Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Shapiro comes up empty

I've thought about the Tribe's inactivity at today's trade deadline for quite a while now, and I've come to the conclusion that Mark Shapiro gets a failing grade.

It is true that those who got pitching paid a steep price. It is also true that a number of teams looking for relief help came up empty.

You could also make a case for looking down the road a bit and keeping people like Ben Francisco or Franklin Gutierrez rather than going for broke in a season when a deadline deal might not do enough to fill the holes on the team. That last argument I might entertain. Maybe there are too many holes on this team to go for the big prize this year.

Then came tonight's game. You can (and should) blame the Tribe's offense for this loss, but the late innings of this game provided a preview of what we are likely to see too many times for the rest of the year.

Whether the offense begins to produce again and the score is 7-5, or it continues to slumber and the score is 3-1, we are going to see the Tribe involved in a number of one- and two-run games down the stretch. If they're ahead, they have the Raffies and Joe Borowski to try to hold the late leads.

But there will also be a number of games where the team is down by just a run or two and the team's fate is placed in the hands of Jensen Lewis. And when the bases start to fill up, we'll look in the bullpen and see Edward Mujica warming up. Or Tom Mastny. It worked tonight (sort of), but do we really want that? I know I don't.

Something needed to be done to add a late-inning arm to help out the Raffies. It didn't happen. It was Shapiro's call. I think he blew it.

What do you think? Respond by clicking the "comment" button below or voting in our new Tribe Poll on the right-hand side of your screen. (or both)

Trade deadline comes and goes;Somebody wake me up!

I put aside a few hours today to do a blog post about the trading deadline. Maybe to analyze the trade(s) made by the Indians. Or, barring that, take a look at moves that other conetenders made that might impact the Tribe's post-season hopes.
Looks like my analysis will take about six minutes.
Here it is.
Eric Gagne to Boston was the only deal today that will make a difference. And it will make a big difference in the A.L. With Gagne and Hideki Okajima leading to Jonathan Papelbon you are pretty much going to have to have a lead on the Sox by the sixth inning or you are going to lose.
Given the Tribe doesn't play the Sox anymore this year (and thank God for small favors) and the Yanks still have six to go with their division rivals, this trade may help the Tribe in a small way to hold on to the wild card spot, if that's what it comes down to.
The real impact of this trade for the Tribe will come in the post season. If Cleveland's going anywhere they're going to have to get past Boston. That was already an iffy proposition and this makes the odds that much smaller.
The Tribe, with their acquisition of Kenny Lofton, probably made the second most-notable deal among A.L. contenders during this trading season. He should help spark an offense that was dynamite for the first two months of the year, but little more than average since.
The Yankees, who added Jose Molina as a backup catcher and Wilson Betemit to - well only they know why- got a little better on the bench. Certainly they got better on Posada-rest days. The thought here is that Betemit, a switch-hitter, does have some pop from the left side (9 of his 10 homers) and he may see time at first base, where Andy Phillips is currently the No. 1 option. Jason Giambi may be on his way back soon, but he's likely to DH, with Johnny Damon hobbling and not hitting.
The Yankee pen may actually improve in the past two months though, as the club has moved stud pitching prospect Joba Chamberlain (128 Ks, 27 walks in 85 innings) into the pen in the minors to prepare him for a similar role in the majors, and that should happen any day now.
The other A.L. contenders did nothing. Literally nothing.
The Tigers picked up Macay McBride and Jose Capellan in recent weeks, but they have been spotty at best. I guess they are content to get their pen healthy and go from there.
So, although the Tribe probably improved themselves more than anyone besides Boston, they still go into the last two months with Joe Borowski and the Raffies (Betancourt and Perez) to work the eighth and ninth. Aaron Fultz will be back sooner than later, but he's no Ocatvio Dotel (or Paul Assenmacher for that matter). The rest of the pen is a game of Russian Roulette.
I think we'll be doing a lot of finger-crossing over the next nine weeks.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Dotel to the Braves? Tribe has short stay as "leader" in bid for KC closer

Yesterday, FOXSports' Ken Rosenthal had the Indians as possibly the lead dog in the chase for Octavio Dotel. (click and scroll down about 2/3 of the way).

Today, on a day when they've apparently already acquired Texas first baseman Mark Teixeira, it appears the Braves are about to land Dotel - according to
Rosenthal. The sources quoted by Rosenthal say the Indians, Dodgers and Braves remain in the running, with the Braves likely to get Dotel.

The Kansas City Star is also reporting a Braves-Royals deal is near involving Dotel.

Dotel would be great, but the Tribe's disappointment could be greatly reduced if another rumor comes true.

MLB.com's Jim Molony is reporting the Indians may have their sites set on Troy Percival, now pitching at the back end of St. Louis' bullpen. (click and scroll down about half way).

Eric Gagne has not gone anwhere yet, and the Indians are mentioned when his name comes up, as is the case with nearly every team looking for relief help, although the
Yankees interest is said to be exaggerated by the media and the Tigers' interest is said to have waned.

As far as the Teixeira deal goes, it's mostly good news for the Tribe as it keeps the slugging first baseman out of the clutches of the Evil Empire. But it also takes Ron Mahey, a second-tier bullpen candidate off the market.

There are also reports that a deal has been completed to send
Luis Castillo from Minnesota to the Mets. The move would weaken the Twins short-term and indicate they have decided this is not their year and that they might move some other players in the next 19 hours.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Kenny shines in debut

Kenny Lofton is back with the Tribe, and with him he brought a Ferrari full of energy to the Jake tonight.
Lofton had three hits, including a bunt single in the third that loaded the bases and seemed to unnerve Twins pitcher Boof Bonser enough to start a six-run avalanche.

It was like a cleansing thunderstorm had just blown through and fresh, cool air and bright sunshine came in behind it.

Seeing Lofton lay one down was like going to the class reunion and finding you still had plenty in common with the old lunch gang.

Watching Lofton slash the ball down the left field line again in a Tribe uniform was like getting home on a hot day, tossing off the work clothes and finding that pair of shirts that fits just perfectly around your 50-year old butt.

Seeing the ear-to-ear grin, and the gold medal and chain flopping around on his chest . Man. It's good times all over again!!

Jhonny Peralta played shortstop tonight like he cared, Something that's been missing for a week or so. His bat showed up too, as he launched two homers, including the big three-run blow in the third. He's been in a funk at the plate as well.

Paul Byrd pitched a great game until he was left to go one more inning than he had in him. He struggled a bit through the seventh and should not have been out there in the eighth.

And, most importantly, the Jake was hoppin' like it hasn't for some time (not counting Fausto's fantastic adventure the other night).

All's right in Tribeland. At least for tonight.

Laffey to join rotation; Another starter is not a trade-deadline priority

If you didn't see it, Mark Shapiro stopped in the STO booth for a half inning; as luck would have it the six-run half inning.

Shapiro said Aaron Laffey would take the slot in the Tribe rotation left vacant by the demotion of Cliff Lee to the minors. He made it clear - about 16 times - that he's still looking for a late-inning reliever, and he also shot down down hopes of finding another starter. Shapiro reasoned that he would not find a better starter out there than Laffey, Jeremy Sowers or a rehabbed Lee, unless he wanted to creat a major hole somewhere else.

