Saturday, May 31, 2008

Doom and gloom over Pronk's injury

The Plain Dealer Web site is reporting that Travis Hafner's shoulder problems may bring a premature end to the big DH's season.

A cortisone shot - the third this season - apparently did not help ease the pain in Hafner's shoulder and the vague "weakness" in the joint that he describes apparently has not gotten any better either with a few days off.

With a stint on the DL, Hafner will have at least 10 days to work to strengthen the shoulder. If rest doesn't help, Hafner's season could be in jeopardy. Or so says the PD.

Certainly not good news. Just as losing a potential lights-out arm for the pen - Adam Miller - is certainly not good news, and much worse news than the ho-hum reception it has gotten by the fans and the media.

Still the news of Hafner's shelving is not quite as bad as it's made out to be by the PD's Paul Hoynes:

"Should that not bring Travis Hafner's sore right shoulder around, perhaps the Indians will have to raise the white flag on a season that keeps getting worse the deeper they get into it."

I'm not one of those bloggers who sits around in his bathrobe in his mother's basement hurling insults at members of the mainstream media. In fact, in my day job I am a member of the mainstream media.

I'm simply stating that in this case Hoynes is going well overboard.

Perhaps it should signal to the Tribe that they must now go out and get a bat. Despite his anemic results at the plate so far this year, Hafner's presence in the middle of the lineup did give opposing pitchers something to think about. If he is out for a lengthy period of time, or for the rest of the year, Victor Martinez may not see another decent pitch all season, unless a replacement stick is brought in.

In addition to perhaps lighting a fire in the front office about improving the offense so that pennant-winning starting pitching doesn't wilt on the vine, Hafner's absence may actually help the lineup. No longer will there be the shadow of a formerly great power hitter mucking up the middle of the order.

No one's blaming Hafner. An injury is an injury. And I'll be as happy as anyone else if/when the real Pronk - the one with a healthy shoulder and a home run cut returns.

Until then the Tribe may do better by working around the absence instead of not admitting that Hafner has been absent even though he's been here all season. That was the failed plan for the first two months of the year.

As far as throwing up the white flag, with the kind of starting pitching this team has, and with the division being what it is, the only way the Tribe is forced out of the race early is if the bullpen continues to be as unreliable as it has been.

The Tribe can play and win close, low-scoring games. But the quickest way to douse the team's hopes is to keep losing those close ones thanks to the pen.

Finally a Tribe starter gets picked up by his mates

In pretty much every game of what has been a dreadful season for the Tribe so far, the blueprint has been the same.

One of the Tribe's starters pitches his butt off, only to be let down by an impotent offense or an inept bullpen - or both.

Tonight - for a change - an Indians starter was off, but was picked up by both the offense and the pen.

Cliff Lee, who has pitched like a Cy Young candidate until his last two outings, gave up 4 runs on 10 hits tonight over 6 innings. Keeping the Royals to just four runs under the circumstance was a moral victory of sorts for Lee.

But he also got a real victory as well, the tangible kind that shows up on the stat sheet and in the standings, and it had mostly to do with a bullpen that got the job done for three innings and an offense that popped three long balls - two by Grady Sizemore and one by Casey Blake.

The 8 hits by the Tribe overall weren't much to write home about, but the extra-base hit (in this case lots of extra bases) seems to be making a bit of a comeback for the Tribe in recent days.

The Tribe's outfield defense was outstanding tonight, particularly late in the game.

Ben Francisco made a behind-the-runner throw to nip David DeJesus at second base as he was rounding the bag on a single to right field. The out was made a second or so before Joey Gathright, who had been on second to start the play, was able to cross the plate - eliminating his would-be game-tying run.

In the seventh, Franklin Gutierrez, who had taken over in right field that inning, made a diving catch with two outs to save a run - again the would-be tying run.

In the ninth, Sizemore ended the ballgame with a run- and game-saving catch - slamming into the wall in left-center and preserving a save for Joe Borowski.

It's safe to say the Tribe hitters and bullpen owe the starters a lot more than one.

Let's hope this is the beginning of a long period of payback.


Travis Hafner went on the DL today, finally giving in to the shoulder problems that have plagued him since the middle of spring training.

We've said this before. It bears repeating.

This is now the second key player - Borowski being the first - that the Tribe allowed to play through injury for two months, to the detriment of the team and the player.

Let's hope the time off will strengthen the shoulder and clear the head of Travis Hafner and that he can come back in a couple of weeks and contribute the way he should.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My nightly rant about the Tribe

Some are taking solace in the fact that the Tribe has scored 13 runs in the last two games.

In fact they've scored 31 in the past six games, four of which they lost.

Yes the hitting seems to slowly be pulling out of its season-long futility, though there's still lots of convincing to do on that one.

Take today for instance. The game is on the line. The Tribe is down a run with one out and runners on second and third. Bottom of the ninth. Hitters No.3 and No. 4 due up. Two infield popups later (technically one was caught in short, short left) - ballgame over.

These are games the Tribe won against the White Sox last year, and against the Tigers, and against pretty much everyone else. They're the games the White Sox are winning this year, at least lately and against the Tribe.

Last year's infallible one, Raffie Betancourt, has been anything but that this year, coming in in the seventh and promptly blowing yet another lead. There's no way to sugarcoat it, Betancourt has been awful this year. He, and the rest of the bullpen, are another key reason the Tribe's not winning the games they used to win.

