April 16, 2014

Indians activate Michael Bourn, send down Nyjer Morgan

Michael BournThe Indians today activated OF Michael Bourn from the 15-Day DL and optioned OF Nyjer Morgan to AAA Columbus.

The move comes as a bit of a surprise because of Morgan’s success early in the season for the Indians. In nine games, Morgan has a .348 batting average and an OPS of .832. He is third on the team in walks with 7 and tied for the team lead in stolen bases.

In the end, it appears the outfield was just too crowded for the Indians and manager Terry Francona. The Indians elected to keep an eighth reliever instead of sending down C.C. Lee or utility man Elliot Johnson.

Morgan, a lefty, does not play against left-handed pitching where Johnson is a switch hitter.

[Related: On the Indians' struggles against left-handed pitching]

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.

[Read more...]

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...]

Thome’s first pitch juuuuuust a bit outside

Former Indian Jim Thome (you know, the guy who is getting a statue this summer) was invited to throw out the first pitch for the Charlotte Knights. The Knights are the AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, but were the Indians’ affiliate in 1993 and ’94. Thome and Manny Ramirez were part of that ’93 team that won the International League title.

Thome never pitched in a major or minor league game. Perhaps we now know why.

Video: Lindor’s hot start includes game winner for Akron

Cleveland uber-prospect Francisco Lindor is having a good start to the AA season for Akron, hitting safely in eight of the Rubberducks nine games. He has a double, a triple and a pair of home runs to go with seven RBI.

One of those homers came in the bottom of the 13th inning on Friday night for a walk-off winner.

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...]

Draft Day, Hawk Harrelson, Alex Mack, Super Tall High School Kid and Mansions live at the Grog Shop… While We’re Waiting

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I set a Google Calendar reminder so that I wouldn’t forget to do WWW this week. Let’s hope that works from here on out. Now on with the WWW.

*****

I saw Draft Day last night, and here are my initial thoughts. Don’t worry. I will save you any and all spoilers. This isn’t a great achievement in cinema, but sports movies and summer popcorn flicks don’t have to be. This movie would be a full on failure if it was about any other topic but sports. Sports movies always have a special license and leeway because they’re about a topic that many of us are already pre-disposed to enjoy. Even still, Draft Day isn’t a great sports movie. It’s alright. Here in Cleveland because it’s about our team it’s like a B+. In the rest of the country where it’s not about other NFL fans’ teams it’s a C-.

There were a few jokes and light moments that mostly fell flat. Some of the quirky characters that were supposed to provide relief, really didn’t achieve it. I thought Denis Leary was probably the best part and even with my criticisms, every Browns fan should see it and will probably enjoy it. Come on. It’s about the NFL draft. That’s our annual Super Bowl, you know other than that real Super Bowl that other teams seem to compete for on occasion.

*****

Finally, we can talk about the Cleveland Indians and race and it has nothing to do with Chief Wahoo. As Deadspin pointed out in their post with video, White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson had some pretty interesting things to say about the Tribe’s reliever, C.C. Lee after he entered the game last night.

After Lee threw a “nasty slider,” Harrelson called it a “typical Asian motion” before tagging it with, “Deception involved.”

Can you imagine either the Indians’ radio or TV crews saying anything like that? Yes, Tom Hamilton was in the spotlight after a brush back pitch at Nick Swisher by Aroldis Chapman last year, but it’s hard to imagine just the same.

*****

Of course the talk of the day here in Cleveland will be Alex Mack. It might be too much talk for the topic. Andy Baskin has been quite level-headed on the topic on 92.3 the Fan. His sentiments have included that as soon as this reaches its conclusion nobody will talk about it anymore and he’s exactly right. NFL center is one of those positions that nobody knows anything about unless the guy is tossing the ball over his QB’s head all the time or committing penalties. Nearly nobody I know would know whether Alex Mack had a good season or not without the benefit of Pro Football Focus.

On top of all that, we need to remember what we don’t know. The Browns were all set to pay Mack just over $10 million for 2014 with the transition tag. The deal makes Alex Mack the league’s top paid center. That can be misleading though. There are so many different variables at play here. Most notably, the salary cap has grown and is expected to continue to grow. So, while $18 million is always going to be $18 million, it shrinks in impact on the team as the salary cap increases.

We’ll just have to wait and see whether the Browns decide to match the deal or not. Only they know via their longer range projections whether this is a good idea for them. Only they know their own confidence level in replacing Alex Mack if he were to depart. Even the most plugged in Browns fans with extensive cap knowledge can go so far as to say if it’s a “good” idea or not.

