Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Schilling puts Cleveland on list of possible new homes

Curt Schilling has put the Indians on the list of teams he'd like to play for if he doesn't re-sign with Boston.

Schilling put the list on his blog, and, in fact, listed the Tribe first - though it's not clear if the teams were listed in order of priority.

Schilling says his priority is to sign with Boston, but he has also begun writing letters to Sox teammates, since, he says, he may not be playing with them again.

"I actually broke out a pen and paper the last couple days," Schilling said Tuesday in his weekly radio appearance while driving to Fenway Park for the Red Sox victory parade. "There's a very realistic chance I won't ever play with them again."-- quoted by Rotoworld

Now comes the big question. Why would Cleveland want him?

He has the reputation - with results to back it - of being the big-game pitcher that neither CC nor Fausto has proven to be to this point. But he'd be the third man in Cleveland's rotation and it is money much better spent on trying to resign CC. If it were 10 years ago, it might be a different story.

Here are two pitchers I think the Tribe should seriously look into:

  • David Riske - Declined his mutual option with the Royals. He's only 31 and had 2.45 ERA in 70 innings in 2007.

  • LaTroy Hawkins - Rockies declined his $3.75 million option. Hawkins was dismal in April -probably because he was injured. After coming back in late May he had a 2.63 ERA over 48 innings in Colorado, which is no pitcher's paradise.

The pen was great in 2007, but you can NEVER have enough good arms out there, especially in the year after your best relievers were overtaxed in an extended playoff run.

And what about that "big" bat for left field. The Brewers set Geoff Jenkins free by declining his $9 million option. The name is tempting, but he hit only 255 with 20 home runs in 2007. He's a lefty and his numbers are solid against right handers. But the Tribe would have to trade David Delucci for Jenkins to fit in, and I'm not sure he's a big-enough upgrade to bother. He's also a very streaky hitter and his troughs can be scary.


With the Tigers turning over the closer role to Joel Zumaya next year, Todd Jones has turned his sites on Atlanta as a possible new home.
The Detroit News reports the Tigers hope to re-sign Jones to set-up Zumaya and act as an insurance policy if Zumaya doesn't work out in his new role. But, according to the paper, Jones hopes to pitch closer to his home in Alabama.

The News also reports the Tigers also hope to re-sign starter Kenny Rogers.

Torii Hunter has told the Twins he would not negotiate with them until all teams can joint the bidding. reports the Houston Astros have already told Hunter they're interested when the time comes to talk money.

Darin Erstad got his walking papers yesterday when the White Sox decided not to pick up his option for next year.

Tribe killer Mike Sweeney is also a free agent. The Kansas City Star reports the oft-injured slugger was placed on hold by the Royals until after the Winter Meetings next month, when both sides will have a clear idea what the market is for Sweeney.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Renteria to Tigers, Is A-Rod next?

Things just got a little tougher today for the Tribe in their bid to repeat in the A.L. Central.

The Tigers, one day into it, filled their biggest need of the off-season with the trade for SS Edgar Renteria.

Yes, that Edgar Renteria - as in Mr. Nagy meet Mr. Renteria. Or as my friend at work is fond of saying to me at least once a week all these years later, "two- and -two to Renteria..."

Renteria will fill the hole left by the injury-forced conversion of Carlos Guillen to first base.

While Renteria will make the Tigers a better ballclub, there's potentially worse news for the Tribe coming down the pike.

ESPN's Buster Olney was on the ESPN local radio affiliate in New York today and he made a strong case for the logic of Alex Rodriguez beeing wooed seriously by the Tigers.

The comments are also up on ESPN's Web site:

Owner Mike Ilitch is loaded, the team has a longstanding relationship with Scott Boras (who represents Magglio Ordonez, Pudge Rodriguez, Kenny Rogers and No. 1 pick Rick Porcello), and the team has demonstrated the willingness to ignore the salary suggestions of the commissioner's office.

While the original thought was the Tigers would be interested in A-Rod at shortstop, the signing of Renteria dispels that notion.
The Tigers have Brandon Inge at 3B, a decent player but hardly someone who would stand in A-Rod's way if the Tigers make it worth his while ($$$$).
On the other hand, another Central Division foe - the Twins - seem to be about ready to take it on the chin in free agency, with centerfielder Tori Hunter and pitcher Carlos Silva putting themselves on the market today.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Already thinking of next year

I was hoping to put this off for a couple of days to give it more thought, but since it came up yesterday in
Mark Shapiro's press conference, I guess I'll give it a whirl.

For a team with almost everyone under contract, the Tribe has its share of decisions to make this winter.

Based on some things Shapiro said yesterday, I like where they are going on one big issue and think they may be making a mistake in another area.

On CC Sabathia, I like the fact that they are trying to settle it ASAP.

I also like that Shapiro appears to be ready to bring CC back for 2008 whether or not he has signed an extension beyond next season.

Next year is as good as any to win it all and the Tribe will have a better chance to do that with Sabathia in their rotation.

If something catastrophic happens and the Tribe is pushing up dasies by July, Shapiro can always trade the big man at that time. Let's assume that won't happen.

I don't think I like what I hear about the plans for infield.

My assumption has been - as I've mentioned several times over the past six weeks - that Asdrubal Cabrera would be moved to shortstop, Josh Barfield would be given a second chance at second base and Jhonny Peralta would move to third, with Casey Blake playing about five days a week at any number of positions.

Shapiro, however, says Peralta is the shortstop next year and that Cabrera will have a prominent role on the club - which I presume means second base.

There are a few things that bother me about this.

Certainly with his play in the post-season, Peralta has quieted talk about his being the odd man out in a trade. But he's not a shortstop. He's certainly not a shortstop on a team which has at least two starters who rely heavily on the groundball to make their living.

With Peralta at third, Cabrera at short and Barfield at second, the middle of the infield is more than solid. With Peralta at short you're not sure what you are getting from one day to the next.

Based on the infield plans as decoded from Shapiro's comments, it appears the Tribe is giving up on Barfield. Or at the very least that he and Cabrera will battle for the job. Neither scenario makes any sense from where I sit.

Obviously none of us knows what goes on in the clubhouse and we have no idea what unknown reasons might be behind a team souring on a player. But from the outside looking in, I can't see pulling the plug on Barfield so quickly.

Shapiro gave a say-nothing answer on the status of Kenny Lofton.

I love Kenny Lofton.

I wanted the Tribe to win the World Series for Kenny Lofton this year almost as much as I wanted them to win it for me - and for all of you.

What a story that would have been. The much traveled Lofton comes home to finally win it all.

That said, I don't see the Tribe bringing Kenny back next year.

They have Dellucci and Michaels to pay and no financial commitment to Lofton. They also have Shin-Soo Choo, Franklin Gutierrez and Ben Francisco to work in someplace.

Unless they can trade one of their less-than-thrilling veterans, there's no chance Lofton is coming back. Frankly, I think if they had their druthers they'd probably like to be free of all three and have a spot for a big-hitting left fielder - probably obtainable in a trade involving Cliff Lee.

