Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hello (and goodbye!) from Milwaukee

If you had any doubts that CC Sabathia is gone for good, this paid ad was in this morning's P.D.

In addition the thanking a lot of individuals and organizations, the ad had this message from CC and his family to Indians' fans.

"Thank you for 10 great years. You've touched our lives with your kindness, love and generosity. We are forever grateful!"

I'm sure it was meant as a gesture of gratitude by the Sabathias.

But it leaves me feeling a bit empty.

How 'bout you?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Closer top off-season priority: Shapiro

Tribe GM Mark Shapiro says finding a closer is likely to be the Tribe's top priority this winter, that the closer is most likely not currently in-house and that he hopes to sign a free agent - but not anyone at the top of the free-agent list.

He also said Jhonny Peralta is not likely to be moved from SS - at least for now; Akron's Matt LaPorta and Wes Hodges will likely start 2009 at Triple-A, but will be on speed dial if the lineup falters early; David Huff will get a long look in spring training; and Ryan Garko, Ben Francisco, Franklin Gutierrez and Andy Marte will be under the microscope for the rest of this season.

In his fourth-inning gabfest on STO tonight, Shapiro said finding a closer is "at the top of our list" as far as off-season priorities are concerned, and that the free agent market is the place he'll likely find one.

The list includes names like Francisco Rodriguez and Kerry Wood. That's the good news.

The bad news? Shapiro says the Tribe front office has to set its sites a little bit lower.

"Everybody wants that lights out one, two, three guy. .... But the reality is there's maybe 10 of those out of 30 teams and to find one you're probably going to have to go out and develop your own. You're probably not going to be able to compete in free agency in a market like ours for that guy."

So Shapiro says he'll look to free agency for now and hope to come up with the "lights out" guy on his own.

"Adam Miller we won't know for a year or two but maybe. We're going to be able to find someone with some experience. There's 8 or 9 free-agent closers in the market. .... Could Rafael Perez close? I don't know. Masa Kobayashi? Can he grow into that role? I can't answer those questions. That's why there's still a lot of time to take advantage of this season and get some answers."

As for 3B, don't look for Jhonny Peralta to be there next season. Shapiro says "for now" Peralta is staying right where he is, at SS.

"That's kind of a sore subject for me because I think Jhonny gets kind of beat up unjustly. I think the reason why is the easiest tool to identify in the game is speed and so guys see a guy that – they look for a shortstop and they think it should be a guy who can run fast. But Jhonny is as dependable and reliable on the average play as any SS in the game. He doesn't have exceptional range but he makes the plays he needs to make and he's developing into a hitter who has some tremendous ceiling. Though I do think his body is so big he's going to outgrow that position at some point, but that point may be two, three, four years down the road, I'm not sure."
Another thing Shapiro is not sure of is what kind of 3B Peralta would be if a switch were made.

"It's a different position. It requires different reactions and skills. He does have enough arm to play third base. His hands should be good enough but what kind of range he'll have over there you don't know. Put it this way, in the list of things we have to deal with that is so far down there so we're not going to get into that one."

It's no surprise, but Shapiro says a lot of spots are up in the air next year and that Garko, Gutierrez, Choo and Marte will be given a long look in the last two months of this year.

He said the newly acquired LaPorta, and the Tribe's top minor league 3B prospect, Hodges, will be pushing the guys mentioned above.

"I look at Wes and maybe Matt LaPorta as guys that maybe we can adjust with next year - guys that their proper level next year is going to be Triple-A. If they go to Triple-A and they go off there and we're in the month of June and we're struggling up here at that position, they're guys that can come to the rescue. They need to go at least to start next season. We're not going to plan the team around them but I'm going to use them as guys we can make adjustments with."

For example:

"We may say hey, you know it's a bit of a risk to go with Andy Marte next April, but we've got Wes Hodges coming. If Andy can't do it, we got Wes. We can make an adjustment in mid-May or June."

He gave a similar scenario with LaPorta and Francisco/Garko/Choo et al.

As for the rotation, the only guy touched on in the interview was Huff.
"It's hard to see any scenario where he is not one of the top six of seven coming into next year. He's struck out more guys and gotten better at every level he's gone up. It's very rare that that happens and when it does it's a guy who's tasting the big leagues, he can see it in his sites. He's got that killer instinct. He keeps upping his game and upping his level. His stuff right now is as good as it's ever been. He's a guy that has a chance to help us next season, either out of the gate or sometime during the season."
Despite making veteran-for-prospect deals in recent days, Shapiro insists this is a retooling and not a rebuilding that's underway.
"I don't think we've done anything to impact our chances next year at all. What we have done is replenished the upper levels of our system with both some ceiling and some depth. We haven't at all compromised our chances to win next season."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

More than fair return for Casey Blake; Dodger blogs none too happy

Put me down as quite satisfied with the Tribe's latest round of wheeling and dealing - the biggest part of which was the trade of Casey Blake to the Dodgers.

They picked up once-touted pitcher Anthony Reyes from the Cardinals today as well, but we'll get to that later.

It looks to me like the Tribe got two legitimate prospects for Blake, including one that stands a pretty decent chance at being somewhere in the back end of the Tribe's pen next year - and just might get a look with the big club before this season comes to a merciful close.

In addition, they got a guy who - from what I've been able to dig up - was one of the Dodgers better hitting prospects and who is a switch-hitting catcher to boot.

First the pitcher.

(Before I go any further let me just say I'm borrowing (stealing) these stats from my colleague Paul Cousineau at the DiaTribe, since it is 10:20 PM as I begin to write this and this is the first chance I've had to sit down all day.)


The pitcher in question is righty Jon Meloan who is having a not-to-great year as a starter for AAA Las Vegas this season.

But he throws low-to-mid nineties, as a decent curve and was lights out as a reliever in the past two years at three minor league levels.

Here are the numbers:

2007 (in AA and AAA)
2.03 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 91 K, 27 BB in 66 2/3 IP over 49 games

2006 (in A and AA)
1.90 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 91 K, 16 BB in 52 IP over 21 games

Not sure what the Dodgers were thinking when they looked at those '06 and '07 numbers and said "let's make him a starter," but the Tribe intends to quickly move him back to the pen in Buffalo.

