“Sugar”

Tribe fans, if you can’t bear to watch all of the Indians’ alums living the dream in the playoffs, but still need a baseball fix, might I recommend watching “Sugar”, an indie film about a Dominican baseball player chasing his dreams of being in the majors. This is a great film. Here is the trailer:

 

Champions by Proximity

97 losses will not win you a championship. But it will get you traded to a team that might.

 

In the midst of the trade-frenzy that ensued this season many Cleveland players were traded to teams that needed an extra boost to win a playoff spot. The winners in these deals (everyone except Ryan Garko and the dark cloud that followed him) got to leave a team headed for 97 losses to a team that made the postseason. Two disappointing seasons in a row for Cleveland resulted in a phenomenon similar to the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon in that every team in the post season, with the exception of the Angels, has at least one representative that connects them to the 2008 or 2009 Cleveland Indians. Some even have a few Tribe relics from prior seasons.

 

·         Twins– Carl Pavano

·         Yankees– CC Sabathia

·         Red Sox– Victor Martinez, Paul Byrd, Fernando Cabrera

·         Dodgers– Casey Blake, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Ronnie Belliard, Guillermo Mota (Hello, MoTA!)

·         Cardinals– Mark DeRosa, Ryan Ludwick

·         Phillies– Cliff Lee, Ben Francisco

·         Rockies– Rafael Betancourt

 

Based on this info, the Indians have a good chance of winning the World Series! (by proxy)

 

Not the real thing, but with the results of the 2009 season, I’ll take it.

 

If you look at it this way, Shapiro was just hedging his bets. The mission statement of the Tribe is, in part, to “create a championship caliber team”, he never said where that team would win the championship. So if he was hedging his bets that some of these Indians had to be championship caliber individually, when one is on the World Series champion’s team, he can say, “That guy was part of my organization. Look what a great job we do shaping this talent. What an excellent organization we have in Cleveland!” (I don’t think anyone really talks that way, but play along) If you look at it that way, rather than him just dumping payroll, he looks like a genius rather than fiscally irresponsible or managerially inept. Brilliant! (channel the Guinness guys when you read that.)

 

So enjoy the post season and hopefully the ex-Tribe guys can make us Tribe fans proud.

How great would a CC vs. Lee World Series Game 7 be?

 

Quote Note: This USA Today article quotes Jhonny Peralta on the Indians’ current situation. Not exactly Shakespeare, but his words are so true:

“When they traded those guys like that, good players, it’s hard to win every day,” third baseman Jhonny Peralta said. “The Indians, that’s what they do all the time. They get good players that are doing good and they trade them every time. I don’t think they like to spend a lot money and stuff. They like to try and work in the young players.”

 

He came, He “grinded”, He faltered…. Peace out, Wedge & Co.

Now that I’ve had a few days to mull over the firing of Twitchy and the Gang (that’d be Wedge & Co.), I find myself indifferent to the whole thing. I never really disliked Wedge, even though I completely disagreed with most of his decisions this year. Although I will not miss his cliché filled post-game interviews that tell you nothing of what is going on, or his annoying habit of arbitrarily and inconsistently benching players (a la Garko-gate), I do think, from a player standpoint, he seemed to be a decent manager. That was apparent with the love fest that ensued after news of his firing broke. Everyone had such nice things to say about Wedgie and his time as manager. It was so warm and fuzzy it was like a media Snuggie.

 

I just have to ask, why didn’t these same people speak up before he got canned? All the players were saying how great it is to work for Wedge and media guys were praising him for being such a great guy. Mark Shapiro was very emotional about the situation, almost to the point of making it a very awkward press conference.

 

Wedge on the other hand, handled it with class. He broke away from his standard, Eric Wedge press conference mode where he only speaks in generalities and stale clichés, and was actually likable (for a second I almost wished that guy could be the manager).He accepted responsibility for this pathetic team and remained adamant that he would try to finish this season strong. Why? Well, I guess that’s just the kind of guy ol’ Wedgie is— strong, determined, full of resolve. Can you imagine if you got fired, then have to talk publically about your having just been fired?  That is a unique situation to be in.

 

Here is his farewell speech…..

 

Well, it was something like that. [In case you were wondering, Wedge is a John Wayne fan (or so it says in the media guide).] 

