Saturday, April 25, 2009

Phil Prusa's Mock Draft
1. Lions - Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
Detroit is hoping this pick works out a little better than the selection of Joey Harrington.

2. Rams - Jason Smith, T, Baylor
Smith will be used to replace Orlando Pace, who has been a Rams starter since 1997.

3. Chiefs - Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest
Yes, they signed Zach Thomas as a free agent, but he won't play forever.

4. Seahawks - Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
Too good of value for Seattle to pass on, thus he is picked over Crabtree.

5. Browns - Brian Orakpo, DT, Texas
Eric Mangini runs a hybrid 3-4 defense which shows a lot of 4 d-linemen looks. Orakpo could excel in that scheme.

6. Bengals - Eugene Monroe, T, Virginia
If the Bengals don't fix the offensive line, Carson Palmer will have a shortened career. Monroe dropping here is a gift pick.

7. Raiders - Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
Everyone seems to agree Oakland takes a receiver here. I'm betting Al Davis takes the one that is 6'2.

8. Jaguars - Andre Smith, T, Alabama
Look for Jacksonville to take a chance on Smith who saw his stock drop after skipping workouts and making other foolish decisions.

9. Packers - Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
The first hour or so of the draft might be agonizing for Green Bay, who is hoping the Jackson falls to them.

10. 49ers - Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
I can't believe my board has Crabtree falling this far down. San Francisco could land a big time receiver they have sorely been lacking.

11. Bills - Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
With practically no pass rush last year, Maybin makes good too sense to pass up here.

12. Broncos - BJ Raji, NT, Boston College
It's unfortunate that Raji was accused of failing a drug test. That unfairly caused him to drop on most teams boards. Denver could really benefit because of that.

13. Redskins - Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
The Jason Taylor experiment failed after one season.

14. Saints - Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
They like Chris Wells, but that secondary was burned was way too often last season. They can't keep giving up big play after big play and hope to contend.

15. Texans - Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
Pair him with DeMeco Ryans and you get a nice one-two punch at your linebacker unit.

16. Chargers - Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
LT did sign a contract extension, but he is nearing that dreaded age of 30 for running backs

17. Jets - Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
New York will be very tempted by Freeman here but if Maclin is still available here, I can't see them passing on his big play potential.

18. Broncos - Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
A second defensive lineman in the first round? Yep...Denver's defense was that bad.....

19. Buccaneers - Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State
Tampa Bay may have signed Byron Leftwich, but given his injury history it makes sense for Tampa to solidify the QB position.

20. Lions - Michael Oher, T, Mississippi
If Detroit does take Stafford with the first overall pick, then the smart thing to do is protect your investment by rebuilding that porous offensive line.

21. Eagles - Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
Word is that they love Knowshon Moreno, but I can't see him falling this far. Pettigrew can give McNabb a good receiver and blocker.

22. Vikings - Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
Very risky pick to be sure, but remember Minnesota took a chance on another receiver named Randy Moss years ago.

23. Patriots - James Laurinaitis, OLB, Ohio State
He's not going to make the Sportscenter highlight reel, but he's a dependable tackler that would be a perfect fit into New England's defense.

24. Falcons - Clay Matthews, OLB, USC
Would be a homecoming of sorts as his father ended his career in Atlanta.

25. Dolphins - Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut
With Tom Brady set to come back this year, a cover corner would be a good choice for Miami.

26. Ravens - Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
Joe Flacco needs a big time receiver to help him grow in his second NFL season.

27. Colts - Evander Hood, DT, Missouri
Indianapolis needs receivers especially to help replace Marvin Harrison, but the defensive line is more a more pressing need in the first round.

28. Bills - Eben Britton, T, Arizona
Say hello to Jason Peters replacement.

29. Giants - Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
With the Braylon Edwards trade looking dead, the Giants are still in the market to replace Plaxico.

30. Titans - Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC
This is not so much a need pick, but if Rey is available here how do you pass him up if you're Tennessee?

31. Cardinals - Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut
This will mark the official end to the Edgerrin James saga in the desert.

