Monday, March 31, 2008

Really BIG Show!

What an opening act!
The Cleveland Indians opened their 2008 season at home on Monday, March 31 without any snow! In fact, the game time temperature was over 60 degrees! The final score was Cleveland 10, Chicago 8. I had made a prediction that the score would be Cleveland 5, Chicago 2. Well, it was, during the second inning. I also said that I would have a hot dog with spicy brown mustard for every run the Indians scored. Well, I couldn't keep up but after downing 5 dogs, I am paying for it now!
So how did we do it?
C.C. Sabathia gave up a Jim Thome 2-run homer in the 1st inning. The Tribe needed to answer and they did with a 7 run second inning! Franklin Guttierez put the Tribe ahead with a 3-run homer, Grady Sizemore put one out as well, and Victor Martinez had two hits in the inning. Victor left the game with soreness in his left hamstring and he remains to be day-to-day.
Thome's next at bat brought a second 2-run homer. All of the heckling that the opening day "amateurs" could dish out seemed to propell Jim to bigger hits. After C.C. left the game in the 6th inning, the bullpen could not hold the lead as the Sox tied the game at 7 runs apiece.
As the Sox continued to threaten with bases loaded in the 8th inning and nobody out, things went the Tribe's way. Kelly Shoppach tagged out Joe Crede as he attempted to score a go ahead run. Ozzie Gullien argued that it was a phantom tag. Up comes Thome with the bases still loaded and only one out. As Thome sent a slow bouncer to second base, Orlando Cabrera interfered with Jhonny Peralta as he stepped on second base, taking the throw. In the bottom of the 8th inning, Casey Blake hit a 3-run double with bases loaded. Then it was up to Joe Borowski to hold it together. Well Joe had to make it interesting by giving up a home run to Jermaine Dye before getting the second and third out of the 9th inning to preserve the victory for Rafael Betancourt who wins the game in relief.
So it may not have been the prettiest game ever played but it certainly had all of the excitement and drama you could ask for. The Tribe continues to find a way to win. You have to believe that they expect to win and I love that attitude.
This was a true team effort where the guys kept picking each other up.
But 5 hot dogs as the Indians came from behind twice to win?

Weather in a Word (or two)?…Play Ball!

What a difference a year makes, at least in the weather as the Cleveland Indians prepare to open their season at the newly named Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland. Last year as you will recall, the Indians opened the season in the windy city of Chicago on April 2nd and took 2 out of 3 from the Sox. Then they came home to open the season there on April 6th only to be snowed out and rescheduled. Then the next home stand against the Angels was moved to the dome in Milwaukee. So what do the schedulers do for 2008? They schedule the Cleveland home opener in March!
Well, after a tough couple of snowstorms in the past two weeks and some early morning rain today, it appears that at 3:05 pm this afternoon with temperatures in the mid 50’s, we will hear that familiar and long awaited call of, “Play Ball!”
I will be there to witness the beginning of the defense of the American League Central Crown.
In fact, I will go one further and give a prediction to the outcome of the game…
Cleveland 5, Chicago 2!
I plan on having a hot dog with that wonderful

spicy brown mustard for every run the Indians score!
Too cold for beer…or bugs!
Go Tribe!
See you there!

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Here's a little jumpstart for your heart, just 9 hours before the start of our season...

  • Steve Henson of Yahoo!Sports has picked the Indians to beat the Mets in the World Series!

Other picks by the "Experts"...

  • Jeff Passan of Yahoo!Sports picks the Indians to go to the World Series but eventually lose to the Mets.
  • Tim Brown, also of Yahoo!Sports picks the Indians to go to the playoffs as the wild card team and not get by the Red Sox once again.
  • Prior to the opener on national TV in Washington DC, Peter Gammons of ESPN picked the Indians to beat the Braves in the World Series!
But, as manager Eric Wedge is stressing to the team, the focus is on beating the very tough teams in the American League on a daily basis. He will have no talk of playoffs.

I couldn't agree more with his focus but...