Walks have been his problem, particularly this year, but it could be that as a starter he has to mix in some pitches he's not all that comfortable with as the game wears on. As a reliever he doesn't need to mix it up so much and so he may be able to limit himself to his bread-and-butter, helping his control

Whatever the case, it appears he has closer stuff if he can get it under control.

It's been a long time since the Tribe has had a closer who can blow somebody's doors off. His K to IP ratio is ridiculous in the pen., so I don't think it is out of the question that Meloan could work his way to that spot - starting out in a lesser role on the big club first of course.

For next year, he could be a good 7th or 8th inning guy, giving the Tribe the chance - maybe - to give Raffie Perez a look in the closer's role.

If they open the wallet and hire an established closer, all the better. Add in Kobayashi and you could have a serious back end of the pen.

I commented earlier somewhere that if the Tribe got a solid bullpen arm for Blake I would be happy. I was thinking more along the lines of someone who has done it at the big league level. But this guy appears to have a big "upside." (as the professionals like to say)

But, the trade looks even better when you add in the high-A ball catcher the Tribe got - Carlos Santana.

Here are his numbers, thanks again to The DiaTribe.

2008 (single-A)
.323 BA / .431 OBP / .563 SLG / .994 OPS with 14 HR, 96 RBI, and 34 doubles in 99 games.

Santana is new to the catcher position and from what I've read his defense needs a little work, but those offensive numbers look pretty darn good.

As a Tribe fan, it's too hard not to draw the comparisons to Victor Martinez - also a converted infielder, with a solid bat that he swings from both sides of the plate.

It is A ball, but this guy is intriguing, and in many of the stories I read he was the key to the deal.

Did we get enough for two months worth of Casey Blake?

I'd say so.

But it might be more useful take a look at what is being said elsewhere about the trade - particularly in L.A., where - presumably those doing the writing know more about these prospects than I do.

This blog may be a little biased - since Ned Colletti is the guy who pulled the trigger on the deal for the Dodgers - but over at Fire Ned Colletti Now, they hate the deal from the Dodgers' point of view.

At this point, the Dodgers are a tossup to even make the playoffs, and even assuming they do, is that really worth sacrificing two chips that may have been much larger a year from now? You have to look at it from the context that Ned is likely giving up a solid bullpen arm and a Top 5 prospect for Casey freakin' Blake in a season that will most likely end up as nothing more than a nice try at the playoffs and a pat on the back.

6-4-2 bills itself as an Angels/Dodgers double play blog (meaning that it covers both teams). Since the most typical double-play is scored 6-4-3, the name of the blog is either an attempt at cleverness or raises serious doubts about the baseball knowledge of the writers there.

But from reading this blog, they seem to know what's going on, and they don't like the deal that much either - again from the Dodger perspective.

In short, it's not as bad a deal as the Denny Baez/Lance Carter for Edwin Jackson/Chuck Tiffany deal, but it represents the same wastefulness, an inability to read the team's true needs, and a failure to properly value prospects.

At True Blue L.A. they hate it too:

It seems like all Ned did was look at Casey Blake, see he was hitting decently and decided he would be an upgrade without looking at the context of the team. Paul DePodesta got taken to task for making "fantasy baseball" moves but this trade is far worse in that regard than anything DePo did. An absolutely terrible move, even for Ned.

Ken Davidoff writes for Newsday, the daily on Long Island. Except for the fact that the Mets were in on Blake, Davidoff really has no real "local angle" on this, but I think he is one of the better baseball beat writers I've come across. So I decided to link his comments too. He thinks both teams will be happy with the deal.

The Dodgers, very much in the race in the weak NL West, owed it to their players to make this trade That said, one official from a team not involved in the deal thought that the Dodgers overpaid for Blake, giving up two good pieces in Santana and Meloan. So let's call this one even.

So, from either coast, this trade looks pretty good for the Tribe.

The Blake deal got all the attention, but Tribe GM Mark Shapiro picked up another arm in a deal today who may be part of the competition for a rotation spot next year.

The Tribe picked up Anthony Reyes from the Cardinals for minor league reliever Luis Perdomo.

Reyes has been a starter in the Cardinals' system for the past few years but made the parent club as a reliever this year. He has not had much success in either role in the majors, but has put up some good numbers in the minors.

He will be stretched out and put back into a starter role in Buffalo.

Perdomo was the closer at class-A Kinston and put up 18 saves before being promoted to double-A Akron, where he been decent.

As with any deal the Tribe is likely to make at this juncture, it's impossible to tell how this one will turn out.

But the Tribe needs potential starters at the big-league level pronto and so it seems worth the gamble that the Indians can figure out how to make Reyes as successful in the big leagues as he has been in the bushes.

I'm going to bet we see him at Cleveland just as soon as they can get his pitch count up at Buffalo.

And, finally, speaking of Buffalo, the Indians sent Aaron Laffey back there today to work out his control problems.

The move was a bit of a surprise to me since Laffey has had a fair amount of success for the Tribe this year and last.

I guess they felt Laffey could get himself back in gear in a low-pressure situation and then call him back up ASAP.

As for Jeremy Sowers - your guess is as good as mine. Sowers has done the job in a few stints in at Buffalo, so the Tribe must feel he needs to prove to himself that he is capable of making the jump to the majors - something he can only do by pitching in the majors.

Who knows?

Casey Blake to Dodgers....

....for what looks like a candidate for next year's pen and Victor's replacement at catcher when he is forced to move to 1B in a couple of years to save his body.

Those are just my quick first impressions, so I can't vouch for their soundness.

Family party keeping me from doing more now. I will have more late tonight or tomorrow after I have a chance to research the new Indians and digest it a little.

What are your thoughts?

Here's the first take on it from Dodgerland.

Gotta go!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What's up with Aaron Laffey?

Tribe fans talk about next year’s starting rotation and how thin it is.

“We got Lee, Carmona and Laffey” they say. “After that who knows.”

Better put Aaron Laffey in the “who knows” category.

On June 24, after holding the Giants to a run on four hits in 6 1/3 innings at the Jake, Laffey’s ERA was 2.83.