32. Steelers - Alex Mack, C, California
They want to draft a true Center and will get their pick of Mack, Unger, and Wood.

Some predraft thoughts:

1. Does Chris "Beanie" Wells really fall out of the first round? I don't have him in my board, but have a hard time believing not one team will take a chance on him. I just have no clue where to put him in round one.

2. Will Denver, Tampa Bay, New York (Jets), Chicago, or any other teams make the deal to trade up to draft Sanchez?

3. I don't remember ever being as unsure of a first round as I am on this one. Even the top five picks are not set in stone. If you did your mock draft, it probably looks worlds different than this one.

4. Does Cleveland trade Braylon Edwards on draft day? Does Arizona move Anquan Boldin?

5. I really don't like my draft having Maualuga going #30 overall. At one time, I thought Cleveland would think about reaching to take him with the fifth pick.

Chris Pinette's Mock Draft1. Lions - Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
2. Rams - Jason Smith, T, Baylor
3. Chiefs - Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest
4. Seahawks - Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
5. Browns - BJ Raji, NT, Boston College
6. Bengals - Eugene Monroe, T, Virginia
7. Raiders - Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
8. Jaguars - Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
9. Packers - Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
10. 49ers - Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
11. Bills - Brian Orakpo, DT, Texas
12. Broncos - Aaron Mayin, DE, Penn State
13. Redskins - Andre Smith, T, Alabama
14. Saints - Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State
15. Texans - Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
16. Chargers - Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC
17. Jets - Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
18. Broncos - Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
19. Buccaneers - Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
20. Lions - Michael Oher, T, Mississippi
21. Eagles - Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
22. Vikings - Hakeen Nicks, WR, North Carolina
23. Patriots - Clay Matthews, OLB, USC
24. Falcons - Everette Brown, DE, Florida State
25. Dolphins - Darrius Heyward-Bey
26. Ravens - Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
27. Colts - Ron Brace, DT, Boston College
28. Bills - Eben Britton
29. Giants - Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
30. Titans - Percy Harvin. WR, Florida
31. Cardinals - Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut
32. Steelers - Alex Mack, C, California


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Janet Napolitano
I don't blame her. I blame the person who hired her.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Bad, bad bullpen
Carl Pavano pitched well yesterday, going six innings and allowing just one run. When he walked off the mound, he led, 3-1.

But here's the problem. The Indians have a great closer in Kerry Wood, but he won't come in until the ninth. So getting the six outs until that point was up to the rest of the Indians bullpen.

What followed was predictable.

Rafael Perez, who has looked awful from day one this season, gave up back to back hit and was replaced by Jensen Lewis. Lewis gave up a homer that put the Yankees ahead. Rafael Betancourt replaced him, and gave up three runs in the eighth.

Game over. A losing road trip.

The amazing thing about the Indians in their down years is that the holes always seem to pop up where you least expect them. I had many concerns about this team in the spring, but almost none were related to relief pitching. Lewis and Perez were solid last year. Betancourt was due for a good season. Wood, if healthy, was a very strong closer.

And yet we sit here, with the Indians 4-9, and no help in sight.

The starting pitching hasn't been great. The biggest problem now is that the Indians have had only one pitcher --Fausto Carmona on Saturday -- finish seven innings. But over the last week, it has been good enough to win.

The question is if the Indians can find someone to bridge the gap between starters and Wood. If that guy exists, he's probably on the roster right now.

So he probably doesn't exist.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Getting one back
You can almost hear the voices now, wondering if the Indians' 10-2 win over the Yankees was the turning point of the season.

Never say never, but as long as the roster is constructed the way it is, I think this is more of a positive moment that happens during a baseball season.

But it was a good moment. Beating the Yankees in their home opener, and beating them badly, always makes us Indians fans feel special.

It was the second-straight good start from an Indians pitcher. Cliff Lee pitched very well. He didn't exactly dominate, but he gave the Indians a chance to win, which these days is about all you can ask for.

