Tag Archives: Alex Avila

Balk-ing Home with Hammy

Well, the secret is out, but knowing that the Tom Hamilton walk-off call, be it a home run call or anything a little Hollywood, is almost an unparalleled experience, especially if you’re a Tribe fan. Being off the reservation, or should I just say “out-of-market”, keeping up with the Tribe involves a financial decision each spring.

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For years, I’ve shelled out the extra cash for DirecTV to add the MLB Extra Innings package to my already outrageous monthly invoice, but I made the leap to the more feature-rich MLB.tv Premium a few years back. With other sports offering broadband and mobile packages, in conjunction with the cable/satellite add-on, Major League Baseball was once again behind the times, or so I thought. Extra Innings only served its purpose when I was home, whereas the online service offered some flexibility on the go. One of those services made available was the radio call of all the games, with your choice of the home or away announcer and the Spanish crew, when applicable.

It doesn’t matter if I’m at the office, stuck in commuter traffic, or 1500 miles from home; if the Tribe is playing, I can listen to Tom Hamilton and Jim Rosenhaus on the audio call. The exception to that, of course, is when I’m 35,000 feet above the ground, when I’m without broadband or mobile data service, as I was yesterday, en route to Chicago. To take soften the blow of Chi-town’s swamp-like humidity, I put the headphones on, and let the Voice of the Cleveland Indians take me home, in more ways than one, with an all-important, if not extremely unlikely, series sweep of the Detroit Tigers hanging in the balance.

To reset my perspective, the At Bat app, the one that drives MLB.tv and the bonus audio feeds, sends me an alert that the game is tied at 7 after Detroit added two in the fifth. I paused; seven runs thru 5 for the Braves of the Cuyahoga, but I thought Scherzer was on the bump for the Tigers! That was encouraging for this enigma of an offense that Terry Francona has marched out there, this far in 2014, but it doesn’t matter if you score 20, if you lose 21-20. By the time I was back on the grid, with “Hammy” and “Rosey” in my ear, it sounded as though a bad day from Scherzer wasn’t going to sink the Tigers, who now led 9-7, but David Murphy had no concerns about their backs being against the wall with one on and one out in the ninth.

“A swing and a long drive, deep right center…this ball is…”

GONE! I’ve got no video to go on, hence nothing analytical to add, just the raw emotion of a Missouri native-turned-Cleveland fan at heart in Tom Hamilton. The Detroit closer’s name was Joe, but you could call him Blown Save Nathan after that shot. Out in the visitor’s bullpen, I can only imagine Al Albuquerque thinking, ‘I know this feeling,’ having served up a game-winning bomb to Michael Brantley in the first game of this series.

The celebration didn’t last long, as theme for 2014 continued with the Indians pitching staff surrendering a response run; this potential back-breaking smash came off the bat of Alex Avila after a solid two and two-thirds of solid relief work from usual starter Josh Tomlin. Alex Avila! Must it always be the nobodies, like JD Martinez, Don Kelly, and Avila that punish Indians pitching? Well, in this case, maybe it did, considering Miguel Cabrera got the “Bye Felicia”, as Keith Olbermann would (and actually did) say, in the sixth. However, they still had the sizzling hot Victor Martinez and seemingly, regardless of early 3 games to 1 advantage Cleveland technically has on the Tigers in 2014, the Indians number.

Anyway, Tomlin managed to freeze Danny Worth on strike three to end the 13th, but with Mike Aviles, Michael Bourn, and Asdrubal Cabrera due up, the Indians had work to do in the home-half of the frame. Down in the count against Phil Coke, Aviles hit one towards the hole at short that Worth could quite squeeze in the glove, and stood on first, representing the tying-run. Bourn, who according to Hamilton, is not the best sacrifice bunter the game has ever seen, laid one down the third base line so poetically that a radio listener may have ascertained scholars would talk about and praise for years. He was thrown out at first, and as my late-night viewing of Olbermann would reveal, he probably shouldn’t have been. Whatever, no need for Hammy to torch a guy with bad hammies in this situation.