Which brings us to the pitching staff.

In the stretch of about three sentences Shapiro said, it "is hard to see a scenario where we don't bring (closer) Joe (Browoski) back" and then, "if the opportunity is out there for us to get better in that spot then we'll absolutely do it."
So you tell me. Will they bring Borowski back? Ask me again ten days after the end of the World Series (when the Tribe is required to decide on JoBo's option).

Should they bring him back? Yes. If a better closer falls into their laps (highly unlikely) Raffy B. can use some help from the right side in the late innings.

The Tribe must decide on the options of Paul Byrd and Aaron Fultz in the same time frame.

Given that Byrd was probably the best starter in the post-season, and the HGH thing took place when the substance wasn't banned, I say he should be brought back.

Raffie Perez did the job this year that the Tribe thought they were bringing in Fultz to do - pitch from the left side in the late innings.

It's always nice to have two lefties in the pen, if they can both get people out. Fultz was ineffective after coming back from his mid-season injury and I think it would be just as well if the Tribe cut him loose.

Some other folks in limbo:

Cliff Lee. He's not really in limbo. I think he's as good as gone. He can likely be packaged for a decent hitter who plays the outfield.

Chris Gomez. I didn't know much about him until he arrived in August, but he seems like a decent hitter off the bench. I hope there's room for him on the roster after the final cut next spring.

Andy Marte: He must either displace Casey Blake at third (since the Tribe doesn't seem to want to put Peralta there) or be subject to waivers. The Tribe would be better off trading him for whatever they can get this winter.

Trot Nixon. It's over for the Trotster. Injuries are to blame, and it's too bad. But it is indeed over for Nixon.

So, there you have it. Forced into action by Shapiro's press conference and Moose's gentle nagging, those are my thoughts about who should be where next season.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How to spend your winter "vacation"

I'm going to take a break from watching baseball for a few days (or months).

If you are anything like me you just can't bring yourself to expend the effort. Or subject yourself to the pain.

If you are anything like me you plan to do anything but watch the World Series.

How many more times can you see Manny Ramirez's ugly mug, or Dustin Pedroia's nerdy, hamster-like little face?

(Yes the hate is irrational, but it's there. At least for now.)

If you're anything like me you have seen very little of the new TV season, since the Tribe would have been pretty much the only thing on your television for many months.

So, if you're anything like me, you'll be looking for something else to watch now that it is Tribe Time no longer (assuming your TV screen doesn't have a big jagged hole in it which got there about one second after Joel Skinner held up Kenny Lofton at third base).

That is why I've prepared this Tribe Fan Guide to the not-so-new-anymore fall TV season.

You can hardly describe them as must-see TV, but here are some shows you may want to consider:

The Office. One of my favorites for the past couple of seasons, but something is missing this year. It's not clicking like it used to, and I'm not the only one who has noticed. Maybe it's the new hour-long format, which mercifully will be cut back to a half hour this week. Thursday night on NBC.

30 Rock. Easily the best new show last season, it's back again this year and every bit as good (or so my wife says. I haven't seen it yet). Thursday night on NBC.

Friday Night Lights. This show is light on football and heavy on drama. Way too heavy. So many bad things have happened to so many people over such a short time in such a small town that the show is coming dangerously close to being unwatchable. Friday night (when else?) on NBC.

Men in Trees. In it's second season, this is pretty much a chick flick for the small screen. But it is just quirky enough and has just enough Alaskan scenery that I like watching it with my wife. Saturday night ABC.

Curb You Enthusiasm. Perhaps my favorite show on these days (except maybe for 30 Rock). New this season, Larry - at his wife's urging - adopts a family rendered homeless by a Katrina-like hurricane in the Gulf. One note of caution, Larry has become so unwittingly obnoxious this year that some of the situations are almost too awkward and uncomfortable to watch. Sunday night on HBO.

Except for the goofy show about robbing Mick Jagger, those were the only shows I watched with any regularity last season, and they all made it back on the schedule this year.

You'll notice I haven't mentioned any of this season's new shows yet. That's because there's very little to choose from. Here are a few I've tried to watch at least a couple of times.

Back To You. The only new show this year that I like, it features Kelsey Grammer and Cleveland native Patricia Heaton (daughter of Chuck but no relation to Neal) as co-anchors for a Pittsburgh (ugh!) TV station. The producer of the fictitious news show is my favorite character on this one. The quality seems to have dropped a tiny bit each week, but this show is is still very watchable. Wednesday night on FOX.

Carpoolers. The story of four guys who ride to work together and the things going on in their lives. This show is about as oddball as the robbing-Mick-Jagger show from last year. I'm still watching after two episodes, but I'm not sure for how much longer. Tuesday night on ABC.

Samantha Who? A woman has amnesia and has to try to put her life back together again. The critics like it. More importantly, my wife likes it and I trust her judgment. So you might as well try it. Monday night on ABC .

Tell Me You Love Me. Almost enough to cancel my HBO subscription. How they could have the nerve to put this piece of crap on in the Sopranos time slot is beyond me. This is a show with no plot and plenty of sex, including a healthy dose of on-screen genitalia - which puts it on par with THOSE shows available on THOSE certain pay-per-view channels. It's not the carnality that bothers me so much as the banality.

Maybe your best bet is to pick up a book, or a newspaper, or even to learn the guitar. It's a long time until next April.

If you have any suggestions, use the "comments" prompt below to let us know.

For those of you who want baseball only on the blog, rest assured that is what I'll be talking about for most of the rest of the off-season, though I may get sidetracked from time to time.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The sun has set on the Tribe

Can one decision by a third-base coach send the best Tribe season since the mid '90s to its grave?

How about a questionable umpire's call at the start of what could have been a two-run rally in the fifth by the Tribe, instead of just a one-run tally?

With the Indians down by a run, struggling to score runs and Jonathan Papelbon warming to throw his lightning in the last two innings, it is unbelievable to me that Joel Skinner held up Kenny Lofton in the seventh inning on what could have been the tying run, at least temporarily.

With Lofton on second, Franklin Guitierrez slashed one down the third-base line on what looked sure to be an RBI double. It took a funny bounce and darted straight toward left fielder Manny Ramirez, forcing Gutierrez to stay at first.
Despite the bad bounce, it looked as though Lofton could have scored. Judging by his reaction in the dugout, it sure looked as though Eric Wedge thought so too. In addition, the ensuing double play that ended the inning would no longer have been in order, as Franklin Gutierrez undoubtedly would have taken second on a throw home.

Lofton was at the center of another controversial moment, as he tried to stretch a leadoff wall-ball into a double in the fifth. Replays showed he made it. The umpire said he didn't. The one-run inning that followed would have been at least two, and who knows how many more.

After the seventh innning failure to score, it was time - and a horrible time indeed - for Raffie Betancourt's only bad outing of the playoffs, as he gave up a two-run homer to Dustin Pedroia to put the Sox back up by three. He got hammered again in the ninth as the wheels came off the bus.

