April 20, 2014

MLB News: Indians bring in more spring depth, sign Elliot Johnson

elliot johnson bravesThe Indians added some extra infield competition by signing Elliot Johnson to a minor league deal on Monday.

Johnson, who turns 30 in March, also received an invite to big league spring training. He has appeared in 234 games the past two MLB seasons, primarily at second base and shortstop. He only has a career .218/.273/.319 hitting line in 806 plate appearances. A long-time member of the Tampa Bay Rays organization, he played in 2013 with Kansas City and Atlanta.

With Lonnie Chisenhall on the hot seat at third base and Mike Aviles the lone versatile backup option, it’s been a busy offseason for the Indians and utility infielders. Of course, the big story is Carlos Santana preparing for regular third-base duty. But other moves could have an impact as well.

Back in December, Cleveland signed 26-year-old infielder David Adams away from the Yankees organization. He played mostly third base in 43 MLB games last year, but was a second baseman in the minors. A third-rounder back in 2008, he had some fairly decent minor league hitting stats. He was added to the 40-man roster.

On Nov. 1, they also re-signed Ryan Rohlinger to a minor league deal. After playing 108 games in Double-A Akron in 2012, he then hit a decent .266/.354/.367 in 92 games for Triple-A Columbus last season. The 30-year-old has 46 career games of MLB experience, none since a one-game stint in 2011. His experience is mostly at third and short.

Other position player invites include catchers Matt Treanor and Luke Carlin, and outfielders Jeff Francoeur and Nyjer Morgan. These are all low-risk deals that most likely are just designed to help with Triple-A depth, at best. But if any of these guys somehow catch fire out in Arizona, they could force their way into the 25-man roster conversation.

[Related: Carlos Santana moving to third base, Chris Antonetti looking for free agents: Thursday Tribe Notes]

Source: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America

2013 Indians in Review: Infielders and Catchers

Asdrubal Cabrera

The Indians wild ride has come to an end. The 2013 season was one that nobody expected. A 96 loss team turned into a 92 win club that advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. GM Chris Antonetti and Manager Terry Francona helped changed the culture of the organization and has our baseball team on the rise. There is a buzz in the city about the Indians again. It was a season to remember with so many great moments and the arrival of some new fan favorites.  

Each day this week, we will look back at a different portion of the club and see where we are today, a plan for 2014, and so on. We began with the starting rotation, and then we moved onto the relievers. Today we will look at the infielders and catchers. [Read more...]

Proposing new 3rd down sounds for the Browns, Tribe attendance and much more – WFNY Podcast – 2013-09-11

WFNY Podcast LogoJon and Craig haven’t talked in a very long time, so we went and talked for a very long time.

  • Cleveland Browns gameday experience and the third down music
  • Third down music and Craig’s attempt to fix it
  • Buster Skrine vs. Francisco Lindor
  • Rick’s Oneil Cousins film room piece
  • Crucifying the player vs. the player who was forced into duty
  • Casey Blake vs. Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn
  • Spot players vs. everyday players
  • Yan Gomes and his growing playing time with Terry Francona
  • The respect for Terry Francona allowing the team to do what they want
  • How can the Indians get better next year
  • Is Lonnie Chisenhall going to be replaced this offseason?
  • What to do with Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez
  • The media and the state of beat reporting
  • Ryan Seacrest and how hating people like him and Matt Underwood says more about you than it does about them
  • Indians attendance and how it sucks us all in
  • The LeBron effect on all Cleveland sports
  • Michael Bourn’s quote about Indians attendance
  • Paying for my playoff shares of tickets
  • Just how long ago the 2007 playoffs were
  • MLB’s one game playoff should never have happened
  • Playoff chaos theory in baseball

[Read more...]

WFNY Stats & Info: Mike Aviles’ historic grand slam

Sunday’s Indians-Tigers game certainly had all the drama of a September battle for the playoffs. Finally, after a long 0-0 battle leading into the ninth inning, third baseman Mike Aviles broke it open with a grand slam.

The scoreless slam that late in the game was a bit historic, per the great stats minds of Elias Sports Bureau. Here’s what they distributed after the contest:

“Mike Aviles on Sunday became only the fifth player in major-league history to hit a ninth-inning grand slam that gave his team a 4-0 win. The other players who broke a 0-0 tie with a ninth-inning bases-loaded homer that accounted for all the scoring in a game were Dwight Smith (1995 Braves), Dave Hansen (1993 Dodgers) Tim Raines (1983 Expos) and Barry Bonnell (1980 Blue Jays).”

