August 1, 2014

WFNY on location: The Dodger Stadium experience

Dodger StadiumLOS ANGELES — If you have not been to a game at Dodger Stadium, make sure you get their at some point. It is an absolute picturesque setting. On the drive up you cannot even seen the park itself. It is set beautifully in Chavez Ravine and once you go up the hill and into the parking lot, it appears. All you can say to yourself is “wow.” Some say the stadium itself is old and not a great place to watch baseball, but judging by my experience last  night, I would completely disagree.

My previous trip to this venerable place was in 1998, or as my friends like to refer to it as “The Summer of Todd.” My friend Sean and I had just graduated from The University of Kansas (well, he had graduated, I still had one semester left) and as a present to ourselves, we took a trip out West and hit all of the California ballparks while driving from San Diego to San Francisco, hitting all points in between. We were 22 without a care in the world (well, Sean did, he needed to find a job). Ballparks were crossed off the list, alcohol and greasy food were consumed. Lots of both. We crashed on friends couches in every city, including Los Angeles where we saw the Dodgers take on Mark McGwire and the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the trip of a lifetime.

One of those friends I crashed with, Billy, is still out here in LA. He and I had a mini-twin thing going on in high school. Billy was a grade ahead of me in high school and we were doubles partners on the OHS Tennis team. We wore all white with Black shoes and did the Slaughter/Langhorne high five on the court after big points that we won. Then there is Todd, one of my oldest and dearest friends and former pre-school carpool-mate, whom I shared amazing countless times with visiting his alma mater the University of Wisconsin. We used to refer to him as the Mayor of Madison.

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Tribe Weekend Recap: Tomlin’s gem, House’s run, and consistently inconsistent play

Josh TOmlinI promised myself I wouldn’t say anything negative about Nick Swisher’s play…….

When I sit down every Sunday to write about the weekend that was with our friends of the feather, the topics seem to be the same: Bad defense, a lack of coming through with the timely big hits, starters not going deep enough into the games, the middle of the order guys not names Michael Brantley not doing their jobs, et cetera. Truth be told, this weekend in Seattle did not provide many great conversation pieces.

Josh Tomlin’s Saturday night gem is the obvious pace to start, but outside of that, it was just more of the same from our Cleveland Indians. The 44-38 Mariners are not a bad team at all, but you are not going to win games when you score seven runs in three games. Seattle took the book ends of this series and left the Indians feeling limp as they hop on a plane for sunny Southern California.

The only true Tribe excitement of the weekend was the performance of The Little Cowboy. It was the finest game an Indians starter has thrown since Len Barker’s perfect game in 1981. Of all people, Tomlin was the one you would least expect. [Read more...]

Indians 6, Diamondbacks 1: Kluber shuts down snakes

Corey KluberThe worst bit going in Tribe circles heading into last night was the “what’s wrong with Corey Kluber” question. The answer: absolutely nothing. So he hadn’t won a game in the month of June. So what? By now you should all know how meaningless the win statistic is. Sure, Kluber was absolutely dominant in May, when his team won five of his six starts (2.09 ERA, 60 K’s in 43 IP) and in the Tribe’s only loss, he gave eight innings of one run ball. But it’s not like his June was, say, Masterson-2014-esque.

“I don’t think there’s been much of a difference in the way I’ve pitched [from month to month],” said Kluber. “It’s been a pitch here or there, but it’s about being consistent.”

Kluber had two off starts to start the month, but followed that with back to back two run outings which included a seven inning, six K, one walk performance against the Tigers where he got by solely on guts. Last night in Phoenix, the dominant one returned.

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Diamondbacks 9, Indians 8: Five games within a game

Indians vs Diamondbacks

In case you missed it—judging by the time of night the game had finish you probably had—the Cleveland Indians, once again, played a game in which they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory not once, not twice, but three times. The game 9-8, 14-inning loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks was marred by bad defense by both teams and some horrific managerial decisions by a guy who has been off his game all year. Oh and if you watched this game start to finish, one thing was abundantly clear: These were not exactly two World Series caliber teams at play here.

“Both teams stranded runners, both teams got to the starters early,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said. “The game mirrored each other a lot.”

I really could write an epic about this game. [Read more...]

The weekend that wasn’t: Tigers sweep the Tribe

photo4

It is such a shame. How many times do the Indians draw over 100,000 fans in a weekend? I’ll tell you how many: Zero in the past three seasons. Its the first time this has happened since August of 2011. I don’t know what it is about the Indians and big crowds at Progressive Field, but it seems as though they are allergic to winning in these situations.