Things just don't seem to be in sync this year. Not all the cylinders are hitting on the same night. Or at least it is rare when the do.

While we're busy pointing fingers, it is necessary to point out that the winning three-run rally by the Sox in the seventh started on a booted ground ball by Andy Marte (who booted another one an inning later but didn't get charged with an error).

Marte doubled off the wall last night and laid down a nice bunt. He singled today, and stole the first base of his career. But he just looks so damned shaky in the field and at the plate.

I don't fault the idea of playing the youngster, and in fact applaud it, but I just don't think he's got the stomach to make it in the bigs. At the very least it seems he will never regain the confidence he needs to let his talent shine through here in Cleveland. If Marte plays more regularly it should become clear he was a mistake and the Tribe should cut their losses on him.

And while we are on the topic of front-office mistakes, for the second time in this young season the Tribe has tried to hide an injury to a key player and hope he can play through it. Instead, the players in question have underperformed miserably and the team has paid the price.

After a miserable early season outing it became obvious the Tribe could no longer hide the physical problems closer Joe Borowski was having. They started way back in spring training, but instead of shutting him down in mid-March, they had to do it during the season - after he blew a few ballgames that counted.

And now we find the situation is similar with Travis Hafner.'s Anthony Castrovince reports the cortisone shot Hafner got was the second of the season and that the Tribe was - and still is - trying to squeeze performance out of damaged goods.

Pronk revealed that this is the second time this season he's received such an injection. He received the other before the Indians opened a three-game series in Minnesota on April 18. Hafner missed the first game of that series.

The shoulder has given Pronk problems since the middle of March. Hafner said he had an MRI exam that revealed no structural damage.- Anthony Castrovince of

The Tribe is hoping the cortisone shot will allow Hafner to rejoin the lineup Friday, but what is to be gained by trying to force performance out of the ailing and struggling Hafner?

He and the team would be better served to if Hafner were to take some DL time to rest, and maybe get some rehab ABs in the minors, where he might be able to get himself on track.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Beating the the odds at Progressive Field

What is less likely, the Tribe scoring 5 runs in one inning or Andy Marte actually starting a ballgame?

Amazingly both have happened tonight in Cleveland.

In fact, with Travis Hafner and his balky shoulder likely to be rested until at least Friday, we may see Marte more than once in a row.

More oddsbreakers:

The Tribe got a two-out hit.

The Tribe got a two-out hit with RISP.

The Tribe hit a homer in that situation - and it was a granny, by Franklin Gutierrez.

Now, what are the odds the Tribe will continue to add on for the rest of the night?

UPDATE: A few more oddities tonight at Progressive Field.

As our man Moose points out, a triple steal, including a steal of home by David Dellucci.

Jhonny Peralta hasn't struck out yet tonight, and if all goes well he won't have to bat again with seven innings in the books and Peralta having made the second out of the seventh.

Asdrubal Cabrera has two errors in the same game.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A break from the Tribe provides no relief

It may seem a bit ironic, but as a Mother's Day and Father's Day gift to each other my wife and I spent about 36 hours in NYC - away from our kids.

Those of you who have kids know what I'm saying.

In the bargain I got a break from watching the Indians as well.

It was a wonderfully relaxing 36 hours.

Of course reality hit as soon as I got home, with dirty dishes in the sink and another "L" in the loss column.

Got home in enough time to watch tonight's debacle on the dish.

I can't say that nothing changed in my brief respite from the Tribe.

After all, the lineup changes every night.

On Sunday, in addition to the offense letting down the pitching staff, the defense did as well.

And, unlike last week when the Indians couldn't buy a baserunner, in the past two games they've had runners all over the freekin' place - although few of them found their way to home plate.

In scoring 1 run Sunday the Tribe left 11 runners on base. Tonight, it was 12 runners left on through 11 in yet-another close loss.

The eighth inning was particularly entertaining, with Asdrubal Cabrera and Grady Sizemore striking out with runners on second and third and the score tied at 3. Any sort of contact at all brings in the go-ahead run. But we get 2 Ks instead.

So the Tribe is 5 1/2 out with two more left with the White Sox this week. A 7 1/2 game deficit would not necessarily be a death sentence, but with an offense as bad as this it sure seems like it would be a big hill to climb.

The latest arrival to the pen - Scott Elarton is pissing the game away now. No need to stay up any later.

Can't wait 'til tomorrow!!!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tribe sends the wrong guy packing

A busy day on the transaction front for the Tribe, and there is one move I just don't get.

Jensen Lewis is back at Buffalo and Jorge Julio is still on the team.

Here's how it all came about

The Tribe - as I thought might be the case watching the injury occur - put Fausto Carmona on the DL today, meaning Aaron Laffey will stick around even after the expected return of Jake Westbrook early next week.

The Tribe brought up Scott Elarton from Buffalo to take Laffey's spot on the roster. That too makes sense as Elarton was having a pretty good season in the pen for the Bisons.

Here are his stats from Buffalo: 15 appearances, 1 win, 2 losses and a a 2.45 ERA. He allowed 21 hits and 7 walks in 25 2/3 innings and has held opposing hitters to a .223 BA. In his last 8 outings he's allowed just 1 earned run in 13 1/3 innings.

