Tag Archives: MInnesota Twins

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).

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.

Tribe Time Now Not-So-After-Dark #2: iLube

In this episode of the Tribe Time Now After Dark Podcast…

Tribe Time Now After Dark #2 with Stephanie Liscio: iLube

Stephanie Liscio of It’s Pronounced “Lajaway” joins MTAF: Cleveland Indians Columnist and Tribe Time Now Host Ryan Thompson for another edition of the Tribe Time Now Podcast.

Topics:

  •  Francisco Lindor’s lack of a call up at the beginning of the week
  • Giovanny Urshela’s promotion and Lonnie/JRam’s demotions
  • The Indians appearance at the Apple Developer’s Conference
  • The Indians 2015 MLB Draft (Picks 1-7)
  • Stephanie’s appearance and talk at the Maltz  Museum THIS WEEK.
  • And much much more

Don’t forget to join us Saturday, July 11th at Hoopples Riverbed Cafe for our first tweet up. Information can be found here.

Double Update: Tribe Time Now Extra Innings #3 and Weekend Update #8

To save time, space, and effort – we’ve got TWO Tribe Time Now podcast updates below:

Tribe Time Now Extra Innings #3: Somebody’s Gonna Get Hurt

Topics:

  • AL Central overview
  • The Minnesota Twins (?)
  • The Houston Astros (?)
  • Looking ahead to June: Probable wins and tough matchups
  • Continuing the Conversation of Replacing JRam and Bourn
  • The real cost of Johnny Cueto to the Indians

And,

Tribe Time Now Weekend Update #8: Not Every Prospect Can Be The Next Andy Marte

Topics:

  • Week in review
  • What to do with Ramirez/Lindor
  • Should the Indians DFA Michael Bourn? Part II
  • How to evaluate prospects

Links:

 

Don’t forget to join the Tribe Time Now crew and Affiliate Hosts Saturday, July 11th at 5 PM at Hoopples Riverbed Cafe for our first tweet up.

Information on the Tweet-Up can be found here.

 

Additionally:

Please consider attending a special presentation on “Integrating Cleveland Baseball: Media Activism, the Integration of the Indians, and the Demise of the Negro League Buckeyes” by author and It’s Pronounced “Lajaway” co-owner/editor, Stephanie Liscio on June 17th at 7 PM at the Maltz Museum in Cleveland, OH.

Admission is $12 ($6 if you’re a SABR member/member of the museum) and gets you into Stephanie’s talk AND to the Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming America exhibit which is only at the museum for the summer.

Information and pre-registration information can be found here.

Tribe Time Now Episode #16: Peaks & Valleys

In this episode of the Tribe Time Now Podcast…

Mike “Miggy” Brandyberry of Did The Tribe Win Last Night? joins Ryan Thompson MTAF Cleveland. Miggy and Ryan discuss Carlos Santana’s baby girl, the division as it stands now, conclusions from the TEX series, a preview of the SEA series, the curious case of Michael Bourn, and CF replacement options!

 

Topics:

  • Divisional Overview
  • Texas Series: Conclusions and thoughts
  • Michael Bourn: Too little too late?
  • Trade targets in center field
  • Seattle Series

Links:

Don’t forget to join us Saturday, July 11th at Hoopples Riverbed Cafe for our first tweet up. Information can be found here.

Tribe Time Now Episode 15: The Power of the Stache?

Was the power of John Axford’s mustache powering the Indians bullpen last year? Is its absence this year explanation for the bullpens lackluster performance thus far? Hayden Grove and I discuss that and more on episode 15 of the Tribe Time Now podcast:

 

Topics:

  • Kipnis and batting philosophy
  • D-day/throwing in the towel: when will it happen
  • Team building philosophy: How and why were the Indians built the way they were
  • The bullpen: what is wrong this year?
  • Marlins head coaching situation: it’s effects and what would happen in Cleveland

Don’t forget to join us Saturday, June 20th at Hoopples Riverbed Cafe for our first tweet up. Information can be found here.

Where, oh where, is the run production?

I had an article written before this weekend’s series with the twins.

In it, I talked about how the team was experiencing some early season bumps & bruises and bad luck.

In it, I spoke about how many quality teams experience weird stretches in April.

But then this weekend happened and I just don’t know if I believe that anymore.

Many of the diehards on Twitter would call me an “early jumper” by jumping off the wagon so soon, but I’m not seeing this team make the necessary changes to become better. The defense is just as bad, if not slightly worse than last year. All of the hope that I had for T.J. House is quickly evaporating. His last two outings have been paltry at best. There was only two bright spots this weekend and bright spot is pushing it for one of these two individuals:

Brandon Moss & Danny Salazar

I guess bright spot isn’t necessarily the correct term for Moss. Shimmer in Tito’s eye would be better. Brandon Moss has 28 plate appearances this season. In those 28 plate appearances, he has struck out 14 times.

