July 22, 2014

Bauer, Swisher, and a theory on baseball aesthetics

Jon is in a bit of a writing rut, so he’s asking the WFNY gang to help him get out of it. After circulating some juicy topics around WFNY Headquarters, Craig said he was interested in talking Trevor Bauer, Nick Swisher, Travis Hafner, and what it means to like some players more than others.  So we did that. We’ve got some more of these in the hopper and we’ll try to keep the discussion going in the comments as well.

WFNY_roundtable

Craig - I obviously root for anyone wearing an Indians uniform, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Even as a young, impressionable baseball fan, I knew the dangers of standing up for Albert Belle. I cut my teeth as a co-dependent sports fan when I tried to defend Belle’s plastering of Fernando Vina.

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Indians 3, Twins 4: It smelled funny from the start

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8:29 PM – We join our heroes in Minneapolis, during the top of the second inning after an uneventful first. Much has been made in the booth of the fact that this is the Indians’ first trip back to Target Field since clinching their 2013 playoff spot.  That is somewhat hard to believe.  I find it much easier to believe that Roberto Perez just grounded into an inning-ending double play by rolling over on an off-speed pitch from a soft-tossing lefty because that’s JUST HOW WE ROLL.

Which is to say, tonight will be a battle of garbage men.  The Indians’ starter—one Glenn Anthony (TJ?) House—has a K% of only 15.2%. Were he qualified he would rank in the bottom 10 in the AL among whiff artists.  Meanwhile, Minnesota starter Kris Johnson will be making only his fourth career start in the Big Leagues, and has thus far managed to walk more than a batter every other inning with a fastball velocity just a tick over 90mph.  So he’ll probably throw a perfect game against us.

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Second-half Storylines: What are you watching?

Nick Swisher

The Cleveland Indians started things off with a relative bang, taking three of four in Detroit. As we close in on the month of August, the Tribe stands 4.5 games behind the Tigers and will need to piece it all together heading into the fall if postseason play is to happen for the second consecutive year. There are copious amounts of storylines to look at for the second half of the season, but which ones are we watching? Take a walk with us as we plan for the next 10 weeks of baseball.

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Tribe weekend recap: Kipnis…back? King Kluber, The Carrasco effect, and rotation rotation

Jason Kipnis

If your Cleveland Indians were going to get back in the thick of the AL Central and Wild Card races, coming out of the blocks strongly is of the utmost importance. An 11-game, three-city road trip against three divisional foes was on the schedule. Things got started in Detroit with four games in three days. I wouldn’t say this was a make-or-break weekend for the Tribe, but how they played would go a long way into deciding whether the front office would be buyers/holders, or sellers with the trade deadline looking at the end of the month.

Getting swept by the first-place Tigers would be a killer, but a series win could put the Tribe back on the map. We all know their faults, but we also know that when they do put it all together, they are tough to beat. Friday and Saturday, the Tribe looked like a team that has to be taken seriously. The Wahoo Express steamrolled through Detroit, taking three of four to move to within five and a half of the Tigers and two of the second Wild Card spot. They looked primed for a strong second half push.

The train is coming, people. This weekend in Detroit was a great start. So what did we see?

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Tribe “Deep Tracks” Trivia, Vol. 1: Reliving Yesteryear

Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

You’ve been studying the franchise your whole life. You structure your schedule around their daily rhythms, nine months out of every year.

Typical Cleveland Indians trivia questions? They add little to the catalog of knowledge you have cultivated. The top highlights of the team’s past are fine for the national media to discover every couple years1. But you have long moved past such ‘low hanging fruit.’

The history of the Indians franchise is rich with stories that are full of texture. Some are humorous, others are poignant, and still others hold intrigue as a sign of their times. The best trivia is rooted in such stories.

Expressed in terms of a radio format, you could listen to your local FM Classic Rock station. You’d hear some nice tunes- your Hendrix air guitar is well-rehearsed, as is your Grand Funk Railroad air drums. It may be natural for you, precluding the need for the “white man’s overbite.” But having heard those hits over and over, you may have long ago become tired of them. That’s why you favor a “deep tracks” approach, Sirius/XM-style. Those seldom-heard gems – from top-selling and unheralded albums alike – expand your experience and challenge your insight.

