Saturday, November 24, 2007

What Johan's stance means for the Tribe

It's been a few days. The holiday, a knock-you-on-your-butt case of bronchitis and a lack of Tribe-related news has kept me from my keyboard.

Thanks to those who have been checking in.

The biggest baseball news since we last posted was the
signing of Torii Hunter by the Angels. Two keys here for the Tribe. It takes Hunter out of the division. It also puts an end to nasty rumors that Hunter would end up with the White Sox, or even Kansas City.

Bigger news for the Tribe? Johan Santana has decided that a four-year extension at an average of $20 million per is not enough.

Santana wants a six-year extension. Santana will be 29 when the season starts, so he'd be 35 when a six-year contract ends. Plus you have to assume that $20 million per is a bit short of Santana's mark as well.

So what will a certain lefty who is nearly a year-and-a-half younger than Santana and beat the Twins' lefty three times this past season command?

It's true that the Indians are a top-tier team that has invested in its key players, while the Twins are coming apart. Torii Hunter is gone and closer
Joe Nathan is talking about splitting after next season. So Santana has a much bigger incentive than CC to leave his current situtation.

Whether CC will be looking around the locker room at his talented mates or looking at dollar signs at decision time, only time will tell.


In other Central Division news:

  • The White Sox made a big upgrade in their pen by signing Scott Linebrink, but unless there's more to come it's little more than a finger-in-the-dike move.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tribe starts holiday shopping

The Indians placed the first check on their holiday shopping list today, signing Japanese reliever Masahide Kobayashi.

Having no access to the Japanese league on my DirecTV, I can't really tell you any more about him than what you can read in the story on the Tribe's Web site.

I do know the Tribe site is already offering you the chance to "customize a Kobayashi jersey," so you'll want to run right out and do that at $200 a pop or so, I'm sure.

He's been a closer for most of his career with the Chiba Lotte (can you buy one of those at Starbucks?) Marines of the Japanese Pacific League, has at least 20 saves in each of the past seven years, has an 89-91 mph fastball and a good cutter (or so they say). His lifetime ERA in Japan is 2.79.

The Tribe isn't saying what they plan for Kobayashi, except to say they will use him in the back of the bullpen.

This is just my opinion, but I don't think he's being brought in to replace JoBo as the closer, though I do believe he is being brought in as an insurance policy in case Borowski falls off that tightrope he walked all last season or if JoBo or one of the other late-inning mainstays has a down year after being used to death deep into the playoffs.

Even If everybody pitches up to snuff, it's still great to have another solid arm at the back end of the pen, as we found out this year the deeper the Tribe got into the post-season.

Now, about that left field situation.

Depending on what you read and where, Torii Hunter is all but signed and sealed for the White Sox, or he is not. If they were to add Hunter in center along with the acquisition of Orlando Cabrera at short and a possible move of Juan Uribe to second, the Sox would be very strong up the middle - both on offense and defense.
However, they have a three-deep rotation right now. The plan for the Sox this winter is to go back to the pitching-defense approach that got them a World Series title in 2005. So far they seem to be getting the defense part right.

There was some talk that the Rays might be interested in Uribe, but maybe not so much.

And there's also word that the Sox are still in on the Miguel Cabrera sweepstakes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wedge is AL Manager of the Year; Gabe Paul in the Hall?

There are two bits of news on the Indians Web site tonight.

One is nice, and probably not surprising. But other than to say "congrats" to Eric Wedge for being named A.L. Manager of the Year, I don't have much reaction.

It's another piece of off-season hardware for the Tribe - a Gold Glove for Grady, a Cy Young for C.C. and Executive of the Year for Mark Shapiro are the others.

But what we really need is some post-season hardware. The big one! The off-season awards may be an indication that we're on the right road. Let's hope we get there - and soon. I'm not that young anymore.

One honor that may be in the offing baffles me. But I guess that's because I measure this person by the work (damage) he did with the Indians for so many years and not his overall career.

