On this day January 25, 1971 the Washington Generals defeated the Harlem Globetrotters in Martin Tennessee. Yes the basketball team that plays the Harlem Globetrotters approximately 200 or more times per year, and losses every time. The Globetrotters were going through their usual shtick of throwing buckets of confetti, pulling the pants of the opposing team down and so forth, but with much less gags than normal according to spectators at the game. The reason for this is unknown, but there were rumors of a dispute prior to the game. The Globetrotters apparently didn’t realize that they were down by 12 points until less than two minutes were left. They rallied to take the lead with 10 seconds left in the game. Red Klotz the owner/coach and point guard of the Generals called timeout and instructed his team to get him the ball for the final shot. The Generals have always been instructed to not miss a shot on purpose. Klotz received the ball and quickly attempted and made the basket, giving the Generals the lead again. The Globetrotters had one last chance with Meadow Lark Lemon bringing the ball up the court. The Generals offered no resistance to Lemon and he took a shot he had made a thousand times. He missed and the rest is history. Klotz in later interviews was quoted as saying “the crowd wanted to kill me”, and it was like he “had killed Santa Clause”. Kids cried and fans booed after the game. It was reported that the owner of the Globetrotters met the team the next day and let them have it for losing. The Generals have won approximately six times but only two can be confirmed, and there has not been a win by the Generals since that game on January 25th 1971 in Martin Tennessee, 44 years ago today. They celebrated with orange pop since they didn’t carry Champagne for such events.
I suggest you read a more detailed account of this event from this link: Washington Generals Infamous 1971 Win
Why do I bring up this event on a Cleveland Indians Blog? The Generals have lost over 14,000 plus games since then. I think this is one of the great events in the history of sports. Right up there with the USA hockey team defeating Russia in the 1980 Winter Olympics, and then defeating Finland to win the Gold Medal in Lake Placid. OK maybe not that big, but still I grew up watching the Harlem Globetrotters on the Wide World of Sports once every year. Who doesn’t love watching incredible acts of dribbling, passing, and shooting, along with third grade humor and physical comedy? I keep all of my tickets to events I go to (yea I have A LOT). If I would have attended this game the ticket would have a place right by my World Series tickets, Kent State’s Elite Eight basketball ticket, tickets to the 2002 Winter Olympics, and the May 26th 1993 Tribe game vs. the Texas Rangers (Jose Canseco, a ball, and his head -Blog for another day) .
Another reason is you have never probably heard of Red Klotz, the Owner-Coach-Point guard of the Generals from 1952 to 1995 (He continued to be involved with the Generals until his death). But he is a part of the fabric of our lives just as Ernie Banks the former Chicago Cub was. Red Klotz died last July and Mr. Cub Ernie Banks last Friday. Ernie Banks was an ambassador for baseball just like Red Klotz was for basketball. Banks was one of the greatest shortstops of all time. Banks is still 22nd on the all time career home run list even after the steroid era. You couldn’t help but like baseball when you saw Ernie Banks, and Red Klotz helped entertain generations of fans while losing over 14,000 times. I would like to thank both of them today.
Lastly the Washington Generals remind me of Cleveland sports and the quest for a championship. Some people think a Cleveland championship in their lifetime will never come. The Washington Generals once overcame insurmountable odds so why not Cleveland. I believe it will one day come, but even if it doesn’t I am still going to be watching and having fun. From now on when I watch a Harlem Globetrotters game, I’m secretly going to be rooting for the Generals to win. (If you know where I can get a Washington Generals T-shirt L or XL let me know) So here’s to the Washington Generals and their celebration 44 years ago today. They proved anything is possible. Hopefully that once in a lifetime event is in Cleveland’s future.
The Tribe beat me to the punch by making a trade before I could post. That’s what happens when you wait till the trade deadline day to post, oh well.
The Indians traded Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals for AA outfielder James Ramsey. First about Masterson. I wrote in my earlier blogs that the Indians should jump at the chance to sign Masterson to a new deal. Masterson was reportedly looking for a 2-3 year deal around 17 million per year. The Cincinnati Reds signed Homer Bailey to a 6 year $105 million contract earlier this spring. Bailey has similiar career numbers as Masterson and the pay scale was going to be similar for Justin. I was in favor of giving Masterson this deal. For one starting pitching does not come cheap. For $10 million per year you get a hope and prayer free agent. Last year the Tribe gave free agent Brett Myers an $8 million dollar contract. Myers was not even a starting pitcher the year before and Myers delivered an 8.02 ERA for that gamble. Thank you very little. The Tribe signed Grady Sizemore to a $5 million dollar contract his last season here, and he didn’t play in one game. At least he didn’t enter any games and make them completely unwinnable as Myers did. If you up the pay to say around $12.5 million per year you get a pitcher who comes with his own gun. This is what Baltimore had to pay Ubaldo Jimenez.
Jimenez is 3-8 on the year with a 4.52 ERA. Here is the best part. Ubaldo leads the league in walks. Not so unimaginable you say. He has missed almost a month of the season with an injury to his ankle in the parking lot, and he still leads the league in walks! Enjoy that for 3 more years Oriole fan.
So as you see unless you spend some significant money on starting pitching you probably are going to be playing with fire. You could have signed Scott Kazmir as I had hoped for 11 million per year. Kazmis is currently 12-3 with a 2.37 ERA. The cost of signing other pitchers was the one reason for my wanting to sign Masterson, but also the length of the contract. Masterson was asking for a fairly sizeable contract per year, but he was willing to take a 2-3 year contract. Most pitchers will take no less than 4 years to sign and will push for 6 to 7 years. The Tribe will always be leary of offering any free agent that length of contract, exspecially pitching. I thought it would be a contract that the Tribe could live with for 2-3 years considering the cost of marginal pitching. The Indians didn’t bite and in hindsite it looks like the right move. Masterson has had a horrible season, and for the Indians to pull anything out in a trade looks to be win for the Indians.
