April 18, 2014

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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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...]

Vinnie Pestano and Elliot Johnson make Tribe’s 25-man roster

Vinne Pestano

Vinnie Pestano may have spent last fall as an outsider looking in, but he will get a chance at redemption this summer as the right-handed reliever has officially made the Cleveland Indians’ 25-man roster. Pestano was told this weekend that he will be one of the arms in the Tribe’s bullpen on Opening Day—a spot that was all but certain heading into Spring Training.

Last season, the fan favorite was on the disabled list with arm issues and spent a good portion of the season in Columbus with the team’s Triple-A affiliate. When the Indians won 10 straight games and made the postseason, he was not on the team’s roster. Coming off what was easily the worst year in his career, Pestano has a 1.50 ERA in six appearances this spring. (He’s allowed just one run in six innings with five strikeouts and two walks, holding opposing hitters to a .100 average.)

“I worked hard in the offseason and I’ve work hard this spring to get back to get back on the right track to where I was,” Pestano said to the local media. “But there is still work to be done. Just because I’m on the Opening Day roster doesn’t mean you’re going to be there down the stretch. I found that out last year.”

It is assumed that Cody Allen will receive eighth inning duties to start the season, a role once held by Pestano. Losing Joe Smith via free agency, Pestano’s resurgence will be integral in the team’s late-inning success.

Also given a spot on the team’s Opening Day roster is utility man Elliot Johnson. Johnson, who came to camp on a minor-league deal, is hitting .350 (14-for-40) this spring. He’s hit two doubles, two triples, two homers and eight RBI, flashing considerable power that may have him admitted to the Goon Squad if he can show it’s sustainable. Indians manager Terry Francona has used him all over the infield and outfield, providing more flexibility in the way of Ryan Raburn and Mike Aviles in 2013.

Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Paul Hoynes reports that Tribe GM Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona also talked to several other players, telling them where they stood and that a final decision on their status with the big league club had not been made. Outfielder Nyjer Morgan and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall were reportedly among them.

The Tribe starts their season in Oakland one week from Monday.

Tribe could be headed to arbitration with Masterson

Justin MastersonThe Cleveland Indians’ arbitration-free run could soon be over. Tribe general manager Chris Antonetti believes that the team, who has managed to avoid arbitration hearings every offseason since 1991, believes it will have at least one arbitration hearing this year. This news comes in the wake of the Indians and starting pitcher Justin Masterson filing the largest arbitration gap to date.

In the filings, as first reported by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Indians tabbed $8.05 million as the number and Masterson said $11.8 million.MLB Trade Rumors estimated that the soon-to-be 29-year-old, one year away from free agency, would likely receive $9.7 million for 2014.

According to a source close to Indians.com beat writer Jordan Bastian, there has been little progress in discussions about a long-term contract extension for Masterson who posted a 14-10 record and 3.29 ERA through 32 games in 2013, a year in which the 6-foot-6-inch All-Star earned $5,687,500—approximately $1 million less than Brett Myers.

Other arbitration-eligible candidates are outfielder Michael Brantley, starting pitcher Josh Tomlin and relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano.

[Related: The Diff: What’s up with Justin Masterson’s Indians future?]

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

While We’re Waiting… Mike Brown leads Cavs turnaround

While We’re Waiting is a space on the WaitingForNextYear website where we share links every day. We’ve been doing it for about four years or so. Denny Mayo used to be much more amusing with his intros, if you recall. You know the drill: Email us with suggestions at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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Brown deserves credit for the hot stretch: “But stop and take a breath. Take a really deep breath and you might notice something different. Is that hints of azaleas? Notes of coffee and barnyard? Nope. That’s just new Mike Brown smell you’re smelling. So far, even as the team has gradually improved almost in spite of itself, Brown has done some things to buck what many considered the more troubling trends from his first time around.” [Robert Attenweiler/Cavs: The Blog]

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Outman in — Tribe bullpen takes shape before calendar turns

Josh OutmanIt is not sexy. It is not a needle moving addition. But the Indians got better yesterday. A surplus of right field options has spawned a plugging of another hole. A bullpen gutted by free agent turnover looks as though it has been completely remade.  But will this group come together and be as good as they look on paper?