Five starts later, his ERA is 4.23, and he is 1-3 in those five starts.

It’s pretty difficult to add a run and a half to your ERA in five starts, but Laffey managed.

Here’s how:

In the past five starts, Laffey has pitched 23 2/3 innings and allowed 22 earned runs. I don’t even need my calculator to know that is darned near a 9.00 ERA.

He has given up 38 hits and 12 walks during that stretch. Again, I don’t need to my calculator to know that comes out to a WHIP of just over 2.00 and nearly 5 walks per 9 innings.

Is his confidence rattled? Are his mechanics off? Has the league figured him out?

That’s hard to say sitting in my living room in suburban NY, but something is clearly out of kilter.

So much so, that Tribe manager Eric Wedge wouldn’t make any promises when asked whether Laffey might not be the guy to go down to Buffalo to get straightened out when Fausto Carmona comes back at the end of the week.

After Laffey gave up 8 runs on 12 hits in just four innings plus in today’s game in Anaheim, Wedge was non-committal when asked about the roster move coming up Friday - telling’s Anthony Castrovince:

“We’re not going to decide anything right now,” manager Eric Wedge said. “We don’t need to do anything until Friday night after the game, at the earliest. We haven’t made any decisions just yet.”

Matt Ginter is the presumed odd-man-out, but he’s put up two quality starts in two tries since joining the Tribe’s rotation in what was supposed to be a cameo role.

Jeremy Sowers, who has been a major disappointment this season could also go, but it is likely (at least I think so) that the Tribe - which has already farmed out Sowers this year for retooling - will want to keep him up in the hopes he can work things out on the big-league level between now and the end of September.

Which brings us to the bullpen.

I had planned to do a piece tonight about how the pen seems to be coming around and how it has been central to the Tribe’s recent run of victories.

An then today - and Tom Mastny and Jensen Lewis - happened. The duo combined to give up 6 runs over three innings in relief of Mastny, rendering moot any effort the Tribe’s offense made to make a game of it. And that doesn’t even count the 3 runs of Laffey’s that Mastny gave up on a grand slam by Angel’s catcher Jeff Mathis.

In Mastny’s defense, he last pitched 10 days ago. I’ve said it time and again this year and in the past, I don’t know how Wedge expects his 4-7 relievers to be of any value whatsoever when he pitches them once every leap year or so. But still, Mastny was awful and Lewis wasn’t much better.

But the bullpen has been strong in the past 9 games before today - a stretch which saw the Tribe go 7-2.

During that run, the pen has tossed 28 innings allowed 6 earned runs, 17 hits and 7 walks. That’s an ERA of 1.92 and a WHIP of 0.86 (I’m not going to let the stats I dug up go top waste). Exclude one 4-run blowup by Juan Rincon, and the Tribe’s bullpen ERA during the 9-game run is 0.64.

Masa Kobayashi has 2 saves and Mastny, of all people, has the pen’s lone win during the Tribe’s recent hot streak.

More importantly, a few key pitchers seem to be settling into roles. Raffy Perez, back firmly in the set-up role where he excelled last year, threw 7 innings in four appearances over the 9 games and did not allow a run.

Kobayashi had the 2 saves and has pitched well in general since taking over the closer’s role. Edward Mujica threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings during the stretch as he has begun to make a move toward the latter innings of games.

The roles being established now though appear to be nothing more than an attempt to wrestle this season under control. While impressions will be made the rest of the way, it’s doesn’t appear as though anyone will be locking up their role for next season.

In another piece for, Castrovince reports that Wedge sees the bullpen situation as - shall we say - fluid.

“The roles are wide open,” Wedge said. “But I do see signs. We’ve got plenty of time to continue to look at these guys. They’re going to have an opportunity to step up and figure out if they can play a prominent role in this thing.”

Still, in the same piece, Castrovince reports the Tribe doesn’t think it will find its 2009 closer on its 2008 club, again quoting Wedge:

“A lot would have to happen with the people we have down there now for us to not go out and get somebody,” Wedge said. “Somebody would have to grab the role, really lock into it and prove that we can count on them. That’s a lot to happen in two and a half months.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Yankees: Anti-terror or anti-fan?

I'll let you decide, but let's just say I hope none of the Tribe's sales and marketing types see this.

It seems this past weekend at Yankee Stadium - with the temperature at 95 degrees and the sun beating down unmercifully - security guards greeted fans at the gates by taking away their sun block.

That's according to a story in today's New York Post.

According to the tabloid, Yankee officials say the move was part of the stadium security crew's anti-terrorism efforts.

But fans - as you might guess - were a bit frosted (well not frosted, but you now what I mean.)

"I was really pissed because, since I am Irish and I have a bald head, I need my sunblock," said Sean Gavin, 40, who had to toss his SPF 30 at the gate Saturday." -- fan quoted in NY Post
Team officials told the paper that sun block has been on its list of banned items for some time, but the reporter could not find it on a list of contraband on the Yankees' Web site.

When reading the story it seemed a bit odd to me that this is suddenly an issue, since we have encountered beefed-up security measures everywhere since 9/11.

Certainly security officials throughout the city - both public and private , and especially NYC's police force, - have been vigilant and extremely effective in their anti-terrorism efforts in recent years.

So, it seemed as though it made sense, even if it is an extreme disservice to the fans sitting out in the mid-afternoon sun.

Then I read the the following sentence:

"The Stadium does sell 1-ounce bottles of Arizona Sun SPF 15 for $5 - a huge markup that makes its beer seem cheap."


You really hate to think it. But this is Yankee Stadium where you can't buy any seat in the lower deck for less than $55, but where you can buy a 12-ounce draft beer for $9.50 and a hot dog for $6.00.

It's also the place where bottled water is $5.00 while the water fountain pressure is so low it is impossible to ingest enough city water to quench your thirst in less than 10 minutes.

So is the sun screen thing an anti-terrorism measure or just another way to make a buck - or five?

I'll let you decide.

Just keep on taking it fans and they'll keep on dishing it out.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The most talked about man in Cleveland sports

The most talked about man in Cleveland sports - at least in recent days - spells his name incorrectly.