It could be pre-deadlin spin, but if you take Shapiro at his word look for another reliever and not much else before the deadline.


Taking a break

Will be heading up the the Catskills tomorrow morning for some R&R at a B&B. This will likely be my last post until Sunday evening, or sometime Monday. Keep posting your own comments though, and don't forget the new Tribe Fan Poll on the Lofton deal.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Lofton heading back to Tribe; Lee heads to Buffalo

The Indians today brought Kenny Lofton back to Jacobs Field as they search for more offense and some stability in the outfield for the stretch.

To get Lofton from the Rangers, the Tribe gave up 22-year-Class-A old catcher Max Ramirez.

Ramirez was batting .303 with 12 homers and 62 RBIs at high-Class A Kinston, and he played in the All-Star Futures Game earlier this month. The Tribe got him from Atlanta last year in the Bob Wickman deal. To make room on the 25-man roster the Tribe sent Ben Francisco to Buffalo.


The Indians also made the move on the pitching staff that obviously needed to be made. They sent Cliff Lee down to Buffalo. For now they've recalled Buffalo's closer Edward Mujica, who has had a couple of unimpressive visits to the big club already.

At first the choice of Mujica was a little surprising - Since he's a reliever and Lee's a starter.

But, Lee's old rotation spot doesn't come up again for four more days, so the Tribe can take a bit of time to decide what to do about the position and use the extra arm in the pen in the mean time.

Right now Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers - both at Buffalo - are their top options. Laffey has pitched great all year at both Akron and Buffalo, while Sowers has been a bust at both the major league and minor league levels until his last two starts at Buffalo (14 IP 1 run).

There's also Jason Stanford, currently the long man in the Tribe's pen, but he's done nothing to deserve a promotion to the rotation.

Lofton will likely platoon with Jason Michaels in left field. Maybe, just maybe, they'll turn over right field to Franklin Guttierez, but I'm assuming we'll see him split right field with Trot Nixon.

Of course, the trading deadline is still four days away, so there may be another starter or reliever on the way. But given the players currently in tow, that's what we're looking at for the stretch.

The Tribe is better today than yesterday. They still need to add pitching in the next four days to be good enough.

Please Lee - ve!!!

No doubt about it.

Cliff Lee has got to be dropped from the rotation.

We went through all the numbers during one of his recent disasters. Just add seven more runs (twice) to those totals.

He had the deer-in-the-headlights look in the fourth and fifth innings last night. No real clue what was happening to him and what he should do about it. He is a wreck.

His sarcastic cap-doffing to the booing throng at the Jake as he ran off the field last night is not going to help his plight any. It will just add to the pressure the next time he takes the mound.

Lee’s performance has been on the decline for the last season and a half.

He can be sent to Buffalo. Maybe that would help. He would be more useful to the Tribe this year though as trade bait. I’m not sure he would bring big returns by himself any longer, though he is a lefty and has a team-friendly (for these times) contract. Someone might think they hold the key to turning him around. I say we give them a chance to try.

Judging by Jason Stanford’s recent performance, especially last night, we don’t have Lee’s replacement on the current big-league staff.

Aaron Laffey added another solid outing (6 IP, 2 runs, 3 hits) to his season totals yesterday in Buffalo. And Jeremy Sowers has had two strong outings in a row (14 IP 1 run) after an abysmal first few weeks back in Buffalo.

If the Tribe doesn’t land a veteran starter at the trading deadline, it’s time to give Laffey or Sowers Lee’s spot in the rotation.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


What is the saying about one good turn deserving another?

Tonight it was the Tribe's turn to win a 1-zip game against Boston, after losing a similar pitcher's battle last night at the Jake.

Obviously Fausto Carmona was the story, giving up only four hits and two walks over eight innings, and striking out six - including Big Poppi twice.

How about a vote for Victor for star of the game as well? The Tribe's catcher, uncharacteristically, didn't hit a lick tonight (0-3), but he threw out two baserunners trying to steal in the late innings and beautifully blocked home plate when Coco Crisp tried to score on a single that second-baseman Josh Barfield got in front of in short right.

And how about some props for Barfield for noticing the stealthy Crisp trying to steal a run and throwing a perfect one-hopper to Victor to nab the Bosox outfielder.

And the one run? A homer to the porch in left by rookie Franklin Gutierrez in the third on one of a very few pitches Josh Becket put in the wrong place.

Not much scoring at the Jake, but plenty of heroes tonight.

My mind is somewhat numb and it is six hours from alarm-clock time, so I'm gonna leave it at that. Will try to come up with something more profound tomorrow.

For now, lets enjoy being on the right end of a great game tonight, and ignore the fact that those damned Yankees lead Kay Cee yet again.

Whatchu talkin' 'bout Shapiro? Is Willis in Tribe's plans?

Is the D Train about to stop in Cleveland?

Yahoo Sports is reporting today that the Indians are among a number of teams talking with the Marlins about acquiring lefty Dontrelle Willis. That might have been good news at one time. Maybe even last year. But Willis hasn't won a game for the Marlins since May 29 and he hasn't notched a quality start since June 26. In July, the D Train has thrown 22 2/3 innings, allowing 23 earned runs. He's 7-10 on the year with a 5.15 ERA. Most importantly there was some talk a month or so ago about possible arm problems, and current whispers about Tommy John surgery. Willis went from 22-10 in 2005 to 12-12 last year, with an ERA more than a run higher.

We can get Cliff Lee to do as well, without giving up anyone.
Let's hope this is one train the Tribe decides not to catch.

Mid-week thoughts; Yanks riding our bumper

Well, things could be worse. Went to bed in a foul mood last night, with the Indians having lost to the Red Sox again and the Yank – O –Meter about to slip to 4 ½ games with Yanks way out in front of Kay Cee.

But, I woke up this morning to find the Tiger pen got another going-over by the White Sox in the second game of the their Tuesday doubleheader, with the Tigers blowing a big lead to lose the nightcap and getting swept on the day.

And, the Rangers – who were tied at 3 when I went to bed – finished off Seattle for a sweep of their doubleheader.

So, while the Yanks continue to get closer, the Tribe did make some headway with other post-season rivals – no thanks to themselves.

Last night’s Tribe game was a rare old-fashioned pitcher’s duel, which I love. I do like them better when we win though.

Although I live and work in New York, there are actually more Red Sox fans in my office than Yankee fans. I’m not sure why that is, but I have to say the Sox fans here have shown great restraint over the last two days. I have only been taunted once, and that was by e-mail and it was pretty mild. I wonder if that’s because they are classier than Yankee fans or because, deep down, they are as fearful of blowing their lead over the Bombers as I am about the Indians coughing up the wild card lead to the Yanks.

From my past experience with Red Sox fans, I’d have to say it’s probably the latter.

And, speaking of Yankee fans...

I was listening to the local ESPN Radio affiliate on my way home today. The question of the day was: Which team will go further in the playoffs, the Mets or the Yankees? You've gotta love it.

Two weeks ago the question pretty much was: Should we throw Joe Torre in the East River or the Hudson? Now, it's not will the Yanks get in, but how far will they go in the playoffs. Twenty-three years here, and it never changes.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Groundhog Day

I'm sure you've seen the old Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day. Murray plays a TV reporter covering the annual Groundhog Day ceremonies in Punxsatawney, Pa. and he keeps reliving the same day - event-by-event - over and over again.

