April 24, 2014

Indians (once again) among best values in MLB

The 2014 Fan Cost Index was officially released and the Cleveland Indians are, once again, among the best values in all of baseball, coming in third-lowest with an averge cost of $162.24.

The annual Fan Cost Index, as run by TeamMarketing.com, compiles the average cost of four tickets, small sodas, two hats, small beers, programs and parking. The average in Major League Baseball comes in this year at $214.46, a 2.3 percent increase over last season. The Indians’ mark of $162.24 represents a mere 0.3 percent increase over the 2013 season, one which saw the team win 90-plus games and make the postseason for the first time since 2007.

While the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks continue to be below the Indians in average cost, the Tribe continues to be well below the game’s average in ticket price ($21.31 vs. $27.93) as well as average premium ticket price1 ($54.33 vs. $93.41). The cost of a beer in Progressive Field is over $2.00 less (33 percent) than the average stadium brew and parking is roughly $3 less (20 percent) per automobile.

Last season, the Indians were among the league’s worst in attendance, with many fans pointing to dynamic ticketing policies as a point of contention. While this policy will not be going away any time soon, the team has added additional values this season, including “Carnegie Tickets” as well as Kids Value passes.

The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies top the list as most expensive. The Detroit Tigers find themselves among the top 10 while the Twins, White Sox and Royals fill in between the AL Central’s most expensive and it’s best value.

Image via TheWeek.com

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Footnotes:

  1. Either defined as premium or come equipped with one added amenity []

LeBron James is rightfully jealous of Miguel Cabrera’s new contract

Miguel CabreraReally, who isn’t jealous of Miguel Cabrera’s new contract? His existing deal plus the eight-year extension will pay him close to $300 million in total. Last week, when asked about it by Brian Windhorst, LeBron James said he was jealous of that money, before saying he wishes the NBA “didn’t have a salary cap.”

“He’s the best player in baseball, and the best players in each sport should be rewarded,” James said. “It’d be nice to sign a 10-year deal worth $300 million.”

Of course nobody should feel sorry for LeBron James who earns lots and lots of money in his own right between the NBA and endorsements. Still, consider LeBron’s talent level and his stature in his game as one of about 450 or so players in his league.1 Meanwhile Miguel Cabrera is easily one of the best players in his game, but he’s also one of about 1,300 players in his league.2 So, it does seem a little bit strange that Cabrera could be worth double in overall contract value than Kobe Bryant who once signed a deal for seven years and just over $136 million.

I’ve suggested that one of the ways that the NBA can deal with player movement would be to have a franchise tag for one player on each roster. This franchised player wouldn’t be subject to the salary cap at all. So your team could have a roster of players that need to cost under $70 million for example, but then if you have a Kobe, or LeBron, you can pay them true market value. I haven’t worked out all the particulars, but each team can only have one of these guys making that tag scarce and inflating the value of playing in smaller markets for at least that one player who could be designated. It also might do wonders to break up super teams.

Anyway, it makes me wonder what LeBron James’ true market value might be to his sport considering Miguel Cabrera’s worth $300 million in his sport. Everyone said that the Miami Heat “sacrificed” to put their team together down in Miami. Imagine if they really had to sacrifice though. Imagine if LeBron was making $45 million per year as the “franchise” player and Wade and Bosh had to fight for the right to make $20 million each under the cap while also having teammates.

More importantly, would $45 million even be enough for LeBron’s true market value?

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

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Footnotes:

  1. 30 teams times 15 players per team, give or take turnover and the developmental league. []
  2. 32 teams times 40 players is 1280. []

While Y’all Are Waiting: A Jeremiad of Sorts

[Editor's Note: With Craig being out today, we thought it would be awesome to have Denny Mayo return and do WWW today in Craig's place. For those who are new to the site and may not know who Denny is, he was one of the original weekend editors at WFNY and he gave this site a unique and interesting voice that we lacked before and have never quite been able to replace. But a lot has changed in Denny's life in recent years since he left WFNY to focus on his doctorate. Because he's touching on some hot button topics below, we are of course obligated to say that his opinions are his own. There is no unified stance from WFNY, as we are made up of many different voices and opinions. Some of us stand with Denny, while others disagree. But no matter where you stand, whether you agree or disagree with his opinions, this piece is incredibly well thought out and well written and, well, it's just awesome to have Denny back at WFNY, even if it is only for one day and for one piece. -- Andrew Schnitkey]

Dr StrangeloveGood morning. Craig is out today; the inmates have offered to run the asylum in his absence. Management acquiesced to our request.

