of flexing his muscles afterwards. The Belle years were like having our very own Mike Tyson.

CF - Alex Cole
You have to go way back to 1990 to remember Cole. He was this speedy outfielder who stole bases, a poor man's Rickey Henderson. I still remember reading a game recap where they talked about the opposing chucker being in a "Cole Sweat" (get it?) because of AC's speed. The Indians went to far as to move the fences back in Municipal Stadium (no hitter's park to begin with) to build a club around Cole's fleet feet (40 steals in 63 games). Cole on-based .386 in his first full season but only notched 27 steals, then was shipped to Pittsburgh mid-year the following season after OPS+ins a robust 47 and swiping just 9 bags. Honestly, I can't remember if they moved the fences back in.

RF - Wayne Kirby
This is for purely personal reasons - I've always been fascinated with his strange name, and had his minor league card before he even made his debut with Cleveland. By a strange coincidence, I attended his major league debut (I only went to like two games a year back then), where he sported #73 and presaged much of his career by making an out.

I find it amusing now how he always managed to stick with the Tribe despite, well, not being very good (career OPS+ of 75 for a right fielder) while we were giving away guys like Brian Giles for nothing. He also placed 4th in the Rookie of the Year his third season, where he posted an OPS+ of 87. Weird staying power. Wayne's other claims to fame: collecting the game-winning hit in the first-ever game at Jacobs Field, and having his brother Terry play for the Browns.

SP - Dennis Martinez
El Presidente. I remember hearing that he was seriously running for president in his native Nicaragua; any time a pitcher of yours considers a bid for a nation's chief executive, that's funny stuff.

SP - Chuck Finley
Cue Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again."

RP - John Rocker
What a clown. How could you not find Rocker funny? Between his ridiculously un-PC remarks, fakey-sounding name, and comically awesome sprints from the bullpen, Rocker was the undisputed funniest player in the game during his reign. I'm just glad we got to experience some of it.

RP - Jason Grimsley
You crawl through a duct to recover an illegal corked bat, you're on this team, it's that simple.

Closer - Bob Wickman
Wick always came on looking like he'd just eaten like five bratwursts and/or returned forom a drinking bender, inevitably put at least two guys on base, sweated profusely...and then got the save. He was awesome. I'll never forget the time he intentionally balked the tying run from 2nd to 3rd just because he thought the guy was stealing signs.

Manager - Charlie Manuel
I thought we hit good...pitched good...fielded good...
In addition to his legendary pre-game chats, I love the fact that Charlie was a legend in Japanese baseball, where he is known as the "Red Devil."

Broadcaster - Herb Score
I'm as big a fan of Tom Hamilton as anyone, but Herb was a real original. His accent was always good for a laugh; his pronunciation of his own name ("Uhhhb") became his nickname in the Francis household. But I think what we'll always remember about Herb is him periodically forgetting what he was doing. If not for Uhhhb, Harry Doyle takes this chair.

Scalper - Hector Luna Guy
This is only peripherally related to the Tribe, but there's this ticket scalper on E 9th who insists on wearing a blue Hector Luna jersey. Of all the ridiculous, arbitrary jerseys, how on Earth did this guy end up with a Luna? Why was this article even manufactured? Amazing. Yet he still wears it, four years after Luna played the last of his 37 games in a Tribe uni.

Honorable Mentions
All of these guys were entertaining for essentially just one reason, but it was enough to make me chuckle when I saw their names on old team rosters.

Ernie Camacho
If I'm not mistaken, we used to call this fellow Ernie "Macho" Camacho.

Otis Nixon
This guy always looked like he's just arrived at the ballpark having left his 60th birthday party, but somehow he was still fast.

Ron Washington
It's simple: you get in trouble for cocaine use as a manager (albeit not with the Tribe), you make this list.

Oddibe McDowell
For self-evident name purposes.

Candy Maldonado, Marquis Grissom, Bip Roberts, Coco Crisp

Karim Garcia
The Indians' greatest contribution to the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars.

Eric Plunk and David Riske
What was your favorite hacky sportswriter pun for botched relief outings: "Ker-Plunk," or "Riske Business"? Those made "Austin [Kearns] Powers Tribe to Win" headlines look like child's play.

Keith Hernandez
I'm Keith Hernandez.

Carlos Baerga
I have never before nor since seen an individual run like this man. Very Looney Tunes-esque.

