Tag Archives: Jim Thome

More Than A Friday: Cubs in the Movies and For Actual

On Wednesday evening, we said good-bye to the 2015 Chicago Cubs, the latest we’ve ever bid the north-siders adieu in a calendar year, but that didn’t make things any easier for those who have suffered through elimination in ’84, ’89, ’98, ’03, ’07, and 2008. I felt bad for them, and then I made it about myself.

Poooooooooor Cub fans.

Poooooooooor Cleveland fans.

You know what though? It’s just a game, and while we love it, we shouldn’t lose sight of that fact. The players make a lot of money, and sports, in general, make money hand-over-fist. They do that because we pay to be entertained by the games. It’s a lot like the movies, except the joy and anguish we experience at the theater doesn’t stay with us for days, you know, the way the games do.

Back to the Future: Part II lied to us

You buying that?  I sure as hell don’t subscribe.  By now, I’m sure everyone is well aware that October 21, 2015 was the day the 1985 characters from the first installment of the Back to the Future franchise arrived 30 years into their future.  I’m as aware as anyone, as I prepare to attend a theme party about 15 years in the making this Saturday.  So, of course, we watched what Robert Zemeckis envisioned yesterday’s world would be like.  We did so on digital media, a bonus of technology developed a few years back, from “Digital Copy” discs that accompanied our Blu-Ray box set of the trilogy.

The beginning of the movie is basically a series of jokes about what the next 30 years might have brought to the world, and how much of 1985 would be outdated by then.  We didn’t quite make it to flying cars, dehydrated Pizza Hut, or Jaws 19, but we’re far beyond scenes in window screens, fax machines, and printed newspapers.  And while, most Pepsi isn’t going to set you back $50, that Pepsi Perfect promises to fetch quite a bit more.

cubbiesworldseries

Today’s news was supposed to feature the beginning of the slamball playoffs, Queen Diana’s arrival in Washington DC, and the Cubs taking down a Miami baseball team to sweep the World Series.  Well, Slamball is a real thing, the late Princess didn’t outlive her mother-in-law, and few months after Diana’s tragic death, not only was there a team in Miami, but they won it all.  In fact, that Miami team has once the whole shebang twice, while the Cubs have a lot of years between them and their last World Championship in 1908.

The joke there was clearly about the contrasting viewpoints of people in the present tense of 2015 being intrigued by the Cubbies finally getting it done, to the point of congratulations somewhere in California, versus Marty’s amazement with the existence of a team in Miami.  While Chicago wasn’t quite the 100-to-1 shot the movie said they were, they are a far cry from what they were when the 2014 season, and in a good way.

Instead of being pissed that it didn’t happen, fans should rejoice that they got to carry the storyline beyond the regular season and three rounds into the post-season.  Remember, this was a third place team that sent the first and second place teams in their division to the golf course, while they got an honest crack at the Mets and were a step closer to the World Series than Pittsburgh or St. Louis.

Mark Grace was Taking Care of Business

We didn’t actually see the World Series in Hilldale, just the reporting of what happened in their fictional world.  Twenty-five years ago, we actually put them on the field in Anaheim against the Angels.  Mark Grace actually hit a home run that Jim Belushi broke out of prison to catch, and the most unreal thing about that premise was the Cubs playing the Angels in the Series.  Down the road a few years, Gracie would hit a World Series bomb, in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, which his Diamondbacks would win in 7 games.

belushiball

The Rookie of the Year bests the Mets

So, a kid breaks his arm, it heals, and the catches the eye of the Cubs brass when he throws a home run back at Wrigley.  Preposterous?  Perhaps, but no more unrealistic than the Cubs sweeping an American League team in Miami, right?

The Cubs rival in that flick was the Mets, and why?  It’s because we were in the days before interleague play and there was no one exciting enough from the National League back then, so they went with New York’s JV squad.  Of course, the kid loses the magic right before the big inning and manages to get it done anyhow.  Kids movie send viewers home happy.

Actual Cubs make adults cry in their beer.  We actually get to see Mr. Henry Rowengartner later in life, crying to his single high school friends about getting nothing more than head from Tara Reid.  This is the adolescent sex-comedy equivalent to how Cleveland fans ultimately feel seeing the sorrow of Chicago fans.

We get it, the Cubs mean more to most of them than any other sport, if not thing, in the world.  Still, I’m left to think about the last thirty years, which saw the Bears win a Super Bowl, the Bulls win six titles, and the Blackhawks take home three Stanley Cups, even if we disregard the White Sox winning the World Series in 2005.

At least we got the best of the sports movies.

A Major League Hit

I like a lot of sports movies, and I think there are a lot of good ones.  Even the bad ones have their moments, but not the sequels to Major League.  Remember The Titans, Hoosiers, Miracle, and BASEketball are among my favorites.  Kevin Costner movies don’t do it for me, though Tin Cup has its moments.  However, Major League is all the way there for with timeless adult humor and, of course, my Cleveland Indians.

There actually ended up being a lot of real life parallels from the 1989 flick.  We ended up getting our speedy lead-off Willie Mays Hayes-type in Kenny Lofton, our beleaguered power-hitting outfielder in the form of Albert Joey Belle, and our ultimately unlikable third basemen in Jim Thome.  Just imagine the graffiti clean-up on a Roger Dorn statue.

However, while the big screen gave the team that beat Miami, Jim Belushi, and Tara Reid’s sexually predatory high school boyfriend World Series wins, Cleveland still got shit on, with the sequel revealing that magic playoff clincher against the Yankees was followed up by an excruciating sweep at the hands of the White Sox.  Screw you, Hollywood.

Your movies may lie to Cub fans, but you do a number in telling my hometown the truth.  Cleveland can’t catch a break on either side of the camera.

Biased Observer: Stuff I Should Have Said

I truly do not do this often enough.
I truly do not do this often enough.

There is always so much to say, but there is never enough time. I may be a little behind, but I’ve always liked the last word more than the first word, anyway.

More Than a Fan News

There is good news and bad news here at More Than a Fan. I’ll start with the bad news, so we don’t have to dwell on that for very long; we’re having issues with our audio hosting. Until those issues are dealt with, I’ll be putting the More Than a Fan Podcast on a few week hiatus. That’s not a huge deal, since it’s a weekly show, but we’re working on the problem every chance we get.

The good news is much better. More Than a Fan has an Official Ticket Partner! Ticket Monster is partnering with MTAF to bring our readers tickets to local sporting events, concerts, and even theater show! Go to More Than a Fan and click BUY TICKETS on the menu bar. Every ticket you buy helps MTAF grow!

And a little personal note; there is a pink room in my house. It contains, among other things, a crib and a Diaper Genie. There isn’t a tiny person in there yet, but it’s close. (Holy shit)

Ray Rice

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice two games for knocking his fiance out in an elevator. I feel like in any civilized society, I shouldn’t have to finish this paragraph. The obvious chain of events would be that the NFL would come under fire for such a lax punishment, the Ravens would lobby to have the suspension lengthened, and, ultimately, Rice would end up sitting out AT LEAST four games.

Instead, Roger Goodell publicly defended the punishment.

Look, in this case, I don’t care one bit about the name or team of the player that’s involved in domestic violence. I also don’t care one bit about the disciplinary scale of the NFL drug program. Josh Gordon’s impending season long suspension has absolutely nothing to do with Ray Rice’s free pass for punching a woman in the face.