But he's swinging a hot bat for the Tribe and with the trading deadline getting ever closer, some Tribe fans are pulling back on their earlier enthusiasm for a trade of SS Jhonny Peralta.

With the Tribe faltering badly and Peralta hitting .225 in April and .230 in May, while playing his usual cement-footed SS, Tribe fans started to talk about Peralta as trade bate.

It didn't help that he averaged virtually one K/game for the first two months, and often resembled the ADHD-afflicted player that manager Eric Wedge had complained about in the past.

In June Peralta hit .293, but with only one homer.

As the Tribe sank further in the Central, the cries to trade Peralta grew louder.

But late last month something happened.

In a move that left Tribe fans scratching their heads (mine was rubbed red from the scratching), Wedge put Peralta in the clean-up spot, and he produced.

Since moving into the No. 4 hole on June 22, the Tribe SS is hitting .341, with 12 doubles, five homers and 20 ribbies.

With his current hot streak running for a month now - something unusual for Peralta, who is often criticized for running very hot only to turn very cold for much too long - he has picked up a throng of allies among fans who say the Tribe would be nuts to trade a power-hitting SS.

(Either their minds have been changed, or they have become more vocal about their support of Peralta because this crowd was not heard from back in May.)

Others say they'd like to keep Peralta, but move him to 3b since the Indians have the slick-fielding Asdrubal Cabrera waiting in the wings. (The Tribe bigwigs shot that idea down again today.)

And there is still a vocal contingent who would like to see Peralta traded since he is too one-dimensional, has no real natural position and could help bring back someone who could fill one of the many holes anticipated on the 2009 roster.

From those in the first camp, the best arguments I've heard have come from a guy who posts regularly at MVN's Tribe Report, another Web site I write for.

The logic is Peralta makes the routine plays well, and puts up numbers offensively. He does lead all AL shortstops in homers and is second in RBIs. But his OBP is a mediocre .309 and his OPS is an equally ordinary .790. And for me, a SS should be required to do more defensively than make the routine plays with regularity.

Those who advocate that Peralta should stay right where he is also argue that there is no sure-thing replacement for him in the organization.

It's hard to argue that Cabrera has proven anything - except that he can be a standout fielder.

To quote JB, the guy who comments regularly at the Tribe Report:

"How long would it take watching a shortstop flirt with .200 before Shapiro would be called a fool for letting someone who played the same position while hitting .260/20/75 get away?"

I have to say, the pro-Jhonny camp does make some strong arguments, and when I'm at my flip-floppiest, I sometimes think they are right.

But then I remember the slumps, and the waving at curve balls in the dirt, the attempts to pull every pitch no matter where it's thrown and the lackadaisical attitude when Jhonny isn't into it.

The pro-Jhonny faction also argues that a deadline trade of Peralta won't bring a major-league-ready piece in return because contenders don't want to create one hole to fill another.

I agree completely.

But the same would not hold true in the off-season, when Peralta would bring a riper return.

As for those who would like to move Peralta to 3B, I would say now would be the time to find out if that's possible. He could get two or three days a week there, with Andy Marte getting the rest of the time while Perlta moves back to SS or DHes.

My suspicion, though, is that might not work out so well either. Peralta was determined to not have the tools when he was tried at 3B in the minors.

To argue the point another way, try to picture Jhonny charging a swinging bunt, or diving over the bag then setting to throw to first. Case pretty much closed - although, again, now would be the time to test it.

Those who want to keep Peralta at short argue that his offensive numbers are great for a SS, but just OK for a 3B. But Joe Crede made the All-Star team at 3B with numbers pretty much the same as Peralta's.

And so that brings us to those who want to trade Peralta.

The main name that comes up as a possible interested party is the Dodgers, because of the injury to Rafael Furcal.

But Nomar is playing fairly well at his old position for the Dodgers. And they are rumored to be interested in Jack Wilson, and John McDonald, so they are apparently not as interested in adding an offensive SS as has been rumored in the past.

Casey Blake's name has come up with the Dodgers as well, so a package deal might bring a pretty good haul.

And Rafael Furcal's contract is up at the end of the year, so Peralta's team-friendly contract would appeal to LA.

Still, I'm brought back to the reality that contending teams don't like to fill one hole by creating another.

I don't think - and certainly don't hope - that Peralta will be at SS long-term for the Tribe

But I'm reasonably convinced that Peralta won't be going anywhere by July 31 and I think it's probably best that he isn't.

If I were the Tribe, I'd test Peralta out at 3B some during the last two months of the year.

And then , during the off-season, I would see if someone is willing to give me equal value that is major league-experienced or, at least, major-league-ready an attempt to fill one of the many holes the Tribe is going to have in the off-season.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Are Shapiro, Wedge to blame? One strong argument says no

Tribe fans - much like all fans - like to point fingers when things are going poorly.

The biggest targets seem to be Tribe GM Mark Shapiro and manager Eric Wedge.

I guess there's no surprise there.

But Brian La Shier, one of my partners at MVN's Tribe Report says dropping the blame for this year's fiasco in the laps of GM Mark Shapiro and Eric Wedge is unfair.

"I was asked to compile a review of Cleveland’s front office and coaching staff. That sounded easy enough at first considering all the poor decisions, botched trades, and managerial shenanigans. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that Shapiro and Wedge really aren’t to blame for the season getting off track so dramatically. Some of the more pessimistic fans in the crowd might want to sit this post out because (gasp!) this team was managed much better than their place in the standings would indicate."

Read the rest of Brian's comments here, in the final installment of MVN's three-part series looking at the Tribe's first half.

Meantime, the second-half of the season has gotten off to a pretty rotten start. Aaron Laffey was awful, allowing eight runs in 3 2/3 innings in Seattle Friday night, although five of the runs were unearned.

While that bothers me, a couple of other things bother me more.

David Dellucci was in the frickin' lineup again tonight. There is just no logical reason for him to be there. He's been awful, and he has no role in the future. His appearances at DH are taking ABs away from Ryan Garko and others - at-bats they need to prove that they either belong in the big leagues, or they don't.

Every decision made from here on in must be made with next year in mind. I don't see how Dellucci playing contributes to that goal.

