I am trying to find what works for me in this blog. I would like to write just a little more often, but keep the content much shorter. This is a very difficult assignment for me. I have a very hard time putting my ideas down and it can take days for me to finalize my post. I have always struggled with writing, and I never considered myself very good. I appreciate all the comments on the site and those who have told me in person they enjoy the blog. That encourages me to try harder so thank you. So with that said I am going to try and post a weekly recap. Hopefully I can find a rhythm that works for me. Hopefully the Tribe can get back into rhythm soon.
The Tribe locked up Ryan Raburn for two more years with a club option for a third year at a very reasonable salary of roughly 2.5 million. The Indians bench has been one of the strengths this year, and should be for a couple more years hopefully. After trading for Mike Aviles this winter the Indians signed him to a contract extension through 2015, while catcher Yan Gomes is making the league minimum through 2015. The Tribe’s bench gives Francona a lot of options when it comes to roster management during a game. Gomes has been looking superior defensively to Carlos Santana behind the pate, and Rayburn and Aviles can play almost any position if asked. If fact Rayburn pitched in the 9th inning of Thursday nights fiasco against his former team the Detroit Tigers. The bullpen was decimated from the previous nights 14 inning loss and Raburn took one for the team by going out to pitch in a lost cause. Actually he posted a perfect inning and struck out Detroit’s Matt Tuiasosopo.
Matt Tuiasosopo, Ryan Rayburn owns you!
The Tribe went 2 – 5 for the week. They started out the week playing the lowly Miami Marlins. After getting beat down 10 – 0 on Friday the Tribe won the next two to take the series from Miami. The Indians then came home to start a four game series against the 1st place Detroit Tigers. BIG SERIES…. Big Let Down. I could of put this in the Ugly column but lets not panic. Yea the Tigers have a good team. Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Tori Hunter, Victor Martinez, not to mention a CY Young pitching staff. They own the Indians this year. They do have problems with the rest of the league. I am not saying that the Indians will win this division, but I don’t see why they can’t stay close to Detroit. The Tigers are not good defensively and if they don’t hit extra base hits they move base to base. They are the slowest team I believe I ever saw. Fans use to think Travis Hafner was slow, but he really wasn’t that bad. Victor Martinez on the other hand couldn’t out run my friend JJ. And for those of you who know JJ that’s slow. Prince Fielder makes Miguel Cabrera look small and Cabrera is a fat ass! The point being the Tigers are not perfect and they do lose quite regularly to everyone but the Indians. If you take away the games between the two teams the Tigers record would be 55 – 42 while the Tribe would be 59 – 40. They play 3 more games against each other in Detroit, so the Indians could theoretically make up ground over Labor Day weekend, and there is 7 weeks of baseball left. That is one game a week. Don’t forget that on June 11th the Tribe was 5 1/2 games behind Detroit, but by June 30th was in 1st place. I don’t think the Tribe wins the division, possible but not probable. I do think if they keep chasing Detroit ultimately they will be in good position to win a wild card spot. I don’t see this group of players quitting on Francona.
I was talking to my friend John at Thursday nights game. He thought the Tribe should get into a fight with Detroit. The way that Detroit has pushed us around lately I am starting to think that’s not a bad idea. The Indians might want to get physical with the Tigers just to let them know they are not intimidated by them. I don’t see Francona going there, but by that last game in Detroit if the scenario hasn’t changed… I would throw down.
Corey Kluber has been one of the biggest surprises this year for the Tribe. Kluber came out in the first game against Detroit and pitched 7 1/3 innings of shut out baseball. He should of won that game if not for a melt down by Chris Perez in the ninth. I am glad Perez is not talking to the media. What do you want to hear him say after that mess. Just shut up and go do your job, I don’t need to hear any excuses. Any way Kluber was fantastic. He comes to the game the next day complaining his middle finger hurts. Now he is on the DL for 6 to 8 weeks. For a team that needs things to go their way this was a major blow. Danny Salazar has looked impressive so far but it still can’t be good when you lose one of your best pitchers. Last night Scott Kazmir left the game early and I am not sure why. I was hoping the Tribe would sign Kazmir next to a new contract. Hopefully this is only a minor setback and nothing serious, because the Indians are not in a position to lose starting pitchers in a playoff race.