Carlos Martinez
To the best of my knowledge, this is the only Major Leaguer ever to hit a home run off of another Major Leaguer (Jose Canseco)'s head. I was watching that when it happened.

Einar Diaz
This man had one discernible skill at batting: doubles down the leftfield line. Why didn't teams just use a rover and place him right in that spot? Diaz would have batted .000 for the year.

Eddie Murray
For his utter and complete inability to wear a baseball cap correctly, preferring to perch it high atop his head.

Chris Perez and Marty Cordova
For fantastic hair, Cordova of the coiffed variety and Perez of the wild bad-ass strain.

Felix Fermin
Not only did we trade this cat straight-up for Omar, but my Dad always called him "Vermin," which made me laugh. Dad loves mispronouncing players' names: Thome becomes T-Home, Albert Belle becomes Al-Buhht (an homage to Uhhhb), Omar becomes Homer, and so on.

Omar Vizquel
For many things, but mostly that leather jacket he wore during his interview with Tom Hamilton on an old Indians VHS video we end up watching here every year.

Jason Davis
For feuding with the despicable Torii Hunter of the Minnesota Twins.

Scott Sauerbeck
If you want me as a fan, hiding from police in bushes with some random woman is a good way to start. Ridiculous!

Here's to more Cleveland Indians comedy in the future. Oh, and maybe a World Series title.

Monday, July 12

AFC North, Vegas-style

Vegas' over-unders on AFC North team regular-season wins, sent to us by Jimmy Shapiro on behalf of

Browns: 5.5
Bengals: 8
ratbirds: 10
squealers: 8.5

I like the over on the Browns, under on the Bengals and ratbirds, and I'd stay away from the Pittsburgh line. But that's just me.

Baseball All-Star rule changes

JHH passed along an article about four new rule changes that MLB has made for the 2010 edition of the game. Let's take a look:

The DH will be used in both AL and NL cities
I couldn't be more in favor of this rule. No one wants to see pitchers hit, even if the Tribe's Chuck Nagy did collect a hit wearing a Texas Rangers helmet one year. Considering that I think both leagues should have a DH for all games, I think this is progress.

Any starting pitcher who pitches the Sunday before isn't eligible to pitch and will be replaced on the roster
This is just ripe for fraud - what manager isn't going to try to pitch his guy on Sunday so he doesn't have to go in the All-Star Game? I don't see how anyone thinks this is going to help anything, though I suppose there's no harm in codifying it.

Rosters will be expanded from 33 players to 34 players, consisting of 21 position players and 13 pitchers.
Yeah, that's what I think every year after the game: if only each team had one more player. Yawn.

One positional player will be designated by each All-Star manager as eligible to return if a player at any position is injured.
It's amazing how we're still dealing with the fallout from the infamous All-Star tie, which was so long ago that I watched it at PHI Bar in Pittsburgh. This at least has the force of logic behind it, though I doubt it will ever come into play.

Congratulations on Fausto Carmona for being selected for a spot on the 2010 AL All-Star team! Hey, we had to send somebody, and he's our best starter.

I'm still not sold on the "every team has a representative" thing. The other sports don't have this, and it always leads to controversy and the exclusion of deserving players. Plus, it's not like fans of the token selection player get a lot out of it, because the mandatory picks tend to ride the pine most, if not all, of the game. I don't feel really strongly about this, and I can understand the flipside of the argument, but I'd prefer lifting this stipulation.

I also think they should totally change the way players are selected. No fan voting to pick starters, no league manager unilaterally picking reserves. The coaches, managers, and execs in the league should be polled and the best team assembled. Proponents of fan voting say that the game is "for the fans," which is mindless. I'm a fan, and I don't like the voting fraud (ballot stuffing, online voting) and poor choices (ladies and gentlemen, your 2010 New York Red Sox!). I want the best players to play.

Sunday, July 11

Additional LeBron thoughts

I very much appreciated Bill (sorry, "William J") Simmons' column about LeBron and found three mails especially interesting:

City: Long Beach
Name: Tom

Big freakin deal, Cleveland. Signed, Seattle.

Go fuck yourself, Tom. Signed, Cleveland.
We lost our NFL team for three years, Tom, in case you missed it. Cry me a river. And we didn't lose the Seattle SuperSonics, we lost the Cleveland Browns, a far more storied franchise. Also, you can't live in the LBC and sign things "Seattle." I want to meet this guy and tell him what a loser he is.

City: Cleveland
Name: Kyle

"The Decision" confirmed what I have feared for two months now: that LeBron knew he was going to be leaving after this season, so he had to start justifying it early.