In my 20 years being at Tribe games I have never tried to hard to meet the players. I did meet Masterson a couple of times and he seemed like the most genuine person. He was always smiling and had such a positive attitude. I couldn’t help but think he would be your best friend. I remember when Jack Hannahan was on the team and his wife was having their first child. Masterson got the team togeather and chartered a private jet to make sure Hannahan made it back from Boston to be there in time. It spoke volumes of who Masteron is as a person. So even is he is not on the team I will always root for Masty.
The player the Tribe recieved from St. Louis, James Ramsey. The reports I have read say he is decent prospect. He batted .300 with 13 HRs in AA Texas League. He probably could fill in as 4th outfielder or possible replace David Murphy. The St. Louis Cardinal have an abbundance of outfield prospects which held Ramsey up from being in AAA. The Texas League is notorious for being a picthers league so for Ramsey to be batting .300 with 13 HRs may be a good sign. The Tribe is sending him to AAA Columbus and we may see him by the end of the year. Hopefully the Indians have found a diamond in the rough. The Indians traded Jake Westbrook to St. Louis and ended up with Corey Kluber four years ago.
Ok what do I expect the Tribe to do at the deadline:
I went to the game Tuesday night with the family. On the way home the radio host was aking should the Indians be buyers or sellers this week. I looked at my wife and said they should be sellers …… and buyers. I didn’t see any harm in getting rid of Masterson, Asdrubal Cabrera, and John Axford. None of these players are helping the Tribe reach there goal of making the playoffs and can be replaced. In fact replacing them may even improve the team at some positions. Each player has some value and as we saw even Masterson can return a viable major league prospect. I assume Cabrera may return about the same if not more. There are a few teams looking for middle infield help and Cabrera would probably be the biggest name available. I’am sure he will go to another team and flourish as did Jhnny Peralta. I would still take Asdrubal over Peralta to this day. Asdrubal has been highly disappointing the last couple years but he is not worthless. If I was another team I wouldn’t touch John Axford with a 10 foot pole, but I still think there might be some team who would take him. I’m not asking for much. I look at it as addition by subtraction. These moves would not be to surprising. Any other plays shipped away would. I don’t see the Indians going into full sell mode with the playoff berth so close. The Tribe does have some relievers that have value and could be replaced. I still think the Indians have the belief they can make the playoffs this year, and are not looking to move players other than those not helping (Free agents who can be replaced).
For the last 2 plus years my main concern has been the Tribe’s bats. The Indians may be in the top half of the league in runs scored, but their offense is to sporadic to be considered great. This line up cries out for a great right handed power bat. Band-Aid players such as David Murphy, Mark Reynolds and others are not getting the job done. The Indians need to get a bonafide right handed hitter into this lineup. Swisher will never be a superstar, but I don’t think he will hit .200 all year either. He is not going to hit his career average of .265 this year, but there is no reason not to believe he can’t hit that for the rest of the year. He shouldn’t see the field again though as he has been atrocious at 1st base. Santana failed miserably at 3rd base, but has amazingly looked stellar at first. The defense may be settling in. Gomes after a shaky start has looked awesome. Santana has looked almost like a gold glove at first, while Kipnis is average defensively. Kipnis doesn’t seem to come up with balls on the ground but he is not a liability in the field either. Fransico Lindor will be taking over short next year and he is supposedly a glod glove shortstop. So other than Chisenhall at 3rd the infield looks good defensively. Brantley is a stud in left field and Bourn has won gold gloves in center. I have not witnessed Bourn being a gold glove centerfielder, but he has been so I don’t see why he can’t be a plus defender there now. Dickerson has filled in great as fourth outfielder and has a great arm. Ultimately I think the defensive lapse will settle down. Some miscues came from players who normally have been good defensively (Gomes), while others came from players being moved positions (Santana). The players who commited the most errors will either not be here next year (Cabrera) or be DHing next year (Swisher) other than Chisenhall.
The problem with adding a bat at the trade deadline is that the Indians have very little flexability at this moment. With Santana maning 1st base that puts Swisher at the DH position. I doubt the Indians would be willing to sit Swisher and his contract. As I mentioned I don’t see Swisher hitting .200 all year either, and I’am sure the Tribe is counting on that changing. Right field is another spot that could be upgraded but then again David Murphy has a 2 year contract. I don’t think the Indians would be willing to eat the rest of this year and next to sit Murphy. So the Indians really have no place to put another bat even though their lineup screams for one. Ultimately I don’t see the Tribe bringing in any major upgrades. If they did here are some names I have heard mentioned that may be available.
Who should the Indians be looking to buy?
Matt Kemp: L.A. Dodgers – No way the Tribe pays this guys salary (108 million for the next 6 years, $18 per year) even though it’s a bat that would look great in right field.
Andre Either: L.A. Dodgers – Again to high of salary for the Tribe but would be a big upgrade in right even if he is left handed.
Carlos Gonzalez: Rockies – Another lefty but a career .295 hitter with some pop having a down year.
Josh Willingham: Twins – May be on the wrong side of 30 and having his second consecutive off year. But he would be in the Indians budget at 7 million per year, and is right handed with pop.
Marlon Byrd: Phillies – Affordable contract for a right handed hitter with pop. The Phillies would probably ask for a major prospect for a 2 month rental and I don’t think the Tribe wants to rent players.
**Billy Butler: Royals – The Royals offense has not performed very well this year and Butler has been one of the culprits. If the Royals have become unhappy with Butler and if they were willing to trade him I would jump on it. Other than Lindor who do you want from our farm system K.C.?
