Yes the Kent State Golden Flashes have had a historic year. An 11 – 1 record with 2 more games to play. The Golden Flashes have had two winning seasons since I came to Kent. A 7 -4 record in 1987 and 6 -5 in 2001. 84 total wins since 1985 with 19 of those wins coming in the last three years, and 48 wins coming in the last ten years. This has been a wonderful season to watch.
Kent has some very good players. A couple of offensive linemen who are going to be drafted this year. One Brian Winters, maybe in the second round. Roosevelt Nix a junior defensive linemen who is one of their better players. The team has two great running backs Trayion Durham and Dri Archer. Archer a junior had scored a touchdown in every game this year until last week. He is definitely one of the more exciting players in the country. He has scored 21 touchdowns on the year by rushing, receiving, kick returns, punt returns, and passing. If you get to watch any games keep your eye on Archer. He can score at any moment.
What does this have to do with the Tribe? The Golden flashes and the Cleveland Indians are going in opposite directions. Kent State with a win could possible end up with a BCS birth in the Orange Bowl! The baseball team just completed competing in the college world series and knocked off a few top five teams on the way to a top 10 finish. Everyone is talking about the Kent State Golden Flashes and they are making appearances on national TV. The Cleveland Indians are nowhere to be seen. It is like they are trying not to be noticed. The last two months of the baseball season it was hard to find anyone who could tell me what the Tribe had done in any game. The apathy towards the Indians was staggering. I might as well of talked politics and religion with people. The Tribe fell out of the pennant race and out of everyone’s thoughts. The Indians made few moves and were fairly silent. They did fire Manny Acta and hire Terry Francona, their big headline for the last 4 months. They quietly released Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Roberto Hernandez (I don’t even know who that guy is – oh Fausto Carmona) and a few other muffled moves. Don’t mind us we are not doing anything, really! They are like an actor or politician who gets in trouble and decides to lay low for a while. I am really hoping that they turn it up a notch during the winter meeting and create some excitement about the team, but I doubt it. There have been rumors they may try and rebuild again. With interest in the Tribe at an all-time low this would only intensify their problems in my opinion.
Here are my thoughts on what has happened so far.
Firing Acta and hiring Francona: I didn’t mind Manny Acta, but I thought that he didn’t have the intensity this team needed. The team seamed listless sometimes and was going through the motions. I was talking to my beer vendor buddy Tim and we were discussing how a team takes on its manager’s personality. I think this was totally true. Acta rarely argued with umpires and would calmly go about his job. I think there are times when a manager needs to go off to fire his team up. They don’t have to be Lou Piniella, but they can jump start a dugout. (One of my favorite games I ever attended Lou kicked his hat around the infield a dozen times, and then up into the stands. He then tried to retrieve his hat. The crowd cheered louder and louder with every kick. ) I don’t think the players in the end liked playing for Acta. There was a game in New York where Dewayne Wise dove into the stands to make a catch. He came out of the stands and the umpire called Jack Hannahan out even though Wise didn’t have the ball. Dewayne Wise Bogus Catch Hannahan proceded to get tossed from the game and Acta argued but remained in the game. This was one play that called for a Lou Pinniella moment. One of the worst calls of all time and Acta does not argue for his player. It was events like this that I think peeved players. They didn’t think that Acta stood up for them. I felt Asdrubal especially became frustrated with Acta a few times. The fans in Cleveland wanted Sandy Alomar Jr. as the manager, but I think Francona was the right choice. He has had a great relationship with the front office in the past, working as a special advisor. I believe he was well liked by players in Boston and could attract free agents to Cleveland. Francona comes from a large Boston market that had intense pressure to win, and he produced. He could have had about any job he wanted and he choose Cleveland.
Player Movement: Releasing Hafner, Sizemore, and Hernadez does not surprise me. Nor would I be surprised if any of them are back with the team next year. I doubt it and hope not, but I could see Hafner signing a low contract with incentives. He is married and lives in Cleveland now. Our offense is better when he is in the lineup, unfortunately that was not nearly enough. Hafner was one of the most feared hitters in the game five years ago. In 2006 teams did anything they could not to pitch to him. They would be better off to walk him with the bases loaded than to pitch to him. (He hit 6 grand slams that year and 42 home runs) I wish Grady Sizemore could have made it back last year. There was a time I thought Sizemore would be the face of the franchise and the one player the Tribe would pay to keep. Injuries changed all of that. I feel as though Sizemore should play for free for the Indians after last year, but I doubt he will be back. The Tribe did make a minor move by trading Esmil Rogers to the Toronto Blue Jays for infielders Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes. Rogers was a reclamation project who had a very good year last year. Even if Rogers has turned the corner the Tribe has plenty of bull pen arms and can risk trading for other needs. Aviles at the very least solves the Tribes utility infielder position and backs up Asdrubal which they sorely needed last year. Gomes is a right handed bat with power that can play multiple corner positions and even catch.