So here we are at the All-Star break 1 1/2 games out of first and 7 games above .500. I really don’t believe this team is going to collapse like years past. The Tribe is not perfect. They have their faults, but this team has a drive/desire to win. The schedule is going to play into their favor and I think a few of the position players can increase their output. Overall they seem to be a close knit team that is having fun. Winning is usually a good recipe for fun, and the Indians have been winning.
It is the so called half way point of the season, and I thought I should evaluate the players so far. I was listening to the radio the other day and the host compared a player to Keystone Light beer. He said he was cheap, but not very good. I got a chuckle out of that and decided I should rate the entire 25 man roster like that. Pull up a case of your favorite and lets get going.
#27 & 26 Genesee Bock – Nick Hagadone & Rich Hill
I remember in college buying a six pack of Genesee Bock beer with my buddy Emery. I can’t think of any reason why we bought it other than we thought the can looked funny. Who in the hell puts Goats and Flowers on a beer can? If the beer was any good they wouldn’t be putting it in a can! I remember that I didn’t like it and I never drank it again. The same can be said for Nick Hagadone and Rich Hill. I don’t like the way they have pitched as the lefties out of the bullpen, and I don’t care to see them pitch anymore like that. O.K. Hagadone is not technically on the roster at the moment, but he has been for the majority of the season. He has pitched so poorly that he is player who gets sent to the minors repeatedly when they need a roster spot to bring someone up. Lefty relief help is the one glaring weakness on this team. Francona has consistently shown faith in both of them, so Hagadone and Hill need to step up.
#25 Old Milwaukee – Ubaldo Jimenez
In high school most of my friends drank Old Milwaukee. When I went to college the same was true. I was not a fan, but when your buying cases of beer and sharing you go along with the majority. I really thought this beer tasted like crap, but it was beer so I kept drinking it.
Ubaldo Jimenez is a pitcher and they keep pitching him. He is not a great pitcher, but he serves a purpose just like Old Milwaukee. To be fair Ubaldo has not been horrible. He actually seems to be pretty good at times. Unfortunately every game by the fifth inning he is approaching 100 pitches or is past it already. The bullpen has had it troubles this year. Ubaldo can take part of the blame, because every time he pitches the bullpen never gets any rest. If this team is going to challenge for the entire year the bullpen needs to improve. The starters going deeper into games will help the bullpen. Ubaldo can not just go out and pitch, he also needs to be good and go deep into games. Who names something “Old” anyway?
#24 Busch – Vinnie Pestano
My friends drank Old Milwaukee, I liked Busch. It was cheep but I liked it. What more can I say. It can’t be that bad, the St. Louis Cardinals stadium is named Busch Stadium. Milwaukee is not named Old Milwaukee Stadium.
Vinnie Pestano is my Busch beer. How can you not like him. He runs from the bullpen to the mound at a full sprint whenever called on to pitch. He accepts blame when he pitches bad and does not shy away from the media. He answers questions honestly and has been dominate the last couple years. Unfortunately this year he stinks. I am not sure if he is healthy, but whenever he comes in get ready for a home run. I like Pestano and I want him to be good, but the truth is right now he is not a top reliever.
#23 King Cobra – Mark Reynolds
Their slogan is “Don’t let the smooth taste fool you.” Same can be said for Mark Reynolds. Don’t let his awesome home run power fool you. Yea he can mess another team up sometimes, but he can also hit under .200 for two months straight. Better yet he has hit .091 for the month of July. Yikes! Don’t let the 15 homes runs fool you. Four home runs since May 10, He was unstoppable in April/May, but now he looks like he drank some King Cobra. The one position player that I am truly worried about.
