Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Indians I Remember

This is why this season has been so frustrating to this point. Because the Indians are capable of having nights like tonight but have been giving us poo. Fausto Carmona was coming off a crappy outing, had a shaky first inning but hunkered down and got out of a jam. From then on he was on cruise control and life was good. C. C. Sabathia please take some notes.

Then, despite Jensen Lewis' best efforts, the bullpen was fairly incident free as Masa Kobayashi and Rafael Betancourt retired every batter they faced. Jenny thought it best with a 10-1 lead to try and continue Walk-a-palooza 2008, the current theme of Tribe pitching staff. Fausto 1 walk in 6 2/3 innings, Masa o in 1, Raffy 0 in 1. Jenny 2 out of 3 batters. It was 10-1, stop walking fricking hitters. I have you pegged as the closer of the future, this is not the way to go about attaining this.

Now I don't expect 11 runs every game but the way the Indians went about scoring the 10 runs that was pleasant. First off, everybody got a hit so everybody contributed. This has been a novel concept for the Tribe this year.

Despite not scoring in the first, Travis Hafner actually produced a productive out with a ground out to the right side of the infield, advancing runners to second and third. A little thing that really does help out during the course of a game unlike the Indians usual strategy of striking out as much as possible. Now Jhonny Peralta did not strike out after Victor Martinez was intentionally walked he felt it better to ground into an inning ending double play.

Now so far this year, this pound your head against the wall end to the inning would send the Indians into a funk for the rest of the game but they decided to suck it up and play baseball. In the second, Jason Michaels was actually productive with a sacrifice fly and even Casey Blake delivered a hit with RISP. And they happened back to back. I was stunned, happy and confused but the Tribe was up 2-0. Jamey Carroll made it 3-0 memories of Ramon Vasquez and Mike Rouse started to fade. But then I remembered they both wore #15 and that's the number Andy Marte wears now. Then I threw up in my mouth a little bit.

The Tribe kept pounding away with a Ryan Garko 2-run blast in the 5th to make it 5-0. Then unlike in the previous games in this year where they would let the other team hang around and leave the door open for a comeback as the Tribe scored 5 runs in the 6th and made it 10-1. This again included contributions from multiple persons including the much maligned Jason Michaels who is now hitting over .100. Yes, just .100, but its a start. Another insurance run int he 7th just because they could. Those are the things I love.

This is what the Indians are capable of. Bounce back pitching performances, scoring multiple runs in multiple innings and putting teams away. Getting contributions from players not named Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez. Ryan Garko battling and Travis Hafner going the opposite field. Betancourt looking like his dominant self. It's not the fact that they have been losing some games out of the gate it's been the way they have been losing them.

If they take the approach that they took tonight in all of their games, ti will be a very fruitful season even when they lose. Let's keep this in mind boys. You have a nice little AL Central road trip up next. I expect you to play like you did tonight. All Tribe fans do.

It's Tribe Time Now. Believeland.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Indians Need A Leader... and Some Heart

As I write this the Cleveland Indians are getting their ass kicked by the Detroit Tigers, 10-1, after 5 innings. The Tigers have 10 runs on 10 hits. The Indians have 1 run on 1 hit, a solo home run by David Dellucci. David F@#$iING Dellucci. No offense to The Looch but he's not exactly the creme de la creme. After his home run, the next 14 Indians in a row were retired... by Armando Galarraga. Who the F@#$ is Armando Galarraga?!?

2008 has started about as bad as possible for the Wig-Wamers. No semblance of an offense. Defensive gaffes. Scattered starting pitching especially from their so called "ace". A shaky bullpen that has their hierarchy jumbled by their closer going on the DL. No vote of confidence from Joe Borowski here, but the bullpen hierarchy is a delicate balance. Truly the perfect storm for pain and agony for the Cleveland Faithful.

It's not just that they are losing, it's HOW they are losing. It has encompassed all stages of the game. Impatient, hurried at bats. Last year the Indians' propensity to work the count in their favor was fruitful. This year the number of at bats wasted by the Tribe in unfathomable. And it's not like they have faced the upper echelon of starting pitching int he American League. I'm legitimately scared to see them against the proven, veteran pitchers in the league. Oh yeah, and why do we F@#$iING strike out so much!

Bush league fielding that leaves you shaking your head. Casey Blake has butchered an inordinate amount of balls at 3rd base in the first two weeks of the season. The flat out stupidity throughout the season in the field has been ridiculous. Asdrubal Cabrera throwing home instead of taking a sure out at first. As-man is a term of an endearment, my man, not a put down, don't make it become one. Sure-handed Franklin Gutierrez bobbling balls in RF. Tonight, on an easy tag out at home, Victor Martinez thinks it's a force out and doesn't tag the runner. Good Lord, are you guys baseball players or F@#$iING retarded?