I don't think Lee will win 20 games again, but a performance like this is assuring that he can be a strong starter. That's important.

Other observations:
- Apparently Travis Hafner is about to become the highest paid part time player in Indians' history.

-Rafael Perez is a mess. Rafael Betancourt isn't much better. Even with a multiple run lead, they were pitching scared Thursday.

- Tony Graffanino is this year's Jamey Carroll, getting starts almost every day for no real reason.

- Victor Martinez looks to be back, thank goodness.

- The Indians are still in a tough spot. Winning a series in New York is hard enough when a team is playing well. Maybe they've turned a corner, but we won't know until Sunday afternoon.


Song quote of the day
Out of this world
out of this mind
out of this love for you-- The Band


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Indians' problem -- according to Wedge
Back in Spring Training, when Josh Barfield and Tony Graffanino were battling for the final position player spot on the roster, I joked with friends that Graffanino would get it.


Graffanino is just like Wedge. A veteran player of marginal skills who is a "grinder." He's also well past his prime, just like Trot Nixon and David Dellucci before him.

Despite his reputation as being able to manage young guys, Wedge tends to favor veterans for the final spots on the roster. Mike Rouse, the Double A specialist who somehow stayed on the roster for 2/3 of the 2007 season, is the exception.

But to my surpise, Barfield made the club. Graffanino would have started in AAA (or he would have been released), but Jamey Carroll (another "grinder") went on the DL.

So Graffanino made the big league club. He was the 25th man, but Wedge didn't treat him like it. When Mark DeRosa needed (or, was given) a day off, Graffanino got the start at third base.

Though the Tribe has started horribly (1-7), Barfield never saw the field until last night, when he pinch ran in the eighth inning and was caught stealing.

Apparently that was all Wedge needed to see. He sent Barfield to Columbus, keeping Graffanino on the roster, despite Barfield making the team before the veteran.

The Indians will carry 13 pitchers. Apparently they were all too valuable to send to AAA.

Wedge has really done a number on Barfield since he arrived as a hot young player from San Diego. He stopped playing him in the middle of 2007, sent him down in 2008, then asked him to become a utility man this spring. Barfield did everything the team asked, and made the team.

But a week later, without ever grabbing a bat or a glove, he was sent down again.

Wedge's explanation that Barfield didn't play because of the way the team started is ridiculous. The team was playing so bad you couldn't risk putting someone new in?

Barfield will never make it in Cleveland. But guys like Graffanino always will as long as Wedge is manager.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

The problem with being so great
The window is never open that long.

The Indians may have thought they had a shot at the World Series every year in the mid-to-late 1990s, but in reality, the only real chance to win it all was in 1997.

The Florida Marlins' pitching that year really wasn't any better than Cleveland's. But the Tribe didn't get it done. When Edgar Renteria's single hit the outfield grass, the window of opportunity was slammed in the Indians' face. They have never gotten back to the Fall Classic, while the Marlins sold off all their stars, rebuilt and won it all again in 2003.

I bring up this rather frustrating memory because the Cavaliers have reached a point in their era where only a championship will satisfy.

Did you see the game today? The Celtics looked old and were beat up, missing several key players. The Cavaliers took them apart, and took joy in doing so.

The Celtics are the defending champions.

The Cavaliers' will have homecourt advantage through all but the NBA Finals (though that could change for sure in a few days). They are 39-1 at the Q.

LeBron James is in his prime. Delonte West and Mo Williams and Zydrunas Ilgauskas make up the best supporting cast he's had.

It's all set up. It's all there for the taking.

But it's not assured. Anyone who thinks otherwise just hasn't been around this city long enough. People who talk to me about the Cavaliers always bring up the Lakers.

I'll worry about the Lakers when and if the Cavaliers reach the finals. Until then, I'll be chewing on my fingernails waiting for something to go wrong.

Still, the truth is that the Cavaliers have one loss at home -- to the best in the West, the Lakers. The Lakers are the only team the Cavs haven't beaten this year.

