So here we are at the All-Star break 1 1/2 games out of first and 7 games above .500. I really don’t believe this team is going to collapse like years past. The Tribe is not perfect. They have their faults, but this team has a drive/desire to win. The schedule is going to play into their favor and I think a few of the position players can increase their output. Overall they seem to be a close knit team that is having fun. Winning is usually a good recipe for fun, and the Indians have been winning.
It is the so called half way point of the season, and I thought I should evaluate the players so far. I was listening to the radio the other day and the host compared a player to Keystone Light beer. He said he was cheap, but not very good. I got a chuckle out of that and decided I should rate the entire 25 man roster like that. Pull up a case of your favorite and lets get going.
#27 & 26 Genesee Bock – Nick Hagadone & Rich Hill
I remember in college buying a six pack of Genesee Bock beer with my buddy Emery. I can’t think of any reason why we bought it other than we thought the can looked funny. Who in the hell puts Goats and Flowers on a beer can? If the beer was any good they wouldn’t be putting it in a can! I remember that I didn’t like it and I never drank it again. The same can be said for Nick Hagadone and Rich Hill. I don’t like the way they have pitched as the lefties out of the bullpen, and I don’t care to see them pitch anymore like that. O.K. Hagadone is not technically on the roster at the moment, but he has been for the majority of the season. He has pitched so poorly that he is player who gets sent to the minors repeatedly when they need a roster spot to bring someone up. Lefty relief help is the one glaring weakness on this team. Francona has consistently shown faith in both of them, so Hagadone and Hill need to step up.
#25 Old Milwaukee – Ubaldo Jimenez
In high school most of my friends drank Old Milwaukee. When I went to college the same was true. I was not a fan, but when your buying cases of beer and sharing you go along with the majority. I really thought this beer tasted like crap, but it was beer so I kept drinking it.
Ubaldo Jimenez is a pitcher and they keep pitching him. He is not a great pitcher, but he serves a purpose just like Old Milwaukee. To be fair Ubaldo has not been horrible. He actually seems to be pretty good at times. Unfortunately every game by the fifth inning he is approaching 100 pitches or is past it already. The bullpen has had it troubles this year. Ubaldo can take part of the blame, because every time he pitches the bullpen never gets any rest. If this team is going to challenge for the entire year the bullpen needs to improve. The starters going deeper into games will help the bullpen. Ubaldo can not just go out and pitch, he also needs to be good and go deep into games. Who names something “Old” anyway?
#24 Busch – Vinnie Pestano
My friends drank Old Milwaukee, I liked Busch. It was cheep but I liked it. What more can I say. It can’t be that bad, the St. Louis Cardinals stadium is named Busch Stadium. Milwaukee is not named Old Milwaukee Stadium.
Vinnie Pestano is my Busch beer. How can you not like him. He runs from the bullpen to the mound at a full sprint whenever called on to pitch. He accepts blame when he pitches bad and does not shy away from the media. He answers questions honestly and has been dominate the last couple years. Unfortunately this year he stinks. I am not sure if he is healthy, but whenever he comes in get ready for a home run. I like Pestano and I want him to be good, but the truth is right now he is not a top reliever.
#23 King Cobra – Mark Reynolds
Their slogan is “Don’t let the smooth taste fool you.” Same can be said for Mark Reynolds. Don’t let his awesome home run power fool you. Yea he can mess another team up sometimes, but he can also hit under .200 for two months straight. Better yet he has hit .091 for the month of July. Yikes! Don’t let the 15 homes runs fool you. Four home runs since May 10, He was unstoppable in April/May, but now he looks like he drank some King Cobra. The one position player that I am truly worried about.
Pabst Blue Ribbon, the beer that won a blue ribbon at the Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893! You won an award in 1893 and your still bragging about it. I go to find out that there is doubt whether they even won an award at this event. If the last time you won was in 1893 then you had better try something else.
Giambi was great at one time and it wasn’t 124 years ago. He is not the same player he once was. That being said I still think he brings a lot to this team. He has about 1/2 the HR’s and RBI’s of Mark Reynolds in 1/3 of the at bats. He produces when runners are in scoring potion and I think he brings a great veteran presence to the team. His hustle and face slide into first earlier this year motivated this team. They went on a nice winning streak after this event. The problem is you can’t have Giambi and Reynolds both hitting .200 and getting everyday at bats. They need to start producing or the Tribe needs to move on to something else.