 

Seven years is a decent amount of time to spend at a job in any profession, and an eternity in baseball years. Considering this and the fact that you can’t fire an entire team for being losers, this parting of ways was the natural conclusion to the disaster season of 2009.  Here is the season in review, in case you missed it:

 

 

 

 

Looking to next season does not make me any more hopeful. Right now this team is missing :

A manager

pitching coach

hitting coach

base coaches

bench coach

quality starting rotation

reliable bullpen

1st baseman (unless you want to keep Marte and  before you ask, LaPorta looks better in left)

2nd baseman (Valbuena? I’m not convinced Double-Or-Nothing is good enough yet)

starting catcher

an everyday DH

veteran presence

farm system depth (I challenge you to name one player on the team now, other than Peralta, that has come from the Cleveland farm system….)

 

 

 

Yeah, you’re reading that right! Shapiro, you’ve got some work to do before April….. and don’t fall for any of those 3 for 1 tricks again….. and please don’t sign some washed-up veteran for big money on the promise that he can guide this team….. oh and make sure the new hitting coach has actually played at least one day in the Big Leagues (or AAA for that matter)…. and remeber Carl Willis did coach back-to-back Cy Young award winners….. and see what Cal Ripken is up to these days (maybe the Iron Man would want to be a Major League Manager)… and one last thing, you do know that potential doesn’t necessarily mean that young players will be any good at the Major League level, right? Just checking.

Fire Sale Still Burns

The Indians have the best record in the Central Division post All Star break. They have actually started to resemble a decent major league team. But winning is not the same when half of the team has been traded and the victories are essentially meanigingless. Though for a brief while, I was convinced they could pull off a Cinderalla story. Win the division. Then find themselves sans Ace, catcher,and  first baseman, unable to advance further in the post season. Wouldn’t that be a the irony or all ironies….

I found this video and it made me laugh. Maybe you too can find humor in the ineptitude of our GM and the gutting of our team to save a buck (or 16 million). Enjoy! 

 

Two Weeks of Tribe Tidbits

Two weeks of Tribe tidbits:

 

Carl Pavano was traded to the Twins. This occurred right after he talked way too long during an in-game interview making STO shorten the commercial break. Moral of this story? Don’t mess with corporate sponsorship. Or don’t be in your last year of a contract with a losing team that is trading everything that is not nailed down in an attempt to recoup $16 million in losses.

 

Pitcher RJ Swindle was claimed off waivers by the Tribe. He was designated for assignment by the Brewers August 7. Picked up by the Rays and designated for assignment for the second time in as many days August 9. That’s when we snatched him up. He pitched 6 games for Milwaukee allowing 12 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings making his ERA 16.20. Looks like a keeper.

 

The Texas Rangers rolled into town with who I can only assume is a villain from an old cartoon aka Mike Maddux their pitching coach .

 

 

 

The Tribe staged a mini homerun derby in Minnesota.

 

On STO the Asdrubal Cabrera- Luis Valbuena tandem was compared to Omar Vizquel- Robbie Alomar.  Bit of a leap don’t you think?

 

 

First of all, Asdrubal is no Omar. He’s good, but not Omar good.  It just so happens that he is a Venezuelan shortstop who wears the number 13 for the Tribe. He does show flashes of brilliance, but I would say he is an average shortstop most of the time. His range is not as great as people think it is. The reason he looks better than Jhonny Peralta at SS is because he dives and makes a routine play into a WebGem. His arm allows him to do this. I bet Jhonny got to just as many balls as Cabrera does, but he played it differently so it looked routine rather than spectacular.It is a case of not wanting to be the guy (Jhonny Peralta) who replaced the guy that everyone loves (Omar Vizquel). But if you replace THAT guy (Jhonny) your golden (Asdrubal). Perlata’s flaws are magnified while Cabrera can do no wrong. 

 

And I’m not sold on Luis Valbuena. He tries to be too flashy. Just get the ball out of your glove. Try that for starters. That double clutch so you only get a force (or drop the ball) instead of a double play is getting old quick. Count how many times he gets to the ball, but can’t do anything with it.

 

Grady meet Greedy: First round draft pick (15th overall) Alex White signed with the Tribe after holding out for $2.25 million signing bonus. Seriously? That’s a lot of cash for a draft pick. Especially since the Indians’ record of draft picks has been less than stellar. And what’s with the prima donna attitude that he claims he is worth being  paid as much as a top five pick because he was ranked their at one time?