So, so far I'm with you.

It's the next move (which is actually two moves) that I don't get.

The Tribe sent back Jensen Lewis to Buffalo and brought up last year's every-other-weekly call-up Edward Mujica.

You might wonder why the Tribe didn't bring up Buffalo's closer Rick Baeur instead of Mujica.

Bauer has outstanding numbers, as we mentioned yesterday, with 12 saves and a 1.83 ERA as well as 25 K's in 19 2/3 innings.

Mujica has been - Mujica, with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP

But Mujica's not going to be here long. When Westbrook rejoins the rotation in a few days, I'm pretty sure it will be Mujica who will shuffle back to Buffalo.

Bauer is not on the 40-man roster, so the Tribe would have had to make room for him on that roster and then, when the sent him back a few days from now, would have used up his first option.

My question is this: Why not put Jorge Julio out of our misery after his awful outings of the past few weeks instead Lewis, who was part of the so-called closer-by-four-man committee just a week ago?

Lewis has hardly begin great, but Julio has been downright awful and has shown a lack of poise on the mound. He is of no value and should be gone sooner rather than later.

Does this move make any sense to you?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Different script, same ending for Tribe

The good news is the Tribe scored 9 runs tonight - 11 if you count the 2 runs lost to the blown call on Ben Francisco's three-run homer, also known as a one-RBI double.

In addition, the Tribe put 17 runners on base.

The other good news is Jorge Julio may finally have pitched bad enough to get himself cut from this club.

And, the Tribe may have found a solution to their quandary about how to keep Aaron Laffey on the roster when Jake Westbrook rejoins the team early next week.

Of course the bad news is Texas scored 13 runs to the Tribe's 9 (11?); the Tribe left 9 of those runners on the bases; it's 30 minutes after the game and I haven't read anything about Julio packing his bags yet; and the solution to the Laffey problem just could be a DL stint for Fausto Carmona.

Carmona left tonight's game in the third inning with what is being called a left hip strain. Carmona's listed as day-to-day but he seemed pretty well hobbled by the injury and I wouldn't take that day-to-day thing to the bank just yet. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Carmona's departure set the stage for Julio's second meltdown this week - and this one was a doozie. He let in two of Carmona's runs and then five of his own before finally getting through the third inning. He then put two runners in scoring position the following inning - after the Tribe scored three in the bottom of the third to cut the lead to 11-6 - only to be bailed out by Jensen Lewis.

Rick Baeur, the Buffalo Bisons' closer is sporting a 1.83 ERA with 25 Ks in 19 2/3 innings - with 12 saves. He would likely be an upgrade from the moody and volatile Julio. Plus Bauer looks like a hard ass, which is good for a reliever.

If the game was lost in the third on Julio's fine performance, any chance at a comeback was effectively snuffed out in the sixth on three separate mistake; one by the umps, one by Grady Sizemore and one by Jeff Datz (subbing for Eric Wedge who was tossed from the game following the umpire mistake we just spoke of).

With the Tribe down 12-6, Sizemore tripled - which is good. However, on Jamey Carroll's bouncer to third Sizemore went on contact and was cut down easily at the plate. What on earth was he thinking? Down 6 runs with no outs semi-late in the game and you go from third base on contact?

Travis Hafner followed that with a single (which would have scored Grady) - putting two on for Ben Francisco's blast off the railing ABOVE the wall in left field that was ruled in play by the umps and not a homerun. TV replays (and there were many) were very conclusive. It should have been a three-run homer.

Following Francisco's "double," the Tribe had runners on second and third and one out. The Rangers brought in right-hander Frank Francisco to pitch to Ryan Garko.

Instead of bringing in the hot-hitting lefty 1B Michael Aubrey to hit for the right-handed-hitting Garko - who is hitting like my mother (sorry ma!) - Datz left Garko in and the result was predictable - a Garko K followed by a Peralta K (both swinging - or more accurately flailing).

So, instead of a good starting performance squandered by awful hitting and a lousy bullpen, tonight the Tribe lost a slugfest.

Either way it's still an "L" and it's seven "L's" in a row.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tribe doesn't corner the market on frustration

Yes the Tribe has been maddening, but we Indian fans are not the only ones ready to blow.

Frustration is busting out all over the major leagues.

Take New York for instance.

With the Yankees stumbling at 5 games under .500 and the Mets barely treading water, the frustration level is NYC is pretty up there.

Unfortunately I can't find the back page cover from today's New York Post online any longer, but it read "Bronx Bozos" in response to last night 12-2 debacle at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles.

The game story by George King III is still posted however, and the lead is pure Post:

The Yankees converted baseball's highest cathedral into the world's largest commode last night.

A week ago the same paper published an "exclusive" (meaning their reporter happened to call when Hank Steinbrenner was ready to blow a gasket)
on the New Boss acting like the Old Boss, before he went soft.

Hank knocked his big-money ballplayers and compared them unfavorably to the Tampa Bay Rays:

They have "got to start playing the way the Rays are playing. (The Yankees) need to start treating it like when they were younger players and going after that big contract, like they're in (Triple-A) and trying to make the majors. That's the kind of attitude and fire the players have to have."

Meantime over at Shea,
Willie Randolph's boss was giving the embattled manager the old vote of confidence late last week before the Mets won both games against the Yankees, taking Randolph out of jeopardy, and then lost a doubleheader to the Braves, putting Randolph back on the hot seat.

