Monday, April 28, 2008

Frustration reigns at Progressive Field

It just doesn't get more frustrating than this.

The Tribe started this four-game series against the Yanks with two straight wins.

A sweep was looking like a possibility and certainly a series win was at hand.

You could rationalize yesterday as the Tribe being victimized by Chien-Ming Wang at his absolute best.

But then there was today, with the Tribe flailing away at old-man Mussina's 69 mph change-up and then getting mowed down by the Yankee pen.

Second and third and one out in the third - no runs as Dellucci strikes out and Jamey Carroll grounds out.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Tribe scored twice to take a short-lived lead, but they should have had more, leaving the bases loaded with Mussina on the ropes.

Once the Yanks bullpen came in in the sixth, the Tribe packed up their bats for the night (not that they used them much to that point).

Watching this awful offense was certainly frustrating, but the throw-your-shoe-at-the-TV moments came in the top of the sixth inning.

The Yankees scored four times in the sixth while hitting just one ball out of the infield. And there were no walks mixed in - although there was one hit batsmen with the bases loaded - and don't you just love that!

To start the inning, a bouncer off the plate went over Casey Blake's head and was contained by SS Jhonny Peralta, but Aaron Laffey's no-hit bid was history.

Next up was Derek Jeter, who hit a spinning swinging bunt that Blake spazzed out on. Base hit. First and second no outs.

Bobby Abreu had the only solid wood of the inning, with a routine, line drive single to left (which might have been caught if there had been a real left fielder - rather than Dellucci - out there. Bases loaded no outs.

Laffey, trying to come inside on A-Rod with two strikes came a little too inside and popped him on the thigh. 2-1 Tribe, basses still loaded.

Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui both hit bouncers to Garko at first that were so well placed that an out at first base was the only option, as the runners moved up. 2-2, and then 3-2 Yankees.

With Morgan Ensberg coming up and A-Rod still on third Jensen Lewis was brought in - even though only one ball was hit out of the infield all inning.

In keeping with the tend, Ensberg hit a worm-killer in front of the mound that Lewis couldn't bare-hand. Another infield single. Another Yankee run.

Another frustrating, disheartening Cleveland loss.

It's only been a month since the season began, but I can't take watching this offense for much longer. They can't hit!!! Plain and simple.

Travis Hafner's swing is stiff and slow and he appears just too muscle-bound to do anything about it.

Ryan Garko has disappeared.

Jhonny Peralta gets hot for a game or two at a time and then starts trying to pull every pitch.

Casey Blake had his week and should go into hibernation for a while now.

The Dyspeptic Duo in right and left field? Please!

Victor Martinez can't do this alone, and even he has turned into a singles hitter.

The front office is going to have to give up some of their prized pitching depth and get somebody in here who can hit in the middle of the order.

Until (or unless) Hafner stops looking like Ahhnold Schwarzenegger with a bat in his hands he has to be moved down in the order, or maybe out of it. That can't be done until someone with a real stick is brought in.

It's wonderful to have great pitching, but how long can we watch that great pitching get flushed down the toilet by the worst offense in the American League?

The numbers say so and my eyes tell me so. And I don't know how much more my eyes can take.

Hey Yanks! Don't call the Tribe, the Tribe will call you

The game story in the New York Post today is a classic example of the mindset of the Yankees, their fans and the reporters that cover the team.

Two classic components of the Yankee attitude are on display.

1.) Everyone wants to be a Yankee under any circumstances - no questions asked.

2.) The Yankees will win it all this year and every year.

The story opens like this:

"In a perfect world that may become reality this July or during the winter, Alex Rodriguez wants to play behind C.C. Sabathia and Chien-Ming Wang.

"I would like to have both," Rodriguez said after Wang beat Sabathia, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, and the Indians, 1-0, yesterday in front of 31,598 at Progressive Field. "

I'm only mildly surprised that the writer, George A. King III, didn't use the word "will" and not "may" in the opening phrase of the first sentence.

King goes on to explain that there are two ways the Yanks can get their grubby hands on CC (hence the "July or during the winter" timetable) :

"Sabathia, who will be a free agent after the season, is a candidate to be dealt at the Aug. 1 trade deadline if the Indians fall out of contention. "

If the Indians fall out of contention?

I'm not saying it's impossible that the Indians' season blows up, but I see no reason to think so at this point.

On the other hand, let's say the world spins off its axis and the Yankees are the ones who fall out of contention.

After all, they are the team with the inexperienced manager who's telling the gazillionaires who work for him that they can't have candy bars in the clubhouse.

They also seem to be the ones with two rookies in their starting rotation with a lot to prove, and whose first-month performances raise more questions than they answer.

The Yanks are also the team with two rather elderly starting pitchers who could disappear at a moment's notice. Mike Mussina has shown signs for two years now that he may be at the end of the road and Andy Pettitte has had arm problems in the past and is also not getting any younger.

The following development, as reported in King's story, makes it even more possible for that earth-spinning-of-its-axis thing to happen.

"The much-needed victory was dampened by the news Jorge Posada is going on the disabled list with a right shoulder problem that could require surgery. "

You really do have to scratch your head on this.

