July 28, 2014

Tribe “Deep Tracks” Trivia Vol. 2: Reliving Yesteryear

Bob Feller Bob Lemon Early Wynn

As a born and bred Clevelander, I am all about the Rock ‘n Roll. Specifically, Album Oriented Rock (AOR), the 70s radio format featuring longer, more obscure, and less-repeated songs than the ‘ Top-40.’ (In its heyday, AOR stations were even known to play bootleg recordings of local concerts. Complete with muffled coughs and hushed comments, these surreptitious versions were spirited out of concert halls in a manner worthy of Cold War espionage. The popularity of some bootlegs spurred the commercial release of live tracks, such as Cheap Trick’s Budokan.)

Into the latter part of the decade, WMMS carried the banner. They announced the weekend with their weekly, 5pm Friday broadcast of the “Friday on my Mind”, “Switchin’ to Glide”, “Born to Run” troika. A heavy dose of Murray Saul was slathered on, with his gravelly narrative on why he was ready for “FRRIIIIDAYYYYY. FRIIIIIIIIII-IIIII-IIIIIIII, DAY.”

Of course, most of my musical tastes remain rooted in that era. Someone recently asked me if I had heard the “new Bowie”, because it’s really good. I assumed they were talking about the “Let’s Dance” album from the mid-1980s. (Sure, I have that vinyl record. It’s in one of my alphabetically-ordered peach crates. It’s in the rotation- with Beatles and Blondie albums- in the first position. Need to keep that Abba album covered up.)

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Is Danny Salazar back?

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It seems longer ago, but all it took was a mid-July afternoon on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. I sat next to TD, roughly thirty yards from the pitchers mound housed within Progressive Field, as Danny Salazar made his Major League debut. I had planned to only stay for a few innings, spending what would otherwise be my lunch hour taking in some Tribe baseball. We didn’t know what to totally expect, but all it would take was a smattering of 99-mile-per-hour fastballs mixed with off-speed stuff some 20 miles-per-hour slower and it was over: The legend was being penned.

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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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Indians interested in reliever Joaquin Benoit

San Francisco Giants v San Diego Padres

While David Price’s name continues to be bantered about, the Cleveland Indians join the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates as teams interested in San Diegot Padres reliever Joaquin Benoit. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman iterates that while the Indians haven’t established themselves as ‘buyers’ heading into the deadline, they could be leaning that way.

Benoit is owed $8 million next year (which would make him the fifth-highest paid Indian) plus $8 million or a $1.5 million buyout in 2016. His 2016 option will vest if he finishes at least 55 games in 2015. Benoit has a 2.04 ERA and 0.86 WHIP with 10.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 39 2/3 innings with San Diego this year.

The Tigers could certainly use the help. While the Tribe’s bullpen is a strength—and they could certainly use help in other areas—they could do themselves a favor by making sure their main competitors in the AL Central don’t fortify their only weakness. It would certainly be one expensive move either way.

(Photo by Andy Hayt/San Diego Padres/Getty Images)

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… []

Indians News: Masterson to the DL, Hagadone, Perez Up, Holt down

Justin MastersonWell, we finally have our answer.

Justin Masterson, who has struggled terribly all season long, has been placed on the 15-day DL with right knee inflammation. The knee may be bothering him, but it is clearly a mental issue. In his last 11 starts, the Indians’ Opening Day starter has turned into one of the worst in baseball, posting a 7.16 ERA in 49 innings, giving up 60 hits and 36 walks.

Last night’s two inning debacle was clearly the last straw with Masterson, whom the Indians just couldn’t afford to trot out again in five days. The 15 days hopefully will give him a nice mental break. As for now, it is hard to see how Justin can get be trusted.

As I said earlier today, this complete collapse of his game couldn’t have come at a worse time for the big right-hander who is in his contract year and has been losing millions by the start.

Replacing Masterson on the roster will be an extra bullpen arm in Nick Hagadone, who is making his fourth appearance in Cleveland. His stay will be short with a starter needed for Saturday, which is expected to be Zach McAllister.

In addition to these two moves, the Indians have sent OF Tyler Holt back to AAA Columbus after his two-day stint and have purchased the contract of catcher Roberto Perez. Reliever Mark Lowe was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Perez.

The 25-year old catcher is having a banner year in Columbus, hitting .305/.405/.571 with eight homers and 43 RBIs. Perez is also considered a plus defender. He is a legitimate Major League backstop who should be in Cleveland for years to come.

The call up of Perez also signals once again that Carlos Santana’s future is as a first baseman and DH.

The return of LeBron James plus Johnny Manziel and Josh Gordon – WFNY Podcast – 2014-07-07

WFNY Podcast LogoAs I said in the podcast, I have a new album coming out this week. My band name is The Company Line and the album is called “Losing My Voice.” It’s available right now for pre-order on Amazon. It’s supposed to be on iTunes and Spotify as well. Please search it out. Please listen to it. Please tell a friend. Please enjoy it.

Here’s the story behind the album.

Here’s a track from it.