Ray Rice should be suspended for at least eight games. If the lack of charges being filed and/or no (publicly available) videotape of the actual incident are the arguments for knocking the suspension down from there, I would counter that those circumstances are already knocking the suspension down from a full season to a half.

The NFL spends millions of dollars annually marketing to specifically to women. Knowing how women should be treated is far more valuable than pink jerseys.

Jim Thome’s Statue

I like Jim Thome. I loved watching him mash taters in an Indians uniform from 1991 to 2002. I also don’t personally begrudge his departure to Philadelphia. Hey, more money is more money, and you can be sure that if were a free agent athlete, the number one priority in my decision would be money.

Thome is also practically a shoe-in for the Baseball Hall of Fame. A 22-year career that adds up to 612 home runs, a .276 batting average, and season top-ten rankings in almost every important offensive category for almost every year he played is a without-a-doubt indicator that Jim Thome had a fantastic career.

Still, I am incredibly disappointed that Jim Thome now has a statue at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

I feel like a lot of Indians fans currently fall into two categories:

  • Fans who are so down on the Tribe organization that nothing the team does will bring them any joy. Sweep the Rangers? Who cares, the Rangers suck and the Indians have already blown the season.
  • Fans who need to see the Tribe glass as half full SO BADLY that erecting a statue of the third best player on Cleveland teams that DIDN’T WIN THE WORLD SERIES should be celebrated blindly.

If anything, Jim Thome’s spot as third – or fourth – best player on those 90s Indians clubs is a testament to just how great those teams were. Sadly, we’re stuck having discussions about whether those clubs were the best teams to never win a championship, instead of arguing about whether the 1995 World Series winning Indians would have beaten the 1997 World Series winning Indians.

I support building statues of players who fall into two categories; they went out of their way to use their platforms to better their sport or their society (oftentimes both), or they were truly legendary compared to their peers.

Bob Feller has a statue in Cleveland. He is a Hall of Famer, a World Series Champion, and took three years off in the middle of his career to serve in the United States Navy during World War II. He is a legend. Both for his accomplishments on the field, and for sacrificing his livelihood to serve his nation. Jim Thome didn’t even sacrifice percentage points off of his lifetime earning capacity to keep his word about not leaving Cleveland.

I can understand the organization’s drive to capitalize on the love that many fans have for those 1990s Indians teams. Omar Vizquel, Sandy Alomar, Jr, Kenny Lofton, Eddie Murray, Charles Nagy, Dennis Martinez, Orel Hershiser, and Albert Belle – who’s my all-time favorite Indian, were members of some great Indians teams. I loved them all. But, with no championships and legendary off-the-field stories (unless you count Albert Belle’s disappearing corked bat as legendary), there’s really no player deserving of immortalizing.

If the Indians wanted to truly capitalize on the 1990s, the statues should have been a giant number 455, to commemorate the fans who packed Jacob’s Field from 1995 to 2001. Cleveland fans are the legendary standard in every sport. It would have been great to see one of the Cleveland teams acknowledge that standard, instead of trying to prop up a player who couldn’t get the attendees of those 455 games the championship parade that they deserved.

Follow me on twitter @Railbirdj, or leave a comment here that will show up on Facebook. I’m always game to argue about all this stuff I should have said in 140 character chunks. 

The 216: Control-Alt-Compete

The whole reboot phenomenon has become all the rage. I really don’t know if I’m in or out. The concept on the whole just has too many variables; are we bringing something good back to life, and are we improving the original or just watering it down? Are we re-creating something that looked good on paper, and then fizzled out on its execution? Or, are we just taking a giant pile of crap, throwing it at the wall, and hoping it turns into Godiva chocolate before it hits the ground?

 

 

I really don’t stick around long enough to find out, with the JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot being an exception among few others, and I haven’t exactly motivated myself enough to see the second installment. Ditto for Christopher Nolan’s Batman reboot, and I’m still waiting for a day rainy enough to take in The Dark Knight Rises. I wouldn’t even waste my time with something like 90210, Dallas, or the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot. It all comes across like a Saved by the Bell spinoff, and even a fine thespian like Bob Golic couldn’t make that work.

 

Speaking of Golic, if we’re making this about Cleveland sports, and trust me, we are, isn’t his time with the Browns an era we’d like to reboot? I understand that the Browns themselves are just one giant failed reboot as an expansion franchise, but wouldn’t it be nice to, given where we’re at today, have a run like the local teams gave us from 1986-2001? I’m not asking for carbon copies; you can spare me the heartbreak, but I sure wouldn’t mind a little bit of relevance.

 

I know that there’s a time-frame for the Cavs, which is really all some of the younger fans have, that falls outside of that window. That entire era, which included five consecutive trips to the post-season, was very recent, ended badly, and basically hinged on one individual. You’re going to hear, and probably already have heard, enough about him and that reboot. It’s as if they are going to put all of their eggs in one basket, and then hand that basket to Jesus, once again. If it’s me, I’d just as soon not root for the Washington Generals to beat the Globetrotters on Saturday after watching them lose on Friday.

 

It’s about more than bringing back pieces from the original, which you almost have to do in order to hook the original viewers, but the program has to be a little bit different. Even if characters are reprising their original characters, they have to fill a different role. In a recent Grantland article, it was suggested that NBC reboot L.A. Law with Blair Underwood’s character having a more senior role this time around. That’s the type of thing I’m going for here; it’s a time of Marty’s Browns, the blue and orange Cavs, and the early days of Jacobs Field.

I think that it’s important to reach into the right era for the entertainment value. I’m still watching The Wonder Years, and realizing the nostalgia doesn’t come with simply going back 20 years, but going back to the late 60’s and early 70’s that gives it a lot of its appeal. Period pieces about the 80s just don’t carry that “it” factor, for me it’s as simple as That 70s Show surviving while Freaks and Geeks failed. The Wedding Singer would be an exception.

 

I don’t think you could make The Wonder Years work at a middle school in 1994 though the eye of a 2014 viewer, in the same mindset that we would not embrace a 17 year-old McFly-type’s hijinks going back to 1984 from the present-time. That’s why I’m not trying to reboot the 40s or the 60s here, even in spite of the Browns and Indians success; the more I thought about it, the less it worked.

Two Eighties Throwbacks

Room For 19?

For a sports fan, the beginning is a different time, depending on age, personal interest, and what our parents exposed us to. My pops grew up in Northeast Ohio, but took a liking to the Rams in childhood before warming up to the Browns before I was in the picture. He had the Fearsome Foursome, and they were the L.A. team, so I imagine the television exposure was quite significant for them, even in the 60s. He and I never really got into the motivation behind it, but I would dismiss anything involving the Rams’ Cleveland roots, and simply offer the explanation that kids have reasons for doing things that defy the logic we’ve come to understand as adults.

 

To me, it never mattered; by the mid-80s, we were in the same boat, watching the Browns because they were the team in town. It was a little easier for me not to stray off the beaten path in my formative years because the Browns were fun to watch, and it was just flat-out fun to be a fan. I don’t question why Cleveland remains a Browns town, despite how ass-backwards things have been since 1995. I remember the joy, the bond I shared with my friends and family over our football team, and how time basically stopped in our part of the world while the Browns broke our hearts.

 

The beginning for me was the beginning of Bernie Kosar’s time in Cleveland. I wasn’t ga-ga over the guy, even as a child, but it’s mostly because I didn’t know enough to appreciate him. At that point, Boardman might as well have been on the moon; I knew nothing of his time at Miami, Hail Flutie, how he manipulated the Supplemental Draft process to come home, or why he wore number 20 if he was playing quarterback in college. All I know is that Gary Danielson got hurt, Kosar came in the game, and I spent the next 10 years of my youth watching the Browns.