In the same story that you read that perhaps the most-irreplaceable Yankee may be headed to the DL for a long, long time, you also read that it's the Tribe who may fall out of contention and may be looking to ship CC to NY in July.

Keep in mind the Yanks also just lost Brian Bruney, one of their links to the Great Joba, who in turn is the link to Mariano.

LaTroy Hawkins and Kyle Farnsworth have talent, but neither is off to a great start and neither has been themselves for three or four seasons now. Other than those two, the Yanks have Jonathan Albaladejo and Ross Ohlendorf to get them through the middle innings.

But when the Indians "fall out of contention" they'll be sure to call the Yankees about CC - assuming of course the Yanks have patched up their dozen or so other weaknesses by then.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tribe loss to Yanks hard to swallow

Yes, I know the Tribe won the first two games of the series.

Yes I know they were on a five-game winning streak.

Yes, I know CC had another dominating game and appears well back on track.

Yes, I know Chien-Ming Wang was just as dominating and that sometimes you just have to tip your cap.

But damn - it's the Yankees.

No matter how much logic I try to apply to my response to today's game, I just can't help being annoyed and disappointed.

Sure the Tribe is still up 2-1 in the series with the Yanks, but how sweet would it have been to walk into my Jersey City office in the morning with three wins in the books - not having to say anything other than what the smirk on my face would have conveyed.

When you live in New York and are a Tribe fan, the games against the Yanks aren't just like all the rest - no matter how much logic and common sense say they are.

The victories are sweater and losses more tough to take.

No matter how well things have been going lately, this one hurt.

The great Joba made his first appearance of the series and showed Cleveland fans why Yankee fans have already canonized him. He dispatched with David Dellucci, Asdrubal Cabrera and Travis Hafner on a foul out and two Ks. Chamberlain sat out the first couple of games with a sore hammy.

But the Yanks injury problems may have gotten a lot worse today.

The New York Times is reporting that Jorge Posada may heading to the DL and that the shoulder problem that has been plaguing him all season may be quite serious. The paper reports Posada will go to see specialist Dr. James Andrews - and that is almost always bad news.

Oh, and just for the record. It took Yankee TV announcer Michael Kay until the post-game wrap-up to mention midges today. One wonders if there will ever be another Indians-Yankees game played without mention of the mighty swarm the ruined the Yankees 2007 season.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pen coming together as Tribe tops Yanks again

Victor Martinez was the obvious hero in Saturday's Tribe win over the Yankees, but the bullpen is the reason why the Indians have taken the first two games of this series.

Martinez slapped a bases loaded single to left off of Yanks reliever Ross Ohlendorf for a 4-3 walk-off win at Progressive Field.

But this game, like last night's, turned out right because of the work done by the Tribe's bullpen - which just a week or so we said was "butt-ugly."

Masa Kobayashi worked two solid innings of relief to get his first win in the majors. Like the two Raffies on Friday, who went a combined 3 2/3 innings of shutout baseball, Kobayashi seems to be settling into his role in the Tribe's revamped pen.

With closer Joe Borowski out with an injury (and apparently not being pushed by the Tribe to come back any time soon - which is a good thing), Raffie Betancourt has regained his 2007 form - this time in the closer role.

Raffie Perez is getting seventh and eighth inning work, and is starting to resemble the pitcher we saw last season.

Knowing now that he will be called upon in important spots, Kobayashi has started to deliver on a regular basis as well.

In today's game Jensen Lewis - taking over for starter Jeremy Sowers with one out and the bags juiced in the sixth - struck out Robbie Cano for the second out but then let all three runners in on a triple to left by Jorge Posada to tie the score 3-3.

Truth is the ball was not exactly a rope and was played into a triple by David Dellucci, who got a bad jump on the ball, got over to it slowly and then made an ill-advised attempt at a diving catch. The ball got by Dellucci and the game was tied 3-3.

You just don't dive for a ball with the bases loaded while trying to protect a three-run lead. Two runs would have scored had Dellucci kept the hit to a single, but two is not three and the Tribe would still have had the lead.

(Let me digress long enough here to say that what little Dellucci is adding to the Tribe offense, it is not enough to offset his iffy defensive play and weak arm. It's time to get a real left fielder.)

Anyway, Lewis went on to pitch a reasonably decent seventh inning, getting A-Rod and Giambi, with two runners on to end the inning. I guess you could argue he got his job done - if not for Dellucci.

The Yankee pen has not been quite as good in this series. LaTroy Hawkins and Kyle Farnsworth pitched three scoreless innings today, but Ohlendorf was a disaster in the ninth.

And where was the great Joba? The New York Times reported after the game - and this is the only place I've seen this - that Chamberlain is nursing a sore hammy - which is why we didn't see him Friday either.

In any case that's two in a row against the Yanks so far this weekend - and not a bug in site.

No bugs, just bats, as Tribe tops Yanks in ALDS rematch

Yankee fans and the reporters who follow their team have a long memory, and a strong penchant for whining.

You probably won't be surprised to note that the folks here in the Big Apple are still worried about midges.

A couple of blasts - by Jhonny Peralta and Franklin Gutierrez - keyed the Tribe to a 6-4 win over Andy Pettitte and the Yanks tonight, but midges were very much on the sports writers' minds.

