Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tribe gets reliever, 2B prospect for Gutierrez

The Tribe was one of the teams involved in a three-team, 12-player trade agreed to last night. It's complicated. The Tribe gets reliever Joe Smith from the Mets and 2B prospect Luis Valbuena from Seattle and sends outfielder Franklin Gutierrez to Seattle.

It's too busy on the job for me today (the one I get paid for) to write much more on this. But my other home in the blogosphere - MVN's Tribe Report - has a bit more information about the guys coming to the Tribe. It's penned (keyboarded) by Michael Taylor. Check it out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The one thing I didn't want to see this winter

The ink has not yet been applied - let alone dried - on a Kerry Wood contract with the Indians and a little bit of the joy of the likely signing has been zapped.

Zapped by the following headline found this morning on the New York Post Web site:

CC SABATHIA PICKS YANKEES

Although it didn't make most of today's editions of the Post's ink-on-paper product, the tabloid's Web site reports Sabathia has agreed to the Yankees six-year, $140 million offer to play in the new Yankee Stadium.

The agreement apparently came after Yankee GM Brian Cashman slipped away from the winter meetings in Las Vegas and went to Sabathia's SF-area home yesterday evening to talk with the big guy about playing in the Bronx.

I had no illusion that Sabathia would be back with Cleveland. It was never even a thought.

But as a Tribe fan living in the New York area it is going to sting to watch CC pull on the pinstripes or road grays every fifth day for the Yankees.

As time passed, I became increasingly hopeful that Sabathia would just say no to all the bucks and take someone else's money. The Dodgers or Giants would have been nice. Out of site (out on the West Coast) out of mind. Milwaukee would have been fine too - a small market team making a splash is something I could root for.

But knowing that CC will be pitching for the Yankees just because they have the most money to throw around, and just because they decided he's the guy they wanted and they can do whatever they decide, that is the hard part.

The Yanks are said to also be among the final suitors for A.J. Burnett - willing to top a four-year, $60 million offer from the Braves - and Derek Lowe.


Suddenly Chien-Ming Wang becomes their No. 4 starter - or at least No. 3.

Just in case they don't get Burnett and/or Lowe, they've also been in on Ben Sheets, and they have Andy Petttite twisting in the wind. Pettitte likely would retire if he's not offered a chance to come back to New York.

And, for No. 5, the Yanks have Joba Chamberlain. Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy - two-fifths of last year's start-of-season rotation - would be toiling in the minors as insurance.

With Sabathia averaging $24 million, and Burnett and Lowe being offered something a little north of $15 million per, the Yankee starting rotation (even though Wang and Chamberlain have not hit the free-agency bonanza yet) would still come in north of $60 million. Throw in $15 million for Mariano Rivera out of the pen and you're already higher than some teams' total payroll.

The worst part about this news is that Yankee fans will be back at full smugness this season, as their store-bought (Tiffany's) rotation likely returns them to the post-season and their fans will act as though their GM is a genius, just because he - like everyone else in baseball - knew who the best three free-agent pitchers were this winter.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Who Wood of thunk it? Tribe has real closer. (maybe)

If MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince is right, the Indians are about to sign former Cubs closer Kerry Wood.

No details yet beyond the fact that the two sides are far along into the talks.

So, after months of deafening silence from the Tribe's front office, there's something more than made-up, or sketchy rumors to talk about.

And who would have thought when the Tribe entered the market for a closer with several other teams this fall that they would come home with - perhaps - the second-best option available.

The Mets reportedly have signed the biggest name in the pool - Francisco Rodriguez.

After that an argument could be made for Wood at No. 2, but you might also put Brian Fuentes, Trevor Hoffman or JJ Putz in that second slot.

Putz would have cost Tribe some players they can now trade elsewhere to fill other needs.

Hoffman would have probably come at only one year (Wood is said to be getting two from the Tribe), but at 41 you never know.

Fuentes also would have come without costing players, and he was actually the one I thought the Tribe might get. But he was seeking $10 million to $12 million a year for too many years, which should have been a clue that he would not be wearing a Tribe uni next season.

But Wood is just fine with me. He's not as lights-out fast as he was before his many injuries, but he can still be dominating in the 9th, and when is the last time the Tribe had a closer you would describe as dominating.

Ya. I don't remember either. I guess it would have to be Jose Mesa a dozen years ago.

The news is particularly welcome because, for the most part, all we've heard so far out of the front office is "we looked at these guys at that position, but they cost too much; then we looked at other guys at another position, but they cost too much."

I was beginning to think this year's off-season was going to be a redux of last year, and you see where that got us.

Now at least, I hold out some hope that the Tribe will indeed do what's needed to get back into a very winnable Central Division race.

So far - at least from what we're reading, they have taken the first step.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

CENTRAL ISSUES: The Tribe's Bullpen

With the off-season action beginning to heat up, it's time for a reincarnation of the series we started last winter - Central Issues, which looks at not only rumors about the Tribe but also its competitors in the Central Division.

To kick things off we'll put the Tribe front-and-center. Specifically, the Tribe's search for a closer. The outlook on that got a lot brighter this week when the San Diego Padres more or less told Trevor Hoffman - a guy the Tribe nearly snagged a few years ago - to take a hike.

My colleague James Pete at MVN's Tribe Report makes a pretty good case for the acquisition of Hoffman by the Tribe and some thoughts on why that may be more than just talk.

Meanwhile, although he was officially traded to the Colorado Rockies this afternoon, Huston Street seems like he's still a definite possibility for the Tribe, if they are willing to part with some talent. The Rockies reportedly told Manny Corpas that he is still their closer. The Tribe has also been interested in Rockies 3B Garrett Atkins, so there seems to be at least the possibility of a semi-blockbuster there.

Speaking in the blockbuster realm, SI.com reported recently the White Sox are quiety entertaining offers for their closer Bobby Jenks. Why? God only knows. And who knows if it's true, but that would be some catch. Add in the fact that the Sox are also shopping outfielder Nick Swisher (who can also play 1B), and the imagine runs wild.

That is likely to be a pipe dream though since a.) I'm skeptical the Sox have Jenks on the market, b.) they would be unlikely to trade him to a division rival, and c.) I can't imagine what all the Tribe would have to give up and they are not big on passing along young talent.

Still, it makes for a fun daydream at this time of year.

Two other items of (mild) interest: The Twins' Pat Neshek is set to go under the knife for TJ surgery, putting the reliever out for all of 2009; and the Tigers remain in the market for a SS, figuring that Ramon Santiago is not the man for the job on a full-time basis.

