April 18, 2014

Tigers 7, Indians 5: Salazar’s implosion starts Tribe demise

Michael BrantleyWhat was thought to be a pitchers duel turned into something unexpected. The sun splashed afternoon at Comerica Park and Detroit had a much different feel than the frigid night before, but with Justin Verlander and Danny Salazar locking horns, the thought was that the fans in attendance would be in for a quick afternoon. What transpired was three hour and thirty-eight minute affair where neither starter pitched past the fifth.

For the first three innings, things breezed right along with Salazar and Verlander putting up zeroes. The Tribe’s phenom was actually better, setting down the first eight Tigers he faced. Offensively, the Wahoo offense continued where they left off a night earlier, leaving runners on base. A leadoff walk from Michael Bourn was wasted after Nick Swisher struck out and Jason Kipnis grounded into a double play. Two innings later, the Tribe really had Verlander on the hook. David Murphy started things with a walk, but a second double play ball – this one from Yan Gomes – erased that mini-threat. But Lonnie Chisenhall and Bourn both singled in front of a Swisher walk to load the bases. It was Kipnis’s chance to get the Tribe on the board, but he K’d on three pitches. He was clearly upset by an iffy first strike call from umpire Lance Barrett and told him so on his way to the dugout after the third strike. Barrett used an extremely quick hook, tossing Kipnis for the first time in his career. [Read more...]

Reliving Yesteryear: Cleveland Softball, Ted Stepien, and More Balls off Terminal Tower (Plus, a Quiz!)

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Men’s amateur slow-pitch softball exploded in the 1970s. On any day of the week, teams could be found slugging it out on baseball fields all over the country.

Softball had been played in northeast Ohio for fifty years, and was part of the evolution of baseball in Cleveland. Like hardball, it could be played at a highly skilled level. Or, it could be played at a more relaxed pace.

Throughout the middle part of the century, Cleveland’s sandlots had been an important breeding ground of major league ballplayers. In the decades preceding team-sponsored minor league farm systems, teams represented factories, unions and various businesses. By the ‘70s, the sandlot fields had now become meccas for softball. Businesses and local taverns sponsored teams, both within the city limits and throughout the suburbs.

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Indians 3, Tigers 2: The Zach Attack delivers again

Zach McAllisterWhen looking at the Detroit Tigers compared to our Cleveland Indians, one distinct advantage sticks out for the Kitties – starting pitching.  The Detroit top three — Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez — would all be the Indians number one if they toiled in Cleveland. Rick Porcello and Drew Smily also dwarf Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco as a tandem. Thanks to Tuesday’s postponement due to freezing temperatures, the Tigers were able to skip Smily over the shortened two game set. Sanchez got the first crack at the Tribe last night with Verlander going Thursday afternoon.

Manager Terry Francona stayed with his normal turns, sending out Zach McAllister on a cold night at Comerica Park. The last time we saw Zach, he was dominant in a win against the San Diego Padres and if the Indians were going to win this one, a similar performance would be helpful.

The first inning had the look of a game that could be high scoring. Sanchez, who normally has impeccable command, walked the newly activated Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, and Jason Kipnis to start the game. A potential big inning was thwarted by Carlos Santana’s sixth double play ground out of the year. A run did score, but Sanchez got himself right off the hook. Carlos is locked in a 2-24 slump.

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The Tribe rotation and its (early) noisy signals

Danny SalazarHave you heard that it’s early yet and you shouldn’t make too much of small sample sizes?

Well, it is!  And you shouldn’t!

But not making a big deal out of stuff doesn’t pay the bills around here, so we’re going to do it anyway, suckers.

The Indians rotation has been, for lack of better phraseology, somewhat unique this season.  On the one hand, they’re striking people out like crazy: the Indians are the only AL rotation striking out more than a batter per inning pitched (9.87 K/9). That’s really saying something, considering where this rotation has been over the last several years.  From 2009-2012, the Indians’ starting staff had the second lowest swinging strike rate among starting pitchers in the American League and the worst strikeout rate (K%) in all of baseball over that same period.  The gradual progression of Justin Masterson, the breakout of Corey Kluber, and the arrival of Danny Salazar—not to mention the decision to go with Carrasco over Tomlin—have effectively transformed a group contact pitchers into a group whiff artists.  We can discuss some other time why I think this is a good thing, but for now let’s just agree that at least it’s not a bad thing. [Read more...]

On Asdrubal Cabrera, Francisco Lindor and wanting good things too soon

Asdrubal-Cabrera

In life, we often yearn for what we don’t have. “The grass is always greener on the other side” mentality. It happens. We take for granted what is right in front of us. In sports, the same thing often plays out. Fans fall out of favor with certain players, wish for a former star to return, desire another team’s starter or hope for the highly touted prospect to finally arrive.