Fourteen times or 50% of the time for those who are more mathematically inclined.

The glimmer in this particular series was his ability to hit the long ball. He did that in the 6th inning of Friday night’s game to left-center field. Other than that, he managed to add 6 SO to his total and make me think the “power” and “prestige” we saw in spring training was nothing more than an Arizona mirage.

For Danny Salazar, his line of 6.0 IP, 10Ks, 2 BBs, and 2 ER was impressive, especially for a guy that lost his starting role in the rotation before the season began. If he can continue to provide a quality start and double digit (or near double digit) strikeouts in every start, consider me a happy camper.

The big problem for the Indians right now is scoring runs.

Ranked 22nd in average with RISP and 26th in RPG, the Tribe is finding it difficult to get the few runners getting on base around the horn to the promise land. I blame this on a few factors:

  1. Patience at the plate
  2. Swinging at bad pitches
  3. Spring training timing

Patience at the plate

I don’t have metrics to back this up; it’s more of a feeling that I have after watching several games. It seems that lineup, specifically the top portion of the lineup, is very eager to swing the bat, at anything. I can’t pin point what it is, maybe first pitch strikes are just too appealing or maybe they’re getting the green light early. Whatever it is, I think it would be best to be a little more patient to feel out the starting pitcher, work his pitch count up, and wait for the best possible pitch within the zone.

In relation to the latter item, I’ve noticed across the board, the Indians are swinging at junk pitches. I can understand swinging at 12-6 curve after misreading it out of the pitchers hand. I can even understand swinging at a slider that has sick tail movement on it. What I can’t understand is when our guys swing at sliders that are starting off at the knees and dipping into the other batters box. The pitchers that we’ve faced haven’t been Cy Youngs. We’ve faced generally below-average pitchers and we’ve made them look really good by expanding the zone. By being more patient at the plate (see point 1), we’re going to force pitchers to throw in the zone more often giving us more pitches to hit.

These two points play well into one another; they’re not mutually exclusive.

Spring Training Timing

This all could be moot if the Indians are still on spring training timing. I’ve said it before and I’ll reiterate it here again: When I asked Trevor Bauer when players go full tilt and his reply was “with about one-week left in ST”, it made sense why April was often very weird month. I can guarantee at least a few players are still trying to get into the groove of full-tilt, full-time major league pitching. I’m not talking about velocity. I’m talking about off-speed pitches, secondary pitches, etc. Sure, pitchers were experimenting with different pitches in spring training, but in no way were they throwing fully-developed secondary pitches like a Corey Kluber slider.

I think in time (1-2) weeks, everyone should be up to speed. Everybody takes a different amount of time to get going, some guys more than others.

Hopefully the series this week against the White Sox and Tigers will yield better results, although, if the lack of run production continues, it could be a very long week for Cleveland Indians fans everywhere.

Have a good week all and go Tribe!

Cleveland Indians News & Notes: 28 Days Until Pitchers & Catchers Report

With less than a month until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, this tribe fan is skeptical of the 2015 Cleveland Indians due a lack of moves made over the off-season

Color me skeptical

Unfortunately, the 23 years of disappointment that I’ve endured as a Cleveland sports fans tells me not much more than the same as last year from the 2015 Cleveland Indians. I don’t say that as a debbie-downer. If the Tribe plays above potential (see: 2013) in 2015, I will be more than happy to write about how wrong I was at the end of the season. Like I said: if my experience as  a Cleveland fan tells me anything, it’s this: The Cleveland Indians Front Office did not make enough moves to compete in 2015.

The Washington Nationals made moves to get better.

The Detroit Tigers made moves to get better.

The Seattle Mariners made moves to get better.

The Chicago White Sox made moves to get better.

And those are just a few of the teams that significantly improved their rosters in the off-season.

The Indians’  biggest signing has been acquiring 1B/RF Brandon Moss from the Oakland A’s for minor league 2B Joey Wendle. I wrote back when the move was made about how it will benefit the Tribe in the long-run due to Nick Swisher’s diminishing returns and the smoldering dumpster fire that is RF for the Tribe. As much as I like David Murphy, he is not the long-term solution in right field. Moss will at least allow for Tito to squeeze a few more hits/runs/etc out of his everyday lineup.

