Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The slumping Indians
It's actually really simple.

If the Indians don't get production from Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner, they won't win.

Sure, I get frustrated with Casey Blake, with Eric Wedge's refusal to play Andy Marte regularly, and with a bullpen that's scuffling.

But it's May 29. Martinez hasn't homered, and Travis Hafner is headed for either the disabled list or more lackluster production.

The rest of the Indians (save the struggling Grady Sizemore) are role players. Jhonny Peralta has hit 11 homers, but is batting .225. Ryan Garko is suddenly a platoon player. Asdrubal Cabrera is batting like Buffalo is a bloop single away.

The steady production isn't there because of Martinez and Hafner. Martinez was a premiere catcher in baseball last season. He's still hitting for average. But no homers?

Hafner's best days are perhaps behind him. Whether it's age, elbow/shoulder or something else, it really doesn't matter. The Indians can't afford a .215-hitting $60 million-making, non-producing DH.

But there are no answers. There's no Jay Bruce waiting in AAA to save the day.

We can blame Mark Shapiro, but how could he have predicted that his two big bats would disappear?


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gary Carter sandbags Willie Randolph
My buddy Joel Hammond sent me this one, remembering how much I love "hall of famer" Gary Carter.

I'd feel bad for Randolph, but it's not like he needs to feel threatened by a guy managing an independent team in California. Why Cater would go public with his feelings in anybody's guess. Probably because he wants to see his name in the paper.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Taking Eric Wedge out of context
After another pathetic offensive performance, Indians manager Eric Wedge had this to say Thursday night:

''I wouldn't expect anything,'' Wedge said. ''Nothing is imminent.''

I thought he was talking about the offense, but he was actually referring to help being on the way. But he might as well be talking about the offense.

Asdrubal Cabrera needs to be replaced, and not just by Jamie Carroll. Travis Hafner needs to find a time machine. Casey Blake needs to catch pop ups.


The surprise of the year
I liked Knocked Up. It was a real feel-good film, which is something I never expected, based on the title. And despite the casual sex that comes with a title, it actually had a positive message of taking responsibility and doing the right thing.

Seth Rogen is a really good performer. And I am so jealous of him.


10 things I think about the Indians
1. No matter what the eternal optimists say, Travis Hafner's days of being a feared hitter are over. He may hit .260 and drive in 90 runs. But the 2004-2006 Hafner will never return.

2. Asdrubal Cabrera needs to go back to Buffalo. There is no excuse for having a .170 hitter in the lineup.

3. Josh Barfield should be called up, and left at second for the remainder of the season.

4. Joe Borowski's return will not solve too much because the offense has not had many opportunities to lead in the ninth.

5. Andy Marte needs to play, or be released now.

6. Grady Sizemore is in a slump, and has actually regressed in each of the last two seasons. There is no suggestion for this problem, since Sizemore needs to stay in the lineup. But few people seem to want to knock Grady. Over the last few years, he's looking less like Bernie Williams and more like Rick Manning. After the injury.

7. Jamie Carroll is a bench player. Eric Wedge seems to think otherwise.

8. Victor Martinez is the biggest mystery on the roster. No homers? On May 22? Victor is my favorite player, and the only one who has hit with any consistency. But what happened to the power?

9. Paul Byrd says all the right things, and you want to believe him when he honestly explains his mistakes. But there is serious cause for concern, because of the homers.

10. Eric Wedge is starting to look like Abe Lincoln.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Saving Grace
Mark Grace doesn't seem to be a Hall of Famer to me. There's a lot to like in how he played the game and how he stayed away from the temptations which did in so many of his contemporaries.

The question I always ask myself when thinking about a Hall of Famer: Was there a peroiod of four or five seasons where this player was among the two or three best at his position?

Grace was a really good hitter and a tremendous defensive first baseman. In another time period, when first basemen were not expected to hit 40 homers and drive in 110 runs, he might have been considered better than he was in his time.

Several times, we've heard about how the cloud of performance-enhancing drugs has tarnished the careers of the guilty, and the innocent. When we talk about that, we usually think of players like Ken Griffey Jr. -- perhaps the greatest player of his generation -- not being appreciated and dogged because of the injuries which broke down so many like him before.

But there's more to it.

What about players like Grace? Footnotes because so many around him cheated and made his accomplishments look above average?

How many more hits would Grace have had if the pitchers he faced played by the same code of ethics as he did?

We'll never know.

Another wonderful bi-product of the steroid era.


Work has been so hectic the last week that I have neglected the blog. I was in Terre Haute, Ind., covering the Division III college baseball playoffs this week. So here a quick take on a number of things.

- Cleveland teams don't win Game 7s on the road. Boston hasn't lost on the road in the playoffs yet.

It really it going to hurt losing two Game 7s in Boston in one year, but I fear that's where we're headed with the Cavs.

- As Casey Blake continues to hover around .220, and the rest of the lineup fails to do much better, I have to wonder why the Indians don't give Andy Marte a shot somewhere to see what he can do.

I wrote Terry Pluto about it, and he responded (quickly, which is why we respect and appreciate him so much in this region) the Indians were trying to win this year, and couldn't risk Marte. Paul Hoynes said pretty much the same thing in today's PD.

My point is, I want the Indians to win now, too. And how much worse can Marte do than some of the guys in the lineup? This isn't really about Blake, since he's been productive. But there has to be a spot for Marte somewhere. Maybe he can spell Garko or Hafner.

If the Indians are convinced he cannot produce and is a bust, then they need to cut him, and soon. The situation right now works for no one.