Paul spent about 30 years in baseball, 19 of them with Cleveland- with some World Championship time in the middle in New York and a pennant won in Cincinnati early on.

During his 20 years at the helm of the Tribe he - and sidekick Phil Seghi - were responsible for 30 years of awful baseball. It was during their tenure that the Tribe became the joke of baseball - the late-century version of today's Kansas City Royals, only worse.

In Paul's first go-round with the Tribe, 1962 - 1973, the team had two winning seasons, one .500 season and losing seasons for the rest of the period. They finished anywhere from 14 to 40 games out of first place during those seasons. Their best season at the gate was 1965, when they drew 934,786; their worst was 1963, when 562,507 watched the Tribe in person.

In Paul's second coming, 1978 - 1984, the Tribe finished two seasons out of seven above .500, 1979 (81-80) and the strike-shortened 1981 (52-51). Excluding the strike-shortened season, the closest they came to first place was 17 games, in 1982.

Mostly I'll remember Paul for one thing. The role he played in two of the Tribe's worst-ever deals. Over the period of about 18 months the Indians sent slugging first baseman Chris Chambliss and powerhouse third-baseman Graig Nettles to the Yankees for what amounted to Charlie Spikes, a pair of spikes and a bag of balls. A few months after the Nettles deal he joined the Yankees' front office. A short time after joining the Yankees, he picked up Chambliss. Hmmm?

Plus Paul is said to have played a key role in the sale of the Yankees by CBS to George Steinbrenner.

It's not exactly betrayal of Art Modell proportions, but it smells a bit doesn't it?

To be fair, the Paul-led Tribe teams were backed by some of the worst ownership groups (Ted Bonda, Vernon Stouffer) in the game's history, but four winning teams in 19 seasons?

Sounds like Hall of Fame material to me.

Time for Shapiro to deliver the right pitch

"I've been an Indian my entire career. I grew up here, and I've been here since I was 17 years old, so I really can't see myself leaving the organization. My agent is meeting with the team, and hopefully they can get something done real soon."

That's CC Sabathia as quoted on XM Radio yesterday - the day he became the first Indian pitcher to win the Cy Young Award since 1972.

"We have the utmost respect and appreciation for C.C. and have a strong desire to keep him here. C.C., I think, shares that desire. The only question is can we find a business deal that works for the Indians organization and C.C.? We're going to take the next three months to find that out."

That's Tribe GM Mark Shapiro as quoted in the Plain Dealer this morning.

The Cy Young Award is nice. A contract agreement between the two men would be much, much nicer.

I base this on nothing but a gut feeling - and believe me, optimist is not my middle name, especially where Cleveland sports are involved - I just have a hunch the Tribe and CC will work something out.

There seems to be plenty of goodwill between the two sides. Sabathia is clearly happy in Cleveland and the team members seem to enjoy being out there together and know they have more work to accomplish.

Management seems to know it will take a lot to keep Sabathia, yet they keep saying they think they have a shot. So maybe they're going to be willing to pony up.

I know that all sounds pollyanish - after all who expected Mr. Aw Shucks himself, Jim Thome, to grab Philly's last buck - but there's just something in my gut that tells me CC will stay.


Nothing major to report here. The Twins acquired Craig Monroe for a minor leaguer. The Tigers re-signed Todd Jones since last we spoke and picked up Jacques Jones. The Jacques Jones trade was a pretty good one for the Tigers, but not the kind that will set the division on its ear.

With the Yankees signing Jorge Posada and the Mets about to pounce on Yorvit Torrealba, the rumors of interest in Kelly Shoppach have quietly disappeared.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wanted in New York: Kelly Shoppach

Kelly Shoppach is a wanted man in New York - for his baseball skills.

With Jorge Posada and Paul Lo Duca free agents this winter, both the Yankees and Mets are looking for a starting catcher.

Both teams are said to be going hard after Posada, and there is a scenario out there where each New York team will sign the other's 2007 catcher for the upcoming season.

However, if either of the two heads out of town, one of the teams is going to need a catcher.