In tonight's game story in The New York Times, the bug references came out in the very first graph. In fact, the first reference was there in the very first phrase of the very first sentence of the very first graph.

Jhonny Peralta got compared to the midges in tonight's game story in the Daily News.

As I write this there was no mention of last year's "bug game" in the New York Post, because tonight's game story wasn't up yet- just a quick blurb with the key details.

Of course the Post mentioned the bugs right up top in this morning's story previewing the the four-game series at Progressive Field this weekend.

It took the Yankee TV crew of David Cone and Michael Kay a full 7 minutes before mentioning bugs.

My next door neighbor kiddingly brought it up this week as well, and there were a number comments about my buggy home town this week at my office in Jersey City, N.J. , itself not exactly a top-100 destination for any purpose.

All of which tells me that six months later, Yankee fans are still trying to rationalize just how it was that their God-given right to go deep into the post-season was taken away.

But enough about the past.

How about that game tonight!

It wasn't his best outing but Paul Byrd managed to sweat it out long enough for his mates to give him a lead and a win.

The bullpen was outstanding, as Raffie Left finally found his groove and looked like the wicked stick man we were used to seeing out there on the mound with the game on the line last year.

Raffie Right, in his new closer role, is getting better by the outing and appears to finally be throwing as well now as he was last year.

And although the injury to closer Joe Borowski makes the pen feel a little bit short, there's a different feel in the pit of the stomach when the Tribe is nursing a one- or two-run lead in the final two or three innings.

Last year the feeling was "ya, they may hang on but we're going to have to go through another Borowski outing to get to the promised land."

In the past few games, with Borowski on the shelf, there's a bit more of a confident feeling as things get late.

Still, just like last year, Eric Wedge has been reluctant to go beyond two or three guys when the games are close. That's a good way to have arms hanging by July. He's going to have to suck it up and try Jorge Julio and Masa Kobayashi more often in situations where he'd rather not roll those dice.

But the Yanks came into this series with serious bullpen problems, both short- and long-term.

Brian Bruney, who to me always seemed to have everything he needed to be a late inning guy, except the confidence of former skipper Joe Torre, was off to a great start this year but has a torn ligament in his foot that, in all likelihood, will sideline him for the year.

Kyle Farnsworth, another pitcher on Torre's shit list year year who was used and abused by the former Yankee skipper, hurt his elbow the other night. He thought he might be ready to go for the start of the Tribe series tonight, but he obviously wasn't as the Yankees went to the newly recalled Jonathan Albaladejo late in the game.

The Yanks were also forced to call up Chris Britton to work middle relief in a bullpen that has already worn thin by late April.

Bruney and Farnsworth were the links to Joba Chamberlain and, ultimately Mariano Rivera, and now Bruney is out and Farnsworth remains questionable short-term.

And what about the great Joba - the man who clearly would have shut down the Tribe and evened the ALDS at 1-1 last year if not for the attack of those killer bugs?

He's under a bit of pressure here.

Hank Steinbrenner - who's running the team a lot like George did in his early days -wants Joba in the rotation. Yankee GM Hank Cashman does not.

With his 100 mph fastball, the fans here are expecting miracles out of the youngster no matter when he pitches, as is evidenced by this back page (which is actually the front sports page in the tabloidian world of New York newspapers) photo and headline Friday morning, the morning after Chamberlain recorded his first MLB loss Thursday night.

The great Joba didn't make an appearance in tonight's game, as the Yanks appear ready to use him only when the team is ahead and not to keep a close deficit from widening.

On Saturday Ian Kennedy, another youngster with a big chunk of the Yankee season on his shoulders, comes into his start at 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA.

Kennedy will go against Jeremy Sowers, another youngster with much to prove. Chien-Ming Wang goes for the Yanks against CC on Sunday. In the series finale Monday, Aaron Laffey, a Tribe youngster with a strong early track record, faces Mike Mussina.

Mussina has pitched 27 1/3 innings in five starts, an average of fewer than six innings per outing. His ERA is at 4.94, so the Tribe may be able to get him out early enough to get to the Yankees' depleted pen.

With one in the bag, and the pitching matchups about even, 3 out of 4 against the team I hate the most is not out of the question.

And that makes for a damned good weekend if you ask me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

In the dark as CC and the Tribe awaken; Wetbrook to the DL

I'm going to keep this short since I can't see any of tonight's blowout win.

We're well into the 7th inning and the folks who provide my $159/season satellite access to the Tribe - DirecTV - can't seem to find the right button to push to put the Tribe on my TV.

I do know Casey Blake is having the night of his life, with 4 hits, a homer and 6 RBIs.

Delucci also has a dinger and his average is becoming rather respectable.

I also know that Jhonny Peralta has hit one out, which figures because he's on my fantasy league bench due to his recent flailing away at the plate.

More important, I have CC on the bench in both my leagues. As of now he has 11 Ks and one walk and is throwing a shutout.

And that really is the good news.

You had to assume this game was in the big man someplace, but you also had to wonder when we'd see it. Thank God it came sooner rather than later.