I recognized his strategy, because I've done the exact same thing prior to breaking up with a girlfriend. Breakups suck, so why not try to make it a little less painful? Stop doing the little things, start making up excuses for not spending time with her, stop communicating as much ... essentially, do things that she will resent so that by the time you break up with her, she's mad at you and almost welcomes the breakup because of all the crap that you just put her through. LeBron did the same thing -- stop trying in the playoffs, refuse to be a part of planning for the future, stop talking with the organization other than the pre-ordained free-agency meeting, and then top it off with a ridiculous TV "special" to drive home the point that he's even more narcissistic than Lex Luger.

Agreed on all points.

City: Richfield, Minn.
Name: Aaron

If I'm Cavs owner Dan Gilbert I immediately look at the schedule for when the Heat come to town the first time. I then arrange a ceremony where they retire jersey #23. Even have LeBron help raise it into the rafters. Do it up right and honor the accomplishments. I'd have an emotional speech put together honoring all the ups and downs that they've seen; bring up all the heartbreaks and near misses in the playoffs and regular season.

The name on the back of the jersey? Jordan.

You know, it gets harder and harder every day to label something as the stupidest thing I've ever read, but Aaron from Richfield, MN, you might just have earned it. Do you really think it's a good idea to retire the jersey of the franchise's all-time archnemesis just to, I don't know, get back at some guy that left? That doesn't punish LeBron; it punishes Cavs fans. I would never, ever attend another Cavaliers game if they retired Jordan's number. There is nothing good or funny about this idea. Aaron, what are you thinking?

Saturday, July 10

Mr. Gilbert: Tear Down This Poster!

So the giant "Witness" poster remains intact Downtown across from the Q, which is mildly surprising, considering how disgusting the whole LeBron thing was last night. There were tons of people around it last night after the decision was announced, most of whom were wearing police uniforms. A couple of them should have hung out by the Q's team shop, which appears to have had its window smashed when I walked by today. You'd think the building would want to yank that Witness thing down as soon as possible, given that it's arguably now even more of an eyesore than those ugly billboards featuring Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that are all over town. But then again, the Browns left up those kiosks with their 2008 schedule for a few months, so who knows.

I won't really miss it. I never really like the whole not-so-subtle biblical angle with James; the savior of Cleveland basketball, the "King James" moniker, the "witness" thing. Of course, that's just me, and I don't like a biblical angle on anything. I did think Josh Cribbs' Twittered alternate billboard was an interesting idea, since Cribbs is easily the town's most popular athlete now. My only quibble is the "True to My Word" thing. Which word, the word where you said you'd played your last game for the Browns because of the contract dispute? Don't get me wrong, I think the things Cribbs has done on and off the field since joining the Browns organization are remarkable, and his personality and embrace of Cleveland are great. No one on the team plays harder or better. But this "true to my word" thing kinda brings up the lone blemish on his tenure here, that babyish handling of the contract situation. How about, "Fuck Off Steelers, I Run Wildcat Plays and Return Kicks on Your Ass All Day." It's catchy, admit it. I'm open to suggestions.

As for LeBron, my perspective has changed surprisingly little since he dropped the news. I was a Cleveland Cavaliers fan before LBJ turned two, and now that he's acting that age again, I'm still a Cavs fan. Mark Price is my all-time favorite Cavalier, not LeBron. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Larry Nance, Brad Daugherty, Shawn Kemp - those guys now mean more to me than LeBron. I'm kidding on Kemp. But at least none of those guys held a prime-time TV special to announce that they were ditching us. I don't mind LeBron's actual decision, even though I think Chicago gave him a much better chance to both win titles and be the Alpha Dog, but the way he announced it was simply awful. I know he's pretty well ensconced with Yes Men, but did anyone tell him what an terrible image-destroying idea that was? It's incredible how this one act of supreme douchiness has basically turned the entire nation against him, with the exception of South Floridians who don't care about sports. It's easy to say I'm just taking a sour grapes approach here - we did lose the world's best basketball player, after all - but the circumstances of his exit make it pretty easy not to miss him. I'll always appreciate and respect the things he did for the franchise, but now he's just another guy on another team. "You're nothing to me now, Fredo. Not a friend. Not a brother."