Over in Detroit, there's been some grumbling and it has pushed manager Jim Leyland to the edge.

Leyland went into a profanity-laced tirade yesterday while talking with reporters about comments former Tiger Jason Grilli made about the spark missing in Detroit and about comments made to the press by current members of the club.

You can here the "beeped" version of the tirade here, though I'm sure you can find the raw version somewhere on line if that is your wish.

(Look under "audio files" on right of linked page and click on "Jim Leyland gets angry at Jason Grilli and others!!!")

So things are getting a little tight around the collar in Detroit as well.

And in San Diego the other night, GM Kevin Towers made it clear he is not at all happy either,
saying he's about ready to clean house.

So while Eric Wedge is becoming increasingly vocal about his concerns about the Tribe's offense, and Wedge's boss continues to say he doesn't think the addition of one outside bat will help turn things around, at least we know we're not the only ones who are frustrated - for whatever good that does us.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Tribe offense - simply unwatchable

OK tell the truth.

How many of you out there felt that, down 2-1 in the third inning against the Sox tonight, things seemed bleak. Almost hopeless.

Another night, another miserable performance by the Tribe offense.

Just how much more of this can you watch?

I know I'm reaching the breaking point.

Don't expect any pertinent points here, or any analysis worth a damn. We've done and read more than enough of that and the bottom line is you don't win if you don't score.

It may be getting to be time to pull out that off-season list of literary classics four and and half months early.

There is not one guy on this team hitting right now. Not a single one. In the only inning the Tribe had any real opportunity they played small ball and got their only run on the board. That was the highlight for the night.

Eric Wedge keeps complaining that his offense isn't performing.

Wedge's boss keep saying he can't turn things around with just one new bat from outside the organization.

Maybe not. But at some point you have to try.

On the other hand, the other teams have to be willing to cut guys loose. It's probably about a month too early for that.

In the meantime, how can it hurt to give Andy Marte and Michael Aubrey a look.

Just a little aside.

It appears even the Web master at is in a slump. In the eighth inning, with the Tribe sporting four base hits - three of them of the infield variety - the lead headline on the site read as follows

Indians' bats coming alive in support of ace


Jensen Lewis is blowing up the ballgame right now. It's well past my bedtime.

Good night nurse!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Thinking out loud about the Tribe

You know, I'm not sure where this is going so I'm just going to start writing and see where it takes me.

First of all, let me start with this - the Tribe is 15-9 in the last 24 games, so they're doing something right.

While I'm still in a positive mood, I don't think we can give Masa Kobayashi the thumbs-down just yet. Not after one blown save, no matter how spectacularly it was blown.

Having said that, the Tribe has lost two straight and the fan in me has some venting to do as result.

It's been nearly a week since Jhonny Peralta was inserted into the No. 2 hole in the batting order. That's nearly a week too long. He's 6-24 batting second, with 1 walk and 7 k's. The guy's on-base percentage so far this year is under .300 for God sakes.

Just what about Peralta's skill set at the plate says No. 2 hitter to Eric Wedge?

If there's anyone on this club who is the antithesis of the No. 2 guy - the slap-at-the-ball, move-the-runner-over type of hitter - it's Peralta.

When all is said and done at year-end he gets his 20 dingers and hits a little over .250 but he piles up his numbers in short bursts of offense in between long stretches of offensive ineptitude.

I didn't see today's game, but from what I'm reading about it, and from what I've seen over the past several seasons, Peralta's clearly not in there for his defense. Or his hustle.

If the Indians are going to rely even more heavily on pitching to win this year, it's time to consider making a change at SS.

Asdrubal Cabrera/Jamey Carroll is clearly a better option than Peralta/Cabrera. And in addition to what Carroll brings to the table defensively, he clearly is a better option in the No. 2 hole than Peralta.

And then there's David Dellucci.

He deserves some props for being one of the few bats to make any noise early on in the last homestand. But he is 1 for his last 14. Someone should let the manager know that Dellucci has cooled off. Get him the hell out of the number three hole.

Ben Francisco - hitting. Ryan Garko - hitting.

As long as we're going to throw a different batting order out there every night (and believe me I understand Wedge is simply trying to find something that works), the manager ought to move the guys up who are hitting and move down the ones who aren't, no? Call me crazy.

Which brings us to the biggest question of the night. Does the Tribe have closer on the staff?

Borowski's due back in a week or so. But was his awful start injury-related? Or has he lost what little he had left that allowed him to wriggle his way through last season?

I think Borowski will come back as the closer - for about 10 days, assuming the Tribe is ahead in a few games and he gets some more save chances to blow. In other words, I think Borowski is toast and that will become obvious quickly.

Raffie Betancourt?

The knock is he can pitch in the eighth but not the ninth. Frankly I think it is more problematic than that.

Betancourt has been inconsistent since Opening Day.

Relievers have up years and down years - usually related to how many appearances they made the year before. I'm not sure Raffie Right is going to be as dependable in either role this season as he has been in the last couple.

Which leaves us with Kobayashi.

Masa got off to a slow start while getting adjusted to his new country, his new team and the major leagues. He has pitched well of late though, this afternoon notwithstanding.

He's shown he can do the job, having been one of the top closers in Japan.