#21 Coors Banquet Beer – Nick Swisher
I am not really sure what Banquet beer means. It is cheap and you can supply a banquet if you need to? I just remember as a kid that when anyone went past the Mississippi river the neighbors would give them money to bring back Coors beer. Just because it wasn’t sold here it was special if you got it. Big time free agents don’t generally come to Cleveland. So when one does it seems special. Unfortunately Swisher is not preforming up to his capabilities. He may just be average and not the masher he was when surrounded by superior talent in New York. While not a failure he should be capable of more than he has showed so far.
#20 Miller High Life – Lonnie Chisenhall
Miller High Life calls itself the champagne of beers. Uh O.K.? It still stinks and I can’t stand that crap. Any half ass brewer knows you don’t put beer in clear bottles.
Chisenhall has one of the prettiest swings in baseball. His swing is the champagne of swings. To bad his production is more like High Life’s taste. Alright his production isn’t nearly that bad, but it could better.
#19 – 16 Budweiser – Matt Albers, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, & Joe Smith
I drink Budweiser all of the time. It is not my favorite but I can always count on it. It taste the same and I am rarely surprised. Same goes for the majority of the Tribe relievers. They have pitched pretty well so far. The few mistakes they have made seemed to be at the most inopportune times, or the defense has let them down. I am not to worried about them, but like Budweiser we don’t need to use them every day.
#15 Carling’s Black Label – Scott Kazmir
There was a time when Carling’s Black Label was one of the most popular beers. Just watch the movie Animal House. A reference is made to this fact in the bar scene. I still will have one when I find it.
A few years ago Kazmir was one of the best pitchers in baseball. He has not been dominate with the Tribe, but you have to be encouraged with the way he has pitched this year. After all he was out of baseball for a couple of years. I like Black Label and I like Kazmir. I think he only gets better as the season goes on.
#14 Red Stripe – Chris Perez
Jamaica’s Red Stripe has to be Brody Baum’s beer of choice. That would be Chris Perez’s dog who gets packages of marijuana sent to their house. Perez has had a couple of bad games, but overall he has been o.k. He did spend a few weeks on the D.L. but seems to be over that. The Tribe needs him to be solid with the rest of the bullpen having some problems. If Perez can’t keep it together this team may be in trouble.
#13 Sam Adams Cherry Wheat – Drew Stubbs
S.A. Cherry Wheat is one of my favorite beers. We carried it at the bar I worked at, but I was the only one who drank it. The distributor kept dropping it because no other bars would buy it. Drew Stubbs is player I really like. Others don’t enjoy his contributions as much as I do. Stubbs doesn’t have the highest batting average and he does strike out often. I just enjoy the other aspects of his game. He is the fastest player on the team, and his speed changes the game. He is a very good outfielder with a pretty good arm, and when he gets on base watch out. He causes the other team to panic sometimes which leads to big innings. He also has some power to hit a home run. Maybe one day more people will join me in enjoying a Cherry Wheat and watching Drew Stubbs.
#12 Yuengling – Asdrubal Cabrera
Yuengling is America’s oldest brewery. Asdrubal has been a member of the Tribe longer than any other member of the team. Their are a lot of rumors that the Tribe may trade Cabrera. Fransico Lindor is now at double A Akron and could be in Cleveland by late next year. Lindor looks to be a star. Cabrera has had some difficulties especially in the beginning of the year, but he is definitely one of the players I see stepping it up. I do give Cabrera credit that I have not heard any complaining from him with all of the rumors. I think Cabrera thrives in pressure situations and I can see him becoming a force down the stretch in a close pennant race.
#11 – #9 Fosters – Yan Gomes, Ryan Raburn, & Mike Aviles
Fosters comes in the big oil cans and you get a lot of beer. Same could be said for Gomes, Raburn, and Aviles. The Tribe has found three players who give them a lot off of the bench. Aviles filled in for Cabrera when he was out for a month. He can play multiple positions and has some pop in his bat. The same can be said for Raburn who can man the corner outfield positions. Either one can play everyday if needed. Gomes might not be an everyday player, but he is much better than past back up catchers.