Dan Gilbert sure doesn't miss him either. Wow. He's absolutely ripped James in an open letter to fans, while basically calling him out for quitting in other comments to the media. The letter is actually pretty pathetic, from the Comic Sans font, to the ALL CAPS, to the vindictiveness, to the "guarantee" that Los Caballeros would take a title before El Heat. It's frankly pretty embarrassing - Brian Windhorst made the interesting point that, knowing Gilbert, the first draft was probably much harsher. It's the kind of letter you write and then file away, because the catharsis of actually physically writing the letter is really what you were after. I kinda wish DG had taken the high road, but then again, he probably had like $200 million slashed off of his net worth and I didn't.

But the important thing is still basketball. We're fans of the game of basketball and the Cleveland Cavaliers club, not soap opera press conferences, max deals, and Jim Gray interviews. So how does this affect things on the court? Well, first of all, it makes the Heat a lot better, and it makes me hate them a whole lot more. I've never wanted them to win of course, but now I straight hate them. From their mind-bogglingly stupid "El Heat" jerseys (would "El Calor" have been so tough?), to their fake 2006 championship that they should have dedicated to the officials, to the fact that they've retired the jerseys of Michael Jordan (barf) and Dan Marino (???), and now thefted our finest player, screw those guys. I still don't think they're better than Orlando, or even Chicago if the Bulls can find one more piece.

The Cavaliers, one the other hand, are going to struggle. Who the hell is even going to play on this team next year? Look who we're losing: Z, Shaq, Delonte, and What's-His-Face. I guess we still have Varejao, Hickson, Mo, and Antawn Jamison, but we're all of a sudden pretty thin in a lot of areas. Barring some unexpected free agent or sign-and-trade move, the Cavs could possibly have even dropped out of the East's top 8. The question then is: do you have to blow up the whole team to get back into true contention? Dan Gilbert's deep pockets are the team's greatest asset, but the construction of the NBA is such that he could overspend for the next 10 years for 50-win clubs and never get close to a title. This is to some extent what Dallas has been like under Mark Cuban, a smart, passionate, owner who is willing to spend, though the Mavs should have won the '06 title, as I mentioned. You typically kind of have to bottom out (see: 2003 Cavaliers) to get into a position to become an elite club. I wonder if Gilbert will have the patience for such a project. The remainder of this off-season should provide some hints as to what his approach will be.

But hey, let's look on the bright side: it should be a heck of a lot easier to get tickets next season. Go CaVs!

Thursday, July 8

Wednesday, July 7

Out-of-town Report

It has been brought to my attention that I haven't made a post in quite some time. With the Buckeyes' gridiron and hardwood teams in the off-season, I've been sitting on the sidelines, but I am a diehard fan of the professional Cleveland teams as well, so why not throw out my opinions live from outskirts of Erie, PA!


I suppose we'll start with the only team playing right now. First and foremost, I gotta give a melancholy shout out to the newest Seattle Mariner, Russell Branyan. During my last trip to The Prog, I came to the conclusion that no one has ever loved a mediocre player as much as us here at FCF loved Rusty. It really is a shame to see him go. We'll really miss ya Rusty. RUSTY!

Meanwhile, the Tribe have been playing pretty good ball lately. The Wahoo's currently still find themselves 12.5 games behind the Central-leading Tigers, and 4.5 games out of the Royals to attempt to get out of the cellar, but are 7-3 in their last 10 games. This recent streak has allowed us to past the Pirates, which is a plus. The last thing we need is for Pittsburgh to beat us at baseball too.

You don't usually say this about a 17 games under .500 ball club, but the Tribe has actually been really fun to watch, especially recently. They currently have six rookies on the squad, and it'll be interesting to watch how these guys develop in the second half. Carlos Santana appears to be the stud that we expected to see, and Matt LaPorta has just been dicking all over pitchers around the league since his call-up. Hopefully young guys like Crowe, Brantley, Donald, and Nix can get things going as well.


While the Indians are playing and the Cavs are in the off-season, obviously the biggest talk in Cleveland is around what LeBron James will do. Earlier this morning, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh both announced they will be signing with Miami. It appears that Miami will still go after The King to try to create a super trio. I've said from the beginning I think LeBron will re-sign with the Cavs, but I've never been super confident. Right now I'd say it's probably 60-40 that he'll stay.