The addition of David Murphy made last year’s regular right fielder Drew Stubbs expendable. While Stubbs proved to be nothing special and had his issues against right-handed pitching, he still had value thanks to his speed and defense. He is a solid fourth outfielder. The only problem for GM Chris Antonetti was that with the signing of Murphy to platoon with Ryan Raburn, every other team knew that Stubbs was going to be traded. There was little leverage there for Kid Chris. So he did the best he could do and was able to add what could be a key piece to the bullpen puzzle.  I present to you left-handed reliever Josh Outman. [Read more...]

John Axford – A Calculated Risk

John AxfordNot everyone who reads this site is on Twitter. I wouldn’t even dare put a percentage of Wahoo backers who actually engage on Twitter, but it is still a good barometer on the pulse of the fan base. Over the weekend, I noticed a lot of angst amongst Tribe fans after the winter meetings ended without any sort of big roster movement. Sorry, I don’t count adding AAA roster fillers David Cooper and David Adams as needle movers.

However, as I pointed out on Twitter, everyone need to take a deep breath and relax. Think back to last year at this time. Nick Swisher was still more than a week away from becoming an Indian. His actual contract wasn’t signed until January 3. Michael Bourn didn’t join the wigwam until a few days before Spring Training in February. Left-handed starter Scott Kazmir didn’t sign his minor league deal with the Tribe until December 21st of 2012. Even noted bust Brett Myers hadn’t joined the team until after the first of the year. Mark Reynolds’s one-year, $6 million deal was inked December 18. [Read more...]

Browns screw job, hate watching The Sound of Music, Eric Wedge’s Mariners – JONCAST – WFNY Podcast – 2013-12-08

WFNY Podcast LogoIt’s a Joncast. What else is there to say?

  • Do the Cleveland Browns losses actually happen everywhere?
  • The great screw job of 2013
  • The referee already had the flag out
  • Should Chud have gone for two?
  • What is a catch in the NFL and how do you decide what is or isn’t?
  • Should the Browns have challenged Rob Gronkowski’s catch?
  • NFL referees are more capable than they’ve ever been
  • The rules themselves are really suffering
  • Losing hurts more than it helps make a draft better
  • What would Pierre Garcon have become if he played with the Browns?
  • What does today’s game say about Rob Chudzinski
  • The moneyball part of football with coaches
  • The first time firing the people you hired
  • The savior complex amongst sports fans
  • Relying on faith as a sports fan vs. looking for tangible results
  • The 2012 first round NFL draft and how far it will set the team back
  • Carlos Carrasco and how he belongs in the bullpen
  • Carlos Carrasco’s personality for closer
  • Can a fan base ever get to know Cody Allen?
  • It isn’t brave to be the Yankees. It is brave to spend like the Yankees in Cleveland.
  • Hate tweeting and hate watching The Sound of Music Live
  • Suffering through “How I met Your Mother”
  • The Eric Wedge Seattle Mariner storyline [Read more...]

MLB Rumors: Indians expressing interest in closers Rodney and Wilson

Cleveland Indians general manager Chris Antonetti is scheduled to talk to agent Dan Lozano about two of his clients, closers Fernando Rodney and Brian Wilson. This report comes from Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The Indians released Chris Perez the day after the World Series came to a close and are reportedly considering Rookie of the Year vote-earner Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw as in-house replacements. This report signals that the team is also willing to look to the free agent market.

Rodney took a step back 2013, posting a 3.38 ERA while blowing eight saves for the Tampa Bay Rays. Wilson, most noteably known for his beard and time spent with the San Francisco Giants, posted a 0.66 ERA in 18 appearances with the Dodgers this year after making it back from Tommy John surgery. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal report that the deep-pocketed Detroit Tigers are also interested in Wilson.