While the blast was the 48th home run of Aviles’ MLB career, it was his first slam. Overall this season, it was the fourth grand slam for the Cleveland Indians. Oddly enough, they’ve been hit by a strange collection of players: Michael Bourn (July 24), Lonnie Chisenhall (July 13), Mark Reynolds (April 13) and Aviles.

The four by Cleveland are the franchise’s most since 2010 (seven). The mark also ranks tied for third-best in baseball, behind only Seattle (six) and Detroit (five). It was only the second ninth inning grand slam of the season, along with the blast by Miami’s Jeff Mathis on June 30, which also took place in a tied game.

The homer was substantial as the Indians playoff odds jumped from 9.7% to 14.6% with the win. They now return home to face the Baltimore Orioles in a crucial series for wild card positioning. Cleveland finished the season 4-15 against the Tigers, which are their most losses against a single opponent since 15 against the Washington Senators in 1969.

[Related: Summertime sadness: Venting on the fading Tribe]

Tribe Bench Gives Team A Huge Leg Up On Competition

Jason GiambiEveryday when the tweet rolls through my timeline about the Tribe lineup, I instantly have to take a look and dissect it. Which starter(s) are sitting today? Is anyone batting out of their typical spot in the order? Is there a tough lefty on the mound keeping someone out of the lineup? Even though I still look at it daily, there’s far less anxiety when I do it this season. No longer are there “giveaway game” lineups getting marched out there with a pathetic backup catcher, light hitting middle infielder, and a one-dimensional fourth outfielder.

Instead Ryan Raburn, Mike Aviles, Yan Gomes, and Jason Giambi are giving the Indians an advantage right now that few other teams in the league have: Every single game, the Wahoos are marching a lineup out there without a hole in it. This economical and well-executed bench is helping the Tribe win at the margins, and in a tight AL Central and Wild Card race, it could make all the difference.

[Read more...]

Indians All-Star Break Review: The Position Players

Asrubal CabreraWe have arrived at baseball’s All-Star break. The Cleveland Indians sit at 51-44, a game and a half out of first place in the AL Central. It has been quite a ride since GM Chris Antonetti hired Terry Francona to manage this club. The shot had been fired – a change in culture was about to arrive in Cleveland. We expected some changes, but nobody could have expected that this team would be as good as it has been.

Yes, they have been up and down and have the nickname “Team Streak,” but this start has a completely different feel than the last two years. This seems real.

With that said, this week we will take a look at the three aspects of the club. We opened with the starting rotation. Yesterday we examined the bullpen.

In part three, we will look at the position players.

[Read more...]

The Cleveland Indians game experience is great but they need to fix “God Bless America”

Family With Onion

My kids had a good time meeting Onion even if they were slightly “wary” of getting too close to her.

The Cleveland Indians do an amazing job with in-game entertainment. I want to say that first and foremost so that my one criticism of their “God Bless America” doesn’t get overblown. Before we get to the one negative, I want to talk about how great it has been to attend Indians games this season because of all the things they do right. It’s especially important to me now because I’m taking my son to more games and it takes more than just pure baseball to keep a 3-year-old engaged. So far so good as the Indians do and it’s great because it makes it easier for me to justify getting to experience baseball live and in-person more times per year.

So let’s get the one negative out of the way. The version of “God Bless America” that the Indians play is wrong. I mean musically it is jarring and incorrect. The song is going along just fine until the end when they inexplicably splice in an upward key change that is missing any kind of setup. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out this YouTube video that catalogs some of the most famous utilizations of key change in music history including “Penny Lane” by the Beatles. The key change that takes place at Progressive Field occurs inexplicably before the last “God bless America” and I’m guessing they took a longer version of the song which included a key change that was properly set up, spliced them together and thought it worked. As a musician, I’m telling you it doesn’t. But that’s easily fixed and not what I want to dwell on.

I’ve been to three Indians games in the last two weeks, including both Sundays with my kids. [Read more...]

Indians 5 Rangers 2: Ding Dong! The streak is dead!

Corey KluberEight straight. 16 of 20. 12 straight on the road.

All of those losing skids went by the wayside last night in muggy yet windy Arlington, Texas thanks to a local boy turned good. Of all of the surprising storylines with the Indians thus far in 2013, perhaps the biggest shocker has been the rise of starting pitcher Corey Kluber.

Kluber was acquired from San Diego on July 31, 2010 as a part of a three-team deal which sent the ultra-consistent Jake Westbrook to St. Louis. He has been in the organization for just about three years and has been looked at mostly as an afterthought; a rotation filler kind of guy. Kluber got a taste of the majors down the stretch last year, making 12 starts. He certainly didn’t get anyone too excited with his 5.14 ERA and 1.49 WHIP, but he did strike out 54 in 63 innings.