- Barack Obama's people sure jumped all over the President for what he said in Israel. The President did not even mention Obama by name.

This was political opportunism. Obama has hit a bumpy stretch lately, and a slight from the President (who is historically unpopular right now) is the best thing to happen to him.

Of course, Hillary Clinton jumped on the bandwagon of saying Bush's comments were outragous. As if her people haven't said and done worse.

Just politics is no politics at all.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Great Moments in Indians Broadcasting
"Frustrating day for Paul Byrd. Pitched very well, but the long ball was his undoing today." -- Matt Underwood

Let's look at Mr. Byrd's line against the Yankees:

6 1/3 innings, 8 hits, 5 earned runs, three homers, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts.

If this is what qualifies as "pitching very well," the steroid era must be far from over.


Yankee Stadium
My aunt is taking in the Indians-Yankees game this afternoon. We talked in the bottom of the first inning (I guess I wanted my voice to be heard in Yankee Stadium)and she told me she bought two beers and two hot dogs.

The cost? $29.

Times, they change.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Cavs Series against Boston
Don't ever listen to a prediction regarding the Cavs again. No team frustrates me as much, and no team makes me believe as much.

I can't even begin to be objective in this series. The question is if three great players -- Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen -- can beat who is, in my opinion, the best player in the NBA.

It would seem to me that three is better than one, but again, my predictions when it comes to the NBA are worthless.

Celtics in six.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Michaels designated for assignment
Kind of a surprise, since the name I had been hearing was Andy Marte. Michaels is better off in the National League anyway, and maybe Ben Francisco can provide some punch to the anemic lineup.

"You can't spell "Blake" without a K and an E. Even then, all you're left with is 'bla.'" -- Steve Buffum, over at Swerbsblurbs.


Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Indians offense
The Indians have found ways in recent years to score runs with a few very good players and a number of spare parts.

Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, and even Travis Hafner were great hitters. The rest of the lineup was filled by streak hitters like Casey Blake, Jhonny Peralta, Ronnie Belliard, Ben Broussard and Aaron Boone.

In 2007, the Indians made it work, mainly because of the brilliant pitching. But Peralta was good enough. Blake was good enough. Ryan Garko had a very good year, and Jason Michaels didn't embarrass himself out there.

In 2008, things have become harder. Travis Hafner has been so bad that manager Eric Wedge has taken to batting David Dellucci third in the order. Michaels, Asdrubal Cabrera, Peralta, Garko and Blake might as well have left their bats in Florida. So right now, the Indians are essentially counting on two hitters -- Sizemore and the suddenly powerless Victor Martinez -- to carry them.

It's hard to know what to expect from this bunch. Over the last several years, I've written them off only to see them get hot for a few weeks. Turnaround with the players on the roster is not impossible.

At the same time, there's a chance that Michaels and Blake are past their prime, that Cabrera is in a season-long sophomore slump and Peralta is just doing what Peralta does some seasons.

Of course, many of these problems would go away if Hafner would find his stroke. But watching him, there's little doubt that he's not the same guy he was two years ago. I'm not suggesting anything sinister. I'm only writing that the guy is past 30, and some power hitters lose bat speed at that point.

Assuming there will be no Kenny Lofton coming to spark the Indians, the only suggestion I have is to start playing Andy Marte. Yes, his at-bats this season have been pathetic. Yes, he looks like a dud of a prospect.

But realistically, what's the harm? Marte is 24 and has never really been given a shot to play every day. Blake is in a slump right now. So is pretty much everyone. Put Marte at third for a while and see what happens. He has (or maybe had) the potential to be a force, and the Indians need that right now.

Sitting Blake or Jason Michaels (Wedge could play Casey in right) won't hurt anything. We know what those two guys bring.

We don't know about Marte.

Of course, if the Indians feel Marte will never bloom into an everyday player, they need to cut the kid and get somebody up here who can contribute.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Watches, warnings
The Indians-Mariners game tonight was a bizarre battle of wills, with each team taking turns in figuring out how to lose the game.

The Indians No. 2 and No. 3 hitters (David Dellucci and that other guy I decided I wouldn't write bad things about this year) combined to strike out seven times.

Travis Hafner batted sixth, and hit a pair of doubles. But after a full year of hearing about how he's "warming up" or "on the verge of busting out of it," I'm not about to get excited.

The only Indian who has been consistent this year has been Victor Martinez. But even he has a major blemish. He has yet to homer this year, which for a cleanup hitter, is a little troubling.

Asdrubal Cabrera is struggling mightily at the plate. Before tonight's game-winning single, he was 0 for his last 14 and hitting below .200.

The truth is, this offense is looking like a bunch of spare parts, with Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore forced to carry the load.

Will they heat up? Probably. That's been the story of this team ever since it rebuilt.

But the Tigers just swept the Yankees, and appear to be catching fire. If the Indians continue to play this way for much longer, they could face an uphill battle as the summer approaches.


Thanks to everyone who helped me get here.


If the Clinton years taught us anything (and I'm not sure they did)it was that a man having affairs outside of marriage do not mean anything.

I'm fine with that. It's none of my business.

What I do have a problem with is perjury and lying. I care if Roger Clemens -- the most dominant pitcher of my lifetime -- cheated to become that way.

I care if Clemens stood in front of congress and lied.

That matters. All of this other stuff means nothing to me. It's none of anyone's business. But I don't have much sympathy for Clemens. He practically invited the press into his life in an apparent attempt to politic it.

But Clemens' personal life is still something I could do without knowing about.

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