Then there is the idea that Gavin Floyd is just going to magically step into the #4 starter role

Again: Really? That’s the best we could do (I wrote recently how Antonetti’s signing of Floyd was an attempt to reincarnate Scotty Kazmir from the ’13 campaign). I’d take ’09 Floyd over ’14 Floyd any day of the week (just look at the numbers). To say that he is the #4 starter is ballsy, particularly on the part of Chris Antonetti. What about T.J. House? He had a solid 2014 campaign and he isn’t even in the rotation. Sure, Salazar, Bauer and Carrasco have much higher upsides than T.J. House, but all three of them have proven inconsistent at times. House was no Kluber, but at least he provided some consistency in the back-end of the rotation.

Floyd is going to have to really prove it to me in spring training that he belongs as the #4 man in our rotation.

There is an upside to all of this though

As ESPN and FanGraphs noted in their ESPN Insider story (full text available here), the Indians’ starting rotation (on the surface) can be described in two words: young and inexperienced (save Kluber of course).

But then people began to dig a little deeper and discovered that the Indians don’t have just 1 very descent starter — they have 4. Bauer, Carrasco, and Salazar all took positive steps forward in their development as top-tier starters while Corey Kluber just went out and won the AL Cy Young. IF the Indians can get 150+ consistent, quality innings from Bauer, Carrasco, and Salazar, not only will the Indians win the AL Central, they will cruise into the ALDS with the best, if not one of the best rotations in baseball.

So: If Floyd doesn’t work out, at least we’ll have a plethora of able starters ready to jump up into his place.

Signings, arbitration, etc.

Over the course of the last week, the Indians avoided arbitration with several players including: Carlos Carrasco, Lonnie Chisenhall, Mark Rzepczynski, Brandon Moss, and a few others.

I’m really happy we got that mess out of the way in a timely fashion this year. I’m all for players fighting for their worth, but last year’s arbitration “issues” leaked in spring training and it just left a bad taste in my mouth going into opening day.

In addition to avoiding arbitration with the latter players, the Indians signed former Twins pitcher Anthony Swarzak. Swarzak’s best year was in 2013 where he went 3-2 in 48 appearances with a 2.91 ERA over 96 innings. Looking at next level stats: Swarzak had a 3.28 FIP and 1.156 WHIP. He regressed somewhat in 2014 posting an identical record over 50 games with an ERA of 4.60 over 10 less innings.

Swarzak provides a solid relief arm in the bullpen which Terry Francona so eagerly goes to in the middle innings. If Swarzak makes the big league club out of spring training, he’ll make a cool $900k with an opportunity for an additional $350k in incentives.

Finally, 1st round draft pick Justus Sheffield was arrested in Tullahoma, TN on charges of aggravated burgalary and underage drinking after allegedly braking into a residence in Tullahoma around 4:30 AM on Monday, January 12th. The Indians released a statement that stated they were “aware of the report” involving Sheffield and “will not comment further until the legal process is completed”. Sheffield was released after posting bail ($5,500). He is scheduled to appear in Coffee County Court on February 5th.

In Memory of Hank Peters

Sadly, on January 4th, Former Indians GM and President (’87-’91) died from complications with a recent stroke in Boca Raton, FL. He was 90.

I feel that it’s fair to credit Hank with the foundation of what was the most amazing decade of Indians baseball ever. Before his 2nd tenure with the Tribe, Peters served as GM of the Baltimore Orioles for 12 years where he won a world series (’83) in the midst of ten consecutive winning seasons.

Next week: A preview of the 2015 depth chart

Tune in next week for a detailed preview of the 2015 Indians depth chart in addition to guesses at the final starting rotation, record at the All-Star Break, Post-season birth %, etc.

Should be fun; Go Tribe!

 

Indians Stand Pat While AL Central Foes Acquire Talent

The winter meetings came and went. The Indians traded minor league 2B prospect Joey Wendle to the Oakland A’s for LH power bat Brandon Moss.

But that’s it.

The rest of the winter meetings blew ball in a whirlwind as every other AL Central foe made acquisitions to increase their respective chances of taking home the 2015 AL Central crown. To say that the AL Central will be the toughest division in baseball this year may be an understatement.

Let’s go through each team’s acquisitions quickly:

Cleveland

Detroit

Minnesota

Chicago

Kansas City

Brandon Moss

Yoenis Cespedes Ervin Santana Jeff Samardzija Jandel Gustave

Brett Hayes

Alfredo Simon David Robertson Yohan Pino

Adam Moore

Alex Wilson Dan Jennings

Alex Rios

Destin Hood Gabe Speier Rob Brantly

Kendrys Morales

Jerry Sands Melky Cabrera
*Indicates best acquisition

 

I believe that’s everyone.