(Photo credit: SD DIRK/flickr)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A fond farewell to Herbie

"Two runs, three hits, one error, and after three we're still scoreless."

Said as only Herbie could say it.

Herb Score took to the mic at Indians games for the first time late in the 1963 season, when I was six, about to turn seven. Back in the days when utility infielder Jerry Kindall was my favorite Indian because he was the first one whose baseball card I was able to obtain.

Herbie remained behind that mic, with one partner or another, for 34 more years - the one constant as I made my way through grade school, high school college and on to New York as a twenty-something.

Herb Score is my first and most-lasting image of the Tribe. He introduced me to baseball, talked me through the horrible years of the 70s and 80s and came along with me when I left the Cleveland area nearly 25 years ago.

In those days - 1984 to be precise - there were no mass-produced satellite dishes, and no MLB Extra Innings package. I had to wait for the sun to go down (not until the 6th or 7th inning during the heart of the summer) to pick up Herbie on my Walkman radio. His voice would come crackling into my suburban New York home from "Radio Free Cleveland," as my wife would tease.

My Walkman, newspaper clippings that my brother would send religiously every week, and Herbie were my only connections to the Tribe for about a decade, giving way only when I became the first on my block to have a satellite dish and my new connection to the Tribe.

Still, with the picture beaming in loud and clear, I'd find myself turning down the TV sound late in the game, turning on my Walkman and tuning into that familiar voice who made me know I was indeed watching an Indians game, no matter how well that team with Chief Wahoo on its cap was playing. Hearing Herbie describe the action I was seeing on my silenced TV set helped me to believe that those great teams of the mid-90's were indeed the team I had been living, and mostly dying with for all those years.

Today we hear the news that Herbie is gone.

No need to recap Herbie's great career both on and off the field. The Plain Dealer does a fine job of it here.

Instead let me just tip my cap to the man who was the Cleveland Indians for me and pretend I can hear one last "thwow to first, back safely" for old-time sake.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

That name again is Casey Blake

Call Casey Blake,
that's the name:
That name again
is Casey Blake

I saw the story in today's Plain Dealer about Casey Blake being under consideration to fill the Tribe's hole at 3B this winter.

For some reason that old jingle from an old Simpson's episode - the one where Homer starts a side business as a snow plow operator - came to mind.

Although I knew it was possible, I still can't quite believe Tribe fans may be seeing that name again in the Tribe's batting order.

Another famous television toss-away line comes to mind here as well (at least for those of us over 40). The one used by Major Hochstetter every time the exasperated Gestapo officer saw the mischievous Colonel Hogan on the old sit-com 'Hogan's Heroes.'

That line would be: "Vut Iss Diss Man Doing Heeeere!?"

Taken in their abstract Blake's numbers aren't so bad as 3B go (.274, 36 doubles, 21 homers and 81 RBI).

But, much like the unfounded Mark Teahen rumors of a week ago, the prospect of resigning Casey Blake to play 3B for another couple of years excites me not at all.

Blake is like the old living room couch that has indentations in all the right places. He's a comfortable fit. But you're tired of looking at him.

In this time of financial crisis you probably stick with the old couch. And Lord knows the Tribe seems to always be on the brink of financial crisis no matter what is going on in the larger economy. At least to hear them tell it.

Here's one man's wish that the Tribe resists the urge and keeps looking for the overstuffed leather model, with attached recliner and built-in cup holder on one end.

Monday, October 27, 2008

An honest-to-God Tribe trade rumor

No one will argue that Opening Day is the best baseball day of the year, but for me - and other Tribe fans who have played the 'wait-'til-next-year' game all their lives - the start of the off-season trading season brings about almost as much anticipation.

That season got underway officially - and just a touch early today - with the Plain Dealer reporting about talks between the Tribe and Royals involving 3B Mark Teahen.

According to the report by Paul Hoynes, the Royals need a CF. Ben Francisco, Franklin Gutierrez and Trever Crowe were mentioned as possibilities.

With a glut of outfielders at the major and minor league level, and Andy Marte as the only guy with a 3B officially next to his name on the Tribe's current roster, the gut reaction is to say this makes plenty of sense from the Tribe's point of view.

But lets look at a few things before we jump to any conclusions.

Teahen has been in the outfield the past couple of years, but he broke in with the Royals at 3B. He moved to the outfield to make room at 3B for Alex Gordon in KC. He played some 3B, 1B, and all the outfield spots for the Royals in '08, but mostly he played right field. Still, I would have no problems with his defense at 3B.

He hit only .255 with 15 HRs and 59 RBIs. His OPS, a lackluster .715.

The Indians shed a 3B with better numbers (a certain fellow who ended the season with the Dodgers and who may be seen again in NE Ohio once he officially becomes a free agent shortly after the World Series.) They also have another corner infielder, Ryan Garko, who despite a penchant to hang himself by swinging for the fences, put up numbers that eclipsed Teahen's at least by a little.

Still it is true the Andy Marte is - at the moment - the Tribe's only 3B. And they do have outfielders of a similar quality to one-another coming out of their ears.

Tribe fans, like fans of most teams, tend to overvalue the young, developing players in their organization. Franklin Gutierrez is one of those guys whose ceiling may not be as high as many seem to believe it is. With his lackluster performance at the plate in '08, Gutierrez' star is falling - at least as I view it. That defense and that arm would be hard to part with. But outfield defense - especially with Grady Sizemore roaming center field - is a secondary asset for a corner outfielder. Gutierrez, in my book, is expendable.

Ben Francisco came up a little short of expectations in '08 as well, and in fact his final numbers were not unlike those of Teahen. Francisco tailed off in the second half of the year, which might be attributed to his playing pretty much his first full year in the bigs, and to the pressure of batting third due to the plethora of injuries the Tribe had in the middle of the lineup last season. But, it could also be that the league figured out Francisco and got the better of him in the second half. No way to say for certain if that was the case. Nor is there any way to be sure he will readjust and be a seriously productive hitter. While I'd be less likely to deal Francisco, it's not out of the question.

With the addition of Michael Brantley from Milwaukee in the CC deal, Crowe becomes someone the Tribe could deal as well.

Nabbing Mark Teahen might make some sense, as the Tribe would be dealing from surplus to fill a shortage. But I would wait a while to make a move on this deal, until the Tribe can figure out if the player that would be traded for him might better be used in a package to acquire someone more exciting to play third, or second - or to pitch (starter or reliever).

If the Tribe waits and Teahen is snapped up by someone else (doubtful) then what have we lost really? A younger Casey Blake. If the off-season drags on and no solution at 3B is evident, than maybe you make a deal.