Asdrubal Cabrera would be next, and Coke put the 2-1 pitch into his knee cap; the words from the WTAM call left me to wonder if Cabrera would be able to finish the season, let alone the game. Only Yan Games remained on the bench, not exactly your ideal pinch-runner, so after a few minutes, the Indians shortstop limped to first as the potential game-winning run. That meant one out and a runner in scoring position for Ben Maller’s favorite player to be named later against the Detroit southpaw. Left-on-right, left-on-left, it doesn’t matter for Michael Brantley, who delivered with a ground ball to the left side, which Aviles legged out from second to tie the game at 10 apiece.

No sooner than Gene Lamont, assuming the skipper role from Brad Asumus, who got the heave-ho in the Cabrera aftermath, summoned Monday’s goat Alburquerque from the ‘pen, did Terry Francona call Justin Sellers back to the dugout. Now, it was time for Yan Gomes to step into the right-handed batters box against the right-hander. Albuquerque tried two sliders, which went wide with no chase from Gomes, and then stopped the charade and put the Tribe’s usual starting catcher on first to load them up from former-Tiger Ryan Raburn.

It all came down to this at-bat, Raburn stepped in, and the strangest thing happened next. Alburquerque flinched!

“And a balk! Ballgame! How about that! WE NOW HAVE SEEN EVERYTHING! A walk-off balk! Unbelievable, Cabrera scores the winner on a walk-off balk!”

I am not sure it’s possible to transcribe any part of Hamilton’s note-worthy calls without the over-use of exclamation points. Happy to spend my Wednesday afternoon with you, Tom. Happy to be an Indians fan, like everyone back in Cleveland. Happy to have the option to listen to radio call from Chicago.

AP TIGERS INDIANS BASEBALL S BBA USA OH

11-10, Tribe wins! What a game, even the limited parts I caught; I sincerely hope it springboards us into “What a season!” mode. All in all, I’m quite content with the balk-off.  A win is a win.

If Choo, Cano Sign in the AL Central

Yesterday, I saw multiple reports that shook my inner Indians fan to its core.

First Buster Olney said this…

Then reports surfaced that Robinson Cano was on his way to Kansas City to sign with the Royals.

Gulp…

If you’re an Indians fan, this all hurts tremendously.

First of all, the Tigers, should they sign Shin-Soo Choo, might just be the best team in baseball. Take a gander at this lineup, should Shin Soo make his way to the Motor City.

Shin-Soo Choo
Ian Kinsler
Torii Hunter
Miguel Cabrera
Victor Martinez
Torii Hunter
Nick Castellanos
Alex Avila
Jose Iglesias

That lineup at its face value could easily take on any in the league. Meanwhile, Detroit houses baseball’s best pitching staff.

Justin Verlander
Max Scherzer
Anibal Sanchez
Doug Fister
Drew Smyly

The worst part of it all is that Dave Dombrowski seems to be on a World Series mission and will use all of the cash in the world to get there.

In other words, they’re not done yet. Not even close.

While the Tigers will certainly have the upper hand on the Indians seemingly regardless of the situation, the Tribe could at least compete with a Choo-less Tigers lineup. Once you put the former Indians star at the top of that order, who knows just how far the talent gap will grow.

All the while, Omar Vizquel has taken the job of first base coach in Detroit.

First Victor. Then Omar. Now Choo?

Detroit is slowly but surely destroying the Indians and their fan-base former player by former player.

Meanwhile, another AL Central team seems be on a mission and ready to spend some cash.

Rumors yesterday are showing that Robinson Cano may just be the newest member of the Kanas City Royals, in what would be an earth shattering development. Should that splash happen, the Royals could easily move into the second rung of the AL Central ladder and could become a legitimate World Series contender.

David Lough
Alex Gordon
Robinson Cano
Eric Hosmer
Billy Butler
Mike Moustakas
Lorenzo Cain
Salvador Perez
Alcides Escobar

Add in the top end of their pitching staff and they might be one of the most under-the-radar teams in all of baseball.

James Shields
Jeremy Guthrie
Ervin Santana
Wade Davis
Bruce Chen

First, the Tigers go out and get much better by moving Miguel Cabrera to first base, adding Ian Kinsler to the mix and potentially adding Shin-Soo Choo. Then, the Royals get the most highly sought after free agent in all of baseball.