Heading into Spring, Kluber was in the race for the fifth starter job, but he was a long shot. Even with a shot to get a spot start during that first week of the season with Carlos Carrasco suspended and Scott Kazmir on the DL, the Indians chose rookie Trevor Bauer over Kluber. But Kluber continued to bide his time in Columbus and when Brett Myers went down, Kluber got the call to replace him in the rotation. [Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Wrapup: Wahoos falling fast…can they get back up?

Michael BournLet’s get it out of the way right from the jump: Your Cleveland Indians, aka Team Streak, are in the midst of yet another June swoon. This was a team that not too long ago won 18 of 22 and led the AL Central by two and a half games. Since the miracle four-game sweep against Seattle, capped off by the Yan Gomes walkoff three-run homer on a Monday afternoon in Cleveland, the wheels have come completely off the wagon. The schedule became a lot tougher, and the Indians collectively have gone into a gigantic slump. The 4-15 stretch has been book-ended by two sweeps from the team they are fighting for the division lead, the Detroit Tigers.

It has been Murphy’s Law time for Terry Francona’s crew. Whatever could go wrong, has gone wrong.

“When it rains, it pours,” said slumping first baseman Nick Swisher. “We’ve got to just keep going out there and battling every day, man. This is a long season. Hopefully, we’ll look back at this stretch in August and September and kind of laugh at it all. That’s it, man. It just boils down to winning a ballgame. That’s it.” [Read more...]

Chris Perez investigation, Tribe struggles, firing umpires and more with TD – WFNY Podcast – 2013-06-05

WFNY Podcast LogoThere’s not much conclusive news about Chris Perez right now, and that took some of the wind out of our sails. Still, we had a conversation about a lot of the “what ifs” before getting into the real meat of the Indians’ troubles right now as they work through the hardest part of their schedule so far this season.

  • The historical perspective and how the world will look at Marijuana

  • Chris Perez and the marijuana debate

  • The 10,000 foot view and whether or not this is a big deal

  • This isn’t shocking and the rich and famous get caught up in this

  • The national drunk hotline and Jim Rome’s celebrity drunk bus

  • The Bosch case in Miami and the looming penalties

  • Jamey Carroll and the lack of a backup shortstop

  • The benefit to the Indians if Jhonny Peralta gets suspended

  • Asdrubal Cabrera and just how long he might be out

  • Mike Aviles and the general state of umpiring in MLB

  • Indians benefit from the calls too. Not a homer take.

  • The umpires that shouldn’t be working anymore. CB Bucknor, Tony Randazzo, and Angel Hernandez

  • J.C. Romero as the left-handed option in the bullpen

  • Carlos Carrasco and how he’ll fit into the bullpen

  • Cody Allen and how much George Carlin would hate his name

  • Jose Lindor and how little you want to start the clock on him

  • The wild card games and how they hamper them

  • Is there anything sillier than a one game playoff? [Read more...]

MLB News: Asdrubal Cabrera placed on 15-day DL

It wasn’t a big surprise after seeing Asdrubal Cabrera’s painful run down the first base line last night that today the team has placed him on the 15-day DL. The team also announced that they’ve recalled infielder Juan Diaz from AAA Columbus.

Diaz’ numbers in Columbus are pretty unimpressive as he’s batting .211 and .231 against righties according to the Tribe’s press release. Diaz also made a brief appearance in Cleveland in 2012, but count on seeing a good amount of Mike Aviles in the meantime.

The Indians’ supposed future at shortstop, Francisco Lindor, is currently playing for the Carolina Mudcats at age 19 after being selected in the first round of 2011. So, don’t even think about it.

[Related: 2013 NBA Draft, LeBron James, Trent Richardson, Asdrubal Cabrera and more with Dennis Manoloff – WFNY Podcast – 2013-06-04]

Mike Aviles: “You’ll never want to play for anybody else”

Buried in his Friday evening notes from Boston, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian had this “quote to note” from Indians utility man Mike Aviles about manager Terry Francona:

“I had numerous guys ask me, ‘What’s Tito like as a manager?’ I’d say, ‘I promise you, you’ll never want to play for anybody else.’ And it’s no disrespect to anybody else. That’s just the type of person Tito is. Once you play for a guy like Tito, you kind of get spoiled.”

Aviles, 32, also played with Francona in Boston during the team’s much-ballyhooed collapse in late 2011. After beginning his professional career with the Kansas City Royals, he was dealt to the Sox in a deadline deal that season. He batted .317 in 38 games down the stretch when Francona ended his Boston tenure with a 7-20 September run that led to no playoff appearance.