It has been 1344 days since I last wrote words here. It’s nice to see you all. Things have changed, but you haven’t aged a day. When I decided to stop writing here to focus on graduate school, the NBA had just died a young death, never to rise from its ashes. Craig and I have talked about this on the podcast, but as I’m growing older, I’m finding it difficult to enjoy sports as much as I used to. At this point, I very well may like making esoteric jokes about sports more than I actually like sports. So it goes.

There are a number of reasons why I’m not digging on sports so hard anymore, and I’m writing whatever I want to write, so let’s get into them:

1) It really bothers me that Chief Wahoo is still a thing. Not the ‘debate’ about Chief Wahoo, mind you, but that the actual logo is still in use—and that any semblance of a ‘debate’ among the Cleveland fan base continues. The logo is racist dreck from a (mostly) bygone era and is generally condemned by the National Congress of American Indians. Yet we annually drudge up a ‘debate’ that begins and ends up with mouth-breathing talk radio hosts denying any evidence that Native Americans oppose the use of Native American likenesses as athletic logos, in order to get radio listeners to call in to their show so that they can convince advertisers to keep paying them. This debate is an auroboros of stupid.

I know that this topic is 1) stale and 2) not a lot of fun to discuss, but this is not an issue where there is much nuance, yet it is treated as such by many who cover it in order to frame the ‘two sides of the debate’ with a wonderful veneer of false equivalence, as though there should be equal weight given to each side. The AV Club review of the excellent series premiere of Neil Degrasse-Tyson’s COSMOS reboot (which you should be watching this show, by the way, because science is wonderful) gets to the heart of the matter of the show, but also the issue at hand here as well:

“The show is also unabashed in its commitment to truth—it matter-of-factly presents what we know about the universe, what we’re pretty sure about, and what we don’t know yet. Cosmos doesn’t hedge: You won’t hear the narrator, astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, neuter any of his statements with a gratuitous “some people believe…” counterpoint. … In a media environment where truth has to compete with a “balance” designed to prevent hurt feelings, Cosmos’ straightforward tack is quaint—laudably so.”

There are facts about the history of America’s treatment of American Indians that are not pretty and that are not touched on during our primary education (probably because they are not pretty!). But they are facts, and they are ever-relevant when discussing the ongoing plight of the American Indian.

Sports should be fun, harmless, and inclusive. Chief Wahoo is none of these things—enough so that I refuse to put onesies with Chief Wahoo on my infant daughter that were given to us as gifts. To gloss over the nasty nature of the logo because [a largely non-Native American base of] fans want to keep using a Samboface logo because it reminds the fans of the halcyon days of their youth, or because the logo is ’tradition’, or because ‘only whiny white people don’t like the logo’, or because ‘it doesn’t matter because it’s only a logo’ are reasons that are at best selfish and juvenile and at worst come from a place far, far more pernicious.

2) It’s increasingly difficult to enjoy tackle football in its current incarnation. I’ve never been a huge Browns fan (cf.), but the NFL’s—and Roger Goodell’s—staggering ability to whistle past the graveyard and spread false information regarding the effects of brain injury does not sit particularly well with me. The tried-and-true delay tactics of pointing out that ‘the science is not conclusive’ and ‘more studies are needed before taking action’ are especially pernicious when you realize that every season that involves a delay in instituting some sort of acknowledgment and subsequent change to the game is another season in which 1) the powers-that-be profit wildly at the expense of other humans’ lives, while marketing their business as safe and humane and 2) another cohort of impressionable (and brain-capable!) children put on their Pop Warner helmets and start crashing into each other.

3) Add the labor issues involved in collegiate athletics on top of brain injury seriousness, and it’s even becoming hard to enjoy my beloved Ohio State Football Team. This does not mean that I do not watch, nor does it mean that I do not cheer for my team. But a lot of the fun is gone knowing that every time the crowd is cheering a big hit, the man who made the hit likely did so at the expense of a part of his life—and that he will go pro in something other than sports™ after being subject to the capricious gaze of the “Non-Profit” Arbiters of Amateurism.

4) Sports franchises aggressively hold their host cities hostage for absurd tax breaks in order to renovate perfectly good (yet highly land-inefficient) facilities, and will move if their deal isn’t sweet enough. This is no different from plenty of other businesses, except that sports teams are viewed as some sort of public trust—that just happen to be banned by law from being publicly-owned. And the leagues are non-profit entities.

