Thursday, February 28, 2008

A little fun on a slow day

With the Tribe's intra-squad game being rained out yesterday, there is precious little to talk about this morning.

The Plain Dealer reports that Jhonny Peralta spent the day working on his range at shortstop - which seems like a helluva good idea to me.'s Anthony Castrovince reports the Tribe is hoping to take it easy this year on its two aces, CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona, who maxed-out in the innings-pitched department last year because of the lengthy trip into the post-season.

Castrovince says CC is on a lighter pitching regimine during the spring, and - with added bullpen help - the Tribe hopes to push the duo for that one extra inning a little less often this year.

Castrovince is worth checking out on a daily basis. He often finds a different topic to write about than the beat reporters for the papers. His stuff is not what you would expect from a league- and team-sponsored Web site.

Another reporter - Steve Gilbert - reported the other day that The Trottster is learning to play first base in the Diamondbacks' camp, since Arizona's incumbent there, Chad Tracy, is recovering from micrfracture surgery on his knee.

Nixon told Gilbert he thought he'd be sitting out the season until Arizona placed a call to him earlier this month.

"This was the only opportunity to go to big league camp I had."

From Boston's camp comes word that Bartolo Colon is ahead of schedule with his throwing program. Boston manager Terry Francona is - so far - impressed, though, surprisingly, there is a little concern about Bartolo's weight.

A Boston baseball blog - Boston Dirt Dogs - seems a little less impressed by the signing of the sore-armed former Tribe ace, judging by its artwork below.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Westbrook shelved with sore arm

Jake Westbrook won't make his scheduled start in tomorrow's pre-season opener against the Astros. reports Westrbook has a sore arm, which he believes is nothing serious.

Westbrook will throw a bullpen session instead.

Westbrook, who missed two months last year with a strained abdominal muscle, says the arm soreness he has now is something he gets every year at the start of camp.

The Westbrook news comes on the heels of news about roookie pitcher Adam Miller, the Tribe's top pitching prospect, who is expected to miss a week or so because of a recurring problem with a blister on his throwing hand.

From our "some things never change" file is this sentence from the Plain Dealer's wrap-up of yesterday's first intra-squad scrimmage:

Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Garko hit consecutive homers off Joe Borowski for a 3-0 lead in the first for the hometown Tribe.

Other things of note from the game:

Ben Francisco went 3-for-3, stole two bases, had one RBI and scored the game-winning run; Grady Sizemore batted twice and had two hits; Michael Abrey had a three-tun dinger; and Andy Marte was 2-for-2.

Not that it affects the Tribe at all, but I figure Tribe fans might want to know.

Omar Vizquel is expected to miss four-to-six weeks due to an operation on his sore left knee.

Monday, February 25, 2008

CC reaches for trouble

It's been tough trying to find something truly newsworthy to write about in the first few days of spring training.

Fortunately that is still true tonight, though it could have been different.

CC Sabathia today reached out with his bare hand for a shot back to the box and had to get his hand checked out as a result.

Although the ball caromed to second base,
the Plain Dealer reports, there doesn't seem to be any problem.


There's been darn little else to report so far, although it is good to note the
Jeremy Sowers appears to have regained some muscle on his fastball.

The biggest negative so far,
Andy Marte - who you would think would be doing all he could to show he belongs in the big leagues - came to camp not in the best of shape.

I may be in the minority, but I think the Tribe should send him packing rather than using a roster spot on a guy I don't think is going to cut it here.

(Someone please bookmark these comments and I'll be glad to eat crow in September if I'm wrong.)

That being the biggest negative so far, I'd say it's been a pretty routine first week-plus of training camp.

I have to laugh at something I read in the PD today, not in the sports section.

It seems
NBC's Tim Russert was a student at CSU's Marshall Law School back in 1974 and attended the infamous "10-cent-beer-night" at Municipal Stadium.

Russert, in town for tomorrow's presidential debate, was asked to what degree he participated in the event.

"I went with $2 in my pocket. You do the math."

Thanks to those of you - an amazingly large number - who check back daily to see what's new. As soon as something worth commenting happens, you can bet we'll have something to say.

In the meantime, I've been very busy with my political blog. If that floats your boat at all, please check us out at

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

CC talks about not talking contract

As the full Tribe squad assembled in Winter Haven, CC Sabathia held court yesterday to talk with reporters for what he said would be the first and last time about his decision not to talk contract with the Tribe until the season is over.

Fat chance! (no pun intended)

Do you think there is any chance that CC will not be asked about his future plans with each city he visits this year?

