April 16, 2014

Tribe Weekend Recap: Masterson’s ill-timed stinker, the Carrasco conundrum, Asdrubal’s impatience, and roster decisions

Jason Kipnis

The Cleveland Indians took two of three from the San Diego Padres and headed to Chicago for a four-game set with the team they owned last year, the White Sox. A 17-2 season-series was never going to happen again, especially with the off-season improvements the South Siders have made. We saw a lot of that this weekend with Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu looking like potential thorns in the side of the Indians for years to come.

After losing the first two, the Tribe took a see-saw affair Saturday 12-6 and looked to leave Chicago with a split Sunday. Corey Kluber gave the Indians a solid performance, but was touched up for an eighth inning solo homer to Marcus Semien which broke a 1-1 tie. But this Tribe team doesn’t quit. They came right back to get two off of closer Matt Lindstrom with the key hit by the hot-hitting David Murphy. But you have to get 27 outs to win a game, and the Tribe couldn’t close. [Read more...]

“Nate’s Room” now resides in Cleveland

Nate Burleson
Nate Burleson, a 32-year-old wide receiver, signed a one-year deal with the Browns, a team (hopefully) on the rise. But how exactly did that deal come about? We went straight to the source.

[Read more...]

White Sox 7, Indians 3: Salazar impressive yet disappointing

Danny SalazarWell, that certainly was a weird game now wasn’t it?

On their way to 92 wins and a Wild Card playoff berth a year ago, your Cleveland Indians used the Chicago White Sox as their personal punching bag. The Wahoos beat the White Sox 17 times in 19 games, including the final 14 in a row. During that stretch, they had three walkoff home runs, two by then 41-year old part time DH Jason Giambi. But it is a new year, and the new look White Sox were out to show the Tribe that they weren’t going to be pushovers this year.

The way things started off early, it looked as though more of the same was coming. Along with many other members of the Tribe elite, I openly questioned why Terry Francona has continued to use Asdrubal Cabrera as his leadoff man against left-handed pitching. The Tribe’s shortstop has looked putrid at the plate thus far, making many pine for 2015 when top prospect Francisco Lindor will assuredly take over. Naturally, Cabrera led off the game with a double high off the wall in left. After a Nick Swisher walk, Jason Kipnis continued his torrid hitting in his home city with a single to left. The ball took an awkward hop and bounced off of the hand of left fielder Alejandro De Aza, allowing Cabrera to score. A second run would come home on Ryan Raburn’s sac fly. [Read more...]

Starting pitching excels in double dip split with Padres

Trevor BauerWhomever in the MLB scheduling department that decided having the San Diego Padres come to Cleveland for their one appearance in early April is a genius. Now seriously, who thought this was a good idea? Naturally bad weather postponed Monday night’s game, causing a traditional doubleheader to be played on Wednesday, which was supposed to be the Padres getaway day. It is the second time the Tribe has played a doubleheader this season, which is just a week and a half old.

The Indians sent Zach McAllister to the hill for game one. The last time we saw Zach, his command was a mess. He only could muster four innings, giving up three runs on six hits and four walks. After the first time through the rotation, I will admit McAllister was the guy I worried about the most. For the Indians to reach their goal of returning to the postseason, McAllister has to be very good.

Yesterday afternoon, he wasn’t just good….he was GREAT. [Read more...]

Indians 8, Padres 6: The Murph and Plush Show overshadowed by Pestano’s struggles

David Murphy

Raise your hand if you had David Murphy and Nyjer Morgan as Cleveland’s the two hottest hitters?

(crickets)

I will be the first to step forward and say that I wasn’t enamored by the signing of Murphy to a two-year deal this winter, especially coming off of his worst season as a regular.  He started the season 2-for-12 and looked bad doing so. But this early in the season, it only takes a game or two to get things right, and that is exactly what the 32-year-old right fielder has done. Murphy’s 4-for-5 Sunday got him going, and that carried right over into Tuesday night where he was the star of the Tribe’s 8-3 win over the San Diego Padres. [Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Opening day fun, starting pitching concerns, Vinnie’s future, and Wahoo

Jason Kipnis

If I told you the Tribe would lose two of three in Oakland to start the year and then come home to take two of three from Minnesota, I am sure many of you would have taken it. Though the opposite actually happened, the record is still the same: 3-3. The weekend series with the Twins should have turned out differently, but we witnessed lots of sloppy play and even sloppier pitching, particular from the starters. Opening Day was a success on the field once the bad weather passed. Saturday and Sunday, however, left a lot to be desired.

It is easy to jump to early conclusions. That would be irresponsible as an Indians fan. Do not forget that this was just one week; six games to be exact. There are 156 games left to be played. Things will get better, things will get worse, but one thing is for certain: A season is not shaped by April 6.