 

I don’t know that I every appreciated his value until it had diminished to the point where they were better off without him as a player than with him. This was something that was really difficult for me to comprehend as it was happening, maybe because of my age, but I think when you compound the emotions of an adolescent and compound them with just how spoiled kids my age were with the perennial success of the Browns from 1985-1990, it becomes a little more clear. Bernie’s best days were behind him, and we now know that it’s for the greater good to keep obstacles out of Bill Belichick’s way.

 

I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I am saddened by Bernie, for certain things, in the present tense. The slurred speech, which very well could be related to Kosar’s affinity for the sauce, as well as I what I always believed it to solely be, a lot of shots to the noggin, seems to define the 50 year-old former player more than anything else. There’s the divorce and the financial problems he’s had, which are actually none of our business as fans, but it’s a road you have to down to justify why this guy doesn’t have a more integral role in football today.

 

Then, you have to look at the positive side of Bernie Kosar, all of the aspects that allow us to deny that he’s a broken man, or that he even deserves to be perceived as one. First off, I want to speak to what an obviously compassionate man he is. If you’ve read Terry Pluto’s Things I’ve Learned from Watching the Browns, even just excerpts from it, you know that the fans always meant as much to him as he’s meant to them. Not to bully the present day athlete, but where do we see that these days?

 

Of course, it goes beyond the fans. If you take Bill Belichick and Art Modell, names you figure to be fairly high on Bernie’s poo-poo list, and weigh the fact that he holds no grudges, that he understands business, and is able to let go of the anguish that even the fans can’t release, maybe it makes us stop and think. Personally, I’ve long since put any desire to bellyache about Belichick behind me, but it’s a little more difficult to absolve Modell. Bernie has me thinking that maybe I should.

 

Maybe that doesn’t mean a thing to you. Maybe it’s wins, losses, X’s, and O’s, the bottom-line kind of stuff you want to hear about. Bernie knew his X’s and O’s, he could read defenses and see the field; he just got his ass handed to him a lot and he was often too proud, which led to his demise in partnership with Belichick. He was too proud to be given advice from anyone other than Lindy Infante, and he was too proud to comprehend pain well enough to succumb to it. Not speaking to tolerance and its varying level, but pain is the body’s way of telling the brain you’re not well; playing through pain made Kosar gritty and touch, which earned him the idol status he earned with Cleveland’s blue collar community, but it earned him a fast track to the dreaded “diminishing skills” phrase.

 

It’s still my opinion that there’s a place for Kosar on the football side of things. Maybe he’s a little bit toxic, coming off the DUI last year, which the fed the national narrative that his critical comments of a Browns post-season opponent were alcohol-fueled. Maybe I’m fooling myself into believing there’s more left upstairs with the once-bright young man, whose biography I mostly learned from a parody of The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie”. Maybe, he can’t possibly be anything more than a figure-head, a man whose purpose could be replicated with a giant bronze statue of his likeness. But, maybe there’s something to his harsh analysis on the pre-season telecasts. Maybe his ability to build a solid Arena Football team from the scraps of a poor, displaced Vegas franchise says something. Maybe he’s not all the way broken—football-wise.

 

Could he be a better Team President than Joe Banner? Should he have a loud voice on personnel decisions? What about a coaching role; if not the head coach, maybe the offensive coordinator? No, no, no, no, no, and no. I realize I’ve probably answered more questions than were asked, but I want to get the point across; I don’t necessarily trust Bernard Joseph Kosar enough to hand him the keys to the future in any capacity.

 

I do think it might be irresponsible to outright disqualify Bernie from doing anything but wearing a Burger King crown and telling him he’s special. I wouldn’t mind him whispering into Ray Farmer’s ear if he sees something in a prospect. While I’m not trying to infer that Brian Hoyer has a promising future on the Lakefront, who better to advise him about the day-to-day life of a local celebrity in his own hometown than the guy who used to wear #19? We don’t know who else is going to be in camp, but say it’s Johnny Manziel just for hypothetical purposes, there are few men that I’d like to mentor him on seeing the defense. Imagine Bernie is his day with Johnny’s mobility.

 

It’s just something for Mike Pettine to think about.

He’s Not Your Buddy, Pal

Speaking of the new boss in Berea, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to delve into what he might bring to the table. While some may joke that Mike Pettine’s top qualification was that fact that he said yes, to working with Joe Banner and to accepting a job in a place where literally no one has succeeded in franchise history, the guy obviously knows a thing or two about leading a defense. It’s yet to be proven whether he can lead an NFL team on the whole, and any speculation on that, based on his time as an NFL assistant or a high school head coach, doesn’t add up to much more than guessing from where I sit.

 

Rather than taking the approach that he’s going to lead his own defense, a la Pat Shurmur assuming offensive play-calling duties, he brought Jim O’Neil from Buffalo along with a few other assistants from Doug Marrone’s 2013 coaching staff. It means they’re going to be teaching Pettine’s philosopy, which you have to figure is similar to those of Rex Ryan, which in turn mimics his father’s in some way. Rex Ryan’s father is, of course, Buddy Ryan, the man who made Mike Ditka a legend in Chicago.

 

Let’s start with the downside of the comparison to anyone with the Ryan surname; none of them have won much as head coaches in the National Football League. Overall, James David aka “Buddy” went 0-3 in his tenure as a head coach with the Eagles and did poorly in his GM/Head Coach role in Arizona before retiring. His son Rex is 4-2 in the post-season, but has never reached a Super Bowl with the Jets, and after losing the conference championship in his first two seasons as head coach, he’s now missed the post-season altogether for three straight years. Rex’s twin brother Rob has never been an NFL head coach, but like his brother and their father before them, has been part of Super Bowl winning defense as an assistant.

 

Rob served as defensive coordinator under Eric Mangini in Cleveland, putting together some pretty remarkable game plans to best Drew Brees and Tom Brady in 2010. They did something that seemed incredible, something my father and I referred to as the “stand around and do nothing” defense, but it worked. The Browns won those games for a number of reasons, but a lot of it had to with defensive scheme. They kicked their asses.

 

Ass-kicking schemes have almost become a calling card for the Ryan family, and that scheme goes back to the old man’s days with the Bears around the time of my birth. Though Buddy coached the Jets in Super Bowl III as an assistant and worked with formidable Vikings defensive line during the heyday of the Purple People Eaters, it wasn’t until George Halas brought him to the Bears that he created the 46 defense.

 

Around the time, we were clamoring over Kosar in Cleveland, and started to believe in a team that won the AFC Central Division at 8-8, Ryan’s Bears that were actually Mike Ditka’s Bears flirted with perfection. By the 1985 season, the 46 defense was, in a word, perfect. Perfection expired in the 13th week of the season with a loss to the Dolphins, but they were perfect enough in the playoffs and won Super XX over the Patriots, going away.

 

“You’ve got a winner”

 

After winning the Super Bowl with his defense, it was time for Ryan and those Bears, led by Mike Singletary in the ever important middle linebacker position of the 46 defense, which was named for strong safety Doug Plank’s jersey number. He took the head coaching gig in Philadelphia, promising Eagles fans that they had a winner. Though he didn’t do an awful job with the Eagles, developing a lot of talent, while stirring up plenty of controversy, his time in the city of brotherly love ended after five seasons. He’d tell the folks in Tempe those same words when he took the same job there in 1994. What they had was a 12-20 coach who botched a few drafts, not exactly a winner.