Well it's been Groundhog Day for me too, only mine starts in the early evening.

Every night I finish a great dinner with my family. Head off to 7-11 for my nightly cup of coffee, park my carcass on the couch, turn on the TV and watch as another Cleveland starting pitcher gets his head handed to him.

Unlike the movie, one thing does change in my Groundhog Day experience. The goddamned Yankees keep getting closer to the wild-card-leading Tribe. Talk about two teams heading in opopsite directions.

Something's got to change. Yes, both Jake Westbrook and Cliff Lee pitched decent games, AFTER putting things out of reach in their latest starts. One thing about baseball - all nine innings count. You can't stay in the pennant race when you know your starter is going to get bombed 40% of the time. Things must straighten out - pronto!

Earlier today
we told you about the mystery of Aaron Laffey, who seemed to be on his way up to the Tribe after being pulled early from a start in Buffalo yesterday. Lord knows what's happening there. The Indians say nothing's going on, but the Buffalo News is reporting that Fernando Cabrera has been put on waivers and Laffey will be joining the Tribe when Cabrera is either claimed or clears waivers and is sent to the Bisons. I would take both the Indains comments and the Buffalo News story with a grain a salt. It's a wait-see for sure.

But, if Laffey is on the way, maybe he should get a shot in the rotation. He can't do much worse than Lee and Westbrook. Neither of the two veterans is really suited for the bullpen, but a stint in long relief might help one of them - my choice would be Lee - to get his act together.

The Indians have a homestand in early-to-mid-August against the Yankees and Tigers.

Prior that homestand, the
Tribe has 16 games against the Red Sox, Twins (home and away), Rangers and White Sox. In the same time span the Yankees play 15 games, against Kansas City (home and away), Baltimore, Chicago and the Blue Jays. After their current series against the White Sox, the Tigers head west to play the Angles and Oakland, then come back home to play Chicago, Tampa Bay and Oakland before their series at the Jake.

Clearly the Tribe's pitching has gone south at just the wrong time.

FYI: As I write this the Tiger pen is desperately trying to cough one up to the White Sox, but the Sox bullpen just won't hear of it. Tigers lead it 7-6 in the bottom of the sixth. The Yanks meanwhile are about to finish off Kay-Cee, and the Yank - O - Meter will most likely need to be reset at 5 1/2.

A Laffey matter

The rumor mill is running on overdrive today.

A Triple-A pitcher gets pulled very early from a start yesterday in Buffalo, and today some in the blogosphere have Cliff Lee packing his bags.

The scenario goes something like this.

Buffalo starter Aaron Laffey gets pulled from his start Sunday after 48 pitches - in the second inning with the game tied at 1 and having given up only two hits to go with five strikeouts.

Today's account in the Buffalo News indicated that Laffey's locker "looked to be in the process of a major cleanout."

Bison manager Torry Lovullo said the 50-pitch limit was imposed by the Indians - unusual for a starter - and that it had been imposed sometime between Laffey's scheduled start Saturday (which was postponed) and his cameo appearance on Sunday.

According to the News, Laffey said Lovullo told him when taking him out of the game that "there's a situation going on right now."
So where does a Cliff Lee trade come in? In what is probably the stretch of the year at this point, some in the blogosphere have deduced that since the change in plans for Laffey occurred sometime Saturday night or Sunday, and the Lee-Victor Martinez altercation happened Saturday night, then it just must be the case that Lee is on his way out in a trade and Laffey is about to take his place in the rotation.

The Plain Dealer reported this morning that the Tribe explained away Laffey's aborted outing by saying he was pulled after pitching 48 pitches on Sunday because he had already warmed up prior to Saturday's postponement in Buffalo and the Indians didn't want to tax his arm.

But The Buffalo News' Mike Harrington, in a blog post today, says the Tribe's explanation for Laffey's early departure doesn't hold up.

"Indians officials were putting all kinds of bizarre spin on Laffey Sunday night in Texas. They said he was pulled in the third inning because of normal pitch-count limitations (wrong -- he thew just 48 pitches and average 98 his last eight starts!). Then they said the Bisons needed him for another doubleheader (silly because the next one is tonight). Then they said he was pulled because he had already warmed up before Saturday night's postponement (strike three -- no one warmed up Saturday)." --Inside Pitch

While it seems clear something was, or is, in the works with Laffey and a promotion to the big club, the conclusion-jumping on the Internet today is not only far-fetched but irresponsible.

I suppose you can stretch it farther to say that Houston's Roy Oswalt was hurt in his last outing over the weekend, so the obvious destitantion for Lee is Houston. And, of course, the obvious booty in return for Lee is Brad Lidge.

Bloggers have, in their brief history, broken a number of news stories and shed light on big stories the mainstream media either missed or chose to ignore. But they've also run irresponsibly wild at times, and this seems to be one of those times.

By the way, if Laffey is headed to Cleveland, whatver the circumstances, he's currently 7-3 with a 3.24 ERA after 11 starts at Buffalo. He started the year in Akron, where he was 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA in six starts. He's a 22-year-old lefty.
We've put up a new Tribe Fan Poll today. Let us know where you think the Indains trading deadline priorities should be. Comment at the link below, or vote to your right. Or both!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Today is one of those days when it really sucks to be a long-distance fan.

Texas plays all of its Sunday games at night, because it is too damned hot during the day in that God-forsaken place. Texas almost never plays on ESPN on Sunday nights though because, well, who wants to watch the Rangers?

So, tonight I’ll have to harken back to my early years as a transplanted Clevelander living in New York and tune to WTAM once it gets dark to pick up the game. Of course I could listen on MLB.com, but I’m way too cheap to pay for a one-shot deal. Or I could click on any number of Web sites and watch those little dots proceed around the bases with a written description of what’s going on below the diagram of the field.

But, I think I’ll opt for the radio. It’ll be a reminder of the bad old days - pre-DiercTV – listening to Herbie or Hamilton from my living room in New York. It’ll bring back memories long forgotten, like the night Ernie Comacho notched one of his many multi-run blown saves and I slammed my walkman into the dresser drawer. Only , I misfired and hit the top of the dresser instead, taking out a good-sized chip of wood. One of the few rough spots during my early married years. My wife just didn’t understand how frustrating Ernie Comacho could be.

Lots to read in the papers and around the Web today.

Earlier this week we did a piece on how the Tigers have methodically overtaken the Tribe in recent weeks and another on the Tribe being a very so-so team for nearly two months now

Jim Ingraham of the Morning Journal (which used to be known as the Lorain Journal when I lived in Cleveland) breaks out the record of the six A.L. playoff contenders since June 1. It’s not a pretty site:

Here are the records of those six teams since June 1: Detroit 27-12, Seattle 27-14, New York 25-14, Cleveland 22-20, Minnesota 21-21, Boston 20-22. -- The Morning Journal

It’s difficult not to panic, but the Tribe remains ahead in the wild card race and still very close to the Tigers. They need bullpen help, but they also need one solid trip through the entire rotation to get their footing again.

Speaking of trades, Ingraham argues today that it’s Mark Shapiro who has been the weak link in the organization and that he has a lot to prove over the next ten days.