**Alex Rios: Rangers – He may be slightly out of the Indians price range, but would he would be a great fit in right for the Tribe.
This off season: My wife has said it to me numerous times, “Wouldn’t Victor Martinez’s right handed bat look good in the Tribe lineup!” He will be a free agent this year 😉
We may say goodbye to Asdrubal and others, but the Indians will try and win with this lineup. I don’t expect the Indians to bring in anyone of importance by trade. They may try and bring in another pitcher (Bartlo Colon!), but my thoughts are they should work on bringing in a bat for this year and beyond.
The Indians ended April with a Thud. Losing every game on a west coast trip is never a good way to inspire the fan base. Good thing April is over and we are into May. Let’s look at the Tribe one month into the season.
The Indians ended April 11-17 and on a 6 game losing streak. Not what you expect from a team with high expectations of making the playoffs. Is it time to panic? Not really. It is only one month. Last year they were 11-13 in April. They followed up April by going 18-12 in May. Last year the Indians had two 8 game losing streaks, and on June 10th they were 3 games under .500. This was a streaky team last year and I could easily see them rattling off 6 or 7 wins in a row. The team was at .500 before the 6 game west coast trip. So the record after one month is not a huge concern, but they leave themselves little room to continue their disappearing act at the plate, and in the field.
The Starting Rotation:
The starters began the year a little shaky, but have become the strength of this club. Masterson did not earn a win in the month of April, but he pitched well enough that he should have in three of his six April starts. Is Masterson a #1 starter? Maybe not, but he is definitely a #2. Would the Indians just pay this guy! Masterson’s agent reportedly proposed multiple offers to the Indians with a contract of around 17 million per year for 3 to 4 years. Usually the Tribe balks at contracts for pitchers because they are to long. The Tribe does not want to risk a lengthy contract on pitchers who are all susceptible to injury. Masterson is offering a shorter term contract which should make the Indians front office thrilled. I am just not sure what the Indians are expecting to pay for a starting pitcher who can anchor a staff. 12 million a year gets you an Ubaldo Jimenez type pitcher. Ubaldo has been atrocious in 5 of his 6 starts. He has a 5.19 Era in his first 6 starts and has walked 18 in 34 innings. That looks similar to the Ubaldo who pitched in Cleveland before last July. Are you feeling a little nervous about that signing now Baltimore? 3 years at 17 million per year seems fair to me, so the Indians need to stop with the excuses and sign Masterson. Otherwise we will be watching another warm body in the rotation next year. Yea you could gamble on a veteran coming off a poor year and get another Scott Kazmir, or you could get another Brett Myers. If the Indians are expecting to compete for a playoff spot they can’t afford to gamble on their starting pitching, especially when they would be replacing a front of the rotation starter.
Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister have been solid and consistent on the mound to start the year. I have followed Corey Kluber through the minors to the big league club since the trade with San Diego/ St. Louis for Jake Westbrook. Kluber was considered one of the Padre’s top pitching prospects. He had one off year and was traded. He has consistently been tops in the minor leagues in strike outs and walked very few. This year he has 48 K’s and 12 BB in 45 innings which is following his career norms. He projected as a #2 or #3 starter and that is holding true. Kluber has a 3.6 ERA even though he has pitched 5 games against some of the top offenses in all of baseball. Kluber has pitched two games against the #2 offense and one game against the #3, #4, #5 offenses in MLB. Kluber has always been one of my favorites, and he looks to be a solid #2 or #3 starter.
McAllister has been just as good, if not better than Kluber. He has a 3.16 ERA and like Kluber he doesn’t give a lot of hitter’s free passes. McAllister fits in nicely and has done a good job in the 3 hole.
The 4 and 5 spots have been a problem for the Indians. I am not to worried about Danny Salazar as he seems to be righting the ship after a rough start early on in the season. Even though he has not looked as sharp or seemed to have command of all of his pitches, he still looks like a major league pitcher. His demeanor on the mound just says successful pitcher to me, and I think in the long run he will succeed. Carlos Carrasco is another story. As I write this he has been relieved of his starting duties and placed in the bullpen. Carrasco is just another version of Roberto Hernandez aka Fausto Carmona. Carrasco is a pitcher with a great arm, who will consistently put runners on base and make me want to start watching MTV with my wife instead of baseball. Thankfully I will no longer be up to date on the “16 And Pregnant” episodes, as Josh Tomlin has taken Carrasco’s spot in the rotation. Tomlin has pitched great in Columbus to start the year. He was called up to Cleveland this week and in his first start he looked very impressive. Tomlin walks very few batters. Isn’t it strange how not walking people usually correlates to winning. I mentioned in my last post that Tomlin would be back and it took less than a month. Unless there is an injury I believe you have seen the last of Carlos Carrasco starting for the Indians. The Indians still have insurance in Trevor Bauer who has been pitching even better than Tomlin. This is in Columbus also which is a big time hitter’s park. So if there is an injury, Salazar regresses, or Tomlin can’t hold down the 5th spot (I am sure he will – you don’t get the nickname “The Little Cowboy” for no reason), Bauer seems to be ready to step in.