The best part about the Teahen story is that it gets the ball rolling on what will hopefully be an off-season full of rumors and - more importantly - real action.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Isaac gone, problems solved

The off-season ahead is going to require lots of activity by the Tribe's front office if the team is to make a strong run at the Central Division next year.

The moves are already underway. The first one - I must say - is not one I had anticipated.

Bullpen coach Luis Isaac has been whacked. We're going all the way now.

Luis Isaac has been in the Tribe organization for 44 years.

Have we won a championship in those 44 years?

Case closed.

I have no way of knowing what goes on in the Tribe bullpen, in coaches meetings and in the locker room in general.

So perhaps the firing is justifiable.

But Isaac seems to have been able to do whatever job was put before him for four decades.

He's worked for numerous managers and managements. I've never read anything but good things about Isaac.

In a Plain Dealer story about the firing, Isaac took the dismissal in stride, and one of his former charges - possible 2009 closer Jensen Lewis - had good things to say.

"Louie was like a father to all of us in the bullpen. Last year down the stretch and in the playoffs we really leaned on him. He was always steady, always calm. You could ask him anything."

Again there may be reasons why the first move of the off-season was to get rid of the old guy who carries the catchers mitt around in the bullpen.

And Tribe manager Eric Wedge sure gave Isaac every chance to find another job - firing him pretty much the minute the plane touched down on the last flight of the last road trip of the season.

But to me, this move seems rather Yankee-esque.

Someone's head should roll, why not Isaac's?

Speaking of Wedge, he talked of plans for next year with the Plain Dealer. There weren't too many surprises.

He expects another solid year out of Cliff Lee next year and that Fausto Carmona - who never got it together this injury-plagued year - will be back on track next year. The rest of the rotation - in addition to a likely acquisition of a veteran from someplace - will come from the following group: Aaron Laffey, Jeremy Sowers, Scott Lewis, Anthony Reyes, Zach Jackson and David Huff.

The Tribe will look for a closer, but is thinking of Jensen Lewis as a Plan B.

Wedge also said Jhonny Peralta's position will be determined by whether the team is able to get a second baseman or a third basemen during the off-season. Again, no surprise.

The manager also said Josh Barfield will get another shot at 2B, if there's an opening there.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of the interview is the depth to which Ryan Garko apparently is still in the Wedge dog house:

"Instead of saying, 'I had a great year, I tied for the team lead in RBI,' he needs to say, 'I did OK, but I need to do better.' I think he's capable of being a part of this. He can be an everyday player or a role player, depending on which guy shows up. . . . It's nothing I haven't said to him."

Ya think Garko's name will be uttered on the Tribe's end of any trade talks?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

An incredible closing day for baseball

It was an incredible "closing day" today.

It was especially so if you take off your Tribe-fan hat and view the day as a baseball fan. Or if you have some allegiance to the Milwaukee Brewers, or CC Sabathia.

First the Tribe.

The Indians finished the year with a rather ho-hum 5-1 loss, but that doesn't really tell the story.

They finished off the season at 81-81 and 7 games out of first.

In April, no one expected that kind of finish. We expected much more.

Back in July no one expected that kind of finish either. We were looking at finishing last and about 20-25 games under.

The Tribe was mugged early by injuries, but even more so by underperformance by a number of players and a horrid bullpen.

To the credit of the players and their manager, they turned the chicken crap of a first half into a chicken salad of an ending. Not quite as good as a big, juicy playoff cheeseburger, but at least a digestible ending.

With their play in the second half, the Tribe players managed to offer themselves and their fans a good deal of hope for next season. Eric Wedge should be credited with keeping the team up, and playing hard. And, after sitting out the off-season and helping to put an early kibosh on this season, Mark Shapiro should be credited with getting some legitimate talent to further bolster hopes for next year.

We'll look back - and ahead - at the Tribe in more detail in the next few weeks. But let's get back to an incredible final Sunday.

This will be a day that Brewers fans in particular, and real baseball fans in general, will remember for a while.

Tied with the Mets for the N.L. wild card spot heading into the day, the Brewers were tied 1-1 with Cubs in the 8th in their own park. CC Sabathia was through 8 innings, with 7 Ks and having allowed only 3 hits. But he was due to bat first in the bottom of the eighth and was already well over 100 pitches. The obvious move was to pinch hit for Sabathia.

But, with the season on the line, Breweres interim manager Dale Sveum went against the book and let CC bat so he could pitch the ninth. CC struck out, but three batters later Ryan Braun launched a bomb to left to give the Brewers a 3-1 lead.

At virtually the exact same time at Shea, two different members of the Mets bomb-squad bullpen gave up back-to-back homers in the bottom of the 8th, allowing the Florida Marlins to take their season from them for the second season in a row.

In Milwaukee, with a raucous crowd going nuts, CC finished off the Cubs in the 9th - putting up his 11th win for the Brewers and launching them into the playoffs.

I've watched a fair number of CC's starts since he was traded by the Tribe to Milwaukee, and I've been rooting for the Brewers - because of their small-market kinship with the Tribe- to make it into the playoffs. In spectacular fashion this afternoon, they did.

In the battle for the A.L. Central, which was also up for grabs on the final day, both the White Sox and Twins won rather routine games against the Tribe and Kay-Cee respectively.

But by beating the Sox two of three this weekend, the Tribe exacted revenge from the Sox and their wise ass manager Ozzie Guillen.

The Tribe not did not allow the White Sox to clinch against them, and they sent them into next week still a half game behind the Twins and having to beat both Detroit (in a make-up game) and the Twins (in a tie breaker) to get to the playoffs.

Good enough for me.

It's been a pleasure following the Tribe with you this season. Thanks to all who clicked on this site and especially to those who kept coming back.

Even though the season has ended, we aren't going anywhere. There are some important decisions to be made by the front office between now and the holidays and we'll be around to report and comment on those moves.

Hope you will stick with as the leaves fall and the snow starts to fly.

And hey, remember one thing. It could always be worse. You could be a Mets fan tonight.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Finally, something to play for

For anyone who has been watching the Indians for at least the last three years, there's no explanation needed as to how the headline of my post and the picture to the left fit together.

It was three years ago, the Tribe was making a surprising run for a wild card playoff birth.

All they needed was one win to get in.

The White Sox, already assured of the Central Division crown, were in town.

They were loose. And they were cocky - just the opposite of the young, uptight Tribe.

We all know what happened, and we all know just how much White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen rubbed it in.

Well, this weekend there's a chance for the Tribe to prove the old truism: "what goes around comes around."

