Sunday, June 29, 2008

Move Sizemore down, act II
Just in case you didn't like my argument on the matter, here's Sussman's.


The mistakes that cost a baseball season
Being a baseball executive has to be harder than being the director of public relations at the Roger Clemens' headquarters.

I start like this because it seems like a broken record when I use this space to be critical of the Cleveland Indians.

Mark Shapiro's job is not easy, but most of us (myself included) act as though it is.

We are at about the halfway point of what has become a rather dismal baseball season on the shores of Lake Erie. At some point, I plan on writing an interim report, but unlike last year, the blog post won't have too many glowing remarks.

Some of the blame for the Indians fall from grace is no fault of the organization. A team missing two-fifths of its starting rotation to injury, and two of its most vital hitters from the lineup, is bound to struggle.

Still, as PD columnist Bill Livingston pointed out today, blaming the team's misfortune on its health is far too simple an answer.

The Cavs made it to the NBA Finals in 2007. Less than a year later, general manager Danny Ferry took a blowtorch to the roster, bringing in Ben Wallace, Joe Smith and others. The Cavaliers didn't reach the finals again, but they were competitive in the playoffs before losing to champion Boston in the conference semis.

The Browns went 10-6 in 2007, perhaps one bad Derek Anderson pass from the playoffs. Regardless of how 2008 turns out, no fan can blame the organization of resting on its success. General manager Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel made several key aquisitions on defense, and even brought in a high-priced receiver (Donte Stallworth) to improve one of the team's primary strengths.

The Indians, after a 96-win season and a trip to the ALCS, did pretty much nothing. They added Jamey Carroll, a good reserve infielder, and Masa Kobayashi, a steady reliever.

But Shapiro, Wedge and maybe more importantly Indians ownership, decided against being bold. The Indians did part ways with Kenny Lofton, Trot Nixon and Chris Gomez, who all played roles on the championship team.

What the Tribe needed this winter was at least one more consistent hitter, in case Travis Hafner's decline continued, and/or Victor Martinez got hurt. The Indians may have asked about Jason Bay or Xavier Nady, but in the end, passed on making a trade.

In reality, the 2008 Indians season ended June 12, when Martinez joined Hafner on the disabled list. The Indians had one hitter capable of a superstar effort after that, but Grady Sizemore can only do so much.

And all of this doesn't even begin to address the bullpen, which hasn't looked at all like the powerhouse it was last season.

The Indians' management can rest comfortably behind the injuries, using them as a scapegoat for the team's dropoff.

But blame does not escape Wedge, Shapiro and the Dolans.

And there's something else. Should the Indians decide to trade C.C. Sabathia, it will be difficult to talk about being a contender next year.

Sabathia likely is gone in the offseason no matter what. Paul Byrd is a free agent, but there's some question if the Indians even would want to bring him back. Jake Westbrook will miss a significant portion of the season.

Closer Joe Borowski is in the same category as Byrd, meaning the Indians will probably sign a reliever with a "damaged goods" sign around his neck to replace him.

The Indians have no third baseman in waiting, since Andy Marte looks like a bigger bust than Saved by the Bell: The New Class. There are few impact position players in the system.

For all the talk of organization building, the Indians future is looking, at least for the moment, rather bleak.


PETA continues to give vegetarians a bad name
Nothing is wrong with being a vegetarian, and nothing is wrong with believing in animal rights.

But believing in something is one thing. Trying to impose your beliefs on someone else is another. The fact that PETA is now bullying meat-eating celebrities to switch to a different diet is not so surprising.

But this quote is more than a little troubling. Apparently, Jessica Simpson wore a shirt that said "Real Women eat Meat."

And that raised the ire of some in PETA:

Alistair Currie, a spokesman for Peta, said: "Jessica Simpson might have a right to wear what she wants, but she doesn't have a right to eat what she wants – eating meat is about suffering and death. Some people feel like they are standing up against a tide of political correctness when they make a statement like this – what she is really doing is standing up for the status quo."

She "doesn't have the right" to eat what she wants? Do these people even realize the boundries they are crossing?

Suddenly, I'm in the mood for a Whopper.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Vitamin Z's Magnificent 7: MLB Power Rankings
1. Boston Red Sox (50-33): Said it before, say it again: I HATE this team.

2. Los Angeles Angels of Portsmouth, Ohio (48-33): The A'S are hanging in, even if practically everyone thinks the division crown will rest in Anaheim.

3. Chicago Cubs (49-32): I was going to write something about how different Ryan Dempster is at home vs. on the road. But a look at the standings shows it's a team thing. The Cubs are 23 games over at Wrigley, a combined six games under everywhere else.

4. Tampa Bay Rays (48-32): If Joe Maddon does not win AL Manager of the Year, something is seriously wrong.

5. St. Louis Cardinals (47-36): Just 2 1/2 back. How about that?

6. Chicago White Sox (45-35): Sox have outscored opponents by 81 runs, the biggest plus-differential in the American League.

