Monday, November 23, 2009

It's Only Words But...

Last week, new Cleveland Indians' manager Manny Acta was in town and took part in a pretty extensive interview with Plain Dealer sportswriter Paul Hoynes. During that interview, many topic were covered and the following caught my attention.

When asked about the slow start the Indians have become accustom to over the last 5 out of 7 years, Manny replied in a very positive and pro-active way. He said that being ready for the season at all positions in both offense and defense along with avoiding injuries in Spring Training were his priorities. He also added that he does not buy into the adage that it is a long season and there are 162 games. He was very committed to ensuring that everyone in the organization knew that a win in April is just as important as a win in September.

That is a direct contrast to his predecessor Eric Wedge who could win a contest versus anyone in watching his chin hairs grow or viewing the impending girder bolt in the top of the dugout rusting through.
There is no denying that under Wedge's leadership, this team was seldom ready coming out of Spring Training and not in great shape either.

I believe that Manny Acta has keyed in on a huge deficiency in Cleveland Indians' baseball of late. I have been screaming about the conditioning of this team. Why do the pitchers year after year suffer from abdominal muscle pulls? How many guys (Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner) have hidden injuries during the Spring only to pull out of the season for an impending operation when the GM sells off the high-priced talent at mid season?

Manny Acta had many good comments during the interview but these were the thoughts that impressed me. No more extended Spring Training for the entire team. Stop blaming things like the desert air for a team not ready to compete. Wedge is gone and their is a new manager in place. I have the distinct feeling that Manny Acta will not be "Nanny" Acta.

So what kind of team does he have to start with?

  • A solid outfield in Sizemore, Choo, and Brantley who can hit and play "D" although all three are lefties.
  • A pretty solid infield of Peralta, Cabrera, and Valbuena who also can hit and play "D" as well. The 2 question marks in the infield are 1st base and Catcher but relax. At 1st, the talent is there with LaPorta if he is healthy by February or some strength at AAA in Jordan Brown. Same/same at catcher with Santana and Toregas looking to hit their stride under the leadership of new coach Sandy Alomar Jr.
  • The biggest wild card in all of this is pitching, both starting and relieving. Can Acta and Belcher put together a band of arms that can have good to great years? If Westbrook comes back strong and Carmona gets his head on straight and figures out what other pitch to throw when he doesn't get the low, low strike call, winning could become infectious.
  • There is a lot of left-handed hitting on this team that could bring an interesting trade or two before the start of Spring Training.
  • Look at the American League Central...pretty weak. Minnesota has the best manager who keeps getting the most out of the talent given to him as free agents walk to big money teams. How long can they just win the division and fold in the playoffs? The Tigers have a manager that apparently is a bit too old to weave all of their high-priced talent into a winner. Chicago has Ozzie Guillen who could have written the new comedy routine for Robin Williams, "Weapons of Self Destruction". Kansas City is still two years away at least.

The Cleveland Indians could be on the verge of shocking the baseball world once more. All the right moves have to be made but it is not out of the realm of possibilities for 2010. Acta has been compared to Terry Francona who won the World Series with the Red Sox in his 1st year managing the team.

If Acta puts his words into actions, hang on...The thrill could be back!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Stop With The Cleveland Jokes!

Sports in Cleveland have really hit the skids. This is a town that has an avid fan base but rewards those loyal fans with lousy teams. The Cleveland Cavaliers continue to be our only hope to a major sports title but can they grab the brass ring this year and keep Lebron James? With the season just under way, it looks doubtful.
Then there is the Cleveland Browns football team. How did things get so out of control? The owner is absentee and clueless about the sport, there is no general manager at this time, the head coach has failed to impress anyone in Cleveland or anywhere else for that matter and he has alienated the players and the fans. What would Cleveland football be without a raging quarterback controversy? The fact is that Brady Quinn is a controversy all by himself; from his initial holdout, to his alleged "gay-bashing" in Columbus, to his poor play as a starter, to his cheap shot on national television. This team is in such disarray they make the Cleveland Indians look like a well-oiled machine.
What about the Cleveland Indians?
Maybe things aren't so bad. Yeah, OK, I said it. Is it wishful thinking? To some degree, yes. They sure aren't the New York Yankees but they are not the Washington Nationals either...uh, except we got their manager.
It is true, I did not want Manny Acta to manager this team but he is the manager at least for now so he deserves a chance. His coaching hires have not been all that impressive until he secured Sandy Alomar Jr. as the first base/catching coach. Sandy had many a big game for the Indians through the '90s. From Rookie of the Year, through All-Star MVP at the corner of 9th St. and Ontario, to helping to guide the team to two appearances in the World Series in 1995 and 1997 while winning the American League Central title five years.
So there is some good news in Cleveland.
Welcome back Sandy!

Run Sandy, Run!

Now, if we can get Randy Learner to sell the Browns to someone or some group that will bring respectability back to the area of the country just north of the cradle of football, life will become liveable without that annoying twitch we get when someone mentions "Football".
And, if Dan Gilbert will let Lebron James sign on as a part owner of the Cavaliers, the greatest player ever in the game without a championship can at least stay right here until we match him up with a Scottie Pippen-like player. Sorry, Shaq ain't it!
And, if the Dolans and Mark Shapiro would go get lost in a rain forest somewhere for the next 12 months, maybe, just maybe the Indians could keep a contending team together past June and shock the sporting world once again!

Keep your head up!