 

 

Bad season, good book

At least once in their fandom, every fan has looked at the men in blue on the field and said, “Hey, I could do that”. Being an umpire appears to be a logical extension of being a fan, since you’re making calls in the stands or while seated comfortably on the couch, anyway.

 

I just finished reading As They See ‘Em  by Bruce Weber. And I must say it really opened my eyes to what it is to be an umpire and what umpires mean to the game. Before reading it, I  really hadn’t thought twice about umpires. Four of them just seemed to show up for a series, make the calls, and then disappear into obscurity (If you want to hide in plain sight, become an umpire.).

 

And I know I’m not the only fan who thought that way. When was the last time you left a baseball game thinking, “Man, that was some great umpiring”? Usually the only time fans think of umpires is when they make a call against your team, whether they are right or wrong. Can you imagine what a thankless job that must be? The only response from the crowd you can get are ‘boos’, managers yell and scream at you for doing your job, players do the same, and you have to stare down the serious possibility of getting a fastball to the mask.

 

I always thought being an umpire would be easy. You are paid for watching baseball. But what surprised me was they don’t really see the game. At least not the way you and I do. They are trained to compartmentalize. Watch a single pitch. A single play. They have a game within a game as Weber called it, going on. They have to anticipate the play so they can get into position to see it unfold. And their every move is scrutinized. Yeah, that bang bang play at first looked pretty easy in slow-mo, but try calling it at real speed. And that breaking pitch had the plate, according to the fancy strike-zone box on TV, but the strike zone is three dimensional and invisible.

 

Weber actually attended umpire school for the book and chronicles an insider’s perspective to what he calls “the land of umpires”. Fascinating stuff.  The journey to make it as a professional umpire is arduous. Even if you withstand the meager pay, seedy hotels, and bureaucracy of the minors, the odds of getting a major league job are slim.

 

Yes, I definitely have a newfound respect for umpires. It was refreshing to see a different perspective to the game I know (or thought I did) and love. I do not mean to deify umpires (neither does this book), they are in fact very human and very flawed. I thought some of them to be arrogant egoists as I was reading the anecdotes. Even so, they are arrogant egoists who call them as they see them and try to uphold the integrity of the game.

 

I really hadn’t intended to write book reviews on this blog. I just wanted to share this book with fellow baseball fans. 

 

Interesting tidbit of information, professional umpires don’t say “Play ball!”, they simply say “Play!” .

 

****And if you are not interested in reading about umpires, another good book is  Odd Man Out by Matt McCarthy. It follows his journey as a minor league pitcher with the Anaheim Angels affiliate the Provo Angels. It is a first hand account of the crazy world that is minor league baseball.  

If you rebuild it…

No surprises here. Victor Martinez was traded to the Red Sox just before the deadline. Victor, gave a very emotional interview to the press which would have tugged at even the most grizzled Tribe fans heart strings. He wanted to play the rest of his career as an Indian. The fans would have liked to see that too.

Major League right-hander Justin Masterson and two prospects, left-hander Nick Hagadone and right-hander Bryan Price were apparently the going price of an All-Star catcher and team leader.

Now that the trading whirlwind is over, Shapiro is trying to sell us on the idea of yet another rebuilding process. All of his interviews and press conferences have been pushing the idea that (of course) these deals, although tough to handle now, will be best for the organization if they want to contend. This might be true. Maybe not. Time will tell.

However, the thing that made me a little annoyed is that fans who are upset about losing their beloved Garko, Lee, and Martinez are being regarded as irrational and unable to comprehend the grand plan that Management has in place (Is there one? Oh yes, “pitching, pitching and more pitching”). Or so it seems. I know it is not realistic to expect that your favorite players will always be on your favorite team. I know that that the days of a guy playing for one team are over, and have been for quite some time.  But let us be the angry mob, at least for a little while. 

Since when have fans been known for their rational behavior anyway? We become attached to complete strangers. We cheer for them. We wear their names on our backs. We love a team that we know can never love us back. We do crazy superstitious things because if we don’t, who knows what will happen. We (well not me, but some of you) do the wave to, well I’m not sure what the wave is meant to accomplish, but it is not rational behavior. 