Both are said by the Web site Gotham Baseball Magazine to be looking at Kelly Shopppach to fill one of those musical chairs.

The Mets' needs are more immediate, as their interest in Yankees' backstop Jorge Posada are a bit "overblown" said one agent. Though Mets GM Omar Minaya's talks with Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro this past week were said to be more about Tribe starter Cliff Lee, as many as three industry sources have told GBM that "Shoppach's name came up more than once." --Gotham Baseball

The Web site said the Tribe is not hot on the idea of trading Shoppach but would listen if Mike Pelfrey or Aaron Heilman were involved.

Pelfrey has not show much at all and Heilman has bitched and moaned about being in the bullpen. Unless the Tribe has figured out a way to get Heilam into the already-crowded roation, I'd pass.
Metro Canada reports today the Indians are hottest on the trail of Pirates outfielder Jason Bay, with the Orioles also in pursuit. (Bay is Canadian, hence the interest in him north of the border).
Catching up with an old friend. Former Tribe outfielder Jody Gerut is tearing up the Venezuelan Winter League, strenghtening his bid to make a comeback in the majors. Gerut is hittting .422 with a .495 OPB. Knee injuries have kept him sidelined since 2005.
Adam Miller is getting his head handed to him in the Arizona Fall League - his ERA is 7.44 in 12 2/3 innings.



The Johan Santana rumors continue. Newsday reports that if the Yankees want the Twins' lefty, Robbie Cano may have to be a big part of the package.

The Twins have all but abandoned hope of re-signing Torrii Hunter, and are targeting Coco Crisp, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Carlos Silva, the free agent pitcher from the Twins, has been getting interest from the Mets, Phillies, Royals and Tigers, according to the Star Tribune.

Tigers/White Sox

However, the Palm Beach Press reports Willis is likely to remain in Florida, while 3B Miguel Cabrera is much more likely to be traded. Ken Rosenthal reports the White Sox are in the mix for Cabrera, though the scenario he describes seems a bit of a longshot.

For the White Sox to acquire Cabrera, they probably would need the Red Sox to re-sign third baseman Mike Lowell, the Angels to balk at moving second baseman Howie Kendrick and the Dodgers and Yankees to focus on pitching instead. -- Ken Rosenthal, Fox
EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm going to do something I vowed not to do with this blog when I started it. Mix football with pleasure. I just have to say Romeo Crennel can put that "L" today 100% on himself. How on earth do you waste TWO timeouts on one extremely questionable replay challenge? If you -stupidly - think there is any chance you win the challenge on that Steelers' touchdown, throw the flag. Lose the time out. Don't call a timeout to decide whether or not to throw the flag. That opens the possibility that you lose two timeouts. Nothing short of buffoonery. Absolutely stupid. Even if you win the challenge, the Steelers are going to score there eventually, then you get the ball back with even less time left. One of the stupidest things I've ever seen on the football field and I've been watching the Browns for a long, long time. And while we're at it, the offense may be good enough to carry the team into the playoffs, but with such an awful defense, what is the point? It'll be one and out.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A glimpse at next year?

The GM meetings are over and the off-season chatter is in high gear.

As far as the Tribe goes, some of what came out over this week was expected. Some was not. In fact, with them GM meetings concluded and the Winter Meetings just ahead their are some hints the Indians might make more noise than we originally thought.

First of all there was that curious mention of Miguel Cabrera in the Plain Dealer the other day. I haven't seen anything else about it, except for people repeating the PD article. The Tribe certainly has prospects, and could afford to trade Jhonny Peralta to the Marlins (where he would make the eventually inevitable move to 3B), but pretty much every newspaper in the country has a story about how and why their team should pursue Cabrera.

And then there was this crazy thing about the Indians being interested in Luis Castillo - but only if they trade Peralta somewhere. (click the link and scroll down about halfway)

Could the rumors of Cliff Lee and Castillo have a connection?

Early in the week there was talk about Jason Bay coming to the Tribe. That is a pretty exciting bit of information and was not on the radar before this week.

