Tag Archives: Cleveland Indians

More Than A Friday: I’ll Be Nice, Let’s Be Better

Thursday was a difficult day, a day highlighted by senseless loss of life. It was so difficult, in fact, that I considered blowing off the column this week, but that would be taking the tragedies of the day and making it about me. That’s simply not my style. Before I left the office, I learned of the C-130 (aka Sky Pig) that went down in Jalalabad, killing twelve people, but the 12 lives taken there weren’t the focus of conversation on Thursday, nor will it be in the coming weeks.

Look, we’re all fed up, if not fatigued by the stories of mass shootings. The incident in Roseburg, Oregon seems to be just another notch in the bedpost for someone’s agenda, and as much as we, most of us anyway, want to be sensitive to the families of the victims, we all have an angle. Most of us aren’t shy about discussing it. Blame the epidemic that is mental illness or blame the weapons used to obliterate the innocent, if you must, but my thesis here remains the same. Let’s treat each other better, and continue to strive to be worthy of all things we’re blessed with in this life.

I’m not sure what I was planning to publish for Friday, as I attempt to transition to sports in a not so subtle manner, but I’m definitely pivoting towards being nice this morning. I’ll be nicer about Jose Ramirez and how he should have been treated by the Minnesota Twins after violating age-old baseball code, and I’ll even be kind about two of my least favorite teams in all of sport being showcased in the NFL’s prime time event last night.

The Elite Quaterback1The misspelling is intentional.  If you get the joke, great.  If not, please just move on. and The Dog Killer

For very different reasons, I abhor the the football chapters in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, known affectionately by everyone involved with the National Football League as the Steelers and the Ravens. However, when they’re on the same field of play and we have to hear about how wonderful this rivalry is, I despise the sum a lot more than the combined value of its parts.

Generally, I am reminded that I’ve held on to grudges for too long as a Browns fan, and I reluctantly knowledge that to be true. Generally, I also don’t care about the accuracy of any of that; my irrational feeling is my prerogative as a fan. On this day, a day that senseless stole the lives of so many, I was going to put all of that to the side and be nice.

With Ben Roethlisberger out 4-6 weeks, or 2-3 weeks if you consult Dr. Bill Cowher, the Steelers turned to backup quarterback Mike Vick2He doesn’t want to be Michael.  He probably doesn’t want us to remember why he was sent to Leavenworth either.. Now, if I wasn’t being nice, I’d bring (allegedly) sexually assaulted women and tortured canines to the conversation, but I’m being nice. So, before the game, I thought, “Get well, Ben” and “Good luck, Mike”.

These are fellows with families and mothers who love them unconditionally. I would filter those mean things I might want to say about them, if I knew I were in the presence of those families, so I know I’m capable of doing so. On the other sideline, you have the franchise that once existed as the Cleveland Browns. Very few people affiliated with the events that took place in 1996 would be involved in Thursday evening’s match up, so again, I’ll be nice.

Pittsburgh, in addition to missing the services of their quarterback, is also missing their projected starting center, so at 2-1 on the season, they’re thinking about damage control. Vick is there because Bruce Gradkowski isn’t healthy and Landry Jones isn’t good. They were going to run the ball and keep it simple for the ex-con taking snaps from the backup center. They were fortunate enough to start this run with a taxi-squad at home against a winless Baltimore team.

While we argued how valid some of the 3-0 starts were on this week’s Suits and Laterals Podcast, on the flipside of that coin, you could also question the lack of substance behind the Ravens’ 0-3 start. Denver was understandable, Oakland wasn’t, and the letdown against the Bengals was what it was. I’m sure they’re not proud of how they look in the standings, but John Harbaugh isn’t going to lead a squad that gives up that easily.

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The games between these two are usually close, and it usually means quality, but Pittsburgh’s 10-7 halftime lead didn’t represent that in any way. The Steelers defense isn’t very good, but the Ravens offense couldn’t quite exploit that. I’ll admit that Joe Flacco can be everything the Ravens want from their quarterback, but that doesn’t mean he’s that guy all of the time, and he most definitely was not even close to that in the first half. The Steelers, on the hand, were basically in line with the low expectations you’d have had with Vick.

The Steelers had this game in hand; all they needed to do was close. And, they’re the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s what they tend to do when they play from ahead. Vick notwithstanding, they have Antonio Brown to pick up the slack, and Le’Veon Bell isn’t a bad second option, especially when you want to shorten the game by keeping the clock moving.

Vick to Brown occurred a few times, but it was never effective or efficient. It was Bell that got the touches, the yards, and the Fantasy Football points, but he didn’t get the ball in the end. If I recall correctly, the Steelers had five opportunities to finish off their division rivals and failed to do so. Now, even though I was trying to be nice, there was a little bit of anxious giddiness to me when I considered an 0-4 start for the Ravens. And, when the Steelers failed to use Bell in short yardage on 3rd and 4th down, it bothered me as a football fan. After Josh Scobee missed a second field goal, each promised to make life difficult for Flacco and company on Thursday, I was stuck in nice-mode and forgot how much joy I usually take in Pittsburgh failure.

Even before Ravens kicker Justin Tucker hit from 42 yards in the final seconds of regulation, I felt that Pittsburgh deserved to lose a game, though they controlled everything about it for so long. When Tucker hit from 52, after a questionable 4th down call by Mike Tomlin, who refused to go to Bell on 4th and 1 (or trust Josh Scobee3Scobee, the Steelers’ third kicker since the start of the pre-season, missed two kicks in the game’s final three minutes of regulation.to kick a 50-yard field goal), I felt justice had been served.