Of course the equally big news - on the negative end - is the injury to Jake Westbrook. Yet another pulled muscle in his side. Possibly a month on the sidelines. Very frustrating indeed.

I'm putting my money on Aaron Laffey to replace him, based on his outings last year.

So far down at Buffalo, Laffey is 2-1 with a 3.13 ERA. Jeremy Sowers is 0-1, but his ERA is an equally impressive 3.18.

Either way it's good to know there is that kind of quality to be called upon when needed.

Hard to add much more when I'm sitting here in the DirecTV black hole. Hope to see you, and the damned game, tomorrow night.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Tribe - an offense Dick Cheney would love

I don't want to say watching the Indians offense is torture, but Dick Cheney has been seen in the scouting section the last two days at the Metrodome making tapes for use at Guantanamo.

Who in the Tribe's lineup do you want to see come to the plate in a clutch situation?

Who in the Tribe's lineup do you want to see come to the plate in any situation?

Grady Sizemore with his 15 Ks in 73 ABs. (More than 1 in every 5 trips).

Victor Martinez? OK I'll give you him.

Ryan Garko? Maybe, but he can be streaky.

The so-called PronK? He seems to be continuing to employ the swing-hard-in-case-I-hit-it approach he perfected last year. And talk about your strikeouts - 18 in 70 ABs (on in four!!)

The other guys? No need even asking about them.

This is not a good offensive team. Period.

Even in last year's 96-win season the offense was in mothballs for a month at a time at least twice. Remember the post-All-Star-game period?

With today's 9 Ks, the Tribe has whiffed 122 times in 19 games so far this season. That's about 6 1/2 Ks a game. About one in every four of the outs made.

The modern thinkers in baseball say the strikeout is overrated as an offensive deficiency, especially if you walk a lot.

The Tribe has walked 67 times so far. That's a little over 3 walks a game.

Even if the Tribe was showing a better eye, I still don't go along with the strikeouts-are-no-big-deal crowd.

If you put the ball in play, things happen. Balls are booted, lost in the sun (or the Metrodome Roof), or thrown into the seats or up the right field line. Even if the ball is played well, runners move up when contact is made.

Watching this team flail away at the plate is painful indeed.

The anemic nature is sometimes obscured a bit by the occasional blowout victory - the proverbial lipstick on the pig.

The Tribe has scored 76 runs in 19 games so far this year. But 21 of those runs came in just two games. Eliminate those two aberrations and it becomes 55 runs in 17 games, or 3.09 runs a game.

The team was last in the league in hitting going into today at .239. I'm going to guess that today's 6 hits didn't do much to move them up on the list.

This team needs to bring in a hitter from somewhere, without regard for the fact that they might be trading away the third starter in the 2011 rotation.

Unless and until, it
aint water boarding, but it's the kind of entertainment Dick Cheney would love.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


It feels like the circus elephant just got off my chest.

After the fiasco last night and six losses in seven games, tonight's blowout win against the Tigers is a huge relief.

Just when you were sure this team had forgotten how to hit, pitch and field they did all three tonight.

It started out a little rocky with Fausto needing about 50 pitches to get through the first two innings, which he was able to do without giving up a run and leaving runners on second and third both times.

After that he was the Fausto we know, allowing only four more hits and one run in his remaining 4 2/3 innings, in command all the way.

Given the offensive outburst there was no pressure on the Tribe pen, but the managed to close out the remaining 2 1/3 innings in solid fashion.

For the record it should be noted that Jensen Lewis came in with two outs and a man on second in the seventh and promptly walked the first two batters he faced, so there were a few blemishes.

Meanwhile, something sparked the moribund Cleveland offense tonight.

I don't know if it was the tongue-lashing Eric Wedge gave his sluggish, impatient, clueless hitters, the spark provided by Jamey Carroll who played 2B and hit second tonight, or the 88 mph fastballs being lobbed up there by Justin Verlander, but the guys in the home uniforms looked a bit more like they guys we've gotten to know over the past couple of years..

Every Tribe batter had a hit and several had 2 as the Tribe put up 11 runs on 13 hits.

Travis Hafner went deep - to left field - which is a terrific sign that he may be getting back to making contact and not trying to jack every pitch. Ryan Garko also had a dinger and the long-missing Franklin Gutierrez had two hits.

Jason Michaels had two hits and three RBIs and cut down a standing-up Gary Sheffield at the plate when the game was still a game.

Carroll went two for four with two runs scored and two RBIs and seemed to be in the thick of every Tribe rally.

Whatever the reason the Tribe came alive tonight, it was not a moment to soon.

I should also take a second to point out that the bad J-honny appears to still be with us. He had a meaningless single late in the game, but went one for five and left five runners on base, including a bases-loaded DP in the first inning to kill off a possible early rally.

Back to Verlander.

While the Indians are wondering just what is wrong with their ace CC Sabathia, the same has to be true of the Tigers and Verlander.

Verlander gave up five runs in five innings, surrendering seven hits and four walks. And as we said, he was topping out at about 88 mph on the fastball. Prior to tonight the Tiger ace has given up 19 runs, 14 earned, in 19 innings over three starts.