Pabst Blue Ribbon, the beer that won a blue ribbon at the Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893! You won an award in 1893 and your still bragging about it. I go to find out that there is doubt whether they even won an award at this event. If the last time you won was in 1893 then you had better try something else.
Giambi was great at one time and it wasn’t 124 years ago. He is not the same player he once was. That being said I still think he brings a lot to this team. He has about 1/2 the HR’s and RBI’s of Mark Reynolds in 1/3 of the at bats. He produces when runners are in scoring potion and I think he brings a great veteran presence to the team. His hustle and face slide into first earlier this year motivated this team. They went on a nice winning streak after this event. The problem is you can’t have Giambi and Reynolds both hitting .200 and getting everyday at bats. They need to start producing or the Tribe needs to move on to something else.
#21 Coors Banquet Beer – Nick Swisher
I am not really sure what Banquet beer means. It is cheap and you can supply a banquet if you need to? I just remember as a kid that when anyone went past the Mississippi river the neighbors would give them money to bring back Coors beer. Just because it wasn’t sold here it was special if you got it. Big time free agents don’t generally come to Cleveland. So when one does it seems special. Unfortunately Swisher is not preforming up to his capabilities. He may just be average and not the masher he was when surrounded by superior talent in New York. While not a failure he should be capable of more than he has showed so far.
#20 Miller High Life – Lonnie Chisenhall
Miller High Life calls itself the champagne of beers. Uh O.K.? It still stinks and I can’t stand that crap. Any half ass brewer knows you don’t put beer in clear bottles.
Chisenhall has one of the prettiest swings in baseball. His swing is the champagne of swings. To bad his production is more like High Life’s taste. Alright his production isn’t nearly that bad, but it could better.
#19 – 16 Budweiser – Matt Albers, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, & Joe Smith
I drink Budweiser all of the time. It is not my favorite but I can always count on it. It taste the same and I am rarely surprised. Same goes for the majority of the Tribe relievers. They have pitched pretty well so far. The few mistakes they have made seemed to be at the most inopportune times, or the defense has let them down. I am not to worried about them, but like Budweiser we don’t need to use them every day.
#15 Carling’s Black Label – Scott Kazmir
There was a time when Carling’s Black Label was one of the most popular beers. Just watch the movie Animal House. A reference is made to this fact in the bar scene. I still will have one when I find it.
A few years ago Kazmir was one of the best pitchers in baseball. He has not been dominate with the Tribe, but you have to be encouraged with the way he has pitched this year. After all he was out of baseball for a couple of years. I like Black Label and I like Kazmir. I think he only gets better as the season goes on.
#14 Red Stripe – Chris Perez
Jamaica’s Red Stripe has to be Brody Baum’s beer of choice. That would be Chris Perez’s dog who gets packages of marijuana sent to their house. Perez has had a couple of bad games, but overall he has been o.k. He did spend a few weeks on the D.L. but seems to be over that. The Tribe needs him to be solid with the rest of the bullpen having some problems. If Perez can’t keep it together this team may be in trouble.
#13 Sam Adams Cherry Wheat – Drew Stubbs
S.A. Cherry Wheat is one of my favorite beers. We carried it at the bar I worked at, but I was the only one who drank it. The distributor kept dropping it because no other bars would buy it. Drew Stubbs is player I really like. Others don’t enjoy his contributions as much as I do. Stubbs doesn’t have the highest batting average and he does strike out often. I just enjoy the other aspects of his game. He is the fastest player on the team, and his speed changes the game. He is a very good outfielder with a pretty good arm, and when he gets on base watch out. He causes the other team to panic sometimes which leads to big innings. He also has some power to hit a home run. Maybe one day more people will join me in enjoying a Cherry Wheat and watching Drew Stubbs.