We can all find out where LeBron will go Thursday evening at 9 on ESPN during a four-hour Sportscenter special. Wow, I knew this guy was an arrogant, media-whore, but really LBJ? Is this really necessary? What is he going to do for an entire hour? I hope he has all 30 team jerseys lined up, starts with the team he is to least-likely sign with, and tells us why he will not be going there, until he counts down to his choice. Although I certainly have not been shy about my disdain for James' personality, I think it goes without saying that he is one of the top two players in the league, Cleveland is nothing without him, and I will be devastated if he leaves. I'm sure Nick and/or Andy will provide a more detailed article once he makes his decision.


Every year around mid-June, when I face reality and admit the Indians aren't going anywhere, I really get that itch for some football. June just flew by, and now that it's already July, football season is right around the corner. It's time to buy Fantasy magazines already! Although I'm always pessimistic about the Browns before the season starts (and always correct), I still can't wait to get together with a bunch of other idiots every Sunday afternoon and cheer my face off for the Brown and Orange. Right now my pick for us this year is 5-11, but a few lucky bounces our way and I wouldn't be shocked if we pulled a 7-9 or possibly even 8-8. With the absurd things we've seen in Browns games over the last decade, for and against us (usually against), who knows what will happen. Hey, remember when we beat the Steelers last year?


Now we're talking my language. Ohio St appears to be loaded again and, if Pryor can play like he did in the Rose Bowl, possibly poised for another National Championship appearance. In just about every publication and expert pick I've seen so far has OSU taking on Alabama for all the marbles. I will provide a very in-depth preview as we get closer to the season, but for now I'll just say that with tons of explosiveness surrounding TP on offense and another devastating defense, the Buckeyes look to be a top team yet again.

On a quick basketball note, Evan Turner was selected #2 as expected by the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA draft. If you thought I would have learned my lesson after the Greg Oden fiasco and wait to buy his jersey until he actually plays a game, you would be wrong. GET EM

Best Uncle Ever

I'm working on getting The Comet in the tepee early, hooking her up with a couple of Wahoo Onesies and even letting her sport Uncle Bub's favorite Tribe cap.

Admittedly, she used her rudimentary motor skills to remove said hat several times before simply crying the fourth time, but that's probably more a function of my dirty old hat than any commentary on the club. She'll be a fan.

Tuesday, July 6

This is a letter to the New York Post!

I decided to listen to Chuck D' and Flavor Flav's famous dis track, "A Letter to the NY Post," while I take the New York Boast's Marc Berman to the woodshed for the worst article written about the entire LeBron saga and, in fact, any topic. Goodness, is this ever stupid. I'm going to have my main brothers from Strong Island help me out here.

After spending two out of the three days at the LeBron James summit in Cleveland, I am amazed how northeastern Ohio takes its lone sports treasure for granted.
"Worst piece of paper on the East Coast"
We have three major professional teams, but thanks for noticing, Marc. Also: the only way you can think that we take LeBron for granted is by ignoring everything that has happened here in the past seven years.

I camped at the IMG building Thursday and Saturday and spent the other day in Chicago for the Knicks' meetings with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
This sounds excruciatingly boring. I live like two blocks from IMG and never once gave any thought to heading down there. I love sports and live and die with the Cleveland teams (mostly die), but what's the fun in standing outside an off-season business negotiation? No thanks - I'll be heading to Progressive Field for an actual game of baseball.

There nearly was as much buzz outside Chicago's Peninsula Hotel, awaiting Wade and Bosh to come out, as anything witnessed in Cleveland.
"190 years of continuous fucked-up news."
I'm not clear on why this is newsworthy.

The Cleveland "Fan Tunnel" orchestrated by the Cavs on Saturday did not have a significant turnout. The goal was to have crowds lining St. Clair Avenue as James drove in for his final two meetings with the Cavs and Bulls.
This also does not sound fun. I care about Cleveland sports so much that I write a blog about them, but have absolutely no interest in participating in a "Fan Tunnel." This does not make me any less passionate or devoted. I respect all that LeBron has done for the club, and I really wish he would stay and win a title here, but this is groveling and has nothing to do with whether he will stay. I wonder when Berman will get to the part where he's by far the city's most popular athlete ever, we have a giant billboard with his picture on it, and sell out every game at the Q. Waiting...

One or two thousand fans were needed to make any impact.
"Sorry Jack, you took the info straight outta The Post - burnt us like toast"
10 million wouldn't matter. This is about money and legacy.