This is happening right now for the Cleveland Indians, and I just couldn’t take it any longer. It’s not really fair; fans are underrating the player that exists right now. And they’re forgetting just how young a certain prospect happens to be.

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South-praw-blem? On the Indians’ early struggles against left-handed pitching

Jose Quintana mowing down the Tribe

An early story-line in the 2014 campaign has been the Indians struggles with left-handed starters. In the last six games alone, the Tribe has seen Eric Stults, Robbie Erlin, John Danks, Chris Sale, and Jose Quintana all of the southpaw persuasion. In Detroit, they’ll see Drew Smyly on Wednesday night. With a 12-man hitting arsenal, the Indians currently house five hitters that bat only from the left side, yet they have amassed an OPS of just .623 against lefties. The Tribe has struck out more often against lefties (40 vs. 38) despite having 71 fewer at-bats. Is this an overreaction of some early season hitting scuffles or the exposition of a larger problem? Let’s dig into the numbers a little bit.

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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...]

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...]

Remembering Yesteryear: When Tribe players caught balls thrown off Terminal Tower

Terminaltower

He commonly was shirtless while grilling chicken in the backyard with my dad. Not that it mattered, but the effect was natural. My barrel-chested grandfather had the deep, permanent tan of a man who’d spent a lifetime of summers out in the Ohio sun.

His hands were toughened from working the Geauga County farm for his disabled father. And then later in his Willoughby auto shop right next to Ohio Rubber, on Vine Street; business was good for the bright, self-taught mechanic who’d also been a factory worker in the 1940s during the war.

What drew others to him was his outgoing manner, and his one-liners. Of course, he likely ramped that up when grandchildren were around to provide the laugh track. An example was when a waitress- a perfect stranger- would seat us at a table. She’d introduce herself, and he’d look up and smile, “Do you still love me?” Typically, the waitress would ‘get it’ within a couple seconds and reply, “Of course I do.” We’d roll our eyes to our grandmother, who’d offer a light hearted smirk.

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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...]

Behold: Nyjer Morgan 2.0

Photo In the fickle world where professional baseball players trade, Nyjer Morgan has everything going against him. He’s 33 years old. He’s on a one-year deal with the Cleveland Indians, getting his opportunity thanks to a minor league deal, ultimately obtaining a spot on the big league roster solely due to an injury to the team’s every day center fielder. A season ago, he was taking left-handed cuts in Japan, but was sent to their equivalent of the minor leagues following a slow start. Domestically, he is known more for headline-producing antics and an alter ego named Tony Plush; both Morgan and Plush have worn out their welcome with several teams in Major League Baseball, including the one he helped lead to the playoffs in 2011. Nyjer Morgan may have very well been the 25th man to get his name carved into the team’s Opening Day roster, but here he stands, freshly showered following his team’s series opening win over the San Diego Padres, telling everyone within ear shot that he is as comfortable as he has been throughout his six years in the game.

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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...]

The Wahoo debate has changed, but where do the Indians stand?

tribetimeover

There’s something vastly different about the Chief Wahoo debate this year. The protests have been going on at Opening Day for years, but the movement spawned a new arm since last season. There’s a new @DeChiefWahoo Twitter account that doesn’t have a ton of followers, but don’t be mistaken: This debate has moved beyond those activists directly impacted and into the fan base. Last week, I spoke with Brian Spaeth about the film he was making at the, but he never even had a chance to get any footage out before a photo from the scene by Peter Pattakos of Cleveland Frowns went viral. This site and others have talked about the Cleveland Indians and Chief Wahoo plenty already, so I’ll skip covering that same ground again. There’s one overriding feeling that I can’t help but focus on: The Cleveland Indians — most notable the Dolan family — is failing to lead on this issue.

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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...]

WFNY Roundtable: The Kipnis Contract

WFNY_roundtable
The Cleveland Indians announced that they have signed All-Star 2nd Baseman Jason Kipnis to a 6-year $52.5 million contract extension. While on the surface it looks like a good deal for the Indians, Jacob had some questions about it, which led to the inevitable WFNY Roundtable. Enjoy!

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“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 []

Reliving Yesteryear: April 16, 1940 — Bob Feller’s Opening Day No-Hitter

Bob feller (Custom)

“Hey hon, I need an opening line for an article.”

My wife’s eyes rose to mine, her posture at the kitchen table held in a subtle, Sunday crossword lean. With a mischievous smile:

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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.

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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...]