The Tribe made a bid in the eigth, as a Ryan Garko flyout to right-center with two on and two out was just a few feet short of tying the game against Papelbon. But it was not to be.

So, did the two controversial decisions help send an entire season swooshing down the toilet?

Hardly. The Tribe - taking a cue from their two pitching "aces ," CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona - played games five and six and the first three innings of game seven with fear in their eyes. Jake Westbrook settled things down in the middle innings and the Tribe gave it one last shot.

The bottom line is this: After holding a 3-1 lead in the series, the Tribe had the Red Sox by the throat, but appeared too timid to finish off the dirty deed.

Does playoff experience count in the post-season?

You damned well bet it does.
I can't watch anymore, as the score just turned 11-2. My alarm goes off in less than five hours. I surrender.
Be sure, after your wounds have healed in a few days (months), to check back with us as we will have a lot more to say in the days ahead.
And we'll be keeping our eyes on the Tribe's offseason as well.
The Indians' terrific season has come to an inglorious end, but we'll still be around and hope you will be too.

Now it's sudden death

For the first time in these playoffs the Indians face an elimination game. Judging by the way they have handled the "pressure" of being up 3-1, and then 3-2, I'm not hopeful.

They say good pitching stops good hitting, especially in the post-season.

You could say this series is putting that theory to the test.

You could say that, but you'd be wrong.

This series is about good hitting pounding the crap out of awful pitching - at least from the two guys we were counting on most.

The horrible performances of CC and Fausto in this series come down to three things - too much rest between starts to stay sharp, too many innings overall since April and - probably the explanation that carries the most weight (CC kind of weight) - they both were unable to stand up to the pressure of the bright lights. Plain and simple, they choked.

And while we're counting those who choked - even though he doesn't pitch (or apparently hit either) - you have to say Travis Hafner may have swallowed the biggest apple of all.

So tonight we rely on what has been referred to as the back-end of our rotation. The guys who, if we lost this series, were likely to be the reason.

Tonight, in reality, we have the only two guys we've been able to count on for anything - Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd if Westbrook needs a quick hook. Why we waited 10 post-season games to find out Aaron Laffey could do the job is anyone's guess, but after last night he is spent. He did allow Wedge to save Raffie Right's arm for tonight. And if Beckett can throw a couple of innings - as is being talked about - than so can CC, though that may not be a good thing.

It all comes down to tonight. One roll of the dice. A game of craps. And if there's anything I know from watching Cleveland sports for most of my 51 years, when it comes down to a game of craps the Cleveland team always rolls snake eyes.


It took me until the sixth inning of the sixth game to find a way to watch a game without the annoyance of the FOX announcers and the FOX presentation - aside from turning the sound down that is.

When the score hit 5-1 last night and Fausto was coming out, I could see things were going nowhere.

We were in our hotel room in Montreal and I was getting sick watching, and my wife (not a sports a fan) was getting sick of watching me watch. So we decided to take a break from the game and do something fun.

When we returned to the game, I came across a French language broadcast. Same video, different audio. Since I had no idea what these guys were saying it couldn't annoy me. I could still feel the atmosphere - but without all the faux drama the FOX announcing crew tries to create. Too bad we're not staying in Montreal for one more night.

So I plan to enjoy my day. Have breakfast with my son and say goodbye and then see zillions of multi-colored leaves as we drive through the Adirondacs and then the Catskills on our way home.

What's waiting for me at home -- that I'm not so sure I'll enjoy.

Friday, October 19, 2007

CC fails again, as the series heads back to Boston

Ultimately, the story tonight was about the dominance of Josh Becket. We all feared it. We all new it could be coming. It came.

But CC Sabathia flat out choked. No two ways about. He choked, for the third time in three tries in the post-season.

Ninety-three pitches after five innings. One-hundred-eight after six. An inability to get any one of the Sox' big four out, as the foursome went five for 10 with three RBI and a couple of walks. In all, Sabathia was touched for four runs. He got some help from Grady Sizemore in giving up two of those runs. But make no mistake this was CC's failure.

CC had one inning - the sixth - when he seemed to be in command. The rest of the time he pitched tight, and he pitched timid - no matter what the FOX announcers were saying early on about his being more composed.

You could see the fear when he was pitching to our favorite Red Sox outfielder. This is an ace?

This was not the CC we saw during the season. Once again we saw him overthrow, losing his slot and missing high and outside all night.

CC wants to be the ace. But the ace has to show up not only in the regular season, but also the post-season.

When your ace spits the bit three times in three outings in the post-season, and you are still up 3-2 in the second round, you are living right. How long will that last?

No CC's perfromance was not gutty. He was putty - at least to the four guys in the Red Sox lineup who matter.

That the wheels came off in the eighth makes no difference. CC Sabathia lost this game.

And so now, we turn to the 23-year-old Fausto Carmona to be the ace that CC has not been. He'll be facing one of the toughest post-game pitchers of recent times in Curt Schilling.

The kid will have to try to prevent what no one wants - a game seven on the road.

I will be heading up to Canada around noon tomorrow for a long-planned trip. I'll be back home in time for a game seven, if necessary. But, if this series has to go to a game seven, I may not want to watch.

We'll be updating the blog sometime either Sunday night or Monday.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Boston papers give Manny a pass

"If it doesn't happen, so who cares? There's always next year. It's not like it's the end of the world."

Those words were uttered by Manny Ramirez yesterday as the Red Sox worked out at the Jake in advance of Game 5.

The story was picked up far and wide, but you won't find it - at least not at full intensity - in the Boston papers today, which surprises me more than a little.

In the Boston Herald's main story today, Manny's comments aren't mentioned. Instead, the talk is about an optimistic team that believes it can come back from the 3-1 hole they are in.

The Herald did have a separate piece on Manny's comments, but presented them in an optomistic tone, again painting a picture of a team ready to take on the heavy task it has created for itself.

When you read the article you'll see that the paper makes a seemingly small, but actually significant, change to Manny's quote, toning it down more than a little. The paper removed the words "who cares" and paraphrased them with the much tamer "fine."
"If it doesn’t happen, (fine), we’ll come next year and try to do it again."

Manny is quoted on a few other issues in the article, including showing up pitchers when he hits a homerun (it's no biggie to him), so it's worth clicking on it.

Athough it ran an AP story quoting Manny accurately, The Boston Globe, in its own coverage, makes no mention's of Manny's comments until the final paragraph of its main story - and it too has a different take on what Manny said, substituting the word "good" for "who cares."

" If we go play hard and the thing doesn't come like it's supposed to come, we'll move on. If it doesn't happen, good. We'll come next year and try to do it again."

The Boston media is known for its nastiness, at least on the sports pages. Today they should be wearing cute little skirts and carrying pom-poms.

A little boosterism by the hometown paper is a long-standing practice and probably OK during a playoff run. But burying and altering the quote for the purpose of playing down its impact is clearly a journalism no-no.