So what we end up with are carpet-bagging team owners who come in, run roughshod over any semblance of tradition that the fan base is proud of, and then contribute little, if any, to the actual community where they make their sportsball happen. Immediately upon purchasing the team, we are inundated with PR blasts that tell us how we’ve turned a corner and that Everything is now Coming Up Cleveland, and This Owner Totally Gets It!

And then down the line these owners whose arrival and general existence has been lauded at every opportunity may even decide to build a casino and have their sportsmen happily remind stadium-goers to remember to vote for the casino referendum. And then after that, a land bridge to hermetically seal the casino-goers from the public. But if you hesitate to give them everything they want in terms of land and infrastructure, you’d better watch it—they’ll be gone before you know it.

5) That sports fandom seems to requires some caveman-like viewpoint of masculinity. This doesn’t manifest so much in dealing with actual sports, but often creeps in when sports and culture collide such as to allow the real men in the crowd to step forward and assert KNOWN KNOWNS, such as: the inability for a grown human adult to effectively play sportsball because of who they happen to be romantically involved with; that using statistics as a lens through which one can evaluate sports is invalid; or that Richie Incognito is anything but a racist bully.

Many of these collisions involve spectacular non-sequiturs, such as but not limited to: ‘WHY IS THIS NEWS?!’; or ‘I JUST KNOW A GOOD PLAYER WHEN I SEE ONE’; or ‘WHY CAN BLACK PEOPLE USE THE N-WORD BUT WHITE PEOPLE CANNOT?’ (For answers to these questions, you could do far worse than reading Ta-Nehisi Coates on two of these topics. Seriously, go do so. I’ll wait.) These questions reek of desperation and deflection from the issue at hand: that it is indeed possible that people of differing backgrounds can all participate in sport effectively, and that masculinity and personal background have little to do with it.

It’s also increasingly difficult for me to stomach the ‘suck it up and play’ aspect of fan culture. This is particularly bad with respect to hockey fans but happens across all fanbases. It’s not our place to demand injury upon others, or that someone over-expose themselves to the risk of further injury because we want their team to win at a sports.

Sports are an extension of humanity. It’d be nice if fandom were more humane.

6) I don’t like that I don’t like sports as much because of these reasons. This is much more inward-gazing and meta, but even with all of these issues I still do like sports. I enjoy going to Nationals games and DC United games, and I’m ecstatic that the Buckeyes will be playing in Baltimore and College Park this fall and I’ll be able to take a short train ride to go see my alma mater play tackle football. But I don’t view sports fandom as a very significant facet of my life at this point, and that’s weird and off-putting because it’s a pretty big shift relative to the majority of my life. It’s going to take a long time to come to grips with this, and I’ve only recently begun to really acknowledge it.

Falling out of love with sports has been a change that has been slowly developing, the sort of thing that’s been hard to track the evolution of. It’s been like watching a puppy grow, where suddenly three years later you look back at a picture and realize ‘wow, our St Bernard used to be tiny‘. The changes have been incremental and additive, and now I’m to a point nearly four years removed from writing about sports frequently where I can’t imagine trying to write about sports with any sort of frequency. Though I’m firm on the points above, please don’t read them as value judgements—not long ago I cared a whole lot about Cleveland sports, and I may care about them again at some point. Most of my good friends love them some sports, and I continue to make good friends with whom sports fandom (or, maybe more accurately, making sports jokes) is our initial common thread. I want to love sports again. I really do.

But part of growing up is realizing that life doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to view sports in a vacuum anymore. So it goes.

So rather than link to actual sports things that are happening as is customary in these pieces, I thought I’d point out some cool stuff that I’ve been learning about in lieu of learning about sports rosters and statistics (and if you guys have other fun things to talk about, bring them up, because quite honestly the community aspect of sports fandom is like its most positive aspect and why I still do hang around from time to time).

*One place I make time to visit every time I’m visiting family in Canton is the I-76 Antique Mall. It is wonderful. I am not joking.

*Cooking is something that I’ve been trying to learn more about. This came up somewhat frequently in discussions with Craig when we were doing the Casual Friday podcast, but I thought I’d point out some things that I’ve taken to recently:

*I’ve read Adam Perry Lang’s Serious Barbecue twice and started reading Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio. Serious BBQ is a hefty book with a whole lot of recipes, but it lays out some broadly useful stuff at the front end and includes a lot of tips that are quite interesting (like using an herb bundle to butter-baste meats during cooking). Ratio strips back recipes to their foundational bases, based solely on ingredient ratios and the order of ingredient addition. For me, this is hugely useful, because it’s easy to follow a recipe, but far more difficult to be able to grab a bunch of things off of a shelf and throw together a meal. Both books are super, super insightful and I recommend both if BBQ/cooking are things you like.

