Thursday, March 31

Tribe Uniforms

With the season just a day away, I think now is a good time for a quick discussion of the Indians' 2011 uniforms. Paul Lukas over at UniWatch has already gotten the ball rolling, but I think a fan's perspective is fun as well. Let's go left-to-right.

Blue Road Alternate

Just a great-looking jersey, and that's all there is to it. Lukas rates the move to replace the old red script "I" on the navy cap to a Chief Wahoo as Good - I say it's Excellent. Bye bye, Script I.

What I haven't been able to locate, unfortunately, is the legendary Indians' Alternate Purple jersey favored by Bucko.

Cream Home Alternate
Can someone please explain to me why this isn't just white? Or, for that matter, why it exists at all? The cream looks stupid. The new red cap with navy "C" is a definite downgrade from the red "C" on navy background hat of last year, and as Lukas points out, the INDIANS on the chest is too big. So they've taken my already least favorite uni and given it by far the club's worst hat. Lukas calls this mildly stupid - I call it bad and really think they should just scrap the whole mess.

Gray Road
Classic road grays, Wahoo on the sleeve, Major League-style block lettering of CLEVELAND, and the navy cap with the red C. I want one of these. Lukas says Good, Francis says AWESOME.

White Home
Inasmuch as this is what I typically sport at most Tribe games I attend and the design hasn't been changed for 2011, I'm awarding this a Good rating. Lukas gives this a seriously stupid for the Indians not going back to the 1990's style script "Indians" without the silver outline. Frankly, I simply don't agree - I think the silver trim looks cool and the old design a bit bare, plus silver makes us even better aligned with the colors of PBR. Regardless, I don't think such a minor difference on a classic look warrants a "seriously stupid" rating.

Lukas points out that the Indians may have a bit of an identity crisis in terms of their jersey and color selections, and I think he's on to something. My simple solution is to totally scrap the home cream and the red hat. That leaves us with white, gray, and navy uniforms, and three navy caps - two with Wahoo and one with a red block C. Win, win, win.

Wednesday, March 30

Different Year, Same Story

For the second consecutive year, the Ohio St Buckeyes headed into the NCAA tournament with me, among many others, fully expecting them to make a trip to the Final Four. And for the second consecutive year, the Bucks suffered a heart-breaking loss in the Sweet 16. Just when the nightmares of J.P. Prince's block of Evan Turner's last-second three were beginning to fade, Brandon Knight's game-winning jumper (right) is there to replace it for months to come.

I watched Ohio St's 62-60 loss to Kentucky a second time the other day, to see if I could pinpoint a particular area that cost OSU the game. I couldn't really find one. Sure, they didn't shoot a high percentage from the field, but 35% isn't terrible. William Buford's 2 of 16 shooting stands out, but I'm not going to blame the entire loss on Will's happy trigger finger. When you look at the typical keys to a Buckeye victory, it seems they did enough to win. Their best player had a monster game (Sullinger finished with a 21-16 line), Diebler wasn't lights out, but was effective from beyond the arc (4/7), their defense had the Wildcats under constant pressure (forcing 11 turnovers), and they didn't totally shoot themselves in the foot at the foul line (a good but not great 73%). Really when it comes down to it, Kentucky just outplayed them and was the better team on that night.

You all saw the game, and I hate writing about these types of games, so I'm not going to break this down any further. Instead I'll take a quick look at what's next for the Ohio St ball team. Not since I've been following the Buckeyes has there been a more talented or fan-friendly senior class than this one, consisting of David Lighty, Jon Diebler, and Dallas Lauderdale. These guys played so hard, were so fun to watch and cheer for, and simply loved being Ohio St Buckeyes. In this one-and-done era of college basketball, it is not likely that we will see another group like this graduate together for a very long time, if ever again. None of them look to have great NBA careers ahead of them, but I for one will certainly never forget their time in the scarlet and gray.

Now on to the biggest question of the off-season: Jared Sullinger. Sully said after the game that "I'm definitely coming back next year. I need to work on a lot of things. I have to come back. I'm coming back to win." Now, let's not get our hopes up, as this certainly could just be the bitterness of a tough loss talking, just as we saw ET do last year. If the big man goes pro, he is a sure-fire top 10 pick, and possibly even the first overall selection. The thing working in the Buckeyes' favor is that Sullinger is very close with his father, who was his high school coach, and who wants his son to stay another year.