Should the Tribe Reload or Rebuild: There have been a lot of rumors that the Tribe may try to cash in on some of their veteran players and trade them. Asdrubal Cabrera, Chris Perez, and Shin-Soo Choo. The thinking is that the Tribe has very few players (other than relief pitchers) in the upper minors who will be ready to help soon. They do have some quality players in single A. Some of their top prospects play shortstop. Fransico Lindor being the one name to remember. The Indians are in need of starting pitching. This is the one area that had a complete collapse all year long last year. Asdrubal should allow the Indians to bring in a couple high ceiling pitchers. Choo is one year away from free agency is very unlikely to return since his agent is Scott Boros. Chris Perez has not been a model player with his comments about fans and the front office. As I have mentioned the Indians strength is relief pitching and Perez could probably be easily replaced. Trading Asdrubal would signal a significant rebuild. Choo would be hard to replace but as I mentioned he is good as gone at the end of the year and the Tribe could try and replace him now. I just happen to disagree with departing with any of these players other than Perez. The time for the Tribe to win could be now. The New York Yankees have their own problems and even though they are still good, they are not great. I am not sure how much longer that is going to last. If the Tribe decides to rebuild the Yankees will probably have fixed their problems by then. No one in the American league is dominating right now. Oakland won their division against the likes of the Rangers and Angels. The Orioles won the wild card and just missed winning the division. The Tribe has shown for two straight years that they are capable of being near the top of the division. With the coaching change and some smart moves in free agency the Indians should be able to stay competitive in the American league. (I will post my free agency wish list next week, but Kevin Youkilis will be on it) I am also tired of the Tribe getting rid of star players while Detroit continues to amass them. You need star players to win!
As I mentioned earlier, if the Tribe rebuilds they will also be fighting a marketing nightmare. The fans and radio have tuned out Tribe in record numbers this year. If the Indians don’t show the fans some energy then, like the players did with Acta, the fans will become more disenchanted with the Tribe.
And who know sometimes heaven smiles upon us. My Kent State Golden Flashes have been miserable forever it seems, but this year came out of nowhere. No one expected a year like this. If the Tribe tries to compete with the few great players it has maybe the stars will align one day for them to. If they rebuild I can almost guarantee those stars will not be aligning this year.
Ok first thing first. I’m writing a blog and you haven’t heard from me since opening day. What can I say, the game went 16 innings and we lost. It takes a while to get over a game like that. Really I have been very busy with school, studying for my Praxis 2 test, the boy …………….. I ran out of gas. I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT I SWEAR TO GOD!
OK I’ve been lazy. I don’t plan on blogging once every three months but who knows with me, I might. At least I am not one of those people who send you daily post. You rarely have to read my crap. A big THANKS to those of you who do, and I especially enjoy everyone who responds to my post. I will try and post more but don’t expect much, or you may be let down again. So as Joliet Jake says to Elwood as he drops Carrie Fisher and walks off, “Let’s go!”
Remember those great spaghetti westerns from the 1960’s starring Clint Eastwood, A Fist Full of Dollars, A Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
The Tribe is starting to remind me of them. These movies were filmed on shoe string budgets. They filmed them in inexpensive locales such as Spain, and the actors they used were cheap. The cast consisted of new actors such as Eastwood who had few film roles to his credit before A Fist Full of Dollars. Sometimes the actors they cast into roles were well past their glory days. These movies tried to emulate Hollywood’s big productions on a much smaller budget. I truly enjoyed them, but they could be hard for some to watch. Same can be said for the Tribe. The Indians are hoping some young players who have never gone through a full season will carry them, and they have added some bit players who are at the end of their line to help. The team budget is what it is. Although the Indians have a much smaller payroll than the Yankee’s and even other teams in our division, they are still competing. I enjoy watching this year’s version of the Indians, but sometimes they just look low budget. So let’s review this season’s Cleveland Indians. The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.
There is a lot of good that can be said of Tribe, but none more than Jason Kipnis. This guy is a tough ballplayer. I told you before that he was one of my favorites and he is going to take this city over. We are all Kipnises!
Shin-Soo Choo after a slow start came on after being moved to the lead off position. This move was out of necessity at the time, but Choo has taken it and not looked back. On May 14 Choo was batting .236 with one homerun and 13 RBI’s. That is the day Acta moved him to the leadoff spot. Now for the season Choo is hitting .299 with 10 Hrs, and 34 RBI’s. Choo has definitely been good, and the move by Acta GREAT.
Asdrubal Cabrera picked up right where he left off; showing last year was no fluke. Although he turns in that sports center play every once in a while, his defense could be better. Cabrera and Kipnis do make a nice double play combination which is a must with this pitching staff.
The bullpen mafia of Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, and Chris Perez: The rest of the bullpen has had its ups and downs, but this trio has been pretty much lights out. Pestano is fun to watch as he comes flying out of the bullpen and usually strikes out at least one batter if not more.