As we have done for WFNY each of the past four seasons, Monday mornings at 10 a.m. will be a look back at the good and the bad of the Tribe’s weekend series. This particular one had plenty to discuss. [Read more...]

“It was 20 years ago today…”

Manny opener

Manny being Manny…in 1994

The Home Opener is hands down the biggest baseball day of the year in each Major League city. No matter the town,  the game is sold out1. It is the one time that every team play in front of a house packed full of their own fans. Bunting is all around the park. Excitement is in the air. Balloons. It is just flat out American: Hot dogs, cracker jacks, peanuts, beer, and Opening Day baseball.

I am fortunate enough to have grown up in a family where baseball was king. My father would take me out of school for the Home Opener every year. My older brother, my pops, and I would be down at the old Municipal Stadium for that game rain or shine—it was a rite of passage in the Dery household. On Opening Day, we would be surrounded by fans in our upper deck seats on the third base side. A week later, we would have the entire section to ourselves, but man was Opening Day glorious. It didn’t matter if Jerry Browne was playing second or the speedy Miguel Dilone was in center field, we were just happy that baseball was back. [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Yes, even in Miami []

Indians sign Jason Kipnis to six-year contract extension

Jason KipnisEven more great news the day of the Home Opener…..

While they may have swung and missed on their attempts to lock up ace pitcher Justin Masterson, the Indians struck gold this morning with the announcement that All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis has agreed to a six-year, $52.5 million contract extension that will keep him in Cleveland through at least 2019. There is a club option for 2020 as well.

It hasn’t exactly been a secret that the Indians have struggled with some of their top draft picks over the last decade plus, but they hit a home run with Kipnis, their second round pick out of Arizona State in 2009. They turned the center fielder into a second baseman and watched him grow in front of their very eyes. He hit at every level and has become one of the key members of the Indians quest to stay amongst the playoff contenders year in and year out.

The Kipnis contract is similar to the six year, $52 million deal given to Matt Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason. Carpenter has played all over the diamond in St. Louis and was coming off of his best season as a pro. He has settled in at third this season. Kipnis will roam second base in Cleveland for the foreseeable future.

The beauty of this deal is that the Indians bought two years of Kipnis’s potential free agency in addition to a club option, while Jason has gotten himself financial security. A win-win for both side.

The details of the deal, as reported by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, are as follows:

  • $1 million signing bonus
  • 2014 (age 27): $2 million
  • 2015 (28): $4 million
  • 2016 (29): $6 million
  • 2017 (30): $9 million
  • 2018 (31): $13.5 million
  • 2019 (32): $14.5 million
  • 2020 (33): $16.5 million option ($2.5 million buyout)

In the meantime, the Indians now have their core group of Kipnis, Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley (also recently extended), Yan Gomes (also recently extended), Carlos Santana, Nick Swisher, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Marc Rzepcynski, John Axford, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, and Danny Salazar all under team control through 2016.

The old John Hart model has reappeared and it seems to be working for both the players and the team. Kudos to GM Chris Antonetti and the rest of the front office for getting this done.

—–

 (Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

Rocky start, “Smooth” ending: Tribe splits doubleheader in Oakland

Mike AvilesThere is nothing worse than fans freaking out over one game. But the first of the two in Oakland yesterday was one of those of those examples. I’m going to say this once – it’s ONE GAME.

Scott Kazmir, whom the Indians let walk after resurrecting his career in Cleveland last season, spent his afternoon completely dominating his old club. It was similar to some of the performances we saw from the 30-year old in 2013. He was in complete control, pounding the strike zone all game long. Only twice did Kazmir even get to a three-ball count. Scott worked fast and the Wahoo offense never touched him.

Kazmir, who signed a two-year, $22 million deal with Oakland, departed with one out in the eighth, allowing just three hits without walking a single batter. He struck out five and looked to be worth every penny. [Read more...]

Is this the end of days for Lonnie Chisenhall?

Lonnie Chisenhall

Last season, I really wanted Lonnie Chisenhall to take the third base job by the throat and strangle it. The Tribe’s former first-round pick—and the supposed future of the hot corner—was given the job last Spring with little looking over his shoulder. Sure, the Indians had brought in Mark Reynolds on a one-year deal, but that was to be a first base/designated hitter option. His days at third were thought to have been behind him. And sure, Mike Aviles was on the roster, but he was to be a jack-of-all-trades. This was Big Lon’s time.

[Read more...]

Indians 2, Athletics 0: It took a while, but it was worth the wait

Asdrubal CabreraTo borrow a phrase from the great George Costanza, I stayed up late to watch the Tribe start their season and “yada yada, I am very tired today.” It rained all day in Oakland and getting this game in looked bleak most of the day. But the baseball Gods usually arrive on Opening Day. They did, the sun came out, and the Tribe’s 2014 debut started right on time.