 

As told today, the story of the Coaches Ryan seems a bit somber, but none of this should be a condemnation of Mike Pettine or the 46 defense. Hell, I’m intrigued. While I have to qualify this by saying that it requires a lot of talented personnel and some perfect fits for the system, the idea of playing this aggressive on the defensive side of the ball should excite Browns fans of all ages, but especially those who cut their teeth on football with the old Dawg Pound.

 

It starts with a middle linebacker. A lot of people are going to tell you, the 46 won Super Bowls with Mike Singletary and Ray Lewis, but is it the system that’s making the player or vice versa. The Browns don’t have Singletary or Lewis; Pettine didn’t have those guys in New York or Buffalo either, but Kiko Alonso seemed to do an adequate job in his first season with the Bills. It’s a shame that Jim O’Neil couldn’t stuff the rookie from Oregon in the trunk of his car when packing for Cleveland, but such is life.

 

The Browns don’t have that elite player at middle linebacker. They didn’t even have enough personnel at the inside linebacker position to play the 3-4, but D’Qwell Jackson is a capable player if he’s willing to take the paycut to stick around. I love Jackson, and I’m happy to have been wrong about his shelf life expiring a few years ago, but he isn’t the guy to feature in this or any other defense. This is a need they should be looking to fill in the draft. Maybe a blue-chip guy like CJ Moseley or Christian Jones is a necessary play for Pettine’s system, but I really like Khairi Fortt from Cal by way of Penn State.

 

The role of the safeties plays a large part in whether the scheme will succeed or fail. Since you’re relying on your strong safety to basically be a weakside linebacker, he has to be a run-stopper, but he has to have more coverage abilities than you’d expect from your average “Will” linebacker. TJ Ward, if he comes back to the Browns despite being eligible for free agency, actually seems like a good fit. The Free Safety has to play center field. He’s the only guy that plays deep; Tashaun Gipson may or may not be that guy. I really don’t care to be that ambivalent, but Gipson has his issues, even if I don’t believe he’s a poor in the secondary as some “experts” have evaluated him to be. If they’re looking to replace Ward in this role, I like the draft for answers. If they want to upgrade Gipson, there are free agents to be hand; Jarious Byrd, who played on Pettine’s defense this past year is the best out there, but he will come with the highest price tag. Stevie Brown, who excellent in 2012, might be a good reclamation project coming off injury.

 

Keep in mind; you’re hanging the cornerbacks out to dry if your front 8 can’t get to the quarterback. I don’t mind Joe Haden being on an island, but the prospect of Buster Skrine or Leon McFadden on the other side makes me cringe. I suppose it’s important to note you aren’t going to play 46 against all personnel packages or on every down in any event, but whoever plays opposite Haden figures to get a lot of targets, so he better be ready to play.

 

Can you get to the quarterback? Again, the idea is to hurry the quarterback into poor decisions and poor throws if you can’t knock him down, but you want to knock him down. I read somewhere that one of Buddy’s defenses in Houston took out 9 quarterbacks in a season. It’s nothing personal, Ben, Joe, and Andy, but I’d like the Browns to get to you, not that I’m rooting for injury or anything. We haven’t seen it with Dick Jauron or Ray Horton calling the defense, and Haslam has broken the bank to put the personnel in place to do so. I thought we saw it with Rob Ryan, and I sure hope Pettine and O’Neil can make Haslam’s dollars make sense, especially in the case of Paul Krueger and Desmond Bryant. I don’t know if it’s silly to see promise with Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo with new guidance.

 

Fat and ugly is the only way to go up front, with three run-stoppers in the middle of the line of scrimmage to discourage the option of running the football. I don’t know that there’s a true nose guard on this team, but we’ll see if Phil Taylor is up to the task. It’s silly to doubt he has the tools, so it comes down to coaching. Ahytba Rubin has played the position in the past as well. As far as the rest of the line is concerned, I know the old staff liked Brian Sanford and Armonty Bryant. Both of them are pretty far down the depth chart, so if they get the production out of 2012 picks John Hughes and Billy Winn, the depth might be there for a strong front to stop the run without any personnel changes.

 

It’s like the 3-4 in a lot of ways, disguise and surprise, which doesn’t mean the front office can put this personnel on the practice field and wash their hands of the results, but this is where Pettine earns that paycheck. The entire thing is a disguise, which means the guys making decisions on the other side of the ball are left to guess. Occasionally, they will guess right, but it’s definitely better to have them guessing right sometimes than knowing what will work all of the time.

 

We’ve heard for years, the biggest problem is talent. It still reigns true, but now it’s more talent in the collared shirts than the mesh ones. Pettine has his work cut out for him, but if there’s any reason to feel good about these off-season changes, it’s the potential for the defense.

One Man for the Job, At the Right Price

Sometimes I feel as though any idea that would go over well with the fans should be presented by three 10 year-old girls on YouTube. I don’t know how to react to the notion of sweater vests or Kenny Guiton in Berea; I’m even skeptical about the idea of Carlos Hyde in Cleveland, even though there’s logic beyond the idea of I-71 familiarity with him. I don’t think Kenny Lofton or Jim Thome should replace Terry Francona as the Indians skipper, but I do have a thought that’s probably less out there than any of those fan-born ideas.

 

Mark Price coaches basketball, and he has the experience to justify a spot in Cleveland. Face it, the Cavaliers have no real identity to the past or present. Well, there’s actually plenty of past. There’s the coach that they parted ways with in the past. There’s the prospect of bringing the best player in the game back to town, after things ended so ugly in the past. And of course, there’s all of the people that have passed on season ticket renewals at the Q. So, that’s a different type of “past”, but so what?

 

I’m not clear on what he does in the front office, but the team does employ Zydrunas Ilgauskas in some capacity. On the basketball side of things, I believe he is the only former player involved with the organization. Campy Russell and Austin Carr do media work, but how much would the team suffer without either of them?

 

There’s nothing to connect the original wine and gold to the blue and orange to the black and light blue to the latest incarnation of wine and gold. Their most famous personality, when it comes to life after basketball, is a NASCAR analyst. I’m not even sure what Larry Nance does these days, but I was thrilled to see that in addition to being a standout player at Wyoming, his son Larry Jr. is a Cavs fan to this day. Maybe he can do what the Browns never gave this generation’s Clay Matthews the chance to do, give the locals some nostalgia and show the ones that were too young to see it the first time around a reason to cheer for a great name.

 

With no offense intended for Skippy from Family Ties, there’s only one Mark Price. He’s the greatest free throw shooter of all time. Like Kosar, I believe he sees the floor and he’s worked with Rajon Rondo and Stepen Curry on their shot. He’s worked for George Karl and he has a huge undertaking with the Charlotte team at the moment.

 

This is the bottom line; there will soon be a vacancy on the bench in Cleveland. There’s going to be a new general manager, and a city wondering what the use is in having a basketball team if it can’t compete. I’m not saying it’s a great idea, but it’s a thought. Why not take a flier on Mark Price as a head coach.

 

Once upon a time, they chose Randy Wittman. More recently than that, they thought Mike Brown was worth another shot. I really thought the Browns had cornered the market on retreads. It doesn’t get more re-tready than a second tango with Mike Brown.

 

Six Ways to Do It Again

How do we re-create 90s? The answer is that you can’t; the mere suggestion will have every Tom, Dick, and Harry come out of the woodwork to remind you that the way everything came together was really nothing more than a perfect storm of coincidence and deep pockets. But hell, if we can throwback to Buddy Ryan and the 1985 Bears or find a way to bring Mark Price back into the fold, why not reboot the John Hart build?