I wasn’t content that a team I’ve spent my entire life disliking lost. I just felt Football Team A was punished for screwing the pooch, a fine example of the universe evening itself out.

Everyone Loves Showboating, Everyone Except Me

The Indians and Twins played 18 innings of baseball on Wednesday, with both teams running out of time to grab a playoff spot. In dropping the matinee 7-1, Cleveland gave Houston a chance to effectively end the Indians season, regardless of what happened in Game 2 of the double-header at Progressive Field. In the eighth inning of a game the Twins trailed 7-1, the Minnesota skipper opted to walk Jason Kipnis to get to Jose Ramirez.

Ramirez responded by pulling a Ricky Nolasco pitch over the right-field wall for a 3-run jack, a ball that sailed all of 331 feet into the Cleveland night. After hitting his sixth home run of the year, the Indians utility infielder admired it for longer than he should have, and then he flipped his bat towards the visitors’ dugout. I know that things change, and that few understand the etiquette involved here, but you really can’t do that.

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This isn’t a participation trophy thing; it’s more about respect for the game, and when you get over on a pitcher for one of those 4-base hit, your feat and the scoreboard have done all the talking that needs to take place. I never saw Bob Gibson pitch and couldn’t quote any of his stats to you, but I know that he was notorious for not tolerating that shit. I mean, you could do it, but at a cost, as Gibson would put the next pitch he threw you into your rib cage. That was the fee for patting yourself on the back, and everyone seemed to be on the same page with that. And hey, I’m actually down with that arrangement.

These days, everyone seems to want to make excuses for the grand-standing. Now, athletes allegedly come from different cultures and don’t understand unwritten rules. I, on the other hand, like that some things are kept off the books, and don’t need everything to be so literal. I’m all about hashing shit out like men, and I don’t say that like some fake tough guy. Short of the whole “snitches get stitches” thing, I like the idea of settling things face-to-face without calling the police over every stinkin’ neighborly dispute, and in baseball, I like when the game polices itself.

Since the home run and subsequent bat flip occurred late in Wednesday night’s contest, Paul Molitor and the Twins could only verbalize their dissatisfaction with Ramirez. To their credit, Terry Francona offered no justification and basically apologized on his player’s behalf. Among the baseball people involved, the only ones who have opinions that matter, the Twins gripe had weight to it. No, Ramirez didn’t kill a guy, as whiners and defenders of bat flips so annoyingly pointed out, but he was in the wrong with it. He even offered an apology.

His manager even put him in a place to take his medicine, batting him lead-off in the final meeting between the two teams on Thursday. I saw this one going down one way, and it went like this. If the Twins opted to get their pound of flesh from Ramirez, it had to happen on the first pitch, it couldn’t be at the batter’s head, and you don’t get a Mulligan if you miss. As Tribe color man Rick Manning predicted, the Twins put a priority on winning a ballgame over the fireworks that come with the unwritten rules. Fair enough, they’re in a playoff race and don’t need to lose a starter in the first inning of a game over something silly.

It’s my belief that the umpires respect that code, and no ejection would have taken place. I’m not sure that Jeff Kellogg’s crew would act that way, but it’s my personal opinion that they should have and probably would have. Where I disagree with Manning, is with the suggestion that the Twins get theirs down the road. Nope. There’s a statute of limitations on the mitigating circumstance of “he threw the first punch”, and it expired when Tyler Duffey went down and away with his first pitch to Ramirez.

It was okay to do nothing in that situation on the field. I’m not sure many will disagree, regardless of how they feel about bat flips. So, let’s bring this thing full-circle, and remember that doing nothing is the wrong way to react to Thursday’s shooting at Umpqua Community College.

That includes bitching about nothing being done. There’s a group in Washington that can do something to initiate change. We all have the ability to vote for or against at least one of them. Next month or next year, before you blindly cast a vote for or against any of them because of a letter by their name4Letters like (R) or (D)., take the time to understand what they plan to do, and if you don’t know, ask them. This is our country, as in yours and mine, make sure your represented…if you care, that is.

References
1 The misspelling is intentional.  If you get the joke, great.  If not, please just move on.
2 He doesn’t want to be Michael.  He probably doesn’t want us to remember why he was sent to Leavenworth either.
3 Scobee, the Steelers’ third kicker since the start of the pre-season, missed two kicks in the game’s final three minutes of regulation.
4 Letters like (R) or (D).

A Eulogy For the 2015 Indians

What can you say about the 2015 Cleveland Indians? They had their moments, sure, but to compare the end result to where we figured they would be in late September before the whole party began in April, leaves an almost unexplainable discrepancy.

When the front office pulled off the coup of landing Terry Francona, straight out of the ESPN broadcast booth in 2013, it was supposed to be different. When they pulled out all of the stops for Nick Swisher, and then signed Michael Bourn, under the RADAR, it promised to be a new day in Cleveland.

All three had grossly underperformed in Cleveland, and two of them didn’t last three full seasons. The third, Francona, was brought aboard by someone who opted not to stick around to watch it all crumble. It crumbled in Boston, but they had a couple of shiny trophies on the mantle to remind them of the good times. Progressive Field has only a painted grey flag with the numbers “2013” to show for all of they hype that came with the 2012-2013 off-season.

The 2015 season didn’t mean the arrival of too many new faces; the headliner of the group was Brandon Moss, but the former Oakland Athletic was damaged goods, and the Indians’ brass was all about the reclamation projects (see: Kazmir, Scott). Gavin Floyd and Jeff Manship decided to come along for the ride, joining the pitching staff. They didn’t figure to need a lot of new faces, as the familiar faces were supposed to carry this squad to a title, said the experts at Sports Illustrated.