With this in mind, take a shot at some “deep tracks” Tribe trivia questions. Feel free to share your own thoughts below, or to disagree with mine.

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Footnotes:

  1. as in inhaaaaale theIndianswon111gamesin1954andweresweptinfourgamesandWillieMaysmadeagreatcatch… []

The Indians at the break: The Bad

Justin Masterson

47-47. .500. The middle. Average. Not great, but not bad. This is what our Cleveland Indians are as we sit here at the All-Star break.

Heading into the season, Terry Francona’s group had to deal with something that was not on the docket a year before; heightened expectations. Coming off of a 92-win, Wild Card season and bringing back essentially the same core group, the Tribe now wore a bulls-eye. They were not going to sneak up on anyone. And they haven’t.

The first half has brought moments of greatness and despair, moments of disappointment and exuberance. Certain guys have broken out, while others have taken huge steps backwards. We’ve seen regression to the mean from a few Indians as well. Hall of Fame Football coach Bill Parcells famously said “you are what you record says you are,” and the Indians are 47-47. All of this has added up to what they are: An average baseball team.

On Tuesday, we looked at “The Good” things the Tribe has done. In part two of our Tribe at the All-Star break series, we will examine what hasn’t exactly gone well for the Red, White, and Blue. [Read more...]

The Indians at the break: The Good

Tribe celebration47-47. .500. The middle. Average. Not great, but not bad. This is what our Cleveland Indians are as we sit here at the All-Star break.

Heading into the season, Terry Francona’s group had to deal with something that was not on the docket a year before; heightened expectations. Coming off of a 92-win, Wild Card season and bringing back essentially the same core group, the Tribe now wore a bulls-eye. They were not going to sneak up on anyone. And they haven’t.

Many expected the front office to build on the playoff experience and add some more veteran talent via the free agent market, but with big raises due to likes of Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, and Asdrubal Cabrera, the financial wiggle room just wasn’t there. Instead, they tinkered, adding outfielder David Murphy to platoon in right field with Ryan Raburn. Twice deposed closer John Axford was brought on with hopes of a resurrection at the back end of the pen. Big years were expected from that core group of young position players moving towards their prime years. Starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir walked into free agency and found greener pastures in Baltimore and Oakland respectively. The Indians counted on youngsters Danny Salazar and either Carlos Carrasco or Josh Tomlin would replace them.

The first half has brought moments of greatness and despair, moments of disappointment and exuberance. Certain guys have broken out, while others have taken huge steps backwards. We’ve seen regression to the mean from a few Indians as well. Hall of Fame Football coach Bill Parcells famously said “you are what you record says you are,” and the Indians are 47-47. All of this has added up to what they are; an average baseball team. [Read more...]

Indians 3, White Sox 2: Yanimal and Bauer send Tribe into break on a high

Trevor Bauer

Trevor Bauer is a beast. I know the stats might not say so, but my man is one heck of a pitcher. We may look back at the trade of Shin-Soo Choo for Bauer and reliever Bryan Shaw (among others) in the same vain as Bartolo Colon trade. I know that is crazy talk, but at age 23, you can see Bauer getting better and better each start while Shaw is a rock as the set up man in the pen.

One had a great day on Sunday, the other, not so much. But the two more Indians who came over in a trade together, Catcher Yan Gomes and super utility man Mike Aviles, played a major hand in the Tribe’s 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox. [Read more...]

Indians 9, Yankees 3: Two games in one, Perez has the most fun

Roberto Perez

I was all set to have this one written. My main topics were going to be how the Indians defense, easily the worst in baseball, just continues to let the team down and cost them runs the offense usually cannot get back. I was also going to go in on the bats who once again turned a below average starter into Cy Freaking Young. Then came the seventh inning, or should I say the start of the game for the Tribe.