Of course these are both hypothetical, but reported, circumstances, but in any case, can the Indians catch a break?
Sure, the Indians did get better on Wednesday by signing David Murphy to take over the everyday right field duties, but the Indians can’t compete with the suddenly big market teams in Detroit and Kansas City, should these deals go down.

The worst part is, there’s really nothing they can do about it.

The Indians don’t have the money to put a bid in on Robinson Cano. They can’t make a deal to bring back Choo. They just simply can’t make these splashes as, apparently, Detroit and Kansas City can.

This is all to say, Indians fans, that maybe last year, despite its heartbreak towards the end, was as good as its going to get. Maybe the magic that Jason Giambi, Nick Swisher and Ubaldo Jimenez brought to the corner of Carnegie and Ontario last season was as good as its going to get for a while.

The Tigers and Royals may be on the verge of taking over the American League and leaving the lowly Indians, White Sox and Twins in the dust.

Despite all of the good that Terry Francona, Chris Antonetti and Mark Shapiro have done for the Indians and for the city of Cleveland, it may all be for naught. The Indians, for the forseeable future, may be trapped in the dark, vast dungeon of the American League Central Division.

Is there anything they can do to get out, should Choo and Cano sign within this division?

Yes, but it would be very, very unlikely.

First of all could get out of the dungeon by getting lucky again and again as they did last season with Scott Kazmir, Ryan Raburn, Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles. If Antonetti continues to pull off moves such as those, the Indians can compete.

Even then, however, things will still be difficult.

They would still have to spend money to solidify their rotation, which is decent but needs a little help. They would also need prospects like Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Jesus Aguilar to be all that we expected and more.

Again, its not impossible, just very, very unlikely.

Other than that, just hope that these two rumors were nothing but. Hope that Choo and Cano sign with the Yankees, as that organization is a continual mess.

If you’re an Indians fan, however, just accept that should Cano and Choo sign in the Central, the new era of Indians excellence may come to a tragic and screeching halt.

All of the hope and optimism could be over with a few simple swoops of a fateful pen. Enjoy it, Tribe fans, because very soon, the fun could be over.

The Indians: What Just Happened?

Four long and brutal days ago, I wrote this piece filled with my hopes and dreams for the Cleveland Indians and their upcoming series with the Detroit Tigers.

Today, I sit dejected, mulling over my thoughts and searching for any kind of answer.

What just happened?

Four days ago, the Indians were three games out in the AL Central Division and in the lead for the second AL Wild Card. Today, they’re seven games back of Detroit and three games back of the Wild Card spot.

Four days ago, Corey Kluber pitched, Mark Reynolds sat on the bench, and Ryan Raburn was still on a minor league contract. Today, Corey Kluber is on the DL, Mark Reynolds is no longer a Cleveland Indian, and Ryan Raburn is now a Cleveland Indian for the next two years.

Four days ago, I was filled with hope and optimism for this Tribe team. Today, I am working as hard as possible to keep up my optimism and my passion for this Indians team.

Only so much could happen in four days, you would think. In the past four days, however, it seemed as if the Indians completely fell apart.

It started in the ninth inning on Monday, an inning I was there to see. As I sat in the bleachers, I watched Chris Perez blow his first save since his return from the DL and break the collective spirit of the city of Cleveland at the same time.

In one mighty swing, Alex Avila may have crushed the Indians playoff hopes for this season.

Game two was more of a laugher, as Justin Verlander was essentially untouchable. Throwing by far his best game of the season just in time for the Indians, they had no chance of beating him, especially with Don Kelly’s .458 batting average against Justin Masterson.

Then came game three, the most heartbreaking of them all.

A back and fourth 14 inning affair when the stars shone brightest for the Tribe. Danny Salazar was incredible in his 7.2 innings of work. Nick Swisher finally got it going offensively, hitting two RBI doubles and putting the Indians ahead by a run. It seemed as if in the “must win” game of the series, the Indians were going to get the job done.