After all, they had the reigning Cy Young winner, in Corey Kluber1no longer Hans set to take the ball on Opening Day, and pick up where he left off in 2014. Carlos Carrasco showed the accountants enough in the second half of the prior season, that the club decided to extend him 5 years. Trevor Bauer was expected to turn the corner this season, Danny Salazar was expected to bounce back from a sophomore slump of sorts, and Gavin Floyd was the big veteran the team needed to eat up innings at the back of the rotation every fifth day.

It turned out to be the rookie Cody Anderson, and not Floyd, due to completely foreseeable injury, that owned the 5th spot, after Bruce Chen and Shawn Marcum reminded everyone why they were available to anyone willing to give them a shot. Bauer had his glimpses, but finds himself in a battle with Josh Tomlin for a 2016 rotation spot, after Tomlin showed flashes of brilliance, but no consistency in 2015.

Those who did start on the bump, on a semi-regular basis, all flirted with no-hitters. Trevor Bauer was first, but it was early in the season, so he combined with the bullpen for about 8 innings in Tampa, before Nick Hagadone blew the no-no and the shutout. Kluber went 5 or 6 on multiple occasions. Cody Anderson went 5, to kick off a remarkable streak of games in Tampa for the rotation. It was during that stretch that Carlos Carrasco came closest to finishing the job, surrendering a hit with 2 outs in the 9th. Carrasco was on a nice run last Friday against the Royals’ taxi-squad, the night after they clinched their first division title since 1985. Unless it happens in the next four games, Len Barker’s 1981 perfecto against Toronto will remain the last no-hitter of any sort from Tribe pitching.

In a time when the city has moved on to the Browns and getting Johnny Manziel on the field, you could put the celebrity quarterback in the same bucket with the group that plays 81 games a year in the building a few blocks south of First Energy Stadium. You might love the snapshots, but have to understand there’s nothing sustainable, just yet.

Carlos Santana is a first basemen; his days of catching or playing third base have gone the way of the dodo. That might be more of a Yan Gomes thing than a Santana thing, but the effect was felt when Gomes’ season was put on hold in early April, and we entered the black hole of the Roberto Perez/Brett Hayes platoon offensively. The thing offensive about that duo is that fans took offense to the lineup card, but Yan couldn’t go between suffering an injury on April 11th and returning to the lineup in late May.

Arguably, Yan never got things going with the bat all, after a 1-for-4 outing on Opening Day. It was June 6th before he broke the Mendoza line, and his water mark in the batting average category was .237, after a 3-for-4 day in a home loss to the Yankees in August.

At that point, who even cared? They were 7 games under .500, 14.5 games behind the Royals, and in the middle of spending a full month in the American League Central Division cellar. These are symptoms of a team whose clean-up hitter was batting .229, and I’m not talking about Ryan Raburn here.

Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley had some lofty expectations set on them, and despite some really badly-timed slumps, they’ve given everyone everything they can honestly expect at the plate, when you’re looking at the big picture. The problem is, that can’t do it alone, and the players who manned the left side of the infield on Opening Day in Houston weren’t cutting in the field or at the plate. Eventually, the club understood the formula for insanity, doing the same shit and expecting different results, wasn’t going to work, with Jose Ramirez at shortstop and Lonnie Chisenhall at third base, though Chisenhall was reborn as an outfielder, a la Alex Gordon, in the minor leagues.  There’s a definite “to be continued” happening there, so stay tuned.

Alas, we get the relatively unknown Giovanny Urshela up from the minor leagues to play third base, and not too far behind, but way too late for many die-hard Tribe fans, Francisco Lindor to play short. People who couldn’t pick the latter out of a lineup admired and pined for the services of Lindor in Cleveland. Going against the grain of everything not named LeBron James in Cleveland, Lindor has lived up to the hype, and should be named American League Rookie of the Year. In resetting a season that largely makes me frown, it’s all smiles when it comes to the 8th overall pick from the 2011 draft.

Lindor passes the eyeball test, even when he swings and misses. At shortstop, he turns into outs and fielder’s choices into double plays. While I liked Julio Franco, Omar Vizquel, and various stages of the Asdrubal Cabrera Experience, it’s fair to say this young man is one of a kind. He has fun, he takes instruction, and oh by the way, the numbers on the stat sheet are sexy as hell too. They’re not good for a rookie, they’re good for a baseball player. It’s all there in black and white.

The bullpen did some things, like suffer through CC Lee, Scott Atchison, and Anthony Swarzak outings. Zach McAllister and Bryan Shaw didn’t look too bad on paper, but you always cringed when Tito called to the bullpen for their services. Cody Allen was able to stay the course for what he’s been over the course of his still young career, and he will continue to be the starter until he veers obscenely off course (see: Perez, Chris). Manship and Austin Adams seemed to be better with each appearance. We also saw some nice things from Floyd and Shawn Armstrong, but in very small sample sizes.

They sent Marc Rzepcynski packing at the deadline, when Brandon Moss and David Murphy were already gone. Due to their ability to clear waivers, Swisher and Bourn were moved after the traditional July 31 deadline. The moves brought back AAA slugger Abraham Almonte and the albatross contract of Chris Johnson in return; it’s very likely that neither are long-term options, but nice placeholders until the farm system develops recent draft picks a little more.

It was clear after a 7-14 April that this team was not World Series-worthy and the ceiling was reset from 94 wins to 83, and they will be very lucky to even reach that plateau. We’ll miss them anyway.

Rest in Peace, 2015 Cleveland Indians2…or play golf, fish, and have fun with your family.  I’m just offering some parting words on the ball club.  These players should enjoy their lives..