The pitching is like a roulette wheel from hell with a new culprit sabotaging victory each game. If the Indians actually get a lead it doesn't matter if it's a starter or a reliever, the Tribe pitching staff is more than happy to give it right back. And it's Christmas for the opposition as the Tribe is handing out home runs and walks like they are baby dolls and bicycles. Joe Borowski has been hurt since Spring Training but the Cleveland brass decided to just F@#$iING ignore it. Awesome! No one else in the bullpen can string together two successive good outings. Sweet! C. C. Sabathia has been pitching like Complete Crap and leads MLB in leads surrendered, home runs, hits allowed, walks, and in WHIP (2.56). That's 23 hits and walks per 9 innings. I want to punch myself in the face!

And no one seems to care. I said it. No one seems to care.

I have never been an Eric Wedge supporter or detractor. I like his philosophy of keeping an even keel. The fact he sticks with veterans a little to long bugs me. I like that he keeps things in house. The Bill Belichick Mr. Roboto press conference do leave something to be desired. I think his emphasis of winning series and the AL Central is the right approach. But this 2008 team seems to have no fire, no drive, no passion and no heart. Grady Sizemore, Jake Westbrook, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez and Jamey F@#$iING Carroll seem to be the only ones on the 25 man roster this doesn't apply to. The rest just seem to be walking through the motions without a care in the world and it makes me sick.

But more of this falls on the players themselves. Despite his declining bat and bad back, perhaps Trot Nixon's leadership, clubhouse presence and rally pies were more valuable that we thought. Maybe the experience and guidance that Kenny Lofton brought in his third stint in Cleveland was worth re-upping him for one more year. That spark, that look, that feeling we got watching the Indians in 2007 in no where to be found in 2008. Unless someone steps up, becomes a leader and rights the ship it's going to be a long, painful year... and it's not even 10% complete.

The Tribe still has the pieces to make a run at the big prize. Whether they want to live up to their potential is up to them. But the longer they wait the longer the odds of that happening become. Until then fans of the Erie Warriors have little to hang their hats on.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tribe v. Sox - Repeat Performance

It was all too similar to Game 1. A superb outing by the starting pitcher. Boston scoring first with the help of an error. The Indians coming back to take the lead but not jumping on the Red Sox when they had the chance. The Sox taking the lead and the Indians battling back. A key member of the Tribe bullpen getting out of a jamb in one inning only to give up a home run in the next. When it was over the Indians had to look themselves in the mirror as losers of 9 of their last 12 games.

The script was the same, the players were different. Paul Byrd went 6 strong innings of 6 hit, 1 run (unearned) and notched 6 strikeouts. Franklin Gutierrez made the error that contributed to the run and then got picked off second in the 3rd and cost the Indians a run of their own. The Indians had 2 on with 2 out in the third and failed to score. Had 2 on with 1 out in the 4th and failed to score. Had two on with 1 out in the fifth after scoring 2 and couldn't score again. Had the bases loaded in the 7th and only scored once. Once again failing to put the Red Sox away when they had the chance. Once again having it come back and bite them in the 9th.

Jensen Lewis worked out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the 8th to keep the score tied at 3, but then gave up a game winning home run to Jason Varitek in the 9th and another run to boot, making it 5-3. Game, set, match Red Sox. Another potential win turned into a loss for the 5-9 Cleveland Indians. Only a game ahead of the Detroit Tigers. Yes, the Tigers who started 0-7.

A slow start may have been expected but not like this. The bullpen could not have been expected to have a lights out year like 2007 but it seems as if each night another Indians' reliever fails to come through. Great starting pitching is wasted by a putrid offense that fails to score in bunches or land the knockout blow. That spring in their step the Tribe seemed to have last year is clearly not there and they need to do some soul searching to find it.

In 2007, the Tribe had to overcome a lot of things. Injuries to the starting rotation, a rebuilt bullpen, sub par years from Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore, rookies thrown into the fire, home games in Milwaukee, the Opening Weekend Snow-out and subsequent scheduling debacle. And despite that they made it to within one game of the World Series.

In 2008, everything seemed lined up for a serious title run. Everyone was healthy and tested. Very little roster turnover. Players primed for bounce back years. A team ready to make the next step. Unfortunately, their next step in 2008 has been backwards. They need to do a complete 180 if they want to fulfill the potential they have. It's still early but the early results are not pretty. But until then Tribe fans will have to swallow their pride and realize the better team won the first series in 2008 just like in the 2007 ALCS.

Joe No! Tribe Falters Late Falls to Red Sox

In one swing that made every Cleveland Indians fan puke, perennial nemesis Manny Ramirez took closer Joe Borowski deep to left and gave the Boston Red Sox a 6-4 victory last night at Progressive Field. The Red Sox were down but are a team that are never out of it and the Indians failed to take advantage of it and left the door open for a late inning Boston comeback.

The Indians squandered another great outing by Jake Westbrook who looked in command for the first six innings. A first inning walk to annoying, yet under appreciated, Dustin Pedroia who was brought home by a Kevin Youkilis double for a 1-0 Red Sox lead. Westbrook then cruised through the next five innings and waited for the Tribe offense to awaken from its slumber.