7. Minnesota Twins (44-37): This is the type of organization Indians general manager Mark Shapiro wants to build; a small-market club that stays in contention most of the year, at the very least.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Song quote of the day
Trust nobody, don't be no fool
whatever happened to the golden rule -- Stevie Ray Vaughan


NBA Draft Liveblog from 1-19(with special guests, the Vasavada Brothers)
So here we go. The Cavs are set to draft No. 19. We're watching on ESPN. The network is reporting the Bulls will select Memphis' Derrick Rose.

Nihar: It's seems like it's the time of the point guard in the NBA today. It's a homecoming for the hometown boy from Chicago, and I'm sure the Chicago fans appreciate it.

Great question from ESPN's Stephen A. Smith to Rose: "What you gonna do about the Chicago Bulls?"

The Heat take Michael Beasley, forward out of Kansas State with the second pick.

Stephen A. Smith question for Beasley "Were you concerned, were ya scared that ya wasn't gonna end up being picked by the Miami Heat?"

Beasley: Uhhh ... yeah ...

The Timberwolves take O.J. Mayo at No. 3. This guy seemed like a bit of a headcase to me when he was in high school in Ohio. But that was a few years ago. When his school won the state title, my headline idea was "O.J did it," but we decided against it.

Mayo says he's going to " bring some leadership, hard work and dedication." I'm sure the veterans like hearing that from a guy a year out of high school.

Russell Westbrook goes to the Sonics.

Nihar:"I think (Mayo's) got a pretty good all-around game ... I say Minnesota made a good pick. They say he's NBA ready. I think Beasley is NBA-Ready."

Russell Westbrook seems like one of those guys who skyrocketed after the season.

The Grizzlies select UCLA's Kevin Love at No. 5.

More greatness from Stephen A. He prefaces a question for Love with this: "Kevin, last year watching you at college, you're buff, you're bigger, now you're slim, you've lost some weight, you've got some muscles, what's going on here."

And that build up leads to this question: "What can we expect from Kevin Love?"


Next up are the Knicks. Always entertaining in a sickening kind of a way.

The Knicks fans get restless, as David Stern announces the team takes ... Danilo Gallinary from Italy. The poor kid gets welcomed with a resounding chorus of boos.

Nihar: "I think it was a dumb pick."

Speaking of horrid teams, here come the Clippers with the seventh pick. ESPN shows a graphic that says the Clippers lead the NBA with 19 lottery picks coming in. Our beloved Cavs are also on the list, with 12.

The Clippers take Indiana's Eric Gordon. Here come the Milwaukee Bucks.

Nihar "Seems like it's the year of the freshman."

Is Michael Redd coming to Cleveland? Probably not.The Bucks take Joe Alexander from West Virginia. Jay Bilas calls Alexander a "freak of an athlete."

The Bobcats take D.J. Augustin from Texas. Stuart Scott calls the pick a "little bit of a shock here, maybe." So is it a shock or not? Shocks aren't things that are somewhat, or something of.

Brook Lopez looks somewhat dejected. C'mon man, did you really want to play for the Bobcats?

New Jersey comes up at 10. Lopez seems to be the idea here. Sure enough, he goes to the Nets.

Nihar: "A good pick, especially that low, because they need a big guy in New Jersey ... Well, they need everything now, they're rebuilding."

Jerryd Bayliss goes to Indiana.

Nihar: I thought Bayless would go higher.

Kings take Jason Thompson, a forward from Rider (ugh, where?). Thompson isn't even in New York tonight. Using the Joe Thomas model, this should work out great. Thompson's a senior, so he should be ready to contribute.

Trailblazers on the clock. Hopefully it works out better than last season.

Blazers take Brandon Rush from Kansas. Rush, who I had heard the Cavs would have wanted (though no one thought he'd fall that far) is 6-6, 210.

Rush now gets to deal with Stephen A. Smith: "Which you in the lineup, what do you think you guys can do next year -- not 10 years from now?"

Rush says they have some talent, and he just wants to contribute.

Golden State is on the clock.

Warriors take LSU's Anthony Randolph, whose the seventh freshman taken so far.

The Suns are up next with the 15th pick.

The Suns take Robin Lopez. Wow. I thought he'd be there when the Cavs were picking. It's a race for most Cavs fans to see if Kosta is still there when the team picks. Three more picks until then, starting with the 76ers.

Forida's Marreese Speights goes to Philadelphia. Speights, probably fearing a Stephen A. interview, decided to skip the ceremony.

Toronto, Washington, then the Cavs.

Toronto, who Stuart suspects is picking for Indiana, take Roy Hibbert from Georgetown. I thought he might be the best fit for the Cavs.

Nihar doesn't think Washington will take Koufus.

They play a "wired" Brook Lopez. His comments about how boring the draft is are far more entertaining than anything the guys have said.

Washington takes Nevada's JaVale McGee, which means the Cavs can take Koufus. I bet that's what the Cavs' draft party wants.

A trade: Bayless and Ike Diogu go to Portland, Jarrett Jack and Rush go to Indiana.

Cavs are on the clock, but the announcers aren't talking about them. Cavs take J.J. Hickson from N.C. State.

Nihar: I'm shocked.