With Brandon Phillips, who has more home runs than anyone on the Indians, hitting cleanup for the Reds, with Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie the leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year, and having a lower ERA than any Indians starter, with San Diego's Kevin Kouzmanoff (.237 average, nine home runs, 39 RBIs, .295 on base percentage, .415 slugging percentage) having a better year than Josh Barfield (.251-2-41-.276-.326), with three-sevenths of the Indians' opening day bullpen (Jason Davis, Roberto Hernandez, Fernando Cabrera) either released or useless, with Andy Marte having flopped, and with David Dellucci, the three-year $11.5 million free agent signee, having basically been a nonentity, now would be a good time for Shapiro to have good July. -- The Morning Journal

A few of my own thoughts here. I don’t think it’s accurate to say Kouzmanoff is having a better year than Barfield. Barfield has a higher average as well as more runs scored (38-27) and more stolen bases (10-0). Plus Kouzmanoff has been on a tear the past two weeks while Barfield has been slumping, so the numbers are skewed a bit. Kouzmanoff and Barfield are having different types of seasons, but you can’t really say one is having a better season than the other.

However, all of Ingraham’s other points have some merit. And his main point – it’s time for Shapiro to make a good deal – is quite true.

We’ve read a lot about who’s available for the taking – Kenny Lofton, the entire Ranger bullpen etc… - but not much thought has been given to what the Tribe will have to give up to swing a deal.

That’s where The DiaTribe picks up the slack. In a post earlier this week the blogger at DiaTribe (I don’t think he’s the real Pat Tabler) has a well thought-out list. It is, as always, good reading. No Mike Rouse and Jason Stanford for Ken Griffey suggestions there

More concern about Lee

Missed the Tribe game. My time was much better spent helping a friend of mine celebrate his 40th.

So tonight was the flip side of last night. A bummer indeed. Cliff Lee gets blasted again. The Tribe loses, Tigers win (though Verlander and Jones were ineffective - so that's a positive), and the Yankees win two. The Yank -O - Meter takes a big step in the wrong direction. My guess is there will be baseball talk around the pool again tomorrow as Yankee fans are gradually regaining that hubris that makes them so annoying.

As I said I didn't see them game so I can't comment with any credibility. But, from the box score and online play-by-play it looks like Lee got his head handed to him early, straightened things out for several innings before tiring. Not much to do put keep throwing him out there every five days and hope for the best.

Jeremy Sowers had a great minor league outing Friday, but one game does not a turnaround make and he won't have enough starts before the trade deadline to work his way back to the Tribe and allow them to trade Lee, perhaps for a bat. Someone would take a shot on Lee if the Indians were to make him available, but I don't think they can without a having stronger evidence that Sowers, or someone else at Buffalo can step in.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Oh my GOD!!!

If we get that far, I will never survive the playoffs.

Not with Borowski pitching the ninth and Betancourt taking his sweet old time getting, masterfully, through the eighth. Making me sweat while he wipes his brow (about 17 times with each pitch). I'm not a young man any more. Can't take the buildup of tension.

I was sitting watching the Tribe tonight and in the eighth inning I was thinking about just how wonderful a night it is turning out to be (despite my prestigious 357 series at bowling tonight - that's 119/game for those of you who need fingers and toes to figure out stuff like that).

Anyway, the Yankees got blasted by Tampa, and one of the guys they really need - Mike Mussina - got bombed.

The Tigers got pounded by the Royals (you gotta love Billy Butler), and Kenny Rogers got lit up.

The Yank - O -Meter took one more step in the right direction and it was looking a lot like the Tribe would pick up a full game on the Tigers. Plus the White Sox got beat and even though they're no threat this year its nice to see them get beat anytime.

Then came the ninth inning of the Tribe game. Two actual errors, a rotten throw by Casey Blake on what should have been a game ending double play and some typical Borowski thrown in and you have the recipe for a heart attack.

Obviously, I survived. Why is it some teams have Gossages, Wettelands and Riveras who come in and turn out the lights, while we get the Doug Joneses, Bob Wickmans and Joe Borowskis to finish off our games - and take years off our lives?

Well anyway, we won! In the end that's what counts.

Some other thoughts and a question.

I got the Ranger feed on my dish, so little was mentioned about Rouse starting for Peralta. Does anyone know if it was just a night off for Jhonny, or is there an injury problem there?

If Rouse is going to boot baseballs he has no purpose on this team. He almost makes you long for Hector Luna. Last year Luna covered less ground than the Tom Johnson statue in Public Square. But at least he hit once in a while. I'm all for defensive utility infielders, as long as they actually play good defense.

Nothing to be said about Fausto except - WOW!

So much for the Kenny Lofton trade. He's listed as day-to-day, but it sure looked like he smashed his foot on that foul ball. I would not be too surprised if his prognosis changes some by game-time tomorrow.

The Yankees have a doubleheader tomorrow with Kei Igawa and Matt DeSalvo going for them. Maybe we can give that Yank - O - Meter another nice nudge in right direction.

For those of you who remember Dave Duncan as a player on the Tribe and the A's, his son Shelley made his MLB debut tonight with the Yanks, getting his first career hit and RBI as the DH.

Jose Contreras keeps getting mentioned in trade talks, though I don't understood why. After tonight's 10-run outing maybe that talk will cease.

I guess that's enough rambling from me, though I'm still too wound up to go to bed.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bullpen reversal leading Tigers past Tribe

The Indians bats bailed them out of another iffy outing by the pitching staff last night. C.C. Sabathia pitched what must have been the ugliest “quality start” by anyone anywhere this season, having given up four runs, but only three earned, in six innings. The big man gave up nine hits and a walk. More importantly, if just half of Texas’ screaming outs had gone for hits, C.C. would be in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

Meanwhile, the Tigers had already finished a three-game sweep of the Twins. All one-run wins, and all in Minnesota.

So, as the Tribe goes bumping along at 8-7 this month, the Tigers have taken 11 of 14, picking up 3 ½ games on the Tribe and supplanting them atop the Central Division.

The firming of the Tiger bullpen, shaky this year due to the injuries of Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, has contributed mightily to the recent Tiger surge.

Since July 1, the Tigers pen has pitched to the tune of a 1.99 ERA. In 14 games so far this month, Tiger relievers have put up zeros in 10 games. In contrast, the Tribe pen’s ERA is nearly twice that of the Tigers, at 3.95. Only three times in 15 games has the bullpen finished up unscathed. Four if you count the game where Raffy Betancourt gave up Paul Byrd’s run in a 1-zip loss to Toronto.

The news here is not so much that the Tribe relief corps is in need of repair. We know that. Instead, my point is that our division rivals from Motown seem no longer to be suffering from the same affliction.

Maybe it’s just a hot few weeks. Or maybe members of the Tiger pen have learned their roles and have begun to step up in the absence of two of their bullpen rocks from last year.

Whatever the case, the Tigers expect to be getting both Rodney and Zumaya back in August, while the Tribe has only Aaron Fultz’s return to look forward too. And even that’s not looking too promising right now.

With both teams in the market for bullpen help in the next two weeks, that’s a race the Tribe must win if it hopes to prevail in the bigger contest – for the Central Division crown.