While I'm not convinced he's the answer, I think Kobayashi is the Tribe's best bet for now.

Having said that I would suggest the Tribe consider taking a page from the Yankees playbook (as much as it kills me to say that). The pitcher with the best stuff in their organization is not in their rotation. He's not even their closer. He pitches in the eighth inning. Of course I'm talking about Joba Chamberlain.

If I'm the Indians, I'm giving serious thought right now to shortening up Adam Miller and getting him ready to pitch out of the pen. And like the White Sox did with Bobby Jenks in 2005, I'd move Miller along quickly and hope he's ready to pitch the back end of games by the time the Tribe heads into the stretch.

If not, I think the Indians will have to roll the dice with Kobayashi.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tribe starters slinging it like it's 1968

Everyone knows the story of this season so far for the Tribe, and especially the last couple of weeks, has been the incredible starting pitching.

Tonight's dominant performance by CC was just the latest example of the Tribe's starting staff carrying the club, as once again two runs was more than enough for a Tribe victory.

In watching the Tribe over the past two weeks, I've been taken back to 1968 - The Year of the Pitcher. Even tonight's 2:08 game running time (and unfortunately the 18,000 attendance) smacks of the '60s.

The Tribe's current rotation need not take a back seat to the Tribe's rotation of 1968 - Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, Sonny Siebert, and Stan Williams and Steve Hargan, who split the fourth-starter and spot-starter roles.

In the 1968 season the Tribe's starters put up the following numbers:

McDowell: 15-14; ERA 1.81; WHIP 1.08
Tiant: 21-9; ERA 1.60; WHIP 0.87
Siebert: 12-10; ERA 2.97; WHIP 1.13
Hargan: 8-15; ERA 4.15 WHIP 1.39
Williams: 13-11; ERA 2.50 WHIP 1.10

Both McDowell and Tiant had more than 9 Ks per 9 innings. Tiant completed 19 games and McDowell 11.

The pitching around the league that season was so dominant that the mound was lowered six inches and the strike zone was reduced in the off-season to take away some of the advantage that pitchers of the time held over the hitters, though their main advantage was they were just damned good.

Crazy talk about something called the designated hitter began to be uttered in public.

There were 20 teams in the league at that time and most teams carried 10 pitchers - four starters, a spot starter/long reliever (for those things they used to call doubleheaders) and five other pitchers who weren't good enough to be in the rotation (although there was likely one "relief specialist," maybe two). So that's 200 pitchers in the big leagues compared with 390 these days. Back in 1968, half of the pitchers in the majors today would have been at Triple-A.

Given the dominance of pitching in that period, the numbers that the Tribe's current starters are putting up are quite impressive by comparison.

Cliff Lee: 6-0, 0.67 ERA
Fausto Carmona; 4-1, 2.40
Paul Byrd; 2-3, 3.68
Jake Westbrook; 1-2, 2.73
CC Sabathia; 3-5, 5.47
Aaron Laffey 1-3, 1.83 (3 starts)

We all know about CC's horrid start. If his first four starts are eliminated, he's 3-2 with an ERA of just under 1.50.

Of course the pitchers have not done it alone - as the leather-fest put on by the Tribe the past few nights at Progressive Field underscores.

When making plans for the rest of the year, it's clear the Tribe will have to further emphasize the pitching/defense approach when evaluating their roster. It doesn't appear this team will ever get to the point where they are scoring runs consistently.

There have been calls for Asdrubal Cabrera to be sent back to Buffalo to get his bat in gear. But after watching him the past few nights it is clear that his presence is important to the Tribe's starters, many of whom (even Cliff Lee to some point this year) rely on the ground ball pitch as their biggest weapon. In fact, I'd like to see him at SS, coupled with Jamey Carroll or Josh Barfield at 2B to maximize the infield defense.

Jhonny Peralta, whose "dive" for one ball Tuesday night resembled the Saddam statue in Baghdad being toppled, is a large dropoff from Asdrubal, especially when he doesn't appear to be into it on any given night.

Peralta's refusal to cut down his swing when the situation calls for it, and the resultant .211 BA, make it a lot easier in my book to sit him, or better yet, trade him.

How much worse could the offense from the infielders be? And the defense would be so much tighter.

(I could question the wisdom of putting Peralta in the two spot in the batting order at this point, but it would take me off on a tangent and ruin the flow of the piece).

In the best of all worlds Jhonny could be sent packing as part of a package to get a real 3B, with both a bat and a glove.

Casey Blake could then be free to be the super sub that would best suit him and best serve the team.

In the outfield, Ben Francisco and Franklin Gutierrez must see lots of playing time. When they are both in the lineup, the Tribe essentially has three centerfielders, two of them with rightfielder arms. This is not to forget David Dellucci, but there are ways to get him into the lineup four nights a week and still get the others plenty of playing time (especially if Dellucci gives Travis Hafner a break from his own misery at DH once in a while).

Having lived through the Steroid Era it is easy to get used to seeing runs tacked up on the board with regularity.

But the kind of baseball the Tribe is playing now is the kind of baseball I grew up watching. Good pitching, timely hitting, stellar 'D', some small ball and in no time at all - usually about 2 hours and 8 minutes - you've got a "W" on the board.