Meanwhile, Vivek is booing in the background. Nihar says he has his Kosta Koufus jersey on right now.

Well, that's that.


Mark Shapiro's Market Watch
Today on All Bets are Off with Bruce Drennan, Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro is a guest. For fun, let's see how many times he uses the word "market" during the interview.

"How's Victor?" Bruce asks.
"Victor's great!" Shapiro says. That's why he on the DL for the next six weeks.

Almost five minutes. Then Shapiro can't contain himself.

"If anyone deserves to get top of the market, whatever the top of the market is, it's (Sabathia). The questions is, A, what is top of the market? You never know till you're in that market, because the market changes all the time. Just like the stock market; just like any market. It's fluid."

"Some people, like Peavy out in San Diego, they don't even know what top of the market is. They know what they'll be happy to get to stay in San Diego."

"The market is what the market is at that moment."

"There's some pride involved, to be compensated what they view to be the top of the market for the work they've done."

"My job is at any juncture in time -- any juncture in time -- to have a firm feel of the market and what teams are looking to do, regardless of what we're looking to do."

"Again, I think every situation is fluid. You never know what the market can be. A market can go up because of a greater need as you get closer to a deadline. A market can go down because they have the player for less town."

"It gets back to the market being fluid."

That's 16 times. Might be a record.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Indians find a way to make Barry Zito look good
The way this season has been going, you knew this was coming.

Barry Zito came into Progressive Field with 11 losses and an earned run average that showed why.

And the Indians got four hits off him.

In professional wrestling, when promoters want to make a wrestler look good, they will book him (or her) against a lower-tier performer. The wrestler getting pushed executes all their big moves against the jobber, showcasing his own talents while receiving little resistance.

The losers of these matches are called enhancement talent.

Well, take out the fact that the finishes to professional wrestling matches are pre-determined, and you'll see the parallel I'm drawing here:

Indians hitters have become enhancement talent for pitchers around the league. As we speak, the Giants' front office is probably on the phone to the commissioner's office, trying to see if they can schedule a home-and-home series against the Indians next year. If Zito has a few more starts against the Indians, his career might appear salvageable.

Cleveland's hitting is crossing the line from frustrating to laughable. The two best hitters in tonight's lineup were Ben Francisco (a guy who was sent to Buffalo for some reason before the season) and Jamey Carroll (a career bench player).

The only positives of this game? Jeremy Sowers, who sealed his defeat by giving up two runs in the first inning, and Casey Blake, who now can say he played shortstop in a Major League game.

The only thing to look forward to now is the trading deadline. It will hurt to trade C.C. Sabathia (who might as well be DHing on his days off), but the Indians front office has done a really good job of convincing the fans it's hardly worthy of deserving a big league team. By constantly reminding the fans what a miserable market they play in, the members of the Indians front office can expect little backlash from the paying customers, who expect good players to leave at second chance.

Maybe General Manager Mark Shapiro will get a desperate team to trade too much for Sabathia, and the Indians can start rebuilding for 2011.


NBA Draft Interview with Dr. Nihar Vasavada
With the most crucial Cavs' draft in at least five years approaching, I figured it was a good time to talk to Dr. Nihar Vasavada, the most knowledgable fan of the team I know.

Z: What do you think the Cavs' No. 1 priority is in the first round?

N: I think the cavs no. 1 priority is to get the best player available. At 19, historically there are slim pickings, so you can't get too greedy and fill a certain position. But the obvious needs are an heir to Z, and a player who can create his own shot.

Z: Assume Kosta Koufos is available at 19. Do the Cavs grab him? And is that the right move?

N: If Koufos is there at 19, I think the Cavs will consider him because of the aging frontcourt. I don't know if that is the right move, because more than likely, he won't have an immediate impact, like a CDR or Brandon Rush type player might who can create their own shot.

Z: What are the chances of the Cavaliers trading the pick for an established player?

N: If trading the 19th pick as part of a package yields an All-Star player, I think the Cavs have to consider it. As we all know, the clock is ticking with LeBron, and they have to win now or the franchise could be doomed. The Cavs have several expiring contracts to dangle as trade bait, but not very many young prospects, so the 19th pick will probably have to be included in any trade.

Z: Assume Koufos is gone by 19. What then?

N: If Koufos is gone at 19, which he might be, then I think the Cavs have to consider CDR, Chalmers, Hibbert, or R. Lopez. Those guys seem to be safe picks, but may not have the upside as a DeAndre Jordan or Darrel Arthur, the first group may have a more immediate impact.


Thoughts and prayers
To Cavs' Akron Beacon Journal writer Brian Windhorst, who is apparently very sick. He's hands down the best Cavs writer in the region, and I want to send along best wishes for a speedy recovery.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

This one goes out to Adam Russell, a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, for making it to the big leagues.

I have to mention the North Olmsted High School graduate on here. I feel it's my duty as a fellow Eagle. Russell is a 2001 graduate of the school.

Oh, and a note to the White Sox: There's no A in North Olmsted.

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Trading Brandon Phillips
Eric Wedge has proven he can manage a certain type of player.