#12 Yuengling – Asdrubal Cabrera
Yuengling is America’s oldest brewery. Asdrubal has been a member of the Tribe longer than any other member of the team. Their are a lot of rumors that the Tribe may trade Cabrera. Fransico Lindor is now at double A Akron and could be in Cleveland by late next year. Lindor looks to be a star. Cabrera has had some difficulties especially in the beginning of the year, but he is definitely one of the players I see stepping it up. I do give Cabrera credit that I have not heard any complaining from him with all of the rumors. I think Cabrera thrives in pressure situations and I can see him becoming a force down the stretch in a close pennant race.
#11 – #9 Fosters – Yan Gomes, Ryan Raburn, & Mike Aviles
Fosters comes in the big oil cans and you get a lot of beer. Same could be said for Gomes, Raburn, and Aviles. The Tribe has found three players who give them a lot off of the bench. Aviles filled in for Cabrera when he was out for a month. He can play multiple positions and has some pop in his bat. The same can be said for Raburn who can man the corner outfield positions. Either one can play everyday if needed. Gomes might not be an everyday player, but he is much better than past back up catchers.
#8 Michelob – Carlos Santana
Michelob comes in those fancy bottles that look all high class. In reality I think it’s just Budweiser in a fancy bottle. I expect a lot more out of it. Carlos Santana is pretty good and critical to this teams offense. I just expect more from him, and his defense can be atrocious sometimes. I am waiting for him to hit .300 and be a home run threat every time he steps to the plate. Teams do pitch around him but I am looking for that MVP type player to show up. Santana is probably just what we see, a really good offense player but not elite.
#7 Blatz – Zach McAllister
I loved Blatz beer. I could drop those little oblong bottles and they would just bounce. But whenever I drank it I was worried about what was going to come out the next day. McAllister was one of the Tribe’s best pitchers before going on the DL with a finger injury. He had a better ERA than Masterson. He has done a spectacular job so far. I am worried about what going to happen tomorrow with McAllister. If he can come back and continue pitching like before that will be a big boost to this team. Hopefully he bounces back from his injury. If he does lets pray he is not a flash in the pan and the league doesn’t start figuring him out.
#6 Milwaukee’s Best – Michael Bourne
Michael Bourne came relatively cheap to the Tribe. He is doing what he does best and that is use his speed. He plays a very good center field and when he gets on base he is a threat to score from first. He might not be the best player on the field, but he is just what the Indians needed.
#5 Bud Light – Cory Kluber
This is one player I was not expecting much out of this year. Kluber has turned into one of this seasons more pleasant surprises. If not for Kluber and McAllister becoming good starting pitcher, this season could have been disappointing. I wasn’t buying Kluber this year, but since he is here I will keep drinking it.
Labatts is my beer of choice. On a day in day out basis I choose Labbatts over any other beer. It is not expensive. I like the taste and I can find it in most stores as long as I don’t cross the Mason -Dixon line. It is everything I want. Michael Brantley is my Labattt. He plays a great left field along with being able to play the other outfield positions. Zero errors so far and he is amoung the league leaders in outfield assist. When the Indians need a hit Brantley is the man. He is batting .370 with runners in scoring position. That is 4th in the American League trailing Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis. The two AL MVP candidates this year. I had a bad experience once with Bradley. If I could just get past that he could be one of my favorite players. I have had a few bad experiences with Labatts and that hasn’t stopped our relationship. So no more hard feelings Michael.
#3 Guinness – Justin Masterson
Justin Masterson is not your everyday ball player. He seems like a player you might actually be friends with in life. He is funny and joking around all of time. Last year he got money together from the players to fly Jack Hannahan home on a private plane to be there for the birth of his child. I think he keeps the team loose while also being a leader. Not to mention he is having an All-Star season.