So why can’t we rant when we see our team being ripped apart piece by piece? Why can’t we have the emotional knee-jerk reaction? Why does this reaction to bad news result in our GM making the same speech about the future of this club, doing what is best for the team, blah, blah, blah putting us in a position to win? We get it Mark! Unless you are totally twisted, we know that you made these trades to rebuild the team and not to destroy it for your own amusement. Just forgive us for not being as eager as you to look at these nine minor league players and feel satisfied that giving up Garko, Lee, and Martinez was worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“That idea makes a bad idea feel good about itself.”

OUCH! Could someone help me remove the dagger from my heart?

Rumors have been swirling that Cliff Lee would be traded for some time now. I was hoping that it wouldn’t happen until NEXT season, and that we might get a Major League player in return.

Today Cliff was traded to the Phillies for four minor league prospects: Class A right-hander Jason Knapp and Triple-A right-hander Carlos Carrasco, catcher Lou Marson and shortstop Jason Donald.

Ben Francisco was also part of this deal. Strange. Buy a Lee get a Francisco FREE (while supplies last).

I cannot believe that for two years in a row Cleveland has traded the reining AL Cy Young award winner for minor league prospects. Although not happy about the CC trade last year, I understood. We offered him a big chunk of change, he declined. What about Cliff? He still had another year on his contract. If things don’t pan out next year, then trade him. So what if his value would decrease by then?  As if three AAA guys and  an A-baller are really the best you could get for a CY YOUNG AWARD WINNING PITCHER, now! And the A-baller was probably for the Francisco part of the deal, which by the way, came right out of left filed like Benny himself. Poor guy was probably blind sided. With the trade of Ryan Garko Monday and the break-up of that bromance, he did look a little mopey, so he is probably happy to be traded. [Hey cheer up Ben, you will see Gark this weekend---Phillies/ Giants series July 30 -Aug 2]

Four MINOR leaguers! No more Cliff Lee. I can’t get over that. We traded proven major league talent for potential. 

I am sick and tired of “potential”. It is an empty word. Potential is only worth something when acted upon. You can give me ten of the top prospects in all of baseball and it is possible that none of them reach the major league level. Its a crap shoot. Roll the dice.

It turned out well with the Bartolo Colon deal, which yielded Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Brandon Phillips, all prospects that turned into wonderful major leaguers. But that type of a deal is the exception, not the rule. Shapiro got lucky that time. I’m not so sure that will happen again. As a fan, I hope it does. I hope the prospects all are able to contribute in a big way to this team. But if we had Cliff, even for just another year, I think we could have been contenders. Now, we are looking at 3 maybe 4 years down the road. By that time, Hafner can make his great comeback  and then leave for greener pastures. Sizemore’s contract will be up, he will get out of town as fast as he can, and there will be riots in the streets. Why should he stay? Martinez might be out of here as soon as Friday.

I understand that trading is part of the game. But normally, the going price for a major leaguer is another major leaguer and perhaps a prospect. I fear this trade makes the Cleveland Indians look like fools, if they didn’t already by their performance this season.

I am insulted by this deal. Seriously Shapiro, how did you think Tribe fans would take this? You traded away the Ace and the best part of this train wreck of a season for guys you hope will get to the majors some day.

Best of Luck Cliff (you too Ben)! The Phillies are lucky to have you.

I can’t shake the feeling that we have just been robbed of a great player but more than that, of hope. It is a dark day for Tribe fans.

 

Garko, You are the lucky one

DSC_0151 by britche.

Ryan F. (Franklin? Fitzgerald? Francis?) Garko was traded to the San Francisco Giants today.

He was one of my favorite players. For me this kinda sucks. I enjoyed watching Gark play. He is  the most underrated player in the league defensively. For a big man he is surprisingly nimble. He can stretched at first like an Olympic gymnast, if that gymnast is Fred Flintstone. What makes me the angriest is that he can hit and can produce when given the chance, but spent a lot of his time on the bench. Cleveland had a star, they stifled him, and then they gave him away. 

I don’t think it will have too much of an impact on the casual fan, but if you followed this team at all, it was hard not to like Garko, and it hurts to see him go. I hope in 50 years the Tribe is not haunted by the Curse of Ryan Garko.

For Garko, this trade was probably the happiest day of his life.