UPDATE: Just read a great post on the Waiting For Next Year blog providing some evidence that the scoring drought is league-wide and may be the beginnings of a trend toward baseball the way it used to be (pre-steroids). Click on the link. It is worth your time.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Rain puts damper on Tribe's offensive surge

Maw call the kids!

Here's a chance to witness a bit of the old days. An actual single-admission, one-right-after-the-other twi-night doubleheader.

Thanks to the Mother's Day rainout at Progressive Field today, the Tribe will play an honest-to-God twin bill.

We'll get a chance to bring out all the old cliches that used to be uttered every Sunday (or really every Monday in the paper). Words like the aforementioned twin bill, or the 'nightcap,' meaning the second game of the doubleheader.

Of course since Monday's doubleheader is not on the original schedule and a bit of a surprise, there will probably be about 300 people in the stands for the start of the first game - which occur when most folks are at work.

Anyway. The rainout was a disappointing end to a great weekend. When the Tribe is scoring runs in bunches, you kinda want to have the games continue.

So far this series, the Tribe has scored 18 runs on 21 hits in two games against the No. 2 starting rotation in the AL - the A's being No. 1 and the Tribe No. 3.

The offense has come pretty much from all parts of the lineup, although the usual contributors - Victor and Grady - led the way. Sizemore, in fact, had a two-dinger game on Saturday. If anyone's going to hit a homer, it might as well be your leadoff hitter I always say.

Casey Blake keeps getting hits when they count. Blake is the club's RBI leader with 25, on 25 hits. I guess that's the definition of clutch hitting, but very unlike the Casey Blake we have gotten to know over years.

Ben Francisco is hitting some since being called up and Ryan Garko looked a little better in the past couple of nights, though he got whacked in the wrist in his last at bat Saturday.

Travis Hafner had two hits on Friday, and even though one was a dunker they both were to the opposite field and I thought they may be an indication that he has started to wait back and hit what the pitcher is giving him. But he went back to his new old self again Saturday and his contribution to the club still is very much in doubt.

Still, it was fun to watch the Tribe put some runs on the board two nights in a row.

On another subject, the Tribe finally sent Tom Mastny back to Buffalo to get some work. The move makes sense since Eric Wedge apparently had no stomach for putting Mastny into the game.

The recall of outfielder Jason Tyner to replace Mastny is, however, more than a little bit of a puzzle. He's hitting about 240 in Buffalo, with a bunch of stolen bases. Why Tyner? And why now? The outfield is getting a little crowded no? I just don't see where Tyner will be of any more use to the Tribe than Mastny was. They can't even use him for mop up.

One other thought. Wasn't it a heck of a lot of fun watching Asdrubal Cabrera play SS Saturday, with Jamie Carroll at 2B. Granted, in a 12-0 game it didn't matter that much that Cabrera made about four plays that Jhonny Peralta makes only in the middle of the night, flat out on his bed and snoring comfortably.

Not sure what to do about that, with Peralta clogging up the works, but it seems to me that a team that is pegging its fortunes on pitching might do better with a couple of vacuum cleaners in the middle of the infield.

Maybe Peralta and a pitcher could bring us a major bat that could be used elsewhere?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Yank's Joba-lation has Tribe in a tizzy

When Joba Chamberlain finished off a one-two-three eighth inning by striking out David Dellucci Thursday at Yankee Stadium he let out a howl of delight and pumped his fist, more than a few times.

The "incident" went virtually unnoticed by the Cleveland media, from what I can tell from my Internet-based perch.

But Dellucci didn't care for Chamberlain's celebration - and the New York papers noticed Dellucci's dissatisfaction.

The Daily News - as you can plainly see - played up Joba's reaction to striking out Dellucci - the guy who ruined his evening two nights earlier with a three-run jack in the eighth inning.

In fact, the Daily News is running a flash poll about it on its Web site.

Poll Results (as of 3:30 pm EDT)

How do you feel about Joba Chamberlain's fist-pumping antics?

I like them - he's a fiery competitor 61%
I don't like them - he needs to grow up 24%
I hate them - hot-dogging at its worst 15%

Virtually every other New York-area paper mentioned Joba's jubilation, with The New York Times being the only other paper to headline it.

The New York Post, Newsday (Long Island), The Record (northern NJ suburbs) and the Star-Ledger (Newark) all did mention Joba's dance in their game stories or "notes" columns - and all had similar quotes from both Dellucci and Chamberlain.

Later in the day today, on the New York Post's Yankee blog, Jay Greenberg took Joba to task:

"What Chamberlain did yesterday offended David Dellucci and, we're sure, a lot of players who still cling to an unfortunately no-longer time-honored professional code that embarrassing an opponent embarrasses one's self and the game. ... There is a time and place. On May 8 after striking out a player who two games earlier beat you with a homer was not it."

Here are the quotes as published by the Daily News:


"That's what gets him going and that's what everybody likes to see, but if a hitter was to do something like that they'd probably say it was 'bush' and you shouldn't do it."

"If he wants to yell and scream after a strikeout and dance around, I guess that gets him going. My home run was in a much bigger situation, more a key part of the game and I didn't dance around and scream."


"It's no disrespect to the hitter. It's no disrespect to the game. It's not like it's the first time I've done it. That's just who I am and that's the way it's gonna be.

Indeed it is not the first time Chamberlain has shown his emotions - good or bad - on the mound, and it brought to my mind a game just two weeks ago (April 27 to be exact) when CC Sabathia put on a similar display against the Yankees.