The Tribe is in Chicago with a chance to shove the apple further down the throats of the Sox, who already have begun to choke away their shot at the playoffs after having been swept in a three game series by the Twins, who now lead the ChiSox by 1/2 game in the A.L. Central.

For months now the Tribe has been playing games that, while not meaningless, were only important for what they could mean for next year.

Virtually every position except center field is up for grabs next year and players have been auditioning for those parts.

With each player making their best case to win a spot for next year, the Indians have managed to put up an excellent second half, which brought them from their low-water mark of 16 games under .500 to their current mark of 1 game below breakeven. (They were 2 games above .500 until running into the Red Sox this week.)

So, with the other team in town seemingly dead in the water after three games, the Tribe has given Cleveland fans something to live for this weekend.

Sweet revenge.

It's not the playoffs, but it will certainly do - for this year at least.


By the way, one of my dreams has come true, though it took an injury to Andy Marte to make it happen. Jhonny Peralta is being moved to 3B for tonight's ballgame. Let's hope that is a precursor of what is to come next spring.

Well I'm off to find a loose floorboard to hide what little money I have left. I suggest you do the same.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A last father-daughter trip to Yankee Stadium


I made my last trip ever to Yankee Stadium last night, and it brought back memories of my 25 seasons of watching baseball at the game's greatest ballpark.

It was also a night that had the potential to be a moment for a father and his daughter to share a special memory. That part was not to be - but we'll get to that.

Most New Yorkers have their own special memories of Yankee Stadium.

There's Reggie Jackson's three homers in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series.

Roger Maris' 61st home run in 1961.

Lou Gehrig's last day at Yankee Stadium and his long-remembered speech.

Also not to be forgotten are Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, and other, more-recent, no-nos by David Wells, Dave Righetti, Doc Gooden and Jim Abbot.

But last night, in recalling my trips to Yankee Stadium while sitting in those blue seats one last time, I found that - other than Don Mattingly Day (which honored the only Yankee I ever really liked) - all of my Yankee Stadium memories are Tribe related.

The details are a little fuzzy and these are in no particular order, but my most-vivid memories of being at Yankee Stadium are quick blips of rather unremarkable occurrences, especially when compared to the huge moments that have made the stadium so rich in history.

I recall an afternoon game, for instance, sometime in the 80s after I had moved to NY from Cleveland. Brett Butler came to the plate with the go-ahead runner on base either in the 9th inning or in extra innings, put up an at-bat that had to be about 13 pitches long and then lashed a single up the middle for what would be the game-winner. The game meant little in the standings, but the memory remains fresh for me.

I remember a newly promoted Manny Ramirez, taking his first cuts as an Indian, lashing hits all over Yankee Stadium.

I can also recall going to an early-April game at the stadium in the early 90s. My parents were visiting from Cleveland and my dad and I went to the game.

My dad was already a bit frail, at too young an age.

On this night, the intermittent rain was as cold as ice. My dad's hands were shaking violently from the cold, but he insisted we stay - because he knew I wanted to.

We left midway through the game but stayed long enough to see a young Jim Thome loft one high into the upper deck in right field. About 30 seconds prior to that my dad said something like "everybody says this guy is going to be so good, but I don't like him much."

Dad - who came to his interest in baseball late in life - was not such a great judge of talent. But he was a great dad.

I can also recall, in roughly the same time period, a newly recalled Russ Branyan slam a line drive that hit the facing of the middle deck in right field at the stadium - taking about a second and a half to travel from home plate to the seats. He sure can hit, when he can hit.

I can remember some pretty majestic shots against the Tribe as well, not the least of which came off the bat of someone you would not expect.

It was a night game in 1987 - Indians and Yanks. Steve Carlton - in the getting-lit-up-every-night stage of his career - was pitching for the Tribe and was heading for trouble. The pitching coach at the time - whoever it was - came out to talk with Carlton who nodded dismissively. Seconds later, Yankee catcher Joel Skinner (yes, that Joel Skinner) launched a slop ball (probably Carlton's diminished fastball) so high and so far into the black, batter's-eye seats, that it nearly hit the back wall of the stadium in center field.

While I don't remember any single game or hit that stands out, I had the vague recollection that Brook Jacoby, the Tribe's 3B in the 80s did a lot of damage at Yankee Stadium. In looking it up, I find I was partially right - Jacoby had a .303 lifetime average against the Yanks, his highest BA against any team, But he also had an unremarkable 8 homers and 42 RBIs in 107 games lifetime against NY.

The Stadium, as we all know, has a reputation for rowdiness - well-deserved in the 70s and 80s more so than now, though it still has its moments.

One of those "moments" I happened to be there for:

Throw-Your-Yankee-Mini-Bats-At-Albert Belle Night.

That was the night the field was evacuated by the Tribe until they could be assured that that lovable left fielder could get through the rest of the game without that night's giveaway striking him repeatedly about the head.

Then there is the ever-present menace, which I have experienced in every one of my 25 years of attending ballgames at Yankee Stadium: Drunken 22-year-olds, not sober enough to even control their ability to speak, putting their nose to my face and spitting out "Cleveland sucks" just because I happened to be wearing a Tribe cap. That happened virtually every time I went to Yankee Stadium with my cap on, even when the Indians were not the opposition.

Then there was the one day that was - hands down - my single worst day at Yankee Stadium.

My town, in the northern suburbs, was sponsoring a trip to Yankee Stadium, again sometime in the 90s. The Tribe was the opposition that day and I showed up for the pre-bus-ride picnic dressed in my Tribe jersey. The folks from the town had their fun with me and we headed off to the game.

It was well into the 90s outside, and the humidity was up there too. One of the most uncomfortable weather days I can remember. That was the least of it.

Pretty much before I could down my first Coke, the Tribe was down by about 16 runs. The fans around me (not the ones I came with) were brutal - one peppering me with pieces of hot pretzel (WITH MUSTARD). About 19 and a half hours later, the game ended, the Tribe lost 20-something to 1 and I vowed never to return - a vow I kept until the next time I got my hands on some tickets.

My final trip to Yankee Stadium will be memorable to me for what didn't happen.

My 17-year-old daughter has idolized Derek Jeter for her entire baseball-watching life. They came to the Yankees together in 1995. Jeter as a rookie player and Katy as a six-year-old fan. She has been starstruck for Jeter ever since.

The first "real" book Katy read from beginning to end was Jeter's autobiography. And her room is a shrine to the Yankee SS. (Those of you with daughters in Cleveland, think Grady Sizemore.)

As you can imagine, Katy was thrilled when she learned on Sunday that Jeter had tied Lou Gehrig for most career hits by a player at Yankee Stadium. She was happy that Jeter tied the record, but thrilled that we had tickets for Monday night - the night he could (in her mind, would) break the record.