 

What A Catch(er)

Terry Francona admitted that losing Carlos Santana to the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic for a significant portion of Spring Training would be a tough cross to bear. The newly acquired Yan Gomes wanted to also join his countrymen and represent Brazil in the WBC, but was convinced to stick with the day job in Goodyear; it was a decision that ultimately paid off when Lou Marson suffered an injury on the Tribe’s season opening road trip. Gomes hit the ball very well in the thin desert air, earning himself a long look from the brass, despite how locked in the incumbents behind the plate seemed to be. Make no mistake about it though; this was more of a saving grace because of Santana’s deficiencies as a receiver than it was about Marson’s light stick on offense. Bottom line, a pitcher’s ERA goes up with Santana behind the plate and Santana extends his career by not having to be the regular catcher; more on this later.

 

What’s promising about Gomes stat-line in 2013 is how it compares to his bench coach and catching advisor, Sandy Alomar Jr. in 1994, when Alomar was 4 years younger than Gomes was last season. In the interest of full disclosure, when Alomar was 24, he played in 132 games and won the American League Rookie of the Year, but I felt comparing an 88 game season to an 80 game season was appropriate.

 

In today’s day of advanced statistics, we’re not supposed to care as much about batting average, but hits per at-bat still matter to me, and ’13 Gomes was 2 hits better than ’94 Alomar in exactly 1 more at-bat. If you want to look at OPS (On-base Percentage + Slugging Percentage), a metric that gives you credit for total bases per plate appearance, Alomar had the slight edge at .837 to .826, impressive on both count. They were similar in Runs Scored as well, and you win games by scoring more runs.

 

Looks Like a LOOGY

I have to admit that I just enjoy the acronym more than the call-to-the-pen, commercial, one batter-faced, call-to-the-pen, commercial nature of the Left-handed One Out GuY (LOOGY), but they end up being a critical part of your pitching staff. They seem even more important when the one out they get is the third out of the inning and you’re spared the extra commercial break, but such is life.

 

Once you get past the fact that both throw the ball left-handed, maybe the comparisons between Paul Assenmacher of 1995 and Mark Rzepczynski of 2013 should probably stop. When you consider age and clutch-level of appearances, it really all seems more like apples-to-dumptrucks than apples-to-apples. However, there’s no denying you need this guy in your bullpen. If the man they call Scrabble, despite the fact you won’t find two Zs in any standard Scrabble set, can keep opposing hitters hitting .139 while boasting a 0.89 ERA, the woes of last year’s left-handed relief help may soon be forgotten.

 

29 year-old Jim Poole may have been the better comparison on the ’95 staff, but his ERA was up around 4, while the elder Assenmacher was solid on the ERA side at 2.82, but Poole kept opposing batting average a full 100 points lower than his 34 year-old counterpart, who was also in his first year with the Tribe. Rzepczynski turns 29 at the end of August.

 

The Third (Base) Act

So, this is interesting, if not bizarre. I actually thought trying Carlos Santana at third base was a good idea after the 2011 season, when it became obvious that pitchers struggled with him as a battery-mate. He’s extremely athletic with a strong arm, and I thought it would be a shame to waste his athleticism at first base, even if his offensive numbers fit the mold to play there. For the record, I don’t like the idea of a 27 year-old designated hitter either; that’s revisiting the waste of resources topic in my mind. I understand this is temporary, and he’ll be moving to first base as soon as the Indians find a real solution at third base. That solution doesn’t exist in their farm system at the moment.

 

That’s really the entire fatal flaw of trying to re-create the rosters that John Hart gave Mike Hargrove 20 years ago; I really can’t believe it’s been 20 years either. Two decades ago, home-grown talent Jim Thome was given the opportunity to develop in the bottom third of the order. After four seasons on the Major League roster, Thome had yet to play 100 games, which does include the strike-shortened 1994, whereas potential 2014 third baseman (take that with a grain of salt, this experiment could be over by St. Patrick’s Day) has already played three seasons north of 140 games logged.

 

 

Santana isn’t going to hit 60 home runs in his career, and likely not even 40 in a single-season, but I would say third base is a part time stop for him. Like Thome, who put up similar offensive numbers in 1994 to what Carlos did in the clean-up spot last season, you have to figure he is 4 years or less from being a full-time first basemen. Granted, Thome was a little younger in 1994, but if Santana at 28 can approach what Thome did in 1995 as a third baseman, I look forward to the 25 bombs, the .300 average, and the near-quadruple-digit OPS.

 

Keep Eating Kipnis

So, I feel bad about what makes me laugh sometimes. When athletes eat themselves out of the game, isn’t funny, it’s sad, but it all goes back to a memorable quote from a forgettable movie, when Albert Brooks tells Brendan Fraser’s phenom character to remember that Fernando Valenzuela came into the league as a pitcher and left as a truck. So, I’m sitting at an Arizona State football game last November, and I turn around and see this guy that’s a dead ringer for Jason Kipnis, who is an Arizona State alum, chowing down on popcorn. “Dead ringer” isn’t the right description, because this obviously wasn’t the first box of popcorn this kid has consumed, because he is what Kipnis would look like if he was about 90-110 pounds overweight.

 

That had me thinking, Carlos Baerga was slim once upon a time. Baerga is listed at 5’11”, 165 on baseball-reference, versus Kipnis, listed at the same height, but weighing in at 190. This is where you don’t care for the precedent, as Baerga’s career took a considerable nose dive when he turned 27, whereas Kipnis turns 27 this April and is still considered a rising star. Kipnis probably strikes out too much to be a .300 hitter for a long stretch, like Baerga, who had the opportunity to protect Albert Belle early in his career, but he takes a lot more walks than Carlos ever did, and that makes him a more valuable player going forward.

 

Baerga played in his last All-Star game at 26. Kipnis played in his first at the same age. I’d say this is more apples-to-dumptrucks, confirming the theory that comparing that Perfect Storm era to this one is silly.

 

Masterson For President?

How do you reboot the 1995 pitching staff, which somehow led the American League in ERA? Where are your aging veterans on the back 9 of their careers? The 36 year-old with a championship pedigree, who still has a few innings left in the tank, like Orel Hershiser isn’t out on the open market, let alone available for the Indians to pluck out of Free Agency. I’d say it’s a reach to say that Corey “Hans” Kluber is that homegrown veteran, but he’s the closest thing this current staff has to a Charles Nagy, even though Kluber was acquired by trade a few years ago. Danny Salazar might be the next Chad Ogea or Bartolo Colon, but we don’t know where he falls on that scale right now; Jaret Wright once wowed us for a partial season as well. And, where does Trevor Bauer fit in?

 

Justin Masterson is going to be the Opening Day starter, but a 41 year-old Dennis Martinez he is not. Just for the sake of comparison, I compared the Nicaraguan-born Martinez with Jamaican-born Masterson at 28, and the numbers are similar. Here’s another fact that means nothing; Masterson was an All-Star at 28, a feat that El Presidente didn’t achieve until the age of 36 with the Expos. It was the first of three appearances for Quebec’s team, and his bid in 1995 with the Tribe made for four total trips to the Mid-Summer Classic.

 

Get Your 50/50

Albert Belle hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in 1995, that’s something that no one else has ever done. There is no Albert Belle in this organization, just as there no Eddie Murrays, Orel Hershisers, or Jose Mesas.

