Saturday, March 12, 2011

Different Year, Same Results?

This is my first time ever at Spring Training. It is a great opportunity to view the Cleveland Indians prior to Opening Day.

What's new? What's the same?

Well, this is their third year in Goodyear, Arizona and the facility that they share with the Cincinnati Reds is fabulous.

When you enter the ballpark, looking around you are immediately reminded of the loss of Bob Feller in the off season.

Gaylord Perry was on hand to sign autographs and tell his wonderful stories.

Mark Shapiro was seen everywhere, from talking to ex-manager Eric Wedge on the field to walking the entire stands greeting fans. In fact, he and Bob DiBiasio were on our plane home on Sunday.

But somethings just don't seem to change.

Before Friday's game, the Indians were 4 and 9 and dwelling in last place in the American League season to date this Spring. Yes, we all know that Spring games mean little in the regular season and that it all starts anew April 1st. Well, try telling that to the world champion San Francisco Giants who dwell at the top of the National League this Spring.

The Indians played to a 5 to 5 tie in 10 innings with the Seattle Mariners on Friday, 3/11/11. Neither Eric Wedge or Manny Acta seemed very intent on winning the game.

The new infield duo of Astrubal Cabrera and Orlando Cabrera looked like they needed some more time to practice their double play exchanges as Astrubal flipped a ball to Orlando. Astrubal should have continued on across 2nd base and completed the double play. Instead, Orlando dropped the flip and was charged with one of the 2 errors made by the Tribe.

Lonnie Chisenhall made a slick running/throwing play on a hot grounder to 3rd base. This is our 3rd baseman of the future...Why not now? Yeah, yeah, yeah...options and all of that...who cares?! This guy has game, he hits, he fields, he is ready! Jason Donald suffered a wrist/hand injury over a week ago and has been delayed in his opportunity to take over 3rd.

Grady Sizemore has yet to get into a game this Spring. Grady more than likely will not be ready for the opener in Cleveland. The question that needs to be asked, will he ever be able to play again at full speed?

On Saturday, 3/12/11, the Tribe beat the Angels by a score of 2-1. The Angels were represented by a crew of guys mostly made up of guys you are not likely to hear about again this year.

Fausto Carmona started the game and was dominant. He pitched 4 scoreless innings giving up 1 hit and 1 walk, striking out 5 and "sinking" 6 ground ball outs.

Michael Brantley led off the game with a crisp hit. He looks very comfortable in center field. We need him to get off to a great start.

I have said this before but the game is beginning to resemble other sports with the constant barrage of entertainment. Between every batter there is a different blaring song and between almost every half inning there is a silly contest. The good thing is that there is no clock in baseball otherwise this sport would be out of hand with distractions like NBA games.

Some fans have no respect for the game getting up mid inning to get food, standing to take a picture just when a pitch is about to be delivered, etc. Other fans still maintain baseball etiquette and speak well of the game and it's lore between innings. It is refreshing to hear fans talk about their fantasy league picks, discuss prospects, and remember great performers and performances from the past.

So how will this team perform?

Starting pitching is the big question. But the lineup in the field is tough. Here is how I see the everyday lineup shaping up;

1. Michael Brantley, CF

2. Astrubal Cabrera, SS

3. Shin Soo Choo, RF

4. Travis Hafner, DH

5. Carlos Santana, C

6. Austin Kearns, LF

7. Matt LaPorta, 1B

8. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B

9. Orlando Cabrera, 2B

I like this lineup! They hit and they field well. There is versatility with Shelley Duncan, Trevor Crowe, Luis Valbueno, Jayson Nix, and Jason Donald (when healed). The bullpen continues to improve since the second half of last season and they are quite stable now. It's starting pitching that will hurt this team. Fausto is solid but after him...Carasco got roughed up today...Tomlin needs to have a career year...Masterson must get consistent...same with Talbot, Gomez, and Huff...weak rotation!

If we want to compete, as Shin Soo Choo says we can, we must get another proven starter very quickly.

Let's see if we can change those same results!

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