I know, I know, that might be overstating it a bit, but again, it is such a shame. How many more chances do you get to capture the live attention of over 100,000 people? I wish that Indians fans weren’t this fickle, but they are what they are and it is what it is. The Tribe HAD to come up with a better performance this weekend that the egg that they laid in a place they have been great all year long.

I’ve say this almost every Opening Day and I said it last season when the Tigers came to town July 4 weekend and smoked the Indians in front of a sell out crowd: When you get this opportunity, one that doesn’t come nearly enough at Progressive Field, you must take advantage of it. Winning at least one of these games would have been good enough. Instead, the Tigers came into Cleveland with thousands of their fans and swept the Tribe in their own house.

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Angels 9, Indians 3: Trout turns Tribe into dogs at Puppypalooza

Josh Tomlin Mike Trout Home Run

This just in: Mike Trout is good at baseball.

“There’s a lot to like about Trout,” said manager Terry Francona said with a smile. “I actually think for his sake they should rest him on Wednesday. He’s got a chance to be a pretty good player. You don’t want to tire him out.”

Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the one of the in the game and in this one, the Indians just couldn’t stop the Angels phenom in the 9-3 loss. It was Puppypalooza at Progressive Field on Tuesday night, but it was the Tribe who wound up playing like dogs.

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Indians 4, Angels 3: The Bauer & Carrasco show

Trevor BauerTrevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco deserve equal billing at the top. What they did last night on a hazy summer evening at Progressive Field can be described in one word: gritty. Two of the four guys who battled for the fifth starter job in Goodyear in March combined to shutdown the dangerous Los Angeles Angels in June to move the Tribe to within two and a half games of first place in the AL Central. The 4-3 win was all about these two power arms.

Lets start with Bauer. The 23-year old started the game with a scoreless frame, striking out two, but the next few innings were a struggle. He was staked to a 2-0 lead thanks to Asdrubal Cabrera’s first inning two-run blast off of Jered Weaver, but the old response runs reared their ugly head. In the top of the second David Freese and Howie Kendrick greeted Bauer with back to back singles. Chris Ianetta’s one out double skipped all the way to the wall past Michael Bourn to tie the game at two. But as he would do all night, Bauer got the biggest outs he needed. He retired John McDonald and Kole Calhoun to end the inning. [Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Bullpen saviors, struggling offense, Swish’s return, and the bunt

Nick SwisherLast year, the Indians were “Team Streak.” This year, the PD’s Paul Hoynes has dubbed them “Team Clank” thanks to their tendency to commit errors at the worst times. I think they are a combination of both. We have seen the full arsenal of good and bad over the past two weeks. An on fire offensive juggernaut for a few days follows up with a group that can’t hit their way out of a wet paper bag. We’ve seen great starting pitching and then eight consecutive games without the starter going six innings. The one constant has been the steady back end of the bullpen.

The 10 game, three city road trip started out great, looked like a mess mid-stream, and then finished strong. Coming out of Texas, Kansas City, and Boston 5-5 is good enough for me. That is about as tough of a trip as you could ask for. When you consider the final eight games of the trip where the starting pitcher failed to go six innings, it looks even more impressive. [Read more...]

Tribe News: Hagadone down, Crockett back up

Nick HagadoneAfter coming up and pitching well in his first two appearances, left-handed reliever Nick Hagadone looked like he had finally turned the corner on his up and down career as an Indian. Instead, three straight outings where he recorded just one out while giving up three hits and two walks.

Last night’s appearance was the final straw for Hagadone as he came on to face two left-handed batters in a one run game. A walk and a double later, it was 5-2 Red Sox and Hagadone was pulled. This afternoon, he was sent back down to AAA Columbus. In his place is the return of rookie lefty Kyle Crockett, who made three appearances with the Tribe earlier this season.

Crockett was the Indians third round pick out of Virginia in 2013 and the first player in his draft class to make it to the major leagues. With fellow lefty Josh Outman struggling of late, Crockett has a real chance to pitch in some key spots for Francona.

Hagadone had teased us long enough, it was time for him to be replaced.

Red Sox 5, Indians 2: Papi & Lester stymie Wahoos for third straight loss

MIchael Brantley

This wasn’t another one that got away, but the Indians once again shot themselves in the foot defensively which directly affected the 5-2 loss in Boston on Thursday night. During their 9-1 hot streak, the gloves weren’t a hot topic of conversation, despite the fact that they led the league in errors and unearned runs. But during this three-game losing skid, they have committed four errors and botched several other key plays that could have changed the games.

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Indians News: Nick Swisher activated, Jason Giambi hits the DL

Nick SwisherLast night in the second of his two-game rehab stint  in Akron, first baseman Nick Swisher had two doubles and had no issues running on his sore knees. He has been deemed ready to go by the Tribe medical staff, so the Indians have officially activated him from the 15-day DL.