#8 Michelob – Carlos Santana
Michelob comes in those fancy bottles that look all high class. In reality I think it’s just Budweiser in a fancy bottle. I expect a lot more out of it. Carlos Santana is pretty good and critical to this teams offense. I just expect more from him, and his defense can be atrocious sometimes. I am waiting for him to hit .300 and be a home run threat every time he steps to the plate. Teams do pitch around him but I am looking for that MVP type player to show up. Santana is probably just what we see, a really good offense player but not elite.
#7 Blatz – Zach McAllister
I loved Blatz beer. I could drop those little oblong bottles and they would just bounce. But whenever I drank it I was worried about what was going to come out the next day. McAllister was one of the Tribe’s best pitchers before going on the DL with a finger injury. He had a better ERA than Masterson. He has done a spectacular job so far. I am worried about what going to happen tomorrow with McAllister. If he can come back and continue pitching like before that will be a big boost to this team. Hopefully he bounces back from his injury. If he does lets pray he is not a flash in the pan and the league doesn’t start figuring him out.
#6 Milwaukee’s Best – Michael Bourne
Michael Bourne came relatively cheap to the Tribe. He is doing what he does best and that is use his speed. He plays a very good center field and when he gets on base he is a threat to score from first. He might not be the best player on the field, but he is just what the Indians needed.
#5 Bud Light – Cory Kluber
This is one player I was not expecting much out of this year. Kluber has turned into one of this seasons more pleasant surprises. If not for Kluber and McAllister becoming good starting pitcher, this season could have been disappointing. I wasn’t buying Kluber this year, but since he is here I will keep drinking it.
Labatts is my beer of choice. On a day in day out basis I choose Labbatts over any other beer. It is not expensive. I like the taste and I can find it in most stores as long as I don’t cross the Mason -Dixon line. It is everything I want. Michael Brantley is my Labattt. He plays a great left field along with being able to play the other outfield positions. Zero errors so far and he is amoung the league leaders in outfield assist. When the Indians need a hit Brantley is the man. He is batting .370 with runners in scoring position. That is 4th in the American League trailing Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis. The two AL MVP candidates this year. I had a bad experience once with Bradley. If I could just get past that he could be one of my favorite players. I have had a few bad experiences with Labatts and that hasn’t stopped our relationship. So no more hard feelings Michael.
#3 Guinness – Justin Masterson
Justin Masterson is not your everyday ball player. He seems like a player you might actually be friends with in life. He is funny and joking around all of time. Last year he got money together from the players to fly Jack Hannahan home on a private plane to be there for the birth of his child. I think he keeps the team loose while also being a leader. Not to mention he is having an All-Star season.
Fat Tire still has not made it to Ohio. It is the one craft beer I truly enjoy. When I get some I hoard it and drink it only on special occasions. It is in my opinion a great beer. I have been telling you for a couple years now about Jason Kipnis. Like Fat Tire the entire nation has not got to enjoy his play. I think he is an incredible ball player. He doesn’t lead the league in any categories but he does everything. He leads the Tribe in average, hits, triples, home runs, and stolen bases. He is only one behind Santana for team lead in doubles. This guy is a tough player and should become the face of the franchise. His teams have won championships wherever he went, I hope that holds true in Cleveland.
#1 Tequilla – Terry Francona
Francona has been the biggest factor in the success of the Cleveland Indians this year. I don’t think the Tribe would be where they are at today without Francona. The team believes they can win, and they play as a team. They never look ahead playing one game at a time. Eric Wedge use to preach about taking it one game at a time, but he never seemed to connect his message with the players like Francona has. Francona has won two world series in Boston so he has a reputation. Players respect him and they want to play for him. I am not sure if the Indians would have signed all of the free agents they did this past winter if not for Terry Francona. He definitely brought a different way of thinking to the Indians and that alone has been the biggest positive so far this season.
Yes spring is finally here. Today is opening day and the Tribe will be playing tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays. Mark your calendar, 162 games to go plus some hopefully. It is time to start having some fun!