He got his wish in the 4th inning as the Indians hitter finally starter working the count again Boston starter Jon Lester. Asdrubal Cabrera walked and was followed by Travis Hafner who singled to right. Victor Martinez delivered a lined shot up the middle to deliver the As-Man and knot the game at 1-1. Jhonny Peralta looked awful in striking out but Ryan Garko brought home Hafner with a single to put the Indians up 2-1. The innings looked to be big with two runs already in and two on with only 1 out but no more would come of it. Jason Michaels and Franklin Gutierrez feebly flew out to end the threat.

The Indians looked primed to break the game open in the 5th as Casey Blake and Grady Sizemore walked to start the inning. The As-Man provided a nice sacrifice but to put runners on second and third with one out. Hafner, proving to be clutch once more, drove in both men with a single to center to but the Tribe up 4-1. Martinez single and Peralta walked to load the bases with one out. Former Indians Julian Tavarez relived and struck out Ryan Garko and David Dellucci to end the treat. Another failed opportunity that would come back to haunt the Tribe.

That's when the tide turned to the Red Sox favor. Despite a high pitch count pitching a complete game in his last outing Jake Westbrook came out for the 7th inning. A curious choice by Eric Wedge with Rafael Perez ready in the Tribe Pen. Sean Casey walked and was forced out at second on a slow roller by Julio Lugo. Coco Crisp delivered a masterful bunt single and Martinez threw errantly that allowed Lugo to reach third. Pedroia's infield single made it 4-2 with runners on first and second with 1 out and Westbrook's night was done.

The Indians seemed to grab momentum right back as Rafael Betancourt struck out David Otriz and Ramirez to end the threat and preserve the lead. But Betancourt gave up a lead off homer to Youkilis in the 8th to make it 4-3 and with Joe Borowski in the bullpen, to say the city of Cleveland was restless would be an understatement.

Lugo greeted Borowski with a laser shot past 3rd for an inning opening double and Crisp sacrificed him to third. The Indians caught a break as replays showed Crisp was safe on the play. Pedroia tied the game at 4-4 with a sacrifice fly to LF as a chorus of boos rained down at The P. It seemed inevitable as David Ortiz blooped a single to left as Manny Ramirez strode to the plate. One 80 MPH "fastball" right down the middle of the plate later it was 6-4 Red Sox and the Indians were 5-8. At least he didn't stand there, hands in air, and preen for 10 seconds like in the ALCS. Jonathan Papelbon closed out the ninth to preserve to victory.

Aside from Iron Joe, a game to totally make Tribe fans sick. Betancourt looked dominant again versus Ortiz and Ramirez but then got tattooed by Youkilis. Raffy Right has been extremely hittable this year. Wedge's decision to stick with his starter just a little to long, a la Game 5 of the ALCS last year, cost the Indians a run they couldn't afford to surrender. The offense, especially Hafner, finally came through but still squandered a couple of opportunities to turn nice innings into huge innings and failed to put the game away.

The Tribe appears to have more questions than answers as they continue to lack the "look" of a contender that they had last year. The Red Sox are one helluva team and can never be counted out but the Indians played an equal part of keeping them in the game and handing them opportunities. One more game to go in the short 2 game series. How they respond tonight will tell a lot about this team.

It's Tribe Time Now. Believeland.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tribe Shows Signs of Life, Beat A's

Cliff Lee did on Sunday afternoon what Fausto Carmona was unable to do Saturday night, stop the Indians losing streak, with a brilliant pitching performance in a 7-1 Tribe victory over the Oakland A's. Lee pitched 8 innings of 2 hit, 1 run ball keeping the A's hitters off balance all afternoon by racking up 8 strikeouts. Lee has seemed confident and healthy in both his starts to date and has been able to mix his pitches effectively, something he was unable to do all of 2007.

The Indians offense also showed signs of life as there were able to put up 7 runs in spurts. This is contrary to their recent trend of a couple one run innings of just one big inning. Travis Hafner delivered a 2 run single in the 3rd to put the Tribe up 2-0 and that was all the Indians needed. Grady Sizemore delivered a RBI single in the fifth and then a 2 run knock in the 9th to put the Indians up 5-0. David Dellucci immediately followed with a 2 run hit of hit own to make it 7-1.

Jamey Carroll proved to be a nice spark plug on the afternoon, going 1-1 with 2 walks and a HBP. This led to Carroll scoring 3 of the Indians' 7 runs. With his hustle and stellar glove work, Carroll may be on his way to endearing himself to the Tribe faithful. Even if he doesn't he's proved to be more than adequate when Eric Wedge feels the need to give Asdrubal Cabrera a day off. Hopefully he will not devolve into another Ramon Vasquez or Mike Rouse.

It was also nice to see David Dellucci finally deliver in the clutch. After a very slow start (0-8), I was surprised to see The Looch is hitting .273 with an .467 on base percentage. He drawn 6 walks and scored 6 runs while only striking out 2 times. The power and RBIs have yet to come but The Looch has not been a total waste as Jason Michaels has been to date.

Hopefully this can kick start the Indians' offense that has been dormant for the first part of 2008. Grady Sizemore continues to dialed in but a healthy Victor and revitalized Pronk hold the keys to the offense's future. A great test this week with the defending world champion Red Sox and division rival Tigers in town. A great test for the Tribe's mettle.

It's Tribe Time Now. Believeland.