Now on to the Podcast.

It was a wild weekend on Twitter with all the sports news. TD and I ran it down.

  • LeBron James coming back to Cleveland?
  • Dan Gilbert’s plane!
  • The practical issues surrounding the Miami Heat rebuilding
  • LeBron facing Pat Riley and what that might be like
  • New song from Craig’s band The Company Line
  • Josh Gordon getting pulled over for speeding and DWI
  • Johnny Manziel rolling up dollar bills. Is it a story?
  • Michael Brantley makes the all-star team
  • The Indians should trade Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Masterson

 

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Animated: Ryan Raburn’s Web Gem, Josh Tomlin’s approval

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In the second inning of Josh Tomlin’s masterful one-hitter against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night, right fielder Ryan Raburn helped the cause with a full-extension, diving catch to rob the hot-hitting Kyle Siegler of extra bases.

The play made MLB.com’s “outstandings” lists and is sure to be all over SportsCenter if you are patient enough to wait for Indians-Mariners highlights amidst the weekend’s World Cup play.

All in all, the play was very Tomliny. Josh Tomlin approves.

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Animated: Lonnie Chisenhall’s backhand is way strong

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In the fourth inning of Saturday night’s loss to the Detroit Tigers, Lonnie Baseball helped Trevor Bauer out with this solid backhand and throw to get fellow third baseman Nick Castellanos out by a half-step. The announcers went on to discuss how Chisenhall has spent time working on back-handed plays down the line. It appears as if the work has paid off, at least in this instance.

Animated: Tribe fan snags foul ball, high-fives everyone in sight

Tribe Fan Foul Ball 140620

In the second inning of Friday night’s Indians-Tigers game, a young fan along the third-base line was the lucky recipient of a foul ball off of the bat of former Tribe catcher Victor Martinez. Watch as he makes the perfect one-hand snag without dropping his scorecard. Even the guy rocking the short-sleeved shirt and tie was on board. Flawless victory.

Listen: Tom Hamilton’s call of Nick Swisher’s Walk-off Grand Slam

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He may be channeling Mendoza from a success rate, but Indians first baseman Nick Swisher sure has a knack for heroics. The latest comes via the walk-off, extra-inning grand slam that takes down the Los Angeles Angels in extra innings, 5-3. Check out legendary Tribe play-by-play man Tom Hamilton’s call of the game-winning blast.

There are few things better than when Hammy lets the roar take over. One of the best in the biz. Huge win for the Tribe.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Michael Brantley named American League Player of the Week

Kipnis and Brantley

Michael Brantley should be your favorite Cleveland Indians. That was one of my favorite tweets to send out a year ago, and now it seems like a really obvious thing to say when it didn’t feel so obvious back then. He’s been named the American League POW for June 9-15.

Michael led all Major League hitters in batting average, runs scored and on-base percentage (.625), and was tops in the A.L. in hits, total bases (23) and times on base (20). Additionally, he was second in the Junior Circuit in slugging percentage (.885) and was tied for third in extra-base hits (5).

Brantley, one of 22 current second-generation Major Leaguers, is batting .322 (85-for-264) this season with 17 doubles, 11 homers, 45 RBI and 49 runs scored in 68 games. Defensively, Michael’s eight outfield assists trail only Yoenis Cespedes of Oakland for the A.L. lead.

Earlier this year, Jon discussed the evolution of Michael Brantley from his stance that looked to temper some of the “cock-eyed optimism” to the thought that Brantley might just become what all his biggest fans hoped he could ever be. It’s worth another read, but here’s a snippet.

Perhaps the most fascinating nugget here is the relationship between slugging percentage and on-base percentage. When Brantley was included as the PTBNL in the CC Sabathia trade, we were told that he was a speedy on-base guy. Someone like…well…someone like Michael Bourn (used to be): Not much pop in his bat, but the eye, legs, and glove to make him a valuable player. To this point in his career, Brantley has largely played in that mold, albeit slightly underwhelmingly so. His career OBP coming into 2014 sat a tick above average at .330 while his slugging percentage (a rough gauge of his ability to hit for power) was an anemic .382. Because he’d been touted as an on-base machine, I always figured the improvements would come on that side of the equation. But if what we’re seeing so far this year is any indication, Michael may be grooming himself as a power hitter.

One thing’s for sure. The Cleveland Indians aren’t likely regretting the four-year extension they signed Brantley to in February of 2014 for $25 million.

(Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

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.

George Pappas discusses his book about the Tribe from the 90′s – WFNY Podcast – 2014-06-12

WFNY Podcast LogoGeorge Pappas came on the podcast to discuss his new book, A Tribe Reborn: How the Cleveland Indians of the ’90s Went from Cellar Dwellers to Playoff Contenders (available at Amazon.)

We talked about those famous teams from the 90′s from Vizquel and Thome to Albert Belle.

We talked about the current Indians and also the Jim Thome statue.

Make sure you check out the book. George tells us about some upcoming book signings and also it’s important to note that a portion of the proceeds from the book will benefit Cleveland Indians charities.


