Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What The...

While hanging out in beautiful and fun downtown Cleveland recently, I was thinking back to my college days where I spent quite a bit of time walking between classes in the heart of the city. I met Steve Allen once and on another occasion Bob Hope as he tooled around the corner of 9th and Euclid in a limo. Most of those old buildings that I should have been taking classes in are long gone to make way for Gateway. I spent most of those days in the local bars drinking 3.2 beer, eating more than my share of beer nuts, dropping quarter after quarter into the juke box, and dancing when I should have been in class. You can look North and see the new Browns' Stadium adjacent to the Rock and Roll Hall and the Science Center. There are still some pretty cool bars and some very nice restaurants, many of them elegant in the area around Progressive Field and the Q Arena. A trip slightly further east provides some of the greatest culture available anywhere in the University Circle area. Of course just over the bridge to the West of the Q offers many, many cultural and culinary treats as well as historic and entertaining places.

Here is another good thing about Cleveland, Joakim Noah will not have to return to Cleveland for two very good reasons. First, the Cavs will finish the playoff series in Chicago winning 4 straight and second, Noah apparently does not appreciate the finer attributes of our fair city.

What kind of moron would make statements as he did publicly, even if he did feel that way?

Well, you don't have to look to far to see the ramblings of another such moron. He puts those statements daily in the sports section of the Akron Beacon Journal. His name is Sheldon Oker and perhaps it is time for he too to leave the area.

Shelly, apparently it is time for you to retire when all you can find to write about, or lately complain about is the paint on the dugouts at Progressive Field. In the midst of this young teams most recent and modest winning streak of 4 games, you chose to write about how they are not much different under Manny Acta than they were under Eric Wedge. Wedge took a wait and see approach to everything. He was just that deliberate in deciding which end of the bench to fall asleep on. Acta has been everything Wedge wasn't so far. He is upright and breathing and that is an improvement over Wedge. And your flip, sarcastic, and condescending answers to your "fans" who write in to you are out of line. The Akron Sports section has not been the same since Terry Pluto defected back up north to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Perhaps it is time for the two papers to merge and merely have an Akron section.
I am disappointed in Michael Brantley. He was not able to make the best of his time in the Bigs and was sent down to make room for Russell Branyan. Brantley is the future and he will be back, hopefully soon. Branyan amounts to a mercenary playing for any team that will have him in between constant and tiring injuries. Let's play him now until he goes out with another surgery requiring injury. He puts me in mind of Roger Dorn in the movie about our Indians, "Major League."

"Oh come on cut the rah rah shit Taylor! Year after this I go free agent. Plus me and my agent got a couple of plans for life after baseball. So I am not about to risk major injury or displace this property for a collection of stiffs!"

Never thought much of you when you were here before, still don't think much of you Russell.

Time for the Tribe to get back on track tonight in Minnesota!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Good, The Bad, And The Predictable!