Guys like Grady Sizemore, Casey Blake, Jamey Carroll get on well with the Indians manager, and have played well under him.

But being a good manager also means dealing with egos and personalities different from your own.

Which, brings us to Brandon Phillips.

We all have heard the story 100 times by now. Wedge clashes with the flashy, talented player, demotes him to AAA in 2003 and keeps him there until the Indians are forced to trade him.

The short story is that the Indians got rid of Phillips to keep Ramon Vasquez. As Phillips blossomed into one of the best second basemen in the league the last two seasons, the Indians have two holes -- second and third base -- to fill.

The trade of Phillips in April of 2006 tp Cincinnati for a single A pitcher was not really a bad move in itself.

Imagine if Phillips had been kept on the 2006 roster. He would have been that year's version of Andy Marte -- a highly-touted prospect who was with the team because the organization didn't want to give up on him, but who was almost never used.

Phillips might have seen time as a pinch runner, or as a defensive replacement. He might have received a start a week. And, he probably would have hit .100.

For all the credit Wedge has received for bringing along his "young" club, he seems to favor veterans. He also seems to like hard-working players with marginal talent over top prospects with attitude.

Wedge's one great prospect he helped mature into a star is Grady Sizemore. And even Sizemore, for all his SportCenter catches and occasional hot streaks, seems misused.

Phillips, Marte, Josh Barfield were all top prospects who did not perform under Wedge. Franklin Gutierrez sat in Buffalo forever in 2007 before being brought up to replace Trot Nixon. Ben Francisco was sent down to keep the aging and average Jason Michaels. Even now, Wedge continues to stick with David Dellucci more than he should.

Some have suggested Phillips had attitude problems, and maybe the Indians were right to rid themselves of him.

It's true, Brandon is egotistical. He stands at the plate when he gets singles, sometimes dances after hits, and even grins on the rare occasion he makes an error.

But it's a small price to pay for a guy who had 30 homers and 30 steals last year. You can't build a championship caliber club strictly on "grind it out" guys. In the early 1990s, what would have happened if Mike Hargrove had said "that Kenny Lofton is too much of a showboat," or "don't you think Carlos Baerga goofs off too much?"

That the Indians want to build an organization of great, team-first guys is admirable. It's also somewhat unrealistic. Yes, the Indians had an excellent 2007. But who knows what would have happened had Shapiro not brought back Lofton, a player who hardly fit the Indians mantra.

This season has shown the Indians seem to hop-scotch through successful seasons, stressing depth and hard work.

It sounds great when C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona are making hitters look stupid and certain hitters are having career years.

But when things don't fall into place, can fans depend on Wedge to nurture the next round of minor leaguers that will replenish the roster? Or will he lose some, simply because he can't get through to them?


Friday, June 20, 2008

Vitamin Z's Magnificent 7: MLB Power Rankings
1. Chicago Cubs (46-28): This series with the White Sox is more than just novelty. The Cubs are dealing with injuries and were just swept by the Rays.

2. Boston Red Sox (46-30): Boston deserved to lose after wearing those ridiculous green tops Friday.

3. Tampa Bay Rays (43-30): The Rays are having a 1994-like Indians season. Unlike 1994, we'll get to see how this story ends.

4. Los Angeles Angels of Disneyland (44-30): Only three games up on Oakland.

5. Philadelphia Phillies (42-33): Charlie Manuel went by "Chuck" in his short MLB playing career. That's all I got.

6. St. Louis Cardinals (43-32): As great as the Cubs have been, you just wonder how long it will be before they hit a rough spot. The question is whether the Cardinals can capitalize.

7. Chicago White Sox (41-32): It's never boring with these guys, is it?


Thursday, June 19, 2008

You can always change your name
Adam "Pacman" Jones doesn't want to be known as "Pacman" anymore.

One assumes Jones doesn't want to be associated with the name of a guy who has caused so much trouble.

Fine, I guess. But the real question is if Jones himself can change, and if he can prove to the Cowboys (and the NFL) that he's not a lost cause.

This is not an unprecedented move. In the early 1990s, the Indians had a troubled outfielder who went by Joey Belle. In an attempt to show maturity (I think), Belle went back to his given name of Albert.

And he never had any off-the-field problems again.

OK, bad example.

The point is, talking about change is one thing. Until Jones can go through an extended period of time without trouble, the "Pacman" reputation will follow, even if the name does not.


Great moments in Indians broadcasting
"The Indians re-take the lead, 3-2." -- Indians announcer Matt Underwood in the top of the sixth inning after Casey Blake homered.

One problem: Blake's homer TIED the game at three. It might have been easy for Underwood to forget that, since the Rockies took the lead a whole half inning before. In fairness to Underwood, he was probably distracted, trying to figure out whether to say "Goodbye baseball!" or "Souvenir city!" after the homer, and forgot the minor detail of the score.


Bulling his way to the top
Good friend Andy Barch is getting some media attention, which I think is well-deserved. Barch, the West Virginia Power announcer who has been featured here as well at at Pigskin Podcast, gives a solid perspective of trying to move up in a business which mirrors the one it reports about.