Her new digital camera in hand, my daughter snapped a shot of every single pitch thrown to Jeter last night - pitches that would result in 2 Ks, a pop out to 3B and a screaming liner that found its way into Orlando Cabrera's glove.

After the eighth-inning pop out, and with the Yanks up by two, the writing was on the wall. My daughter and Derek's brush with history was not to be. Her silence all the way home was deafening, and sad.

There are times, as a father, when you have to step in and make things right.

There are times when you know you could step in, but you also know it is better not to.

And then there are times as a dad when you just don't have the power to make it happen.

Last night was one of those times, and our shared father-daughter memory was not to be.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tribe baseball is fun again

Long time no see.

And I apologize for that.


The last two weeks have been a zoo on the job and at home - where every conceivable appliance and consumer electronic in my home has given up the ghost.


Just this week I spent three nights on the phone with my satellite provider - their technician trying to guide me through the process of sticking various wires into various holes to make my TV picture come back. After three nights of trial and error, I was able to watch the Tribe tonight.

And what a night to rejoin the fun.

The Tribe put an 11 spot on the board and Cliff Lee put up win No. 22.


I have an e-mail argument going with a colleague of mine in Toronto who is backing Roy Halladay for the Cy Young award - touting his eight complete games (for whatever that's worth in today's game.)

But even my Toronto pal - before tonight's game - admitted Lee would have to have a complete collapse in his last four (now three) starts to even have a chance of blowing the award.


If Lee doesn't win the Cy, regardless of what happens in his last three outings - than the post-season awards count for jack.

A lot has happened since I last posted.

Travis
Hafner has rejoined the team. He's 3 for 8 since coming back - all singles. He also is still unable to play DH in consecutive games. And he still has that stiff, awkward swing we got used to seeing in the early part of this season. You've got to say Hafner is very much a worrisome question mark for the Tribe next year.

The same can not be said for Victor Martinez, even though he is hitting just .222 since coming off of the
DL late in August. He's a little rusty, but he seems to have healed up nicely and has shown at least a little power since he has come back.

Some other thoughts on the Tribe, in no particular order.

Kelly
Shoppach has more than proven his ability to play everyday, with his 20 dingers in what amounts to a little over half a season of at-bats. He's also got a .973 OPS for the year.

The only question is which team will he be starting for next season? Starting catchers who can hit are hard to come by. The Tribe has two.
Shoppach could bring a solid starting pitcher, or quite a haul in a package.

In addition, the Tribe has Carlos Santana - or Victor Martinez Jr. - working his way quickly through the minors. He should be ready to take over for Victor when it becomes clear the time has come for him to move to 1B.


Those are good reasons to consider trading
Shoppach. But, if the Tribe intends to contend next year, I would be strongly in favor of keeping Shoppach, letting him catch most of the time and putting Victor at 1B - where wear-and-tear on his knees, hammy and elbow will be drastically reduced.

Two other Tribesman who have shown themselves deserving of a starting spot next season are Shin-
Soo Choo and Asdrubal Carbera - both playing key roles in the Tribe's second-half resurgence.

I would start
Choo regularly next season and I think the Tribe would do fine to head into 2009 with the same outfielders they have right now. Eric Wedge has done a good job of mixing and matching out there and I see no problem with keeping the same approach next year so long as Choo is out there most of the time. A big bat would be nice, but there are too many other holes to fill (and don't forget Matt LaPorta will be coming on soon enough).

I think the Tribe has the right idea about adding a bat in the infield. My preference would be at 2B, which would force them to move Cabrera to short and Jhonny Peralta to 3B. Peralta has turned himself into a hitter who gets it - all the time - this season and my criticisms in the past of his offensive approach appear no longer valid. But I sure would love to see Cabrera's glove plugging up the SS hole.

The next comment will come as no revelation. I think we've all seen enough of Andy
Marte. Wave bye bye Andy!!

We've seen a lot of good things from the starting
rotation in recent weeks. But that key part of the club is fraught with concerns.

Is
Fausto ever going to find the plate consistently again?

Anthony Reyes has been quite a find. Can we trust the Tribe when they play down his current injury? I'll believe Reyes is OK when I actually see him in the rotation next season.


Sowers?
Laffey? Two question marks for sure. Especially given Laffey's late-season injury, I'd put more money down on Buffalo's Dave Huff for next season. It seems more than clear the Tribe will sign or trade for (or both) an experienced middle-of-the-rotation guy. That is if they are serious about next season.

The best news in recent weeks
out of the bullpen has been the resurgence of Raffy Betancourt. With the two Raffy's looking to be on track and Jensen Lewis acing his test at closer, the bullpen cupboard does not look quite as bare as it did a month or so ago.

I would think the Tribe will try to find a proven closer for next season, but I'd feel better going into next year with Lewis as the closer than I did heading into this season with Joe
Borowski in that role.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Victor goes yard!!

With one swing of his bat, Victor Martinez shook off the 700 pound gorilla that has been on his back all season.

In the bottom of the second inning tonight at Progressive Field, Victor hit a towering flyball to the home run porch in left - his first homer of the season.

After playing the first two-and-half months with a sore hamstring and eventually a sore elbow, Victor was robbed of his power at the plate and became a non-entity with a bat in his hands.

All fixed and rested, Victor has had a hit in each of the three starts he's made since being activated, and tonight - for the first time all year - he went yard.

The joy and relief Victor felt was plain to see.

He stood at the plate and watched as he did what he used to take for granted for the first time in 2008 - send a ball sailing deep into the nighttime sky.

His smile in the dugout afterward was a mile wide and his teammates - especially fellow catcher Sal Fasano - seemed to enjoy the moment as much as Victor.

You had to assume that Victor's power would return with his health. I'm sure most of us felt that way. But it sure was nice to get a little evidence during the heat of battle.

Having said that, it would also be nice to see a little consistency from Fausto Carmona.

Fausto also has recently returned from a lengthy injury, and although he's shown flashes of his old self in his recent outings, he seems to be unable to put it all together for a full game.

It looked like tonight might be the night, as Fausto had a shutout through 5. But in the sixth Carmona lost his control and his poise and allowed 3 runs before departing with two outs in the inning.

In 8 starts since returning to the rotation, Carmona is 3-3 with tonight's decision still in doubt. He's thrown 41 2/3 innings and has allowed 31 earned runs. He's walked 22 batters in the process.

For a guy who is being counted on as No. 2 next year, I sure hope we see a bit more of the good Fausto the rest of the way.

Back to the good news.