I've added a new site link to the "Sites I Like" feature. MLB Trade Rumors. This site scours the Web for you and aggregates trade rumors from dozens of sources so you don't have to do it yourself.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Late-inning fireworks obscure duds on the mound

Those late-inning fireworks we've been seeing from the Tribe most of the year have been quite exciting. Superb entertainment.

But like the post-game fireworks shows the Tribe puts on most Friday nights, the sizzle will soon disappear into the night.

We found that out today, as the Indians found themselves down early yet again. But this afternoon at the Jake, there was no comeback win to be had.

With the Tribe's place in the A.L. Central standings (one-and-a-half games out as I write this), their lead in the wild card race and all those wild finishes, the demise of the Indians starting staff has been obscured.

Since the All-Star break, the starting rotation has allowed 26 earned runs in 27 innings. I don't even need my calculator to determine that is just a whisker below 9.00. The Tribe is 3-3 since the break.

Since July 1, Cleveland starters have given up 53 earned runs in 85 2/3 innings, for an ERA of 5.56. They've had 5 quality starts in 14 games since the first of the month, and one of those just met the minimum MLB requirement - Jake Westbrook's six-inning, three-run outing against KC right after the break.

The Tribe is just 7-7 in July and just 22-20 since June 1.

So, what we've been seeing for the last one-quarter of a baseball season is a .500 club that hits its way out of trouble often enough to keep its head above water.

There are mitigating factors.

Two of the five starters, Jake Westbrook and Cliff Lee, had month-long injuries earlier in the season. But they have been back long enough, one would think, to have rounded into form by now.

In his only two starts this month, C.C. Sabathia has not been anywhere near the rock he's been all year. But I doubt there's cause for alarm there. Perhaps if C.C. gets back on track, the pressure will ease on the other four starters.

Then there's the break itself. Maybe the starters have lost their rhythm. Maybe. But what about all those woeful starts before the break?

The focus in the media, in fandom and in the blogsophere - including on this site - has been on the bullpen and it's middle-inning tribulations.

But the Indians pitching staff currently ranks No. 11 in the A.L., with an ERA of 4.54. Only Chicago (4.61), Texas (4.98) and Tampa Bay (5.77) are worse. Since the starters pitch about twice as many innings as the pen, it's pretty clear the relievers shouldn't carry all the blame for that bloated number.

Click here and you'll see that six of seven of the Tribe's competitors for a playoff spot rank one through six in the league in team ERA. Seattle is 10th. The Tribe's division rivals, Detroit and Minnesota rank fifth and fourth respectively. Even the Yankees, who have sent several rookies out to the mound due to early-season injuries, rank sixth at nearly a quarter of a run less than the Tribe.

It's not yet panic time. The Indians still sit atop the wild card standings and only 1 1/2 games behind the Tigers.The early-season rotation, except for the now-demoted Jeremy Sowers, was fairly solid. And C.C. will likely give the current rotation a boost by getting back to his game.

But it is time to put and end to the myth that the Tribe has a solid rotation that needs only to be complemented by a decent middle-relief crew to make the pitching staff stellar. The starters have been giving up runs early and often for more than a month now.

If late inning fireworks is what this team is counting on, this season will likely go out with something less than a bang.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Trade-target update

Here's the latest on a few of the relief pitchers that have been at least mentioned in the same breath as the Indians as we head toward the trade deadline:

The Dodgers are said to be showing the most interest in Kansas City closer Octavio Dotel. But the Kansas City Star also reports L.A. was not crazy about the asking price, which is said to include either outfielder Matt Kemp or first baseman James Loney.

The Astros' Brad Lidge and the D-Ray's Al Reyes are set to return to the closer position with the respective clubs. Lidge came off the DL a couple of days ago. Reyes is due off tomorrow.

Texas Rangers set-up man and former closer Akinori Otsuka never went on the DL, but his return to the mound keeps getting pushed back, according to The Dallas Morning News. The Tribe has had it's share of pitching injuries that have laster longer than expect this year, so they would be wise to be leary of Otsuka, who is suffering from tightness in his pitching forearm.

We have a new Tribe Fan Poll today. Should the Indians have given Eric Wedge a contract extension. Click here for our thoughts. Go to the right of your screen and scroll down for the poll and/or leave your own comments by clicking the "comments" link under this posting.

Monday, July 16, 2007

What is wrong with Cliff Lee?

Time to fire the manager!

All right, just kidding.

It is time, though, to find out what's wrong with Cliff Lee.

The short answer is the home run, due to lack of control.
Lee is giving up homers at a higher rate this year than at any time in his career. He's given up 16 in 81 innings including tonight's pounding. That's one every five innings, or nearly two per game. You're not going to win much that way.

Last year Lee gave up one homerun every 6.7 innings. In 2005 - his best year with the Tribe - Lee allowed fewer than one dinger every 9.2 innings. That's how you go 18-5.

Back to this year. Lee has allowed homers in all but three of his 13 starts. Five of those 13 starts qualified as "quality starts" by MLB standards, though two of those five just barely made it - meeting the minimum requirement of six innings pitched and three runs.

In 2005 and 2006, Lee walked 2.3 batters every nine innings. This year he's at slightly more than three per nine.

Lee, of course, missed all of April with a pulled muscle in his rib cage. So you could look the other way in May when he gave up 22 runs in 35 2/3 innings, or about a 5.50 ERA. In June he appeared to be rounding into shape, pitching at an ERA just over 4.50 but putting together three consecutive quality starts from June 18 to July 1.

But in his last two starts Lee has given up 12 earned runs in 9.1 innings. So the theory that he was bad in May because he was behind everyone else doesn't hold. He's been bad simply because he's been bad.

Not sure what choice the Indians have but to let him ride it out right now. But with Lee pitching so poorly and Jake Westbrook just so-so, the starting pitching is suddenly a concern. All the more reason Mark Shapiro better find someone to pitch the middle innings.

Another thing becoming more and more clear - Fernando Cabrera is not going to provide any answers to the middle reliever problem.

He was torched tonight.

One-third of an inning, five hits and four runs. But these were not your garden variety hits. One homer, three doubles and a sharp single, with a sacrafice fly thrown in for good measure - the only out he got.

This comes on the heels of a two-inning, two-run outing on July 6, which included four hits and two walks.

In eight outings, from May 29 to July 4, Cabrera gave up only three runs in 11 innings and appeared to be turning a corner. But it now seems when he turned that corner he ran head on into a Mack truck.

The question again is what do you do with him. You can't pitch him in anything but a mop-up role. Other teams know you can't send him down to the minors because he's out of options.

In a one-on-one trade right now the Tribe is at a serious disadvantage. At this point they will be lucky to get the proverbial bag of balls.
True Confessions:

I admit to leaving the Indians behind at 11-2 tonight. How 'bout you? I let the kids have the high def TV to watch that team from the Bronx. Normally the good TV is saved for the Tribe. At least I still control something in my own home.

I apparently have a faithful reader. A guy named Moose. He keeps reminding me to watch out for the Twins. Here's something worse to ponder. The Yankees, with Phil Hughes heading back to the rotation sometime in the not-to-distant future, are only seven games behind the Tribe for the wild card spot. Just six back in the loss column. And now, with that in mind, I have to try to go to sleep.