Of course, we didn't call him "Bull" in BG. I called him Goldberg or Playmaker, because he resembled one of the castmembers on the short-lived ESPN show.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Great moments in Indians broadcasting
"Indians will need to rally in the ninth to either tie or try take the lead." -- Matt Underwood, in the eighth inning with the Indians trailing, 4-2.

Sometimes I think he talks to hear himself. Now to be fair, he followed the fairly obvious sentence with a line about the Indians falling into fourth. But still ...

How bad were the Indians tonight? Sportstime Ohio's "Save of the game" went to starter Aaron Laffey, who hit a seeing-eye single in his first at-bat (his first career hit which didn't lead to any runs) and then his flyout in his second at-bat.

I don't know what's sadder. The team's play on the road or the grasping at straws of the Indians announcers. Why not just give it to a Rockie?


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Song quote of the day
Let it roll across the floor
through the hall and out the door -- George Harrison


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day
My father won't make a big deal out of this day, and he probably won't make a big deal out of this post, either. He asks for little, gives a lot, and has helped me in more ways than I can count.

As I was riding around today, the lessons I have learned from him popped into my head. What was interesting is how many things we learn from our fathers without even realizing it. It seemed like a good day to write a few of them down.

10 things I learned from my father
1. If you don't know something, just say you don't know it. Pretending you know only leads to more trouble.

2. How to read a baseball box score.

3. Never give up on the Cleveland Browns, even if they are trailing the New York Jets by 10 with less than five minutes left in a divisional playoff game.

4. Try not to talk unless you have something to say. (I violate this more than I should).

5. Giving up when you first encounter trouble is easy. Working to overcome that trouble is rewarding.

6. National League baseball is superior to American League baseball because the NL does not use the DH, and thus has the greatest rule in sports -- the double switch.

7. History is important.

8. It's important to listen to viewpoints that are not in line with your own. (I'm not good on this one, either.)

9. You're lucky to have Mom. (I learned this one pretty quickly.)

10. Practice may not make perfect, but it certainly helps. (I had to squeeze a golf one on here).

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Moving down the line
Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore is on pace to hit 40 homers and drive in 95 runs.

He is certainly on a power binge right now, so expecting him to keep the pace may be expecting too much.

But if he stays healthy (a big question with this club), it's reasonable to think he could hit 30 homers and drive in more than 80 runs.

So why is he the Indians' leadoff hitter?

I know Sizemore can run and steal bases. He has 16 of those already. It's also questionable if the Indians have anyone who could be a leadoff hitter. My only suggestion would be Shin-Soo Choo, whose on base percentage is .420.

But with the Indians' offense, it's not how you start an inning, but how you finish it. How many innings has Sizemore led off with a hit, and never moved until he went to the outfield?

Sizemore is hitting .302 with runners in scoring position, .348 with runners in scoring position with two out. Imagine how many more opportunities he'd have to drive in runs with someone more consistent than the No. 9 hitter batting behind him.

When manager Eric Wedge installed Sizemore in the leadoff spot three seasons ago, most figured it was temporary, and that Sizmore would mature into a No. 3 hitter.

I think he has, but the manager has left him at the top of the order.

With runs coming at a premium for this team, Wedge should think about putting one of his best run producers in a run-producing spot.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert
In an era when the line between entertainment and journalism has become remarkably thin, Tim Russert stood out.

He was a man who could be very entertaining on the air, without losing his sense of what a journalist was and should be.

After someone prominent dies, it is normal to hear praise from all circles. But with Russert, you get the feeling the sentiment is not just coming because he has died. In my first year as a professional journalist, I watched his interviews and marveled at how he could ask tough questions without getting emotional or forfeiting his neutrality.

Like everyone else, he had his biases, but unlike so many others in his field, they didn't seem to come out when he was covering a topic, no matter how crucial it was.

Russert was only 58. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. But even those who never met the man are losing something.

I can't help but think that I took him and his work for granted, figuring he would be around for years to come.

Instead, he is gone. It's difficult to imagine anyone being as good at his job as he was.

He will be missed.


Vitamin Z's Magnificent 7: Weekly MLB Power Rankings
A new Friday feature that will hopefully keep me from neglecting my blog.

1. Chicago Cubs (43-24): Chicago has won four straight, and it looks like even the loss of Alfonso Soriano can't slow this train. And yet, the Cubs are only 3 1/2 up on the Cardinals.

2. Boston Red Sox (42-27): God bless the Devil Rays for standing up to these jerks. But even with injuries, the Red Sox are practically unbeatable in Fenway (28-7)and even a 14-20 road record won't sink them.

3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (41-26): 8-2 in their last 10 and pulling away from Oakland, who Indians announcer Tom Hamilton said woudn't contend. Sadly, checking his employer's glass house has never been Hamilton's specialty. But back to the Angels. Chone Figgins is back, and even though his numbers aren't overly impressive, he has shown to be valuable in the past.

4.Philadelphia Phillies (40-28): Anybody else in Cleveland wishing Charlie Manuel was still running the Indians instead of Eric Wedge? When Manuel was hired before the 2005 season, I figured it was a favor to Jim Thome. But Thome's long gone, and Manuel is still thriving.