Raffy Betancourt continued his late-season resurrection, getting out of a second-and-third, two-out jam left for him by Carmona in the sixth and going on to pitch another 2/3 of an inning in the 7th before giving way to Raffy Perez, who was brought in to get Jim Thome.

While Betancourt has been one of the poster boys for the Tribe's underachievement this season, his work since the middle of August has him looking like a decent bet to be a positive factor again next year.

Continuing in the good-news-bad-news vein, the Tribe today said it will shut down Aaron Laffey for the year due to elbow soreness. MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince reports and MRI showed no structural damage but the Tribe thought it best for Laffey to just call it a year.

Six minor leaguers did get the call-up to the bigs - second baseman Josh Barfield, first baseman Mike Aubrey, right-handers Brian Slocum, Tom Mastny and John Meloan and left-hander Rich Rundles.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Lee ends 34-year drought with 20th win

Cliff Lee, with another dominating performance tonight at Progressive Field, became the first Tribe hurler in 34 years to win 20 games.

Lee boosted his record to 20-2 on the year, tossing a five-hit shutout - getting 21 White Sox in a row from the first inning through the first out of the eighth after giving up two singles to lead off the game (there was on DP thrown in making it 22 OUTS in a row).

Lee has won 9 of his last 10 starts - with the other being a no-decision - going back to mid-July. His best month of the season was April when he won all five of his starts and had an 0.96 ERA. August was just about as good - as Lee went 5-0 with a 1.96 ERA.

The worst month of the season for Lee - June 3-0, 3.41

Gaylord Perry was the last Indian to win 20 - going 21-13 with a 2.51 ERA for the Tribe in the 1974, the year this blogger graduated from Cleveland Central Catholic High School.

Perry's brother Jim was back with the Tribe that year, contributing 17 wins of his own, with a 2.95 ERA.

Unfortunately everyone else in the rotation was above 4.00, which for the time period was a sub-par number. The Tribe finished the season at 77-85, in fourth place in the A.L. East, 14 games behind the division-winning Orioles.

In addition to Perry's outstanding season there were a number of other noteworthy events in 1974.

There was, of course, 10-cent beer night, on June 4 of that year.

About six weeks later, on July 19, Dick Bosman - the only other starter on the team with a winning record at 7-5 - threw a no-hitter against Oakland at Cleveland Stadium.

Chris Chambliss started 1974 as the Tribe's first baseman. But he didn't make it through April, having been traded to the Yankees along with Dick Tidrow and Cecil Upshaw for Fritz Peterson, Steve Kline, Fred Beene and Tom Buskey.

Tidrow found a home eventually in the bullpen of the Yankee pennant winners later in the decade and we all know what Chris Chambliss did for the Yanks.

Buskey became the Tribe's closer in '74, posting 17 saves. Fritz Peterson was famous for trading wives with former Yankee teammate Mike Kekich and not much good came from Freddie Beene or Kline.

1974 was also the year The Big Mon - Rico Carty - joined the Tribe, after rehabbing his career in the Mexican League.

And, Frank Robinson was picked up late in the season as a precursor to his taking over the club next year as baseball's first African American manager.

I took this little trip in the memory mobile to help illustrate just how rare the 20-win season has become in baseball.

So hats off to Cliff and hope you've been appreciating each and every outing Cliff has made this year.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hafner's sore shoulder and other Tribe matters

They're saying Victor Martinez will be back up with the Tribe very soon.

That's the the good news.

The not-so-good news - Travis Hafner's shoulder is barking again.

According to the Plain Dealer's Web site, Hafner was kept out of the lineup down in Buffalo yesterday and today because of pain in his shoulder.

This would seem to be a setback by any definition of the word.

But that just ain't so, said Tribe skipper Eric Wedge to the PD.

"I wouldn't call it that at all. He's moving forward, but we're still trying to build a foundation for him. He hasn't played [in the majors] in 10 weeks. It's part of the process. He's been building up. We want to find that mixture of work days, batting practice, whatever it might be, and playing."

How can you call it a setback? He's perfectly fine - at least for the first couple of innings each night?

"He feels good early in the game, but he needs to feel better later in the game. He didn't swing a bat for a long time, but he definitely feels better than he did before."

I don't know about you, but I'm convinced. I'm especially confident that everything's fine because the Tribe has been so forthcoming about injuries so far this season.

Anybody besides me think that maybe it would make sense just to shut Hafner down for the rest of the year and hope to God a full off-season of rest will make him a viable option for next year?

Anybody getting the feeling that that is anything but a sure thing?

--
While we're talking about shutting folks down, shouldn't the Tribe consider it for Masa Kobayashi?

The guy has made 5 appearances this month and hasn't been effective in any of them, including tonight when he allowed the Tigers to tie the game at 3-3 in the 7th after taking over for Zack Jackson.

Kobayashi is clearly out of gas and one has to wonder if it made sense to sign a guy whose history has him pitching a lot fewer innings than the typical MLB late-inning reliever pitches each year. Maybe he'll fight his way through the wall he's hit and be ready to take on a full MLB work load next year. Maybe, and maybe not.

--
Just watched Jensen Lewis put up his 7th straight save and the Tribe put up their 8th straight win. This game can still be fun.

--
Which brings us back to Zach Jackson, who had his best outing so far for the Tribe, scattering 7 hits and allowing 3 runs (thanks in part to Kobayashi) over 6 1/3 innings. The outing brought Jackson's ERA down to 4.91, though he is still looking for his first win with the Indians. Tonight certainly makes you wonder if there's something to this Jackson guy, but based on his mediocre body of work in the minors you have to still assume that he's not on the A-list of prospects.

--
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Grady Sizemore - with two homers tonight - joined the 30-30 club. He's at 31 homers and 34 SBs. Is 40-40 possible? It would be fun, no?
--

I'll be heading down to DC for the next three days (with a quick stop at Camden Yards tomorrow night). So this will be it until the weekend. Let's hope the streak is at a dozen by then.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Watching the trees, missing the forest

Since the Tribe bagged the season about a month ago with the CC trade most of us have been watching the team through a microscope rather than a wide-angle lens.

It only makes sense.

This season is shot.

The only thing that matters is who is making a case for themselves to be on the squad next year, when - hopefully - enough holes will be filled to put the Tribe back in a pennant race, if not the post-season.

We've been busy examining how each individual player is stacking up against his perceived competition for next year. Or worrying about certain positions where no one seems to be stepping up. (Yes Andy Marte we're talking about you.)

Terry Pluto has done a lot of that recently in the Plain Dealer, including today's paper. The same can be said for Paul Hoynes in his offering today.