Going into the Cleveland Indians’ Opening Day 2010, the 110th opener celebrated on the shores of Lake Erie, this club had established a record of 2 wins and 4 losses. That record could easily have been 4 wins and 2 losses due to a costly error and two predictable bullpen failures.
Anyway, there we were at opening day, a new beginning. The town looked sparkly driving in from I-77. The snow was gone, the weather was great, and Progressive Field welcomed us from far away. Soon we were in the stadium in the Club section where it was all you can eat. Most people seemed to have forgotten the blown game the day before and were ready to greet their team.
As we moved into our Club seats, the park looked great. The grass was so green and manicured as the Rangers took batting practice. There was a buzz in the air.
For me, the true highlight of the day was seeing 92 year old legend Bob Feller purposefully make his way to the mound, toe the rubber, and throw out the first pitch to Sandy Alomar Jr. 70 years earlier, Bob Feller had pitched a no hitter on an opening day that he still remembers like it was yesterday.
When the teams were announced, something occurred to me. After we had to endure the introductions of the guy who shines the shoes, the guy who cleans the toilets, etc., etc., etc., finally the players were announced by radio voice Tom Hamilton. Where were the applause and cheering? The biggest ovation seemed to come for past fan favorite Sandy Alomar Jr. who is now a coach. Grady Sizemore sat this game out and as concerning as that is, he received a somewhat mild reception. As the team took the field, there was much milling around by the “fans” that lasted throughout the game. There was a total lack of respect for the action of the field as well as people sitting in seats they did not have tickets for. Most disturbing was people coming in late and prying others out of the seats that they paid for. A group sitting next to me was apparently enjoying mass quantities of Bud Light out of the safety bottles allowed for sale within the park. Many times during the game, mostly during action on the field as I stood up repeatedly so they could go get more beer, I was tempted to ask them what the score was. I am sure they didn’t know who was playing much less the score. The “ASS Parade” continued throughout the game making it impossible to see such plays as in the 6th inning when Travis Hafner tried to score on a single by Jhonny Peralta and was apparently thrown out at the plate…I saw the replay at home.
Sportswriter Bill Livingston wrote the next day that there was very little fan recognition for the players, especially the newer players because of the lack of ovation when they were announced. Bill, had you been down in the throng, you too would have discovered it was amateur day at Progressive Field. Most of the people who were there Monday will not be seen again in the later months of the season unless the fortunes of the Indians change abruptly, they find themselves in contention, and these so called “fans” will benefit from company perks or just buy cheaper admission and look for empty party seats in a better location.
So, that aside, the game started out good, went bad, and became predictable. Shin Soo Choo put us ahead with a 1st inning home run. He had a great day until he lost count of the outs and was doubled off 3rd base, aggressively advancing from 1st on a Hafner pop-up with only 1 out. How do you not know there is only 1 out?
The bullpen wasted a very good effort by Fausto Carmona who appears to have regained his control and command. This same bullpen wasted a great effort by Jake Westbrook a day earlier in Detroit.
OK, so they are 2 and 5 instead of 5 and 2 as they really should be. New Manager Manny Acta vowed to play to win and stressed the importance that wins in April are as important as wins in September. Time to review your notes and quotes, Manny.
I still maintain that this is a good team. If Manny Acta and Tim Belcher can put together some kind of bullpen or bring up a prospect or two, this team will score runs and be very interesting. Two of our losses so far are very troubling, forgetting the one Peralta blew with a huge error Friday night, I am much more concerned with the bullpen. React now and revive the confidence in these young players and they will win some ballgames.
Let’s see what happens tonight and what adjustments Acta will make as well as what he will allow between the foul lines going forward.
This is my team, I like what I see in offense and defense, we just need to fix the bullpen again. Adjust and fix it now and we are in for some fun. Wait the obligatory Shapiro 40 games into the season and the bargain basement trading will soon begin.
Manny…be the man!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bottoms Up!

I am lovin' the Manny Acta Kool-Aid!

Of course it is no secret that I expressed my disappointment when he was chosen to lead the Tribe. But Manny Acta has a plan and he is stickin' to it.

So let's see, Manny compiles a spring record of what, 18 and 9?

We haven't seen that since 1973 when the Tribe was, if memory serves me correctly, 18 and 6 and a flash crowd of over 76,000 showed up on the shores of Lake Erie for a Saturday home opener...I was one.

Go ahead and argue that spring games mean little. That might be the case if you are the Yankees but look at what Manny established by winning...he established winning!

This is part of the plan he is sticking to. If you remember, he vowed to make winning a team focus from the moment the camp opened right though 162 regular season games. I do remember listening to Manny explain how wins in April are just as important as wins in September.

I have been asking, suggesting, even screaming to move Grady Sizemore to the #2 spot in the line-up for almost 5 years. Another part of Manny's plan that he is sticking to is doing what is right for the team. He knows he has the ultimate team player in Grady Sizemore. Asking Grady to move to #2 is the right thing to do. For Grady to give up a few extra at bats per season to help the team is not only the right thing to do, it is the Grady thing to do. (We gotta keep this guy in Cleveland!) Shapiro wouldn't dare trade him, would he? Not unless he or GM to be Antonelli fashion themselves as the second coming of Frank "Trader" Lane. Can you imagine the upheaval?

Anyway, the big...the one move that may help define Manny Acta is to keep Michael Brantley on this team out of spring training because he earned the spot, even though the move will cost the team arbitration time for Brantley.
Why keep Brantley when no one gives the team a chance in 2010?
Because Manny believes the team has a chance in 2010.
How much of a chance?
This team is going to hit.
This team has improved their ability to run.
This team has a strong defense.
Pitching is the question. Fausto Carmona appears to have regained his 2007 command. Jake Westbrook is probably better than he performed in pre-season as he was testing everything.
Manny's plan for pitching? attack the strike zone.
Pitching coach Tim Belcher is making a difference with the starters and the relievers but he will have a big job keeping them effective.
So again, how much of a chance does this team have?
Realistically they will improve over last year but how much has yet to be determined.
Most experts are picking the Tribe for 4th in the division.

Taking a much more positive or hopeful view, this team will beat some teams and spoil some chances for some teams to reach the playoff. If they are more than mildly successful, they could find themselves competing for the A.L. Wild Card spot with Boston again, just like 2005 when nobody gave them a chance that year as well.

Whatever happens, Manny Acta plays to win and he staffs his team with the best available players.

So far, very good!

I can't wait for Monday when it counts for Manny, when it counts for everyone!

Manny could be a big hit!