A couple of hundred showed up -- many of them employed by Quicken Loans Arena. They encircled the parking garage entrance when James drove in at 11 a.m. and they didn't even realize it was him as he drove in.
[Is asleep]

By the time James drove off in his silver Audi at 4:30 p.m., there were about 100 left. Considering the magnitude of this story, it was an underwhelming gathering.
"It always seems that they make our neighborhood look bad"
The magnitude of what story? Sorry, free agent hype isn't a story to me. When he signs here or somewhere else, that will be newsworthy. I care about games, not Audis. I'm not sitting here thinking, damn, I wish I'd seen LeBron's Audi drive away. This article is much more about us not being interested in back-room negotiations and the trappings of celebrity, and I'm guilty.

James talks about loving Akron, not Cleveland. He makes a distinction between the two cities which are 40 minutes apart, according to a source connected to his camp. He often has talked about "putting Akron on the map."
This is possibly the only correct item in this report; it's also already widely known.

James should realize playing in New York raises his profile
"It makes no god damn sense at all."
Basically everyone in the world currently knows who LeBron is. How high, exactly, can one's profile get?

and will bring more attention to Akron.
Nonsense. See above PE quote.

Cleveland fans did not embrace the moment Saturday or in May when James left the Quicken Loans Arena court for perhaps the final time as a Cavalier. He received scattered boos instead of a standing ovation.
"Get ya shit correct."
Berman conveniently leaves out the part where the Cavs played a listless, pathetic game in perhaps their biggest contest of LeBron's tenure. I don't condone home-team booing because I think it's counterproductive, but if ever a game deserved it, this was the one.

It never was a great basketball town before James
Editor's note: I got here and realized that I'd already used "It makes no god damn sense at all." in an earlier draft of the piece. That tells you all you need to know about this article.
False, Marcus. We had the Miracle at Richfield team, and our late-80's - early '90's Price-Daugherty-Nance teams. People cared the hell out of those squads.

-- ruled by the Browns and Indians. Other than "The Dawg Pound," there lacks a sports passion found in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, and Detroit.
Unreal. Where do I even start? This is, quite simply, the stupidest thing I have ever seen someone write about sports. New FCF Reader Challenge: write something stupider than this sentence. "Thank you, Marc. We are now all dumber for having read your writing."

During the Knicks' Thursday presentation, team brass sold more than a "wanna-be-a-billionaire" scheme. The Knicks sold the passion and energy of New York City.
And the money. Did they sell the dead crowds MSG has had for the past few seasons?

The Knicks have done everything to get you to New York, LeBron, trashing two seasons
More like 10 seasons. Burn!

clearing $35 million in cap space and now adding the guy you wanted in Cleveland -- stud power forward Amar'e Stoudemire. There's no excuse now.
There are tons of reasons not to go to New York, up to and including Stoudemire's inevitable ball-hogging, less contract money, an otherwise lousy team with poor management, distance from his giant mansion in Akron, and a far less accomodating media and fan base. But good point, Marc: no excuses!

The vibe emerging out of northeastern Ohio -- despite Stoudemire's signing -- has James leaning toward staying in Cleveland.
For the reasons stated above, it's a smart decision, perhaps on a three-year deal. I can see Chicago, too; he, Bosh, Noah, and Rose would make a formidable roster. One reason I can't see being a draw to Chicago: the fact that Jordan played there. Why do people think this would lure LeBron there? "Hey, come play in the only city in the entire league where you will never be considered the franchise's best player!" LeBron does not strike me as the type of fellow who wishes to play in someone else's shadow.

Fact is, Cleveland doesn't deserve him.
"America's oldest continuously published daily piece of bullshit"
Because we didn't go to some dumb rally after the Cavs' sales pitch? This is completely insane.

Monday, July 5

Three nights, three games, three parks

That was my social calendar this past week, as I hit up the stadia of the three local baseball clubs on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I was fortunate enough to have planned these endeavors during what turned out to be an absolutely beautiful week of weather in Northeast Ohio, with highs in the low 70's and clear, cool evenings along the lake. Can July be like that too? Editor's note: it was above 90 today, so apparently not.

Monday: The Lake County Captains
The Captains are a low-A-ball affiliate of the Cleveland Indians located in Eastlake, OH, which is, as the name implies, near the Lake and east of Downtown. They play in Classic Park, which is a really nice place to watch a baseball game. Tickets are a reasonably-priced $9 ($8 on Mondays!) and Monday evenings are Dollar Nights, wherein the club will supply you with 10 ounces of Labatt or Bud Light for the fee of just $1. In a related story, I have only ever attended Captains games on Monday nights. Thursday apparently features 5-cent Dixie Cup beers, but that seems to be hampered by some degree of red tape.