On the national Web sites, Ken Rosenthal is among those who have been looking into the future of the Tribe and other teams. His most-recent offering about the Tribe examines where the pitching staff may be heading.

In the blogosphere, Paul Cousineau of the The DiaTribe has two pieces this week that deal with the future makeup of the team - one here, and the other one here.

We've delved into it ourselves recently.

It is only natural that anyone with an ounce of foresight and curiosity would try to relieve the current unpleasantness by looking ahead to see how things might work out a little better in the future.

But while we're busy worrying about whether Ryan Garko has shown enough to either get back into the picture for 1B next year or bring something valuable in trade, or whether Anthony Reyes is good enough to be a No. 3 or No. 4 starter next year, we're missing some of the best team baseball the Tribe has played since last October.

So I just wanted to take a moment to look at the entire forest. The first half of this season was so miserable to watch, we owe it to ourselves to enjoy what we've been seeing lately, even if it comes under the category of cheap thrills.

The Tribe, heading into Sunday's game, was on their longest winning streak of the year - 6 games. They've won 12 of their last 15 games and 14 of 21 so far this month.

In August, the Tribe has scored 116 runs - an average of 5.5 a game. They're scoring 6.1 runs a game in the 12 of 15 stretch and 7.6 runs/game during the 6-game winning streak.

Save one player (yes Marte, you again), the Tribe is getting offensive output across the board.

Some of those who struggled earlier in the year are making the biggest contribution in August.

  • Franklin Gutierrez .317 (BA) .567 (SLG) .936 (OPS) 11 RBI
  • Ben Francisco .316 (BA) .447 (SLG) .805 (OPS) (we should expect better power from the corner)
  • Ryan Garko .320 (BA) .467 (SLG) .840 (OPS) 17 RBI
  • Cabrera .292 (BA) .462 (SLG) .835 (OPS)
  • Choo .279 (BA) .508 (SLG) .888 (OPS) 8 Doubles 10 RBI
And stalwarts Grady Sizemore and Jhonny Peralta have contributed 16 and 14 RBIs respectively, with Peralta at .877 (SLG) and 4 HR. Sizemore has been dragging a bit this month with a .758 (SLG).

The Tribe's starting rotation is contributing as well, after adjusting to the loss of CC and Paul Byrd from their ranks. Largely thanks to Cliff Lee and newly acquired Anthony Reyes, the rotation is 10-5 in 21 starts. The rotation's ERA (not counting Sowers' debacle Saturday night) is 3.56 this month.

As far as the overall bullpen is concerned, it's hard to say it has gotten better. But it is fair to say that the back end of the pen has solidified somewhat, with Jensen Lewis making the most of his audition for the closer spot.

In August, the pen is 4-2 with 6 saves (all by Lewis), but it is sporting a bloated 5.04 ERA.

The good news is Jensen Lewis is 6 for 6 in save situations and has a 0.89 ERA with 9 Ks in 10.1 innings this month.

Raffy Perez is 2-1 with a 4.20 ERA, but if you eliminate two outings in which he gave up a total of 6 runs in 2 innings, his ERA for August is 0.66.

Perhaps the best news of all is the month being put up by Raffy Betancourt. After giving up 3 earned runs in 2/3 of an inning in his first August outing, Raffy Right has made 5 scoreless appearances covering 7 innings and has looked a bit like his old self.

So instead of wondering if Ben Francisco will provide more pop from the corner, or whether Peralta should play 3B or SS next season or whether the Tribe would be better off starting Kelly Shoppach at catcher or trading him for a starting pitcher let's take just a minute from our squirrel-like planning ahead and smell the roses growing at our doorstep in recent weeks.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Our own Indians hall of fame

On the weekend of the Indians' Hall of Fame festivities, my brother - Greg Vallo - put together a little slide show of Tribies from year's gone by.

How many can you name?

I'd say I got 95% of the ones after 1960.


video

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tribesman looking good under the microscope

It's been a rough week as far as posting goes.

I have been having serial outages with my Internet, requiring the "cable guy" to come out to the house twice to fix things. Or least to bring the outages down to a minimum.

My Internet provider is a huge cable company headquartered here on the East Coast and owned by a family named Dolan. Same family, different branch. This branch owns the Knicks and the Rangers as well. Need I say more?

They must go after the B-list pole climbers during the free-agent season in the telecom business.

Anyway.

There have been some interesting developments with the Tribe since the last time I have been able to log onto my computer with enough confidence to think I might actually be able to complete a full post before my service goes out.

For now anyway, it seems the Tribe has a new closer.

Compared to what we've seen most of this season and last year as well, Jensen Lewis seems almost "lights out" in the role - thanks mostly to a little more pop on his fastball, and what appears to be a bit of a stomach for the position.

In 4 outings as the closer, Lewis has allowed only 3 hits over four innings, notching 3 saves in 3 save situations.

He got into to some trouble today in the 9th, but that was mostly because he started the inning off by giving up a dunker to right-center that landed between 4 players, none of whom could really have gotten to the ball.

He may be nothing more than the guy who fills the role for the rest of this season, but he seems to be worth a long look out there.

Another trend we've noticed - Ryan Garko apparently doesn't like sitting on the bench. Since being benched for one game and the better part of another for an uncharacteristic lack of hustle, Garko has hit .406 in 32 ABs over 9 games. He's hit safely in 8 of those 9 games and has 2 hits in 5 of the games. He's also driven in 11 runs in the 9-game stretch.

In case it has escaped your notice, Franklin Gutierrez is putting up quite a month so far in August. In 43 ABs , Gutierrez is hitting .349 with an OBP of .391 and a slugging percentage of .605 for an OPS of .996. It would be nice to have a glove and arm like that in the lineup regularly next year but one month does not a season make. Still this little surge gives you a bit of hope for the guy anyway.

With a very hot August, Ben Francisco has his overall numbers up to a respectable level for an MLB outfielder - though they are definitely still too light on the power side. Francisco is hitting .345 for the month, but with only 2 HR and 6 RBI. That brings his season average to .288 with 12 homers and 45 RBI. For the season his OBP is .345 and SLG is .468, for an OPS of .813

And then there's Asdrubal Cabrera, who is hitting .289 since be recalled from Triple-A almost exactly a month ago. His OBP is an even .400, while his SLG is .431 for an .831 OPS.

To me, Cabrera has gone a long way toward showing he can make the adjustments required for success in the big leagues and pretty much erased that question mark hanging next to his name at the All-Star break.

Cabrera, more than the others, has me believing he is the real deal and worthy of a starting role (please God let it be at SS) next year.

One other guy who is clearly making the Tribe's decision for them - but not in a good way - is Andy Marte.