Reasons why Garko is the Lucky One:

1. No more Eric Wedge ( and his doghouse). Or Mark Shapiro for that matter. 

2 He will finally get to play. What a novel concept, letting the players play.

3. They have a Cove! Move over McCovey, here comes Garko!

4. SoCal is his home. (OK, so San Fran is in Northern California. Geography is not my forte, but my point is he will be closer to home.)

5. San Fran is way cooler than Cleveland.

6. San Fran is much hotter than Cleveland. No more Snow days! ( I was told that San Fran is cold [see comments] . I do not believe this. Chilly, yes, but cold? I guess it is subjective…)

7. Dude’s got game…. he can play any where

8. Blast from the past, Bob  Howry is a Giant! Not sure if he and Gark were friends, but you never know.  

9.  He can finally shake his shadow Ben Fransico. Followed Gark all the way from Servite High to Progressive Field.

10. Closer to the LA Lakers. Gark’s a big Laker fan.

 

I really wish Ryan Garko the best of luck in his career. I hope that he becomes a big star and makes the Indians Organization regret letting him go. It may sound petty, but I feel he was wronged by the way he was treated over the past 4 years. Congrats Garko, your free! Spread your wings and fly!

 

 

Then they went and traded Garko….

Tonight is game 100. The team is 41-58. And tonight is the first time that I am not watching the game. When the bullpen blew leads, I stayed. When the team didn’t hit, I stayed. When it seemed like they would never win another game, I stayed.  When one of the  best hitters on the team is traded for the cross-our-fingers-and-hope this kid is the real deal pitcher, I staged my silent protest (I know, not much of a protest. But for me, this is big).

Talk about a buzz kill. I was really happy because the Tribe had been playing well lately. I was excited to write something about hope and how this might be the week Wedge was talking about that would turn things around. Then they went and traded Ryan Garko….

I understand that during a season such as the one we are witnessing in Cleveland, there will be some casualties.

First there was Mark DeRosa. Understandable. He is a versatile player and his contract was only for one year. It was good while it lasted. See ya later. Then, Raffi Betancourt. Okay. I don’t see spending an extra 5+ million (his contract option) on a bullpen guy (even if he was pretty dependable and spent the last 7 years with Cleveland). Sorry, but make the trade. Now, Ryan Garko gets the axe. WHAT!!!! I know that he was labeled trade bait for a while now but I never thought he would actually be traded. Garko was traded today to San Francisco for Class A LHP Scott Barnes [12-3 with a 2.85 ERA in 18 starts for San Jose in the California League].

I can honestly say I did not see this coming. I am stunned. Yes, he would be eligible for arbitration this winter. Yes, this would mean he would get paid more than his current $440,000  salary. But he deserves it! What is $2 million for a quality first baseman when we paid $11.5 million for David Dellucci?

Here are Gark’s Career numbers [408 Major League games and 1404 ABs ]: .283 AVG,.355 OBP, .450 SLG, 235 RBI, 53 HR.

Factor in his uncanny ability to stretch at first and save some costly errors for his fellow infielders and his willingness to take one for the team, and I say that he is one helluva baseball player. $2 mil would have been a steal.  

Here I was thinking that Wedge, Shapiro, whoever, were finally coming to their senses and playing Garko more these past few weeks because he deserved it and because the team needed him. He had hit safely in 20 of his last 23 games, batting .349 with five homers and 11 RBIs. But no, they were just showing him off.

Garko was jerked around his entire career in Cleveland. He really was never given a fair chance. When he deserved to stay on the team in mid-2006, he was sent back to Buffalo. When he deserved to make the team out of spring training, he was toyed with, told he had to fight for his position. This season was the worst. His chance to an everyday guy, and how is he repaid? Let’s make Victor Martinez be a part time first baseman. Garko seemed to be constantly caught in Wedge’s doghouse for not hustling, or saying something to the media, not getting a hit, or whatever reason Wedge made up.

To make this trade sting even more, it happened while the Indians were in SoCal. Garko’s hometown. He was in tonight’s lineup as DH. He probably had friends and relatives at the game. If they drive fast, they might be able to catch the Giants/ Pirates game.

And this is not a joke. Any Marte is going to brought up to play first. I know he is doing well in AAA, but haven’t we already tried the Marte experiement? 

I wish Garko the best of luck in San Francisco. He will be missed in Cleveland (Especially by my sister who vowed to never go to another Indians game if Garko was traded. I hope she reconsiders since we have tickets to next Tuesday’s game.).

 

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