The bullpen so far seems stable. Vinnie Pestano was sent down early in the month after giving up hits to almost every batter he faced. He had a WHIP of 3.38. That means for every inning he pitched he put 3.38 batters on base. I think Hendrix’s WHIP in his first year of youth baseball where the players will pitch will be lower. A WHIP of 1.75 or higher is usually pretty atrocious. Pestano’s velocity has been down last year and the start of this year, and just a couple MPH has made him very hittable. The rest of the bullpen has been very good. The bullpen has stranded 50 of the 60 inherited base runners through May 7th. This puts them at the top of the league in keeping inherited runners from scoring. John Axford has not let one inherited runner score. Then again he has put them on himself and let them cross home plate a few times. Axford is the one part of the bullpen that I am not to sure about. He does have 9 saves out of 11 chances is which is not to bad in one month. Unfortunately he likes to walk batters and he is not unhittable. (I think there is something to this walking batters and a pitchers success rate) He has issued 11 walk and 11 hits in 14 innings. Axford has a 1.57 WHIP which is getting up there near that atrocious level. The Tribe could probably survive an Axford collapse by moving Cody Allen into the closer role and rearranging the bullpen. But ultimately this probably wouldn’t be ideal considering the teams other problems.
In my last post I stated how my main concern about this team was its offense. Well they haven’t changed my opinion much. The Tribe is next to last in the American League in runs scored, and 26th in MLB with a .231 team average. There are only 4 teams all in the National League (where the pitcher bats!) with worse averages. (Side note – The San Diego Padres have a .215 team average….Uh maybe I should stop complaining about the Tribe offense) Other than Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, David Murphey, Nyjer Morgan, Mike Aveiles, and Lonnie Chisenhall (3 of whom are part time players), the rest need to vastly improve at the plate. Jason Kipnis who is currently on the DL has a .234 average, while Michael Bourn is batting around his career average of .266. Unfortunately Bourn has done little else as he has played in only 15 games. He has 2 stolen bases but he has been caught 3 times, and he only has scored 6 runs all year. I didn’t think so at the end of spring training, but Nyjer Morgan needs to be on this team. Morgan is batting .294 with 3 stolen bases in 3 attempts, and 5 runs scored in half the at bats Bourn has had. Not to mention he is playing better defense.
The rest of the lineup would bring the San Diego Padres team average down:
Asdrubal Cabrera .215
Nick Swisher .202
Ryan Rayburn .167
Carlos Santana .139
And Mr. Blutarsky (Jason Giambi) .000
It will be almost Memorial Day before Giambi plays again. He has not reached first base since spring training, other than a hit by pitch. That includes games with the Indians and the Akron Rubber Ducks. He actually didn’t even get a hit in spring training. He reached base twice by walk. His last hit in a game was last year! The Tribe’s offense needs a jump and the Indians need to bite the bullet soon with Giambi. Jesus Aguilar is in AAA Columbus. Last year he set the Akron record with 105 RBIs in 130 games. He is off to a fast start in Columbus this year batting .319 with 7 HRs and 17 RBIs in 31 games. The Tribe is not good enough to waste a roster spot on a player who is not helping. Sooner or later Giambi is going to need to produce or the Tribe needs to make a change.
It is good to see Chisenhall producing and Brantley is Mr. Consistent. I believe the rest of the lineup will improve, but I do think this team needs one more bat. Preferably a right handed bat.
Where the hell do I start? This is the one area that has derailed the Tribe more than any other. The starting pitching has had a few bad games, the closer has let a few slip away, and the offense has been absent for most of the year. But it is the defense that has ultimately cost the Indians the most. This does not just a couple of players, but the entire team.
Yan Gomes- The poster boy for the Tribe’s bad defense. He has 9 errors already and leads the league with 4 PB (past balls). Last year for the entire year he had 3 errors and 4 PB. Yan you’re not going to get the last 2 years of that contract you just signed if you continue to play like that.
Michael Bourn – Who in the hell voted this guy a gold glove centerfielder in the national league? I have yet to see a gold glove defender, including last year. This year I wouldn’t put him in the top half of American League centerfielders. He only has one error but the number of bad routes I have seen, along with missed diving/sliding catches, and running into the other outfielders tells me he is not a premier defender.
Asdrubal Cabrera – has 5 errors and has not looked that great in the field. He had better start hitting because the Tribe has Fransico Lindor in Akron who is considered a gold glove defender, and I am sure he can hit .215 if not better.
Nick Swisher – 4 Errors and he could have been charged with more. I have watched a few games where Swisher has not given much effort on coming off the bag at first. I really expect more from Swisher.
The Tribe has plenty of time to turn the season around and get on the plus side of the win/loss column. They need the bats to come around but they really need the defense to step up.
Ok this is a Tribe blog but the NFL draft is tonight so a couple of things. One -Johnny Manziel reminds me of Doug Flutie. Flutie’s chance in the NFL came late in his career because everyone thought he was to short. Flutie was a great QB and I loved watching him. Manziel may be fun to watch also, but it is his off the field activities that tell me not to draft him. There was risk with Flutie and his size, but there was no risk with how Flutie carried himself off the field. The Browns are could be kicking themselves if they don’t draft Manziel and he turns out to be great. I just wouldn’t take the chance and would stick with the safer choice. Watkins, Mack, Robinson, and especially Clowney if they could get him.
Second – I really hope my Buccaneers or the Browns draft my man from Kent State, Dri Archer. The guy may not make it in the NFL if he isn’t durable enough, but man is he fun to watch. Who knows it could be Manziel to Archer soon.
For the first time in awhile I saw the top of my Cleveland Indians yard gnome. He has been buried in snow and sitting in sub zero weather for the last few months. I had to smile. I guess that is a sign spring is near. A sure sign is the Cleveland Indians 1st spring training game. You can’t take a lot out of the first spring game, but it is stimulating to see warm weather and baseball. It means the boys of summer are close to returning to Cleveland and warm weather can’t be far behind.
I haven’t posted since those heartbreaking loses last September to the Tigers. The Tribe had an incredible last 2 weeks to make the post season and grab the north coast’s attention. Then the Tribe entered the off season and the only real headlines were who had left the team. Still hopes are high for another run to the postseason.