5. St. Louis Cardinals (40-28): The National League Central may be the most balanced division in the league. The fifth-place Pirates are a game under .500, and the Cardinals would be leading or tied in three different divisions.

6. Tampa Bay Devil Rays (38-28): It's safe to say I owe an apology to all Rays fans after I knocked the team a few months ago. A good, young team that's fun to watch.

7. Chicago White Sox (37-29): No team is more confusing this season. Ozzie Guillen calls out everyone in the organization, and the team wins seven. They roll into Detroit, where the team is scuffling, and get swept. Hard to figure where this team is headed.


Monday, June 09, 2008

Indians recall Barfield, ship out Cabrera
Four weeks after it would have made any difference.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

TNA Slammiversary Liveblog
-First day of the offseason, home from state track ... what the hell?

-Live from Memphis.

- Even Vince Russo's crazy booking hasn't made me lose hope in Jeff Jarrett's project. I don't watch WWE much anymore, and I keep hoping TNA will embrace a more realistic, UFC-like style.

As long as Russo's and people like him book TNA, I don't think this company can achieve its potential. I don't blame Russo for this. "Crash TV" is his style. Asking him to write differently is like asking Tony Bennett to record a rap album.

- Hey look, it's Eric Bischoff! Oh wait, it's just an Elvis knockoff. The montage has a Carl Perkins-inspired opening. It's quite campy.

- Hosts are Mike Tenay and Don West. This is the six-year anniversary of the company's origin. I honestly didn't think it'd last a month. And had other money people not stepped in, it wouldn't have.

Opening match X Division Title
Kaz vs. Petey Williams (C) (with Rhaka Kahn and Scott Steiner)

-Nice to see the TNA drug testing policy hasn't reached Canada yet. A huge fan of Williams, not a fan of Scott Steiner's mini-me angle. Williams is wearing a mask to protect a legit injury.

-Cool mat sequences start us off. Petey sets up the Canadian Destroyer (the sickest looking move in the history of pro wrestling, in my opinion), but Kaz reverses. Fans duel a "let's go Petey/Let's go Kaz" chant.

- Slingshot from Petey into hurricanrana. Smooth. Don West describes Petey's style (more mat based later) as similar to what Scott Steiner would do. Not sure if you want to mimick a 2008 Scott Steiner. Maybe Petey can go off on a rant about how Ric Flair tried to sabotage his career.

-The two are having a really good match, but cue the 1998 finish. Rhaka Khan runs in and Kaz takes her out. Petey gets a led pipe from Scott, opening Kaz up, but Kaz kicks out. The two each have a number of near falls, until Steiner interferes again, allowing Petey to lay out Kaz with the destroyer. *** 1/2. It would have been higher without the interference. Steiner beats up Kaz after the match, until Abyss makes his return. Great, more nonsensical angles for eight months. Abyss lays out the heels. Khan really looks green.

- The announcers recap the card. Eric Young comes out to announce he's found Elvis. This angle will die a slow death.

- We get a video look at Kevin Nash, where they talk about how he somehow got to be the one to end Goldberg's streak and help kill WCW (faster, anyway). Actually, they talk about the angle with him and Joe. How Nash continues to be pushed at the top of the card despite not drawing since 1997 remains one of the great mysteries of the industry.

- Video look at knockouts, which is the one thing TNA promotes 1,000 times better than WWE.

Six-women match
-Beautiful People and Moose v. Roxxi, Gail Kim (my favorite woman wrestler ever) and ODB ( think a female version of Crusher -- at least character-wise. Maybe I'm way off.)

-Roxxi lost her hair at the last PPV, giving her a Sinead O'Connor look. The Beautiful People are great heels. They try to walk about, but the faces bring them back. Velvet Sky takes down Roxxi, and Angelina Love dropkicks her down. Gotta say, I like Roxxi's haircut, and I hated O'Connor's music. These women have the audience in the palm of their hands right now. You'd never see that in WWE.

- Gail does a crossbody off the top. My only complaint about the show so far is West, who, six years in, still talks too much. He's a lot better than he was six years ago, but can someone tell me how the company can have Jim Cornette and not put him out there with Tenay?

- Gail plays the babyface in peril, then ODB tags in and the place goes crazy. ODB drinks from a vlask then goes off the top on Moose. This is a hell of a match. ODB poweslams Moose for the pin. *** 1/4. Best of all, no run-ins.

-Rhino predicts he'll win the TNA title. Nah.

-Tag Team Titles
LAX (with Hector Guerrero and Salinas) vs. Team 3D

- Nothing against Hector, but to me, LAX was Konnan. Babyface LAX doesn't quite have the edge. Standard back and forth tag-team stuff here. The match dies down as Salinas hits a "Wassup drop." That was all the rage back seven years ago. Homicide rolls up Brutha Ray for the win. * 1/2

- Robert Roode cuts a non-screaming promo about how he'll win the title tonight. Good promo.