If Sully turns pro, OSU will have their work cut out for them next year, as Buff will have to be the go-to guy (God help us) and the young Aaron Craft will be looked upon to be the leader of the squad. With a Jared return, however, we are looking at a much different team that could contend for a title yet again. Sully will be the Naismith Award front-runner, and Buford and Craft, while having to play expanded roles, can stay in the spots they were in this year as the second/third option scorer and the feisty, do-it-all point guard, respectively. DeShaun Thomas will need to improve his three-point shot and become more of a scoring threat, and the new recruiting class coming in (another great one from Thad Matta) will be expected to play significant roles early on.

So another season is in the books. In what is starting to becoming a very annoying, recurring theme in both football and basketball, this Ohio St team was super-talented, had expectations of nothing short of a National Title, and came up empty handed, in heart-breaking fashion. 156 days till kickoff.


Who shot ya?

Tuesday, March 29

FCF Indians Roundtable

It’s that time of year again when the baseball season has not yet begun and baseball fans everywhere just want the season to get started already, so with that I bring you a nice FCF roundtable post to cover some Indians-related topics. Ed: admittedly, it's a fairly small roundtable, as John and I didn't invite anyone else. If anyone wants to add their comments and repost, feel free to do so.

What do you think about the opening day roster of first baseman Matt LaPorta, second baseman Orlando Cabrera, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, third baseman Jack Hannahan, designated hitter Travis Hafner, catcher Carlos Santana, left fielder Austin Kearns, center fielder Michael Brantley and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo?

JHH: I’m not sure how they will hit, but defensively this looks like an OK team. On the hitting, I’m suspect of everyone but Choo, Santana, and maybe Asdrubal.

Andy: "Tryin' not to, kid." John brings up a great point here - we should be well-above-average defensively this season. Kearns and Brantley are both very good outfielder, and Choo might be the best defensive outfielder this side of Franklin Gutierrez. If and when Grady Sizemore returns, hopefully he can return to his old prowess in CF. On the infield dirt, the OC is an improvement at the keystone sack, and the very fact that Ja(y)sons Donald and Nix no longer man the left side of the infield automatically makes our defense better. Losing Rusty's reliable glove and balls-out effort at first will hurt, but LaPorta should be able to pick up the slack. Santana seems solid behind the plate, but Hafner's shoulder makes me worried about his defensive abilities at the DH position.

Batting-wise, I'm very concerned. Choo, Kearns, and Cabrera are the only proven hitters we have. That's IT. LaPorta has bust written all over him, Hafner is long since washed up, and the OC and Hannahan are here pretty much for their aforementioned defense. There is potential to score runs if Brantley and Santana deliver on the promise they showed in the second half last year and Sizemore returns to form - I think the Indians' offense will depend greatly on how well that trio contributes.

What about the rotation of Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and Mitch Talbot?

JHH: It is weird not seeing David Huff, Jeremy Sowers, or Aaron Laffey but I suspect we are a slightly better rotation without them. Carmona will be as good an ace as we can hope for and the rest are question marks. In a previous post, I mentioned that seeing all of these five starters reach 20 starts would be an amazing feat. Obviously, we are probably all hoping that the guys not named Carmona have matured a little and hopefully will contribute more than they did last year.

Andy: "Tryin' not to, kid." The rotation is clearly the biggest question mark surrounding the 2011 Tribe, as only Carmona has any track record of success and his career has been a yo-yo. Here's my prediction: two of the question mark guys are going to step up and really outperform expectations - maybe Carrasco and Tomlin, and the Indians will spend much of this campaign holding often-frustrating auditions for the two remaining spots.

Is Chris Perez for real?

JHH: I really hope so. This team and these fans need something to rally around and a lights-out closer brings something to the ninth inning Indians fans have not seen in a long time.

Andy: This Perez (not the one who pretends not to be able to speak English) was the most exciting and fun part of last year's Tribe, and he has the two key attributes of a successful closer: steel nerves and the ability to throw the ball really hard. He might not totally duplicate his brilliant second half from a year ago, but he might well be our best back-end bullpen guy since Mike Jackson.

What’s the best the Indians likely can hope for this season?

JHH: I think the best we can hope for is that the Indians get out to a good start and stay close in most of the series. If this team tanks early it could be a long empty season at the ballpark. Maybe a second place finish in the AL Central is too much to hope for but a third place finish might not be too bad.