This has been one of the busiest off seasons ever for the Tribe. No move was more important than the hiring of Terry Francona. Francona immediately brought a fresh voice to the organization and a new vigor. Francona would probably disagree with me, but this move alone could result in a .500 season. Manny Acta had this team in first place, or within a few games at the All-Star break two years in a row. If Acta could accomplish that, I don’t see why Francona couldn’t improve upon that final record a little. Yea Francona had a complete collapse his last year in Boston, but that was Boston. Everyone jumped ship that season. The GM left and took the Chicago Cubs job. Yeah the Cubs who make the Indians look good when it comes to winning. They haven’t won a world series since 1908. It has been so long that I think they should change their name back to the Chicago Orphans. The Boston media was all over the team, especially about chicken and beer. Chicken, Beer, and Pills Francona had to deal with some of the game’s biggest egos and prima donnas in Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, and the failed Carl Crawford signing. He dealt with Manny Ramirez the years prior to his final season in Boston. So Cleveland should seem like a paid vacation to Francona. I appreciate that Francona wanted to come here. The comercials on the radio he states how he grew up a Cleveland fan. Acta choose to come here too over Houston, but here is where the difference lies. Francona actually has the ability to get free agents to want to come here too. I am not sure if any of the free agents other than Reynolds and Myers signs here if Acta is still coaching. After hiring Francona, the Tribe proceeded to spend 117 million dollars in free agency on 1B/DH Mark Reynolds, SP Brett Myers, OF/1B Nick Swisher, and CF Michael Bourn. The last time the Indians were relevant Trot Nixon was running around the dugout smashing shaving cream pies into everyone’s face after a win. I get the same feeling again this year. Francona and Swisher have made the Tribe clubhouse fun. The team has already put together a Harlem Shake video and Siri spoof.
This is a complete makeover of the positional players from last year’s team. DH Travis Hafner is in New York
and will probably be splitting time with Ben Francisco who the Tribe released during spring training. Now stop for a minute and think about that. The Tribe signs Nick Swisher from New York and the Yankees take Travis “I might play 100 games DH’ing” Hafner who has to share the DH role with Ben Francisco who was not going to make this team out of spring training. What in the Wide, Wide, World of Sports is going on here? Starting 3rd baseman Jack Hannahan is the utility infielder for the Cincinnati Reds. I did enjoy watching Casey Kotchman play 1st base, but Oh how painful it was to watch him pound every ball into the ground while batting. I think I can count my hands how many balls he hit out of the infield. Kotchman is now playing for the Miami (everything must go) Marlins, probably one of the worst teams in the league this year. 2012 starting left fielders Austin Kearns (who was released in the middle of last season and did not sign elsewhere) is playing for the Miami Marlins, and Shelley Duncan is playing for Tampa Bay’s AAA team, Aaron Cunningham was with Texas to start spring training but has sense been released, and Johnny Damon is at home dropping everything and stumbling around his mansion. (I am going to miss seeing Damon wonder around the outfield and throwing the ball around between innings. It made me giggle to go the game and watch him in the field. Thank you Johnny for making me laugh like a little school girl.) Our utility infielder this year Mike Aviles was the starting SS for Boston and Toronto last year. So as you can see even if the free agent moves this off season turn out to be horrible the Tribe should be making gains. DH, LF, 1st base, and 3rd base gave us nothing last year offensively and LF was a mess defensively. No matter what there will be improvements from those positions this year.