Verlander is 0-3 on the year and struggling nearly as much as Sabathia. The difference between Sabathia and Verlander though is the fact that the Tiger ace has a much thinner rotation around him to carry the load while he tries to figure things out.

And so, for the Tribe, it's on the Minnesota with a badly needed confidence builder under their belts.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Tribe's butt-ugly bullpen

I never thought I'd be writing that headline this season.

After last year's performance and the addition of a few seemingly useful bodies over the winter I thought the closer position might be the only problem with the pen this year.

But it seems to be a much larger problem.

I knew the relief corps had been getting slapped around a bit so far this season, but I didn't realize the extent of it until I checked the numbers.

Through 14 games the pen is 1-3 with 2 saves and four blown saves (two by Joe Borowski and two by Raffie Perez).

The Tribe is 1-3 in games tied after 7 innings.

Here's a real grabber. The bullpen has allowed 9 homers in 41 1/3 innings pitched. Of the seven guys in the pen, only Craig Breslow and Masa Kobayashi have not been taken deep, and the two of them have pitched only a combined 8 1/3 innings.

Tribe relievers have allowed 75 base runners in those 41 1/3 innings - 49 hits, 21 walks and 5 hit batsmen. For those of you even less gifted in math than I, that's darn near two base runners per inning.

The pen has given up 26 earned runs in 41 1/3 innings, for an ERA of 5.66.

Not exactly the kind of stats you want from a group of guys paid to put out fires.

It has been cold and mostly ugly during the first 2 1/2 weeks of the season and that makes it tough to pitch. But it also makes it tough to hit.

The players and manager are still sorting out roles, an issue made more complicated by the shelving of Borowski and the short- and long-term uncertainty around the closer position.

But the kind of performance we've seen so far indicates deeper problems than the usual getting-it-in-gear-early-on troubles.

The real problem is there are no quick fixes immediately visible, but the Tribe can find itself in a redux of 2006 (when early bullpen failure doomed the season) if the magic bullet is not found pronto.

That has me a little worried.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Wedgie for Tribe fans

At the risk of sounding like one of those morons who post on the fan boards of the newspaper Web sites, I'm wondering, is Eric Wedge trying to lose games?
The Tribe's skipper came into tonight's game with a bullpen running on about three cylinders due to "injury" and ineffectiveness, or at the very least inconsistency. Plus Raffie Betancourt was unavailable because of his two-inning outing last night.

He's playing the best, most disciplined hitting team in the league, but has a 2-1 lead.

He's got a veteran starter on the mound who has completed six innings on 78 pitches, allowed one unearned run and only six hits. Let me repeat one of those numbers - 78 pitches. That veteran has just gotten the No. 3 and No.4 hitters, so he's through most of the meat of the order. And he's cruising.

So of course Wedgie brings in the veteran Paul Byrd to squeeze out at least one more inning and save the pen right?

Of course not. Instead let's bring in Jorge Julio, a non-roster invitee to spring training who hasn't pitched in a close game all year.

Of course Julio walked the first, and only, two guys he faced. A bunt single and a single past the range-less J-honny and the Tribe leaves the field down 3-2.

The Tribe managed to tie it in the bottom of the seventh on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch, but it's pretty clear the pitching change in the sixth was a key factor in sending this game in the wrong direction.

They say the manager can affect - one way or the other - about 10 games a season. Put tonight down as one of those 10.

And the new Tribe closer is...

Joe Borowski has been placed on the DL with a right triceps strain (and I pulled my gluteus spending too much time on the computer).

Convenient or actual, Borowski has an injury and won't be coming out of the Tribe bullpen in the ninth inning - at least for a while.

So who will?

The consensus in the media seems to be that Raffie Betancourt will get the job.

It's possible one guy wrote it and everyone else picked up on it, although stuff like that rarely happens among sportswriters.

At first blush Raffie Right seems like the choice after the season he put in last year and his performance last night in what amounted to a save situation in the seventh.

But Betancourt has not been nearly as good in the early days of this young season. He sports an ERA over 5.00 and has given up two dingers in seven outings this year, covering 5 1/3 innings. Last year he gave up three all season.

A bit more damaging to the case for Betancourt is his past record as a closer. Raffie Right is 12 for 29 in career save situations. Next to those number Borowski looks like Rollie Fingers. Or, for those of you a little younger, Mariano Rivera.

Jorge Julio was a closer for a while. In fact, other than Borowski, Julio has spent more time closing out - or trying - games than anyone else on the staff, by far.

Julio has 99 career saves. most of them over three seasons with the Orioles in the early 2000s.

This year he's allowed two runs in seven innings over four appearances.

Since leaving the Orioles in 2005, he's bounced around between Arizona, the Mets, the Rockies and Florida and had to pitch his way onto the club this season.

Even as a closer, Julio was not exactly what you'd hope for, displaying control problems at the damnedest times.

That leaves Masa Kobayashi, one of the top-three all-time save leaders in Japan and a 33-year-old rookie in the Big Leagues this year.

Kobayashi has an ERA of just over 2.00 in five outings with the Tribe so far, for what that's worth.

Would the Tribe want to lay the job in the lap of a guy who's pitched five innings in the bigs so far?