Fat Tire still has not made it to Ohio. It is the one craft beer I truly enjoy. When I get some I hoard it and drink it only on special occasions. It is in my opinion a great beer. I have been telling you for a couple years now about Jason Kipnis. Like Fat Tire the entire nation has not got to enjoy his play. I think he is an incredible ball player. He doesn’t lead the league in any categories but he does everything. He leads the Tribe in average, hits, triples, home runs, and stolen bases. He is only one behind Santana for team lead in doubles. This guy is a tough player and should become the face of the franchise. His teams have won championships wherever he went, I hope that holds true in Cleveland.
#1 Tequilla – Terry Francona
Francona has been the biggest factor in the success of the Cleveland Indians this year. I don’t think the Tribe would be where they are at today without Francona. The team believes they can win, and they play as a team. They never look ahead playing one game at a time. Eric Wedge use to preach about taking it one game at a time, but he never seemed to connect his message with the players like Francona has. Francona has won two world series in Boston so he has a reputation. Players respect him and they want to play for him. I am not sure if the Indians would have signed all of the free agents they did this past winter if not for Terry Francona. He definitely brought a different way of thinking to the Indians and that alone has been the biggest positive so far this season.
Yes the Kent State Golden Flashes have had a historic year. An 11 – 1 record with 2 more games to play. The Golden Flashes have had two winning seasons since I came to Kent. A 7 -4 record in 1987 and 6 -5 in 2001. 84 total wins since 1985 with 19 of those wins coming in the last three years, and 48 wins coming in the last ten years. This has been a wonderful season to watch.
Kent has some very good players. A couple of offensive linemen who are going to be drafted this year. One Brian Winters, maybe in the second round. Roosevelt Nix a junior defensive linemen who is one of their better players. The team has two great running backs Trayion Durham and Dri Archer. Archer a junior had scored a touchdown in every game this year until last week. He is definitely one of the more exciting players in the country. He has scored 21 touchdowns on the year by rushing, receiving, kick returns, punt returns, and passing. If you get to watch any games keep your eye on Archer. He can score at any moment.
What does this have to do with the Tribe? The Golden flashes and the Cleveland Indians are going in opposite directions. Kent State with a win could possible end up with a BCS birth in the Orange Bowl! The baseball team just completed competing in the college world series and knocked off a few top five teams on the way to a top 10 finish. Everyone is talking about the Kent State Golden Flashes and they are making appearances on national TV. The Cleveland Indians are nowhere to be seen. It is like they are trying not to be noticed. The last two months of the baseball season it was hard to find anyone who could tell me what the Tribe had done in any game. The apathy towards the Indians was staggering. I might as well of talked politics and religion with people. The Tribe fell out of the pennant race and out of everyone’s thoughts. The Indians made few moves and were fairly silent. They did fire Manny Acta and hire Terry Francona, their big headline for the last 4 months. They quietly released Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Roberto Hernandez (I don’t even know who that guy is – oh Fausto Carmona) and a few other muffled moves. Don’t mind us we are not doing anything, really! They are like an actor or politician who gets in trouble and decides to lay low for a while. I am really hoping that they turn it up a notch during the winter meeting and create some excitement about the team, but I doubt it. There have been rumors they may try and rebuild again. With interest in the Tribe at an all-time low this would only intensify their problems in my opinion.
Here are my thoughts on what has happened so far.
Firing Acta and hiring Francona: I didn’t mind Manny Acta, but I thought that he didn’t have the intensity this team needed. The team seamed listless sometimes and was going through the motions. I was talking to my beer vendor buddy Tim and we were discussing how a team takes on its manager’s personality. I think this was totally true. Acta rarely argued with umpires and would calmly go about his job. I think there are times when a manager needs to go off to fire his team up. They don’t have to be Lou Piniella, but they can jump start a dugout. (One of my favorite games I ever attended Lou kicked his hat around the infield a dozen times, and then up into the stands. He then tried to retrieve his hat. The crowd cheered louder and louder with every kick. ) I don’t think the players in the end liked playing for Acta. There was a game in New York where Dewayne Wise dove into the stands to make a catch. He came out of the stands and the umpire called Jack Hannahan out even though Wise didn’t have the ball. Dewayne Wise Bogus Catch Hannahan proceded to get tossed from the game and Acta argued but remained in the game. This was one play that called for a Lou Pinniella moment. One of the worst calls of all time and Acta does not argue for his player. It was events like this that I think peeved players. They didn’t think that Acta stood up for them. I felt Asdrubal especially became frustrated with Acta a few times. The fans in Cleveland wanted Sandy Alomar Jr. as the manager, but I think Francona was the right choice. He has had a great relationship with the front office in the past, working as a special advisor. I believe he was well liked by players in Boston and could attract free agents to Cleveland. Francona comes from a large Boston market that had intense pressure to win, and he produced. He could have had about any job he wanted and he choose Cleveland.