So offensively this team looks to be improved no matter how the year goes. No more of the entirely left handed lineup that Acta had to trot out last year every game. The Indians brought in right handed bats in Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs, Mike Aviles, Ryan Rayburn, and switch hitter Nick Swisher. Opposing teams will not have the luxury of bringing in a left handed pitcher this year and let mow down a left handed dominated lineup. The Tribe only hit 37 HR’s right handed last year as a team. Reynolds has averaged 33 over the last five years. The Tribe will be striking out a lot this year. Every free agent starting positional player signed was in the upper ranks for strike outs last year. Swisher was 27th in MLB, Bourn 15th, Reynolds 12th, and Stubbs 10th for strikeouts last year. So get ready for a lot of whiffing. I do like the speed brought to this team. Bourn who will be playing CF and batting leadoff has a career .379 on base percentage which is great. He has 257 steals in the last 5 years which is the most in MLB (Averaging 52 a year). So he can easily turn a walk or single into a double. The Tribe also added Drew Stubbs who has averaged 33 steals the last three years to join current players who are fleet of foot Jason Kipnis, and Michael Brantley. I am going to guess that with all that speed that the aft mentioned power hitters who happen to strike out rather regularly may see a greater majority of fastballs. The speed and power can complement each other quite nicely. I believe the fans may see an influx of homeruns this year. Swisher has averaged over 25 homeruns the last six years, while Mark Reynolds as mentioned has averaged 33 over his career. Not to mention Stubbs, Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, and Lonnie Chisenhall who are all capable of 20 HR’s. Oh and there is this guy named Jason Giambi too. Not sure why he is on the team other than he has hit a few homeruns in his career, let’s just hope he is not Johnny Damon 2.0. I always hated seeing the Twins come to town and Denard Span in centerfield. It seemed that no ball hit to the outfield ever made it to the ground. Span ran everything down. The Tribe now has their own version of Span in center and close replicas in left and right. Bourn was rated as the best defensive center fielder last year by numerous outlets. Stubbs isn’t far behind defensively, and Brantley is no slouch. I anticipate seeing nightly highlights from this group in the outfield and I expect our pitchers will not be disappointed. Don’t walk anyone and keep the ball in the park pitchers!
Pitching is one area of concern. The improved outfield defense should help, but last year Indian pitchers usually shot themselves. Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez regularly walked batters (7th and 3rd in the league) and then proceeded to let them steal (1st and 2nd in stolen bases allowed), threw a wild pitch (2nd and 3rd in league) or hit the next batter (1st and 2nd in the league). Amazing! The three remaining 2012 opening day starters were WORSE or got hurt. I am assuming the starting pitching cannot be that horrible again. Masterson and Jimenez have looked much better this spring. At least they are not walking batters and then plunking the next one. Oh yea and Roberto Hernandez aka Fausto Carmona is in Tampa as the 5th starter after posting a 5.33 ERA this spring. I am going to enjoy watching Fausto on the other team laboring through 30 and 40 pitch innings. I believe that Scott Kazmir will have a great season. My dark horse for the Cy Young award. At least that is what I am hoping for. (As I write this I find out Kazmir will possible start on the DL, Oh well 😦 If Kazmir has any kind of decent season and Masterson and Ubaldo are not terrible, the Indians may have a shot at hanging around the playoff chase. They do have some options in AAA in Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco if one of the before mentioned pitchers proceeds to stink or Zach McCallister /Brett Myers falters. The bullpen once again should be the strength of this team. Even if one or two players have off years the Indians have bullpen depth in the minors to cover all but epic fails.
Hopefully the Indians can make the entire year as much fun as spring has been. For the first time in a while people are talking about the Tribe and there is a buzz in the air. This team opens the season against Toronto who is a favorite to win the AL pennant, followed by Tampa Bay, the Yankees, the White Sox, and Boston. Tough opening two weeks so a good start would be comforting and help spur on the enthusiasm built in the off season. The Tribe did make some moves that I believe have to help improve the team. They also have some wild cards. Carlos Santana could bust out and become a superstar. Lonnie Chisenhall could add a big bat to the bottom of the lineup, Asdrubal Cabrera becomes even a better hitter with protection around him, or Kipnis in his second year takes it up another notch. Ultimately the team’s fortunes lie with how well the starting pitching performs. Let’s hope they can have some fun and relax. Maybe McCallister grows in his second year; he has the potential to become a top of the rotation pitcher. Kazmir becomes the dominant pitcher he was when he came up with Tampa, or Bauer comes up and develops into the Ace he was touted as. There is the possibility this year that Swisher and company can entertain us and make this one fun summer. And hopefully a fun fall!
I have been following a web site on SI.com called Extra Mustard. The site deals with sports related topics on the internet that are usually quite funny. In staying with my fun summer theme I will try and add some content to each post during the year. Make sure you check out the videos.
Who knew that Danny Mainus name was so funny?
By the way for those who haven’t heard me and Danielle are expecting another child. Due on October 19 right around the start of the World Series!