 

Just for fun, I took a look at Albert Belle’s worst full season (1992) with the Indians and compared it to Nick Swisher’s best of his career (2010). The results are laughable.

 

OK …then, he tried to compare me to Nick Swisher?

Speaking of 50/50, do you remember those raffles at the high school basketball games, where you bought tickets and split the jackpot with the charity of choice? Just to put this out there, if you miss those days of helping out, I just want to turn your attention to the website tix4cause, which is a ticket broker that donates a portion of every ticket sold to a charity of your choice. I don’t want to come across like shill, I just wanted to put it out there.

 

That’s all I have this week. Enjoy the time you have to kill between now and next weekend.

Matt vs. Mike – Lefties vs. Righties – Good vs. Evil

I’m throwing down the gauntlet today. In my opinion, Matt Kline writes some of the most interesting pieces on MTAF, if only because they’re so fun to argue with. I liked his Face of the Franchise series quite a lot, I like when he does stuff like trying to figure out the greatest Red Sox lineup of all time. I’m a fan.

Full disclosure – Matt and I go way back. We’ve had hundreds of arguments over the years ranging from whether Babe Ruth would play above AA ball in today’s game to whether the New York Giants would have been better off not trading for Eli Manning and instead keeping the picks that turned out to be Philip Rivers, Shawne Merriman, and Nate Kaeding. The only rules we consistently abide by in these discussions is A. Each of us is always right and B. If you’re not yelling, you might as well not be talking.

Today I’m going to challenge Matt to outflank me on something near and dear to my heart – lefties vs. righties in the great game of baseball.

I’ve taken the liberty to make up a few rules to the game. It’s always possible Matt will yell about them and insist I’ve given myself an unfair advantage but, of course, he will be wrong and I will be right. The rules of the game are as follows:

  • Every player has to have played at least 1 MLB game from 1980-today. Matt was born in ’76, I was born in ’77, so I think that’s a fair place to start.
  • The voters will be asked to decide which team would win against the other. Assembling 9 power hitters should not win.
  • Steroid users are generally okay; otherwise it would turn into a shouting match about whether a certain guy used or not. I think 75% of major leaguers were juicing during that period.
  • No pitchers yet. Any interested voters will assume that both teams are facing the exact equal level of pitcher – Matt’s team gets to face lefties, mine gets to face righties.
  • I have done zero research before beginning this column, so there is no known advantage to who is on what side, but because I hit lefty and Matt hits righty, that’s where we’ll go. No one gets switch hitters.
  • I can’t use Barry Bonds, Matt can’t use Alex Rodriguez. The last thing either of us needs is to spend their morning cleaning vomit off of a computer monitor.
  • The DH has to be a guy who regularly DH’d. Derek Jeter isn’t going to forego playing the field just so you can shoehorn him and Cal Ripken into your lineup.

On to my lineup:

RF: Ichiro Suzuki – I read this genius column a little while back about how Ichiro is the greatest hitter of the current generation. An unquestionable 200 hits (if it’s a bad year), plus he’s going to hit .320 and steal 40 bags. Not to mention that if I’m down a run and absolutely need a guy to find their way on, Ichiro’s slap hit to the shortstop hole is pretty close to an automatic guy in scoring position.

3B: George Brett – I wanted to go with my boyhood hero Wade Boggs, but Brett was simply better (and doesn’t do late night commercials for hair plugs). We’ve got a lot of table setters in this lineup, Brett gives us possibly the best all-around 3B stats ever – he could do everything, and he did it for a LONG time.

CF: Ken Griffey Jr – One of my easier choices. Not only is he the greatest defensive CF of this era, but he’s kind of good at the plate as well. 162 game average of .284 with 38 and 111, and he revolutionized the hat-wearing industry. .304 with 56 and 147 in 1997. That’s pretty good for a gold glove winning outfielder (every year from 1990-1999).

DH: David Ortiz – I’ll spare you the 1000 words I want to write about Ortiz’s heroics in 2004. Suffice it to say, he’s the one player most responsible for ending years of Red Sox futility (no disrespect to Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez, and Mariano Rivera). A solid .300 with 40 bombs and 110 RBI is generally what we’d expect, not to mention that he’s the one guy from this era I’d like batting with the game on the line.

1B: Jim Thome – Thome has to be the quietest power hitter from the steroid era. His 612 home runs are good for 7th all time, as are his 1747 walks, and he’s a top 25 RBI guy as well.

LF: Carl Yastrzemski – Every team needs a player who can carry them. Any Red Sox fan over the age of 40 knows that Yaz did that as good, or better, than just about anyone. His triple crown in 1967 (.326, 44, 121) was about as good a single season (factoring in the era) in the second half of this century, and he absolutely carried a mediocre Sox squad to the World Series (no one else hit more than 20 home runs or drove in more than 82 runs – talk about having no protection in your lineup).

C: Joe Mauer – Mauer’s the typical player for the team I’m assembling. Matt can take his Mike Piazza type power hitters. I’ve got guys who are going to set the table for the 3 run bomb. 200 hits, well over .300 average, and double digit home runs.

2B: Rod Carew – His best years were through before I remember, but this is a hall of famer who could flat out hit. People who watched him play (at least those I regularly talk to) say that no one could place a ball like Carew, and he’s been called the best bunter in history. Perfect player for today’s game

SS: Stephen Drew – Uh, yeah. Apparently there are not very many left-handed hitting shortstops in baseball’s recent history. Wow. I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that I looked for an hour trying to find a left-handed hitting shortstop to put here. I’m going with Drew for 3 reasons:

  1. He has the 12th greatest fielding percentage for a SS of all time
  2. I’m sick of looking
  3. He’s the brother of Matt’s least favorite player of all time. Maybe Matt gets so steamed when he reads this that he forgets to give himself a SS and I win by default.

If I’m forgetting someone, please let me know. Pretty please. Especially at short.

Alright, Matt – do your best to beat me. I think there are two surefire ways for me to win. First off, I need you to punt the shortstop position. And secondly, I need to make this an argument about team chemistry. My glue guys like Griffey, Yaz, Brett, and Ortiz mean that I’m always going to have a happy clubhouse. That’s 75% of the battle, right?

Go easy.

Passing our fandom on to our kids

So as many have heard, I took last week off.  When my wife and I set off to our 37 week appointment, we definitely weren’t expecting to not come home.  Shortly after our arrival events were set in to motion and within a few moments we were proud parents to a healthy 8 lb 5 oz baby boy.  The next three days were spent in the hospital recovering and becoming acclimated to our little guy.  And without a laptop handy, getting my column up on the site was a no go.  Continue reading Passing our fandom on to our kids

Thoughts on the Pacers, the Indians, and How They Connect.

Tonight could be epic, so this piece I’m writing is going to be, well, epic… at least in terms of length. (I’m sorry, I like to write, ok!)

Anyways, tonight there are two things on my agenda:

  1. Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees on ESPN at 7:00.
  2. Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat on TNT at 8:30.

I will be flipping vigorously back and forth between games starting at 8:30, and I am more than excited about it.

While the night could potentially end in disaster with both the Heat and Yankees winning, I would CERTAINLY take a win in one and a loss in the other. No way do I believe that the Pacers and the Indians will win tonight. That would just be far too good.

Anyhow, I’m going to take on these two topics, so here goes nothing.

Tonight could be historic in terms of the NBA. The Indiana Pacers, potentially, could defeat the Miami Heat and take their place among the greatest upsets in the history of sports.