Wedged in; Tribe keeps manager through 2010 with 3-year extension

When the Indians hired Eric Wedge at the end of the 2002 season I was none too happy.

To replace Charlie Manuel, fired in mid-season, I was hoping the Indians would hire a real baseball man. Old school. Someone who could take charge of the team that was about to be formed, full of neophyte players trying to make a name for themselves. They didn't need to be a screamer. Just someone with some cred who could make an impression on the kids. I wanted ... Charlie Manuel - but with a clue.
Instead I got a 34-year-old hot shot, who had gone from a Class A manager, to AAA in three seasons. And then on to the big club in two more.
What's more, the image he brought was just what I was NOT looking for in a manager. A modern, video-tape-watching, spread-sheet-carrying tactician.

He did have a reputation for being a bit of a fireball. Some compared him to Lou Piniella in that regard.
At least THAT might be a welcome change from the aw-shucks, belly-scratching approach taken by Manuel.

Still this guy was 34. Just another bargain-basement hire by a bottom-fishing club.
Once I began to get a feel for Wedge's presence in TV reports from spring training, or his post-game interviews on the radio during his first season, I liked him even less. Instead of a firebrand he came across as a bookish mumbler - the pre-genius Bill Belichick with Chief Wahoo on his cap.

In short, this was not going to be an easy sell for me.
Four-and-a-half seasons later I'm feeling a bit differently. But it took until this season for me to really determine how I felt about Wedge.

Wedge's first two seasons were tear-it-out, build-it-back-up-and-see-what-you-have years. The record, as the manager and general manager were sure to mention at least once a day, was not important.
In 2005, the Tribe came out of nowhere and put up 93 wins, missing the playoffs on the last day after losing every game in the final week. I suppose a fair amount of blame for the collapse could be placed on the manager, but the retreat was team-wide and complete. The bats shut down and the defense was shabby.
I really began to have my doubts about Wedge last year. The disaster. The bullpen blew up from day one and, with the Tigers exploding out of the chute, the season was over before it began. Still, Wedge managed to make the best out of a bad situation, holding the team together well enough win 31 of their last 51, bringing them close to the .500 mark by season's end (78-84).
In his first three seasons the team improved from 68, to 80 to 93 wins, before last year's detour. Through it all, Wedge employed the right mix of discipline and calm, keeping steady control of his players.

There were some problems. Milton Bradley for one. But he has shown himself to be a nut job everywhere he's gone (Give him some time, he's just arrived in San Diego). And then there's Brandon Phillips, of whom too much was expected at first and then not enough time was given to work things out. That's being chalked up as an "organizational error," but you can safely assume Wedge played a role.

For most of his tenure, Wedge has played too much station-to-station baseball for my taste, but with Grady Sizemore and Josh Barfield he's loosened the reins a bit this season.

The manager has done his best job of managing this season. He lost two starting pichers for long periods in the first half (Cliff Lee and Jake Westbrook). A third starter, Jeremy Sowers, did a full-scale wipeout on him after a solid rookie season. Travis Hafner hasn't hit the way he can and Wedge has done a good job of mixing and matching with what he's been given in the corner outfield positions - though that's been a little like mowing the lawn with a weed-wacker. Then there was the Siberian Open - the season-opening series that never was, followed by a "home" series in Milwaukee and endless weeks without time off as the Tribe tried to make up for the lost first week of the season.

Despite the rough going, Wedge has the Tribe 1/2 game behind the Central Division-leading Tigers in mid-July. They lead the Wild Card race and have the fourth best record in the A.L. - but are only one game behind Boston and the Angels for the best record in the league.

With all the key players except C.C. under the Tribe's control into the next decade, it was time for their skipper to get his.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lofton said to be on Tribe's wish list

Talk you may be hearing about Kenny Lofton coming back to the Tribe before the trade deadline is apparently more than wistful longing for the salad days of the '90s.

The Dallas Morning News reports today that Lofton is being scouted this weekend by the Indians (as well as the Brewers). The Morning News reports several teams are interested in Lofton.

I'm not sure about the fit between Lofton and the Indians. In Cleveland he wouldn't be the leadoff hitter, or the centerfielder. More likely he'd bat second. With his pop gun arm, left field would be his most likely position. Lofton could be a good fit in the No. 2 spot in the order. He's a good bunter, makes contact and can spread the ball around. I don't love him in left field but his offense, in a platoon with Jason Michaels, would be a plus. Casey Blake could bat lower in the line-up, but I'm not sure that would be a plus, given his BA with runners in scoring position (still well below the Mendoza line).

I also wonder whether the moody Lofton would be happy about playing second-fiddle, with Grady Sizemore roaming Lofton's former fiefdom. Would having one last chance to win, and to do it where it all began for Lofton, be enough to salve his ego? Depending on the asking price, it might be worth taking the chance. If the Tribe could pull off a deal that would add one of Texas' attractive relievers, all the better.

Speaking of the Texas bullpen, The Detroit Free Press is reporting today that the Indians have also talked to Texas about right-hander Akinori Otsuka - a player the Tigers are also looking at. Otsuka had some "tightness" in his right arm and missed a week leading into the All Star Game, so we'd like to see him give that arm a workout in some games before any move is made here. Texas' Eric Gagne wants to close and has a no-trade clause to use as a club to prevent a trade to a team that would use his as a set-up man. Joe Borowski has been Wickmanesque this year, but I'm not sure he should be tossed overboard.

The Pirates have a few pitchers who would be nice pickups for the Tribe, Salomon Torres, Matt Capps and Damaso Marte. But, the Pirates (believe it or not) may be buyers rather than sellers at the trade deadline, at least according to a story in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Will Dave Littlefield be a buyer for the first time in his tenure?

He threw strong hints about being a seller again when the Pirates were swept June 24 in Anaheim, Calif., but they have played their best baseball of the season since then. It is possible the stance could change, if it has not already.

And what effect might it have on the process that Littlefield will enter his lame-duck year in 2008? With principal owner Bob Nutting searching for a new CEO, someone whose primary task will be to evaluate Littlefield, perhaps Littlefield will feel compelled to make trades aimed at short-term benefits. -Excerpt from Dejan Kovacevic's column today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For more intriguing trade possibilities, check out The DiaTribe, which talks trade in another of its always well-reasoned posts last night.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Friday night notes

  • Indians lefty reliever Aaron Fultz still felt some pain in a muscle in the rib-cage area after throwing a simulated game. So, he wasn't ready to be activated Friday. Instead he'll throw a couple of times early next week and head out for a rehab assignment.

  • Former Indian Brandon Phillips had a first-inning grand slam and 6 RBIs in all to lead Cincy over the Mets

  • Bad news/Good news for the Yanks (or the other way around depending on how you look at it) Roger Clemens was touched up for five runs in 5 1/3 innings by Tampa Bay, losing for the fourth time in his latest stint with the Yankees. Clemens walked four and threw 44 strikes and 45 balls in the outing (how much $$ per strike is that anyway) On the other hand, the Yankees top pitching prospect Phil Hughes threw three scoreless innings and struck out six in a rehab start in AA. He's not that far away from re-joining the Yanks and should be an improvement of Kei Igawa. (Great pic of "The Rocket Man" courtesy the New York Post.)

