Saturday, June 26, 2010

Branyan traded to Seattle
This is an interesting deal, if only because it has been shown in the last 20 years that when these two teams deal with each other, one side gets humiliated.

-Omar Vizquel cost the Indians Felix Fermin (out of baseball in three years) and Reggie Jefferson (who was a bench player) in December 1993.

-The Indians traded David Bell to the M's for Joey Cora, who I would imagine most casual fans don't even remember playing for the Indians.

-Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez. Safe to say who won that one.

-Ben Broussard for Shin Soo Choo. Outright robbery.

-Of course, before last season, Indians GM Mark Shapiro felt guilty, and gave Seattle Franklin Gutierrez, while Cleveland received Joe Smith and Luis Valbuena as part of a three-way deal with the Mets. Not one of Shapiro's better moves, unless Valbuena somehow figures out how to hit big league pitching.

So this deal. The Indians have now traded Russell three times. In return, Cleveland got a couple of minor leaguers, who, at this moment, I'm too lazy to look up.

But why did Seattle, 12 games under .500, add an inkury-plagued, overpriced strikeout monster? Branyan has a $5 million option for 2011, but does anyone really see him being a steady contributor after another year of wear and tear?

Confusing. I say the Indians got the best of this.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

10 things about the Reds
1. Maybe the Scott Rolen trade wasn't such a bad idea, after all.

2. Dusty Baker deserves an extension. Now.

3. When Coco Cordero comes in, I feel like I have walked into a maze. I have no idea what's next, and all rational thought leaves.

4. The Reds need to take at least two of three from the Indians this weekend. The Indians have hit bottom, but they might take a game before losing five in a row. Any more than that and it's time to start worrying about a collapse again.

5. Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips are special players, and that's what makes you think the Reds could still be in the race a month from now.

6. The bullpen still is a huge, huge question mark, as is the rotation. You never know what Aaron Harang will do, and Mike Leake is going to be interesting to watch once teams get a second look at him.

7. I don't see Cincinnati adding a stud pitcher or hitter. More likely, it will look for depth, like it did with Gary Matthews.

8. Jeff Brantley is turning into a heck of a commentator.

9. Can you imagine where the Reds would be without Ramon Hernandez right now? Lots of people questioned re-signing him, but he's a clear leader, and has come up with some huge hits.

10. I don't think anyone has any idea where this season is going.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

10 things about the Indians
1. My guess is that the Indians will lose more than 100 games this season.

2. None of this, in my mind, is the fault of Manny Acta or his staff. He was given a horrible team, and so he churns out horrible results.

3. Travis Hafner, Jake Westbrook and Kerry Wood make up more than third of the Indians payroll. Westbrook couldn't get to the sixth, Wood blew a save, and Hafner is un-startable in National League parks like Philadelphia because he's unable to play the field. Tells you a lot about the franchise right now.

4. I think the Joe Smith-Luis Valbuena for Franklin Gutierrez deal is one of Mark Shapiro's worst.

5. Casey Blake for Carlos Santana? Maybe one of the best. Santana looks like a player. I mean, like batting title good.

6. The Toronto Blue Jays just designated Edwin Encarnacion for assignment. Hmmm. A bad defending third baseman who once had high expectations but has been deemed so inconsequential that his team just figured they'd be better off without him. Reminds me of Jhonny Peralta.

7. Fausto Carmona is under the Indians control for a few more years. No way do you trade him.

8. Wood has proven to be not just a waste of money, but also of innings. It's getting to the point where he may be better off as a setup guy. Five of eight saves isn't a way to make other teams interested.

9. Mitch Talbot, Shin-Soo Choo, Fausto Carmona and Carlos Santana have been good. Chris Perez might be too. Other than that, I am struggling to find mere decency.

10. Rafael Perez looks a lot like a lost cause.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

It's a summer of uncertainty. There is always a calm before the storm, or so I've been told. But I never really bought it, if only because I've never seen a storm materialize without a cloud.

Some of my friends and mentors are meat and potato writers. They don't like to paint pictures with their words; they prefer to get the facts and get it done without thinking of their space as some kind of canvas.

They often are better than me. I will continue to try to be as good as they are, even if my style is different.

I was never much for a painter; drawing a straight line has proven to be a giant challenge for me. So perhaps I can be forgiven if I choose to view my writing style as a kind of production. When I'm on my game, I want my stories to answer just one question: why?

To me, it's the most important question not only in a story, but in life. Anyone can tell you what, most can tell you how. If my stories are good, they try to answer the why.