Andy: A World Series Championship. Sorry, missed the word "likely" in there. 2011 is a developmental season for the Tribe, make no mistake, and will be at times frustrating for fans. A .500 finish would be an unqualified success and a reasonable "stretch goal" for the young Erie Warriors.

Is it just me or has the usual amount of optimism regarding young talent and having a stocked minor league system not been as prevalent this season?

JHH: Lonnie Chisenhall aside, it is tough to look at the Twins, Tigers, and White Sox and think that we need to just wait and next year is our year. As we get farther from 2007 it seems a distant memory of this team being in contention late in the season. I suspect getting Grady Sizemore back and adding Chisenhall could be a spark but I still have too many questions regarding pitching. I do like Tim Belcher as our pitching coach and we are a young baseball team so maybe my perception is a little off.

Andy: With regards to position players, yes; with regards to pitchers, no. The likes of Gomez, White, and Pomeranz have gotten some good press through Spring training, but as far as position players, not so much. Seriously, besides Chisenhall, is there one pro-ready position player in our system?

What are you most excited about regarding the upcoming season?

JHH: With Manny Acta having a year under his belt, I am excited to see this young team perform. I know that sounds very general but the best part of a new season is not knowing exactly who is going to improve and who won’t. And the best part about being a young team is that young players have the highest potential to see a large improvement in their performance. So the 2011 Indians have a lot of potential and I’m excited to see that play out.

Andy: From proven players, the day-in day-out quiet excellence of Shin-Soo Choo and the bad-ass dominance of Chris Perez. From new players, I'm looking forward to seeing how Brantley, Santana, and Carrasco develop into (hopefully) solid pros.

Go Tribe?

JHH: Go Tribe!
Andy: Go Tribe!

Monday, March 21

Tribe Sporcles!

If you're like me, and all three of you kind of are, Tribe Spring Training games are a nice herald of the upcoming season, but aren't always the most exciting things in the world. Also, if you're like me, you're a giant nerd, and thus should LOVE these Indians-related Sporcle quizzes! 11 Days until Opening Day, kiddies.

Indians Opening Day Lineups from 1991-2010
Probably my favorite Indians-related quiz on the board, created by former Mistake by the Lake Sporting Times proprietor Corey Rubin. I posted a 167/200 on this one - perhaps surprisingly, the mid-90's were my weakest spot.

Can you name the Cleveland Indians division-playoff-winning line-up in the film Major League?
If you can get anyone besides the six stars of the film, then color me impressed. Would it have killed them to include the manager?

Can you name the players who went into the hall of fame as Cleveland Indians?
I'm not sure what surprised me more - that I only got 7 of 12, or that I only recognized two of the five I missed? In my defense, I got everyone who played any games post-WWII. I'm looking forward to Thome and Vizquel's admissions to pad my numbers.

Can you name the last 30 Indians to hit 20 homers in a season?
26/30, and the four I missed were quite familiar. Only missed one from 2000 on, though. Confession time: desperate for answers to some recent seasons, I actually typed in "Marte." And no, I didn't read "season" as "career."

Can you name the players to homer for the Cleveland Indians in the 1990s?
I don't want to talk about how I did on this one.

Can you name the Cleveland Indians Award-Winners?
I missed three, and one of them I feel bad about. I'm pretty sure the 1926 MVP is made up.

Can you name the Cleveland Indians All-Stars from 1991 to 2010?
I put up a 53/55 on this one. I think a stronger player (or a two-person team) has a good chance to ace it.

Can you name the Cleveland Indians HR leaders for each year since 1969?
I did pretty well going back to '77 (though the 1990 leader plagued me), then just totally airballed '69-'76. My favorite part is that the leader from 1981 had...wait for it...SEVEN home runs. Hard to believe we didn't win a pennant in 40 years.

Monday, March 14

Wait, Opening Day is how soon?

Before we get to the Indians Spring Training and the inevitable discussions on Opening Day rosters and batting order I want to discuss a topic that has been bothering me a little, which is the loss of Indians beat writer Anthony Castrovince and his replacement, Jordan Bastian.

Obviously in a perfect world every beat writer would be from the town they cover, like Castrovince, and would be very good and funny, like Castrovince. But now we get Bastian, who is from Chicago and attended Michigan State, and at times in his Twitter feed will remind me in jarring fashion that he isn't from around here, even though I live like 250 miles from Cleveland. It doesn't make Bastian any less of a writer but it is annoying. Obviously in a perfect world every beat writer would be from the town they cover. Anyone else with me on this? OK enough rambling about beat writers on to rambling about the Indians.