In our e-mail bag yesterday we got a nice note from Aaron Fultz's mom.

No. Not THAT Aaron Fultz, but a less-than-one-year-old with the same name as the Tribe lefty.

Since little Aaron is too young to have any memories of this exciting post-season march by the Tribe, Aaron's mom is trying to find a way to help him know down the road that he had a special connection to the Tribe this year. Here's her e-mail.

After the birth of my beautiful baby boy on 12-24-2006 and the awesome help of my family picking out his name: Aaron Fultz, I have been inquisitive about that left-handed relief pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. I have only once been smitten by baseball and that was in 1992, when I was 12 years old. I just started watching the games again, this year, and to my surprise, wow those Indians are an amazing team. I think it would be awesome to send the team a Good Luck card, and hopefully they (one day) might send my son, a World Series autograph baseball, t-shirt or any other cool novelty. Do you have any idea of what their fan club address is? I am redoing Aaron Bradlee's room (he will be 1, this year) with the Cleveland Indians photos and autograph baseballs I've got off of Ebay, also I am making some awesome curtains. I'll have to send you a picture after it's done. I hope my baby boy grows up to go pro! I'm really going to try to get him into baseball. And on the pitcher's mound: the NEXT Aaron Fultz!

If anyone knows of a Tribe fan club that might help Aaron's mom on her quest, or has any other suggestions for her, please e-mail me at and I'll pass along your suggestions.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

One more giant step

Here's tonight's galaxy of stars. Take your pick, they all contributed big time!

Jhonny Peralta, who's hitting right around the .500 mark in this series, had another huge night at the plate, getting the first hit of the night off of Tim Wakefield - a double off the wall in left. More importantly, his three-run bomb in the fifth turned out to be the game winning hit for the Tribe, putting them up six-zip at the time. The Sox would soon erase that goose egg though, with back-to-back-to-back homers in the top of the sixth. So Peralta's homer was huge.

You can make a case that Casey Blake had the biggest contribution tonight, starting off the seven-run fifth with a solo homer for the first run of the game, and capping the rally with an RBI single for the seventh tally.

And then there's Paul Byrd. What an outing for five innings. You have to think if the Indians didn't spend 35 minutes at the plate on this cold and wet night in the fifth, Byrd might have had a better shot at extending his evening.

Not pictured above - but in the picture every night - is Raffy Betancourt. Tonight all he did was get the last six outs of the game, four of them against the top four hitters in the potent Red Sox lineup.

Jensen Lewis was big again, building the bridge to Betancourt.

Honorable metion can also go to Adsrubal Cabrera, who had another RBI single in a big spot tonight and the best catch of the series so far with his leap to snag a line drive to end the seventh.

One last note on the game. I presume you all noticed Manny being a jackass yet again, while his team was getting their butts whupped. What a jerk!

I have to confess I broke a cardinal rule tonight. My high school baseball coach nearly took my head off one time when, with a big lead in hand in the bottom of the 7th (the final inning in high school) I started loading up our bat bag. Clearly the wrong move as our coach was a big believer in jinxes.

Tonight, lesson learned in high school or not, I started a draft of this victory blog post an inning before the last out was recorded. I looked the jinx in the eye and beat it.

On that note let me just say I've been at my job so long now I can probably do it with my eyes closed. I think we're going to put that theory to the test tomorrow morning.

Everybody enjoy the day off. Get some sleep. I'll put up something more substantial tomorrow after work.

PHOTO CREDITS: The Associated Press

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tribe takes the lead as Westbrook flashes back to August

Have those ninth-innning popouts come down yet? Wow!!! Even popups in the infield can be nerve-wracking.
Of course, that's just me trying to vent the tension.

The BIG story tonight was the outstanding job by Jake Westbrook, keeping the Red Sox at bay for 6 2/3 innings while Kenny Lofton and others pushed across just enough runs for a win. It's the way the Tribe has done it all season.

Westbrook looked like the Westbrook of August tonight, allowing just the two-run dinger to Jason Varitek. You can't say enough about just how huge Westbrook's performance was.

But how 'bout that Kenny Lofton? His two run shot in the second on a first pitch by Matsuzaka put the Tribe in front to stay.
Cleveland played small ball in the fifth, adding two more runs on three singles, a wild pitch and Pronk huffing-and-puffing down the first base line to avoid an inning-ending double-play and allowing Grady to score the Tribe's fourth run.

And so what was the biggest moment of the game tonight?

Lofton's dinger to put the Tribe ahead two-zip?

How about Jake loading 'em up in the top of the second with no outs, getting out of it and setting the tone for the rest of his outing.
How about Hafner's sprint to first base to add a run?
Jensen Lewis, putting the genie back in the bottle in the seventh after Varitek's home run cut the Tribe's lead in half?
Raffie Betancourt did the heavy lifting in the eighth, getting Youkilis, Ortiz and Ramirez one-two-three - with only Ortiz getting good wood on the ball.
Then there's JoBo, who came in and got a spotless save on two infield popups and a routine fly to center.

Well, time to bring the blood pressure back down yet again and steel ourselves for yet another night in the ringer tomorrow.

It sure feels a lot better than it did Friday night, no?

Manny being a jackass

When Manny Ramirez once stole second base, then trotted back to first for some reason, it was written off as Manny being Manny.

When Ramirez was an Indian back in the disasterous 1999 ALDS against the Red Sox, he raced back to the wall and jumped as high as he could in pursuit of a flyball that ultimately struck him in the foot. That too was Manny being Manny.

When Manny blows little kisses to his teammates, or does his five-year-old-girl wave to them after getting a single, it is more of the same - Manny being Manny.

The same is true when he mashes seemingly impossible-to-hit pitches deep into the night, or makes back-to-the-plate or shoetop catches when he's in his give-a-damn mode out in the outfield.
Manny gets a free pass because he is a space cadet. And I am sick to death of it.

The antics following his game-tying homer in the fifth inning Saturday night were as over-the-top as it gets.

After hitting the ball, which landed only about six rows deep in some weird triangular seating area that juts out into centefield, Ramirez flung his bat.

and then stood and watched the ball for about four seconds

before rounding the bases, blowing kisses and waving his finger as if he'd not only just won the World Series but also found the solution for world hunger.

About ten minutes later, upon reaching the dugout, he dove into the arms of some unsuspecting teammate.

Ramirez has been getting away with this kind of crap for way too long and it's time for someone to do something about it.

In football, when the fine line between impromptu celebration and turn-the-spotlights-on-me-hotdogism is crossed, they throw a penalty flag.

In the NBA, where such behavior is the norm, they could - if they wanted to stop it - instruct the referees to assess a technical foul.

In baseball there appears to be no appropriate penalty. You certainly can't take a run off the board, and ejecting the player also seems a bit much.

Which brings us to the way baseball used to handle such matters.

If Manny comes to the plate sometime this series when the game is clearly no longer in the balance, he should get a high hard one right in the ear hole of his helmet.