-Awesome Kong v. ?????
Old-school angle here that just might work if it's given enough time. If a fan can beat her, she gives up $25,000. It's in Tennessee, where an angle similar to this went down some 25 years ago.

- Jeremy Borash actually does a terrific job of laying out the angle, making it seem like a big deal. Two women take the challenge, and Kong and her manager pick the one with mixed martial arts background -- and huge tracts of land. Serena is her name, and she's from Mississippi.

- Kong just destroys Serena and wins with an implant buster. Total squash, but that's the point. DUD. Kong wants to fight the other girl, Josie from Memphis.

-Josie actually gets some offense in, but not for long. But she ducks out of the way from a shot and Josie starts attacking. The crowd starts responding big. Old school angles can still work. Kong just beats up Josie after that and wins. *

-Eric Young comes out with Kong still in the ring. He brings out an Elvis impersonator. I said this angle would die, and the crowd just boos the crap out of it. Kong ain't impressed. Well, if they want to turn Kong face, this is a good first step.

- Elvis taunts Kong and bombs him. Not a fan, I guess.

-Christian cuts a promo about the King of the Mountain match.

-Jay Lethal So-Cal Val wedding angle. Lethal's Randy Savage impression is good, but this angle ran its course eight months ago. I think had they toned down the Savage stuff and let Lethal develop a tad more, it could have boosted him. Instead, he's become a cover wrestler.

-Minister Hank Wittman (?) performs the ceremony. Ace Young (I don't have a clue who he is) is a groomsman. So is Kimala, in a tux. Jake Roberts comes out next. He doesn't look bad, but I can't believe they'd waste an appearamce on something so trivial. Koko B. Ware is next, looking exactly like he did in 1990. Next is Jim Powers ... oh wait, no. Koko's bird looks like it wants to escape before watching the ceremony. Join the club, Frankie. George Steele is next. Sonjay Dutt is the best man. I need to watch his speech to get a few idea's for my brother's wedding next month.

-Lethal comes out. Yeah, this angle is dying. Don West selling it as a serious moment as Val comes down the aisle is either really funny or sad. Whittman looks like the late Fred Gwynne. Lethal is even dressed in the same tux Macho wore in 1991. Not the same one, but the same style. Sonjay tries to break up the wedding, but sadly, it goes as well as Matt Hardy's bid to end Lita's to Kane some years ago. Val starts crying. This may be the worst angle ever. Sonjay did take out Ace, which, makes him a face in my book. Not in my Facebook, but in my book.

-Booker cuts a promo, as we try to cleanse the pallet from that ridiculous promotion-killing thing we just watched. Booker T turns into King Booker in a promo.

- A.J vs. Kurt Angle
Angle's working with an injured neck. A.J. did a flip over the top onto Angle. These guys are sick. Just a crazy, crazy great match, as Angle seems to prefer being cofined to a wheelchair rather than give less than everything he has in a PPV match. Ending fell a tad flat, as Karen Angle came out and distracted Angle so AJ could hit the Styles Clash for the pin. **** 1/4.

-Angle grabbed a chair and decked Styles from behind, then threatened Karen with the chair. Security came in, but so did Tomko. They both beat up A.J., again.

King of the Mountain Match, TNA title
Samoa Joe (C), v. Christian Cage, v. Rhyno, v. Robert Roode, v. Booker T (w. Kevin Nash as Enforcer)

-An odd, complicated match. As far as I can figure, a pinfall makes a wrestler eligible to win the match. The man who takes the fall has to spend two minutes in the penalty box. Then a person has to hang the title above the ring to win.

-I know, I'm confused too.

- TNA does great ring entrances for this sort of thing. Booker pin Rhyno to get elible for the title. Nash has a Kenny Rogers-thing going on. Rhyno returns and takes on Christian. Roode pins Christian, Rhyno pins Roode. So Samoa Joe and Christian are not able to win yet. The crowd, probably still in awe over the absurdity of the wedding, is quiet.

-Christian does a dive on Joe and Booker from the top of the penalty box, then pins Booker. Joe finally pins Roode, then climbs and gets the belt. Effort was great, but the crowd was dead and the ending was abrupt. *** 1/2

-Show was decent, although as usual with TNA, the bad was really, really bad.


Failure is an option
What's it going to take for people to realize the Indians are finished this season?

There's little question that when it comes to this team, I'm negative by nature. Burned too many times in belief, I have become an agnostic Indians fan. There might be something out there, but I haven't seen it, so I won't believe until proven otherwise (I feel the same way about global warming).

When this season ends, there will be those in the Indians PR department who will try to tell you injuries are to blame for the disappointment. The team had potential, but it was untracked by the injury bug. Curse that damn bug. It was out of the front office's hands.


This team underachieved from the third game of the season on. The hitting wasn't just inconsistent, it was horrible. The starting pitching was very good, but constantly went to waste.

The bullpen has been bad because Rafael Betancourt can't get anyone out, but manager Eric Wedge is still using him like the dominant arm he was last year.

Joe Borowski was hurt, though the Indians denied it. Now, just giving him a chance to blow a save is a challenge.