I think my preference would still be for the Browns to bring Mack back, but absent that extra layer of intel, that preference isn’t worth a whole lot. My preferences are also based on the fact that I have no idea whether John Greco can play center at a fraction of the price or not. I suspect the Browns have a better feeling for that matter, among others.

*****

It might not seem fair, but it makes for a heck of a YouTube highlight video. I bring you the 7’5″ tall high school player highlight mix tape including sweet croakies to hold on his glasses. He’s everything that State Farm wanted their stupid commercial to be with Chris Paul, except the guy with glasses is awkward and plays basketball.

*****

Last, but certainly not least, I’m really excited to go see Mansions again live next week. This time instead of road-tripping to Pittsburgh I get to see them play live and in the comfortable confines of the Grog Shop. They are opening up for La Dispute, who are also sure to be good. Still, I’m only in that door because of Mansions. Here’s my favorite song from their newest album Doom Loop. It’s a live version.

Have a really nice weekend everyone and stay tuned for a podcast with @sportsyelling that I’ll be recording soon!

Lonnie Chisenhall placed on paternity leave

Lonnie Chisenhall

Someone let Boomer Esiason know that Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall’s wife, Meredith, had the gall to have their second child while the team is set to begin a west coast swing.

Major League Baseball couldn’t get through their first weekend without controversy, the first bout spilling over regarding it’s paternity leave rules. Esiason, a former NFL quarterback, stirred the pot by saying Daniel Murphy (from the Mets) should have forced his wife to have a c-section so that he could be ready for Opening Day. Esiason later apologized folllowing the subsequent uproar.

The 25-year-old Chisenhall can take up to three days off which should put him back on the active roster at some point over the weekend. Justin Sellers, a shortstop, was called up in a corresponding move. He’s provided a  .199/.278/.301 career slashline in the majors. Meanwhile, the 20-year-old Francisco Lindor is off to a quick start for Double-A Akron, hitting .308/.333/.462 through his first six games.

Babies and baseball. Get excited, folks.

John Axford finally recieves his Rolaids Relief Award…from 2011

Axford Rolaids (Custom)Indians closer John Axford is off to a good start. He is four for four in save opportunities after getting the save in the first half of the Tribe doubleheader on Wednesday. He is trying to bounce back from a bad 2013.

Axford’s best season by far came in 2011 when he saved 46 games while posting a 1.95 ERA. He allowed only four home runs in over 73 innings pitched for the Brewers and was rewarded with the National League Rolaids Relief Man award.

Except he never got the trophy. Until Tuesday morning in Cleveland.

FOX Sports’ Rob Neyer reports that the famous Rolaids trophies with the fireman helmets have been hard to come by since the Rolaids product went through two recalls stemming from consumer reports investigations.

“After those two recalls, Johnson & Johnson drastically reduced its distribution of Rolaids-brand products, and the attendant promotion of those products. Without Rolaids on store shelves, there was obviously little incentive to spend any money at all on those nifty trophies … and so none was spent, at all. Bell and Rafael Soriano, the winners in 2010, didn’t get their trophies. José Valverde and John Axford, the winners in 2011, didn’t get theirs, either.”

The players union apparently fought to get the awards made, and on Tuesday, Axford finally got to hold the silver trophy that he earned back in 2011.

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.

[Read more...]

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...]

Kyrie and Dion love-fest and keeping the Wahoo narrative alive: While We’re Waiting

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The dumbest press conference ever? – Have you ever seen a press conference where teammates had to stand before the media to tell everyone how good of friends they are? I certainly hadn’t….prior to yesterday:

How would Irving describe his relationship with Waiters?

“Honestly, off the court and on the court, we’re the best of friends,” he said. “So when we come on the court, we’re just going to play basketball like we’ve been doing the past few games and our focus is on winning right now.”

Added Waiters, “On behalf of [Irving], myself, I just think we’ve been in so much media this year, and it’s not fair to either of us.

“I just think, man, throughout this whole year with us two not liking each other, it’s total BS. We’ve been friends before we even made the NBA, before any of this. I just think y’all saying we don’t like playing with one another …

“Yeah, we still need to learn certain things. But I think at the end of the day, we’re genuinely friends. I love him as a friend, teammate, everything. I just want everybody to know that. I don’t hate this guy. I’m pretty sure he don’t hate me. I know he don’t hate me. I hope he don’t hate me. Rome wasn’t built in one day. We’re still young. We’re still planning to stay together. We’re still working. As long as we’ve got great communication down, it’s fine.”