References
1 no longer Hans
2 …or play golf, fish, and have fun with your family.  I’m just offering some parting words on the ball club.  These players should enjoy their lives.

Critical Mass: The Indians Playoff Fate Will be Decided This Week

Approximately 10 days ago, the Indians were just 4.5 games back from the second wildcard spot held by Texas. In front of them were the Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins.

Today, the Indians remain 4.5 games back of the second wildcard spot held by Houston. In front of them are the Minnesota Twins and the Los Angeles Angels.

In 10 days and 9 games, the Indians haven’t made up any ground and the Twins and Angels have effectively traded places.

Such is baseball I guess.

Two of the four games against the Tigers were postponed and the Indians split the Sunday doubleheader with Detroit. The Indians then split their four game series with the Royals 2-2 and followed that up with a series win against Chicago winning 2 games and dropping just 1.

After an off day on yesterday, the Indians begin a critical three game set at Minnesota which could decide if the Indians are in or out by the week’s end. Houston continues its series with Los Angeles and, as much as it pains me to say it, the Indians need Houston to sweep the Angels. In doing so (accompanied by an Indians sweep of the Twins), the Indians and Angels will swap places and effectively turn the run for the second wildcard into a two man race: Astros vs Indians.

After the Astros play Los Angeles, they play a critical series against Texas. In this series, it is important that the Indians hedge their bets on Texas. The Indians have 0 stake in the AL West. Therefore, it makes sense for the Indians to root for any team that knocks teams ahead of them out of the wildcard.

In this case, that means Texas.

If Texas can pull through and sweep (or take 2/3) from the Astros (combined with a favorable outcome between the Indians and Royals), Cleveland may enter the final week of the season either in the second place wildcard spot or battling tooth and nail for it with the Astros.

The latter scenario is predicated upon the idea that the Indians do what is necessary when it is necessary. Unfortunately, especially this season, that has not really been the case.

On to more interesting talk though: the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year race:

Several weeks ago, the race looked to be all but locked up with Astros rookie shortstop Carlos Correa. A recent push by Francisco Lindor (at the plate) has made things much more interesting. Correa maintains a slugging percentage north of .500 and currently boasts 19 HRs and 12 SBs in 88 games. Lindor is holding steady with an OBP of just over .350 with a batting average higher than .300. Throw that on top of his gold-glove worthy defensive play at shortstop, and it becomes clear why Lindor remains neck and neck with Correa. Correa is a decent player defensively, but he is nowhere near the level of Francisco Lindor. If Francisco Lindor can continue to hit the ball at the clip he is at currently, it will come down to the last at-bats of the season to decide who wins the Al ROY award.

The next 6 games of baseball, for the Astros, Indians, and Angels, are critical. Depending on how things play out, the Indians could be in a neck and neck race for the second wildcard position or sitting 6+ games out of the second spot.

It’s all a matter of time. The focus should be on the game at-hand. Looking ahead could cause critical missteps that could endanger the run the Indians are on. Tito has had the boys here before (2013). If he can maintain their focus and keep them loose, I sincerely believe they can make a run for the 1 game playoff at New York. The problem becomes the position they’ve placed themselves in by not winning enough earlier – having to rely on others (namely Texas) to come through.

In one week, I will be able to tell you where we stand.

Hopefully I bring good tidings.

The American League Wildcard and the Trouble with Schedules

It appears that the Indians’ favorable schedule down the stretch is keeping the glimmer of playoff baseball alive in September.

I can’t believe it. You can’t believe it either. As I wrote last week, the Cleveland Indians are still relevant as it pertains to the 2015 playoffs. At the beginning of August, most writers and fans alike had capped this season as a disappointment and were looking ahead to 2016. Slowly but surely, the Indians strung some wins together and figured things out.

Currently, the Indians are just 4.5 games out of the second wildcard spot currently held by the Texas Rangers. In front of them are the Los Angeles Angels (3.0 GB) and the Minnesota Twins (1.0 GB).

Let’s take a look at each of the current contenders and their remaining schedules in the months of September/October:

Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota twins are currently locked in a series with the Chicago White Sox, having won game one of the three game set last night, 6-2. After their remaining two games in Chicago, the Twinkies travel home to Target Field for a 10 game homestand featuring visits by the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, and, after an off day on 9/21, the Indians. They then travel to Detroit for a three game set, followed by a four game set at Cleveland to finish out the month of September. Their final series of the season comes against the Kansas City Royals at home at Target Field.

Clearly, of the remaining games, the most important series comes against the Los Angeles Angels next week. Considering it’s a four game series, it could make or break the Twins’ wild card hopes in addition to sinking other squads’ hopes. In a perfect world, you hope that the teams split the two game series and gain no ground either way. The Indians have a favorable weekend series against the White Sox at the same time as the Twins v Angels series, so a sweep there could really place the Indians in a position to own the 2nd wildcard spot conversation entering the final two weeks of the season.

Another problem the Twins face down the stretch is the perceived strength of their schedule. They only face 4 teams after their weekend series against Chicago: Cleveland, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Kansas City. Of those four teams, one is going to be a division winner (KC), two are currently competing with the Twins for the second wildcard spot (CLE and LAA), and one is down and out this year, but still can pack a wallop (DET).

While the Minnesota Twins have been a nice story this season (see: Houston Astros), the strength of their schedule down the stretch may overarchingly doom them.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Los Angeles Angels are currently in the middle of a three game home set against the Houston Astros and won their game last night 3-2. After finishing with the Astros, the Angels travel for 10 straight games against the Mariners (3), Twins (4), and Astros (3). After a day off, the Angels open a 6 game home stand against the Mariners and Athletics, before traveling to Texas for a 4 game showdown with the Rangers.