The problems for the Indians were set when the front office made no major improvements on last year's club. Looking back there were red flags all over the place, but general Manager Mark Shapiro ignored them, probably because he had to.

At the very least, the club had to know something wasn't right with Hafner. The Indians announcers and their other friends in the media pushed his 100-RBI season last year as solid, but the truth is he was barely half the player he was in 2006.

Casey Blake is a streak hitter prone to slumps (I write this as he is in an upswing). Yet the Tribe made him the fifth-highest paid player on the roster, rather than bring in a bat to play third. Blake turns 35 this year. The Indians had to at least consider his mostly solid play last year might not continue.

Asdrubal Cabrera has a book now, whereas he did not before. Pitchers didn't know how to go at him, where as now they know he can't lay off the inside pitch. The Indians had to figure sophomore difficulties were possible.

Jason Michaels? Really?

David Dellucci is what he is -- a platoon outfielder. Same with Franklin Gutierrez.

Victor Martinez is the surprise of the season. The fact that he hasn't connected on one homer a week into June is startling, even if his hamstring is hurt. The Tribe gets a pass on this one.

Ryan Garko is finally playing back to form. His struggles were almost as surprising to me as Martinez's. The Indians do have backup plans for Garko, but sadly almost all of them involve Blake in some way.

The Indians apparently thought playing with a 24-man roster for most of last season (see Rouse, Mike) was such a good idea they are doing it again with Andy Marte. He's gotten some more at-bats lately, but let's face it -- he'll never be the Indians full-time third baseman. The Indians need to cut their losses with this guy, because even if he does blossom somewhere else, it won't mean anything since Wedge would never have played him full-time here.

There are other problems (Jhonny Peralta and Grady Sizemore aren't exactly putting together all-star campaigns), but those are the major ones. There were a number of holes with this group that could have developed, but there appeared to be little backup plan.

And that spelled doom.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Pigskin Podcast
They're expanding, and they know football. In what is quickly becoming a very influential site (look at the guests on the downloads), my only hope is I get to guest at least once. Either way, if you're down without football (and with the way the Indians are playing, who isn't? Check it out.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Who is Jeff Harris?
Here's what I know:

Harris is 33. He pitched in as many major league games as I have over the last two seasons, and has appeared in only 14 games in his career, all with Seattle. The guy did not even make the bigs until he was past 30.

He is also, according to ESPN, tonight's Indians starter. Since Aaron Laffey was shelled last night in the team's 13-9 win, my hopes for his success are not that great.

The Rangers are an outstanding hitting club, and the Indians, despite last night's eruption, are not.

Jake Westbrook has joined Fausto Carmona on the disabled list. We may get to see just how much depth the Indians staff has.

Casey Blake had one of his games last night. He has had games in his career (last month's game in Kansas City is an example) where he turns into Rogers Hornsby, and beats the heck out of the ball.

As hard as I have been on Blake in the past, the truth is he's better than anyone else they have right now, save Ben Francisco and maybe Jhonny Peralta. Hopefully he can stay hot for a little while and the Indians can start winning some series.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Two managers, two losses, two reactions
The Indians lost to the Royals today, 6-1. Cleveland hit miserably, as usual.

Indians manager Eric Wedge is almost reaching Matt Underwood-levels of ridiculous optimism.

I don't want to sound like a broken record, but we hit a lot of balls on the barrel of the bat," said Wedge. "They played excellent defensively. We didn't find any holes, and we mixed in some bad at-bats, but we could have easily had 11 or 12 hits today."

Meanwhile, the White Sox lost to the Devil Rays (a first-place team), 4-3. Sox manager Ozzie Guillen (whose squad, despite a 28-26 record, is in first in the Central) let loose about his team's offensive struggles.

''There's only one message I'm going to send,'' a frustrated Guillen said. ''That's all I'm going to talk. Just be ready because I expect movement Tuesday. I expect Kenny to do something Tuesday, and if we don't do anything Tuesday, there are going to be a lot of lineup changes. That's all I'm going to say about the offense.

''It can be me. It can be [hitting coach] Greg Walker. It can be the players. It could be anybody. I'm sick and tired to watch this thing for a year and a half. I'm not protecting anybody anymore. [Bleep] it! If they can't get it done, Kenny should find someone to get it done. That's it.

It's not fair, but it seems that Wedge gives backrubs, and Guillen gives his club grenades.

Guillen has his issues (big, big issues). He can lose a team just as easily as anyone else. But his team has a ring, and Wedge's does not.

I just find the differences interesting.


Harvey Korman
Several years ago, when I was at Bowling Green, a friend of mine invited me to audition for his theatre group. The fling with acting was short-lived, but did produce one shining memory.

I was asked to recite a monologue. Not being a trained actor with anything prepared, my mind raced back to a scene I had been performing for years to friends at parties.

It was originally performed by Harvey Korman, who played Hedley Lemar in the comedy Blazing Saddles. I think I did OK with the piece, though nothing can compare to the original.

My mother tried to tell me Korman was at his best in sketch comedy on the Carol Burnett Show.

Perhaps. But I can't see how he could top the character in Mel Brooks' masterpiece.

Rest in peace.