Friday, October 5, 2007


It was gut wrenching, mind numbing and utterly frustrating. But would you expect anything less from the 2007 Cleveland Indians?

The Indians and Yankees traded blows for 11 innings with the Tribe coming out on top on a bases loaded, walk off single by Travis Hafner. This came after numerous spoiled opportunities that saw the Indians get the lead off runner on base in 8 of the 11 innings but only plate two of them. The lack of production including wasting a lead-off double in the 3rd by Jason Michaels and a lead-off triple by Grady Sizemore in the 6th.

Andy Pettitte and Fausto Carmona were brilliant as Carmona allowed one run on a hanging slider to Melky Cabrera in the top of the 3rd. Pettitte shut down the Tribe for 6 1/3 innings handing off to Joba Chamberlain who yielded the first Indians run in the 8th of a walk, wild pitch, sacrifice and another wild pitch that scored Grady Sizemore.

The bullpens traded blows until the 11th when Pronk delivered the game winner off Luis Vizcaino. It wasn't pretty but bottom line, the Indians won and are off to New York for Game 3 on Sunday.

Indians up 2-0 in the Best of Five series. Magic number... 9.

Measuring Stick

A tall order for the Brownies this weekend as they travel to New England to take on the machine that is the Patriots. I use machine as a compliment. The Pats are playing with a chip on their shoulders after the Spygate fallout and seem destined to prove to everyone that they are the dominant team in the NFL. It is going quite well for them.

On offense the acquisition of Randy Moss is paying huge dividends. Moss already has over 500 yards receiving and 7 TDs. Throw in Wes Welker, Dante Stallworth and TE Benjamin Watson and Tom Brady has more targets than ever. The Pats Offensive Line is very under-rated as Brady seems to set up in the pocket and seemingly have infinite time to throw. This allows his receivers to run deeper, more complex routes which account for many of his receivers gaudy yards per catch averages. The offensive line can grind it out whether it is the injured Lawrence Maroney or Sammy Morris. Throw it the fact that Brady is a master of play action and their offense causes problems for all defenses.

The Browns are in a pickle due to the lack of a pass rush generated from their defensive line. This means they will have to blitz to attempt to get pressure on Brady which leaves their young, inexperienced secondary exposed to attack. Leigh Bodden and Eric Wirght will have their hands full and Sean Jones and Brodney Pool must ensure everyone is in position of it will be a long day.

On defense, the Pats run the same 3-4 as the Browns, but they run a more complex blitz package which the Browns Offensive Line will have to pick up to give DA time. Richard Seymour is still on the PUP list and Rodney Harrison is just coming off of a 4 game suspension for steroids so the Patriot Defense is still not at full strength. The Browns are going to have to attempt to runs the ball and limit turnovers to keep the Patriots O off the field. The Pats D has been a beneficiary of their O getting out to large leads, eliminating the running game and allowing them to pin their ears back and attack.

But their Defense is not invulnerable. Junior Seau, Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel are great players but are getting a little older and without Seymour the Pats do not have their premier pass rusher available. If the Browns can run the ball, they should be able to take advantage of their play makers in the passing game. If Derek Anderson can get good protection and limit the mistakes then I think the Browns could put up a few points on the Pats.

Do I expect the Browns to win? No. But this is a measuring stick game to see exactly where they stand in terms of talent. Vegas has them at 17 point underdogs but I don't think they are that bad off. Like I said it all depends on mistakes and game plan. If they can stick close in the first half then they may surprise some experts and hang with the NFL juggernaut longer than most think.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Answering the Bell

Wow! That was niiiiiice!

The Tribe took Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Yankees in triumphant fashion, 12-3. This with C. C. Sabathia struggling with control, and Bruce Foemming's strike zone, all night as the big fella only lasted five innings but it was more than enough as the Indians got contributions from up and down the line-up all night.

C. C. did not come out sharp from the get go hanging a 3-1 pitch that Johnny Damon promptly deposited in the mezzanine for a 1-0 Yankees lead. C. C. worked out of the inning after 2 walks with 1 out to control the damage. Chien-Ming Wang did not fair much better as the Tribe answered the bell in the bottom of the first, all be it in odd fashion for them.