THE STATE OF THE RESERVATION:
As I already mentioned very little seemed to be done in the off season other than let two starting pitchers go and the 8th inning set up guy (Kazmir, Ubaldo, & Smith); releasing our closer (Perez); and trading our starting right fielder (Stubbs). All to be replaced with players most fans would hardly know. Yea last year had a little more excitement due to the free agent signings of Nick Swisher, and Michael Bourne. But in all honesty it was the ho-hum signings/trades from last year that made the biggest contributions (Yan Gomes, Ryan Rayburn, Scott Kazmir, and Mike Aviles). With both the Browns and the Cavs imploding from the front offices out, I would liked to have seen the Indians be more active this winter. It was a great chance to excite and solidify the fan base. A major signing was not in the plans this year, but I still think some of the minor signing could end up being significant.
Last year I said that Scott Kazmir was my pick for the Cy Young award. He ended up with highest ERA of all the starters but it was a respectable 4.04. Ubaldo Jimenez was the player who pitched like a Cy Young award winner the second half of the season. Ubaldo compiled a 6 – 5 record in the second half of the season with a 1.82 ERA. Max Scherzer who won the Cy Young last year had an 8 – 2 record with a 2.44 ERA in that same time frame. Ubaldo only walked 25 in those 13 second half starts while striking out 100. The stats show that he began to control his pitches and thus be in charge of the game. No matter how well he pitched I never felt comfortable. I was so relieved to know that Danny Salazar (a ROOKIE) was pitching the playoff game other than Ubaldo who had been pitching like a Cy Young candidate. The Tribe reportedly never talked to Jimenez about resigning, which I believe speaks loudly about what the Indians think of Ubaldo. Jimenez is now in Baltimore. He may have figured out his problems last year and continue to pitch like a #1 starter. My guess is there is going to be a lot more cursing every 5th day in the Chesapeake Bay area, and my finger nails are going to look a lot better. Kazmir is the one player I thought the Tribe should have been more aggressive about signing. They did not put a qualifying offer in of 14.1 million, so they did not get a draft pick for losing Kazmir. He ultimately signed with Oakland for two years at 22 million. He may have accepted the Tribe’s offer but I think for a one year deal it was a price the Tribe could have lived with. Kazmir was the one lefty in the rotation, and the options to replace him are all right handed. The Indians are going into the 2014 season with a completely right handed starting rotation. Not as deadly as their past all right handed batting lineup, but not the ideal situation. Overall I believe the starting pitching will be fine. Masterson has grown and proven to be a top of the rotation pitcher. Remember when some wanted to put Masterson in the bullpen? Kluber and McAllister had great seasons and they came up through the minors projected as middle of the rotation talent. Kluber especially has shown throughout the minors to be able to get strikeouts when needed. Danny Salazar looked dominate during the last couple of months of the season. I can’t remember ever seeing a pitcher look that good just coming up from the minors. Sabathia struggled his first year and Jaret Wright helped get the Indians into the World Series, but he certainly didn’t pitch like Salazar. (Anyone else think of an Indians pitcher who looked as impressive as Salazar to start their career) The fifth spot in the rotation is undecided at the start of spring training. Candidates are Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Shawn Marcum, Aaron Harang, and Josh Tomlin. My thoughts are Carrasco fills the spot as he is out of options and cannot be returned to the minors. If he doesn’t fill the spot then one of the other candidates who pitches the best will. Carrasco seemed like a different pitcher when he returned last year and pitched out of the bullpen. Hopefully he can settle in, settle down, and become the dominate pitcher the Indians have been talking about. If not then I believe Josh Tomlin may get the next try or Marcum if he is healthy. Tomlin is smartest pitcher on the staff and does the most with the least “stuff”. Tomlin is pitcher that Francona and other managers love. He will be on the team as a starter or out of the bullpen. Marcum is coming off an injury, but he has proven in the past to be a very good pitcher. Again if healthy I expect him to contribute to the Indians staff this year. Rarely do five pitchers start a season and the same five end the season. The Indians have starting depth and I am sure that it will be utilized this year.
The biggest move was releasing Chris Perez. Good bye. It was fun while it lasted, but the last few months were terrifying. September 26th and the Tribe was leading Minnesota 6 – 1 in the 9th inning, enter Perez. The guy next to me says he can’t watch Perez anymore and goes to the bathroom until he is done pitching. 15 minutes later the inning is still going but the score is 6 – 5 Tribe as Perez is relieved of his duties. The gentlemen returns and I too could never watch Chris Perez pitch again for the Tribe. Luckily he will never get another opportunity. John Axeford should be able to handle the job. The Cardinals do a good job of identifying talent and he pitched well for them last year. Hopefully Axeford shouldn’t make me want to join other fans in the bathroom when he pitches. Other than losing Joe Smith, whose sidearm action brought a different look for hitters, the bullpen should be good. Smith has quietly been very reliable for the Indians in the 7th and 8th innings. Cody Allen should slide into that spot and hopefully Vinny Pestano can return to form this year to fill 7th inning. The Tribe brought in a few different options at the end of last year who performed well, in Marc Rzepczynski (took me only 2 tries to spell that right) and C.C. Lee. Rzepczynski should continue to stabilize the pen along with Bryan Shaw and either Carrasco or Tomlin. The final spot will be won in spring training by Josh Outman, Nick Hagadone, Scott Atchison, or C.C. Lee in that order.Overall most people are worried about the Indians pitching staff. I think they are fine in this area. I feel much better about the starting pitching than I did last year at this time, and they have options. The bullpen should not be horrible and there are alternatives in the minors.