The other thing that bugs me is the statue-like play of Jhonny Peralta at short. It was his booting of a routine groundball that opened the floodgates for the five unearned runs off of Laffey in the second. Peralta and Marte should be splitting 3B to see if either is a viable alternative there for next year, while Asdrubal Cabrera should be given the chance to make a bid for the 2009 shortstop job.

I have to admit with the four Tribeless days completed, I was looking forward to things getting started again so we could start watching the "next-year" folks - Marte at 3B, Cabrera as SS, Peralta at 3B, Raffy Perez as closer.

These moves make sense to me, but I'm not sure the powers that be see it the same way. For them - for some reason - it's important to get David Dellucci some more at bats.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tribe pitchers - like a trip to Cedar Point

Yesterday I posted the first of a three-part series reviewing the Tribe mid-season.

The piece, which I wrote, is part of a series put together by myself, James Pete and Brian La Sheir for MVN's Tribe Report.

In today's installment, James Pete likens watching the Tribe's pitchers to an afternoon at Cedar Point - the undisputed amusement park king of roller coasters.

Click here for James' top-notch report, and be sure to check back tomorrow for Brian's look at the performance of the manager and the GM.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lee lights up N.L. stars

Cliff Lee's magical season continued tonight in the final All-Star game at Yankee Stadium.

The Tribe's new ace mowed down the best the N.L. had to offer as if they were, oh, let's say, the Seattle Mariners.

Cliff struck out three and allowed just one rather sickly single to Chipper Jones in his two-inning starting stint.

It's all I really needed to see at tonight's game, though I'm sure to stick around to see what will likely be Grady's one AB.

Speaking of Grady, here's a note from today’s All-Star parade.

The parade went past the office where my son is interning this summer. He took a lunch break and went down to watch.

Instead of trying to outdo the other guys in terms of having the hottest lady sitting next to him in his parade car, Grady invited his brothers to join him along the route instead. Pretty cool!

One other parade note: After the “ovation” he got from Yankee fans last night, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz tried a little bribery to soften up the locals. Much like civic groups who toss out bubble gum to the kids at the Memorial Day parade in your town (wherever you live), Ortiz was tossing out stogies to the crowd on his way up 6th Ave. Judging by the reception he got during tonight’s player introductions - it didn’t work.

Have to say Ben Sheets looked pretty good tonight too. Whattaya say we take most of that money we were going to give CC after the season and give it to Sheets?

One final note:

A blog called Epic Carnival is doing a takeoff on ESPN's Titletown series. It's called "Loserville" and the first city mentioned is Cleveland. I've already put up a post letting them know what I think. Maybe you want to do the same.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tribe's first half offense - God awful but getting better

As some of you know, I've recently been asked to join MVN's Tribe Report, where a team of three writers - myself, James Pete and Brian La Shier - provide extensive and sophisticated (well the other two do any anyway) coverage of the Tribe.

Below is the first part (my contribution) of a three-part series which will look at the Tribe's first-half and a bit of what we might see the rest of the way. The other two posts will be coming over the All-Star break.

You should check out the site. You'll be glad you did.


I could sum up the Tribe's first-half offense with one five-letter word. S-U-C-K-S !!

But since you came to this Web site for info, I assume you are looking for a little more than that.

So here goes.

For much of the first half of the season, the Indians' offense was just plain dreadful. The team was last in the league in hitting - with a team BA in the low .230's. Those are 1968-like (Year of the Pitcher) numbers.

Watching the Tribe bat for most of the first half of the season was painful to the eyes - and the nose (the stink made it all the way through to my TV set).

Making it even tougher to watch was the fact that the Tribe had a stretch of games in late April and early May where the starting pitchers were throwing like it was 1968, but they could never get more three games above .500.

In a stretch from April 18 to May 15, Indians pitchers gave up three or fewer runs in 20 of 25 games - 7 of which were shutouts. The team was 22-19 at the end of that stretch - the high-water mark of the season.

With its low-.230's BA, the Tribe was last in the league in hitting and also at, or near, the bottom in runs scored for most of the first half.

Hobbled by injuries to, and ineffectiveness of, the three-hole and clean-up hitters - Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner respectively - most of the rest of the hitters (term used loosely) in the Indians' lineup uderpeformed. (Ryan Garko, David Dellucci, Franklin Gutierrez you know we're talking about you.)

Others - Grady Sizemore, Casey Blake and Jhonny Peralta - are performing at about expected levels .

Jamey Carroll is about the only Tribesman who is performing better than expected simply because he is now an everyday player, something no one had imagined during spring training.

No one really could say with any certainty they knew what Ben Francisco and Shin-Soo Choo would do. Choo started out hot after returning from Tommy John surgery but has been a bit of a disappointment after the hot start.

Ben Francisco is having a solid first full season and was on fire heading into the break.

But, the Tribe's offense has gone from unbearably bad to about average in recent weeks.

In the past 30 days the team has hit a more-respectable .263 and the team BA is now at .248 - still last in the league but lot's better than the low .230's and just behind 13th-place Oakland at .250.

The turning point seems to have come in a series in Texas at the beginning of June, when the high winds and hot temperatures helped both teams propel balls out of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington . Since the first game of that series, in which the Tribe scored 35 runs in three games, Cleveland has averaged 5.08 runs a game in 36 games. That's up from 4.03 average in the first 56 games of the year.

While the Texas series seems to be the jumping off point for the offense, some folks point to the insertion of Peralta into the clean-up spot as the a catalyst. But that doesn't seem to have been the difference, at least for the team overall. The Tribe is averaging 4.9 runs a game in the 17 games since Peralta was put into the No. 4 hole, virtually the same as their output since that memorable series in Texas.

The change has done Peralta a world of good though. He's hit an even .300 in those 17 games, with four homers, 11 runs scored and 14 RBIs.

To me, the key to the Tribe's offensive surge-ette has been the decision to correct two serious mistakes.

Hafner last appeared in a game on May 25, and Martinez on June 11 - both roughly around the time the offense started to pick up. It seems clear to me that the long-overdue decisions to put two hurting and hampered players on the DL instead of the middle of the lineup has made all the difference.