But here's the reality: This year's squad is the best basketball team in Cleveland history. The Cavaliers have already reached the finals.

The only thing left for this franchise is the big one.

And if the Cavs don't do it this year, then when? Everything has lined up. Next year, who knows what will happen. LeBron's contract will be up after the 2010 season, and though I hope he'll stay in Ohio, I'm just as certain there are powerful people who don't want him here.

If James and Co. can't do it this year, it's hard to see it ever happening for the franchise. And frankly, the way the Browns and Indians are going, one wonders if Cleveland will ever have a better, or another, chance at a world title.

The window is only open for so long.


First week
So, the Indians finally won a game today. It was a nice relief for players and fans, to be sure, but winning won't mean much if the team doesn't get its act together over the next seven games.

Three in Kansas City, four in New York.

You can't win a division in April, but you sure can lose it. At 1-5, the Indians really need a good road trip. In reality, maybe it's just a winning road trip. The point is, the Indians need to get some confidence rolling. They got an average start from Anthony Reyes today, but it was, by far, the best one of the season.

The offense still is relying on the homer. That's not always bad, but the clutch hitting (or lack there of) has been frustrating to watch. What the Indians really lack in this lineup, and what I think will haunt them, even if they do turn the season around, is a contact hitter.

Ever batter in the lineup, one-through-nine, is prone to the strike out. My argument for moving Grady Sizemore out of the leadoff spot has always centered on two things:

1) He strikes out too much.
2) He needs to be put in a position where he can drive in runs.

My first part has been rendered meaningless, since there is no one in the lineup who handles the bat well.

That's a failure on manager Eric Wedge and hitting coach Derek Shelton, to be sure, but it's a worse reflection on GM Mark Shapiro. The Indians organization loves to brag about "playing the game the right way." But part of playing the game the right way is shortening a swing or choking up on the bat with two strikes. Ryan Garko makes an effort, but he's not immune to big swings at the wrong time.

- Still, the offense, as Erik Cassano said, will run hot and cold, like it always has under Wedge. The biggest problem has been that the Indians have not gotten a quality start all year.

Even Reyes couldn't finish things off today, giving up four runs in six innings. In fairness to him, it appeared he was out of gas when he hit the sixth, but Wedge was terrified of going to the bullpen, and for good reason.

Things worked out today. But it's looking more and more like the Indians best shot at an ace is Fausto Carmona. Lee simply won't do what he did last year, and Carmona at least looked decent at some point this spring.

Carl Pavano looked to be toast in Texas. If he gets rocked again against the Royals, one might think about pulling the plug.

Speaking of the Rangers, anyone see what the Tigers did to them this weekend? Doesn't really give me a whole lot of confidence.

- So now everyone is jumping on the Pronk bandwagon again. I can see the temptation, but remember -- Travis Hafner was white-hot the first month of 2007, then had an ice blanket thrown on him.

The issue I have with Hafner is whether or not he can stay healthy. Even in his prime years, he missed more than a few games. Wedge appears well-aware of this, and only wants to play him five games a week. Not a bad deal for a guy making $14 million.

Of course, Wedge has in the past shown a need to play the hot hand. I really don't remember Victor Martinez getting a day off the last three weeks of the 2005 season.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Great moment in Indians' broadcasting
Matt Underwood: "3-1 pitch ... Garko got a piece of it to stay alive."

Ahhh ... the first one of the year.


Every time something like this happened, every Indians fan probably remembers.

In March of 1993, the Indians lost Steve Olin and Tim Crews to a boating accident. Starting pitcher Bob Ojeda was also on the boat, but survived. He returned to the mound that summer, but was never the same.

I was at opening day that season. It was a sad moment when the Indians honored the late players. If I remember correctly, there was even a sobbing Chief Wahoo on the outfield wall that season.

In some ways, every March reminds Indians fans of the tragedy.

We've seen tragedies since then. The most vivid was Cardinals' pitcher Darryl Kile, who was found dead before a game in Chicago.