One other bit of surprsing news - the Tribe would consider bringing Kenny Lofton back for next season if they can clear up the clutter they have in the corner outfield spots (and presumably if nothing happens on the Jason Bay front).

Of course the expected also happened. We found out Mark Shapiro is readying a contract extension to present to CC, and theTribe picked up options on Paul Byrd, Joe Borowski and Aaron Fultz.

Other Central Division teams were mentioned in the week's rumors. Here's a team-by-team rundown:



White Sox


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Byrd, Borowski, Fultz stick around

Well, the Executive of the Year has started off this offseason by doing what he said he'd do - taking three steps to keep last year's team together for next year.

The Indains today exercised their options for next year on Paul Byrd ($8 million), Joe Borowski ($4 million) and Aaron Fultz ($1.5 million).

None of the moves is a huge surprise and none is particularly controversial, but each has at a few question marks attached.

The question about Byrd - of course - revolves around his use of HGH and whether he did so at a time the substance was banned by baseball. He could be suspended for 50 games if that is found to be the case.

I still think this is a good decision by the Tribe. Byrd is a good fourth or fifth starter and comes at a decent price. He was probably the Tribe's best starter in the post-season (admittedly not a ringing endorsement) and he had a solid year last year.

If they lose Byrd for 1/3 of the season they have enough depth in the rotation to fill the hole. Like last year's injuries to Cliff Lee and Jake Westbrook, a Byrd suspension might bring a Fausto-like surprise, or at least allow Jeremy Sowers or Cliff Lee an opportunity to re-establish themselves as legitimate options in the rotation.

The question about Borowski is whether the Tribe would have been better off seeking a door-slammer for the position. Mariano River is the only one out there who qualifies - since Eric Gagne went AWOL in September and October, creating doubt about his abilities - and Mariano is about to cost the Yankees $40 million over three years at age 38. So, Borowski it is.

Fultz is the cheapest sign, and he's a lefty. His numbers for last year look good on paper (2.92 ERA), but he was nearly unusable in the last two months and awful in a spare-part roll in the playoffs. If I question any of the three signings, it's this one. There are lots of other relievers out there who could do as well or better for not much more money. If the signing of Fultz prevents the signing of one of these other candidates, then it was a bad signing.


One other reliever that is out there that would fit the Tribe's needs quite well is Brian Fuentes, the former closer and current setup man of the Colorado Rockies. Fuentes is not a free agent, but The Denver Post reports he could be had for a starting pitcher.

Can anyone say Cliff Lee?

Fuentes may get up to $6 million in arbitration, according to the paper. That's awful steep for a reliever on the Tribe's payroll. But trading Lee would save a lot of money that appears - in hindsight I'll admit - to have been questionably spent, given Lee's poor season and questionable status.

In addition to shedding Lee's salary, the positive thing about signing Fuentes is his ability to close. Should Borowski get hurt, or falter, the Tribe would have an insurance policy without having to move Raffie Betancourt out of the set-up spot he has done so well in.


Three players from the Tribe organization were sent packing in the past couple of days. Utility infielder Luis Rivas and relievers Matt Miller and Mike Koplove were released. Rivas is a solid utility infielder, but the Tribe has no need there. Miller and Koplove both have had successful stints in the majors, but Miller hasn't been healthy since '04. I'm not sure why Koplove wasn't given more of a shot mid-season, when the Tribe was thrashing about trying to find a middle reliever that could get someone out.


A few days ago I suggested the Tribe might want to look into Jose Guillen as the bat they need to fill an every-day role in left field. Never mind!! One possible HGH/steroids suspension on the team is more than enough. Former Tribe 3B, Matt Williams is also implicated in the San Francsico Chronicle story linked above.