How can a team expect to score runs with their No. 3 hitter (Martinez: hamstring and elbow surgery) and No. 4 hitter (Hafner: shoulder) unable to swing a bat anywhere close to normal and making weak outs in the middle of the order? Of all the mistakes the Tribe deep thinkers have made this year, allowing these two to try to play through debilitating injuries was the biggest.

Other reasons for the offensive brownout in the first half include:

- The regression of Garko who at .237 is hitting nearly 40 points below his lifetime average

- The utter failure of Gutierrez, who is hitting only .215 with three homers and is now riding the bench

- The failure of the David Dellucci/Jason Michaels platoon (Dellucci .226; Michaels DFA'd)

- Literally no contribution from Asdrubal Cabrera (hit .184 before being sent to Buffalo in June)

On the other side of the ledger, the brights spot in the first-half were:

- Blake, who has hit so well in the clutch that he has 51 RBI on only 82 hits

- Sizemore - has 21 SB's and a league-leading 22 homers, making a 30-30 season very likely

- Francisco - .288, 8 HRs, 34 RBIs and 816 OPS

Kelly Shoppach is not exactly ripping it up, but he is hitting about .250 with a little bit power in his first full-time role, which are typical starting-catcher numbers.

Peralta, another Tribesman tearing it up heading into the break, is having his typical season overall - spurts of greatness and periods where he looks like he's never grabbed a bat in his life. That usually amounts to roughly 20 homers a year and a .260-or-so average. That seems to be where he is heading this year as well, with his .257 average and 15 dingers at the break.

Carroll is at .267, has taken over as the starter at 2B and plays an intelligent game. He's able to bunt, move a runner and slap a single when you need it, which is just what you want in the No. 2 hole.

While the offense seems to be hitting its stride as the teams take a three-day break, it's hard to say what to expect the rest of the way

Were Hafner's hitting woes a result of his shoulder injury, as seems likely? Or were they just a continuation of the deterioration that Pronk had started to show throughout most of last season? Will we even see Hafner - whose shoulder is at about 50% - again in '08.

Will Victor get his power back with his elbow repaired and his hammy rested? He didn't hit a single homer prior to his injury.

The team's second- and third-highest RBI men, Blake (51) and Peralta (45), are also the most-often-mentioned players in trade rumors, with the deadline looming.

Cabrera - now ripping up Triple-A - is likely to come back up in the second half. Will he resemble the confident, competent creative hitter of last year or the early-season disaster we saw this year?

Will we see the newly acquired Matt LaPorta? What can we expect from him given he's never played above Double-A and has the weight of fan expectations on his shoulders as the key piece in the CC Sabathia trade?

Unfortunately the answers to those questions won't matter much for the rest of this season. But they will make a big difference in the planning for '09, as the Tribe and its fans wait - once again - for next year.

(note to nit-pickers: The stats in this article are through Friday night's games and do not include Saturday or Sunday due to edit time requirements .)

Our first year at TFYL

It was one year ago.

The Tribe was in the pennant race and I was excited.

I was heading into that three-day interruption of the season for a contrived contest, followed the next night by an exhibition game and then a night of nothing.

I needed something to do.

So I decided to start this blog.

It's been a very good year.

May newfound hobby had me even more immersed than I would have otherwise been in the second half of last year's wonderful season.

The offensive brownout in late July and August was the subject much of my early writing.

Then Asdrubal Cabrera was called up from Buffalo and - coincidence or not - the Tribe was off on its super-charged sprint to the A.L. pennant.

Who can forget the ALDS against the Yankees - especially the so-called bug game.

Then there was the exhilarating start to the ALCS against Boston.

And the heartbreaking ending.

We slowed the pace in the off-season, but stayed on top of trade rumors - trades that ultimately were not made.

We covered the change of the name of the place that Tribe fans called home for 14 years.

This year started out with great promise, but the team never got it going. Right from the beginning you could see something was wrong.

It turned out the Tribe was loading the middle of its lineup with broken-down batters, which helped to snuff out the offense and put the season in jeopardy.

One of the biggest highlights of a mostly lost season was the return of Omar for likely the last time to Cleveland.

By early June it was over, CC was traded and it's wait 'til next year.

The Tribe got it revved up at the end of the first half - sweeping the now-second-place Rays (courtesy of the Tribe) in four games at Progressive Field.

It's been a year of ups and downs, but it has been fun.

Wonder what we'll be talking about a year from now.

Friday, July 11, 2008

In appreciation of Cliff Lee

In a season best forgotten, Cliff Lee is having a campaign to cherish.

The Tribe lefty ace - officially now as well as on the stat sheet - provided Indians fans with yet another cool breeze tonight in what has been a hot, muggy night of a season.

What a difference a year makes.

A year ago Lee was laboring through the worst season of his career, having suffered an oblique injury early in the season and struggling to find his way the rest of the year.

Indians fans were ready to run Lee out of town - with yours truly volunteering to deliver the eviction notice personally.

He was eventually dispatched to Buffalo and then called back up by the Tribe to watch the pennant race from the bullpen bench in September.

During the winter he was the fans' No. 1 target to be traded.

Tonight - after shutting out the Tampa Bay Rays for six innings - the Tribe's new ace is packing his bags for New York and a likely start in this year's All Star Game.

He ends the official first-half of the year with a 12-2 record on a club that is 14 games under .500. He has nearly one-third of the team's 39 wins. He is tied for the league lead in wins and is second in the AL in ERA. He's allowed only 129 baserunners in 125 innings. He's walked only 20 and K'd 106.

In short he has put up phenomenal numbers

But, the numbers tell only part of the story.

Only when you watch Lee on the mound do you get a true feeling for just how dominating he's been, how he attacks the strike zone and is ready to fire the next pitch just as soon as the ball comes back from the catcher.

The man who looked so lost just one year ago is throwing with attitude and a cool confidence that has brought him to new heights.

It sometimes is easy to let the good things get lost in the disappointment of a season like this one.

Cliff Lee is having a season to remember and we shouldn't forget that.

There's no ballgame in Margaritaville

If a ten-game losing streak ends but you don't see it with your own eyes, did it really happen?

Despite my rather slavish ambition to watch every Tribe game that comes along, no matter how awful they are playing, I managed to miss last night's game which produced the largest offensive outburst of any game at Progressive Field and the third-largest run total of the season.