The bullpen was masterful for 5.1 innings until Prince Fielder, again, destroyed the city’s hope in one fell swoop, banging a gaper off of the newly acquired Mark Rzepcynski.

Nevertheless, the Tribe wasn’t done. Two out hits from Mike Aviles and Michael Bourn set up a scenario in which they were down a run with a man on third and two outs; a chance to comeback once again. Unfortunately, the hole that would have normally been filled by Nick Swisher instead held Drew Stubbs, who ultimately failed to deliver.

Down 3-0, the Indians had to face Max Scherzer, the undoubted 2013 Cy Young winner,  and had no chance from the get go. For many Tribe fans, they just wanted to see the series end, regardless of where the Indians are.

10 runs later, the Indians fell to 0-4 in their biggest series since 2007 and in the meantime lost one of their most reliable starters, least reliable power hitters, and that budding optimism that kept fans around the ballpark for the entire series.

Long story short, the Indians blew their chance in so many ways.

First of all, they blew a chance to prove that they belonged in the race for the AL Central. Clearly Detroit is a MUCH better team, but it seemed as if the Indians didn’t belong in the same breath as the mighty Tigers.

They also blew a chance to put this talk of an annual “August Collapse” – a thing in which I did not believe that I’m starting to put some thought into – and keep the Cleveland fans in the ballpark for the rest of the season. The Browns played a very nice game last night and in doing so, may have turned the focus of this town to the gridiron.

Finally, and worst of all, the Indians fell three games back in the Wild Card- their seemingly only route to the playoffs thus far. It seemed as if the Indians were all but a lock to contend for the play-in-game, but now even that seems far off in the distance.

So what do we do now? What do they do now? The questions have piled up in ways they wouldn’t have, should the Indians have won a game or two in this series.

For the Indians, the most important thing to do is to show resilience. While they are on the precipice of a stunning collapse, there is no reason why they should fall. They’re not an elite-level baseball team like the Tigers, but they’re also certainly not the 2012 Cleveland Indians either. Stay away from the August collapse and hope that it’s good enough for a Wild Card berth; just take things day-by-day. The AL Central chapter is over. Open up a new chapter, the Wild Card chapter, and find the love, hope, and optimism that you possessed just before this heartbreaking set. It’s as easy, and as difficult, as that.

For the fans, just keep the faith. Just keep watching this team until they have in fact “collapsed” in the month of August. I truly believe that this team will meet my expectations and hunt for the Wild Card deep into September, but most fans don’t share my optimism. The fact of the matter is, the only way to keep fans around is to win, and in the biggest series of the year, they didn’t. Now, they have to start winning again and giving this town reason to believe in their Tribe.

Regardless of what you may say, Cleveland is itching for the Tribe to return to the playoffs, despite the Browns and their season. Cleveland hasn’t seen the playoffs since 2010 and would support any team that got them back to the promised land.

While this has been a gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, and demoralizing week, just believe. Believe that this team is going to prove to us that they’re in this for the long-haul. Give them the opportunity to prove to us that they deserve to have our butts in those seats. Give them the opportunity to prove that despite their recent struggles, they’re still a strong and resilient baseball team.

Despite this horrible, terrible, awful week, I still have faith that this is the team that’s going to get us back in the postseason, be it this year or next. Until that becomes fact, however, don’t give up on this team. They’ve done too much to this point to have their fans abandon them just as the going got rough.

Although it’s tough, and the wind is completely out of our sails, this season isn’t done yet. There’s still a month and a half to go and it’s an “easy” month and a half in terms of the schedule.

Believe that this Indians team won’t fall short of our expectations again.

It’s not over.

Not even close.

Carrasco and Weaver Should Feel Commissioner's Wrath

By Ryan Isley

Cleveland Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher Jered Weaver should both count their blessings this week that I am not the commissioner of Major League Baseball. I have a feeling Bud Selig will go a lot lighter on these two than I would have had I been in his position.

What Carrasco and Weaver did this past weekend was completely unacceptable on any level of baseball – they threw directly at a hitter’s head. I do not mean that a curveball or a changeup got away from them and harmlessly spun towards the hitter’s head – they both reached back and fired a fastball at an opposing hitter’s dome.

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