Of the teams remaining in the wildcard race as it stands right now, the Angels probably have the hardest schedule of them all. The AL West has been the surprise division (in my opinion) this year in terms of divisional excellence. The thought entering the season was that the Angels and Mariners would clash for the division crown while using the injury plagued Rangers, downtrodden Astros, and talent-less Athletics as target practice in between. In reality, Seattle has been an overwhelming disappointment considering their talent level. In addition, the Angels have played well below expectations and nobody really knows what team their going to get when playing them. The Rangers, even with all of their injuries entering the season, have found ways to win games and keep themselves relevant while the Houston Astros shocked the world and took the division by the horns while never looking back. The Athletics are the only team that have really played to expectations before the season started.

Instead of just one team to worry about down the stretch (Mariners), the Angels have to play three decent baseball teams within their own division. While this makes for interesting storylines as a writer, Angels fans are undoubtedly worried about the strength of schedule they face over the course of the upcoming weeks and what that means to their playoff hopes. Unfortunately, Mike Trout can’t play every position.

Texas Rangers

Like the Angels, the Rangers play many games remaining on their schedule in their own division. The Rangers have it slightly easier in that they see the Athletics twice (6 games) and have a random series at the end of the month against Detroit. Other than that, the Rangers play the division leading Astros twice (6 games), the Mariners once (3 games), and finish their season at Los Angeles (4 games).

If you read the second paragraph under the Angels tab, it applies here as well. The only difference being the strength of schedule the Rangers face. It is slightly less difficult than the Angels with two series against the Athletics and one series against the Tigers.

Cleveland Indians

Of the AL wildcard teams mentioned in this article, the Indians overwhelmingly have the easiest schedule down the stretch. Cleveland plays 3 at home against Detroit followed by a four game set against the Royals and a three game set against the White Sox – All at home. After an off day, they travel to Minnesota for 3 games and then to Kansas City for 3 games. They then travel home for the final home series of the season against the Twins (3 games) and Boston Red Sox (4 games).

Easy, I think, is a relative term in baseball. The Indians have some challenges when it comes to their remaining schedule. The difference, I think, is the strength of the challenge as compared to other challenges faced by the latter wildcard contenders. Yes, the Indians face the Royals seven times down the stretch. Yes, the Indians face the Twins six times down the stretch. Those 13 games will be tough, of that I have no doubt.

But are we really afraid of going 0-13 against those two teams? Of course not.

Are we afraid of dropping all but one game in the series against the Royals and Twins? Of course not.

When I look at teams like the Angels and Rangers, I actually believe that they could walk into each others’ ballparks or Seattle’s or Houston’s and get blanked three straight games.

That’s how good I think the West is this year.

The Indians just have to play their style of baseball, get a few hits, and play no- to minimal-error baseball. They do that, and they have a chance to travel to New York for a one game wild card playoff against the vaunted Yankees. I believe that this team is in the right place, when it comes to their hitting, pitching, and defense, to make a push.

I’m not overly optimistic about our chances. I think, as a Cleveland sports fan, I packed away optimism, along with the ideals of “hope” and “dreams”, in a box long ago.

I do think the Indians have a golden opportunity to do something special and I hope they can muster together enough to make a wildcard appearance happen.

I guess, as the leaves change, we will see if the Indians fortunes change as well.

*Note: Teams directly behind the Indians in the standings were not included in this article due to its potential length if they were added and the shear number of teams still vying for a spot. As teams either move in front of the Indians or separate themselves from the pack, this article will be updated to reflect their chances and remaining schedules.

The Tribe is Alive!

The Tribe is alive. I can’t believe it either.

The Cleveland Indians are just 4 games back of the second wildcard spot entering the final month of the season.

A month ago, I, and many others, were counting the Tribe as out. The bats were dead, the starting pitching wasn’t keeping the game in check and the bullpen was suspect. Add to that the lack of moves by the front office at the deadline and our suspicions weren’t unfounded.

This season was over, in every sense of the word.

And then, slowly but surely the Tribe won a few games.

Then the won a few series and then, they got a sweep.

The bats have been working lately, the starting pitching has been keeping opposing hitters at bay, and the bullpen, when they’ve been needed, have delivered.

The defensive play has been the hidden lynch pin to the Indians streak of success as of late. Who would have known that the addition of Abraham Almonte (seriously?) in centerfield and the return of Lonnie Chisenhall in RF along with the play of Francisco Lindor and Giovanny Urshela on the left side of the infield.

After the current series with the Blue Jays, the Indians have games within and only within the AL Central. Those games include 6 against the Tigers (3/3 Home/Away), 6 against the White Sox (3/3 Home/Away), 7 against the Royals (4/3 Home/Away), and 6 against the Twins (3/3 Home/Away). They are going to need to win approximately 80% (20) games to cement themselves in the wildcard playoff for the American League. There is no chance anyone in the American League Central will catch the Royals. Currently, they are 13 games ahead of the second place team, the Minnesota Twins and 16 games ahead of the Indians.

The next month of baseball could be very interesting. Undoubtedly, memories of 2013 have begun to whimsically drift into the back of my head as I reminisce about one of the greatest months of baseball in recent memory.

While the next month will be interesting, the big Indians-related news of the week occurred late Sunday night

Shapiro back, back, back and gone to Toronto

Reports surfaced last week of an impending offer of the Presidency/CEO duties of the Toronto Blue Jays to current Indians President Mark Shapiro. The collective interwebs and social media were aflame with ifs, ands, and buts about the whole thing before it went quiet for a few days.