Check out this episode!

Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Indians, LeBron James hatred – WFNY Podcast – 2014-06-10

WFNY Podcast LogoI nabbed TD to talk about the Tribe and we ended up talking about a whole lot more.

TD can’t believe how square Craig is with regard to Johnny Manziel’s partying lifestyle.

TD can’t believe how much residual hatred there is for Cleveland fans and LeBron James.

TD talks what he knows best. The Cleveland Indians, where they are today, Lonnie Chisenhall’s monstrous night with nine RBI and the impending return of the Zach Attack.

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The inimitable Josh Tomlin: old dogs, new tricks, and revisited parades

Josh Tomlin

I try to avoid declaring any one person unique, as such declarations imply there are non-unique people—boring and generic caricatures, leading rote and empty lives. This feels like a nasty thing to say, even only as an implication.

But Josh Tomlin is unique and you are leading a rote and empty life.

Let’s begin with some TOMLINY attributes.
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Will Sin Tax money be tied to team performance?

jacobs_field_scoreboardWe heard rumblings yesterday that this might come to fruition, and now it appears that lots of people have heard the same things. Cleveland.com is reporting this morning that Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald is expected to propose that county sin tax money will somehow be tied to team performance.

The 20 percent — estimated to be at least $2.6 million a year — would be awarded to FirstEnergy Stadium, Progressive Field or Quicken Loans Arena based on the success of the teams using the facilities.

The sources did not know how the on-the-field-success of the teams would be judged. The other 80 percent of the money would be allocated to the stadiums in a process that would not take into account how well the Browns, Cavs and Indians play.

I’ll obviously wait to hear the full details of the announcement before passing final judgment on it, but a couple of questions immediately come to mind.

1. How on earth would politicians fairly measure success in sports – across baseball, basketball and football – in an equitable manner so as to apportion a finite pot of annual money?

2. Is this for real, or is it just political posturing?

My inclination right now is that this will be a proposal of something that will never pass and that we will have wasted a million words on it before it dies an inevitable death.

What do you think?

Corey Kluber joins exclusive company in win over Rockies

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As you may have heard, the Cleveland Indians beat the Colorado Rockies, 5-2, behind another stone cold start from right-hander Corey Kluber.  Kluber pitched 7 1/3 innings, allowing two runs—both on a mistake to Carlos Gonzalez’s in the fourth—on just five hits. He struck out 12 Rockies batters while walking only one.

To put Kluber’s start and month of May in perspective:

  • He struck out 60 batters in May, going  4-0. Since 2005, only one other pitcher has had 60 strikeouts in a month—All-Star and perennial Cy Young contender, Texas’ Yu Darvish, who did so last August.
  • Per Elias, Kluber became just the fifth Cleveland pitcher since 1914 to have 60 strikeouts in any month, joining Bob Feller (8 times), Sam McDowell (8 times), Dennis Eckersley (once) and Herb Score (once). Not bad company.
  • Kluber’s 60 strikeouts in May are the most by an MLB pitcher in May since Curt Schilling had 62 in May of 2002. That year, Schilling was second in NL Cy Young voting, losing out to teammate Randy Johnson.

Kluber’s start snapped a four-game losing streak for the Tribe. In eight starts since April 19, Kluber has gone 5-1 with 76 strikeouts and just 12 walks—four of which came in the lone loss.

(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)

Unsolicited Observations: Help was there to be had for these Cleveland Indians

Jesus Aguilar

Jesus Aguilar is decidedly not Nelson Cruz

The Indians are setting the tone for a lousy summer. Just when it appears the team is getting hot, the bottom falls out. Get swept at home by Oakland? No worries, this year’s club answers by sweeping Detroit and beating Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer (no decision) in the process. Now a series sweep at the hands of the White Sox has many wondering—again—if the current campaign can be saved.

One-third of the season is in the books and the Tribe (24-30) is struggling. Offense, defense, hitting, throwing, catching. There’s problems everywhere. It’s easy to look back in the rear-view mirror, but I can’t help but wonder if there was a way this team could’ve improved during the offseason.

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Alex Cole: Tribe’s Real Life Willie Mays Hayes? Reliving Yesteryear

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Commonly, major league baseball teams come up with some reasons for their fans to believe—some points of interest which they hope will cause the fan base to buy tickets, however contrived they may seem. The Cleveland Indians have boasted various mantras over the years – official or otherwise. The current #TribeTown qualifies. For some reason, I recall: “Come Alive with the Tribe in ’75.” Of course, there is the ever-handy, “We Will Spend When the Time is Right.”

Back in 1991, the franchise was listing. They’d recently wilted under the national media’s expectations of playoff contention. Hank Peters was the president of the Tribe; he’d previously enjoyed success at the helm of the late 1970s/early 1980s Baltimore Orioles. Peters was beginning to put some of the pieces in place which would set the Indians on a path to success. These moves would prove crucial in the transition from Cleveland Stadium to the new ballpark ‘at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario’.  

In 1991, Peters’ marketing focus included center fielder Alex Cole.

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