And if the Tribe doesn't get the right opportunity during this series, there's always spring training.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Back to The Jake knotted at one

Just as everyone predicted. Two pitcher's duels in the first two games.

Just as everyone predicted. Trot Nixon had the game-winning RBI in Game 2

Just as everyone predicted. In a game where both Jonathan Papelbon and Tom Mastny pitched in key spots late, Mastny comes out on top.

However they got to this point, the Indians leave Boston with the ALCS tied at 1 game each.
How sweet was it that Trot Nixon came through for his old fans in Boston? What a great night for him!!

Tom Mastny is asked to get Ortiz, Ramirez and Lowell in the tenth, when most of us thought we would never even see him again in this series unless it was a mop-up job. Ground out, popout, lazy flyball out.

And so who was the MVP tonight? One of the two guys mentioned above?

How about Grady Sizemore, who started off the seven-run 11th with a little old single? Overall Grady was 3-for-5 with 3 runs scored and a ribbie.

Maybe Jhonny Peralta, who bombed one to center in the fourth - a three-run shot that put the Tribe back out in front when it looked like the Sox had grabbed the momentum. Peralta was 3-for-5 with three runs scored and four RBIs - including one that kept the Ferris Wheel going in the 11th.

Victor Martinez was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and a ribbie.

Franklin Gutierrez looked sickly most of the night, but manged to get his bat on a ball in the top of the sixth to drive in the game-tying run with a groundout. Then, of course, he put the cherry on top of the 11th inning treat with his three-run jack over The Monster.

Rafael Betancourt went above and beyond, going 2 1/3 scoreless and tossing 42 pitches to keep the game knotted up.

Jensen Lewis contributed 2 1/3 equally important and impressive innings.

There are some trouble spots to talk about (our two aces and Raffie Left), but let's let those keep until tomorrow.

Oh ya. One last thing. Anyone know how I can sign up for the Eric Gagne fan club?


Saturday, October 13, 2007


So how are we all doing today?

We've had about 16 hours to recover from last night's debacle and I guess I'm about ready to go for tonight.

I know it hurts too much to keep looking at that photo of CC that tops my most-recent post, so if nothing else, this piece will serve to knock that one down on the Web page a little so you can't see it as readily.

I checked out the Boston Globe today to see what was up when I came across this little annoying item. "Foulke planning comeback" That's right. Mr no-show, Mr. I'll-blow-you-off-after-it's-too late-to-spend-your-money-on-someone-else has been working out and plans to come out of "retirement" for next season.

The Globe quotes Foulke's agent Danny Horwits as saying Foulke "is definitely going to play next year. He just needed to get healthy."

Foulke was placed on the voluntarily retired list by Cleveland and will be a free agent.

Here's my favorite part of the story:

Foulke is already working out and is watching the ALCS, according to the agent. "He still has friends on the Red Sox and is rooting for them," Horwits said.

Horowits followed up with this:

"He also absolutely wishes the best for the Indians, for the way they treated him."

Gee! Thanks alot Mr. Foulke!! You %^*@@#-ing jerk!


I came across this item in Friday's Globe too late to include it in my pre-series post.

At least we still have "The Rock" - Rocky Colavito - in our corner.

In a personal profile on the 50s-60s slugger - one of the most popular Indians of all time and the man after which one of my fantasy baseball teams is named - Colavito says he never put a curse on the Indians for trading him to the Tigers just before the start of the 1960 season.

"I never put the evil eye on 'em," he says. "It's not like in the old country in Italy where one of those old grandmothers drops oil into water and if it doesn't spread, the curse is on. No. Anyway, I never put a curse on the Indians."

But there was bad blood between Lane and Colavito over the slugger's salary. Colavito says he wanted a $3,000 raise to $15,000 in 1957, and Lane refused. Colavito worked a second job on a mushroom farm.

Can anyone see A-Rod working on a mushroom farm in the off-season?

The Rock also said he's rooting for the Tribe in the ALCS:

"I'm a little partial to Cleveland; it's a great city," he says. "It's a wonderful city. Boston has more stars, but Cleveland has some up-and-coming kids and they are hungry. I like [Grady] Sizemore. Both have good pitching. It's gonna be about the bullpen."

And he says he's not too fond of the modern-day player, and singled out Manny Ramirez in particular:

"Manny [Ramírez] is a really good hitter, no doubt about it," says Colavito. "[But] I see him make a miscue in the field and I see a grin on his face. In our day, if you grinned, they might boot your [posterior] to the minor leagues. They wouldn't tolerate it and you might get disciplined by your peers."

Anyway. The idea of the curse was highlighted in a 1994 book by the Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto, who argues that the Indians three-and-a-half decades of ineptitude started in 1960 with the Colavito trade.
Pluto has written many great books, but the one on Colavito and his 1999 book "Our Tribe" are my favorites. They make great off-season reading. If you've never read them, put them on your Christmas wish list.

Over at the New York Times long-time columnist Murray Chass offers some advice for Indians fans on the ledge today. -- Just chill.

The Times also has a nice little profile of Kenny Lofton, who just keeps popping up in the post season every year.

I have a long-standing engagement tonight and won't be around to watch Game 2. I'll TIVO it and may check it out when I get in, but I'm not sure I'll be blogging on tonight's game. If not look for something sometime tomorrow afternoon.

Enjoy the game. It's gonna feel better after tonight. I think.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fenway fizzle

Ya my head hurts too!

The Indians, as it turns out, are in this post-season with a 51-card deck.

They're missing an ace, and maybe I'll go far enough to say they are missing their ace of hearts. Or maybe their ace of balls.

When CC Sabathia put in a sub-par, yet still winning, performance against the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS, I was convinced it was a miniscule strike zone that kept him from being the CC that we know. After tonight's disaster, I'm beginning to wonder if the post-season CC might be the CC we used to know. The one with no control, over the ball or himself.

Six walks in five innings last time. Five walks in 4 1/3 innings tonight. That's almost one-third as many walks as the big man had all season.

What happened?

It's fairly obvious.

CC caved.

The Red Sox took him back up the middle four straight times in the first inning (one happened to land in his glove) and he never settled in, and - more importantly - he never settled down.

CC pitched like the old CC. He got flustered easily, and quickly. He started overthrowing everything. He lost his arm slot. Missed the strike zone. Looked horrible. The bases-loaded walk to Manny - after having him 0-2 - is something Cy Young Award winners simply don't do. It was inexcusable, though far from his only sin.

That's not meant to take anything away from the Red Sox.

Their hitters had a terrific game plan tonight and they executed it flawlessy.

The Sox drove the ball back up the middle relentlessly. When they weren't driving it up the middle they were slashing it to the opposite field, or turning 0-2 counts into walks. How many pull-field hits did they have tonight, at least when the game was still a game?

For everything CC did wrong, the Sox did something right.

They didn't look like a team of sluggers tonight. They looked like hitters. And that spells trouble.

And so, with 1-A crapping out, 1-B has quite a load to carry tomorrow. Fausto has been handed a bag of chicken shit by CC. It is essential he turn it into chicken salad.