Then on Sunday, the hammer was dropped. Multiple well-known and respect sports journalists reported that Mark Shapiro would accept the offer from the Blue Jays effective at the end of the 2015 season. Soon after, the team confirmed it and a press conference was scheduled for Monday afternoon.

At the presser, Mark said he was excited about the opportunity for growth in Toronto and addressed (barely) issues he faced here in Cleveland. When asked about attendance, he side-stepped the issue and moved on to other topics of interest.

Direct reports to Shapiro will now report to Paul Dolan and Dolan also stated he will not look outside the organization for a successor for Mark. It would appear that the next era of the Cleveland Indians Presidency will take effect from within the organization and speculation has begun about who that individual will be.

When looking back over Shapiro’s impressive 24 year career in Cleveland, one can’t help but feel bad for the guy.

When John Hart left the organization in 2001 and Shapiro ascended the GM throne, he was left with a very bad situation: a fan base used to winning and winning a lot, a minor league system devoid of any serviceable talent ready for the majors, and owners who didn’t want to spend much money on talent.

With that, Mark began the process of shaping the Indians from the ground up into the team he envisioned. Unfortunately for him, his drafts were awful. In the early to mid-portions of the first decade of the 2000s, you would be hard-pressed to name one decent major leaguer that came up through the Indians farm system (and no, Matt LaPorta isn’t decent. At all). Where Mark really shined was in his ability to leverage current team assets towards futures of other teams’ farm assets.

Case and point: the Bartolo Colòn trade of 2002:

In 2002, the Cleveland Indians were out of contention and Shapiro pulled the trigger on a deal that sent staff ace Bartolo Colòn to the Montreal Expos for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips.

I don’t need to tell you about the contributions and accolades that group of players have garnered over the course of their MLB careers to prove to you how fantastic that trade was.

When Shapiro stepped aside for Chris Antonetti to assume the role of GM, he took over as team president and was able to turn his attention things outside of personnel and baseball operations. His role in the new construction at the ballpark which debuted this season and his work in making Progressive field more fan and family friendly have been enormous. I love what has been done to Progressive field and I feel way more connected to the team and the game when I’m at the stadium than when I was younger.

Mark Shapiro has been around the Indians organization for longer than I’ve been alive. He has been there with us during the highs (1994-2001), the lows (2002-2006), and the playoff runs and appearances (1995-1999; 2001; 2007, and 2013). He has felt the heartache we’ve all experienced at one point or another. He’s felt the exhilarating highs of Tom Hamilton’s walk off calls in the lazy summer evenings and the lows of a Matt Underwood curse before an opposing player does something great.

Sure he’s a part of the organization, but he is also one of us. He did the very best he could with the resources he had, and I for one, can’t blame him for anything. He’s going to a great organization north of the border with deep pockets and a handful of great hitters. I wish him nothing but the best, and hopefully, he’ll come back around Cleveland from time to time to check in on us.

If You’re Reading This, It’s Already Too Late

If anyone objects to this union, speak now or forever hold your peace.

Yeah, I didn’t exactly give anyone the chance to do that.  It was one of two requests I asked of the Justice of the Peace that officiated our nuptials.  The other, I stole from Spaceballs.  We required the short, short version for our outdoor mid-summer Phoenix wedding.  While I’m on the subject, allow me to tip my proverbial cap to Jen, my bride of eight years.  Without her blessing to do this, we wouldn’t be here right now.  As an act of gratitude, I may even unload the dishwasher or take out the trash.

For some reason, I’ve been trusted with the master key to all of More Than A Fan, and I have to tell you, this is all so surreal.  I keep expecting to wake up and I’m actually waiting for someone to yell at me, to tell me what I can’t do.  Don’t get me wrong, the ‘ghost’ of Josh Flagner will linger in my head, and it will haunt me if get out of line, but that isn’t my intention.  In fact, my intentions are not a priority these days; my obligations are.  Let me break those down.

First, it is paramount that we keep the lights on.  I laughed about it in BASEketball, when Squeak went to turn off Doug and Coop’s gas, but it wasn’t very funny when the natural gas ceased to flow in my own residence.  You’d think you could live with it, especially on nice spring days, but a week of ice-cold showers and painful shaves had me changing my tune.  It’s a good excuse to grow a beard, but my mind hadn’t gone there.

I learned from a friend, who had little money and no power, how to rough it with easily bought neighbors, an extension cord, and a power strip. Unplugging the TV, to open an outlet, to plug in the coffee maker, to heat up the water to shave, well, that’s no way to live.  It’s obviously not how you run a website.  Keeping the lights on, in this figurative sense, it requires money, so you’re going to see advertisements and we might even do some things we’re not proud to do (but, hopefully not).

Next, I have an obligation to these fantastic writers, as well as our loyal readers.  A glance around More Than A Fan reveals that Matthew Kline always sees something that could use tweaking or fixing in sport, Jared Andrews knows the peaks (present-day Blackhawks) and valleys (historically, the Cubs) of being a Chicago sports fan, and what a time for Britt Zank to be waxing poetic about his beloved Kansas City Royals!

Our resident Canadian, John Poulter is writing about and talking about his hometown Toronto Blue Jays at the right time.  Let’s see how all of that plays out.  When we get to football season, Jared may be slightly less elated to speak on the tragedy that the Chicago Bears have become, compared to the suddenly-inspired, Joe Maddon-led Cubbies.  Outside of Arizona, there can’t be too many folks longing for the cold days of winter, but maniacal hockey fans probably have their countdowns down to the hour by now.  Though his Maple Leafs are so cursed, they might as well be Cleveland’s fourth team, John still makes his way to the Air Canada Centre more than a few times a year, come win, lose, or shootout.