It sure is great to feel your heart beat once again...

Go Tribe!

One More Day...

One more day and our defense of the American League Central Crown begins. There has been much written early about the improvements that Detroit made over the winter and you must admit that they look very strong. Many "experts" have picked the Tigers as the team to beat in the Central. They are strong defensively and their lineup is solid from top to bottom. Their biggest question mark will be pitching, both starting and relief. The Indians on the other hand have brought back basically the same team that won 96 games last year and were one game away from going to the World Series.

Most baseball execs and fans will take little notice of spring training results, mainly because of the infusion of minor leaguers into the games. But look at the impact the minor leaguers had on the 2007 Indians team.
For the fun of it, lets do a little light examination of the spring for Cleveland and Detroit.

Both teams finished the spring with records of 15 wins and 14 losses.
Let's compare other spring numbers (the numbers in parenthesis are the American League ranking for spring 2008):
  1. AVG Cle .270 (10) Det .291 (3)
  2. Runs Cle 175 (4) Det 171 (5)
  3. Hits Cle 286 (8) Det 334 (1)
  4. 2B Cle 60 (11) Det 71 (2)
  5. 3B Cle 7 (8) Det 11 (4)
  6. HR Cle 43 (2) Det 44 (1)
  7. RBI Cle 171 (3) Det 166 (4)
  8. SB Cle 10 (10) Det 9 (11)
  9. OBP Cle .352 (6) Det .356 (5)
  10. SLG Cle .461 (5) Det .487 (1)

If we add up the offensive numbers in parenthesis and dividing by 10, the Tigers are ranked at 4th and the Indians are at 7th.

How about some pitching numbers:

  1. ERA Cle 4.61 (9) Det 5.59 (8)
  2. HR Cle 10 (5) Det 13 (7)
  3. BB Cle 96 (6) Det 115 (12)
  4. SO Cle 188 (6) Det 170 (10)
  5. Hits Cle 309 (12) Det 304 (11)
  6. Runs Cle 157 (9) Det 158 (10)

Again, adding up the Pitching number in parenthesis and dividing by 6, the Indians come in at 8th and the Tigers at 10th.

Overall, The Tigers come in at 6th and the Indians at 7th.

Cause for alarm? Absolutely, but the panic was raised when the Tigers acquired Cabrera and Willis, then they got Reteria, a proven "Indian Killer!" Looking further at spring stats, it appears that the Tigers played their regulars far more than the Indians did in a "get to know each other" manner. The Indians took long looks at many minor leaguers and invitees this spring.

So, on paper and in spring training, the Tigers look to be the team to beat. But I love our chances. This has the look and feel of a down-to-the-wire race for the Central Crown. Honestly, think back to one year ago as we were about to embark on the 2007 season and answer the question, "Where did you pick the 2007 Indians to finish?"

Go Tribe! Win the World Series after a 60 year drought!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

OUCH! That's Gonna Hurt (For A While)...