Does it make it any easier to do that given Kobayashi's age and experience in Japan?

None of the options is terrific.

But given Raffie Right's past problems at closer and the fact that it's great to have him to slot in either the seventh or the eighth - when a real need comes up - rather than have him married to the ninth inning, I'd go with Kobayashi.

Do I think the Tribe will go in that direction?

Well, I picked up Kobayashi in my fantasy baseball league (Betancourt wasn't available).

But do I really think he'll be the choice?

No. I'm betting on Raffie, but I have my doubts.

Joe must go!

Not long after I moved to New York in the 1980s, the Jets had a much-vilified head coach by the name of Joe Walton.

Walton was known primarily for being a bad head football coach and for his penchant for picking his nose on the sidelines.

It was primarily because of the former, but not helped by the latter, that Jets fans grew ugly with impatience.

As Joe Walton's career was nearing an ignominious end Jets games became nothing more than a three-hour orgy of the chant "Joe must go!" And go he did.

It's time for Indians fan to strike up a little chorus of "Joe must go!" themselves.

The Tribe's troubled so-called closer blew his second save of the season in four chances last night. And as is usually the case, he did it in spectacular fashion, blowing a one-run lead and then serving up a two-run batting practice homer to Manny Ramirez.

There are several things about that that turn the stomach.

First and foremost is the prospect of watching the same type of thing over and over again as the season progresses. The Tribe front office is one to stick by their man, and this case is likely to be no different unless and until Borowski's performance makes it impossible for Wedge and Shapiro to stay the course.

We may catch a break though, because Borowski is hinting at possible arm problems in this morning's Plain Dealer.

(By the way the headline for the version of the story is priceless: "Tribe closer says 'he had nothing'" "Titanic skipper says 'I think we hit some ice.'" )

The second most galling thing about the loss last night was the fact that it was at the hands of the dreaded Dreadlocked One.

Making it even worse is the fact that Borowski's latest blowout followed Raffie Betancourt's lights out performance two innings earlier when he blew away Big Papi and the Dreadlocked One to keep a possible earlier Red Sox uprising at bay.

Want more salt for that wound? How about watching Johnathan Papelbon come in and waltz through the ninth inning and then comparing that to the performance of our "closer."

Still can't satisfy that masochistic streak? Try re-running the TIVO on the little celebration near the Red Sox dugout after Manny's homer. He and Papi were apparently rubbing each other off in some sort of first-grade-like dance/grope of each other. Uh, not that there's anything wrong with that, but get a room would ya.

And, of course, another outstanding outing by Jake Westbroook was pissed away by JoBo.

As we have seen many times in the past - most recently in 2006 - a bullpen that lays waste repeatedly to hard-fought-for late-inning leads can demoralize teams and ruin seasons in a big hurry.

Borowski had 45 saves last year, but nearly every one came with a lot of sweat and the vast majority came with leads of two or three runs.

He seems to be pitching at an even less effective level this season.

Whether it's an injury problem or just age turning a pitcher with mediocre stuff and a big heart into a BP pitcher, the time has come.

Joe MUST go!

I will try to be back late this afternoon or early this evening with a saner, less emotional view of the situation, and maybe some thoughts about who should be put in the role that Borowski so clearly must be relieved of.

I haven't been able to post as often as I'd like. I'm in crunch time for my final project at school, as I am less than a month away from the end of a three-year journey to my masters at Iona College. I expect to be tied up quite a bit for the next few weeks but I'll post here as often as time permits. Thanks to those who keep checking back.

Friday, April 11, 2008

CC making it easier to say goodbye

They say that breaking up is hard to do.

CC Sabathia is making it a whole lot easier.

Sabathia has taken the mound three times this season - his walk season - and has had three awful outings, with tonight's being the worst.

If this continues too much longer Tribe fans won't care where the big man is pitching next season, as long as it isn't Cleveland.

In fact the boos were in the air tonight as Sabathia walked off the Progressive Field mound wondering just what the heck is going on.

Tonight against the A's Sabathia got the first two men he faced, then allowed 10 of the next 12 to get on base.

Tonight's line - 3 1/3 innings, 12 hits, 9 runs (all WELL earned), 2 walks and 4 Ks.

On the year Sabathia is 0-2 with an 11.57 ERA in three starts.

If this keeps up, CC will drop well below Johan Santana money when he looks to peddle his wares at the end of this season. He may even dip under Gil Meche money.

Do you think maybe CC is beginning to be sorry he left the money on the table at the end of spring training? Maybe not yet, but the thought must have at least crossed his mind by now.

On to the good news.

Tribe fans got their first in-person look at Craig Breslow.

Now for the good news for real.

The Tribe refused to roll over despite being down 9-1 heading into the eighth.

Jhonny Peralta continued his hot hitting with another homer, 2 hits in 4 at bats, 2 RBIs and 2 runs scored.

The Dyspeptic Duo, both in the starting lineup at the same time again even though they are supposed to be platoon partners, each had a hit - which is pretty good for them. They even combined for the Tribe's first of 6 runs in the 8th, with a David Dellucci double followed by a Jason Michaels single.

The bullpen pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings, although Jorge Julio did let in CC's final 2 runs.