I was not in front of my TV screen last night.

I was, in fact, at a local college attending an outdoor concert by a Jimmy Buffet cover band. Who even knew there were Jimmy Buffet cover bands?

So instead of seeing the Tribe whack four dingers, and Ben Francisco, Casey Blake and David Dellucci (why is he still in the lineup?) knock in 10 runs between them, it was Jimmy and the Parrots for me.

Not to knock Jimmy and the Parrots.

And there was a fireworks show to boot. And as a former Clevelander you know how much I like my fireworks (don't they have them about every other night at the ballpark?)

So though I missed last night's rare event - a boatload of runs - had I seen it I'm sure it would have been a lot like having a Cheeseburger in Paradise.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

An addict's guide to watching the post-CC Tribe

CC is gone, the games mean nothing and the team has no life.

Still, there are thousands of addicts - including myself - out there who just can't stop watching the Tribe.

Here's an addicted fan's guide to making the watching less painful:

1. Skip the games started by Byrd and Sowers - or at least one of the two if you can't do both. TIVO Monday's Home Run Derby instead and watch it on those nights. Same results, less pain.

2. By all means get TIVO if you don't have it. My machine plays back in four speeds. Baseball moves so slowly that you can watch it at playback speed No. 1 and still see all the action, including the type and location of every pitch. If you miss a close play, you can easily see it on the slo-mo instant replay provided by STO or, if you must, you can go back and watch it at the original speed. Use fast-forward Setting No. 3 during commercials. I spent a nice night poolside last night. Came in about 9:15 or so and watched every inning of last night's debacle by 10:20. Added bonus: you can't hear Matt Underwood when the TIVO is on fast forward (though you may miss a cogent comment by Rick Manning from time to time).

3. Unless Cliff Lee is pitching, have the newspaper handy so you can look away during the other team's ABs.

4. Take pee and snack breaks when David Dellucci is batting.

5. Have a big bowl of chocolate ice cream ready for when the pen comes into the game. It will make those innings easier to swallow.

6. Pray for a thunderstorm if you have satellite. At least then you will be forced to miss an inning or so when the worst of the storm is overhead.

7. Appreciate the little things - a slick play in the field, an actual hit with RISP, stuff like that.

8. For those of you who are old enough, pretend the 90s never happened and that this is just that time of year - life is as it has always been.

That should hold you for at least a few weeks. By then there may be a new player or two to watch or a few injured players back in the lineup to scrutinize in the hope that they have regained their lost skills along with their health.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Quickie thoughts on post-CC game 1

First let's start with CC.

Five was his big number tonight - 5 hits, 5 walks, 5 Ks and, according STO, 5 standing O's from the Milwaukee faithful. Despite the ten base runners over 6 innings, the big man gave up only two runs and as I write this it appears he will get his first NL win tonight.

Let me just wish the Brewers fans good luck with CC. I've always like the team and the city. very Clevelandesque. And they filled in nicely for us as the "hometown" fans in the snows of last April, Here's hoping, for the suffering Milwaukee fans' sake, that CC puts them over the top, although with the Cubs picking up Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin it's going to be that much harder.

On to the featherheads.

First of all, someone please explain to me why we have to watch David Dellucci for one more second this year. What is the point? I suppose management could hope for a miracle -that he'll add 40 points to his BA between now and July 31 so someone will want him. But really, why is he in there?

Which brings us to Andy Marte. Why is he not in there. He needs to play every day at 3B so that the Tribe can answer all doubts before they pull the plug on him.

I have no way of knowing who Eric Wedge was referring to in a clip that was shown during the game on STO tonight, but I can take a guess. It followed a comment by Matt Underwood that there will be plenty of opportunity for the youngsters to show what they have over the next 2 1/2 months.

STO then played a clip of Wedge saying that won't necessarily be the case for every youngster on the team.

"Part of is it what we think they can ultimately be next year and beyond next year. If we don't feel like there's an opportunity for them to be part of a championship club next year and on into the future than I don't see much sense in giving them the opportunity this year."

Andy Marte anyone?

Can't say for sure, but who else could he be referring to? And if they've already determined Marte will never make it, why is he still on the team?

In case you are wondering how Matt Laporta did in his first game with Akron - they got rained out.

It's well past my reasonable bedtime. So that will have to hold us for now.

Be back tomorrow or sometime soon with some tips on how to watch the post-trade Tribe - if you must.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Shapiro: Now was better than later

Just got done watching Mark Shapiro’s press conference on ESPN.

Here, in a nutshell, is what he said.

The strongest point he tried to make (perhaps looking at some of the backlash already) is that the trade offers he got now were likely better than what he could have anticipated as the trading deadline approached.

That seems counterintuititive (a fancy word for BS), but he did have a viable explanation.

Shapiro said there were seven teams involved in the conversation. Two - presumably the Brewers being one of the two - said they were likely to downgrade their offers the longer they had to wait to get CC. Other teams, Shapiro said, were on the periphery of contention and may or may not have remained in the market three weeks from now.

It seems as though Shapiro was unwilling to play a game of chicken with the two teams who said CC would be worth less to them as time wore on and just decided a bird in the hand was the way to go. Time will tell.

One other interesting note - Shapiro seemed to indicate that the alleged last-gasp effort to sign CC before taking offers never happened.

“We felt we thoroughly explored an extension with CC in spring training. CC made it clear that once the season started he did not want to entertain any negotiations. In addition to that, our exploration of a contract in spring training was thorough enough to understand that the combination of our capabilities and CC’s expectations didn’t align. “

The GM would not put any expectations on newly acquired Matt LaPorta, saying only that he would be moved along at a pace commensurate with his performance. As far as whether he would likely be a 1B or an outfielder, Shapiro said the Tribe would move LaPorta from right to left for now and have him take groundballs at 1B. The GM said LaPorta would likely see time at 1B this season in the minors. Shapiro said when LaPorta appears to be on the verge of major-league readiness, the team will look at its needs on the big club at the time and decide from there where to use him.