  • Julian Tavarez got torched for the Red Sox again tonight.Four runs in four-plus. Nine hits.He's given up 32 hits in 18 2/3 innings in his last four starts.

  • Brad Lidge, one of the relievers said to be on the Tribe's wish list, returned from the DL for Houston tonight, pitching two scoreless and striking out two.

  • The Mariners, down 6-3, loaded 'em up in the ninth against Tiger closer Todd Jones but Ben Broussard K'd to end it. Tribe remains 1/2 game out.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Red flag No. 1 in second half -Fulz not ready.

The press release from the Tribe is straight, and simple.

Indians promote RHP Jensen Lewis from AAA Buffalo"

Lewis will be with the Indians when they start the second-half of the year tonight against Kay-Cee.

Dave Delucci was moved to the 60-day DL to make room for Lewis.

The troubling part is what the press release does not say.

When the Tribe sent Edward Mujica back to the minors over the All-Star break, it was assumed all was in order for the return of lefty Aaron Fultz. Not like that would be akin to the second coming of JC, but I think the Tribe was anxious to get Fultz back. So, that begs the question- What is wrong with Fultz? And - this being an Indian fan blog I need to ask - is this just the first of many setbacks we can expect in the second half? ( I left Cleveland 23 years ago but that Cleveland optimism still rings true.)

Actually, it may present the Tribe with an unexpected opportunity.

Lewis was the Tribe's third draft pick out of Vanderbilt in 2005. He's moved along quickly, spending time at both Akron (AA) and Buffalo (AAA) this year. He had a combined of 1.73 ERA in 52 innings as a reliever so far this year, with 59 Ks.

Lewis is right handed, as opposed to the lefty Fultz, but at this point we'll take anyone who can get outs in the pen. Let's hope he shows he can do so on the big league level.


The Tribe opens the second half against the Royals. Which always sounds like a good thing until we play them.

The pitching matchups favor the Tribe in at least two - and maybe all three - games. Odalis Perez against Jake Westbrook may be a tossup, depending on which Westbrook shows up. Cleveland's Sabathia and Carmona look like better bets than KC's Gil Meche and Jorge De La Rossa on Saturday and Sunday.

The better news is Mike Sweeney (DL) won't be around to have his usual three-homer eight-RBI series.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pronk in the fold; Will C.C. say see ya?

"We're more like a family than a team here. We get along on and off the field. Our families get along.”

"Everybody wants to stay. The core of this team has been together for a long time. We've been through a lot together. We want to win together."
- C.C. Sabathia as quoted by the Plain Dealer 7-12-07

I've never even thought about playing for another team. I really like the idea of playing your whole career in one place. That doesn't happen much today. You look at Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Kirby Puckett. For them to play their whole careers for one team, that's very special.""What I do know is that my wife and I love it here, and we'd love to stay."

Jim Thome quoted by the Plain Dealer during the 2002 season

"As a player, ultimately, the bottom line is you want to challenge yourself and get a chance to win.“I think that's what our decision was in this process."

Jim Thome quoted a few months later by CBC Sports after signing with Philadelphia
Travis Hafner will be sticking around for some time to come.

That is good news for Tribe fans and a feather in the cap of the Dolan family, much maligned for its perceived penchant to pinch pennies.

With the signing of Hafner’s five-year, $57 million contract extension, the Tribe is two-thirds of the way through its process of keeping its prominent soon-to-have-been free agents off the market. Jake Westbrook was signed in the spring.

But in this instance – Sister Anastasia and her flash cards be damned – one-third may just prove to be larger than two-thirds. It’s going to be much harder to get the third potential free agent – C.C. Sabathia – to fit in with the Tribe’s economic structure.

As we noted with the quotes highlighted above, Sabathia sounded positive about his prospects for signing an extension with the Indians, with Hafner, Westbrook and the rest of the Tribe’s core signed into the next decade. But as the Thome quotes illustrate, money usually trumps sentiment. And the Tribe just may not have enough.

Based on the contracts produced by the idiocy of last winter’s free-agent signing orgy, the numbers C.C. will command two off-seasons from now are incalculable. But they’re going to be exorbitant. And they may take up about one-fourth of the Tribe's entire payroll.

Last winter Barry Zito (pitching poorly in Frisco this season) agreed to cross the Bay for seven years at $126 million. That’s $18 mil per year. Jason Schmidt (out for the year) fled San Fran for L.A. on a 3-year, $47 million pact. Zito was 16-10 in 2006 but barely over .500 the three previous years. Schmidt finished last year at 11-9, with a 3.59 ERA. His last big year was 2004, at 18-7.

Then there are last winter’s second-tier signings: Andy Pettitte - one year at $16 million; Jeff Suppan - four years at $42 million; Ted Lilly four years at $40 million.

And the just plain stupid signings: Vincente Padilla – three years at $34 million; Gil Meche – five years at $55 million.

It does not bode too well for the Tribe and C.C. No matter how much it might want to, a team like Cleveland may not be able to absorb the $20 million a year or more it may take to sign Sabathia. And given his size and the fragility of any pitcher's arm, it may not be a smart risk for a team that can’t just outspend its mistakes (re: Yankees).

I’m not here to break up the party. Let’s be thrilled that Hafner signed. Let’s enjoy the feeling of security that comes with the team’s core being locked in for several years. Let’s give the Dolans some props for a change.

And, let’s hope C.C. is up for a “family” discount.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Is this the year? Our look at the second half

The Tribe’s in second place as we head into the second half. One game behind the Tigers. Nothing startling there. It’s about what I expected when the season began.

But there are some strange goings on in my neighborhood in the northwest suburbs of New York City this summer.

My next door neighbor still wears his Yankee cap around the yard. But the Venetian blinds in his windows remain open constantly. I guess that’s so you can’t see the top-hat-and-bat Yankee logos that appear when the blinds are shut. And the neighbor’s cute little dog is shaved clean, probably to remove the dark blue pin strips that were dyed into the poor mutt’s white coat. (OK I made the dog thing up.)

There’s precious little baseball talk at the town pool this summer. It’s been quite some time since someone with an evil smirk has asked me how Cleveland’s doing this season. In fact it’s been at least a year. Instead we talk about the heat and our brown lawns.

Yes, the baseball season has been fun so far for this Tribe fan in Yankee country.

But the question lurks. Will the second half be just as much of a hoot?

That will depend on several things, first among them being the arrival of an effective late-inning reliever to give Raffy Betancourt some help. That guy may already be here in the person of Raffy Perez, but I’m not willing to take that bet. Fernando Cabrera and Jason Stanford show too much promise to lose on waivers, but having them on the staff right now is like having two Rule 5 players – you don’t really want to use them when it counts and they are essentially roster dead spots. One or both should be used to get proven bullpen help that’s wasting away on a non-contender’s roster.

The right Cliff Lee will also have to show up. You never know which one is suiting up on any given night. Ditto Jake Westbrook.

The Indians are second in runs, but are batting only .262 with runners in scoring position. A right-handed corner outfielder with some pop would be useful to extend the middle of the lineup a bit. Again, that bat already may be on the roster in Ben Francisco. But I like veterans for my stretch drive. Barring the opportunity to make a deal I’d give Francisco the majority of ABs in right field.