Michael Brantley has had a hit in every game since May it seems like. Actually he has had a hit in every game but three since May 20th. He is batting .288 with 44 RBI’s and 10 stolen bases while being moved all over the lineup. Maybe Bradley is not a superstar, but he is definitely an everyday player.
Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez: Both have had their problems this season, but both have looked like #1 starters for more than a few outings in a row. I could probably throw Derek Lowe into this group even though he has not been impressive lately, but he is pitching a lot of innings and doing what was expected. Zach McCallister in his few starts has looked impressive and very consistent. As the starting pitching goes so goes this team.
Lou Marson and Casey Kotchman are two of my favorites. Marson after a horrendous start where he had four hits at the end of May. He is now batting .293. Marson is a great defensive catcher who was said to have a great bat. Maybe he is finally starting to show it. Kotchman takes a lot of heat for his low batting average, but he is hitting .241 with 10 HR’s and 34 RBI’s. His glove at first is insane and a joy to watch. I haven’t seen a first baseman this good defensively in a Tribe uniform before. For all of the praise Hannahan gets at third Kotchman deserves some love also.
Travis Hafner. I like Hafner and always remember how much he was feared in the 2007 season. I am beginning to tire waiting for that player to return. This offense clicks so much better when he is in the lineup even though his numbers are dipping this year. The Tribe really needs Hafner to stay healthy and be in the lineup. They could really use his bat, but even if he doesn’t have the best year he makes others around him better.
Johnny Damon began to hit as June progressed. It certainly took long enough and his overall stats are not pretty. If the Tribe is going to hang on for this playoff run then Damon needs to play like the Damon of old. And another thing: Michael Brantley HATES Johnny Damon. If you go to a game watch Damon play catch with Brantley between innings. Damon throws the ball all over the place and Brantley is running around retrieving balls. It is like I was playing catch with Brantley. In fact when Damon is in the field that is what I envision I would look like playing left field in the majors. Really. He circles and stumbles around trying to catch fly balls hit to him. His throws will bounce numerous times to the cutoff man who is standing in the outfield. I invented a new drinking game. Take a drink for every time the ball bounces when Damon throws it in. Plan on getting drunk. Here is a hilarious example of Damon’s outfield adventures on YouTube that also stars Manny Ramirez.
The back-end of the starting rotation: Josh Tomlin and Jeanmar Gomez had a rough first half, Gomez so bad that he was sent to back to triple A. The Tribe doesn’t have the offense to have guys in the rotation with 5 + ERAs. Especially when your top two starters can throw a clunker at any time and your #3 starter is working towards a 5 ERA.
Any time the other team starts a lefty: The Tribe lineup is left handed dominate, and they struggle against left handed pitching. They bat .225 against lefties and .276 against righties. Their record is 35 -25 versus righties and 9 – 16 versus lefties. Other teams are calling up any left handed pitcher they have to face the Indians. Don’t expect to see a right handed pitcher come playoff time.
The bullpen: The backend of the bullpen has had its problems. Dan Wheeler (back to triple A), Jairo Asencio (released), Rafael Perez (DL since April), Tony Sipp, and a few others. The Tribe is looking for some stability from the last guys out of bullpen. Nick Hagadone and Scott Barnes have showed promise but are new to the majors. Sipp is a home run waiting to happen anytime he enters the game.
Carlos Santana: Santana continues to walk, but the Indians need so much more from one of their core players. It would be nice to see Carlos get hot in the second half and carry this team. At the very least he needs to live up to his potential for this team to compete for the postseason.
Grady Sizemore: Ugh!
Lonnie Chisenhall: He was starting to look like a major league option and a bat this team could use. Then he gets hit by a pitch and is out for most of the season.
Nick Hagadone: One of the really good bullpen guys the Tribe had in the minors. Hagadone comes up and looks great. He has a bad spell for a couple weeks, nothing most rookies don’t face. It gets ugly when he decides to punch a wall with his pitching hand. Season over. Rule number one for pitchers don’t walk anyone. Rule number two don’t punch anything with your pitching hand.
Left field: I already mentioned Damon but anytime a lefty pitches and someone replaces him it is not pretty. Aaron Cunningham and The White Zombie (Shelley Duncan) make me cringe whenever they are in the lineup. The Tribe’s splits versus left handed pitchers and their troubles with no right handed bat/left fielder have to be their biggest problem.
The Tribe has been in first or within a couple games most of the first half of the season, so they are making the summer fun. Let’s hope Santana, Damon and Hafner kick it up a notch, the starting pitching doesn’t crumble, and the rest of the gang continue producing. No matter what happens I will still be watching. The Tribe is Joliet Jake and I’m Carrie Fisher when it comes to baseball. It doesn’t take much for me to fall back into their arms. Enjoy the ride and I will talk to you again hopefully before the snow flies. But don’t count on it.