Wang hit Grady with the first pitch but Asdrubal Cabrera grounded into an easy double plays. But Pronk worked a walk, Victor singled to right and Ryan Garko delivered Hafner home with a single up the middle. Peralta then worked a walk to load the bases and Kenny Lofton delivered a 2 out, 2 run single to put the Indians up 3-1.

Sabathia came out for the 2nd and issued a 4 pitch walk, his 3rd of the game. C. C. had only walked 3 batters in a game twice all year. Wang had no trouble in the bottom of the second and C. C. rolled in the 3rd to set up Asdrubal Cabrera jacking one deep into the Cleveland night to put the Tribe up 4-1 and atone for his DP int he first. You call him A. C., I call him the As-Man! Unfortunately, C. C. could not get going and Cano took him deep in the top of the 4th to pull the Yanks back with 2, 4-2.

Then things got dicey. In the fifth Sabathia just lost it. A combination of a great job of working counts by the Yankees, getting squeezed in the strike zone and the fact he just didn't have it tonight. Already near 100 pitches coming into the inning, he starting the inning by yielding a single, walk, hard line out, a double and then an intentional walk to Alex Rodriguez. So to recap, it is no 4-3 Tribe, bases loaded, 1 out with Jorge Posada at the the plate. But he reared back struck out Posada and got Hideki Matsui to pop out to end the threat and preserve the lead.

But once again the Indians answered the bell int he bottom of the inning as after a walk to the As-Man Victor crushed one deep to right for a 6-3 lead. This was followed by a bloop double by Peralta with Lofton delivering again to make it 7-3. Good night Mr. Wang, welcome Ross Ohlendolf. Ross Ohlendorf? This guy's name is Ross Ohlendorf? This guy should be the president of a High School Chess Club not a Major League pitcher with the name Ross Ohlendorf. Also contributing to this was allowing Kenny Lofton to steal second so easily it was comical, issuing a walk Frankie Gutierrez and a frozen rope of a double to Casey Blake to make it 9-3 Indians. Until Grady Sizemore popped out to end the inning the Tribe was 4-4 with runners in scoring position and had 5 two out RBI. Wow!

Just to make sure there were no doubts Pronk added a homer, Lofton delivered ANOTHER 2 out RBI single and Garko planted one in the stands. While all this was going on Rafael Perez, Jensen Lewis and Rafael Betancourt added 4 innings of 1 hit, no walk, 6 strikeout baseball to leave no chance for the Yankees to mount a comeback. When it was all said and done the final score read Cleveland 12, New York 3. A great start.

But the Indians can not get complacent as they face grizzled playoff vet Andy Petitte tomorrow at 5 PM. Historically, he Indians struggle against left handed pitching so staying patient like today is imperative. 19 game winner Fausto Carmona makes his post-season debut and he must have his sinker working better than Chein-Ming Wang did tonight to be effective against the predominantly left handed Yankee line-up. But soak it in for the time begin the Tribe leads the Yankees 1-0 in the best of 5 series. Magic Number... 10.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Buck Faltimore

Now that was nice. Very nice. A total thrashing of the Dirty Birds. One so bad it left them and their self-proclaimed messiah of a coach whining to no end after the game. "We lost the game the Browns didn't win it." Actually, boys, you got your asses kicked from the opening kick-off but thanks for playing.

Let's recap...

The Browns got to start on their 45 thanks to ANOTHER monster kick-off return by Josh Cribbs. DA looks in control after leads the team down the field, quite easily, including going 3/3 on 3rd downs on the drive. Really distributing the ball well off the bat. Capped off by a dart to Joe J in the end zone fore 6, Phil tags on the PAT to make it 7-0.

The Ravens also start driving down the field quite effortlessly, aided by a somewhat shady PI call on Daven Holly. The Dirty Birds are in close but Steve McNair shows he is 42 and throws one right to Leigh Bodden who carries it like a loaf of bread and fumbles it out of bounds at the Browns 22 as he is tackled.