I still think the Tribe's best bet for left field is to find an every-day player who can hit. Which brings us to Jason Bay. The Most Valuable Networks' Tribe Report had a nice piece on Bay and what it might take to bring him to Cleveland. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Sports Editor Jerry Micco was quoted as part of that post:

"I have no idea who they’d get as far as prospects, but I’d imagine Neal Huntington knows that organization better than any other. I think if you’re going to trade one of those guys, you need to get a major-league ready outfielder in return and at least a guy who can be a very good AAA pitcher. Bay should command that, even after a down year. Nady is a bit younger, so his upside may be higher. But mind you, Bay has proven he’s a big-time bad and he was probably injured more than he let on last season. When you give up on either of those 2 guys, you need to get high quality in return. Anyone below AAA, to me, is unacceptable."

A major league-ready outfielder? How about Ben Francisco? A very good AAA pitcher? Does the name Sowers come to mind? I'm pretty sure the Tribe would have to throw someone else into the mix too. Even though Bay had a down year last year, he'd fit in with the Tribe's need and his contract is not a negative.


Those A-Rod-to-the-Tigers whispers won't go away. SI's John Heyman has the Tigers high on the list and moving up. He also reports the Tigers may have an interest in Eric Gagne, thinking Gagne may have had trouble adjusting to a set-up role in Boston but would be a good replacement for the injured Joel Zumaya at closer.

The Kansas City Star reports the Royals have three slugging outfielders on their list of priorities this off-season: Torrie Hunter, Geoff Jenkins and Jose Guillen. The story was written before the story broke tying Guillen to baseball's steriod investigation. The story also says the Royals prefer a right-handed batt, which Jenkins is not. Torii Hunter is being pursued by just about everyone - and rightly so - so you have to wonder if anything will come of any of three as far as Kay-Cee is concerned.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Omar and The Hall

I was scrounging around for some news today when I came across a somewhat inconsequential item.

The Giants are looking to re-sign Omar Vizquel.

This is not a big deal in the scheme of the things. But for me it is good news.

I've always liked Omar and that is especially true since he was one of the few key members of the 90s Tribe teams who had to be nudged to leave Cleveland rather than grabbing a big bag of cash and heading for the door.

After his rather poor season at the plate this year (.246, 54 runs, 51 RBIs), and given his age ( almost 41), and the obvious logic for the Giants to tear it up and got A LOT younger (which they apparently aren't inclined to do based on their off-season rumblings), I though it might be the end of the line for Omar.

He's two Gold Gloves behind Ozzie Smith right now (13-11), though that could change by one in the next couple of weeks when the 2007 season awards are announced.

I had been hoping he'd catch Smith so there could be no argument against Omar's making the Hall of Fame. And now, it appears, he'll have that chance.

But in looking into things further, I think Omar already has Ozzie beat because his numbers are better overall.

Take a look at the fielding numbers against Ozzie and some of the other Hall of Fame shortstops who got in based on their gloves as well as their bats.

  • Player Games Chances Fldg % Gold Gloves Years
  • Omar 2588 11,484 .984 11 19
  • Ozzie 2511 12,905 .978 13 19
  • Rizutto 1649 8148 .968 n/a 13
  • Aparicio 2599 12,930 .972 9 18
  • Reese 2014 10,319 .962 n/a 16
Rizutto and Reese did not play during the era of the Gold Glove award. Aparacio's first two years were also outside that era. In fact, Aparacio was the first American Leaguer to win the award.

Looking at the stats, Omar has the best fielding percentage among the group.

Both Ozzie and Aparacio had more chances, but if Omar plays two more years he will come just short of closing that gap. Omar's averaging about 9.5 errors a season. If you add 1200 more chances (about two year's worth) and 19 more errors, it wouldn't budge his fielding percentage.

Omar's fielding percentage is not only tops in this group, but also tops among all 21 shortstops in the Hall of Fame and in fact TOPS OF ALL TIME. That alone should get him in the Hall.

Among the same group of defensive minded shortstops mentioned above, Vizquel trails only Aparacio in hits -2598 to 2677, a deficit Omar should erase even if he plays just one more year.

Omar leads the group in batting average at .274, just ahead of Phil Rizutto at .273 and 5 to 10 points ahead of the others.