Ben Francisco gets shipped off to Triple A Buffalo!
In the final roster move today, the Cleveland Indians got down to their 25 man team to begin the 2008 season. In a move very similar to the start of the 2005 season, the Indians kept David Dellucci over Ben Francisco. In 2005, the Indians kept injury-prone Juan Gonzales in their starting outfield over Grady Sizemore, to enable Grady to play every day until he was ready to come back to the "bigs". It turned out that Juan injured himself in his first at bat and Grady was called up to stay almost immediately.
That is not to say that I am wishing anyone gets hurt. On the contrary, I have tremendous respect for David Dellucci. I love his enthusiastic approach to the game and I love his fire when he comes to the defense of his teammates. You will recall, on Friday, May 4th, 2007, Dellucci, who was on deck, saw a clean and aggressive play unfold before his eyes as teammate Josh Barfield attempted to score as Blue Jays catcher Jason Phillips blocked the plate. Barfield was called out but Phillips took exception to the hard-hitting slide. As Phillips went after Barfield, David Dellucci fearlessly got in Phillips grill big time! Dellucci is a very lovable and colorful player. As you will recall, in one of his slumps last year, he called on a hometown friend to help him out. Sister Dolce told David, "Relax and take God to the plate with you." David hit a triple and a home run that night to win the game. Dellucci went down with a leg injury running out a grounder soon after that, another admirable baseball trait.
The point is, the better player is going to AAA. This spring, Dellucci batted only .220 with an OBP of .319 and a slugging % of .390. Francisco batted .362 with an OBP of .404 and a slugging % of .617. Neither player made an error and actually both players made some very nice plays in left field.
I want David Dellucci to be very successful, hopefully with the Indians. I want Francisco to be on this team because I think he should start in left field for us. I see Dellucci as a utility player and Francisco as an everyday player. I see Francisco as the corner outfield slugger this team needs everyday.
That’s the tough part of breaking camp from Spring Training. Someone gets a tough deal with a pat on the back and hope for the future.
What can solve this dilemma?
A trade! We are rich with outfielders. Jason Michaels would probably draw much interest. We have a pretty good hitting but average infielder in Andy Marte, who is considered by many teams as a future star. We are pretty strong in pitching as well.
Anyway, we gotta get Francisco on this team quickly.
But it’s all good!
It’s all positive!
We’ve been waiting a long, long time for these type of “problems!”
It is a great time to be a Cleveland Indians Fan!
Come back, Ben Francisco, the sooner the better!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

American (Vendor) Idol At Progressive Field?

As if we were not unique enough, the Cleveland Indians took another step yesterday in proving just how creatively different they can be.
Yesterday, the Indians teamed up with their Sportservice company to hold “auditions” for food and beverage vendors to serve fans at Progressive Field. The story was reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer this morning as well as on local television news shows last evening and today.
Doesn’t sound so unusual?
Well, the people that went for the jobs gave more than they bargained for.
The “auditions” were held in a fun manner to let the potential “hawkers” show their talents. Appearing at the “Vendor Idol” were a gospel singer and a George Bush impersonator, as well as many more talents.
We already have some very unique and talented vendors covering the aisles at the ballpark, as reported in this blog as recently as November 24, 2007,
We have the raspy voiced peanut guy who tosses bags to customers while commending them on a “Nice Catch!” There is the guy who can be heard in the park, on TV, and on the radio selling beer in a booming voice to something that sounds like “Hypa-hypa-hep-ho!”
There is the guy who suddenly appears and proclaims himself as “Your beer man!”
There is another guy who looks just like Julio Franco and asks his sections, “Who wants to buy a beer from Julio Franco?”
The Indians vendors probably began their entertaining manner way back when there wasn’t much entertainment on the field. But these people have evolved their style to be highly entertaining while not being a distraction to the action on the field. I am always amazed at how polite they are and careful not to block someone’s view or distract from the real excitement.
We haven’t won a World Series since 1948. It will be 60 years ago this season but don’t you just love our style?
However, 60 years is a long time. We have had some fun along the way but a World Series win would be so satisfying. Last year, we came within one game of going to the Series and there cannot be any doubt that the Indians would have won that Series. Can it happen this year?
Sure it can. It will take this team coming out of the gate strong, playing as a well-oiled machine. Hopefully Ben Francisco will get to play left field by March 31st or very soon after.

And shame on Bud Selig! What is taking so long to get back to the Indians and Paul Byrd? Hopefully that distraction will be behind us and we can get down to the business of getting to the World Series and having lots of fun along the way!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Can’t Wait?