As then DA threw a perfect strike on the first play after the TV timeout to Braylon Edwards who deked Chris McAllister on a simple, yet effective, head bob and 78 yards later, 13-0 Browns. Cue Mr. Dawson, 14-0.

The Browns run D looking stellar as always as Willis McGahee runs wild and the Ravens magically appears in Browns territory. The Lord Billick goes stupid and decides to let Steve McNair throw a few. Delay of Game, Horrible Pass, Illegal Chop Block. McNair looks absolutely confused. Cue the ghost of Matt Stover, WIDE RIGHT!

Cribbs lines up at QB, 2 Yards to the right. Then DA shows his bad side by throwing into triple coverage, Brownie Nemesis Ed Redd picks it and the Ravens are in scoring position. But a strange thing happens, the Browns D hold and the Ravens are forced to settle for 3. 14-3 Good Guys.

Browns turn to the run as Jamal busts one for 28 followed by Jason Wright for 16. The offense stalls in the Red Zone but something important happened. On third down DA drops back, no one is open... and he threw it away. Brilliant! He actually learned something. An easy 3 for Phil, 17-3!

Darnell Dinkins' giant head causes a fumble on the ensuing kick-off and David McMillan recovers on the Dirties 31! DA missed a wide open K2 on third down and 4 and Phil comes in for 3... and hooks it left... but wait... Ravens offsides... FIRST DOWN BROWNS! Jason Wright busts loose to the 1. Jamal jumps over and extends, touchdown! Uh oh, replays clearly show he didn't get in. Easy challenge for Lord Billick. Browns line up for the PAT. Easy challenge for Lord Billick. Scott Player calls for the snap, Lord Billick throws the red flag, the kick is good! Refs tell Lord Billick he's to late, start temper tantrum #1. Browns 24, Ravens 3.

Ravens driving with a little over 2 minutes left. They have McGahee held up in the backfield and he scampers away for 28, ugly. Wimbley hits McNair late and the Birds gets another 15, thank you very much. Ravens inside the ten but the much maligned Brodney Pool tips away a pass intended for Todd Heap and they must settle for 3. 24-6 Browns at half.

Phil kicks off the start quarter number 3 and its a touchback. Must have hit the leg curl machine at half. 3rd and 1 and the D gives up 400, ugh. Holly drops a gift interception. Insert "that's why he plays defense" cliche. But the D holds and Stover pushes it wide right again!!!

Chud keeps it fresh on offense and the Browns get a nice little drive going and then DA threads on into Winslow on 3rd and 7 and K2 takes it for 49 to the 3. Browns can't poke it in but tack on 3 from Phil. 27-6 Cleveland.

Another touchback from Phil. Damn. it's getting late in the 3rd and the Ravens are still running down by 21. Pool whiffs on a perfect safety blitz and McNair hits Williams for 16. 4th and 3 at the Browns 47 and Leigh Bodden breaks it up! End of the 3rd quarter, Browns still up 27-6.

Browns go 3 and out as DA almost gets picked. First punt on the game by the Browns and the bald and beautiful Scott Player. He booms it to the Ravens 15. Senior citizen can contribute to society! Holly sniffs out a screen in the backfield but Wimbley misses on a sack and McNair hits Mason for 10. McGahee on the draw for 19. How can the D not be expecting that?!? Ravens driving way too easily once more. Converting 3rd downs at will. Browns are late on every blitz. McNair hits Sypniewski for a TD with 7:14 left to make it 27-13.

Ravens squib to avoid Cribbs. Browns come out throwing hitting K2 for 11. Kudos to Chud for playing to win and not, not to lose. Vickers drops another one but DA threw it behind him. Third and 5, DA drops back, pressured, no one open... runs up the middle and slides for 2. OMG he learned again, he just did the smart thing and ate it! Player pins the Ravens to the 19.

Ravens finally come out in no huddle down by 14 with +/- 6 minutes left. Driving with ease again. Receivers open everywhere. McNair deep over the middle to no one. Browns only rushing 3 and getting no pressure. 4th and 3, McNair to Mason for 8. Browns in the prevent and the D looks tired. Finally some pressure as Wimbley forces an intentional grounding making it 2nd and 20. Ravens false start 2nd and 25. McNair scrambles for 4 but gets hammered by Wimbley and Fraser. Fraser bats down the third down pass to make it 4th and 21 and Daven Holly breaks up the pass. Billick challenges... DENIED. Temper tantrum #2.