The only other good news is that are still 152 games to go to get this right.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fausto in the fold forever!

OK, not forever.

But for this season and SIX more after it.

Having Fausto around for the next seven years is, of course, the best part about this contract.

But if there ever was a team-friendly pact, this is it.

The first four years of the contract are guaranteed - at $15 million. That's an average of almost $4 million for the team's co-ace.

The next three years of the contract are worth $28 million - with a chance to push that figure up to $33 million.

Even if the incentives are all met, that is merely ( a relative term to be sure) $11 million per.

But here's the best part.

The Tribe and the Tribe alone has the option on those last three years. It's not even a mutual option. If Fausto flames out or burns out the most the Tribe is locked into is the $15 million.

Of course the first thing that pops in your head about this -after just plain WAHOO!- is that the front office is cushioning us for the loss of CC Sabathia.

CC may or may not go at the end of the year, but, the Indians front office says Fausto's new pact won't be the reason.

"They're really separate issues," said (assistant GM Chris) Antonetti, who negotiated the Carmona deal with agent Jorge Brito. "This is about Fausto and what he's done and the player and person he is."

(GM Mark) Shapiro said the Carmona deal, combined with the recent long-term contracts handed to Jake Westbrook and Travis Hafner, has no impact on the money the Indians could allocate toward a Sabathia extension.

"Every single contract we do is interrelated, to some extent," Shapiro said. "Nothing we've done to date is prohibitive toward any product going forward."--excerpted from a story by's Anthony Castrovince.

Carmona - who clearly has the stuff to be the Tribe's ace - says he'd rather things stay just as they are well into the future.

"I want C.C. to stay and be the No. 1. I want C.C. to be a part of this."

I don't think the Fausto pact will affect the CC talks either way.

And my gut tells me that the big guy will take the best offer - which will come from elsewhere.

But knowing Fausto is locked up for at least his first two free-agent years - and for a not obscene amount - it may be a tiny bit easier to watch CC walk.

With the off day today, and the return of 30 Rock and The Office, I had planned to take a day off from this site.

But for news like this I'll make an exception.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Where the heck was Victor?

Anyone know what the deal was with Victor Martinez today?

He wasn't in the starting lineup and the Angels broadcasters (on the dish) didn't really find it worth investigating why.

The so-called blog on made no mention of why Martinez was out.

No games summaries that I've come across have any mention of Victor's absence.

Even my friends at RotoWorld let me down.

Normally you would say it was a day game after a night game, but did he really need a day off after sitting out for a week?

If anybody knows of any reason other than a simple day off, please let me know.

My favorite part about today's disaster was the chance to see both members of the Dispeptic Duo in the lineup at the same time. Not only that, but they batted one after the other.

Paul Byrd looked like a waiter serving up meatballs - three of them to be exact, which is one more than you get with the spaghetti at Antonio's at ParmaTown.

At least the offense starting going a bit today, even with Victor on the bench.

Despite his homer last night, Travis Hafner still looks like a muscle-bound WWE performer trying to swing a bat.

I think that's all that's on my mind for now.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Silent Tribe offense should have Shapiro talking

The Tribe's offensive woes in the early going have been well-documented.

Six runs over the last four games (three of them losses) against three guys named Moe and one named Joe. Blanton that is.

In yesterday's win, the Tribe scored its two runs on a booted double-play ball and a bases-loaded walk,

All that after the Tribe scored 17 runs in the first two games of the season.

It's no coincidence that the offensive nosedive coincided (all right it was off by one day) with the sidelining of Victor Martinez, the Tribe's cleanup hitter.

In the five days that Victor has missed, manager Eric Wedge has used five different lineups - three of them with Jhonny Peralta batting third. That didn't work out so well.

In one of those games, the left-field platoon of Jason Michaels and David Dellucci hit third.

What is this, 2003?

Your doctor advises you to heed early warnings signs.

Tribe GM Mark Shapiro should consider this an early warning sign.

There is not enough offense on this team, with or without Victor.

Victor is by far the Tribe's most productive and consistent hitter, But even if the injury bug doesn't bite him again this year (an iffy proposition for a catcher) he will have his periods where he can't hit a lick. Everybody does.

Clearly there's not enough punch on this squad to overcome slumps or injuries.

Franklin Gutierrez, after going 3-3 on Opening Day, is 0-for15. (Not coincidentally he joined my fantasy team the day after Opening Day, so I have him at 0-15).

I think Gutierrez will come around, but what if this is his adjustment year? What if it takes a while to make those adjustments?

Andy Marte, both in the field and at the plate, showed yesterday why he is destined to be a never-will-be. He was slow in the field and managed one sickly single.

But the real problem -- the place where a major upgrade is needed -- is left field.

The Dispeptic Duo is 0-for-16 while sharing left field this year, although Michaels did go 1-for-4 subbing for Gutierrez in right field yesterday.

At their peaks, Michaels and Delucci are mediocre at best. Neither is playing, or has in the recent past, played anywhere near their peak.

Despite a recent flurry of passed balls and wild pitches, and a quiet stick for the most part, I'm still glad the Tribe held on to Kelly Shoppach. A solid backup catcher is a necessity.