They do play their fair share of hockey south of Ontario, and our hockey staff has you covered with opinions from Anaheim to Boston, and everywhere between.  As for me, my biggest NHL interests reside in the desert, specifically in a small-time city that generally seems not to care about at least one of its major professional sports franchises.  Never a dull moment with the drama surrounding the Coyotes, my favorite hometown team.

It’s weird to say it and a little awkward to see it typed out, but Phoenix absolutely is my hometown.  I’ve been here 14 years, later this month.  However, if you know me at all, you know my birthplace and long-time home is a seldom-respected city of yesteryear in Northeast Ohio, known as Cleveland.  As More Than A Fan and I are brought together once again, I remember our common bond, we were both born in Cleveland, as was the site’s founder.  Deny it, as anyone might, that’s our home base.  It’s where our original readers come from, and in February 2013, Daniel Zaleski and the rest of management decided those readers had earned their own page.

The voices at MTAF: Cleveland are different from what they were in the beginning, but the tone is the same.  We’d be speaking out of turn to evaluate fan bases, but I personally understand the dedication of those fans, near the shores of Lake Erie.  In some cities, the night ends when the games end.  The 2-1-6 is different; they’re talking Browns on the 4th of July and the discussion about a 7:05 Indians game could well into the AM hours of the next day, both online and on the airwaves.  We cannot understate how the Cavaliers are overwhelmingly the best team in town at the moment, but they aren’t the only basketball team in downtown Cleveland.

A few blocks from the Quicken Loans Arena stands the once state-of-the-art Wolstein Center, and while crowds are a far cry from what they used to be for Vikings basketball, the entire Cleveland State Athletic Department remains near and dear to the heart of the many alumni that reside in and around the city.  I cut my teeth on underdogs and upsets when the ’86 hoops team knocked off Bobby Knight’s 2-seeded Indiana as a 15, and rooted hard for this mid-major that’s never lost an Opening Round game in the NCAA tournament, as they went toe-to-toe with Butler in the Horizon League, before Butler bolted for greener pastures a few years back.  For everything else on Cleveland’s only Division I athletic program, I defer to our own Bob McDonald.  He is the decided authority for all-things-Cleveland-State.

I’m the one who decided that, so take that for what you will.  The bottom line is, for our readers from Cleveland to parts unknown, we know you have options.  We owe you good content for following our crazy views on the wide world of sports, and we need to deliver it on a consistent basis.  If that does not happen, I have failed in my role.

On that note, my last obligation, or really, my moral imperative is to take care of (MTAF Founder) Josh Flagner’s baby the best way I know how, by treating it like my own.  He has an actual baby to take care of now, so he should appreciate that.  Josh, I promise not to drop this thing on its head, feed it paint chips, or let it be a Brian Hoyer fan.  All kidding aside, if there’s a better way for “my” More Than A Fan to pay homage to Josh Flagner (and co-founder Lisa Pitz) than to recognize their charitable efforts, I don’t know what it is.

Off the webpage and in the community, philanthropy is a big part of our mission statement.  I want More Than A Fan to be more than a place that simply houses brilliant, unfiltered sports opinion, but good-standing members of society.  This team should demand that of me, as well as of themselves.

We aren’t just more than fans in these parts.  We hope to be more than readers, writers, editors and publishers, but a community that takes care of one another and looks out for our own.  Together, we make More Than a Fan a place that we can all be proud of, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, ’til link-rot do us part.

Tribe Time Now: Minor League Report #6 – #7

After a bit of downtime from posting, here are episodes #6 & #7 of the Tribe Time Now: Minor League Report!

#6: Help is on the Way

Feat.: Kevin Gall (BRB), Laurel Wilder (DTTWLN), and Todd Paquette (DTTWLN)

Laurel Wilder (@laurelwilder) and Todd Paquette (@indiansaccounts) from Did The Tribe Win Last Night? join Kevin Gall (@kgall216) from Burning River Baseball to talk about the Lake County Captain, Erik Gonzalez, and who can help the Indians break out of their slump.

Topics:

  • Claudio Bautista
  • Greg Allen
  • Bobby Bradley
  • Erik Gonzalez
  • Who can help the Tribe the most today?

#7: Looking Good in Lynchburg

Feat.: Kevin Gall (BRB), Joe Werner (IPL), and Rob McLamb (IBI)

Rob McLamb (@RobMclambIndians Baseball Insider and Joe Werner (@JoltinJoey) of It’s Pronounced Lajaway join Kevin Gall (@KGall216) of Burning River Baseball to discuss the Indians’ most exciting minor affiliate, the Lynchburg Hillcats. We go in-depth on some of the Indians’ best prospects including Bradley Zimmer, Mike Papi, and Clint Frazier.

Topics:

  • Bradley Zimmer
  • Luigi Rodriguez
  • Mike Papi
  • Clint Frazier
  • Nellie Rodriguez
  • Lynchburg pitchers

Tribe Time Now Weekend Update Episodes #12 – #14

After a bit of downtime from posting, here are episodes #12 – #14 of the Tribe Time Now: Weekend Update!

#12: Can’t Score? Run More

Feat.: Joe Coblitz (BRB) and Bob Toth (DTTWLN)

Joe Coblitz (@BRBBlog) from Burning River Baseballand Bob Toth (@TheBobToth) from Did The Tribe Win Last Night? got together on a Sunday afternoon to solve all the Indians problems and failed miserably. Of the things they were unable to do becoming more aggressive on the base paths, firing the hitting coach and trading Carlos Santana are included. At least they were able to determine whether the Indians and White Sox will be buyers or sellers at the deadline…what do you mean they couldn’t even do that?