Both players have a solid chance to land multi-year contracts in free agency. How large these deals are—and what the Indians are willing to spend on a closer after whiffing on Kerry Wood just a few years back—remains to be seen.

[Related: MLB News: Indians manager Terry Francona named A.L. Manager of the Year]

MLB News: Indians manager Terry Francona named A.L. Manager of the Year

It was a good first year for Terry Francona in Cleveland. Francona guided the Tribe to the playoffs and now he’s been recognized for his success. Francona was named American League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

CLEVELAND, OH – The Baseball Writers Association of America today announced Cleveland Indians Manager TERRY FRANCONA has been selected the American League Manager of the Year, beating out Boston’s John Farrell and Oakland’s Bob Melvin.

In his first season managing Cleveland, Francona led the Indians to a 92-70 (.568) record and a berth in the American League Wild Card game as the Indians became the first Major League team since 1971 to end the season with a 10-game winning streak. The 24-win improvement over 2012 (68-94) matched the largest year-to-year win improvement in the history of the franchise, joining the 1986 Indians. 2013 marked the sixth time Francona has led a club to the postseason and the ninth straight season in which a Francona-managed team has won at least 86 games, the sixth-longest such streak in MLB history.

Today’s award is the first earned by Francona over his 13-year Major League Managerial career and marks just the second time an Indians Manager has been selected, joining ERIC WEDGE in 2007. The BBWAA began voting on the Manager of the Year Award in 1983.

I always wondered if Eric Wedge’s award was more of a snake bite for the team that wouldn’t be able to fire the Mustachioed grinder. I have no such reservations with Terry Francona. This is a great way to cap off the season and kick off the hot stove period. It can’t hurt the Tribe’s chances at following up their breakout first season with Terry Francona at the helm.

[Related: MLB News: Jimenez rejects offer, Indians likely to receive compensatory pick]

Chris Antonetti talks Indians offseason on Sirius XM

Cleveland Indians general manager Chris Antonetti was on Sirius XM earlier this afternoon to talk about the team’s upcoming offseason.

You can listen for yourself on this SiriusXM link for a 3.5-minute portion of the entire interview. Per Twitter, other topics mentioned: Asdrubal Cabrera’s offseason training regimen, Trevor Bauer’s rocky 2013 and Danny Salazar’s unrestricted 2014.

From the available 3.5-minute comments, here’s a paraphrased transcription.

On Ubaldo Jimenez…
Antonetti said he’s not certain if he’ll be back next year, but the team “would be thrilled if he accepts the qualifying offer.” Gave credit to Jimenez and pitching coach Mickey Callaway for the pitcher’s impressive 2013 season.

On starting pitching depth…
Named off, perhaps surprisingly, Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin as options for next season. Said the team feels good about its depth, but would obviously love Jimenez back.

On other offseason needs…
“We’ve lost a lot in our bullpen,” he said, mentioning released Chris Perez plus free agents Joe Smith, Matt Albers and Rich Hill. Expects the team will add a couple of pieces to the bullpen. And the team will be trying to find another “complementary bat.”

On the offense…
“We’re in a fortunate position going into the offseason in that we basically are returning an entire position player team that was fourth in the American League and fifth in baseball in runs scored.” Discussed the offense’s versatility.

On that “complementary bat”…
Antonetti said, in an ideal world, this would be a left-handed hitter. He rattled off outfield, first base, designated hitter and third base, in order, as potential positions of need for this player.

[Related: The Diff: Indians offseason, 2014 salary and contention windows]

The good, the bad, & the ugly – The life & times of Chris Perez in Cleveland

Chris PerezAh Chris Perez…..Pure Rage…..The Beard…..The Long Hair…..The games in which he fired out a raucous yell after closing out a save……

The blown saves…..the 2012 mid-season strange but sadly true statements about ownership and the lack of fan support……the Marijuana bust……the media blackout……the late season slump that nearly cost the Indians a playoff spot…..

We ran the gamut didn’t we, CP?