[Read more...]

Photos: Waiters, Dellavedova and Hawes take in an Indians game

Three members of the Cleveland Cavaliers took in an Indians game together on Sunday afternoon. PG Matthew Dellavedova, SG Dion Waiters and C Spencer Hawes sat on the third baseline and enjoyed the game. For the record, Hawes was not afraid to wear Wahoo.

Hawes tweeted a different shot.

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.

[Read more...]

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

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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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Paternity leave, Danny Salazar, and an update on The League… While We’re Waiting

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While we’re waiting? I really left you waiting this week. Sorry for the delay. [Read more...]

“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 []

Indians sign Jason Kipnis to six-year contract extension

Jason KipnisEven more great news the day of the Home Opener…..

While they may have swung and missed on their attempts to lock up ace pitcher Justin Masterson, the Indians struck gold this morning with the announcement that All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis has agreed to a six-year, $52.5 million contract extension that will keep him in Cleveland through at least 2019. There is a club option for 2020 as well.

It hasn’t exactly been a secret that the Indians have struggled with some of their top draft picks over the last decade plus, but they hit a home run with Kipnis, their second round pick out of Arizona State in 2009. They turned the center fielder into a second baseman and watched him grow in front of their very eyes. He hit at every level and has become one of the key members of the Indians quest to stay amongst the playoff contenders year in and year out.

The Kipnis contract is similar to the six year, $52 million deal given to Matt Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason. Carpenter has played all over the diamond in St. Louis and was coming off of his best season as a pro. He has settled in at third this season. Kipnis will roam second base in Cleveland for the foreseeable future.

The beauty of this deal is that the Indians bought two years of Kipnis’s potential free agency in addition to a club option, while Jason has gotten himself financial security. A win-win for both side.

The details of the deal, as reported by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, are as follows:

  • $1 million signing bonus
  • 2014 (age 27): $2 million
  • 2015 (28): $4 million
  • 2016 (29): $6 million
  • 2017 (30): $9 million
  • 2018 (31): $13.5 million
  • 2019 (32): $14.5 million
  • 2020 (33): $16.5 million option ($2.5 million buyout)

In the meantime, the Indians now have their core group of Kipnis, Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley (also recently extended), Yan Gomes (also recently extended), Carlos Santana, Nick Swisher, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Marc Rzepcynski, John Axford, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, and Danny Salazar all under team control through 2016.

The old John Hart model has reappeared and it seems to be working for both the players and the team. Kudos to GM Chris Antonetti and the rest of the front office for getting this done.

—–

 (Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

John Axford used to play a game that included ABC gum

It’s a really really old joke.

“Hey, do you have some gum?”

“Sure! I have some ABC gum.”

“A B C gum? What’s that?”

“Already Been Chewed.”

Before John Axford was the Cleveland Indians’ closer, he proved to be pretty creative in terms of finding ways to pass the time as a professional pitcher. Apparently he and teammate Burke Badenhop weren’t above making up their own games, even if it meant involving ABC Gum. Jonah Keri told us all about it on Grantland last year in his Baseball Dictionary piece.

Re-mouth (exp.) — the act of sticking a piece of gum in your mouth after it has hit the ground. The term was coined by pitchers Burke Badenhop and John Axford in reference to a game they invented to pass the time during batting practice. In that game, Badenhop chews a giant wad of gum, spits it out of his mouth, then kicks the wad toward Axford, who’s standing about eight yards away. Axford must then hit the wad of gum out of midair with a water bottle, back toward Badenhop, who then attempts to catch it. When Badenhop fails in his initial attempt to kick the gum, he may then pick the gum off the outfield grass and reinsert it into his mouth for another attempt, hence “re-mouth.” The game itself does not have a name, and Grantland readers are highly encouraged to suggest candidates.

There’s no word yet on if Axford has brought the game with him to Cleveland. Burke Badenhop is now a member of the Boston Red Sox, so maybe when the Tribe and Sox clash this year, they can bring it back.

The 31-year-old Axford is off to a pretty good start in his Tribe career with two saves in two opportunities over the Indians’ first three games. If he keeps pitching like that, he can make up any games he wants. I’m sure fans in the stands will be willing to play with him, even if it includes chewed gum that has hit the floor.