The first time I went, the crew I went with informed me that I should get a seat in Section 119, which is located along the 3rd-base line about halfway from 3rd to the fence. The guy gave me the ticket and said "best seat in the house," which didn't make much sense to me until I saw where I was sitting (photo at right). 119 tapers to a point in the front, such that the front "row" is a single seat: my seat. Needless to say, I didn't sit in this seat, though there were people in the two-seat row right behind it, and it would have been hilarious to occupy my seat and insist upon standing in front of them. I also scored free ice cream for our section thanks to the efforts of a classmate of mine, Assistant GM Neil Stein. This was well received - thanks, Neil!

Monday's game was my second of the season - they lost the first one 6-2 or something. They lost this one 6-1. I've been disastrous luck at baseball games so far this season; 3-8 thus far, and as we'll see shortly, one of the three was not as it seems. The Captains collected their lone run on an RBI Baseball-caliber home run off of the right-centerfield scoreboard; other than that, Lake County was held in check by a team actually called the "Loons." Hey, at least we didn't get shut out, and we got to heckle the Loon bullpen and try to throw peanuts into a friend named Al's beer.

As nice as Classic Park is, as lovely of an evening as I had, and as cheap as the beer was, the traffic there is a nightmare. I know, right, traffic in Eastlake? They've got this big traffic knot at the highway exit right next to the park that snared me for quite some time. THEN, they had keg problems in the line in which I was standing, which wasn't cool. I left my house at 6:15 and first sat in my seat at 7:45. In a related story, my apartment is a 15-minute walk from Progressive Field. Just sayin'. It also happened to be "Faith Night," which is amusing to me because I'm really not into the faith thing and somehow I keep accidentally attending Faith Nights at baseball parks. Go Captains!

Tuesday: Lake Erie Crushers
Or should I say, defending champion Lake Erie Crushers! I took a similar drive, this time out west along Lake Erie, and went to a game of the Lake Erie Crushers, an independent Frontier League team. The Crushers play in All Pro Freight Stadium out in Avon and won the title last year in their inaugural year. My previous effort to hit up a Crushers game last year was stopped by a rainstorm, leading our group to instead end up in Michael Symon's "Bar Symon," which was terrible.

But as I said, the weather was awesome on Tuesday, so I made my APFS debut. Tickets are $8, just like Lake County, but they have $2 beer night, so Advantage: Captains. We were a day early for "Keep LBJ in the CLE Night," wherein the club offered LeBron a Frontier League max deal ($1600/month) and a host family in Avon to sign with the Crushers. Pretty funny idea, and a story that was picked up by and

APFS isn't nearly as nice as Classic Park; I joked during the game that it'll probably look nice when they finish it. Not a bad place, just a tad skeletal. The Crushers were playing the Florence Freedom, which was funny because the scoreboard said "FREEDOM CRUSHERS" on it all game by the line score. The scoreboard lacked any sort of video capability, which was highly unfortunate, as was the permanent loss of eyesight I have from staring into the sun all game. Stupid sun. The Crushers sport a boss red/black/white color scheme, which I'm all for.

Runs were damn hard to come by - almost impossible, in fact, as the score remained 0-0 through 10 innings. As a repsonsible citizen with employment responsibilities, and as someone who had run out of soccer jokes, I left the game after 10 frames, and of course the Crushers came through with the game winner in the 11th. I'm not sure if this counts as me having seen a win; I'm going to say no. Nice enough way to spend an evening, but I'd give the edge to the Captains, especially if they fix that nonsense by the highway exit. Go Crushers!

Wednesday: Cleveland Indians
Social Deck, baby!
Go Tribe!

Friday, July 2

FCF, hanging out in Mom's Basement

Yeah, we're kind of a big deal.

FCF'ers John and Andy made a trip to Progressive Field on Wednesday to watch the Wahoos go for their 4th consecutive win, and this time, admission was on the Tribe, thanks to the Tribe Social Deck.

If you've not heard of it, TSD is a 10-seat area located just to the center field side of the Home Run Porch that the Indians built specially for users of social media. It comes complete with a TV and wi-fi access. Once I heard about it, I thought, hey, we use social media, and there's no apparent requirement that anyone actually reads it! Bloggers have taken to jokingly calling it "Mom's Basement," playing on the stereotype that bloggers and Twitter users are socially inept losers typing away from the confines of their parents' houses.