In the offseason, Francona was shown the door in Boston. With regular playing time, Aviles had a career season under one-year manager Bobby Valentine in 2012. This past offseason, Aviles then was traded for manager John Farrell to Toronto and, just two weeks later, was dealt again in the Esmil Rogers trade over to Cleveland. Francona had arrived the previous month, thus sparking the impromptu and excited manager-player reunion.

Aviles is batting .280 in 31 games this season with 5 doubles and 3 home runs. He has appeared in games at five different positions, with his flexibility greatly assisting the oft-injured and very surprising club so far.

[Related: Indians 12 Red Sox 3: Tito’s Revenge Tastes So Sweet]

Indians exemplifying “next man up” thus far

Mike Aviles

Once upon a time, nagging injuries were analogous to death knell in Cleveland. When Grady Sizemore started finding his name on the disabled list more often than not, the Indians were forced to replace him with Ezequiel Carerra. When Shin–Soo Choo was shelved in 2011, right field would subsequently be occupied by the likes of Austin Kearns. Chris Giminez, Jerad Head, Travis Buck, Jayson Nix…all potentially wonderful human beings, but men who did not exactly led to many wins when wearing Wahoo on their hat.

Fast forward to 2013 and the Cleveland Indians have finally been able to field a roster where days off for core players, be they due to day games or scheduled rest, does not lead to moans and groans when the batting order is tweeted ad nauseum roughly 90 minutes before the first pitch. [Read more...]

Indians 10, Phillies 4: The Return Of The Big O

Asdrubal CabreraI know none of you were really concerned about the offense after the last three games, right? I mean, what you can’t forget is that there was a time earlier in the year where they were shut out back to back games in Tampa and then followed it up by dropping a 13 spot on the Rays. Make no mistake about it, this was a tired ball club. It is also a very streaky ball club offensively. These types of hot and cold streaks will probably continue most of the year. You just hope that the cold spells don’t last very long.

After scoring just three runs in three games Monday and Tuesday, the Tribe had a quick turnaround afternoon tilt against tough lefty Cole Hamels and his Philadelphia Phillies. It was their seventh game in the last six days in three different cities (Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia), so another bat slumber could have easily occurred. Then again, this is a new era of Tribe baseball. ActaBall is dead. Long live TitoBall.

One of the things you come to learn while watching years and years of baseball is that on the mid-week “getaway day” games, you often see both clubs give “getaway-day at-bats.” Guys swing early in the counts and strike-zones seem to be more liberal.  However in this one, the Indians approach against Hamels was the opposite. They were set to work the lefty deep into counts and wait for him to make mistakes. [Read more...]

Cleveland Indians talk – trying not to talk attendance, Swisher’s intangibles, Francona and Ubaldo and more with TD – WFNY Podcast – 2013-05-09

WFNY Podcast LogoWe did talk briefly about the attendance, but really not much at all. We’ve both agreed that it shouldn’t dominate the headlines a second year in a row.

  • Lackluster attendance and how tired we are of talking about it

  • Bud Shaw’s article about the long-term project

  • TV ratings and how far they’re up year over year

  • You can’t get the pulse of casual fans that stopped going

  • Nick Swisher truly has intangibles

  • LeBron dancing and picture-taking vs. Nick Swisher’s mugging and dancing

  • Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner while great guys and decent players weren’t electric personalities

  • Mike Aviles throwing sunflower seeds at Terry Francona during in-game interview

  • Francona setting his own bar so very high for himself in Boston

  • Jonathan Papelbon and how purely hateable he is

  • Theo Epstein and how he’s disappeared into the Cubs job

  • Brett Meyers, Daisuke Matsuzaka and the also-rans in the system

  • Ubaldo Jimenez and how Francona is managing him [Read more...]

Red Sox 6 Indians 3: Stumbling Offense, Bumbling Defense Lead To Sox Sweep

Ryan RaburnIt doesn’t get much worse than yesterday in the wacked out world that is Cleveland Sports. Late morning brought us the news that the Cavaliers had relieved Byron Scott of his duties leaving Terry Francona, on the job all of 13 games and all of six and a half months as the longest tenured manager/coach of our three major sports franchises. Then we all learned that the man who was as popular as The Beatles in this town, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, had his company and “first love” Pilot/Flying J under FBI investigation for the past two years on charges of alleged rebate fraud. According to a 120-page affidavit, Haslam had direct knowledge of the wrongdoings. Meanwhile, the Indians were trying to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox, who have done just about everything right in the first two games of the series.

Well this is Cleveland, and sometimes when it rains, it doesn’t just pour, it monsoons on us.