9 days and counting!
That is an eternity!
What to do in the mean time…

If you are a movie person and you love sports, then you already know that Hollywood has a true talent for bringing together sports and the silver screen, especially sports movies about boxing and baseball. There have been some incredible baseball movies over the years and any of them are liable to pop up on cable TV this week, or they can be rented to soothe and fulfill the void until Opening Day.
Here are my top ten (not in any particular order) that I recommend:

Major League
It is about our very own Cleveland Indians. The movie starts out showing the sights of the city with newspaper clippings documenting the failings of the club over the years…painful to see. As the story begins, the owner of the club dies and his showgirl wife develops a plan to break the contract with Major League Baseball and the city of Cleveland if she can run attendance into the ground. It is hilarious as the team unites despite their differences and develops their own last ditch plan to win, in spite of the “new” owner. This movie has become a cult classic as one liners from the great characters are repeated and recognized everywhere.
“Up your butt, Jobu!”
“Si si, Pedro!”
“I’m all for giving the sports writers in this town a big shit-burger to eat!”
“What a bunch of bullshit, I have a much better body than she does!”
“Nice catch Hayes, don’t ever f---ing do it again!”
“Want me to drag him outside, kick the shit outta him?”
“Hats for bats, keep bats warm, gracias!”
The Natural
What a movie! Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was. Robert Redford somehow pulls this off as a well past his time “rookie” who finally gets to the majors after his dream and career are derailed. He pretty much rips your heart out when he is in the maternity hospital and says to Glenn Close, “I wish dad coulda…God, I love baseball!”
Other great lines:
“You can’t pronounce it but it eats pretty good!”
“You’re the best damned baseball player I ever saw, suit up!”
“Your standing so close Gus, I’m not sure if those are my toes or yours that I’m feeling.”

Kill The Umpire!

William Bendix is priceless in this movie about a guy so crazy about baseball, it keeps costing him his job. He hates umpires but to stay employed and close to the game, he becomes an umpire. Drops in his eyes lead to a nickname of “Two-call Johnson.” Fast and funny as well as heart-warming.

It Happens Every Spring

Ray Milland is a physics professor who develops a substance that makes a baseball virtually impossible to hit. So of course he becomes an instant pitching sensation!

Field Of Dreams

Spooky, spiritual, but riveting. Kevin Kostner leads a fabulous cast in the creation of a baseball field for his, and his father’s heros to come and play once again. James Earl Jones gives a speech about baseball that stays etched in your memory forever. Burt Lancaster gives a wonderful performance in one of his final films.

Damn Yankees

A Washington Senators fan makes a deal with the devil to get beyond the Yankees and help the Senators win the pennant. Great musical with a great cast!

Pride Of The Yankees

A must see film every year. The Lou Gehrig story puts life and the game of baseball into perspective like no other movie.

Angels In The Outfield

This 1951 original is absolutely a Rite of Spring. Angels (not from California) assist the Pittsburgh Pirates to one of the greatest come from behind seasons to win the pennant. An orphan helps pull the team and the (heavenly) angels together while getting Paul Douglas and Janet Leigh together, despite the interference of Keenan Wynn.

Bull Durham

Kevin Kostner does it up right as a minor league catcher positioned to help pitching prospect Tim Robbins get to the “Bigs.” Susan Sarandon is priceless as she interacts with Robbins and Kostner.

Long Gone

This hard to find movie was made for TV (HBO) in 1987. It stars William Peterson and Virginia Madsen. Peterson is the player-manager of a minor league team who has to deal with corruption and racism while trying to win the championship. As I recall, he meets up with Virginia Madsen, a beauty pageant winner who sings (very poorly) the National Anthem on opening day, and they become a great couple and endure the season to reach their own happiness at the end. I loved this movie!

OK, so there are 10 movies that should help me pass the time until Monday, March 31st at 3:05 pm! I hope some of these movies will entertain you as well as help pass the time until the big day!
Enjoy and play ball!

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Best Day of the Year!