But it's clear to me it's time to surrender some of the Tribe's minor-league depth to improve the offense on the big club.

We could wait for the journeymen in left to wear out their welcome and hope Ben Francisco and Shin-Soo Choo can do better in their place. But in that case, the Tribe will be relying on three untested players to carry two-thirds of the outfield load.

Not too many teams are in the trade market right now as they wait for their teams to shake out and size up their needs.

But Shapiro should be beating every bush and upending every stone to find somebody who can contribute something out of the left field position.

If the price of a veteran with a real bat is too rich for Shapiro's blood, than it's time to bring up Francisco and let the chips fall where they may.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

CC continues his salary drive

CC Sabathia's walk season is not starting out so well, to say the least.

The big man - with big salary numbers dancing in his head - is putting up big numbers of his own, big, crooked numbers on the other team's side of the scoreboard.

On Opening Day CC didn't make it out of the sixth, allowing 5 runs in 5 1/3 innings. Sabathia gave up 6 hits (2 of the them homers) and 3 walks in that aborted outing.

He did strike out 7, indicative of the fact that CC was overthrowing, just as he did last year in the playoffs and often over the early years of his career when he was inconsistent.

Today's outing, against the AAAA team masquerading as the Oakland A's, was a repeat of the man of girth's Opening Day performance.

He logged 5 1/3 innings, 4 runs, 6 hits, four walks and just 2 Ks before giving way to Jensen Lewis.

With FOX monopolizing coverage on Saturdays, and with two NY teams playing afternoon baseball, there was no shot at me seeing the Tribe today, so I can't really comment on how Sabathia looked. But the numbers paint a rather ugly picture.

Sabathia was obviously tight during the playoffs, leading directly to his unacceptably bad performance in the post-season.

With his walk year unfolding, it seems as though CC still has the apple stuck in his throat.

He claims he didn't want to talk contract during the season because it would affect his concentration on the field.

So far this year, it seems clear the contract - the big one that awaits him if he gets out onto the open market - is messing with his mind.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Juan Uribe - Tribe Slayer

Sitting in my office yesterday, watching the simulated live-cast of the Tribe game on the computer, it dawned on me just how much I hated the little dot named Uribe circling the bases in the sixth inning.

Is it just me, or does it seem that Juan Uribe hits all his homers against the Tribe?

I asked myself that question, and, for some unknown reason, I set about to find the answer.

While it turns out the ChiSox shortstop doesn't hit all his dingers against the Tribe, he certainly hits more than his share against them, at least in the recent past.

Take last year.

Uribe went 17-61 (.279) against Cleveland in 2007. No biggie.

But he hit 6 homeruns, drove in 14 runs and scored 11 against the Tribe in 18 games between the two teams last season (although Uribe actually took one of those games off).

To put those number in a larger perspective, if Uribe had played all 162 games against Cleveland last year, and hit Tribe pitching at the same clip, he would have had 54 homers, 144 RBIs and 99 runs scored.

Put another way, Uribe played 11% of his games against Cleveland, but hit 30% of his 20 homers, had 21% of his 68 RBIs for the year and 20% of his 55 runs scored.

I'm not sure what purpose these figures serve, other than to satisfy my curiosity.

But if I were a Tribe pitcher, I guess I'd be a little more careful with that guy who hits eighth or ninth in the ChiSox order. He's just so damned annoying!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A-Rod makes more than Marlins - all of them

Yes it's true.

According to an Associated Press study of Opening Day rosters and salary figures, A-Rod out earns the Florida Marlins - $28 million to $21.8 million.

Those of us who know the distaste of watching CC Sabathia make what was likely his last Opening Day start for the Tribe, and give up a pair of two-run homers to a former Tribe fan favorite who fled for the last dollar, can relate to this A-Rod story.

Even A-Rod finds it a little hard to believe, as he told the AP:

"The Marlins? It's amazing. And they still seem to find a way to be very competitive. They have a great pool of talent; they made some unbelievable trades, so they have great personnel people. To win two championships in 11 years, that's really admirable, and I'm very proud of that organization, being from Miami."

The sincerity is touching A-Rod.

As some accountant in a back office at Yankee Stadium crunches the numbers on the likely off-season offer to CC, here's another amazing stat, again as reported by the AP:

"My best friend came into town, and he mentioned something about Johan Santana making $15 million more than our five starters combined," Marlins catcher Matt Treanor said. "It's something to laugh at, but at the same time, it is what it is. Those guys put on the uniform like us. When it comes time to start the game, it doesn't matter how much money the Yankees or whoever make."

Well, yes and no.

There are those who say front-office brain power is more important to building a winner than money. Many Cleveland fans subscribe to that theory. It's what keeps them going.

Oddly enough, Yankeee GM Brian Cashman told the AP he feels there's something to that theory.

"(The Marlins) have won a championship more recently than we have as an organization. So there's many different ways to skin a cat."

All of this is true. But the best that those of us who follow low- to middle-budget teams can hope for is a four- or five-year window before it all gets torn down again.

At 51, I don't know how many four- or five-year windows, followed by four- or five-year rebuilding plans I have left.

Go Tribe! Please!!