It all came to an end rather quietly yesterday afternoon as the Indians gave Perez his release, making him a free agent. They held his rights for one more arbitration eligible season, but despite his lackluster 2013 performance, CP was going to receive around $9 million. The Tribe just was not going to pony that up for a closer in this market, especially one that lost his job in September and was as disliked by the fan base as any local player in recent memory. GM Chris Antonetti didn’t even wait. They released Perez the first possible time they could – the day after the World Series. [Read more...]

Survey Says? Digging deeper into the Cleveland Indians fan survey

Indians SurveyLost in the kerfuffle of the Cleveland Indians allegedly polling season ticket holders about their opinion on Chief Wahoo was the fact that said inquiry was literally one of roughly three dozen questions pertaining fans and how they relate to various aspects of the team. Drowned out by all of the noise and nostalgia surrounding the polarizing mascot was the fact that the team was conducting an exit interview of sorts, gauging fan thoughts on items like concessions, ticket prices, and most importantly, the roster of players who wear Cleveland on the fronts of their uniforms.

We have long discussed how attached fans are to the current roster. Gone are the days of having the same group of guys fill the Indians lineup card season after season; Kenny Lofton isn’t walking through that door, as much as he would probably like to. And while the stark reality of another 455 straight sell-outs continues to loom as an impossibility, the team wants to know how much they—despite still rocking their faded navy blue t-shirts with “BAERGA” on the back—assimilate with guys like Swisher and Kipnis and Bourn and Brantley. They want to know how important it is for the owner to be more out in the open, discussing the team’s direction and their plans for the future. They want to know, in addition to price adjustments at the concession counter and box office, what it would take to get that season-ticket base back up—how can they get you to invest in this team’s future?

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2013 Cleveland Indians Power Rankings

Michael BrantleyI wanted to take a few weeks and step back before I made this list. The Indians successful 92 win Wild Card season in Terry Francona’s first year at the helm. It left us all wanting more. There will obviously be changes to the roster, but the 2013 roster needs a final examination. I normally hate so called “power rankings” pieces, yet here I am writing one. It is the offseason and not all of these guys will come back, but as the season closed, here are my final thoughts on each Tribe player and their future for 2014. These rankings are obviously subjective, but based on 2013 performance.

1. Michael Brantley – No matter where he was placed in the lineup, Dr. Smooth kept on hitting. .375 with runners in scoring position over an entire season says it all. Glides in left and has an accurate arm. GM Chris Antonetti needs to find a way to extend him. He was money all year long. [Read more...]

The John Hart Tree Bears Copious Amounts Of Fruit

John Hart“Closers grow on trees.”

If there was one quote that former Indians General Manager John Hart was known for, it was that one. Hart had a progressive way of thinking during the time in baseball that we now refer to as the “steroid era.” He wanted to build a team that would out-slug you, then lock you down in the late innings with a deep, power-armed bullpen. While he clearly was onto something, Hart’s teams could never get over that hump, despite being a screaming success.

As GM of the Indians for 10 years, Hart presided over the most memorable times in Cleveland baseball that any of us under the age of 50 will ever recall. Only in Cleveland would we refer to this time as “The Era of Champions” despite the fact that no World Series titles were won. But nevertheless, Hart was the on the ground floor of the building of a sleeping giant that captured the hearts of our city and reminded the rest of the sport that baseball was still being played in Cleveland. [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting… Can Tribe afford 2014 improvements?

“While We’re Waiting” serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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Continuing the series on building a Tribe winner in 2014. As I’ve shared, the payroll math isn’t easy: “It’s all about the money. It’s always about the money. In the modern era of sports, no two statements are truer. They especially are true with the Cleveland Indians, an organization that is dedicated to spending what they make, but not running themselves into the red. … In essence, the Indians spent $86.85 million to build the 2013 team. What the 2014 payroll will be remains to be seen, but Indians general manager Chris Antonetti might find himself in a precarious position this winter when consulting his Tribenomics to construct and improve the team for next season.” [Mike Brandyberry/Did The Tribe Win Last Night?] [Read more...]