Let's discuss the Indians situations with regard to the positions.

Catcher - Carlos Santana is coming off what looked like a really good introduction to the majors, a debut that unfortunately ended in reconstructive knee surgery. That 144 OPS+ will be a welcome addition to this team for an entire season. I will, however, mention that Carlos has seen some time at first base this spring.

First base - This is Matt LaPorta's position to lose and boy has he looked less than mediocre. Matty is coming off a season where he had 425 PA and posted a .668 OPS and a 88 OPS+.

Second base - Who are we going with here? Luis Valbuena? Jason Nix? Orlando Cabrera? I like Lando, but second base for the Indians will likely see a cavalcade of players destined to stump Andy on a Sporcle in the not too distant future.

Shortstop - Asdrubal Cabrera (our second Cabrera) only played 97 games last year and in doing so posted his lowest ever OPS+ of 90. Still, this is one position that you don't have to worry about, and thank god for that.

Third base - Before his recent hand injury I was glad to see the handsome Jason Donald being worked out at third this spring. In 88 games with the Tribe last year Donald sported a 94 OPS+ which for a rookie on this team is impressive. However if Jason misses significant time we might see Nix or Lando at third Opening Day.

Outfield - Sorry ladies, but Sizemore will not be ready for Opening Day - actually I believe he's being targeted for late April at the earliest. So we're left with the likes of Shin-Soo Choo, Michael Brantley, Shelly Duncan, Trevor "Columbus Resident" Crowe, and Austin Kearns. This pretty much is the squad from last year. Thank the baseball gods for blessing us with Choo and curse the baseball demons for making Scott Boras his agent.

Starting Pitching - After Fausto Carmona and Justin Masterson this should get troublesome. The likes of Carlos Carrasco, Mitch Talbot, and Jeanmar Gomez will likely see some time, but getting five guys up to about 20 games started isn't very likely.

Relief Pitching - Chris Perez was nothing short of a revelation in 2010. Actually you might be looking forward to the relief corps this year of Raffy Perez, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith, Jensen Lewis, and others, but we've been fooled by promising bullpen squads before. Let's hope getting to Pure Rage Perez will happen with regular consistency in 2011.

DH - Yeah I was hoping I forgot too. I want to write an Onion Sports article titled "Indians hoping Hafner forgets to make the trip to Cleveland if no one mentions it to him." Yes our DH is set to make $11.5 mil this year and will likely not be an everyday player. I haven't done the math (or even looked it up) but this will likely represent in the neighborhood of 1/5 of the Indians total salary.

So there you go - thank goodness for Shin-Soo Choo.

Me at Opening Day - "Choo what do you think about the North Koreans revealing that they have an active Uranium enrichment facility?!"

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Wednesday, March 9

One-man show

2011 Miami Heat through 64 games: 43-21.

2010 Cleveland Cavaliers through 64 games: 49-15

2009 Cleveland Cavaliers through 64 games: 51-13

I know this is overly simplistic, and that the true test will come in the playoffs, but can this at least put to rest the notion that Cleveland never surrounded former forward #23 with any talent? At the very least, the fact that #6 and the Superdorks are likely to end the season with fewer wins than either of the past two years' Cleveland teams should quiet talk of those Cavs being a one-man operation.

The flipside of this is falling into the trap of thinking: #23 leaves, team stinks. Sure, Cleveland is epically bad this year, but I'm surprised how many people conveniently ignore the fact that the Cavaliers also lost Shaquille O'Neal, Delonte West, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and have played basically the whole year without Anderson Varejao, most of it without Mo Williams, and will spend the rest of it without Antawn Jamison. here are the Cavs who played in Milwaukee tonight:


Do you know how many of those players were among the eight accompanying #23 on the court when he quit on the Cavs last year? One - Parker. To recap, Anthony Parker is the only player currently suiting up for the Cavs who was in the nine-man rotation for last year's playoff squad. Let's stop pretending the 2010-11 Great Cavalier Fiasco is all about one guy, shall we?

Instead, let's look to 2011-12. Here's a possible roster:


Oh yeah, I forgot:
Top-10 Pick #1
Top-10 Pick #2

THAT team isn't going 12-52 anytime soon. Stay tuned, Cavs fans.

Tuesday, March 8

It's March!