He'll get questions the first time he goes to each city. And he'll get questions the last time he goes there as his free agency will be drawing closer as the season starts to wane.

They may not ask him much about it in Kansas City, but can you imagine the press in New York or Boston quietly tip-toeing past his locker because he says he doesn't want to talk about the future.

On the New York talk shows and in the tabloids it will be a foregone conclusion that CC will be a Yankee next year. The reasoning being - as always - "who wouldn't want to be a Yankee or play in New York? You'd have to be crazy!"

Just as they think it is their God-given right to be in the World Series every year, Yankee fans and much of the media here assume they have first dibbs on every free agent of any worth.

Or how about when the Tribe takes on the Dodgers or the Giants (his hometown team) during interleague play?

No one from the LA Times or the San Francisco Chronicle is going to ask him if he wouldn't prefer pitching in the Sunshine State over tossing snowballs on Opening Day in Cleveland?

Is it possible that he'll be asked by reporters in Oakland whether it might just be that the A's tore it all down this winter so they have some money to start building it up again around a hometown hero next winter?

Then there's the national media-- close cousins to the New York media -- who also will have CC in pinstripes well before he throws his last pitch in anger this season.

He will be the hottest free agent of the upcoming off-season. Does CC really think the national media is not going to mention that every time he takes a breath this year?

And, of course, you have the Cleveland fans. For them CC has this advice:

"You have to have faith. Everyone here knows how I feel about this place and how much it means to me. I've been here since I was 17 years old. We'll have plenty of time after the season to get it done." --CC Sabathia quoted by the Plain Dealer

Well, we've heard that before- much like a 20-something hearing that "it's not you, it's me," from the latest love of his life. No matter "who it is," the bottom line is it's over.

No one really expected Albert Belle would stick around. Albert was clearly in it for Albert.

Some of us had hope that Manny Ramirez - because he is such a loose cannon - might wake up one morning, steal first base and then say "let me have that contract, I feel like re-signing here." That didn't happen either.

Then there was the All-American Boy. Mr. Aw Shucks himself, who - having grown up in Peoria - felt like Cleveland was the big time. He even married a Cleveland girl. And he loved the city and the fans SOOO MUCH!! Surely Jim Thome would stick around.

So pardon the Indian fan if he isn't buying the "keep hope alive" crap. Forgive him too if - on one of the few days CC gets bombed this season - the Cleveland fan lets the Big Man have an earful.

Even if Sabathia can block out all of the noise outlined above there will still be somebody talking to him all season long about his future.

That little voice inside his head is going to be jabbering away incessantly about it, and you have to wonder if he'll be able to tune out that voice.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

CC tables talks


Those of you who live in the Cleveland area no doubt know this.

But for those around the country who aren't being inundated with the news and may have missed it, here it is.

The following is a direct quote from CC on his own Web site.

This off-season, through my representatives at Legacy Sports Group, I have discussed the possibility of a contract extension with the Cleveland Indians. At this time, we haven’t been able to reach agreement.

Now that the reporting date for spring training is here, it is time to put aside contract discussions so that I can focus all of my energies and attention on preparing for the upcoming season.

I look forward to a successful 2008 season, both for myself and for the Indians as a whole. I will do everything within my power to help the club to its first World Series appearance since 1997 and its first World Series Championship since 1948.

There will be time after the season for the Indians and my representatives to discuss my contract status.

I remain hopeful that these discussions will result in a contract extension that will keep me with the franchise for many years to come.

In the meantime, in order to avoid any distractions, my representatives and I will not make any further comment about my contractual situation beyond this statement. -- C.C. Sabathia

The Plain Dealer has posted a response from Tribe GM Mark Shapiro this afternoon, who says he was hoping to continue talks during the spring but agreed that the talks weren't progressing.

"We don't disagree with C.C. on the status of negotiations right now. There's not a lot of common ground.

We probably would have preferred to leave it open to the end of the spring training, but there's no animosity there."

If you are a "half-glass-full" type - as George W. would say - you can point to the that part near the end where CC refers to the short period of time when the Tribe can still negotiate one-on-one with him after the World Series.

My advice is expect the worst and then hope to be surprised.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Spring training is here!!

The Tribe's pitchers and catchers report to Winter Haven - for the last time - tomorrow

It's the place where some of the Tribe's most successful teams have trained during - perhaps - the Tribe's most successful period in history.

It is also the the site of
Little Lake Nellie and the sadness and numbness that that still brings to mind today.