Tonight, not only are the Pacers preparing to battle the Miami Heat, they are preparing to battle forces beyond their control as well. No, not the half-empty crowd in the American Airlines Arena at tipoff. Not the “all-white-everything” that has become the motto for the Heat throughout their playoff runs. Not the distraction of a 75,000 dollar fine that was completely unnecessary, (“no homo” simply means, “I’m not gay, though”. If he would’ve put it that way, it would be a non-issue. But, I digress.) No, no, no.

David Stern, the NBA, and the media would all be facing a nightmarish scenario if the Heat lose tonight.

I can assure you, right now, that the NBA is doing everything it can to set up a Miami Heat victory tonight. David Stern is calling up the refs, “reminding” them that “this is a superstar’s league, so call it that way”. They already set up a diversion for Indiana by fining Hibbert. I’m sure if an Indiana Pacer looks at LeBron the wrong way he’ll be given a tech. These things are already in the works, and they are all in the way of an Indiana Pacers NBA Finals appearance.

With San Antonio already in the Finals, the NBA NEEDS a big market team like the Heat competing for a championship so it can bring in some money. If Indiana magically pulls out the win tonight, you might as well kiss the cash goodbye because nobody, (most people now-a-days are front-runners), will watch. Period, end.

Could you imagine a Spurs vs. Pacers NBA Finals? For those of us that enjoy basketball at it’s purest level, it would be glorious. No egos, no attitudes, just plain, solid, fundamental basketball. For the rest of the front-running world, it would be torture.

But it won’t happen, unless the Pacers pull off some sort of miracle.

LeBron will most likely go crazy, a-la last year’s Game 6 in Boston, which is difficult enough to beat by itself. Then, the refs will call ticky-tacky fouls all night long against the Pacers. Finally, close game or not, someone is going to get ejected on the Indiana sideline for something asinine like standing on the court or making an illegal substitution. The Heat will win easily, just like David Stern wanted.

While the Heat have a legitimate chance of getting swept in the Finals by San Antonio, that doesn’t matter. As long as the Heat get there, Stern will make his money and be more than happy.

While the Heat losing in the Finals would provide amazing amounts of hope for LeBron’s 2014 return to Cleveland, which I understand many of you would not enjoy, for reasons beyond my wildest imagination, it would offer so much more hope if they didn’t even have the chance to compete. With Wade losing a step each time he touches the court to Chris Bosh inability to make any sort of physical contact with an opposing player, LeBron is already by himself. Remember that he left Cleveland to have “help” to win an NBA Championship, or “nine”. If they fail this year, things should only get worse next season and LeBron’s 2014 departure will be imminent. And glorious.

The NBA, however, will provide the help that LeBron has always yearned for, so the Pacers challenge awaits them tonight.

Beat the Heat, beat David Stern, beat the front-running world, beat the best player in the world while he’s in “beast mode”, beat the refs, and beat big markets and your in. It’s as difficult as that.

They won’t do it, but it’s always fun to dream right?

Before all of this happens, the Indians game will be on. Nasty Masty will be taking the hill against veteran Andy Pettite in Yankee Stadium. It will be the first return to the Bronx for Nick Swisher since he joined the Indians and will most likely be an emotional night for him.

When thinking about the Indians, I think of something that the infamous Hiram Boyd brought up on a weekly radio show I put together with Jake Dungan for the Indians Baseball Insider Radio Network.

Hiram brought up a trade that the Indians should explore that sends Tribe prospects Francisco Lindor, Danny Salazar, and Shawn Armstrong to Kansas City for James Shields.

While I hate this particular trade for some reason, I think Hiram brings up a valuable point. The Indians need to sacrifice the future in order to win now.

In Cleveland, draft day is one of our favorite days of the year. It brings us hope for a bright future, something that has always alluded our beloved city for so many years.

Finally, I think the Indians have arrived at that future and we’re staring at it so hard, that we’re almost missing it.

The Indians farm system, outside of Lindor, is essentially depleted. The talent simply isn’t where it used to be. I don’t think we’ll be seeing any Vinnie Pestano’s or Carlos Santana’s making their way to Cleveland anytime soon.

The Indians roster is the best it has been since the 90’s, (If you want to argue about 2007, contact me on Twitter @H_Grove. I’ll be glad to tell you that 2007 was a fluke.). The Indians spent money that they have, quite literally, never spent before. They didn’t spend that money for the future. They spent that money for now.

While the Indians are certainly a decent team, I don’t think anyone would consider us legitimate World Series contenders as of right now. The starting rotation has been surprisingly good, the runs come and go in what seems to be a wave-like pattern, but our supposedly “tremendous” bullpen has been lackluster.

The Indians desperately need a good left-handed reliever. They would also benefit greatly from an elite starting pitcher and an added bat.

So my question is this: why not get these pieces and get rid of guys like Lindor, Salazar, and Armstrong?

Francisco Lindor could be a stud elsewhere, but who cares? If the Indians can get a top of the line guy for him and in turn become a legitimate contender, then who cares? Don’t you think that it would be worth it to make a World Series run without Francisco Lindor than to watch Francisco Lindor sit in a lineup of crap a la Jim Thome in 2002?

If you get the right piece, Lindor, Salazar, Paulino, or any other minor league prospect should be dispensable. That’s the nitty gritty of it.

The problem becomes who that missing piece should be. Maybe it’s a bunch of smaller pieces that bring us to contention. Maybe it’s one stud. Who knows, but I know that piece is out there somewhere.

Maybe the Indians should consider bringing back Cliff Lee for a final-go-round as a member of the Cleveland Indians? Maybe Shields is the guy like Hiram said? Maybe, it’s Derek Holland from the Texas Rangers or Matt Moore from the Tampa Bay Rays?

Maybe it’s a couple of hitters, like Aramis Ramirez and Norichika Aoki from the Brewers? Maybe it’s a couple of lefty relievers to fill out the ailing bullpen. Who knows?

The point is that the future should not inhibit the present, especially in this case.

The front office has built this team to compete this year, next year, and maybe the year after. There are key guys that could stick around, like Mark Reynolds and Ubaldo Jimenez, if a couple of moves are made in order to help this team move itself into “legitimate contender” status.

Can you imagine being in October for the next couple of years. It could be magical. This team is like any we’ve seen in Cleveland for a very long time. We have a brilliant, energized, and experienced manager. We have high-profile stars and under-the-radar professionals. We have role players that are making the most of a second chance and formerly overrated guys who are living up to the hype.

It’s time. We can worry about the future when it arrives. Let’s live in the present and seize the opportunity in front of us.

We must sacrifice the future to win now, or we, as a collective Tribe Town, will always regret it.

So as you watch the Tribe and Pacers tonight, give this piece a little thought. Remember that, in both cases, you could be watching the future unfold right in front of you. With a Pacers W, LeBron could be well on his way back to Cleveland. With a couple of moves, the Tribe will be back in World Series contention.

The Pacers might not have a chance, thanks to the greed that is the NBA, but the Tribe certainly does.

In both of these cases, the future is right now.

What the Tribe Needs to Do at DH

It was recently reported that the Indians are looking at two former sluggers of their own to fill the DH spot: Jim Thome and Travis Hafner. While I would love one of these two in the lineup, I don’t think either should be in f9r a full time role.