It’s apparent that Minnesota did the least so far out of the five teams in the Central. Every other team cut the deals necessary to make themselves a contender in 2015. The White Sox have made the most drastic changes to their lineup going into 2015. The additions of Jeff Samardzija and David Robertson immediately turn around a staff that was in the bottom five in the league for nearly every major pitching statistic. The 1-2 punch of Sale and Samardzija is going to be rough for teams that catch Chicago at the beginning of their rotation. Adding Melky Cabrera give the White Sox a solid 1-4 hitter who, last year, hit .301/.351/.458 with 35 2B, 16 HR and 73 RBIs (If Melky could have come cheaply, I was secretly hoping the Indians would make a run at him to bolster the outfield, but alas, it was not to be).

For Detroit, the additions of Yoenis Cespedes and Alfredo Simon are just icing on the cake for a lineup that is already loaded with juicy talent.

Think of it this way: The 3-4-5 combination of J.D. Martinez, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez was pretty scary in 2014. Now add Yoenis Cespedes to that mix.

That’s not even fair. That reminds me of the ’27 Yankees lineup that featured Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs, Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel and Tony Lazzeri. They are going to smash homeruns and rack up a ton of extra-base hits. Pitchers will go into the Tigers’ den with low ERAs and come out limping.

The worst part: They’re in our division.

2014 AL Pennant winners, the Kansas City Royals, didn’t make nearly as much noise as our friends from the state up north, but they were able to sign Luke Hochevar to a new deal and as recently as the writing of this article, signed Alex Rios to an $11 million deal. The Royals, like the Indians, focus on building through their farm system rather than through large trades and FA signings. It showed during the winter meetings. The Royals added Kendrys Morales to fill Billy Butler’s vacancy and the Rios signing fills the hole left by the departure of Norichika Aoki to FA.

So at long last, we come to our wahoo warriors; our protectors of the Cuyahoga: The Cleveland Indians.

The Indians were one of the first teams to take the dive during winter meetings with their deal for Brandon Moss. In my article last week, I delved into what the Moss addition means for the Tribe moving forward. To summarize: Moss is a great LH power hitter that will help bolster the middle of the lineup and create runs if the top of the lineup can get on base.

After that deal though, the front office shut it down. I’m sure there were deals out there that just didn’t get made. I know for a fact the Indians were on the short list to sign FA pitcher Brett Anderson. The issue is, and always has been, money. Brett Anderson got $10 million from the Dodgers. Ervin Santana got 4 years/$48 million. Justin Masterson got $9 million with $500 incentives for innings pitched from the Red Sox. The Indians just don’t have that kind of money to throw around, especially considering how over-valued the latter players are. I don’t know what world Brett Anderson is worth $10 million, but it certainly shouldn’t be this one. Same goes for Ervin Santana. The Dodgers and Red Sox are both in the top 10 in salary spending year in and year out. They can afford to overpay a low-risk/high-reward pitcher and eat the cost if he blows up in their face. The Indians, and other small-market teams cannot say the same.

That brings up another slew of issues that I’ll save for another article.

To counter the lack of moves made during winter meetings, the Indians signed C Brett Hayes, C Adam Moore, 1B/OF Destin Hood and OF Jerry Sands to minor league contracts with spring training invites yesterday (12/15). All four players have varied stints of major league experience, but the most intriguing contract (for me anyway) is Jerry Sands. Sands was well-regarded by the Dodgers during his time there. He plays great defense and is a right handed power bat (THANK GOD). The problem is his lack of major league experience. He only has 97 major league plate appearances against left handed pitching, he has a slash line of .289/.340/.511 and, according to fangraphs.com, a wOBA of .483 (ridiculously good). This is the first time that I’ve calculated wOBA (an offensive statistic that tells a deeper story than say just batting average or just slugging percentage). If he can shine in Triple-A Columbus this season, I don’t see what he couldn’t see some playing time around the All-Star break if Michael Bourn is struggling to stay healthy.

There’s still plenty of time to add talent, but the pool is considerably smaller than it was just a week ago. The Indians are going to need to spend money if they want to compete, especially in an AL Central that has bulked up considerably. With less than 70 days until pitchers and catchers report, the next 2-3 weeks are going to be very telling of what the front office is planning over the course of the rest of the off season.

That’s all for this week.

Go Tribe!