I don't have any in-person memories of Winter Haven since I never went to spring training there, nor did I ever get to that fantasy camp I thought I might one day attend.

My new goal now is to visit the Tribe often in Arizona - starting in about 10 years or so, when I retire and vacation in Arizona three or four months out of the year.

We all have dreams.

Back to the hear and now.

I saw
Paul Hoynes' story in today's PD. The 10 questions thing.

I know it's popular in the blogosphere to knock the "print" or "old media" guys, but since my roots are there and I actually knew Paul when he was still covering the Tribe for one of the suburban papers (I think the Lake County News Herald) I am not going to knock him.

Mostly, I think he does a pretty good job.

But there's no sense in me just re-doing the same questions - will Hafner turn back into Pronk this year, will Joe Borowski get anyone out etc...

Instead, I have my own questions. I'm not sure how many yet. I'll just keep writing until I run out.

1.Why, on the day before spring training starts, do we have to see the sports news led with a story about steriods, HGH and investigations?

The best part about this fiasco is that some of the Bozos on Capitol Hill who have nothing better to deal with - like a war in Iraq, a deteriorating economy, health care etc...- my have put themselves in legal jeopardy over this.

The New York Times reports today that certain Congressmen and staff may have violated federal law and Congressional ethics rules by asking somone with business before the body (Roger Clemens) for a thing of value (his autograph).

2. Why does everyone keep saying (including Hoynes) that the Sabathia contract extension hold-up is not about money, but about length?

The Tribe is reluctant to give him that extra year not because if he hurts himself and is relegated to cheerleader in the final year they don't have a seat big enough for him on the bench. It's because they would still have to PAY him. Probably about $23-$24 million by the time you get to the far end of the contract. So it IS about money. Money they don't want to take the chance of having to shell out for nothing.

3. How many more times will we still have to shovel the driveway before Opening Day.

3b. How many times will we still have to shovel the driveway AFTER Opening Day?

4. How long into the season will it be before the fans start to use the new name for Jacobs Field?

5. Why is it the Tribe's season series against the Yankees is over by the first week of May and why are the Yankees making their only appearance in Cleveland in April?

5b. Do Lake Erie midges come out of hibernation or their cocoons or wherever they come from by April?

6. Will I get my rebate check FROM the IRS in enough time to send my tax bill check TO the IRS? And won't that stimulate the economy?

6. What are some of your favorite, or most-random, spring training memories?

Here are a couple of mine, random as they may be.

In 1991, the Indians pushed back the fences considerably to accommodate the "talents" of Alex Cole, a flash-in-the-pan, speedy centerfielder who - the Indians thought - would give them an advantage because of all the ground he would cover.

I remember reading story after story out of Florida about the new dimensions back home and all the thought that went into the move.

That year the Tribe was out-homered at home 41-22 and finished the year at 57-105.

Can you imagine a f
ranchise so sorry they would make Alex Cole the centerpiece of ANY strategy they would employ?

For some reason I also have this vivid memory of lying in the bath tub (sorry for that mental picture) listening to a game out of Tuscon and hearing - live - the play where the Tribe's next superstar, the great Hawk Harrelson - who had been acquired from the Red Sox the previous season - slid late into second base and ripped his ankle apart, missing pretty much the entire season.

That was 1970.

The year before he had hit 30 homers for the Red Sox and the Tribe.

Those are two spring training memories that just sprung to mind as I wrote this.

What are yours?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The day we've been waiting for

Well the good news is that spring training will be starting next Friday.

That would be GREAT news if I were heading down to Florida myself for six weeks, but as far as good news goes, I'll take it.

It's been a mostly quiet off-season for the Tribe. I won't rehash the whole thing here, but here's a quick summary.

They signed a legitimate new member of their bullpen and a few sore-armed possibilities for various roles on their pitching staff (either in Cleveland or Buffalo) - the latest being Brendan Donnelly and Scott Elarton.

They also added a utility infielder Jamey Carroll.

They tried and failed to get the biggest bat on the trade market this winter - Miguel Cabrera - who went to division rival Detroit instead.

They also tried to obtain the second-biggest name on the pitcher trade market, Dan Haren, but he'll be throwing baseballs out in the desert this season.

They looked into a couple of other possibilities - most notably Jason Bay - to add pop to their outfield, but no dice there either.

So they head of the Winter Haven - for the final time - mostly to shake off the rust of the winter and the memories of the final three games of last year.

David Dellucci, who will be platooning in left field this season after a nearly-season-long injury last year, told's Anthony Castrovince the Tribe will have to approach this season the way they did last year and put last season's playoff collapse behind them.