The consensus is that if the Indians starting pitching is good the Tribe will be good. Yes you’re only as good as your starting pitching. I previously discussed my confidence in the Indians pitching staff. It is the offense that worries me and I have the most concern. Last year the Indians were 5th in MLB in runs scored. That came from a team that had off years from a number of players. Asdrubal Cabrera suffered through his worst year offensively, while the big free agent signings of Bourn and Swisher did not meet their past production. The Tribe received little production consistently from 3rd base or from the DH Jason Giambi. Brantley and Kipnis did have a productive year, but nothing they can’t repeat. The real surprises on offense came from the part time players, Yan Gomes, and Ryan Raburn. So why am I so concerned about the offense? I felt that the Indians offense could be sporadic at times last year. I am not sure they will get much increase on offense from any position (other than Asdrubal), and they might see a drop off from some of the players who had a great season last year. Finally I don’t think they addressed over the winter one of their major weaknesses, not having a true power hitter.
Here are the positions I am not worried about:
Left field: Michael Brantley is called Dr. Smooth. He will probably never be a superstar, but there is little that he doesn’t do well. I wouldn’t be shocked if he improved any part of his game this year. I would be surprised if his game regressed much. Maybe he doesn’t hit 10 HR’s this year, but I don’t see why he doesn’t hit .280 with 70 RBI’s, and 15 stolen bases. Francona bats Brantley in any spot in the order, and Brantley is capable of handling it. Brantley just goes out and does his job and he does it effectively.
Second Base: Not to toot my own horn, but I have been telling you that Jason Kipnis was coming and y’all was going to like him. He led the team in RBI’s, runs, and stolen bases. He was second in batting average, doubles, and third on the team with 17 HR’s. His style of play makes him a fan favorite and I see him becoming the face of the franchise. Could he regress from his All-Star year? Yea, but Kipnis hasn’t done anything but produce at every level. I don’t see much changing except for Kipnis becoming better well known.
Expecting Good Things But Not Betting The House On It:
Catcher: Yan Gomes had a break out year last season. He led the team in batting average and posted decent numbers in only 300 AB’s. I assume he will get more AB’s this year so he should be able to match last year’s numbers if not improve upon them. If Gomes can bat .290 this year again great, I am just expecting a little regression this year. His defense is the aspect of his game that stands out and I don’t see any drop off. Although I am not sure if he can throw out 20 of 29 base stealers again. Tip to opposing base runners, Don’t run on Yan!
Shortstop: It is a contract year for Asdrubal Cabrera. I see him having a good if not great year. Asdrubal has wanted to be in those pressure situations, and until last year he has succeeded in them. This will probably be Cabrera’s last year in Cleveland. If the Tribe is out of the playoff race he could be gone by the trade deadline. Francisco Lindor is coming and there will be no stopping his progress towards the majors. If you don’t know who Lindor is you haven’t been following my blog (Superstar in waiting). There are some defensive metrics that say Asdrubal is the worst defensive shortstop in the game. He is better than Johnny Peralta, I don’t care what computer you use. I like Asdrubal and hope he has a career year. Then hopefully he signs another contract with the Tribe and slides over to third next year. I will settle for a career year in his final season in Cleveland.
Expecting The Usual:
First Base: I’m putting Nick Swisher at this spot. In reality the Tribe is MLB’s version of a contortionist. Their roster is probably one of the most flexible in baseball. 1st base, right field, 3rd base, and DH can be manned by numerous players on the roster, and this isn’t your David Dellucci/Jason Michael platoon. THANK GOD, I still shiver thinking about it. Swisher will be the DH, and in right field, but I see him playing mostly at first base. Swisher did not have a bad year in 2013, but he didn’t have a great year either. I see more of the same for Swisher in 2014. He is 33 and not surrounded by hall of famers as he was in New York, so I don’t see much improvement. He did turn it on the last month, and shined during the stretch for the playoffs (7 HR’s in September).
Centerfield: Michael Bourn had his worst season as a professional in 2013. Not that it was horrible, but he did not put up the numbers he had in years past. His average, steals, and runs were career lows except for his rookie season in Houston. Why am I not expecting more from Bourn? Bourn came from the Atlanta Braves and was advertised as a speedster on the base paths and the best centerfielder in the game. His 23 stolen bases were nearly half his career low while his 12 caught stealing was his career norm. No big deal maybe he moved to a team where they don’t push the stolen base as much, or he is adjusting to the American League. What really concerns me is when I watched Michael Bourn last year I did not see the best defensive centerfielder in the game. Not even close. Bourn lives on his speed, and when that goes so goes Michael. Bourn slowed on the base paths and he not did dazzle in the field. I wonder if he lost a step last year. He also had surgery on his left hamstring this winter. Just a feeling and I hope I am wrong, but I think Bourn may have already played his best baseball.
3rd Base: Lonnie Chisenhall is like the Cleveland Browns. Ok that is a little rough, but I keep expecting better results and I keep getting subpar performances (with the Browns it is plan lousy performances). So I have given up on the Browns and until they actually win consistently I will expect them to lose (consistently). The same goes for Lonnie. Until he proves otherwise I am expecting a subpar performance. I believe he is capable of putting up more than a .225 average as he did last year. He has not played a full season in the majors and yet he put up 11 HR’s in only 289 AB’s last year. If he could match his career minor league batting average of .282 we might be on to something. The problem is he struggles mightily against lefties. Thus he needs to be in a platoon. Enter Carlos Santana and Mike Aviles. I don’t think there is any way in hell Santana takes over 3rd base. I have seen him behind the plate where umpires hate him. He doesn’t move his body and block balls, so the umpire takes the hit. I swear I could see steam come out of umpire’s helmets last year as they stared down Santana after getting hit. I saw him enough at first that I loved Casey Kotchman and his .229 average. He can man each position but by no means is he skillful at it. I assume he could play third but ultimately it wouldn’t be pretty. Just wait for that first bunt attempt and he throws the ball into the stands. I imagine Santana is going to man third against lefties due to Chisenhall’s ineffectiveness against them. I will give Santana credit that I have not heard one complaint from him and he has tried to do whatever is asked of him (catch, 1st, 3rd, or DH)
Right field: Ryan Raburn had a career year in only 243 AB’s. He hit 16 HR’s with 55 RBI’s in what amounts to a half year of at bats. I assume he will come back to his norm this year which should be around 10 HR’s and 40 RBI’s in 250 AB’s. He will platoon with David Murphy. Murphy replaces Drew Stubbs so we should see a better average, and maybe a few more HR’s. What worries me is Murphy is coming from Texas which is a hitter’s park. This team is in desperate need of a power hitter and Murphy needs to hit more than a dozen HR’s. Stubbs could hit a dozen and was the best base runner I have seen in an Indians uniform. Murphy and Raburn need to combine for 30 plus HR’s and 100 plus RBI’s. I am just not sure if they do that this year. I like the signing of Jeff Francour. I see him somehow making this team and being a big part of it, possibly as the DH.