There has been much speculation about which way the Indians would go once Swisher returned from the disabled list. Would they DFA “The Summer of” George Kottaras and risk losing him on the waiver wire? Would they send down a reliever such as Nick Hagadone and go with a seven man pen? Or would they finally cut the cord on the 43-year old part-time DH Jason Giambi?

The good news for manager Terry Francona was that Giambi’s knee has magically flared up and he has been placed on the DL with what has been described as “left knee inflammation.” Papa G will be on the shelf for a few weeks or longer. There is no doubt Giambi is an important part of the clubhouse, but on the field, keeping Kottaras on the roster is the correct play. Carlos Santana’s days as a catcher this season should be limited to nothing unless an emergency situation comes up.

As for Swisher, he is in the lineup tonight as the DH, hitting seventh, as the Indians start a four-game series in Boston. Swish is looking to improve on his slow start, where he is hitting just .211/.312/.319 with thee homers and 19 RBIs.

Royals 4, Indians 1: Bats go silent as Ventura bests Bauer

Mike AvilesWhen the Indians look back on their first two and a half months of the 2014 season, they are going to lament the amount of games that they both failed to come through in ample opportunities at the plate and made defensive blunders that cost them runs.

Wednesday afternoon’s loss in Kansas City was the latest example. A night prior, Asdrubal Cabrera’s dropped throw on a double play ball and Carlos Santana’s bobble of a second double play grounder in the same inning opened the flood gates to a four run KC inning. Wednesday afternoon, the little things killed them again. [Read more...]

Royals 9, Indians 5: Poor defense returns as Tribe drops opener in KC

Corey KluberDuring the Cleveland Indians’ previous 10 games—where they won nine of them—one usual complaint when quiet: The poor defense. They floundered to start the season, while averaging an error per game and leading the American League in unearned runs. But in the midst of the recent hot streak, the defense tightened up. It reminded me of a football offensive line. You only really hear about them when they aren’t doing their jobs.

Last night in Kansas City, the iron gloves returned in what would be a 9-5 loss.

Tribe ace Corey Kluber was on the mound and even he could not stem the tide for the ill-timed defensive mistakes. With two on and one out in the third, Jarrod Dyson sent a sharp ground ball right at second baseman Jason Kipnis. It was a tailor-made double play ball even with the speedy Dyson running. Kipnis fired a strike to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera who flat out dropped the ball. Not in the transfer—he just dropped it. It was Cabrera’s 11th error on the season.

Asdrubal’s drop caused the flood gates to open. The Indians should have been out of the inning, instead, the bases were loaded. Kluber still had a chance to wiggle out of it and looked like he might. Omar Infante blooped a single to center putting the Royals on top 1-0. He was followed by Eric Hosmer, who sent a one hopper to Carlos Santana at first. If he fields it cleanly, he can start a 3-6-1 double play with ease, or fire home for the second out. Instead, Santana bobbled the ball before recovering and stepping on first for the second out. You can never assume the double play, but this was the another that should have been turned to end the inning. Billy Butler’s two-out single to right scored two more runs and the Royals had a 4-0 lead. [Read more...]

Indians 17, Rangers 7: Chisenhall delivers a performance for the ages

Lonnie ChisenhallLast April, after a third consecutive awful start, I famously called for the Indians to cut the cord on the Ubaldo Jimenez experience. Pretty much from that point forward, Ubaldo turned back into the pitcher the Indians had hoped they traded for at the deadline in 2011. On April 2nd of this year, I wondered aloud if we had seen the end of Lonnie Chisenhall in Cleveland. The reverse jinx king may have struck again!

The Indians have given up too soon on prospects before, only to see them flourish elsewhere (Brandon Phillips and Jeremy Guthrie to a lesser extent). They have also stuck with prospects at times for too long after being burned by the Phillips situation (Matt LaPorta and Andy Marte). In additon, their first round drafting has left a lot to be desired since CC Sabathia was taken in 1998. [Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Bauer & Tomlin as saviors, Carlos’ triumphant return, and a major roster decision looming

Josh TOmlin

If the last three weeks taught you anything, it is that a baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. In this space a short three weeks ago, I wrote that as Yogi Berra once said “its getting late, early” and that the Indians season was spiraling downward in an out of control manner. The starting pitching wasn’t cutting it, the offense couldn’t score in a whorehouse with a fist-full of $20′s, and defensively, the Tribe resembled the Bad News Bears. They sat 10.5 games out of first place in the AL Central behind the smokin’ hot Tigers who could do no wrong.

So now, here we are 21 days later and the Indians have crept over .500 for the first time since April 9 when they were 5-4. [Read more...]