"The difficult part is we will hear it all season. There is a desire to come into Spring Training wanting to win the World Series as soon as you get into Spring Training. But you can't do it. It's a completely different year. You can't play Spring Training games the way you played at the end of the season. You've got to take your time and let everything progress, just like we did last year.
"We got where we were because we weren't worried about the standings." --David Dellucci quoted on

On this he is so right.

The Tigers notwithstanding, the Tribe faces two huge challenges - both of which can mess with the psyche - as they head into the season.

They have to put thoughts of last year - both the 96 wins and the playoff collapse - behind them. They start the season with zero wins and they have to fight the notion that those 90-plus wins will just re-appear this season. But they also have to forget about the flop in the playoffs which could produce a hangover into this season if they don't put it our of their minds.

In addition, they face the problem of high external expectations. After finishing tied with the best record in baseball last year with the Red Sox, the Tribe will be expected by their fans and by the national media to do it again.

We saw how that worked in 2006, after the strong year the Tribe put in 2005 - which ended in a collapase when it counted most.

But this team is two years older than the one that came to spring training in 2006, and much more familiar with pressure.

Still they showed in the last three games of last season that they are not impervious to pressure and the way they handle it this year will determine what kind of year lies ahead.

I myself think it will be a year that goes well beyond the end of September. has a pretty succinct capsule of all the teams as we near the start of training camp. Click here for their take on the Tribe.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Santana Deal; Read it and weep


The Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting with more detail the terms of Johan Santana's deal with the Mets. It's six years of absolute commitment, plus one year of likely commitment:

Santana got a six-year deal with an option for 2014. The terms:

2008: $19 million

2009: $20 million

2010: $21 million

2011: $22.5 million

2012: $24 million

2013: $25.5 million

2014 (option): $25 million, with a $5.5 million buyout.

Note: It’s a vesting option that can be triggered with innings pitched or a high finish in the Cy Young voting. Santana also received a full no-trade clause. The average annual value of Santana’s six-year deal is actually $22 million.

And so Johan Santana is a Met.

Here are the details as reported today by the New York Post:

The two-time Cy Young winner with the Twins receives a six-year extension for $137.5 million to go along with the $13.25 million he was already owed for 2008. The total package is for $150.75 million over seven years. Some of the extension money will be broken off as part of a signing bonus to bring Santana's 2008 salary closer to $20 million.

The deal obliterates all multi-year contractual records for pitchers. He exceeds Barry Zito's total contract of $126 million with the Giants and Carlos Zambrano's average annual value record of $18.3 million with the Cubs. Santana's annual average is $21.54 million.

Read it and weep for several reasons.

I know I'm going to be put into the 'old grouch' category. Or the 'this is real life so stop the whining' category. But I can't stand where pro sports have gone and where baseball has gone in particular.

Yes, the Indians and a few other teams have figured out how to contend - at least for a few years - before they are forced to rip it up and undergo urban renewal again.

While the Indians seem set up for another six or seven years of being "in it," there are many teams whose fans are going to wake up on Opening Day this year, next year and the year after that, knowing full well that their season will be over by Memorial Day - Fourth of July at the latest.

The Tribe was successful with this current rebuilding, but what about the next time they have to tear it all down and start over. What if they trade off their then-aging stars for a lot more Martes than Sizemores? Then they get into a can't-win cycle like the Pirates and Orioles, where they have no more stars to trade and a farm system full of stiffs.

The fact of the matter is it is already too damned expensive for a good percentage of fans and it's getting worse. The small-market teams will find it ever harder to compete.

The Santana signing, and others that will follow, will just make the situation worse.

Yes, it's possible to get a ticket to Jacobs - er Progressive Field for $5 or $7 if you want to sit in the far reaches of the upper deck in right field while the setting sun shines directly in your eyes for six innings. But for the most part a decent experience at a Major League park is a costly, one-a-year, event for many many families and out of reach for others.

The Santana contract should be cause for Tribe fans to weep as well. At least those of us who were still holding out hope that CC would remain with the team beyond this season.

The Mets just committed to Santana for seven years.

One slip on a wet mound during a game that's being played through a hurricane because the home team doesn't want to lose the big gate to a rainout, and the Mets could be looking at a $20 million hole in their payroll for years.

Should the small-market Tribe make the same kind of commitment to CC. I don't think so, but it's a moot point. Whether you think CC is worth the gamble or not, the Tribe won't roll those dice.