July 24, 2014

NBA expansion, Indians inconsistency and the Dayton Flyers rebrand … While We’re Waiting

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Warning: Today’s While We’re Waiting will be a Kevin Love-free zone. Please give me my peace. I need it, badly.

NBA Expansion?! SonicsRising reported yesterday that the NBA is having private discussions over possible expansion to two new franchises, one in Seattle and one in Louisville. With the upcoming TV contract negotiations, it’s not a shocking idea. Seattle wants one back desperately. Louisville’s infrastructure and basketball-loving character make some sense. Keep your eye on this, folks.

Personally, I have a lot of sympathy for Seattle and I’m a big fan of the city of Louisville. I remember when Louisville popped its head into the Sacramento Kings talks to try and take that franchise. This would be good for the NBA. Folks might talk about thinning out the talent pool, but I don’t see rational proof of that most anywhere. The league would work itself out just fine. [Read more...]

Indians recall Jose Ramirez; Option T.J. House to AAA

jose ramirez aeros

The Indians have made a roster move in response to the injury concerns of Asdrubal Cabrera.  The Tribe recalled infielder Jose Ramirez to Cleveland and sent T.J. House back down to AAA Columbus. Ramirez is batting .302 with 19 stolen bases, 29 RBIs, and 37 runs scored in 60 games with Columbus. In his limited time in Cleveland, he is batting .080 with two hits and one RBI in 11 games.  He can play multiple positions including shortstop, second base, third base, and outfield.  Ramirez is starting at shortstop for today’s game against the Twins and is batting second in the lineup.  T.J. House is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 10 games with the Indians, including nine starts.  There is still no word on the extent of Cabrera’s injury and whether he will need to be placed on the DL.

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.

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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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Jason Kipnis still bothered by oblique

 

Jason Kipnis

Jason Kipnis was named the American League Player of the week on Monday, but readily admitted that he has not felt the same since straining his oblique muscle back in April.

“I wouldn’t use the word progress, I’d use the word adjustment,” said Kipnis. “As far as the oblique goes, it’s going to be there all year. It’s not going to go away until the offseason. What I can do is find a swing that works for me. I thought we may have found something coming out of Detroit. It was a step in the right direction and we’re going to keep making adjustments day to day and pitch to pitch and see how it goes.”

Kipnis missed about a month after straining his right oblique muscle in late April and he’s still trying to make adjustments to his swing in order to get comfortable. He went 5-for-15 (.333) with two homers and six RBI during a big four-game series against the Tigers, but it appears that a return to last season’s All-Star form at any point in 2014 may be a pipe dream.

On the season, Kipnis is hitting .258 (.706 OPS) with five home runs, 14 doubles and just 30 runs batted in. His isolated power is down almost 60 points year over year, trending at a career-low mark of .110, and his batted ball distance on homers and flies has dropped 20 feet from last year to this one—both numbers unlikely to be aided by his ailing oblique.

“It’s just one of those things that’s going to be there,” Kipnis said.

Indians Twitter account gets defensive of ownership’s cheap reputation

The Cleveland Indians ownership has taken a lot of bullets over the years for being “cheap.” While that’s a relative term in a game that is notoriously unbalanced in terms of payrolls, if nothing else, it’s fair to call it a facile and slightly lazy dig at this point. I’m not saying you can’t make the argument that the Dolans are cheap, but it would take far more than 140 characters on Twitter to make that case.

All that said, it only took 140 characters for the Indians’ official Twitter account to fight back a rather trollish tweet directed at Indians ownership.

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And there at the bottom of the screenshot you can see the follow-up response to the guy who was so swiftly repudiated.

Maybe you’ll think twice the next time you tweet straight at the @Indians account with a smart-alec comment.

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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Indians playoff odds, Craiglist, stats and Byron Scott… While We’re Waiting

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Holding out hope: The Cleveland Indians are 47-47 at the All-Star Break. There are only 68 games left to play in the regular season. In order to make the playoffs again, the Indians will likely have to go on a torrid second-half run yet again Last year, you might recall how I often updated the team’s playoff odds from three different outlets. Today, as we begin the second half, I’ll take a look at where those odds stand: [Read more...]

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...]

Indians acquire outfielder Chris Dickerson from Pirates

chrisdickersonThe Indians added necessary outfield depth this afternoon in trading for outfielder Chris Dickerson from the Pittsburgh Pirates for future considerations. The Indians will either give up cash or a player-to-be-named-later.

Dickerson, 32, has 314 games of major league experience with a healthy .262/.339/.406 batting line. He has played for four different MLB teams, the Reds, Brewers, Yankees and Orioles.

This season for Triple-A Indianapolis he was batting .309/.407/.479. In his 65 games, he has 15 doubles, seven homers and 12 steals. The Indianapolis Star’s Mark Ambrogi recently profiled the International League All-Star representative.

The move was helpful for the Indians who also announced some injury updates today. Michael Bourn’s MRI revealed a “mild to moderate hamstring strain” and he’ll be out at least 3-4 weeks. Bourn was placed on the DL on Friday, initially for Columbus outfielder Tyler Holt.

In addition, Nyjer Morgan rehab was stalled and he’s getting a second opinion on his injured right knee. Morgan was initially placed on the disabled list on May 15, then transferred to the 60-day list.

Dickerson is just another replacement bat to provide short-term depth and assistance. He had been frustrated about not getting an opportunity at the big league level with Pittsburgh. A left-handed bat, he’s sure to get occasional at-bats for Cleveland in a backup role.

Of course, the Indians and Pirates are common trade partners. Pittsburgh’s GM Neal Huntington worked in the Cleveland system worked for a decade before his hire in 2007. The teams swapped Jeanmar Gomez and outfielder Quincy Latimore back in January 2013.

Update: To make room on the 25-man roster, the Indians designated catcher George Kottaras for assignment.

Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports

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...]

Bourn to DL, Tyler Holt called up

Bourn Hit 4/23/2014The Indians won in impressive fashion last night 7-3 over the Kansas City Royals, but it came at a cost. Michael Bourn left the game in the eighth inning after scoring and having his hamstring apparently tighten up on him. Sure enough, we heard the news today that Bourn will be headed to the disabled list for the second time this season.

To take his spot on the active roster, the Indians have called up outfielder Tyler Holt from Columbus. Holt, a 25-year-old 10th round selection by the Indians in the 2010 draft, has split this season between Akron and Columbus, batting .300 with a .805 OPS, 2 homers, 26 RBI, and has 21 steals in 24 attempts. Holt is an above average defender, capable of playing all three positions, and has played center exclusively in Columbus for the past month or so.

Bourn has had an up and down season, batting .267 (.695 OPS) on the campaign, hitting 3 homers, driving in 21, and stealing successfully on 7 of 10 attempts. His on-base percentage is right at the league average, but his strikeout (22.3%) and walk (6.5%) ratios leave much to be desired as they are even worse than his career marks of 20.7% and 8.4%.

In his absence, Michael Brantley will primarily patrol center field, as he is in today’s lineup. Left field will be a rotation of Mike Aviles (starting today), Ryan Raburn, and Brantley when Holt starts.

As TD pointed out a short while ago, the trip to the DL could be less games than regularly anticipated. With the All-Star break upcoming, Bourn could come off the DL on July 21st and miss just 12 games.

(Photo: Chuck Crow/Plain Dealer)

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

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...]