DH: It has taken me 2 weeks to finish this blog. (That is because they are so damn LONG Randall) When I started, my thoughts were Giambi would make the team but probably start on the DL as he did last year. Well it was reported a couple of days ago that Giambi had a cracked rib and would start the year on the DL. A cracked rib sounds serious to me for a player who solely relies on power. As I mentioned this team is in desperate need of a power hitter. I see Francona using a lot of his interchangeable parts to fill the DH role as he did last year. I believe Santana may end up getting a good portion of these at bats. Santana may produce at last year’s level, but that is putting a lot of pressure on Gomes to improve upon last years numbers. Otherwise that is a decrease at the catchers position. Definitely the DH spot is wide open and may have to be filled at the trade deadline if the Tribe is in contention.
Overall I see Left field, 2nd base, and Shortstop matching last year or improving. 2/3 of last year’s super sub bench of Gomes and Raburn will be playing more of a full time roll thus weakening the bench. I don’t see much improvement from the other positions, maybe even a slight decline. The team also needs a true power hitter and possibly has an open spot in the lineup they could fill. The Indians don’t have players in the minors who are ready at the start of the season to help the offense. They do have a group of players in AA and AAA, but they are 1 to 2 years away. The positive is that Francona is leading this team and seems to know exactly how to put his team in a position to succeed. If anyone can do it Francona can.
Here is my 25 man opening day roster predicitions:
C: Santana and Gomes
Infielders: Swisher, Kipnis, Cabrera, Chisenhall, Aviles, and Elliot Johnson/ Justin Sellers
Outfielders: Bourn, Brantley, Raburn, Murphy, and Francour
Starting Pitchers: Masterson, Kluber, Salazar, McAllister, and Carrasco
Relief: Axford, Allen, Shaw, Rzepczynski, Pestano, Tomlin, and Outman
If you read all 3000 plus words, wow! I will try and cut back on future post. I really enjoy reading comments, and hearing how others enjoy reading my post. Thanks and pass along the blog to others.
It is the Dog Days of Summer, at least that is what they say. It feels more like October. The Tribe is on their very difficult West Coast road trip, and have upcoming games against Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels. 12 of their next 18 games comes against first place teams (Atlanta & Detroit) or teams ahead of them in the wild card standings (Oakland & Baltimore). So the weather outside may not be so hot, but for a team trying to make a playoff push things should be pretty warm.
Here is a look back at the week:
Asdrubal Cabrera gets thrown out of a game. Usually that is not a good thing. Last Sunday the Tribe was riding a 7 game losing streak and they were about to get swept for the second consecutive series in a row at home. Down 5 – 0 in the sixth inning with two outs, the Tribe bats came alive. One of those bats was from Cabrera’s replacement Mike Aviles. Nick Swisher and Aviles both hit two run homers. Cabrera, who has looked awful lately at the plate and in the field, did the Tribe a favor by getting sent to the showers early. By one out in seventh the Indians had the lead and stopped their losing streak.
Yan Gomes continues to push for more playing time. Francona has been working Gomes into the lineup more often. Gomes has responded by not only hitting the cover off the ball (.429 average for the week), but he is also great defensively behind the plate. Gomes has thrown out nearly 50% of would be base stealers.
Thanks for Nothing:
I mentioned last week the Indians only needed to make up one game a week to catch the Tigers. They made up a 1/2 game this week to sit at 6 1/2 games back. Not bad. Unfortunately the Indians only went 3 & 3 this week, the big bad Tigers went 3 & 4. The Tigers leave Cleveland and have a losing week, but the Tribe can only catch up 1/2 game in the standings. Indians must take advantage of their chances if they want to make the playoffs.
Other than Gomes .429, Kipnis .273, Aviles .250, and Brantley .250, the offense was putrid this week. None of the other nine position players batted over .200. That happens when one of the games you play a rookie pitcher (Andrew Albers) making his second start ever throws a 2 hitter with no walks. Uh doesn’t this happen always when Cleveland faces a pitcher for the first time. Even the great 90’s teams had trouble with rookie pitchers. Note to self – Next time Tribe faces pitcher for the first time bet HEAVILY on the other team. That should put an end to that curse.
Mark Reynolds has been released and replaced by Asdrubal Cabrera
Cabrera has been especially weak at the plate for the last month (batting only .175). Asdrubal has not looked good at the plate. He is consistently down in the count and swings at everything. Hence his 3 walks and 20 strikeouts over the last 30 days. Chisenhall has been just as bad as Asdrubal over the last month batting .176 with 1 RBI. Michael Bourn who has had a decent year only batted .212 in the last 30 days. If Bourn doesn’t change his pace his decent year will turn out to an average year. The Indians can ill afford to have numerous players batting under .200 for any length of time. Especially when two of those players are batting lead off and cleanup.