*The tri-tip is a fantastic cut of beef that I’ve recently gotten familiar with. So is eye round. Pork shoulder remains the meat of the gods. Bourbon is still king of spirits (I’ve recently been enjoying Weller Reserve).

*Internet Friend Sarah Sprague’s 2014 Chili Roundup is well worth your time. In brief: never, ever use store-bought chili powder in any dish ever again. But you already knew this, you smart devil, you.

*You should be reading everything that Kenji Lopez-Alt writes at The Food Lab. The chocolate chip cookie recipe is sublime (sea salt on cookies = advanced move) and the tacos al pastor recipe is absolutely worth the work (I made this last Friday and used leftover meat for nachos).

*Successfully growing vegetables and herbs is not trivial.

*Freshly-roasted coffee is sublime and remarkably inexpensive.

*If you want to find old pictures to make prints, the Library of Congress’ website is amazing. For instance: this old picture of Municipal Stadium during construction is incredible, and is free for download. Seriously. I printed, matted and framed a copy for my father-in-law this year for Christmas. There are lots of pictures of Olde Cleveland (and old WPA posters as well). Use this information to your advantage.

*As I haven’t been in Ohio this calendar year, I thought I’d ask a friend who has been to Cleveland this year about his experience. His response:

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport – I’m assuming it’s named for Sir Anthony – is entirely successful from a functional perspective: planes land there, and then they take off again. It gets a solid A for Being An Airport, and that shouldn’t be ignored; there are still delayed flights from 1994 in Dallas-Fort Worth, for instance. Beyond that? It’s the airport you would design if you were too cheap to pay for an architect and just downloaded the first “airport_plans_eminem_freestyle.jpg” file you found on LimeWire, a choice reinforced by the fact that the dining/shopping options are places you think you’ve heard of maybe once. Look: the Chili’s Too people wanted a crazy franchise fee. You’ll eat at Burgers of Calais and like it. (Burgers of Calais is not actually a restaurant in Cleveland Airport, and if you steal that name I’ll sue.) This is an airport designed to be forgotten quickly. I was there six weeks ago and already it feels like a particularly unremarkable dream.

That friend is Celebrity Hot Tub, and he was stuck in Hopkins for something like 22 hours. It sounds like y’all wow’d him.

*Home organization is an incredibly difficult and never-ending process. Case-in-point: I lined the wall under my basement stairs with pegboard and spend ten minutes or so a week wondering if I could better-arrange my tools. The same goes for kitchen organization and wall-mounting of frequently-used items. These things do not matter, yet they matter.

*Babies: really cool, and quite anxiety-inducing. I’m gonna take my kid to go meet Brendan’s kid today, which is kind of weird, but also pretty awesome. Hooray Internet.

I’ve come a long way from photoshopping Kelvin Sampson’s head onto Bruce Willis, y’all. Growing up is weird.

OK, it’s been fun. Go sports.

MLB Rumors: Indians possible destination for Joaquin Benoit and Shawn Marcum

As MLB’s Winter Meetings wind down, the Indians have been mentioned as possible landing spots for two free agent pitchers. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, Cleveland is one of five teams likely to land reliever Joaquin Benoit, whose closer role in Detroit will likely be subsumed by Joe Nathan in 2014.

Meanwhile, Jasyon Stark of ESPN notes that the Indians are one of three teams showing particular interest in starter Shawn Marcum.

Marcum is coming off a rather severe injury that significantly limited his performance in 2013 with the New York Mets, but could represent the sort of “bounce back” rotation role that Scott Kazmir personified last season.

More if/when/as this develops.

[Related: Francona on Masterson: “He’s not going anywhere”]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s time to say goodbye to Chief Wahoo

wahooI have spent a lot of time and energy in my life defending Chief Wahoo. In many ways, I love Chief Wahoo. It’s an image that reminds me of my youth, of my mom and dad taking my brother, sister, and I to a game every year. It reminds me of talking Tribe with my late grandfather. It reminds me of Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga, Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Charles Nagy, Jim Thome, and Sandy Alomar Jr. It’s a sacred image for many fans of the Cleveland Indians.