Player Movement: Releasing Hafner, Sizemore, and Hernadez does not surprise me. Nor would I be surprised if any of them are back with the team next year. I doubt it and hope not, but I could see Hafner signing a low contract with incentives. He is married and lives in Cleveland now. Our offense is better when he is in the lineup, unfortunately that was not nearly enough. Hafner was one of the most feared hitters in the game five years ago. In 2006 teams did anything they could not to pitch to him. They would be better off to walk him with the bases loaded than to pitch to him. (He hit 6 grand slams that year and 42 home runs) I wish Grady Sizemore could have made it back last year. There was a time I thought Sizemore would be the face of the franchise and the one player the Tribe would pay to keep. Injuries changed all of that. I feel as though Sizemore should play for free for the Indians after last year, but I doubt he will be back. The Tribe did make a minor move by trading Esmil Rogers to the Toronto Blue Jays for infielders Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes. Rogers was a reclamation project who had a very good year last year. Even if Rogers has turned the corner the Tribe has plenty of bull pen arms and can risk trading for other needs. Aviles at the very least solves the Tribes utility infielder position and backs up Asdrubal which they sorely needed last year. Gomes is a right handed bat with power that can play multiple corner positions and even catch.
Should the Tribe Reload or Rebuild: There have been a lot of rumors that the Tribe may try to cash in on some of their veteran players and trade them. Asdrubal Cabrera, Chris Perez, and Shin-Soo Choo. The thinking is that the Tribe has very few players (other than relief pitchers) in the upper minors who will be ready to help soon. They do have some quality players in single A. Some of their top prospects play shortstop. Fransico Lindor being the one name to remember. The Indians are in need of starting pitching. This is the one area that had a complete collapse all year long last year. Asdrubal should allow the Indians to bring in a couple high ceiling pitchers. Choo is one year away from free agency is very unlikely to return since his agent is Scott Boros. Chris Perez has not been a model player with his comments about fans and the front office. As I have mentioned the Indians strength is relief pitching and Perez could probably be easily replaced. Trading Asdrubal would signal a significant rebuild. Choo would be hard to replace but as I mentioned he is good as gone at the end of the year and the Tribe could try and replace him now. I just happen to disagree with departing with any of these players other than Perez. The time for the Tribe to win could be now. The New York Yankees have their own problems and even though they are still good, they are not great. I am not sure how much longer that is going to last. If the Tribe decides to rebuild the Yankees will probably have fixed their problems by then. No one in the American league is dominating right now. Oakland won their division against the likes of the Rangers and Angels. The Orioles won the wild card and just missed winning the division. The Tribe has shown for two straight years that they are capable of being near the top of the division. With the coaching change and some smart moves in free agency the Indians should be able to stay competitive in the American league. (I will post my free agency wish list next week, but Kevin Youkilis will be on it) I am also tired of the Tribe getting rid of star players while Detroit continues to amass them. You need star players to win!
As I mentioned earlier, if the Tribe rebuilds they will also be fighting a marketing nightmare. The fans and radio have tuned out Tribe in record numbers this year. If the Indians don’t show the fans some energy then, like the players did with Acta, the fans will become more disenchanted with the Tribe.