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.
I’am with the family camping on Edisto beach in South Carolina. I may be on vacation, but I am still following the Tribe. Before I left the callers on the local radio were wanting the Cleveland Indians to trade for starting pitching. I have been telling some of my friends for the last month that I did not think the Tribe was going to make much of a move. As the trading deadline grows closer I don’t see much happening. Here are my thoughts.
The majority of callers on sports radio I consider morons who couldn’t run water with out screwing it up. There are a lot of people who just want to put down the owner, Larry Dolan. Most are still pissed that he traded two CY Young award winners in C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee. Callers continually whine that Dolan never puts money into the team and that he should sell it. I disagree that the Dolans have not put money into the team, they have. They have not spent every year, but when the Tribe has been in the hunt they have. Unfortunately most of the time the players signed did not perform up to the expectations. Chuck Finley, Kerry Wood,Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore twice, along with other players. The Dolans have not gone wild spending money, they are what we might say thrifty. Most callers to the local sports radio have been saying the Tribe needs starting pitching to make the playoffs this year. I don’t see the Indians going in this direction. For one any pitcher who is a top of the rotation guy is probably out of the Tribe’s price range. I really doubt the Tribe goes out and spends 15 -20 million a year which is what most #1 pitchers would command (Cliff Lee who is possibly on the market). If the Indians are not getting a stud pitcher then I don’t really see the point of trading for a pitcher. The starting rotation of Masterson, Kluber, Kazmir, McAllister, and Jimenez have pitched quite well this year ,and especially so of late. One of the starting 5 would be kicked out of the rotation. I don’t see Francona wanting to upset the team chemistry to add another starter unless they were a significant upgrade over one of the current 5.
The Indians are not going to give up top prospect Francisco Lindor. They have a superstar on their hands. He is only 19 but I saw an interview with him last week and he seemed much older. I don’t think the Tribe is keen on trading any high level prospects unless they get a major league ready player who’s contract they can control for a few years. Normally teams don’t trade good young players who they control for years to come. Plus the Tribe has young pitchers in the minors who should be ready to help the club this year and in the upcoming years. (Bauer, Carrasco, Salazar, and Tomlin who will be returning from Tommy John surgery shortly). Ultimately I can’t see any scenario where the Tribe trades for starting pitching. So the callers can moan and groan for a little longer now about the Indians not trying to win and the Dolans being cheap.
The bullpen was believed to be a strength at the start of the season. A few holes have developed as the season has unfolded. Vinnie Pestano who was stellar the last two years as the 8th inning set up man has stumbled. His velocity is down and he has not been reliable in consistently getting outs. Sidearmer Joe Smith has not been himself the last month, but hopefully this is just a rough patch. The Tribe does have others who could step up into the 8th inning role, but this ultimately weakens the bullpen if they are not replaced. Cody Allen being the first choice for 8th inning duty. The most glaring problem has been left handed relief. Nick Hagadone and Rich Hill have not been good so far. Chris Antonetti mentioned earlier this week that the lefty bullpen situation was probably his biggest concern. This is the one trade I do see the Tribe making. I am pretty sure they will bring in a lefty reliever and possibly another bullpen arm. Don’t expect any big names but do expect a new face in the bullpen.
There is one more area that I would like to see addressed, but generally gets little mention on the talk radio stations. That is the need for another bat in the lineup. I don’t have the stats in front of me here on the beach. (We are tent camping not staying at a resort. So I’am roughing it – with my iPad) The Tribe is 4th in the league in runs scored which is good. They are 11th in batting average with a .257, and 5th in OPS ( On Base plus Slugging Percentage). Not bad marks for the offense especially with Reynolds and Giambi’s averages. The OPS showing they get on base and hit a good amount of extra base hits. The problem is the fore mentioned Reynolds. He has hit below .200 since mid May. As I mentioned in my last post the Tribe would be hard pressed to play the year with both Reynolds and Giambi hitting .200. Rayburn and Aviles have been getting more at bats lately in Reynolds place which has worked out fine. I don’t think you want the bench (all be it a great bench) of Raburn, Aviles, and Gomes playing every day. The holes in their games will become more apparent. Reynolds is signed to a one year deal. Next year the Tribe could be looking to replace Reynolds. He makes 7 million and they will also have Brett Myers 5 million to spend (Free Agent Flop). If the Tribe was looking towards the future this might be a good time to trade for a position player who can help us now and in the future. The team has lost plenty of games because they can’t score 3 or more runs. They have a great record in one run games, but consistently waste good pitching efforts by having low scoring games. The Tribe is very good at running up pitch counts on opposing teams. When they do this they generally get to see a lot of the opposing pitchers pitches thus getting a better feel for each pitch. They then have big innings against the starter. The 5th inning is the Indians signature inning to score this year. They have scored more runs in the fifth than any other inning. This being the inning when they are facing the starter for the 3rd time in a game. Running up the pitch count also gets the Tribe into the other teams bullpen sooner. Once into the bullpen it is only a matter of time before they face a subpar member of the other teams staff and put a hurting on his ERA. One more good hitter in the lineup could help this team I believe. Not only this year but in the future too.
Again I don’t think Francona wants to mess with the teams chemistry. He will give Reynolds every opportunity to succeed. So ultimately I see the lineup remaining the same with Raburn and Aveiles getting more at bats in the mean time. Reynolds is notorious as a streaky hitter, and Francona knows he is going to turn it around at some point. I have a feeling Reynolds is going to get hot at a time that makes Tribe fans forget his horrible summer. Lets hope!
Surfs Up! Gotta run, Go Tribe!