It would be much too risky to make a major lineup change in the middle of the pennant race, but I like the lineup when Kelly Shoppach is catching and Victor’s at first. It improves the defense, and, with regular playing time, I think Shoppach would hit at least as well as Ryan Garko. This is not a move that can be made mid-season, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to see it at least a couple of times a week.

If they can get that one additional arm for the pen and nothing else, the Tribe should make it into the playoffs. If all the rest falls into place, they could make it rough on the Tigers, who are the best team in baseball right now.

But I just can’t help having that nagging feeling that comes with knowing that Clemens is back on the Yankees and Phil Hughes will soon be back to fill out the Yanks’ rotation. Then there’s the trade deadline and the specter of George opening his wallet one more time – maybe for Mark Teixeira.

I want to believe. In my lucid hours I do believe. But when I’m drifting off to sleep at night I see those smirking faces at the swim club. And didn’t I see my neighbor’s Venetian blinds closed again?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Victor Goes Yard In Frisco!

OK so I can go to bed happy. And not a moment too soon since I wake up about 4:45.

It took long enough but all three Indians got into tonight's All-Star game.

Victor Martinez, pinch hitting in the 8th for Johan Santana, put some icing on the A.L. cake with a two-run line shot down the line in left against Billy Wager, making the score 5-2 A.L.

Wagner, just a batter earlier, made Grady Sizemore look pretty wet behind the ears, whiffing him without even giving him a chance. That's our only beef with Grady - the K.

CC pitched the 5th, being taken out after just the one frame in favor of Justin Verlander who got knocked around a bit and nearly gave up the 3-1 lead CC handed him.

Some quick thoughts:

How many of you found yourself subconsciously rooting on the guys on your fantasy league teams, even though the stats, obviously, don't count?

Give me a break with the pre-game. First pitch 8:58. Wait 'til the playoffs. With FOX running the show we'll all be trudging through October on 3 hours of sleep a night.

Ditto the ten-minute-long "God Bless America" break in the 7th (followed, of course, by five minutes of commercials).

Fun watching Ichiro touch 'em all with his inside-the-parker. More importantly. It looks like he'll be signing with the Seattle, meaning the Yanks and Red Sox won't be getting richer at everyone else's expense. Of course there's always Tori Hunter etc...

Gotta go to bed. Gonna hope the score holds up.

Notes During the Break - A-Rod To The White Sox?

Where will A-Rod play his baseball next year? The man who Barry Bonds says will ultimately hold the all-time HR record is seen as likely to leave the Yankees after this season.

Today's (NY) Daily News took a look at places Rodriguez may be playing next year and one Central Division foe - the Chicago White Sox - figures prominetly in the mix. The paper put the odds at 8-1 that A-Rod will play for the Sox, the same odds the paper puts on Rodriguez staying in New York.

Chicago is the fourth most-likely place A-Rod will land next year, according to the paper. At 4-1 odds, the Angels are picked as most likely to land the slugger. The Indians? They're (not surprisingly) not on the list. Check it out the reasons behind the ratings here.

It'll be Dan Haren, not C.C. Sabathia (or Justin Verlander for that matter), who'll start for the A.L. in tonight's All-Star Game. Manager Jim Leyland chose Haren because he pitches across the bay in Oakland. Probably a good choice. CC said as much and his catcher, Victor Martinez said he was just glad he didn't have to be the one to decide. PC answers to be sure, but why get worked up over nothing.

Speaking of getting worked up over nothing, how 'bout that Home Run Derby? I never even turned on the TV. I enjoyed the event when it was new and lasted about 45 minutes to an hour. Now it runs for about three hours and Chris Berman's mouth runs right along with it. Grady Sizemore wisely declined a chance to participate. With his 91 Ks in 346 ABs so far this year the last thing he needs is to be messing with his swing. Unfortunately Grady says he might do it next year if he's asked with enough advance notice.

Bud Shaw had some interesting thoughts on the Derby this morning, saying the last thing baseball needed in San Francisco (home of Barry and BALCO) was to call attention to the HR. As a joke he suggested a rundown contest instead. See which player can stay in a rundown the longest. Sounds more exciting that the Derby to me.

Not much to be found on the Futures Game. The only full game story I could find was on Forbes.com of all places. That story mentions one Tribe farmhand - pitcher Chuck Lofgren, who got to play in front of the home folks:

Cleveland's Chuck Lofgren, a Bay Area product who went to the same high school as Giants star Barry Bonds, pitched a scoreless second inning for the U.S. team, striking out Freddy Sandoval. Lofgren also was an accomplished hitter at Serra High School, hitting 10 homers as a junior to tie Bonds for fourth most in a season at the school.

"I lived out my dream and got to strike someone out," Lofgren said. "It was a great experience, especially for someone who grew up here. It was the best feeling of my life, even better than when I was drafted." - the A.P. on Forbes.com

Monday, July 9, 2007

Welcome To Tribe Fan In Yankeeland!

The year was 1984.

I was heading to the Big Apple in my overloaded Datsun 210.

Heading to New York, where my soon-to-be wife, a new job and a new baseball team awaited me. There were two baseball teams for me to choose from of course, the Yankees and the Mets.

Whichever I chose, I was determined to leave the Cleveland Indians – the Jamie Easterly, Carmen Castillo, Jerry Ujdur (
yes, he is a real person) Cleveland Indians – in the rear-view mirror.

Twenty-three years later, the marriage thing has worked out extremely well and the career is still humming along. But that new baseball team thing never quite worked out.

I was pretty sure I would be unable to change my allegiance to the Yankees, though I thought if I exposed myself to them heavily they might grow on me. Didn’t work.

The Mets were another story. Dwight Gooden was in his rookie season, striking out the world on his way to a 17-9 season. Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez were tearing it up in their first seasons at Shea as well. And, in the outfield, an as-yet-untainted Darryl Strawberry was flashing five tools and Mookie Wilson was hitting his prime.

The Mets clearly would be the tonic to end the disease that had stricken me in early childhood. Indian fandomitis. And I would get to leave the AL and its bastardized brand of baseball behind as well. This was perfect!

But it wasn’t to be.

With the Mets game blasting on TV, I’d find myself with my Walkman in my ears, Three-W E crackling in, checking to see if Don Schulze would make it out of the fourth, or to see how many pitches it would take for Ernie Comacho to blow tonight’s lead. Could Junior Noboa make the diving stab that would bail out the Tribe’s pen. Mets or not, this all seemed more important. I was beginning to have my doubts that I’d ever be cured.

Then came the 1986 team, with its over-.500 record. And then the ‘90s, with Jacobs Field and a real team with real players. And then the Internet and satellite TV to keep me connected like never before.

I would never be able to leave the Indians behind.

And so I find myself in the country’s most cock-sure-of-itself city, with the game’s most obnoxious fans, rooting for the wrong team.

I am a Tribe Fan in Yankee Land.

On this blog I plan to follow the Indians as they make their way through the second half of what appears to be shaping up as quite a season (notice the qualifiers in that statement). I’ll be commenting on the Tribe and their day-to-play, the manager’s moves and the front office’s efforts to bolster the roster. But I also hope to add a different sort of perspective. One that I hope will speak not just to Tribe fans, but, in particular to those thousands of us spread throughout the country wishing we could be a little closer to the fun.

I hope you enjoy the blog and please let us know what you are thinking.