Cleveland Sports Week in Review 9/15-9/21

A week in Cleveland sports at times can be unlike anything else. There are days where if you are out of the loop even for a couple of hours you can miss a big story or development. From a Monday to Friday the collective pulse and emotion of the city can go from overly optimistic/joyous to doom and gloom/we’re not going to take any more of this. Things in Cleveland sports can and do change by the day. How can you keep up? Fear no more! Here is the More Than a Fan Cleveland sports week in review.

Cleveland Indians

Winners of five of their last seven games, the Indians currently find themselves 3.5 games back of the Kansas City Royals for the second AL Wild Card spot. After getting swept by the division leading Detroit Tigers, the Indians responded by winning a series against Houston (taking three out of four) and the Minnesota Twins (taking two out of three). This was done in large part to some excellent pitching. Over the last seven days the pitching staff has boasted an impressive 2.01 ERA, while the offense has struggled (Indians batting just .248 as a team during this stretch). Leading the Tribe offensively has been (you guessed it) Michael Brantley. Over the last seven games Brantley has a batting average of .419 with one home run, three RBI and four runs scored. Yan Gomes has also been productive, hitting .269 over the last seven games with two home runs, nine RBI and three runs scored. On the other side of the ball, Corey Kluber has continued his Cy Young award caliber season. In their last seven games Kluber has made two starts for the Tribe. During that time (15 innings pitched) he has struck out 28 batters, has a 1.50 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP while batters are hitting just .237 off of him. Carlos Carrasco has also made one start for the Tribe this past week, and he’s continued his somewhat unlikely second half resurgence. In his last start (September 17th against Houston) Carrasco didn’t allow a run and only gave up two hits in nine innings while walking one battery and striking out twelve. Cody Allen has continued to be reliable in relief for the Indians. He’s made three appearances over the last seven games (3.1 innings pitched) and has allowed just one earned run on three hits while striking out six batters. Unfortunately for Allen, that one run allowed resulted in a blown save.

Looking ahead: The Indians have an extremely important series against the Kansas City Royals, starting with a unique double header tonight. The Indians and Royals will play the remainder of a weather postponed game from 8/31, a game in which Cleveland was winning 4-2 with Kansas City coming to bat in the bottom of the ninth when bad weather struck, before the start of the scheduled game today. Should Cleveland finish off that game and sweep the rest of the three game series they would be in the driver’s seat for the last AL Wild Card spot.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns dropped a heartbreaker to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, losing by a score of 23-21. Despite the team playing well enough to win on Sunday (maybe not well enough to win every week) Cleveland’s defense was the largest reason for Sunday’s loss. Many will point to (and rightly so) the 32 completion to Steve Smith late in the fourth quarter who was being covered by Joe Haden as the games defining moment. Haden, who by all accounts hasn’t really lived up to the contract extension he signed this offseason, will be the first to tell you he has to make a play on that ball. He’d also be right. If Joe Haden wants to be considered one of the top defense backs in the league those are the types of plays he cannot give up. However, don’t fool yourself into thinking this was all Haden’s fault. Considering the timing of the play, yes that one completion that he allowed ended up being a defining moment in the game. But the Browns defense as a whole was unimpressive all afternoon. The front seven was unable to sack Joe Flacco once and the run defense was pitiful, allowing 91 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries to Lorenzo Taliaferro (who got the start with Ray Rice’s suspension and Bernard Pierce’s thigh injury) and also allowing Justin Forsett to rush for 63 yards on 11 carries. The Browns defense was also flagged twice for too many men on the field.

The poor play of the defense doesn’t excuse the offense either. While Brian Hoyer and the offense did manage three 80 yard scoring drives (all three touchdowns) they also failed to put the game away in the fourth quarter with multiple chances. In the fourth quarter Cleveland’s four drives yielded 65 yards (including a 4 play -2 yard drive) with two missed field goals (one blocked) and two punts. Their final two drives of the game resulted in punts and totaled six yards on six plays.

In off the field news, Josh Gordon officially had his indefinite suspension for a failed drug test reduced to ten games. This means that Gordon will be available for the team’s final six games of the season, doesn’t have to apply to play again next season and (under the new agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA) is allowed to be around the team during his suspension.

Looking ahead: The Browns have a bye week this coming week.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers signed free agent power forward Lou Amundson. The 6’9” eight year veteran appeared in 18 games for the New Orleans Pelicans and one game for the Chicago Bulls last season. Amundson averages 3.6 points and 3.5 rebounds a game (averaging 12.6 minutes per game) for his career. He and Cavs GM David Griffin were both in Phoenix from 2008-2010.

LeBron James will once again tower over downtown Cleveland, literally. The City of Cleveland approved a Nike sponsored banner of LeBron James to once again hang from the Sherwin Williams building.