The 2013 free agent closer class and why you “don’t pay for saves”

photo1I am a Fantasy Baseball player. I love the game. Have been playing for 25 years. I am in two leagues (one being a daily lineup change league), read all of the articles, am dialed into all of the prospects. The more information you can consume, the better the chances you have to succeed. Heck I even listen Fantasy Baseball podcasts (yes, I have issues).

Though he isn’t a part of it anymore, ESPN’s Fantasy Focus Baseball Podcast used to be hosted by “The Talented Mr. Roto” himself, Matthew Berry. You know him as a Football guy, but he has plenty of Baseball opinions as well. For years on the podcast, Berry lived by one adage – “don’t pay for saves.” His view was that wasting high draft picks/big auction money on a closer is a gigantic waste. “You can always find guys who save games later” he would say. And you know something, he was NEVER wrong. [Read more...]

Indians 7, Red Sox 4: Breaking out the brooms at 2 AM

Asdrubal Cabrera

$1 hot dogs. Michael Bourn Bobbleheads. Johnny Freaking Manziel (and Justin Gilbert too!). Two hour and 28 minute rain delay. Bunting. Strikeouts. Leads. Preening Papi. Comebacks. Replays. Carlos Freaking Carrasco. More bunting. Edward Freaking Mujica. Walk off homer at 2:02 AM.

What did I miss? The details, my friends….the details.

How about your Cleveland Indians, ladies and gentlemen? Left for dead by so many after being swept by the Oakland A’s to the tune of 30-7 two and a half weeks ago, the Tribe has managed to not just gain their mojo back, but a whopping seven games in the standings. After last night’s 7-4, 12-inning win to sweep the Boston Red Sox, the Indians have raced back to within three and a half games of the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers, who are suddenly reeling, losing four straight and seven of 10. [Read more...]

White Sox 3, Indians 2: Lack of “O,” poor “D,” ruin House’s “A” performance

TJ House

I have seen this game way too many times before. The Cleveland Indians get great starting pitching from an unlikely source, can’t get anything going with the bats, make an ill-timed error, and lose a winnable game. It is getting to become a real tired act.

Poor T.J. House pitched as well as anyone could have possibly hoped for. Coming up from Columbus to replace the injured and ineffective Zach McAllister, the left-hander was borderline dominant. Heading into the seventh, House was working on a three-hit shutout. There was a lot to like from the Southpaw. He was mixing and matching his breaking stuff with his fastball. The command was impeccable. The White Sox had little answer for him.

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White Sox 6, Indians 2: Another costly error direct cause of Wahoo loss

MIchael BrantleyThe Indians may have turned a corner with their play in a home sweep of the Detroit Tigers. They followed that up with a split of the series in Baltimore, which you will take all day. Next up was the Chicago White Sox, who the Tribe has already seen several times this year. Though they have played some of their better baseball of late, one thing has not changed; their horrific defense.

No matter the day you can count one three things in life right now: Death, Taxes, and bad Tribe defense costing them at least one run. They have lost three of their last four after the 6-2 Memorial Day defeat on the South Side of Chicago. In those three losses, three errors (one in each game), directly accounted for six unearned runs. This isn’t a recent trend either, it is a season long reality. The Indians are the worst defensive team in the league. There are no two ways around it.

Monday afternoon was just another prime example. [Read more...]

Indians 8, Orioles 7: Wahoos win another marathon

Lonnie ChisenhallThese last two games may have taken two years off of my life.

The Cleveland Indians, who can resemble the Bad News Bears at times, have come back from the dead with a vengeance. They improbable sweep of the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field may have kicked started their season, which looked all but dead on Sunday night. The series finale was a 13-inning stunner that had everything. The bullpen was so completely fried thanks to a two-inning start from the since-DL’d Zach McAllister that reinforcements were needed. But it wasn’t just as simple as recalling a guy or two.

They had no starting pitcher for last night’s game in Baltimore. Justin Masterson had to be called upon on short rest because the Columbus pipeline didn’t offer an immediate solution. Veteran journeyman Mark Lowe was summoned as well and would no doubt be the first guy out of the pen no matter the situation. The obvious call up – C.C. Lee – was sent down within the last 10 days and could not come back up. Rookie leftyKyle Crockett, whom the Indians wanted to have stay up for the long haul, was the only real option to send down, had to go as well. A starter would be needed for Friday night’s game and that would be T.J. House. Who knew that House almost would have to come on in relief Thursday.

It was a gigantic mess. The Indians desperately needed a strong and potentially deep start from Masterson on three days rest. Early on it looked as though they may have gotten it. But by the end of another 13-inning marathon, Justin’s efforts would be long forgotten as the Tribe pulled out another crazy extra inning win 8-7. [Read more...]