Anyway, I put in an application and the Indians hooked JHH and I up with tickets to see the Indians take on the Toronto Blue Jays. It's semi-difficult to find the TSD page on I joked with the Indians staffer that it functioned as a bit of a screen; if you can't find the page, you're probably not computer-savvy enough to qualify anyway. I like to think my application was fairly strong; even though I complained about how my Facebook URL doesn't fit under their 140-character guideline, my answers for "why should you attend a game in the TSD" (So I can tell people about Rusty Branyan's OPS+) and "what is your favorite Cleveland Indians memory" (The Impossible Return) were solid. Plus we have a functioning blog and Twitter account with consistently-updated content. Under interests, I checked "Day Games," "Night Games," "Weekday Games," and "Weekend Games." I wanted to remove any doubt as to whether I liked baseball.

All 10 seats were taken, comprising 11 people. Our crew was as follows:

- Our excellent host Rob (@tribetalk), who was kind enough not to count down the minutes until he got to go do other things.

- Mark and Mariella Szczepanik (@szczepanik), along with their two-month old baby girl Rose who was attending her first Indians game resplendent in pink Tribe gear. Mark was the only person in attendance whose t-shirt displayed his Twitter handle.

- Jacob (@UDjrosen) and Adam (@osuadamr) Rosen. Jacob is the Media Director for the Akron Aeros. He was the only TSD'er to keep score, doing so in a book titled "Jacob." He may or may not have been recruiting Candidates for the island. The Rosens informed me that my preference for Canal Park over Huntington Field is a minority position. I also provided a fun awkward moment when I mixed up their blog ("Waiting for Next Year") with "Wait Till Next Year (Again)." Easy enough mistake to make, no?

- Tim (@RowingInCLE and @ItsThePlumber) from the Western Reserve Rowing Association. I will let you know as soon as I figure out who he looks like. I know it's someone.

- Michele (@MicheleSteele), who has a rather informative Twitter feed but whom I didn't meet during her brief stay. I wonder if maybe the collective dorkiness got to her.

- Doug (@negativequity) and Matt, a couple of enthusiastic Ohio City locals.

And, of course, the stars of the show:

We had a hell of a time at the game - solid pre-game work at my place (where we discovered that Jim Thome's recent triple was his first three-bagger since '04) and Local Heroes (where they sadly no longer serve giant PBR cans). Entrance was a bit tricky because Gate B (the media gate) is almost unnoticeably small. I think the Will Call guy was asleep when we rolled up. I'm a bit disappointed that they didn't open Gate B specially for us and that we had to walk in Gate A like commoners, but hey, free tickets.

The TSD area was cool - real nice seats just above the wall in left, plus close proximity to both the men's room and the Leinenkugel stand. There was considerable roaming room, which I enjoyed. The TV was like seven seconds behind the live action, which was disconcerting at first, but upon further reflection was awesome because any question you had about live action was always replayed for you on-screen. Very handy. It also had wi-fi access, which was awesome for the computer I didn't bring. We had a little techno-envy, I think, being the only crew there without a smart phone. Oh well, at least my phone has a QWERTY, if not a functioning outer display.

The Tribe gave us this giant information sheet with all sorts of facts and figures. They know us so well. Jacob pointed out the awesome stat that Travis Hafner has a 29-game errorless streak (dating back to 8/30.../03) and also corrected the number of scoreless innings thrown by an Aeros player (21.1 rather than 20, validated later on the TV). Jacob knew his stuff. He also knew Calvin Funkhouser, high school classmate of JHH and I and also an Aeros staffer.

You can read a game recap anywhere, and if you're reading this you probably already know that the Wahoos did indeed collect their 4th straight victory by a margin of 3-1, thanks to home runs by Choo and LaPorta, another RBI hit for Santana, and an excellent start from Aaron Laffey. I binge-twittered during the game if you're interested in that perspective. I also made about 5 jokes per minute - it was a high JPM even for me. What can I say, I was on a roll.

Overall, I think our trip was a great success. I had a terrific time, met lots of friendly, knowledgeable Indians fans, and got to see the Indians win a ballgame...for free. Thanks to Mark, Mariella, Rose, Jacob, Adam, Matt, Doug, Tim, Michele, and of course Rob for making the Tribe Social Deck a fun outing.

It's just too bad that only the FCF'ers got to see the Indians record the all-important 27th out. Maybe I wasn't as funny as I thought. Look at how lonely JHH looks by himself. "Why don't I stretch out? I've been kicked out of better Social Decks than this!"