The New York Yankees and their legion of annoying bandwagon fans came out one more time to salute shortstop Derek Jeter in Cleveland for the last time. The Tribe cheesed it up by having former teammates Jason Giambi and Nick Swisher present Jeter with a pinstripe guitar with “The Captain, 2″ on it. Then these folks got the pleasure of watching Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall kick the ball around on their way to a 3-0 lead. Noted superstar David Phelps completely stymied the Indians offense, holding them scoreless on five hits through the first six innings. But things started to change thanks to two unlikely sources. [Read more...]

Frank Robinson Arrives in 1974, Clashes with Gaylord Perry – Reliving Yesteryear

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They hated each other. It was hardly a secret, from their days in the National League in the early 1960s. Gaylord Perry had been the talented pitcher of the San Francisco Giants; Frank Robinson, the five-tool outfielder of the Cincinnati Reds.

The narrative came easily: the fiery, outspoken black child of the U.S. civil-rights era vs. the white farm boy from the deep South. But was that fair?

By 1975, each player had been at the top of his profession. Frank Robinson was a 14-time All Star who had been MVP in both leagues. He won the American League Triple Crown in 1966. It’s hard to believe that such a player is underrated, today. Once Hank Aaron passed Babe Ruth on the career home run list, a full generation of fans could recite the top four. Aaron, Ruth, Mays, and Frank Robinson. His career was one for the ages. [Read more...]

Yankees 5, Indians 4: Homers and blown chances cost Tribe a W

Jacoby Ellsbury

When you jump out ahead with three first inning runs in your home park, you are supposed to win. When your bullpen delivers seven straight scoreless innings, you are supposed to win. When you load the bases on three straight one out walks in the 10th inning, you are supposed to win. Well, that’s why you play out the full game….

The Indians had several opportunities to put away the New York Yankees Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, but could never seal the deal. The Bronx Bombers could do nothing once Josh Tomlin was lifted after seven innings, but then again neither could the Tribe. Something was going to eventually have to give. It did, but unfortunately it was the Wahoos that blinked first. [Read more...]

Indians 5, Yankees 3: Bauer and the long ball do in Bombers

Nick Swisher

So let me get this straight. The Indians can get completely shut down by rookie Shane Greene one night, then beat down arguably the best pitcher in the American League this season in Masahiro Tanaka the next? Sounds about right. These, ladies and gentlemen, are your 2014 Cleveland Indians in a nutshell.

I mean seriously, how does this happen? Monday night, Greene took a no hitter into the fifth inning and left after six with a 5-2 lead en route to his first Major League win. Yet last night, All-Star Tanaka departed after the Tribe knocked him around for five runs on 10 hits in six plus innings. This is why anyone who gambles on baseball is crazy. [Read more...]

Yankees 5, Indians 3: The Justin Masterson Conundrum

Justin MastersonJustin Masterson is an absolute mess. The Indians can tell us all they want that nothing is wrong with him physically, but something is clearly off. Mentally, we know he is in a bad place. His command is not just bad, its brutal. Even pitching coach Mickey Callaway, the genius who turned Ubaldo Jimenez from a DFA candidate to a $50 million man, has no answers.

“You’re always frustrated when you don’t do well,” said Masterson after his team’s 5-3 loss. “When you’re not doing a good job at your job it’s always a tough thing. But a bigger disappointment is that the 24 other guys are coming out to fight for me. Even though I’m putting out as much effort as I can, I feel like I’m letting down the guys.” [Read more...]

Dr. Smooth: All Star; #VoteKluber, and gauging the trade values of Masterson and Cabrera

Corey KluberThese are interesting times for our Wahoos. While most of you were on LeBron and Dan Gilbert Plane Watch or worrying about Johnny Manziel’s July 4th in Las Vegas, your local nine was taking two of three from the Kansas City Royals down at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. Big crowds came out Friday and Saturday as the Tribe split the first two. They recovered nicely to take Sunday’s rubber match 4-1.

The team is kind of in limbo right now. Where are they? Who are they? Is this a contender or a team that should start selling off veteran pieces? 2013 proved you shouldn’t count a Terry Francona managed team out, but the defensive issues and the sluggish bats make you think this isn’t “the year.”