Opening Day is almost here and it has to be the very best day of the year!
Everyone is in first place and baseball is back on!
Even though Opening Day is skewed a bit now, what with teams opening in Japan and such, still, everyone is in first place, if only for the first game. Back in the day, tradition was that the Reds had the honor of starting the first game of the year, even if it was only by 30 minutes or so.
Besides every team in first place, winning streaks from Opening Day are intriguing. Think back to some of the teams that got off to great starts and were almost impossible to catch, and those that did get caught.
In 1984, the Tigers won their first 9 games and they won 35 of their first 40 games. They finished the season at 104 and 58 and won the World Series!
Twice the Yankees won 33 of their first 40 games (1928 and 1933) and won the World Series both years!
The 1966 Indians won their first 10 games and 27 out of their first 40 games. Unfortunately, they finished the season at 81 and 81 in 5th place, 17 games behind first place.
First things first however, the weather must cooperate! The picture above is of Progressive Field yesterday!
Once the snow goes away, here is hoping the Indians can run off with a long undefeated streak and never look back! It could happen…we could be 12-0 before Boston comes to town on April 14th!
However you celebrate the start of the season, enjoy it! There is no greater time than the start of the baseball season and there is no better day than Opening Day!

Friday, March 14, 2008

"No, I Am Sorry To Say We Will Not Be Ready In Time!"

With the most welcome approach to our Cleveland Indians’ 2008 Opening Day, there is much hand-wringing and apprehension that we could face another snow-out on March 31st. Why the schedule makers would arrange to play a game at the end of March on the north coast of the United States is beyond comprehension. Looking outside today, the lakes and ponds are frozen and a thick blanket of snow covers any hope of spring. Just this morning, a picture (top of page) of the Progressive Field ground crew appeared in the paper showing them taking the tarp off of the pitcher’s mound with the rest of the field fully covered with the white stuff.
But wait…We can still have our opening day! We did it before, why can’t we do it again?
Years ago, Head Groundskeeper Harold Bossard would come on the local news about 10 days before the home opener. In the background at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium would be mountains of dirt waiting to be spread on the frozen, snow covered field. Bossard, puffing a cigar and feverishly working on the field while barking orders to his crew, would get interrupted by the local news reporter who would shove a microphone towards him. The reporter would always ask, “Will the field be ready in time for the opener?” Bossard would wipe the sweat (or snow) from his brow and take a well crafted pause with a deep look of despair on his face and then answer, “No, I am sorry to say we will not be ready in time!” Then he would grab a rake or snow shovel and get back to work as the reporter would wrap the story with his own despair.
This happened every year! It would send children of all ages into a panic! Parents, hearing the report, would shake their heads and say, “There has been just too much bad weather.” This was far more than a young fan could take! No opening day?! It was the end of the world…life was ceasing to exist!
But, soon the grey clouds parted, the sun peaked through, and the temperatures rose. By opening day, the field was in magnificent shape…every year!
So, channels 3, 5, 8, 19, and 43...come on, grab your cameras and get to the Pro. get that interview with head groundskeeper Brandon Koehnke. Get the quote! He already was quoted in the morning paper as saying, "Mother Nature will need to cooperate in order to get the frozen field ready for the opening pitch." Isn't that pretty close to, "I am sorry to say we will not be ready in time?"
Yeah!...Play Ball!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

On This Date In Baseball History…

March 9th, 1897 – The Cleveland Spiders (as they were known then) signed Holy Cross star Chief Sockalexis to a contract. Sockalexis, a full-blooded Penobscot Indian, soon earned the admiration of Spiders’ supporters because of his outstanding all-around skill. Before long, baseball fans start referring to the Cleveland team as the Indians. Sockalexis played only three years with the team because of acute alcoholism, but the nickname Indians will be revived in 1915 to become the club's official name.

This is one version of the story. Another version claims that one of the three local Cleveland newspapers ran a contest to name the team and the fans chose "Indians" to honor Sockalexis.

Another version claims that the writer who ran the contest ran the contest and inserted "Indians" as the winner because it was his choice.

Either way, love it or hate it (hope you love it), the smiling caricature is one of the most recognizable sports logos in the world.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Remember The Alamo!

On this memorable day, the 172nd anniversary of the fall of the Alamo to the Mexican army after a 13-day courageous defense, it is time to focus on defending the American League Central Division Championship.