Some other thoughts.

I'm not too concerned about what the other pitchers did tonight. Lewis was due for a dud. He should be fine. If we see Fultz or Mastny again, it will be in another blowout like tonight. Borowski - obviously - needed some practice against the middle of the Sox order. What better time to find out how he'd make out against them? Inspires confidence, no?


With Becket being taken out after six innings and fewer than 80 pitches thrown, the questions about him starting game four on short rest are already being asked. I hope he does. If we see Becket in game four it will be because the Sox are down 2-1. Any other scenario and Tim Wakefield goes in Game 4.


There'll be thoughts of bringing CC back on three days rest in Game 4 as well. My question is why? What has he shown in the post-season that would make you want to see him pitch three times in this series?

I suppose there is one excuse we can offer for CC. Both of his post-season starts - thanks to the TV god - have come with two or three days of extra rest. Maybe that has been his problem. Maybe.


Franklin Gutierrez looked awful tonight, but you need to keep him in for defense, especially tomorrow night with Fausto needing to pitch another gem.

Guess we're not gonna get a shot at Eric Gagne when it counts huh? What a complete flameout he has been.

It's been a few years since we Cleveland fans have been involved in the playoffs and it's easy to forget how many ups and downs there are, especially in a seven game series.

It was horrible, but it was only one loss. If Fausto is on again tomorrow things could be even with the series heading back to Cleveland for three.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

On to Beantown to face the Sawx

As much as I'd like to continue to bask in the joy of shutting down the Yankees and shutting off Yankee fans - except for those still blaming the bugs - it's time to move on. There's more work to be done. And it will be difficult work indeed.

So here's my quick and dirty look at the upcoming ALCS.

I think for the pitching it works best if you go game-by-game.

Game 1: CC vs Beckett. Wow! This one has a chance to be completed in less than three hours, unless of course it goes into extra innings tied zip-zip.
This is the matchup of the top two Cy Young candidates. Not my top two mind you, but the "consensus" top two. I think there should be a top three, with Fausto added to the mix.

There's really no way to handicap this game and this one is as even as it gets.

Advantage: None

Game 2: Fausto vs Schilling

This matchup is every bit as good as that in Game 1.

Two pitchers with completely different styles at the opposite end of the age and experience spectrums will face off and could, quite easily, produce the same bottom line - a zero, or maybe a one or two.

Having missed time early on, Schilling is as fresh as the old geezer can be. And he's been as effective as ever all season.

Fausto, on the other hand, is in unchartered waters, having long-ago surpassed his IP totals for a single season. But I ask you, did he look tired last Friday?

Will the Fenway crowd get to him? It's possible. But look at how he has pitched this year after the potentially career-crushing experience he endured as short-term closer last year. And again, look at last Friday night?

As in the first game, this one will hinge on who gets a hit at the right time and makes all the plays in the field.

Advantage: None

Game 3: Westbrook vs Dice-K.

Matsuzaka had a miserable September but his overall body of work this season was solid. Still that miserable September carried over into the playoffs, as he was knocked out of his only ALDS start in the fifth inning.

Jake had an up-and-down year, with the bottom-line results that were acceptable at best. His September was not the washout that Dice-K put up, but it was just so-so. He too was sent packing early in his only ALDS outing. But Oh that August!

Will Dice-K continue to sputter as the innings continue to pile up on him? Will he pull it together for a game and pitch like the winner he was early in the year?
Which Westbrook will show up. The August Westbrook, or the September/October Westbrook?
Advantage: Red Sox

Game 4:

Byrd vs Wakefield

This comes down to three questions.
Will Wakefield's knuckler knuckle? Will he even pitch (sore back)? Will Byrd keep the Red Sox in the ballpark?
Fortunately this game is at The Jake. Jacobs field is not exactly the pitcher's haven that the Astrodome used to be, but it is a bit friendlier to flyball pitchers than Fenway and that should mitigate at least some of the damage. And Byrd was very good in his one outing against the Sox this year.

Advantage: Tribe

The Bullpens:

A you can see, the starting pitching matchups are not much of a barometer for the series. What about the bullpens?

Look at the set-up men and things look pretty good for the Tribe.

Jensen Lewis and the Raffies have been lights-out for weeks now. They carried that over into the ALDS.

For the Sox, Okajima and Gagne have been a disaster in the last six weeks or so, though Okajima did have a good ALCS.

The Red Sox middle relievers have been mostly solid all year. They compare favorably to Tom Mastny and Aaron Fultz, which is not hard to do. But the middle-inning guys may not be too important in this series. Many may not even saee the light of day. It will likely come down to the starters and the back end of the bullpens.

The 7th and 8th could be very dicey for the Red Sox, while the Tribe has a sturdy bridge to the ninth inning.
But, while not exactly the Alaskan Bridge to Nowhere, that bridge leads to JoBo. Wouldn't you much rather see Jonathan Papelbon waiting on the other side?
As for the offenses, I look at this series much as I did the series with the Yankees.
The Sox are clearly more explosive than the Tribe, especially with Manny and Ortiz as hot as they are. But the Tribe's ability to get two-out hits and to hit with runners in scoring position made them potent enough to support their outstanding pitching.
So where does all of this leave us?
On the edge of the couch, probably for all seven nights.

For an insightful, stats-filled breakdown of the pitching matchups see Pat Tabler's work at The DiaTribe.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Some day-after thoughts before it all starts again

There are hundreds of photos available online today from last night's win over the Yankees and the subsequent celebration.

As an Indian fan living in New York the picture I love the most is the one above.

This kid is payback for everyone of us who has had bits of soft pretzel, with mustard, thrown at us for wearing an Indians jersey to Yankee Stadium (me).

He's payback for anyone who has had the words 'Cleveland sucks' sprayed at them by some drunken twenty-somthing idiot because they have a Tribe cap on (me - several times).

He's a hero to anyone who has had the full Yankee Stadium experience while rooting for the "wrong" team.

The kid is only about eight, so no one can touch him. The look on the face of the guy directly to the right of the sign is priceless. He would love to kill the kid, but he can't do anything because the kid is so young. If he were 12, he might be old enough by Yankee Stadium mores to get jeered. If he were 16 they might even throw things at him. Eighteen and all bets are off. But the kid in this picture has them all by the you-know whats.

For anyone who's ever gotten the royal treatment at Yankee Stadium - this one's for you!

Here's my least favorite photo of the night.

It was taken during one of Joe Torre's last walks from the mound at Yankee Stadium.

Word out of the Yankee front office today is that nothing has been decided about Torre yet, that there will be a "cooling off" period of a few days and then his status will be discussed.

But I heard Yankee GM Brian Cashman on local talk radio today and from the dancing he was doing it seems to me Torre's fate is likely sealed.

It sure seemed that way in the Yankee clubhouse last night, as described by Yankee radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman - herself welling with tears as she described the scene to play-by play man John Sterling. (The part you want is about 1 minute 35 seconds into this clip).