Topics:

  • Van Burkleo
  • Toru Murata
  • Tribe Records
  • Buyers or Sellers

Links:

#13: Almost Perfect

Feat. Joe Coblitz (BRB) & Chris Burnham (IPL)

Joe Coblitz (@BRBBlog) from Burning River Baseballand Chris Burnham (@CMB1979) from It’s Pronounced Lajaway discuss the most recent week in Indians baseball and you know what that means, pitching, pitching, pitching. In addition to pitching, there will be no hitting and a discussion on the new direction the Tigers are taking without Miguel Cabrera. Also without Cabrera, they discuss how the American League All-Star team will take the loss and who deserves to fill in for the roster of Royals.

Topics:

  • Starter’s success
  • Offensive Struggles
  • Miggyless Tigers
  • All-Star Reserves

#14: The Good, The Bad, and The Extremely Ugly

Feat.: Joe Colblitz (BRB) & Jim Berdysz (IBI)

Joe Coblitz (@BRBBlog) of Burning River Baseball and Jim Berdysz (@BirdmanCLE) of Indians Baseball Insider chat about the horrors that have befallen the Indians since the All-Star break and some good stuff as well. In addition, what to do with Swisher and who, what and when to buy, sell or both at the trade deadline.

Topics:

  • Good, bad & confounding ugliness
  • Heralding the Return of Swisher
  • Buying & Selling the Trade Deadline
  • CarGo?
  • Keeping Carlos Santana

Tribe Time Now Podcast Episodes #20 – #23

After a bit of downtime from posting, Here are episodes #20 – #23 of the Tribe Time Now Podcast:

#20: If you don’t understand that, you don’t get baseball

Feat.: Ryan Thompson (MTAF: CLE) and Jim Pete (Everybody Hates Cleveland)

Jim Pete (@JimPeteEHC) of Everybody Hates Cleveland and Ryan Thompson (@RThompAK13) ofMore Than a Fan: Cleveland to they talk about the spanking the Tribe put on the Rays.  Where the hell did Cody Anderson come from? How this rotation build itself? Anybody seen Michael Bourn? Pre-All-Star Game series’ and much more.

Topics:

  • 4-game sweep of the Rays
  • How to go into the All-Star break on top
  • Michael Bourn issues
  • Potential trade targets; call ups;
  • Rough stretch: PIT, HOU, and OAK (Yikes!)

#21: Jose Ramirez: The Future Backup QB of the Cleveland Indians

Feat.: Ryan Thompson (MTAF: CLE), Joe Coblitz (Burning River Baseball), and Kevin Gall (Burning River Baseball)

Joe Coblitz (@BRBBlog) & Kevin Gall (@KGall216) of Burning River Baseball join Ryan Thompson (@RThompAK13) of More Than a Fan: Cleveland. The trio discusses recent series (and pitfalls) in Pittsburgh and Houston, what to do with Nick Swisher, what the Indians should do at the deadline, options the Indians have to bring up from AAA, and general kibitizing about the city of Massillon’s lack of things to do, the lack of use of WAR in a podcast!

Topics:

  • Recap – Pittsburgh and Houston
  • Nick Swisher – Dead or Alive?
  • Indians at the deadline
  • AAA players to promote
  • Kibitzing
  • Massillon
  • WAR

#22: The Bourn Trajectory

Feat.: Ryan Thompson (MTAF: CLE), Stephanie Liscio (IPL), Mike Brandyberry (DTTWLN), Hayden Grove (IBI), Joe Coblitz (BRB), and Jim Pete (EHC)

Joe Coblitz (@BRBBlog) or Burning River Baseball, Stephanie Liscio (@stephanieliscio) of It’s Pronounced “Lajaway”, Hayden Grove (@H_Grove) of Indians Baseball Insider, Jim Pete (@JimPeteEHC) of Everybody Hates Cleveland, and Mike Brandyberry (@DidTribeWin) of Did The Tribe Win Last Night and Ryan Thompson (@RThompAK13) ofMore Than a Fan: Cleveland  are together again for the mid-season roundtable of Tribe Time Now.

In this edition, the crew discusses the All-Star Game, The Home Run Derby, the first half in review, potential trade deadline moves or promotions, the Francisco Lindor and Giovanny Urshela call-ups and subsequent Lonnie Chisenhall and Jose Ramirez demotions, The AL Central as a whole, and second half predictions.

Topics:

  • All Star Game
  • First half comparisons; reviews
  • Trade deadline moves? Make them or promote?
  • Michael Bourn
  • Lindor/Urshella/Ramirez/Chisenhall
  • AL Central
  • Predictions

#23: The Pre-Trade Deadline Episode

Feat.: Ryan Thompson (MTAF: CLE) & Stephanie Liscio (IPL)

Stephanie Liscio (@stephanieliscio) of It’s Pronounced “Lajaway” joins Ryan Thompson (@RThompAK13) of More Than a Fan: Cleveland for the 23rd episode of Tribe Time Now! Stephanie and Ryan discuss the Milwaukee series in review, potential trade ideas from IPL, interest in Santana and Mike Aviles, the AL Central’s vast starting pitching marketplace, the shady PR area of announcing why the Indians aren’t trading Mike Aviles, Larry Doby (!), and Pete Rose and the HOF.

Topics:

  • Cody Anderson’s first bad start
  • Potential Trades
  • Larry Doby history
  • Pete Rose
  • Hall-of-Fame

Links: