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.
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.
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.