And who know sometimes heaven smiles upon us. My Kent State Golden Flashes have been miserable forever it seems, but this year came out of nowhere. No one expected a year like this. If the Tribe tries to compete with the few great players it has maybe the stars will align one day for them to. If they rebuild I can almost guarantee those stars will not be aligning this year.
Ok first thing first. I’m writing a blog and you haven’t heard from me since opening day. What can I say, the game went 16 innings and we lost. It takes a while to get over a game like that. Really I have been very busy with school, studying for my Praxis 2 test, the boy …………….. I ran out of gas. I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT I SWEAR TO GOD!
OK I’ve been lazy. I don’t plan on blogging once every three months but who knows with me, I might. At least I am not one of those people who send you daily post. You rarely have to read my crap. A big THANKS to those of you who do, and I especially enjoy everyone who responds to my post. I will try and post more but don’t expect much, or you may be let down again. So as Joliet Jake says to Elwood as he drops Carrie Fisher and walks off, “Let’s go!”
Remember those great spaghetti westerns from the 1960’s starring Clint Eastwood, A Fist Full of Dollars, A Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
The Tribe is starting to remind me of them. These movies were filmed on shoe string budgets. They filmed them in inexpensive locales such as Spain, and the actors they used were cheap. The cast consisted of new actors such as Eastwood who had few film roles to his credit before A Fist Full of Dollars. Sometimes the actors they cast into roles were well past their glory days. These movies tried to emulate Hollywood’s big productions on a much smaller budget. I truly enjoyed them, but they could be hard for some to watch. Same can be said for the Tribe. The Indians are hoping some young players who have never gone through a full season will carry them, and they have added some bit players who are at the end of their line to help. The team budget is what it is. Although the Indians have a much smaller payroll than the Yankee’s and even other teams in our division, they are still competing. I enjoy watching this year’s version of the Indians, but sometimes they just look low budget. So let’s review this season’s Cleveland Indians. The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.
There is a lot of good that can be said of Tribe, but none more than Jason Kipnis. This guy is a tough ballplayer. I told you before that he was one of my favorites and he is going to take this city over. We are all Kipnises!
Shin-Soo Choo after a slow start came on after being moved to the lead off position. This move was out of necessity at the time, but Choo has taken it and not looked back. On May 14 Choo was batting .236 with one homerun and 13 RBI’s. That is the day Acta moved him to the leadoff spot. Now for the season Choo is hitting .299 with 10 Hrs, and 34 RBI’s. Choo has definitely been good, and the move by Acta GREAT.
Asdrubal Cabrera picked up right where he left off; showing last year was no fluke. Although he turns in that sports center play every once in a while, his defense could be better. Cabrera and Kipnis do make a nice double play combination which is a must with this pitching staff.
The bullpen mafia of Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, and Chris Perez: The rest of the bullpen has had its ups and downs, but this trio has been pretty much lights out. Pestano is fun to watch as he comes flying out of the bullpen and usually strikes out at least one batter if not more.
Michael Brantley has had a hit in every game since May it seems like. Actually he has had a hit in every game but three since May 20th. He is batting .288 with 44 RBI’s and 10 stolen bases while being moved all over the lineup. Maybe Bradley is not a superstar, but he is definitely an everyday player.
Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez: Both have had their problems this season, but both have looked like #1 starters for more than a few outings in a row. I could probably throw Derek Lowe into this group even though he has not been impressive lately, but he is pitching a lot of innings and doing what was expected. Zach McCallister in his few starts has looked impressive and very consistent. As the starting pitching goes so goes this team.
Lou Marson and Casey Kotchman are two of my favorites. Marson after a horrendous start where he had four hits at the end of May. He is now batting .293. Marson is a great defensive catcher who was said to have a great bat. Maybe he is finally starting to show it. Kotchman takes a lot of heat for his low batting average, but he is hitting .241 with 10 HR’s and 34 RBI’s. His glove at first is insane and a joy to watch. I haven’t seen a first baseman this good defensively in a Tribe uniform before. For all of the praise Hannahan gets at third Kotchman deserves some love also.