Early thoughts on the 2014 Indians: WFNY Roundtable

Following Wednesday’s AL Wild Card loss to Tampa Bay, the WFNY staff was still giddy about the Cleveland Indians’ 2013 season. But, some were already not as optimistic about the picture for 2014. Here’s another look inside the WFNY email thread to see what we were talking about yesterday with regards to the Tribe’s future.

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Jacob: From 1995-2012, 58 MLB teams had .600+ records in 1-run games. Of those 58 teams, 44 regressed the following season: 75.9% of teams. In total, those 58 teams regressed by an average of 5.8 wins/162 games the following season.

Sure, that’s probably just regular regression to the mean for good teams anyway, but still notable. I don’t think winning 1-run games is a skill however, unless you have Mariano Rivera. The Indians went 30-17 (.638) in one-run games this season, second in baseball to the Yankees: 30-16 (.652). Both could be prime candidates for 2014 regression. [Read more...]

Despite the loss, this was a game Cleveland needed

Tribe Pano Smaller

Last night’s Wild Card playoff was a game this city desperately needed. No, one game is most assuredly not “enough.” No, I’m not satisfied that the Indians peed down their leg with runners on base last night.1 All the same, last night was a game that this city needed and it was a game that the team needed. As I said yesterday, this city has been doing a lot of bickering and in-fighting over the years since LeBron James left town and took all of Cleveland’s playoff hopes with him. What was left was a lot of self-loathing, bitterness and negativity.2 It’s been wearing on this city’s fans and filtering to the players too. With those things in mind, I’m elated with the fact that Cleveland got at least one playoff game so the city could explode positively for a night.

It was absolutely electric, except that’s something everyone says. It was more than electric. The pride, excitement, and nearly palpable effort by Clevelanders last night to will their team to victory was everything we all remember as kids growing up with the 90′s Tribe. It was another taste for those of us in this age bracket, but it was even more important for so many people who hadn’t seen it before or were too young to remember. But that’s just the fans. It was also imperative for Cleveland Indians players to see it. [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. I’ll leave the real recap work to the experts. []
  2. Some justified and some probably a bit over-the-top. []

Meeting Paul Dolan, rooting for the Tribe, and balancing criticism

WFNY Goon Squad Dolan

In case you missed it, we had a chance encounter with Cleveland Indians owner Paul Dolan yesterday. Given that it’s not every day that I meet a billionaire who happens to own the team which I root for on a nightly basis, I’ve been thinking about it a lot since it happened.

I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a bit strange when we were taking our photo with Paul outside of Progressive Field. I’ve been pretty critical of him and his ownership of the Cleveland Indians. Even as recently as this season, I feel as if I’ve crushed a great portion of the Indians organization. I don’t think I was wrong about many or most of my criticisms, but it still felt a little bit strange to take my picture with the man who had been a subject of many of my critical words for years.

After thinking about it for a while, I’m feeling a lot better, because I know I have always wanted the Indians to do well. I never wanted them to fail so that I could look smarter for being so very critical. And now that they’ve had such a great September and gotten themselves in the hunt, this is when we’re all supposed to get along, right? Isn’t this how these things are supposed to work? [Read more...]

WE DID IT!

Nick SwisherFor weeks, when implosion after implosion happened……When the bats couldn’t be colder if they were naked in Alaska….When the bullpen went into their slide….when Corey Kluber got hurt….when Detroit treated them like their personal pinata….when Justin Masterson got hurt….I tried to tell you all, wait until September. Just wait. Big things will happen. Nick Swisher, one of the veteran leaders of this now 92-win bunch, told the media this weekend that his team shouldn’t have to apologize for anything. And he was right.

“As a direct quote to everybody else, no one was complaining about the schedule when we lost 94 games last year,” said Swisher. “That’s enough of that schedule stuff for real. No one was talking about the scheduling when we were playing the Yankees, Boston and Detroit. If everybody feels that way, make it an even schedule. Let everybody play everybody the same amount of times so no one can complain about it.” [Read more...]