The Indians have an abundance of options when it comes to the DH spot. The current lineup probably looks a little something like this:

  1. Michael Brantley (LF)
  2. Drew Stubbs (CF)
  3. Mark Reynolds (1B)
  4. Nick Swisher (RF)
  5. Carlos Santana (C)
  6. Jason Kipnis (2B)
  7. Asdrubal Cabrera (SS)
  8. Lonnie Chisenhall (3B)
  9. Mike Aviles(DH)

This may be the opening day lineup, presuming Thome isn’t brought it in, but regardless, this will rarely be the lineup. It’s becoming more and more obvious that Carlos Santana will be spending less and less time behind the plate, so here are some options to incorporate Carlos into the DH and First Base spots:

  1. Michael Brantley (LF)
  2. Drew Stubbs (CF)
  3. Mark Reynolds (DH)
  4. Nick Swisher (RF)
  5. Carlos Santana (1B)
  6. Jason Kipnis (2B)
  7. Asdrubal Cabrera (SS)
  8. Lonnie Chisenhall (3B)
  9. Lou Marson (C)

or

  1. Michael Brantley (LF)
  2. Drew Stubbs (CF)
  3. Mark Reynolds (1B)
  4. Nick Swisher (RF)
  5. Carlos Santana (DH)
  6. Jason Kipnis (2B)
  7. Asdrubal Cabrera (SS)
  8. Lonnie Chisenhall (3B)
  9. Lou Marson (C)

Presumably, these lineups would be options if none of the starters were resting. They seem plenty feasible, but rest is going to come into play at some point. That’s where Jimmy comes in. You’re not going to need Jim a lot. He’s going to come cheap and I feel that will make him the lowest risk move possible. You can assume that he will be productive, even if he’s rarely playing, so I don’t see the downside. Here are a few lineups with Santana or Reynolds resting.

  1. Michael Brantley (LF)
  2. Drew Stubbs (CF)
  3. Carlos Santana (1B)
  4. Nick Swisher (RF)
  5. Jim Thome (DH)
  6. Jason Kipnis (2B)
  7. Asdrubal Cabrera (SS)
  8. Lonnie Chisenhall (3B)
  9. Lou Marson (C)

or

  1. Michael Brantley (LF)
  2. Drew Stubbs (CF)
  3. Mark Reynolds (1B)
  4. Nick Swisher (RF)
  5. Jim Thome (DH)
  6. Jason Kipnis (2B)
  7. Asdrubal Cabrera (SS)
  8. Lonnie Chisenhall (3B)
  9. Lou Marson (C)

Essentially, if Santana is catching, the DH hole becomes a problem. If Santana isn’t catching, the DH hole is filled by Santana or Reynolds. That’s why I don’t believe that Santana should be catching that much as it is. Marson is a great defensive catcher, and while his bat isn’t much at all, I believe that Santana’s bat will come alive with less time catching.

If Lou’s bat can catch up to his fielding potential, the Indians lineup could very well be set. They would be in the race for the Central Division crown if Marson can pull through and Santana does improve with a lesser role behind the plate.

Essentially, there is no real “need” for Thome which is why I think they could bring him in. You may be asking, well, if they don’t need him, then why would they bring him in? They should bring him in for a slew of reasons.

First and foremost, Jim is often considered one of the best teammates out there and would definitely help this club’s “chemistry”. I would love to see him mentor some of the younger guys like Santana, Kipnis, and even Marson. Honestly, I would rather see him in Cleveland as a hitting coach, but it doesn’t seem as if he is ready to retire just yet, and that doesn’t seem like a real option. Finally, I’m sure the Indians could get him for next to nothing. What’s the risk in getting a guy you use sparingly for little to no money? There is none. The rewards very, very, very much outweigh the risks. There is no risk; the worst thing that happens is that he never plays and sits on the bench, wasting what few dollars the Indians gave to him. Even in that case, he’s still bringing his expertise and leadership to the ball club, both of which are invaluable tools.

I’m not one for bringing in older veterans to fill huge holes. Johnny Damon and Derek Lowe, we saw how those turned out. I am a fan of bringing in older vets to fill the smallest of positions for the team. This DH position is a perfect example of that small role that should be filled by a vet.

If the options are Jim Thome, Travis Hafner, or no one, I think you have to pick Jim Thome or no one. Hafner comes with too large a price tag, too big an ego, and too little of the invaluables that Thome would bring. Hafner simply brings no value to this team. Sure he can connect every once in a while, but then again so can Thome. Jim Thome can do anything that Travis Hafner can do, but with infinitely more value.

I’m also ok with the Indians letting both of them go and letting someone like Mike Aviles take the DH spot when Santana is catching. Aviles was brought in to be a utility man, so why not allow him some ABs? I would even consider Nick Swisher to fill the role if he ever needed some time away from right field.

The Indians are lucky to have plenty of good assets on their baseball team. They have a good solid bench that allows them to be flexible in terms of the lineup. Whether they want to bring in Jim Thome or not, they will be perfectly fine. Thome’s role would only become noticeable if he started putting up major numbers and producing mightily for this baseball team. The rewards would be noticed, but the negatives wouldn’t. I am a huge Jim Thome fan, but would be ok with the Indians deciding to fix the problem internally. The only thing I’d have a problem with would be forgoing Thome for Hafner. That’s a high risk, low reward solution, one that I don’t think the Indians can afford to make.

Follow Hayden on Twitter @H_Grove

In Defense of Jim Thome

A while back, one of our fearless leaders, Josh Flagner, penned an article that questioned Jim Thome’s motives. I wanted to write a rebuttal for a while, but somehow forgot to do so.

Jim Thome has left a legacy in Major League Baseball that most could only dream of leaving. First of all, Thome is one of baseball’s greatest sluggers. He’s mashed 610 home runs in his career, good for 7th among all Major League players. He’s also 25th on the all time RBI list, right behind Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.

Thome is also squeaky clean in terms of steroids, in an era that has been so tainted by PEDs. In my humble opinion, the all time Home Run leaderboard should look like this:

  1. Hank Aaron
  2. Babe Ruth
  3. Willie Mays
  4. Ken Griffey Jr.
  5. Jim Thome

Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez have each been, not only accused of, but have tested positive for, the use of performance enhancing drugs. In my opinion, anyone that has used steroids or any PEDs, should have no place in the Hall of Fame and should have an asterisk next to their name. During all of this, and this terrible era for baseball, Thome has never been linked to steroids. Not once.

Finally, and I think most importantly, Thome has always shown an incredible humility and a love for the game like no other. He has been voted in numerous polls as the nicest guy in baseball. He has never demanded a trade, or anything from his team for that matter. The closest thing to selfish that Thome has ever done was to leave Cleveland en route to Philadelphia. He has served as a father figure and a role model for baseball that has been lacking in today’s culture of professional sports.  Continue reading In Defense of Jim Thome

Indians Should Consider a Reunion with Omar Vizquel ~ Guest Post

Everyone welcome @NurseMichelleM and her guest post about the Cleveland Indians and bringing back the best shortstop to ever play the game – as none other than Tom Hamilton said on Opening Day 2012 – Omar Vizquel. Hold your applause until the end of the show, there’s plenty of time to leave wonderful comments and tweets!

It’s really no secret how I feel about shortstop Omar Vizquel. As a teenager, I was enamored. As a mom, I look to him as an educational example for my son. As a fan, I think it’s clear how this season should end.

Omar has made it public that he will retire at the end of this season. He’s never been shy about his desire to coach or manage at the professional level. He is ready to take the next step, and this is the perfect opportunity for the Cleveland Indians organization to win its fans back: bring Omar home. Continue reading Indians Should Consider a Reunion with Omar Vizquel ~ Guest Post