I'm not sure that Waldman - in her professional capacity - should be crying on the air. But I am sure that the treatment Torre is getting is disgusting. One day he's being fired. The next it's up in the air - though probably it really isn't up in the air.

The man has managed the Yankees for 12 years. They've been in the playoffs all 12 years and have won four World Series - three of them consecutively.

More important, Torre seems to be as genuine and classy as they come. When I did a tribute to Phil Rizutto on the day he died I said there have only been two Yankees I've ever liked - the Scooter and Don Mattingly. You can add Joe Torre to that list.


I was going to do an analysis piece with all the numbers just to see how close this series really wasn't. But Pat Tabler over at the DiaTribe is a master at that and so why reinvent the wheel?

The national media, of course, is obsessed with the Yankee failure and its repurcussion, giving the Indians' accomplishment short shrift.

Not the case out on the Left Coast though - specifically in the L.A. Times.

The New York Yankees were the famous team in this series. They were the team with the glamour, the riches, the stars. But the Cleveland Indians were the best team in this series, the team that represents a city that would treasure a championship, as opposed to a team with an owner that considers it a birthright.

And at least one person in the ESPN sports empire thinks the Indians did baseball fans around the nation a big favor by preventing yet another Boston-Yankee smackdown.

That archival footage of Pedro Martinez slamming Don Zimmer to the ground? Stow it. Casual references to Grady Little, Aaron Boone and Dave Roberts' pivotal stolen base in 2004? Please. All the Athens vs. Sparta comparisons will have to wait until spring training, when the hype begins anew and Red Sox-Yankees tickets are going for $150 a pop.

Cleveland Indians didn't do much for East Coast corridor baseball mania or the suits at TBS, but they can take satisfaction in knowing they've rescued a large segment of the American baseball-viewing public from another dose of Armageddon fatigue.

Amen to that!

Oh, and one more thing. Time to blow our own horn a little. - the Web site for the Newark Star-Ledger - named Tribe Fan In Yankeeland blog of the day today. Click here for a look.

Monday, October 8, 2007

We had it from the start

Well, that might be a sliight strretttch!

How about this.

All's well that starts well!

When Grady Sizemore led off that first inning with a dinger you could feel it. The panic in me, born of so many what-iffs, seemed to fade at least a little bit.

Chien-Ming Wang wasn't on his game and that was good news for the Tribe who bounced him early and went on to take the ALDS from the Yankees 3 games to 1.

OK. Once again. A big man admits he was wrong, and I am a big man- in more ways than one.

Eric Wedge was right about Paul Byrd. He wasn't pretty (in any sense of the word). But he kept the Yankees from turning home plate into a subway turnstile- as I was afraid migh happen. The basepaths looked like Grand Central Station at rush hour. But the fact that very few of those "commuters" made it home is a testament to Byrd's grittiness. When all was said and done he went 5-plus innings, gave up 8 hits and 2 walks, but only 2 runs. He left with the Tribe in the lead 6-2. The homer he left on appeared to be a decent pitch that Robbie Cano went down nearly to his ankles to get.

So is Byrd a candidate for series MVP in your mind? He came up big in a tough spot - made tougher by naysayers like yours truly.

But Fausto Carmona was probably bigger in a spot that was at least as key as tonight - putting the Tribe in the series driver's seat by winning game 2.

What about CC? He got things off to a good start without his very best stuff and an umpire with no strike zone.

How about someone in the bullpen? Raffie Perez, who was lights out and did his work in some very key spots? (We'll ignore tonight's non lethal A-Bomb). Or Raffie Betancourt and Jensen Lewis who answered duty's call as well? JoBo got the only save he was called on to get (though I really don't know about nominating him).

Maybe the bullpen as a whole should be MVP. But then there's the Aaron Fultz fly in that ointment.

What about one of the everyday players.

Kenny Lofton provided spark and life and leadership, not to mention lots of hits, early in the series as the Indians took the first two,

Grady Sizemore certainly was MVP of game four and maybe game two as well. He might have scored the biggest run of the series with his scamper that ended by beating the tag of a "bugged" Joba Chamberlain at the plate.

Asdrubal Cabrera had his rookie-like game in game two, but otherwise was in the middle of quite a bit of the offensive mahem created by the Tribe.

The same can be said of Jhonny Peralta, who had a boatload of hits.

Victor had some big hits with runners in scoring position, including tonight's two cushion runs - numbers 5 and 6.

Ryan Garko wasn't in the game-four lineup, but he sure did hit in the first three games and played first base well throughout.

Travis Hafner had the game-winning hit in game two and a was a presence at the plate throughout.

What is becoming apparent here is that you could pick almost any one of the guys I just mentioned and no one would tell you you're crazy.

I guess what I'm getting at is this team did it the way they did it all year long, with everyone doing their part in a great TEAM effort.

The alarm clock goes off for me at 4:40 a.m. so I have to go for now. I'll have a celebratory post and recap tomorrow after work. Thanks for checking in throughout this series and stay with us for the ALCS. If there are any typos I'll clean 'em in the morning.

For all my fellow Tribe fans living in Yankeeland, here's a little inside joke.



Sunday, October 7, 2007

Get it while you can!

No one said this would be easy.

No one can be too surprised that things turned out as they did tonight.

When you throw a contact pitcher against the biggest bashers in the league – surprise – they make contact.

Jake Westbrook was going to need to shoot the ball through a pin head in order to escape tonight’s outing without giving up three-to-five runs. His control was decent, but it needed to be perfect against this team.

But you do have to ask two things:

Why did Westbrook go back out for the sixth?

Why does Aaron Fultz ever the see field in this series?

You can not manage a five-game series like the regular season. Sure the Tribe has two more tomorrows. But tomorrow comes quickly.

We’ve seen Betancourt for one inning so far. The same was true of Jensen Lewis at the time Westbrook departed.

You can’t say Fultz is unproven. He’s proven since coming back from injury that he’s pretty much useless.

Westbrook needed to be yanked. But you have to put somebody out there who has shown something.

No one in the pen, except maybe Raffie Perez, has been overworked in this series. And save the lefty-righty crap. Lewis, Perez and Betancourt have been getting both out with regularity.

So tonight is water under the bridge. It’s time to look at tomorrow.

Paul Byrd is a contact pitcher if there ever was one. To say the least, or perhaps to put it kindly, he does not match up well against the Yankees.

Eric Wedge insists he will use Byrd Monday no matter what. That he will manage the team the way he has all year. But – again – this is not the regular season. There aren’t 159 more games to go. You can’t manage like its July. Loyalty or reward don’t enter into it. You play to win. Tonight!

There are several reasons why it might be iffy to start CC tomorrow on three days of rest. He pitched only five innings on Thursday, but they were a grueling five innings He threw 114 pitches. many in tough situations.

If you start Sabathia tomorrow - even if he’s on, and even if there’s an umpire with an actual strike zone out there to give him what he deserves - you may still get only six innings out of him

If you save him for game five, you can have CC start and Fausto backing him up if necessary.