Travis Hafner. I like Hafner and always remember how much he was feared in the 2007 season. I am beginning to tire waiting for that player to return. This offense clicks so much better when he is in the lineup even though his numbers are dipping this year. The Tribe really needs Hafner to stay healthy and be in the lineup. They could really use his bat, but even if he doesn’t have the best year he makes others around him better.
Johnny Damon began to hit as June progressed. It certainly took long enough and his overall stats are not pretty. If the Tribe is going to hang on for this playoff run then Damon needs to play like the Damon of old. And another thing: Michael Brantley HATES Johnny Damon. If you go to a game watch Damon play catch with Brantley between innings. Damon throws the ball all over the place and Brantley is running around retrieving balls. It is like I was playing catch with Brantley. In fact when Damon is in the field that is what I envision I would look like playing left field in the majors. Really. He circles and stumbles around trying to catch fly balls hit to him. His throws will bounce numerous times to the cutoff man who is standing in the outfield. I invented a new drinking game. Take a drink for every time the ball bounces when Damon throws it in. Plan on getting drunk. Here is a hilarious example of Damon’s outfield adventures on YouTube that also stars Manny Ramirez.
The back-end of the starting rotation: Josh Tomlin and Jeanmar Gomez had a rough first half, Gomez so bad that he was sent to back to triple A. The Tribe doesn’t have the offense to have guys in the rotation with 5 + ERAs. Especially when your top two starters can throw a clunker at any time and your #3 starter is working towards a 5 ERA.
Any time the other team starts a lefty: The Tribe lineup is left handed dominate, and they struggle against left handed pitching. They bat .225 against lefties and .276 against righties. Their record is 35 -25 versus righties and 9 – 16 versus lefties. Other teams are calling up any left handed pitcher they have to face the Indians. Don’t expect to see a right handed pitcher come playoff time.
The bullpen: The backend of the bullpen has had its problems. Dan Wheeler (back to triple A), Jairo Asencio (released), Rafael Perez (DL since April), Tony Sipp, and a few others. The Tribe is looking for some stability from the last guys out of bullpen. Nick Hagadone and Scott Barnes have showed promise but are new to the majors. Sipp is a home run waiting to happen anytime he enters the game.
Carlos Santana: Santana continues to walk, but the Indians need so much more from one of their core players. It would be nice to see Carlos get hot in the second half and carry this team. At the very least he needs to live up to his potential for this team to compete for the postseason.
Grady Sizemore: Ugh!
Lonnie Chisenhall: He was starting to look like a major league option and a bat this team could use. Then he gets hit by a pitch and is out for most of the season.
Nick Hagadone: One of the really good bullpen guys the Tribe had in the minors. Hagadone comes up and looks great. He has a bad spell for a couple weeks, nothing most rookies don’t face. It gets ugly when he decides to punch a wall with his pitching hand. Season over. Rule number one for pitchers don’t walk anyone. Rule number two don’t punch anything with your pitching hand.
Left field: I already mentioned Damon but anytime a lefty pitches and someone replaces him it is not pretty. Aaron Cunningham and The White Zombie (Shelley Duncan) make me cringe whenever they are in the lineup. The Tribe’s splits versus left handed pitchers and their troubles with no right handed bat/left fielder have to be their biggest problem.
The Tribe has been in first or within a couple games most of the first half of the season, so they are making the summer fun. Let’s hope Santana, Damon and Hafner kick it up a notch, the starting pitching doesn’t crumble, and the rest of the gang continue producing. No matter what happens I will still be watching. The Tribe is Joliet Jake and I’m Carrie Fisher when it comes to baseball. It doesn’t take much for me to fall back into their arms. Enjoy the ride and I will talk to you again hopefully before the snow flies. But don’t count on it.