I’m sure many of you were sleeping, and if you weren’t, the Indians offense with runners on base may have put you there. But in the end, it felt like another nail-biter 2013 stretch drive game where the pitching gave them a chance to win and the bats did just enough late to pull out a victory.

The first game of the each season is always going to see two teams trot their best starter out to the mound. The A’s sent 24-year-old stud Sonny Gray out to square off with Cleveland’s Justin Masterson, making his third consecutive Opening Day start. With free agency pending, it could be the last opener Masterson starts in a Tribe uniform. Lets hope not. The way he pitched last night had all the makings of an ace. We’ve seen this kind of dominating performance out of Justin before, but to fire out of the gates like this was very encouraging.

In seven stellar innings, Oakland could muster little against Masterson and his array of pitches. He had it all working last night. You usually know how things are going to go with Justin judging by his first couple of innings. When his command is there, he is extremely tough to beat. [Read more...]

2014 WFNY Tribe Predictions

Nick Swisher

Man that was a long winter…Well it is essentially still going on here in Northeast Ohio, but the sun is shining here today and a smile is on my face. Why? Because it is BASEBALL SEASON! When we last left our Cleveland Indians, they had been shut down in the AL WIld Card game by Alex Cobb and the Tampa Bay Rays. A bitter taste was left in the mouths of the players. Guys like Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis, and Carlos Santana have been champing at the bit to get back on the field.

“Unfinished Business” is the tag line for the 2014 Indians. The Wild Card was almost like a tease. They want more. We want more. The national media didn’t seem to give the Indians much of a chance in year one of the Terry Francona era. They shocked everyone by winning 92 games. Fast forward a year and again nobody outside of Cleveland seems to be giving the Tribe much of a chance again. In fact, the Kansas City Royals are the trendy team.

But what does the WFNY crew make of this year’s version of the Wahoo Warriors? I asked seven key questions, they answered…. [Read more...]

Compare and contrast: Tribe today and 365 days ago

Nick SwisherWe are getting close! I don’t know about you, but I am beyond excited for Indians baseball to begin. The pieces are starting to come together. On Wednesday, the final 25-man roster was revealed. There weren’t many surprises, but there has been some small but important tinkering. When you compare this club to the one which left Goodyear for Cleveland a year ago, you can see that top to bottom, Terry Francona’s bunch looks better.

I thought a good way to view this was to lay it all out for you by groupings.  I love the Indians depth and ability to move guys all over the diamond. The bullpen looks solid. Yet, there are still concerns. But on paper, the 2014 club looks improved from this time last year.  [Read more...]

Carlos Santana – Your Starting Third Baseman

Carlos SantanaThe Indians front office and coaching staff wanted this to work. It apparently has to their satisfaction.

Carlos Santana, the Indians starting catcher the past three seasons has officially been named the team’s starting third baseman this afternoon. Manager Terry Francona, according to our friend it isn’t the situation you think it is.

 

Lonnie Chisenhall, the incumbent at third, has still made the ball club and will probably see increased time at DH and could come on late in games as a defensive replacement. What this says about his long term future with the Indians is up for debate. Lonnie has had a solid Spring at the plate with 16 hits in 52 ABs (.308/.909 OPS) but it is clear the Indians front office had a plan they wanted to execute that did not involve him.

An additional catcher will not be kept on the roster meaning Santana will be the primary backup to Yan Gomes behind the plate.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

There’s trouble in the D….Can the Wahoos take advantage?

Mike IllitchThe slogan from 2007 says everything about this season – “It’s Tribe Time NOW.” The 2014 tagline is even better and goes hand in hand with it; “Unfinished Business.” The Indians have a golden opportunity to seize the division from the Detroit Tigers. The time is now. They finished just one game behind the mighty Motor City Kitties last season. The one game Wild Card was an tease. Hence the unfinished business. I held no illusions that the Tribe would be able to catch the big spending, big armed, big power of the team from up North just after the 2013 season ended. But today, I have a different feeling.

As much as I would like to sit here and say that the Indians off-season moves were the key to overtaking the Tigers, I can’t. We all know that is not the case. David Murphy, John Axford, and Elliot Johnson aren’t exactly needle movers. However, if you want to talk about an odd off-season, the Tigers are your team. [Read more...]