If Byrd should pull off the improbable you’d have both CC and Fausto ready for lots of action in the next series.

But, in the playoffs you can’t worry about the next series, or you might be watching it on TV.

You can’t give the guy the ball just because he won his share of games in the regular season. If his stuff doesn’t match up, he sits. Period. Especially if he’s a hittable righty against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

There's one final thing to think about. Whether Chien-Ming Wang pitches tomorrow or not you are staring at Pettitte on Wednesday.

Give yourself two good shots instead of one.

You have to go with CC.


Just one other thing.

Thank God Joba got hit a little bit in the eighth. If not we would be hearing more than ever how Chamberlain’s Sunday outing was proof that Friday was a bug-induced fluke.

Maybe the difference between Chamberlain tonight and Friday was the scoreboard. He had only one run to work with on Friday and five tonight. The collar of his jersey was much looser tonight

Or maybe tonight’s outing confirms what may have been the case Friday. He’s great for an inning but has difficulty pitching two. He did it only once or twice during the season as they Yankees babied their big 230-pound youngster.

Yanks to try The Rocket to stop Tribe advance

He's won 354 games in his career. His lifetime ERA is 3.12. He's been to the playoffs time and again. And he's been a winner in those playoff appearances.
He managed only six victories in those 17 starts. He has only pitched twice since August 19, the last time exactly three weeks ago today.

He's been battling elbow, and more recently hamstring, problems and he has also had trouble with blisters on his push-off foot.

But he is still Roger Clemens, and love him or hate him he has heart. Lots of it. And grit. And a searing competitiveness.
So what should we expect tonight when the Tribe takes on Clemens? Good luck on that one.

There are some things he can't control. If the hammy pops he'll be done. If the blister problem recurs his effectiveness may be diminished. The elbow problems haven't been mentioned too much lately. But is he, or are the Yankees, just keeping them quiet?

Let's assume none of the above have a major effect on Clemens tonight. That being the case, you can expect a gutty effort from a man who's nasty streak will be on display.

But will that be enough? Clemens did make it through the eigth inning twice this year, both times in July and before the parade of injuries. His typical outing has been six. Does that mean Joba comes in for two and Rivera one? Or will the Tribe get a crack at the soft middle of the Yankee bullpen?

Obvously I have no answers. Chances are some scenario we're not even thinking about will come into play.

For what it's worth, Yankee fans seem divided on what Clemens will bring to the table tonight. In one of those silly little click polls (which we also have on our site - their fun but meaningless) done by the Daily News today, 53% of Yankee fans say he'll come through, 47% say he wont. (That was as of 10:30 a.m. when I logged on).


While most of the papers here in New York have been speculating about Joe Torre losing his job if the Yankees don't go deep into the post-season, one local paper, The Record (northern NJ suburbs), has it from the horse's mouth. Torre's future is in the hands of the Tribe (and of course his own team).

Joe Torre's 12-year run as manager of the Yankees will likely end if his team does not rally to beat the Cleveland Indians in the AL Division Series, George Steinbrenner told The Record on Saturday night.

"His job is on the line," the Yankees' owner said in a phone interview. "I think we're paying him a lot of money. He's the highest-paid manager in baseball, so I don't think we'd take him back if we don't win this series." -- excerpted from a story by Ian O'Conner of The Record.
That could just be the old man's emotions getting the better of him, but I don't think so. Being bounced from round one three years in a row is likely more than The Boss will put up with. Obviously I'm hoping the Tribe will lock things up, but it is a shame Torre likely will be shown the door as a result.

Which brings us to a point made by the New York Times' Murray Chass today. In this year's first round of the playoffs three of the four winners, or leaders, have significantly smaller payrolls than do their first-round opponents.

In three of the four series, the team with the lower payroll was ahead — the Indians ($70.5 million) over the Yankees ($216 million), the Rockies ($60.6 million) in front of the Phillies ($100.6 million), and the Diamondbacks ($69.8 million) up on the Cubs ($113.5 million).

And Chass came up with this figure that seems startling, even for the Yankees:

In the 13 consecutive years that the Yankees have played postseason games, 1995 through 2007, they have spent just short of $1.6 billion on their payrolls — $1,589,672,681 to be more precise.
This figure is not readily available, like batting averages and earned run averages. But it was compiled from data obtained from various baseball offices. It’s a real number. It’s a mind-boggling number.
Roger Clemens, of course, will face the Tribe's Jake Westbrook tonight.

I've checked out about six or seven local papers here in the New York area and Jake has gotten a pretty fair shake from all but one of them.

They all described him as a cut below CC and Fausto and more suited to the Yankees wait-you-out approach at the plate, but who can argue with that?

All mentioned his very short stint with the Yankees before being traded to Cleveland for David Justice.

They all brought up his dismal night in April against the Yanks (it was dismal - I was there), and they all mentioned that he did a fair amount better in August (remember the Peralta-getting-picked-off-first-with-the-bases-loaded game?)

The Journal News, my local paper which covers the northern New York suburbs (by the way, I haven't paid my bill this month yet and maybe I wont), was less kind to Westbrook.

In his preview article, Peter Abraham called Westbrook "mediocre."

And then there's this gem from Rick Carpiniello:

At the All-Star break, the Yankees' comeback from their 14 1/2 -game hole had already begun, but they were buoyed by the fact that 15 of their next 25 games would be against Kansas City and Tampa Bay. Well, Westbrook and Paul Byrd are their Kansas City and Tampa Bay now, especially compared to Sabathia and Carmona.

I mentioned I would be out and about yesterday and likely to get first-hand Yankee-fan reaction to the Joba Chamberlain midge meltdown.

As predicted, Yankee fans saw the bugs as a key factor in the game.

Most of the guys I saw at a local football game are guys I know from the bygone days of Little League, or from high-school sports or the town pool. Most of them made good-natured jokes about the whole thing, but one guy then tried to make the case that Chamberlain actually did better than you should expect under the circumstances.

On to the Army football game, with a vastly different crowd. People I go to church with. There was no direct comment about the bugs, just some playful joking that there was no room in the row for me when I got there. I will say one of my friends - when the talk of the Tribe game had subsided - asked me if "Cleveland has those bugs all the time." He's kind of a scholarly fellow so he may have just been curious about midges and their habitat. But I don't really think so.

The professionals are still going on about the bugs too. In one story this morning Roger Clemens said if he were in charge he would have pulled the Yankees off the field. It wasn't clear from the context whether that comment was directed at Joe Torre or the umpires, but I'm assuming it was the latter.

Doug Mientkiewicz said if he had had bugs in his eyes on Travis Hafner's line drive he might still be lying on the Jacobs Field infield.

But Torre said he thought it possible that the bugs might have been more of a distraction for hitters, and so he's not biting on the Joba-broke-down-because-of-the-bugs theory.

My son said if it had been the other way around - if the Indians had coughed up a lead in the same fashion under the same circumstances - I "would be crying." He meant that literally.

You know what? He's probably right.