Wednesday, November 12, 2008

CENTRAL ISSUES: The Tribe's Bullpen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo credit: SD DIRK/flickr)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A fond farewell to Herbie

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

Said as only Herbie could say it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today we hear the news that Herbie is gone.

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

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

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

That name again is Casey Blake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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