As we prepare for the title defense, let it be known that Mark (Gen. Sam Houston) Shapiro will be sending no additional troops to the cause. Eric (Col. William Travis) Wedge has resigned to defend the crown with the troops he has and give it a valiant effort with no intention of surrender. Jim (Santa Anna) Leyland has vowed to take no prisoners or give no quarter so the task will be paramount. The enemy will be coming at them from all sides, all with one common theme; to take the title back.

Nevertheless, Wedge has drawn his line in the sand and is steadfast in his mission, and all of his charges have crossed that line and committed to the goal.
A rallying cry has emerged and you can hear it across this land, “Remember game 7 of the ALCS!”
So, as the defense is about to begin in 25 days and the troops are about to take up their command, there is but yet one task remaining…
Do ya think ya could win a spring training game or two?!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Champagne or $2 Buck Chuck?

The fact that this Indians team is intact from last year has been well documented. Mark Shapiro and the rest of the Indians brass are banking on the fact that the team, being familiar with each other and comfortably set early on this spring, will be able to improve from last year and stay ahead of the retooled Tigers.
So what does that mean to Eric Wedge and his role in spring training? Based on the three games they have played to date, he is getting long looks at the guys who will comprise his minor league bench because the 25 guys that go to Cleveland at the end of this month are all but set, barring injuries or extremely poor showings. Let’s look:

Starting Pitching:
C.C. Sabathia
Fausto Carmona
Jake Westbrook
Paul Byrd
Cliff Lee

If Cliff Lee can regain his form that made him one of the Indians top pitchers from 2004 to 2006, the starting rotation is set and strong. Aaron Laffey, based on his 2007 performance will more than likely make the team as a long reliever but be ready to step into the #5 spot in case of an injury to one of the top 5. Jeremy Sowers could be the wild card here if he has a strong spring, shows that he too has regained his form, and someone else fails to impress. At any rate, Sowers is probably just a quick call away if needed.

Relief Pitching:
Rafael Betancourt
Rafael Perez
Joe Borowski
Masahide Kobayashi
Jensen Lewis
Aaron Laffey

Masa, based on his contract is more than likely a lock to break with this team and head north. Aaron Fultz appears to be the odd man out because having Masa as a set-up man frees Rafael Perez to work better in a lefty-lefty tandem with Aaron Laffey. The timing couldn't be better to trade Fultz. Although his numbers in 2007 point to a successful season, when he was bad, he was horrible! Tom Mastney will more than likely join the team as needed, when injuries dictate.

Travis Hafner

The big guy has to have a big year, bigger than his “human” year last season. Adjusting and successfully hitting to the left side of the field will neutralize the frustrating infield shift.

Grady Sizemore
Franklin Gutierrez
Jason Michaels
Ben Francisco
David Dellucci

Dellucci has to stay healthy. Where was Michaels in the playoffs last season? He was the forgotten man. It would be great to see Gutierrez and Francisco emerge as the everyday corner outfielders. Up and comer already impressive in this early spring training, Trevor Crowe is 3 for 5. When will he truly be ready?

Victor Martinez
Kelly Shoppach

What a great catching combo that work together so well and have so much respect for each other. Plus, they both produce! Ready if needed, Wyatt Toregas will work to stay ready in the event of an injury. Infielders:
Ryan Garko
Asdrubal Cabrera
Jhonny Peralta
Casey Blake
Josh Barfield
Andy Marte

Although these guys are more than likely set to come north as well, there is some tough competition already impressive in this young spring training; 1b Michael Aubrey is 4 for 5 and 2b Dave Sandoval is 2 for 7 with a huge home run. Marte, as everyone knows, is out of options and will come north, barring a trade. Veteran Jamey Carroll appears to be Josh Barfield's biggest threat at the other utility infield position but so far, Carroll is 0 for 2008. Look for Barfield to get back on track quickly this spring.

The point is, this team is already familiar with each other and now they can be fairly comfortable knowing they have all but secured a spot on the opening day roster. The advantage now should be to work together for the next 29 days and pick up where they left off last October. There could be some sound reasoning that, given the next 29 days to sync as a well oiled machine, the Indians can only improve over last year. The question remains, do they have enough to get to the World Series?