Why did the coach call the play? Why did he squeeze? Why did the running back break inside.

Why does an athlete have a phrase written on his eye black? Why does a player spell something out in the error after making a tackle.

You can find the results, you can find the play anywhere. I want to tell you why it happened. I'd like to think that information isn't available all the time, even to someone who watched every play from the stands.

If I don't at least pose the "why" question, I'm not doing my job.

And that's why I started writing in my early 20s and have now continued into my 30s.

Maybe there's a picture there. When I ask the write question, I am only trying to paint it.

So why did I write this?

If I'm looking for answers, sometimes it's best to write out your thoughts. Then the answer comes to you. It's all because you asked the right question.


Friday, June 11, 2010

My retirement gift to someone special
My mother is retiring at the end of this school year. What I have known forever, and what I now see everyone else she's come in contact has realized, is that she is very special. I have often referred to her as my "favorite person in the world."

I mean it. She and my father had the unenviable task of raising my brother and me. They have done a great job, I think. But I'm biased. She also is a wonderful teacher, a tireless worker, and someone whose heart comes out in everything she does.

Tonight I had the chance to meet some of her co-workers, who found out in the last decade what I already knew.

My mom is a wonderful person. Sometimes I am certain I'll never reach her level of decency.

But before this gets too mushy, here are the top 10 things my mother told me.

1. "Not everyone can be a jock, Zach."-- I was upset people thought I was a nerd in middle school.

2. "Some kid in New York is very happy." --everytime the Indians lost to the Yankees.

3. "You're lucky he lets you play." -- about a coach who liked to bench me for half the game.

4. "You are always resilliant." -- everytime I encounter trouble.

5."When you are famous..."--She thinks I'll be star someday. I'm not sure at what, but mom believes in me.

6. "What does that tell you?"-- After I told her commercials that aired during pro wrestling matches were for losers.

7. "Good for him." -- when someone told her I'd dropped F-bomb after F-bomb after the 1997 World Series.

8. "You're a late bloomer." --this is important to me for the same reasons as No. 5.

9. "If you ever want to feel good about yourself, go to a beach." --I LOVE this one.

10. "Take your hat off... Lou." --this one would take too long to explain.

I love you Mom.

Your grateful son.


Thursday, June 03, 2010

Remembering Mystery Girl
Mystery Girl is satisfying, wonderful. It's also so sad. Roy Orbison's final album, released after his death, is the best farewell album you'll ever hear. But it wasn't meant to be a farewell. It was meant to be a 'Hello, remember me? I'm still better than everyone else" album.

I first became aware of Orbison after his death. The Traveling Wilburies (Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Orbison)had released a very good rock album, and I played it continuously. Orbison's voice, even at nine, was something amazing to me. It was like no rock voice I'd ever heard.

When Orbison's Mystery Girl was released, I had just enough allowance money to purchase it. I loved the upbeat "You Got It," but didn't care for the melancholy ballads. Call it youthful ignorance.

The album sat on the shelf for nearly a decade. My father played it occasionally.

I re-discovered Mystery Girl a decade later, when I was working on an album of my own after graduating high school. I'd written some songs and wanted to record them before I left for college (a wise move, since once I got to college I didn't have the time or energy to spend five hours a day writing and practicing).

I was going to try and duplicate a "Wilburies" sound and started playing Mystery Girl again.

I was stunned.

What I had originally found boring was an amazing mix of soul and sadness. Orbison's voice was amazing for a 52-year old man -- he sounded 22. But my appreciation for ballads made me appreciate the haunting nature of Orbison's performance, something a nine year old can't understand.

"She's a Mystery to Me" quickly became one of my favorite recordings. Written by Bono and Edge, it was a song that could have been done 30 years earlier, but you weren't sacrificing much by recording in the late 80s.

Lynne, who produced the album, played to Orbison's strengths, allowing his voice to be featured and not lost behind elaborate setups. "The Only One" was a perfect example of this.

I'd like to say that listening to Orbison helped my brother, our friends Danny and Justus I produce an excellent piece of work. Curtis, Justus and Danny did their parts, but my vocal style at the time was more influenced by Petty than Orbison.

Talk about youthful ignorance. Not that I could sing like Roy anyway.

The sadness of the album is that Orbison's death was not only tragic, it became frustrating in retrospect. What could Orbison have done had he been able to ride this new wave?

More breathtaking performances.

But who cares about that. He was 52, to young to die. As for fans, he gave us years of recordings that still hold up, no matter how much time passes.