Here's an account of that game from

"In the sixth, Sabathia was in a major jam when Derek Jeter led off with a double and advanced to third on a ground out. Sabathia reared back and got both Alex Rodriguez and Shelley Duncan to go down swinging at fastballs to end the inning.

An especially animated Sabathia pumped his fist and belted out a celebratory scream.

What led to this display?

'Just everything,' Sabathia said. 'The first four starts, and that situation. I was just letting a lot of frustration out.' "

I do recall Rick Manning and Matt Underwood talking about CC's display on STO. For the most part they agreed it was just a way to let out the frustration that had been building up inside CC after his first four awful starts. (He went on to lose the April 27 game, 1-0, by the way.) At most, they concluded, it was a venial sin of baseball etiquette.

Being an emotional person myself, I would have to give Joba and CC a pass. In both cases it was clear, from-the gut emotion being expressed.

Unlike the Manny prances and his little dances with Big Papi that follow each and every homer, or the pointing-to-the-heavens acts that we see from so many players (including Victor if he ever hits another home run), the truly off-the-cuff stuff doesn't bother me.

How about you?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Two out of three .... well, it sucks actually

If you had told me before the Indians' final regular season series ever at Yankees Stadium that the Tribe would take two out of three, I'm quite sure I would have taken that deal.

With two games in the bag heading into this afternoon I tried to tell myself that a win today would be the "eating it too" part of that cliche' about the cake.

Even as I sat down to write this post I was going to go with the Meatloaf angle - you know, 'two out of three aint bad.'

But frankly, if the one loss comes at the end of the series, than two out of three sucks.

Especially against the Yankees.

Do you have any idea how much mileage I would have gotten at the office out of a three-game sweep?

And wouldn't it feel a whole lot better if the Tribe was sitting at .500 instead of two games under, even though it doesn't make a damn bit of difference at this juncture?

After the first two or three innings today you could tell that some of those flyballs the Yankees were hitting off of Paul Byrd were eventually going to leave the park.

It was just a question of how many and how full the bases would be at the time.

As it turns out, three of them made it out of the yard, good for four runs. Not a great outing for Byrd but the kind of game you know will come up fairly frequently with an old-goat fifth starter who uses nothing but his head and the tips of his fingers to stay in the game.

The real problem today, as always, is you have to be able to expect more than three runs out of your offense.

Unfortunately, three seems to be about all we're gonna see out of this group.

I liked the idea of seeing Ben Francisco and Franklin Gutierrez in the same outfield.

But at this point - at least while he's hot - David Dellucci should play too. I have no problem with Dellucci DHing a few more times until he cools off.

Right now Travis Hafner is a seemingly irretrievable mess. So what is there to lose by keeping him on the bench? I'm not say give up on him, but a week off might not hurt.

Ryan Garko is nearly as hopeless right now as Hafner.

Frankly I would like to have seen Andy Marte in there again today, with Blake at 1B if you really feel the need to have him in there.

I've said it before, I'm not a believer in Marte but while the team is hitting this poorly you might as well take a couple of weeks to see if he's got anything.
He had a hit last night, and a fly out to the deepest part of Yankee Stadium.

So I'm not sure Eric Wedge did much for his confidence by pinch-hitting Hafner for him with a three run lead and the bases loaded in the ninth. It wasn't a max-pressure spot and a hit there might have lifted him up a little.

Today Marte found himself back on the bench.

If they are not going to use the guy, they might as well pull the plug on him. Why waste the roster spot?

Which brings me to my next point.

Why are Tom Mastny, Jorge Julio and Crag Breslow on this team?

In the
FIFTH inning Wedge had Jensen Lewis up throwing. Was he really going to use him that early? Especially with Raffie Left pitching two nights in a row already in the series?

You can't make it through an entire season using three or four relievers. You have to expand beyond the Raffies, Lewis and Masa Kobayashi. At least if you want them to be able to pitch beyond the All-Star break.

Julio did get in today for the last inning with the Tribe down three.

Wedge has to either show a little more faith in the middle-inning guys or he's got to farm them out and bring someone in who he does have confidence in.

I realize with this team every run counts, but you just can't keep throwing the same guys out there day after day as early as the fifth or sixth inning. Not if you want them around in September.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

One big fly beats Joba this time

Yankee fans will tell you it was not the Indians but rather thousands of Lake Erie midges who beat Joba Chamberlain in the ALDS last season.

Tonight all it took was one fly.

One big fly - by D
avid Dellucci.

three-run homer off The Great Joba in the eighth inning put the Tribe ahead to stay in their 5-3 win over the Yankees in the first game of the Tribe's final regular season series at Yankee Stadium.

It marked the first time The Great Joba has allowed a run (or three) this year at Yankee Stadium.

It was only the second home run Chamberlain has given up in the regular season in his career.

Perhaps most incredibly, it is the first time The Great Joba has blown a lead in his major league career covering 30 appearances dating back to l
ast August when he made his MLB debut.

He did,
however, give up the winn
ing run in a tie game against the White Sox on April 24 for his other loss of this season so far.

Although it was a high fastball that Dellucci launched into a not-too-distant right field porch, Chamberlain seemed - for whatever reason - to be throwing a lot of curveballs tonight.