In the group,Vizquel trails only Pee Wee Reese in runs scored (by just one) and RBI (885-869) - again very much erasable with one more season of play.

Vizquel is well behind Reese and Aparacio in homers:

  • Vizquel 77
  • Aparacio 83
  • Reese 126
and he trails Aparacio and Ozzie in stolen base:

  • Ozzie 580
  • Aparacio 506
  • Omar 380
I'm going to cede the offensive stats to Aparcio and Reese, but I think Omar comes out on top ahead of Ozzie and Rizutto:

  • Player Hits Runs HRs RBIs BA OBP
  • Omar 2598 1337 77 869 .274 . 340
  • Ozzie 2460 1257 28 793 .264 .337
  • Rizutto 1588 877 38 563 .273 .351
So among the shortstops who are in the Hall of Fame for their gloves as well as their bats, Vizquel has the best stats on defense and comes out ahead of Rizutto and Ozzie on offense as well and he's darn close to Aparacio.

So, whether Omar plays in 2008 or not, I'd say he should be a lock for the Hall of Fame.

I think even could do a sumersault or two out on the field - just like Ozzie - and he'd probably be able to barehand a ball mid-flip and throw somebody out.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

CENTRAL ISSUES:Zumaya out for half a season

Joel Zumaya - the fearsome Tiger reliever who was in line for the closer's job - will miss the first half of next year with an injury to his throwing shoulder.

The Associated Press reports Zumaya hurt the shoulder while moving household items during the recent California wildfires.

Zumaya, who underwent surgey on the shoulder yesterday, lives just south of San Diego.

The injury makes it much more urgent for the Tigers to resign their closer of the past few years, Todd Jones, who -
as we passed along yesterday - is looking to play closer to his home in Alabama.


Chicago Sun-Times is reporting today the White Sox plan to meet with free-agent outfielder Torii Hunter, who has spent his entire career with the Twins.

The Times reports Hunter is a top priority for the Sox this year. If a deal happens, it would of course keep the multi-talented centerfielder in the Tribe's division.

According to the paper the White Sox may also be interested in free agent shortstop
David Eckstein.

Meanwhile, T
he (New York) Daily News reports today the Yankees have shown an interest in White Sox 3B Joe Crede. Crede played in only 47 games last year due to injury and is more than ependable du to the play of his replacement Josh Fields, who hit 24 dingers.


The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that former Indians pitcher and front-office type John Farrell is strongly leaning toward staying in Boston as the Red Sox pitching coach, meaning the job of Pirates' manager is still wide open.

Tribe 3B coach Joel Skinner is a serious candidate for the Pittsburgh job.The paper reports Skinner's interview was scheduled for today.


During the recent playoff run, I got lots of e-mail from fans in the same boat as me - a Tribe Fan in Yankeeland - who wanted to know where in the New York area they could watch sports in a Cleveland-friendly atmosphere.

Given that I am already a grand uncle (though -thankfully - not yet a grandpa) I don't spend much (any) time in sports bars.

However, I recently discovered that Jack, at the Tribe Report, is one of us- a Cleveland sports fan living in Brooklyn (and not the one attached to Parma). I posed the question to him. Here, edited a little, was his suggestion. Hope it helps. And please let us know if you know of others.

  • Blondies, Blondies, Blondies! There are two: Blondies East and Blondies West. Both are home to things like the NYC chapter of the Browns Backers, the OSU Alumni club (I'm an OSU Alum, btw). They're home to other similar groups as well for Michigan State, U of M, Detroit Lions, Penn State, etc. It gets kind of cloudy at times as to where the allegiances are at the two bars, but I can say that Blondies East was like being in a bar in Euclid, Ohio during the recent playoff run! It was pretty cool. Meeting people, finding out you know some of the same people back home, watching the Tribe together. Was pretty cool. A simple google of "Blondies NYC" will get anyone the info they need. I will say, though, that for something big like the OSU/Mich game or if the Browns go to the playoffs (actually any Browns Sunday is like this) you'll need to call and make reservations and say you're there for that particular game.