Nevertheless, there is a lot of baseball to be played and the Indians just won a big series against a team they are chasing in Kansas City. There was plenty more going on not just on the field, but off of it as well this weekend. So as we do every Monday morning, let us dive into the weekend that was in Wahooland. [Read more...]

The Indians’ Mr. Clutch, Pat Tabler: Reliving Yesteryear

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So anyway, I was doing a quick internet search for any recent nuggets of information I could find on 1980s Indians star, Pat Tabler. A link from The Daily Koz appeared.

According to the entry on that website, Tabler’s professional baseball career ended prematurely because he never listened to batting coaches, other than his father. Therefore, he was comparable to political right-wingers who are “set-in-concrete, unshakable, absolute perfect certitude about politics, religion, any sort of human behavior, for no other reason than it’s what their parents taught them.”

Now, I am familiar with Pat Tabler, and (especially if you are in your forties or fifties) you may be as well. I have heard various stories about him, but never before have I caught wind of his apparently unwavering approach to hitting that followed his father’s rigid command.

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Indians 5, Dodgers 4: Tribe doesn’t “fear the beard,” takes series in L.A.

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No matter how much I watch this Indians team, I will never be able to figure them out.

I was in the building Monday night when the Wahoos were one-hit by Dan Haren. That was a night after Seattle’s Felix Hernandez one-hit gem. The offense went from ice cold to smokin’ hot last night as they exploded for 10 runs while beating up LA’s Josh Beckett. This outburst came after a 3-66 team skid! So Wednesday afternoon in the rubber match with the Dodgers, you had to think that had probably had blown their wad the night before. We’ve seen this too many times this season. The offense shakes out of their doldrums for a 10 or 12 spot, and then revert back to normal. It sure looked like we were headed in that direction against LA lefty Hyun-Jin Riu.

The only two runs the bats could muster came in the fourth when Ryan Raburn blasted his second homer of the season, this of the two-run variety. He exited the game after seven innings, scattering seven hits while striking out eight. Ryu didn’t walk a single Indian. The Dodgers nursed a 3-2 lead as Ryu had outdueled Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer. The former UCLA star fought his way through five and two thirds, and only had one bad inning; the fifth. [Read more...]

Luck, Lonnie and the ever-elusive 7-2-4 Triple Play

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The Cleveland Indians took to Dodger Stadium hoping to avenge their history-making back-to-back nights of amassing just one hit—and did they ever. While starting pitcher Justin Masterson was yanked after three-plus (wildly lucky) innings and the Dodgers had runners on base throughout the night, the Tribe bats logged 13 hits on the night, finishing with a score of 10-3.

Here are some of the highlights:

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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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Indians hitters make history with back-to-back one hit games

Cabrera

It wasn’t Kluber’s fault.

Corey Kluber entered the game with a streak of 10 straight scoreless innings. He was superb again, allowing just one run on six hits in six and two-thirds innings. He walked one and struck out five.

Kluber ran into a jam in the fourth. With one out, Adrian Gonzalez beat the infield shift with a grounder down the third base line. Chisenhall made a nice play to get to the ball keeping Gonzalez to a single. After a Matt Kemp double, Kluber struck out Andre Ethier and induced a harmless fly ball to Bourn in center. He escaped a man on second and third with one out situation.

Leading off the bottom of the seventh inning, Andre Ethier hit a ball to deep left center that Michael Brantley was able to get to at the wall, but couldn’t come up with the catch. He had to flip the ball to Michael Bourn after falling down hitting the wall. Ethier was able to get all the way around to third on the play. Cabrera looked Ethier back to third and threw out Juan Uribe on a grounder up the middle. Kluber then froze Ellis on a 3-2 breaking ball right on the outside edge of the plate. After an intentional walk to Hanley Ramirez, Clint Robinson pinch-hit for Haren and singled up the middle (for his first ML hit). It snapped Kluber’s string of scoreless innings at 16. It came on a 3-2 count to boot. Kluber was a strike away from pitching around a lead-off triple and keeping the game scoreless. Instead, the Dodgers scraped out a run and took an insurmountable 1-0 lead.

One hit. [Read more...]

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...]