This is supposed to be a time of excitement and hope. The NFL Draft is a week away. The NBA Playoffs are starting this weekend. The baseball season is just getting off the ground. The Indians are fresh with new players and a manager that is about as respected as they come. But yesterday the sports world was the dog, and our three teams were the tree.  [Read more...]

Tribe Preview Part One: The Position Players

Nick SwisherFor those of you who are/were concerned about me after Kansas’s stunning collapse against Michigan Friday night, I can assure you that I am OK. Remember, I am from Cleveland. I have seen plenty of gag jobs in my day. Of course, it didn’t help watching Michigan easily dismantle a completely overrated Florida team to get to the Final Four. But hey, it is time to move forward. Time to put all of my focus on my first love, the Cleveland Indians and the game of baseball.

Today is Opening Day in cities all across the nation. Tomorrow, your Wahoo Warriors begin the 2013 season in Toronto against a Blue Jays team that like the Tribe, majorly overhauled their roster for the better. They are in “go for it” mode as well, adding “The Miami Four” in starter Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle, shortstop Jose Reyes, and outfielder Emilio Bonafacio, as well as NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to head a loaded pitching staff. Throw-in cheater extraordinaire Melky Cabrera and the face-lift has many picking the Jays to win the AL East. Dickey will be on the mound chucking his knuckler the Tribe’s way in the season opener. [Read more...]

Pestano shelled as USA eliminated in WBC, Aviles and Puerto Rico advance

Vinnie Pestano will be joining his Tribe teammates in Goodyear, AZ a little earlier than he and Team USA had hoped. The US was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic at the hands of a 4-3 loss to Puerto Rico on Friday night.

With one on and two out, trailing 1-0 in the 6th, Pestano took the mound for Team USA replacing starter Ryan Vogelsong of the Giants. Pestano gave up a single to the Tribe’s Mike Aviles, walked Alex Rios, then walked in a run by giving Carlos Rivera a free pass.

With the bases loaded, two outs, and the US now trailing 2-0, Vestano gave up a two run double to Andy Gonzalez. That would be all for Pestano, who was yanked in favor of Jeremy Affeldt.

The US would rally to cut the lead to 4-3 but in the end Gonzalez’s bases loaded double off of Pestano would be the difference.

Mike Aviles and Puerto Rico will play the Dominican Republic on Saturday to determine seeding for the championship round as both teams have already advanced. Aviles is hitting .286 with 8 RBI in 6 games for Puerto Rico.

Indians no longer pursuing Jim Thome, will not commit roster spot to DH

The Cleveland Indians have reportedly slammed the door on any potential reunion between the club and its all-time home run leader Jim Thome. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the team will not be committing a roster spot to a designated hitter.

As WFNY’s Jon wrote earlier this offseason, Thome, 42, appears closer to the end of his career. Last season his ISO (slugging minus batting average—a measure of raw power) dropped below .200 for the first time in his career.  He hurt his back while playing first base, and managed only 186 plate appearances on the season because of it.

In turn, the Tribe will likely use a DH-by-committee approach, which utilizes the versatility of players like Mike Aviles and Mark Reynolds while using Lou Marson as a back-up catcher, giving multiple players — Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera, Lonnie Chisenhall — days off in the field while keeping their bats in the lineup. This move, while capping the potential overall slugging percentage of the lineup, avoiding Thome does allow the team to remain flexible and persue other options in the event the committee approach does bear fruit.

Upon Thome’s retirement, if the player does decide to call it a career, the Indians have plans on erecting a statue in his honor. It will stand on the spot where the slugger’s legendary 511-foot home run landed in July of 1999.

[Related: Jim Thome: Slugger Gets Closure in Cleveland]



MLB News: Indians agree to two-year deal with Mike Aviles

The Cleveland Indians officially avoided arbitration once again by agreeing to a two-year contract with infielder Mike Aviles. The contract is worth $6 million with an option for 2015.

Aviles, who earned $1.2 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility last season, had requested a salary of $3.4 million, Cleveland countered with an offer of $2.4 million for the coming campaign.

In 2012, Aviles hit .250 with 13 home runs, 14 stolen bases, 28 doubles, 57 runs scored and 60 runs batted in through 136 games with the Boston Red Sox. Spending the majority of five seasons with the Kansas City Royals, Aviles provided a slash line of .277 /.308/.408 slugging percentage though 475 career games.

The versatile 31-year old was acquired via trade this past offseason and will likely spell the Indians throughout the diamond. Having Aviles under contract through 2015 will allow the Indians to have depth behind All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera who becomes a free agent after 2014.

The Indians have not gone to an arbitration hearing with a player since 1991.

[Related: Hafner Heads East…..PEACE]