But each tragedy is different. Nick Adenhart's death Thursday morning happened just a few hours after a game he started. He threw six scoreless innings. It was said to be the starter's best game of his career.

But instead of an opening to a great career, it ended up being his final moment on the diamond.

Adenhart was just 22. He had not only a career, but a whole life ahead of him.

The Angels game against the A's last night was postponed, but Los Angeles will be back on the field tonight.

Thoughts and prayers to Adenhart's family, friends and teammates.


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Some things I have noticed about the Tribe
It was an interesting contrast, at least to me.

Most media "experts" were picking the Indians to contend in the American League Central, if not win it.

Most fans I talked to were negative about the Indians, perhaps being burned one too many times by preseason expectations.

I'm something of a hybrid in this area. I'm a fan of the Indians who happens to be a member of the media. I'm no expert, in that, I don't cover the team. But I am deeply into the Indians, and have enough background to back up my assertions.

And yet, with the new season dawning, I felt more like a fan than a member of the media.

That is, I didn't see where the optimism about the Indians was warranted.

Two games and two sizable losses later, I'm not ready to say my negative feelings were correct. It's way too early for that. But I do see a few major problems with this team.

- Starting pitching: The Indians ability to contend hinges almost entirely on the arms of two guys who have been -- at different times -- among the best and most inconsistent at their position.

Cliff Lee had the best season of an Indians starting pitcher I have ever seen. But I just can't believe that what we saw last year was the real Cliff Lee. If Lee were able to string even two seasons like that together, and pitch the way he did when he was just plain decent for the rest of his career, he'd be on a Hall of Fame list one day.

Being decent is good for his career, but it won't be enough for the Indians. Same with Fausto Carmona, who was brilliant two years ago, but mediocre last season.

With the rest of the Indians rotation set the way it is, Lee and Carmona need to pitch like 2008 and 2007, respectively. There's just not enough strength in the rotation between Carl Pavano, Anthony Reyes and Scott Lewis to push the Indians to greatness with less.

After two starts, let's just say I'm less than confident the two will be great this year.

- Leadoff Hitter: The Indians have one of the most feared No. 3 hitters in baseball this year.

Sadly, he's leading off for some reason.

Sizemore can hit 40 homers. He can drive in 100 runs. But he won't as a leadoff hitter. He also strikes out way too much.

He batted leadoff in each of the Indians games, and struck out each time.

- Hafner: Travis Hafner has been given the No. 4 spot in the batting order based on what he did in 2006.

Travis Hafner of 2006 is gone, never to return. Maybe the guy from '07 will come back, but even if that's the case, that guy was not a No. 4 hitter.

All the more reason to move Grady down.

- Hacking: Sometimes I wonder if hitting coach Derek Shelton's advice to Indians hitters consists of "swing as hard as you can. Contact is optional."

What we have here is a team that needs more than it has. Maybe it will all come together like in 2007.

But Trot Nixon isn't around anymore to make sure of it.


Monday, April 06, 2009

Indians Opening Day Liveblog

-Great. Al Pawlowski is hosting the pregame show. And Jamey Carroll is on the DL. Some would say this is a bad sign, but it's JAMEY CARROLL, so who cares.

-Interesting thing will be to see how long it takes announcer Matt Underwood to say something that annoys me. My guess is it will be when Hafner has his first at-bat, when Underwood tries to cover for his miserable 2008.

-I hate Continental Airlines commercials, and STO has a truckload of them.

-Here comes a Mark Shapiro interview. Cue the market count. He never actually talked about "the realities of this market," which has to be the first time he hasn't trotted out that excuse in an interview ... ever.

Underwood manages to annoy me in the intro:

"Will a healthy Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner bolster an already tenacious Tribe lineup?"

Without Victor, the lineup is tepid, not tenacious.

-Rangers unifroms include red tops. Bad idea. Sizemore strikes out, which is reason No. 1 why he shouldn't lead off. But Wedge is just set in his ways there.