The curveball is the third-best of three very good pitches in Joba's bag of tricks.

He seemed a little off balance all inning and walked two to get himself into trouble.

Whatever the case, the Tribe got to The Great Joba for three runs and a win.

Now it's on to tomorrow.
Just a few reflections before we go.

Ben Francisco had a worm-killing single for his only hit tonight, as he returned from Buffalo to - hopefully - get some regular playing time in LF.

Travis Hafner still looked awful at the plate. That single you'll see in the box score tomorrow was of the broken-bat dunker variety.

With Dellucci hitting, maybe it's time to give Hafner a few days off to get his head together.

And finally, it was nice to see Andy Marte in the lineup tonight, mostly because it meant Casey Blake was not in the lineup.

With the offense struggling so mightily, it might be time to let Marte play. I'm not a believer and I don't actually think it will set Marte right. But we know what Blake gives us and it's not enough.

Might as well roll the dice with Marte for a couple of weeks and see what he can do.

Yanks also reeling as Tribe arrives

As the Tribe comes to NYC for its last-ever visit to Yankee Stadium, the team is a stumbling mess.

The offense is in a coma and the bullpen remains inconsistent.

So score one for the Tribe.

The Yankees come into the series with similar problems - plus one other major issue.

Stints on the DL for Jorge Posada and A-Rod have an already inconsistent attack sputtering further.

The Yanks bullpen - like the Tribe's - is about three deep, though Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera are more of a sure thing than Raffy, Raffy and Kobayashi.

The Yanks may be without Kyle Farsnworth for the series, as the late-inning reliever is facing a hearing on his appeal of a three-game suspension.

But, the starting rotation is where there is much upheaval for the Yanks as the three-game series begins.

The Yankees began the season with a plan to slide three young guns into their rotation - Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes and eventually Chamberlain.

Injury an ineffectiveness have laid waste to those plans, as Kennedy was sent out yesterday and Hughes was DL'ed last week.

Despite the false start with Kennedy and Hughes, the Yankees insist they have no intentions of rushing Chamberlain into the rotation and that their plan to have him spend the first part of the season in the pen is still in place.

So that means Darrell Rasner and Kei Igawa taking the hill on a regular basis for the Yanks.

(I encourage you to read the linked stories. Most are from the NY Post and very entertaining.)

Unfortunately for the light-hitting Tribe, they'll be seeing the other three-fifths of the Yanks rotation - Andy Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang and the 69-mph Man, Mike Mussina.

Let's hope the Tribe can muster up at least a few runs and make their last trip to Yankee Stadium a happy one.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Getting to the heart of the the Tribe's woes

Quick now!

Name the heart of the Tribe's batting order.

If you think about that for about four seconds you realize something quite scary and sickening.

There is no heart of the Tribe's batting order.

I've been busy on my final project for my master's and then out of town for a couple of days over the weekend, but it is clear that the headline of my most-recent post - written an entire week ago - still applies. "Frustration reigns at Progressive Field."

Just as the Tribe's offense was at the center of that posting, so it is with today's.

Think of the Tribe's current lineup (or any one of its recent 26 lineups) and you can't string three guys together who could be considered the heart of the order.

The most-recent lineup had Franklin Gutierrez batting second and David Dellucci batting third. Both have done reasonably well at the plate in the past week, but come on!

Cleanup hitter Victor Martinez, while leading the league in hitting, has not yet hit a home run this season. Lord knows I'm not knocking V-Mart, as he and Grady are the only two guys who have been reasonably consistent all year. But what other team has a cleanup hitter with no homers?

I made a somewhat snide comment about the 26 lineups thing, but really I don't blame Eric Wedge. He's been forced to grasp at straws because most of his hitters, no matter where they are hitting in the order, are not getting the job done.

Dropping Travis Hafner to sixth - or at least out of the three spot - was a necessity.

I'm not sure putting Jhonny Peralta at No. 5 makes sense since he seems to have two or three hot days in a row followed by a week's worth of swinging at every pitch that comes his way, no matter how far outside and low it is.

In addition to trying to find a batting order that works, Wedge has tried to play small ball a lot more lately. Whether you agree with the merits of small ball or not, again you have to give him credit for trying something.

It's time - as we are now a week away from the arbitrary but very real 40-game reassessment period - for Mark Shapiro to start pulling some levers himself.

Ben Francisco's likely recall is a start. With Dellucci at least playing a major league hitter on TV now, Francisco will be a much better platoon partner for Dellucci than the floppy-haired platinum blonde currently taking his turn out in LF.

But that has got to be only a start.

Ben Francisco's arrival alone will not heal what ails the Tribe offense. There is too much dead wood throughout.

Josh Barfield isn't tearing it up at Buffalo, but Asdrubal Cabrera has been abysmal so far at the plate for the Tribe. Cabrera may have caught lightning in a bottle last season and it just may be that he could benefit from another go-round in Buffalo. Perhaps a Barfield/Cabrera swap is in order.

But they say you can't put lipstick on a pig and adding Francisco, and possibily Barfield, would amount to little more than that.

Another proven bat - and at this point it doesn't matter where they play in the field since no one on this team can hit - is a must.

There's enough depth among the starting pitchers in the system that some must be sacraficed. If not, all that terrific starting pitching we've been seeing on the major league level will continue to fall victim to the Tribe's feeble bats. And just where does that get you?