Morgan Makes Indians Opening Day Roster, Bourn to the DL

Nyjer MorganOver the past decade, the Indians have signed a handful of low priced free agents in the offseason, taking flyers and hoping that one or two of them will work out. Last year GM Chris Antonetti hit on both Ryan Raburn and Scott Kazmir. This winter, the likes of Jeff Francouer, David Aardsma, Scott Atchison, and Elliot Johnson were amongst the players brought in. Johnson’s versatility and strong Spring has him snagging a spot in this season’s ‘Goon Squad.” Now you have another vet who will start the season with the big club.

Welcome to Cleveland, Tony Plush.

Nyjer Morgan, the former Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and Washington center fielder has been told that he has made the club, according to Tribe beat reporters T.J.Zuppe, Jordan Bastian, and Paul Hoynes. Morgan has impressed manager Terry Francona with his hustle and willingness to fit as a role player. His three-run triple on Saturday keyed a win over the Rockies. Morgan is just 7-32 (.219) this Spring, but he is a natural center fielder. This is the key aspect of why Morgan has made the club.

The team’s regular in the middle, Michael Bourn, is nursing a hamstring injury which has hampered him over the past 10 days or so. The Morgan news tells me one thing – Bourn will not be ready next Monday night in Oakland.  In fact the Indians have just announced that Bourn will start the season on the Disabled List retroactively. The good news is that he will be eligible to return April 5th. If healthy, Bourn would miss just four games.

In other roster moves, Lonnie Chisenhall has been informed he will make the club, while pitchers Trevor Bauer and C.C. Lee have been sent to Columbus. 1B/DH Bryan LaHair, INF David Cooper, and Catcher Luke Carlin have all been reassigned. Starting pitcher Aaron Harang asked for and was granted his release after being told he will not be the team’s fifth starter.

(photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

Ray Farmer Won’t Attend Manziel Pro Day

photo1Trying to sift through the truth and the lies during the NFL Draft season is not an easy task. The misinformation is prevalent via a whole host of leaks. Smokescreens are everywhere. Nobody knows who to believe, but everyone seems to buy into the the “information” that they want to see happen.

This morning at the NFL Owners meetings in Orlando, Browns GM Ray Farmer actually said something that was real. He will not be attending the Texas A&M “Pro Day” which features QB prospect Johnny Manziel this Thursday. Some may tell you this is a big deal, but the truth is, it isn’t. What Manziel can do in shorts and a t-shirt should have little bearing on how the Browns front office – Farmer in particular – feels about the human highlight reel.

Yes, Farmer did attend the “Pro Day” for Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater last week. Without his customary glove on his throwing hand, Bridgewater did not look good according to some scouts in attendance. However you can bet that Farmer has seen every single piece of game film on both Manziel and Bridgewater and nothing that happens during a “Pro Day” is going to skew his view.

The NFL Draft is still six weeks away.

The Top Infield & Catching Groups of the Past 20 Years

Roberto Alomar Omar Vizquel

In the next part of our series, we take a look back at the best infield/catching groups of the Jacobs/Progressive Field era. The Indians of the mid to late had so many stars and big bats, but once the turn of the century rolled around and the payroll cuts came into play, lets be honest, there was a lot of dreck. So much so that I really could only come up with four groups that were worth discussing.

I mean lets face it, even the two most recent playoff team (’07 & ’13) didn’t exactly have all stars at every position. Ryan Garko, Josh Barfield/Asdrubal Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, and Casey Blake would probably get the nod over the cavalcade of first baseman, Jason Kipnis, Cabrera, and the Lonnie Chisenhall/Mike Aviles/Mark Reynolds triumvirate. But even still, both crews miss the cut. The top four though are all worthy. So without further ado…… [Read more...]

Brandon Weeden, Dallas Cowboy

Well, that didn’t take long.

Brandon Weeden ThumbGood ole’ Brandon Weeden, everyone’s favorite whipping boy here in Cleveland during his two year stint as Quarterback, has officially found a new home. The Dallas Cowboys have announced they have given the former Browns first round pick a two-year deal. Terms have not yet been disclosed.

The 30-year old Weeden will join a club that is already set at QB with Tony Romo as the starter and veteran Kyle Orton, who started week 16 for the injured Romo and played well, as the top two. This essentially means that Weeden will be joining the Cowboys as a third string insurance policy. Keep in mind that most clubs these days are keeping two QBs so there is no guarantee that Brandon even breaks camp with the Cowboys.

I guess what they say is true. Once a Cowboy….always a Cowboy.

The Top Five Outfield/DH Units of the Past 20 Years

1085-5Fr

In the third of our series, we look at the best outfield/DH groupings of the past 20 years. The Jacobs/Progressive Field era has seen so many powerful bats, but easily the top of the heap came from this group. From Albert Belle to Travis Hafner, we have been blessed to see some incredible performances. But who was the best of the best? I’m sure it won’t be hard for you to guess….. [Read more...]