Browns run 3 plays and Scott Player pins them back at the 13 with 32 seconds left. Ravens run 1 play, Good Night Baltimore. BROWNS WIN 27-13!

A great win, the Browns took control for the opening kick and never looked back. Chud called a brilliant game, not abandoning the run even though it was tough going, and played to win. DA played smart minus two throws and was almost totally clean in the second half. Lewis, K2 and Edwards all made plays when needed. The D gave up a ton of yards but came up witht he stops when they needed it. Still not good, but they got the job done. The Browns totally out coached Lord Billick and Company, which was nice.

The best win of the RAC era and the Browns go for the elusive 2nd consecutive win against the deadly New England Patriots and former Browns coach Bill Belichick. This one will be tough but lets savor the great win.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

They Aren't Done Yet

Well, they did it. Even with all their detractors and the relative skepticism of the Cleveland fans for the better part of the season the Indians finished the regular season today with win over the Royals to go 96-66 for the 2007 season... FIRST PLACE IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL... TIED FOR THE BEST RECORD IN ALL OF MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL.

They did it despite...
...questions in the starting rotation due to early season injuries to Cliff Lee and Jake Westbrook.
...a slow start by Westbrook and basically wasted years from Lee and Jeremy Sowers.
...a closer who finished with an ERA of 5.07 (but had 45 saves).
...having bullpen uncertainty after casting off Roberto Hernandez, Jason Davis and Fernando Cabrera.
...having their key OF acquisitions, David Dellucci and Trot Nixon, contribute very little to the ball club except rally pies.
...having their third baseman of the future, Andy Marte, hit below .200 for the year.
...benching their starting second baseman in August due to his poor play.
...having their initial utility infielder hit .119 for the season.
...having their best hitter suffer through an awful, awful year where he hit .266 with only 24 home runs.
...suffering through a awful offensive month of July where they struggled to score 4 runs a game while wasting incredible pitching performances by the starters.

They did it by...
...filling the holes from within via the farm system with Franklin Gutierrez and Asdrubal Cabrera coupled with the return of an old friend in Kenny Lofton.
...C. C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona becoming a dominate 1-2 punch at the front of the rotation.
...Rafeal Betancourt, Rafael Perez and Jensen Lewis becoming the rocks int he bullpen the Tribe needs.
...Joe Borowski converting 45 out of 53 save opportunities, in stomach churning fashion, after the Indians barely converted 50% in 2006.
...offensive contributions from everyone on the ball club in a year when no one, sans Victor Martinez, has a stellar offensive campaign.
...the second lowest payroll in the American League.
...everyone playing for the good of the team instead of the good of themselves.

And maybe it's that last point that we should relish. There are no Albert Belles or Manny Ramirezes on this team, but maybe that is a good thing. This team is not full of itself. They don't showboat or taunt their opponents. They just beat them. With respect and class. With all the roster shuffling throughout the year did you ever hear a peep out of Nixon, Barfiled or Lee? No. When the offense went dormant in July did you hear about it from Sabathia, Byrd or Westbrook? No. Did you ever hear anyone complain about playing time or throw their teammate under the bus? No. This is a great team and a great bunch of guys. There is nothing not to like about these guys. In fact with the Cavs deep playoff run and the perpetual Browns Fever that encompasses Cleveland, they have flown under the radar this year. But not anymore.

It time to give these guys their due. The Dolans, Mark Shaprio, Uncle Eric and all the boys. 96 wins. The American League Central Champions. Best Record in Major League Baseball. Your 2007 Cleveland Indians.

Be proud Cleveland, be proud.

Next up: The ALDS, Thursday night, 8 PM, Jacobs Field. New York Yankees at the Cleveland Indians. Chen-Ming Wang versus C. C. Sabathia. Game On. It's Tribe Time Now.