Shapiro also said the player to be named later - whoever that turns out to be - is someone who, if not included, would have caused the deal to go sour. In other words its a serious prospect, though he refused to say too much for fear of giving away the identity of the player.

When asked if the team needed a serious overhaul on offense Shapiro said he expects Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner to be back and to contribute as they have in the past - and he said their return later this season will give him a better idea of what to expect from them next year. Still, he said, the team will continue to look to upgrade its offense, as well as the bullpen. There are no current trade talks underway however, according to Shapiro.

The GM said he is glad he didn’t pull the trigger on any off-season trades because the addition of one more bat would not have made any compensated for the way the offense has produced due to injuries and under-performance.

CC deal brings yet another “can’t miss” youngster to Tribe

Let me start by saying I understand perfectly well that the Tribe had to trade CC Sabathia.

The season was over almost before it started, though most of us didn’t realize it until two or three weeks ago. So, with the Tribe unable to get his double-C on a dotted line, the big man had to go.

Even though there was plenty of advanced notice, just the concept of CC in someone else’s uniform is hard to swallow.

Does it help that the Tribe got the Brewers’ best prospect in return - a guy who is considered a top-25 prospect? A little.

But what does that really mean?

For every Joe Carter and Mel Hall for Rick Sutcliffe deal there are those deals that brought Reggie Jefferson, Mark Whitten and Glenallen Hill to the Tribe.

No need to go back to the early 80s and 90s to make my point. Just look over at the well-worn part of the Tribe bench where Andy Marte sits during the ballgames.

It happens to other teams too. Remember how “can’t-miss” Jerrod Saltamalacchia was at this team last year? How’s that looking?

So why should Tribe fans be dancing in the streets over the acquisition of Matt LaPorta? The slugging outfielder/first baseman had plenty of great teammates to chose from down in Huntsville. Why didn’t the Tribe get one of those guys? (Assuming the reports on the trade are accurate.)

And even if they had, wouldn’t they have been a crap shoot too?

Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Cliff Lee notwithstanding, I’ve never been a big fan of the star-for-prospect deals that Tribe fans have had to swallow for years.

I was hoping for a guy on someone’s 25-man roster as part of a CC package- someone not getting the playing time their talents might command in Cleveland. Failing that, I was hoping for someone ready to be put on the Tribe’s big league roster right now.

All that said, if that’s the reality of a mid-market team - and it is - at least the Tribe has boosted the power potential in its system.

The only other saving grace is CC wasn’t sent to the Yankees, Mets or Red Sox - though we can all assume that’s coming down the road. About $80 million comes off the Yankee payroll on Oct. 1, and they’re opening a new stadium next season. The only thing that will keep CC out of pinstripes would be a decision on his part that the circus is not for him.

Back to LaPorta.

Paul Cousineau at The DiaTribe has a well-done (as always) profile of the newest member of the Tribe.

In his post, Paul talks about why LaPorta may be playing at Progressive Field sooner than you might think. Also, from my reading of Paul's piece, it sounds like LaPorta might be looking at a future at 1B rather than in the outfield.

Just two comments about that.

A call-up to Cleveland this season seems optimistic to me and possibly not the best thing for LaPorta's development. There are plenty of guys on the squad right now who need playing time the rest of the way to prove they belong for next year.

Also, the fact the LaPorta projects to be a 1B says a lot about how sold the Tribe brass is on Ryan Garko. Good to see they don't consider that position settled. I sure don't.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

UPDATE:CC to Brewers reported as done deal

UPDATE: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt is now reporting that the deal of CC Sabathia to the Brewers for outfielder Matt LaPorta and two other prospects is done - pending completion of paperwork and physicals.

Earlier in the day the story was reported as done, by, which later backed off that report.

Below is my earlier post which also contains some thoughts on the perfect new home for Jhonny Peralta.

I've been staying out of the CC to be traded any second now rumors, mostly because everyone else with a computer seems to be posting, rehashing and embellishing every rumor out there. Why add to the clutter?

But tonight there appears to be some evidence that tomorrow may be the day that Sabathia becomes a Milwaukee Brewer.'s Anthony Castrovince posted earlier today that a trade of Sabathia for Double-A slugging outfielder Matt LaParta and two other prospects would head to Cleveland in return for CC.

But a few hours later Castrovince pulled back on that story quite a bit, reporting that Tribe GM Mark Shapiro was denying that a deal had been cut.

Meanwhile, Brewer beat writer Tom Haudricourt - who has been all over this story - reports that "a reporter in Cleveland" told Haudricourt there are "indications" the Tribe is preparing a press conference for tomorrow - an off day.

In addition, FOX Sports is reporting the Dodgers have apparently dropped out of the CC sweepstakes.

Even if the Dodgers have dropped out of the CC race, it's still possible the Indians could get their hands on one of the Dodgers prospects who are either MLB-ready or already in the bigs.

Let me emphasize that this is purely wishful thinking on my part, added to some deductive reasoning. There is nothing to support this other than common sense. Let me say for a third time, I'm making this up, but it makes a lot of sense.

According the the Dodgers team site on, Dodger GM Ned Colletti now appears ready to give up one of his ripened prospects for an offensive-minded SS.

Any misspelled first names come to mind Tribe fans?

LA needs a SS to replace Rafael Furcal, who will be out at least eight weeks with a back injury.

Anybody like to see any of the following in a Tribe uni for the rest of this year and beyond: Matt Kemp, James Loney, Andre Ethier and Andy LaRoche. Kemp and Ethier are outfielders, Loney is a 1B and LaRoche is a 3B - all positions of need for the Tribe.

Andruw Jones' return from injury could make it easier for the Dodgers to shake loose Either Kemp or Either.

I wouldn't trade either one for Jhonny Peralta if I were the Dodgers, but they do now have a gaping hole at SS, Joe Torre does like his veterans and Peralta beat up Torre's former team in the AL playoffs last year. And it is tough to find an experienced replacement for your SS mid-season.

Personally, I don't think there's any chance the Dodgers trade Kemp, and with LaPorta possibly coming from Milwaukee I think the Tribe should try to land Loney. I wouldn't do it if I were the Dodgers. But sometimes a pressing need alters your thinking.

Now if we can only find takers for Byrd, Dellucci and Garko....