When Casey Blake was traded, Marte was hitting .186. Since the July 26 trade, Marte is hitting .179 with 1 HR and 6 RBI. He's also been caught out of position a few very obvious times at 3B and seems to have to think a bit too long about where he's supposed to be and what he's supposed to do for a guy who wants to play in the major leagues.

I think Marte should be chalked up as a great big swing and a miss and we should just be thankful to have gotten Kelly Shoppach for Coco Crisp. That alone is a winning deal, as it has turned out.

In addition to Lewis on the pitching side, Anthony Reyes has been solid in his two starts since coming over from St. Louis and up from Buffalo. He's allowed only 3 runs and 16 runners in 12 1/3 innings. He's got, probably, 7 more starts to go so let's reserve judgment, but the early signs are good.

Jeremy Sowers has not yet been able to put it all together for a full game, but he did have those back-to-back starts where he was nursing a perfect game into the 6th inning. And, in his last two starts he was able to overcome early troubles to go on to pitch decent games, so he may have something to offer next year as well.

I think that bring us up to date. There have been some good signs since the Tribe began next year's spring training about 8 months early. Let's hope we see more in the final weeks of the season.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Boston is Byrdland now

Well Paul Byrd is off to the Bosox

Good for him!

He'll get another shot at the playoffs, where he just might have been the Tribe's most effective starter last season.

The good news is it won't be the Yankees that Byrd will be helping to get to, and through, the post-season.

Although, quite frankly, there are teams I would rather see him help than the Red Sox.

The Boston blogosphere doesn't seem to have much of an opinion about the deal. Most blogs simply reported the trade and moved on without comment.

The closest thing to commentary I could find was from the Sports of Boston blog:

This isn’t supposed to be a major impact trade like the Bay/Manny deal. The Sox are simply addressing a need in their rotation right now. Tim Wakefield, a consistent innings-eater, hits the DL and Clay Buchholz is having a sophomore slump. Theo knows with the Rays wounded (Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria on the DL), now is the time to gain ground on them. Hopefully a change of scenery won’t affect Byrd’s hot streak.

I wonder a bit about a flyball pitcher like Byrd and how well he's going to do at Fenway with the Green Monster. But, hey, that's for others to worry about now.

It's hard to comment from the Tribe's side beyond saying so long, good luck and thanks for the good work.

I mean how do you comment on a bag of cash in return? Or a player to be named later. Something tells me that if the Tribe is deciding between cash and a player, the player can't be much.

The interesting question will be who replaces Byrd in the rotation.

Will Aaron Laffey be on his way back after just two outings in Buffalo? In his most-recent outing Laffey pitched 8 shutout innings. striking out nine. But his first outing was rather pedestrian.

It could be David Huff, who has been lights out at both Buffalo and Akron this year. I'd like so see him up myself.

Zach Jackson, who has been hot and cold at Buffalo since being the "throw-in" in the CC deal, is the Buffalo pitcher whose turn comes up in what would have been Byrd's next start Friday. Not reason enough in my book to bring him up.

As moves go, this one is a bit of a yawner from the Tribe's side. But it does clear one more spot for one more youngster to make an impression the rest of the way.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Shea Stadium salutations; Or how the Mets tried and failed to steal the heart of one Tribe fan.

Photo credit: Katy Vallo

I'm watching a fun - if sloppily played and pitched - baseball game right now. As I begin writing this, the Tribe is up 10-8 with Brendan Donnelly making his Tribe debut as the 8th inning begins.

It is, in truth, the second fun - if sloppily played and pitched - ballgame I've watched today.

I took a personal day today and headed out, with two of my three kids, to Shea Stadium for the last time (for me anyway) before the wrecking ball comes to visit at the end of this season.

The kids are Yankee fans (I did my best but sometimes a parent can't be held responsible), but they too wanted to make one last trip to the old park - already overshadowed by Citi Field, which will replace it next season.

(Citi Field would be a great name for a ballpark - simple and old fashioned - except the Citi part is named after the huge bank headquartered in NYC.)

After a delayed start due to rain, the Mets lost to Pittsburgh 7-5, with their pen giving up 6 runs over the last 3 innings to kick away a 5-1 lead.

Sound like anyone you know?

Let me tell you the Met faithful were not happy.

Anyway.

After spending my first 27 years in Cleveland, I've spent the last 25 suburban NYC.

It was Shea Stadium in 1984 and '85 where I sought to put a lifetime of frustration as an Indians fan behind me, watching an exciting young club with the likes of Doc Gooden, Ron Darling and Darryl Strawberry taking the NL by storm.

My first year in NY - 1984 - I sped out to Shea as often as possible. By 1985 I had a Friday night plan. It was going to be great. I had not only found a new, exciting team to root for, I could finally put my obsession with the Tribe in the rear view mirror.

But much to my surprise at the time, with no dish available yet, I found myself sliding the radio dial at night from the Mets over to what was then WWWE (or radio-free Cleveland as my wife used to call it) to listen to Herbie - still the lead dog on the radio at the time.

For some reason I found myself more interested in what Curt Wardle, Roman Romero, Pat Tabler and Mike Fischlin were up to than watching Mookie Wilson, Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter and the rest of the Mets battle for the NL East title, only to fall just short.

It was then that I realized you can take the boy out of Cleveland (blah blah blah).

Even today, in my last trip to Shea (unless someone lays a pair of tickets in my lap sometime in the next 6 weeks), there were "Cleveland moments."

Sitting in the mezzanine about even with 3B in my Omar Vizquel Giants T-shirt (which I had to search for at four souvenir stands at AT&T Park in SF last spring), I felt a tapping on my shoulder.

The woman behind me wanted to know where she could get a T-shirt with Vizquel's name on it.

I suggested she "try Cleveland."

That's when I found out the woman was from Cleveland's Old Brooklynn neighborhood, on a visit to Shea.

Then there was the pinch-hit appearance by Jason Michaels. J-Mike hit a seven-hopper to SS and was thrown out at first. Nothing's changed there.

When the parade of Mets pitchers frittered away a 4-run lead in the final three innings, I almost forgot what stadium I was in - thinking for a second I must be at Ontario and Carnegie.

The Mets and Tribe have almost no history with one-another.

There was the Robbie Alomar deal, the Carlos Baerga/Jeff Kent deal and the trade of a fellow named Byrd from the Tribe to the Mets long ago.

But on the field the two have virtually no history. They've never really done battle over anything that matters- unless, of course, you count the short-lived battle for the allegiance of one transplanted Clevelander more than 20 years ago.

I have to say, in that battle the best team won.


.