There's not much to dislike about this month. In fact, I'd say it's one of my favorite months of the year, and certainly the best one that doesn't contain grown men tossing around a pigskin. The weather is beginning to turn here in the proverbial Snow Belt (actually, looking out my window right now I can see some odd green stuff on the ground, not sure what it is), St Patty's Day offers one of the finest drinking days of the year, Spring Training is in full force with baseball season edging closer and closer, and of course we have March Madness, beginning this week with the conference tournaments. (Great kickoff this afternoon in the Big East tourney when Rutgers outlasted Seton Hall in an OT thriller. Only the Madness of March could get me so into a Seton Hall/Rutgers game.)

With the excitement in college hoops building, I wanted to take a few moments to recap Ohio St's fantastic regular season, and look ahead to their chances come Big Ten and NCAA tourney time. The Buckeyes closed out the regular season with a stellar 29-2 record, 16-2 in conference play. The two losses, to #9 Purdue and # 13 Wisconsin, both came on the road; note that neither the Boilermakers nor Badgers lost in their home gyms all season. The Bucks beat Purdue by 23 in Value City, and just beat Wisconsin by 28 this past weekend, on a record-setting three-point performance (14 of 15!). In the final four games of the year, since the loss to Purdue, OSU has won by an average margin of 22+. Yikes.

They currently stand as the top-ranked team in the nation, and are pretty much guaranteed a #1 seed in the Big Dance, regardless of the Big Ten outcome. However, if they win the conference tourney, they will get the top overall seed, which would pair them in the same bracket as the last ranked #2, so that would be a plus.

If you have watched the Buckeyes at all this season, especially in that last game against Bud Kilmer's squad, (have I mentioned how much Wisconsin's Bo Ryan looks like Jon Voight's Varsity Blues character?) you have to like their chances in the field of sixty-fou...fiv...eight? Jared Sullinger is fantastic in the post and requires constant double teams, which opens up shots for one of the best shooting teams in the nation. They are terrific perimeter defenders, but as I have mentioned before on this blog the interior defense concerns me when Dallas Lauderdale isn't on the floor.

What does not concern me about this team that seems to be bothering a lot of talking heads is their depth. Yes, they only have a seven-man-rotation, with two of those guys often seeing single-digit minutes. So why does playing the same five the majority of the game not have me worried? Because it hasn't hurt them in the season's first 31 games, or at any point last year when this same core of players did the same thing, that's why. These guys can play 32+ minutes and seemingly not get tired. Jon Diebler averages 35 minutes a game, and was 8/8 from three-point land in the second half of the last two games. Does that sound like a guy who's on his last legs? Also, no one on this team gets in consistent foul trouble (knock on wood). If Ohio St is ousted in the tournament, it will not be due to a lack of depth.

Going back to how awesome OSU is, several of their players were honored today when the Big Ten awards were announced. Jared Sullinger was named to the All-Conference first-team and earned Freshman of the Year honors. David Lighty and Will Buford were 2nd-teamers, with Lighty joining Aaron Craft on the All-Defense team. Jon Diebler was third-team, but certainly would have been named shooter of the year had such an award existed. (51% from beyond the arc. Fifty-fucking-one!) Sully (player of the year) and Lighty (defensive player of the year) each finished second in their respective categories to Purdue F JaJuan Johnson.

So congrats to those players, and the Buckeyes as a whole, on a tremendous season. Now let's carry it on into March. Enjoy the Madness, everyone!


Tuesday, March 1


That's the current record of the New York Knicks, who are currently the talk of the league because they now have two star players. Just remember that number.


ESPN today ran this stupid "We're #1" feature where writers from each of their "ESPN Local" sites (which, for the case of New York City, is totally redundant) described why their city's team could win the NBA. This, despite the fact that the Knicks cannot, a fact acknowledged by even the notoriously hyperbolic Stephen A Smith. Yet even knowing this (and knowing that the Spurs have the league's best record but no ESPN Local site), ESPN plowed ahead with their idea.

I noticed something while reading Screamin' A's article about the Knicks: it has apprently been declared illegal to even mention the Knicks' loss in Cleveland this past Saturday. The score was 115-109, in case you're interested. Smith talked about the excitement around Carmelo Anthony's debut in New York and the "heart" the team showed in defeating Miami, but not a word about their loss in the Forest City. The NBA and ESPN seem to have swept that one under the rug. I also saw a puff piece with Anthony and Amare' Stoudemire that glossed right over their defeat at the hands of the Cavaliers.

Well, guess what? I still remember it. I was there.