I also believe that it’s time to put Chief Wahoo out of his misery and remove the image from any association with the baseball franchise. The sooner the better.

My change in stance on this issue has been a slow one, but it really picked up speed in recent weeks. Things really started to change with the Indians’ recent playoff game against the Rays. The TBS crew at one point aired a shot of a group of Indians fans who had painted their entire faces red with an enormous, exaggerated white toothy grin. [Read more...]

A Twitter-free AL Wild Card Experience

twitter-freeWhile the genesis and timing of the actual decision are still unknown, there was a point leading up to Wednesday night’s American League Wild Card game where I decided that I was going to watch in solitude. Not alone, in a closet, with some tin foil antennae attached to a 16-inch television while I consume beef jerky and water, but free from the thousand-or-so individuals who populate my Twitter feed at any given time1. Though the beef jerky itself sounds delightful, I wanted to be free from the noise—the pitch-by-pitch analysis and valueless play-by-play and electronic onomatopoeias, the “I told you sos” peddled as “truths” and the potential for glass-half-empty garbage that would otherwise take away from the fact that the baseball team I root for had somehow put together a 90-plus win season and was still playing the game I love into the month of October.

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t curious what others were saying. I’d also be lying if I said that the fact that many of the opinions I valued—the cavalcade of WFNY writers who were inside of Progressive Field, thus likely having trouble tweeting due to depleted cell signal—didn’t help make this decision that much easier. I could hear the crowd, I could see the towels. I knew how electric the atmosphere was; the 5.1 surround sound helped propel the waves into my living room. The last thing I needed was to see some local troll or national pundit spew something negative. As easy as it would be to ignore, why invite any ounce of potential negativity into my experience? My thoughts on baseball in the Information Age are well-documented by this point. If the night-by-night noise was excruciating enough, a minute-by-minute account of what was unfolding would have put me over the top.

[Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Before anyone wants to cast this as some sort of sign of dependency, Twitter is simply the nature of the beast when it comes to this Internet world we trade in. Not experiencing one of the biggest games of the last several years with those who I interact with on a daily basis is, well, kind of weird. []

Rays 4 Indians 0: Missed opportunities send Indians home for the winter

Kipnis and BrantleyI was downtown around 5:30. Walking around 4th street, people filled the streets, rocking their red. The civic pride that we Clevelanders hold so dear was on full display. It was like a scene out of Major League when everyone in and around the city was walking past each other, holding up their #1 finger and saying “Go Tribe.” The buzz downtown was something special. We all wanted that feeling to continue. Nobody wanted it to end.

That is what makes last night’s 4-0, season-ending loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the win-or-go-home Wild Card game extra painful. Everyone who is a Cleveland fan knows – opportunities like this one don’t come around every year. So when they do, you have to make the most of them. [Read more...]

Justin Masterson: Ace to Closer?

Justin MastersonIt isn’t too often that an ace starting pitcher becomes a team’s closer, but the Cleveland Indians coaching staff may find themselves with a tough decision to make.

It had been quite the passage of time since an Indians pitcher ran out of the bullpen in the ninth inning and was welcomed by a standing ovation complete with raucous cheering. Such was the case on a crisp, late-September night in Cleveland when the bullpen door gave way to Justin Masterson, the 6-foot-6-inch ace hurler for the Tribe who was making his first appearance since succumbing to an oblique injury earlier in the month. High socks and all, Masterson jogged to the mound while fans, understandably enjoying the team’s multi-run lead in the midst of a playoff hunt, welcomed him back with open arms.

A perfect storm, really. One night after the team’s polarizing closer Chris Perez blew a one-run lead in the top of the ninth inning only to leave the field while being pelted by a chorus of boos, Masterson—essentially the antithesis of Perez in every way but employer—came in with his team up considerably. There was an absence of pressure. The fans were exuding an energy that had long been missing from the confines of Progressive Field. It was, in fact, the team’s final home game of the regular season—who better to close it out than the man who ushered this crazy, roller coaster of a season in by throwing the team’s first pitch? [Read more...]

See, it is not just a Cleveland Problem!

tropicanainprogressThere are now less than two weeks remaining in baseball’s regular season. October is just around the corner. Other than the NL Central, the division races have all but been decided.  The move to the second Wild Card last year was met with skepticism by some and applause by others. Those who oppose it find it ridiculous that the two Wild Card teams have to play one, winner-take-all game to advance to the League Division series where they get one day of travel and start a best of five series with two games on the road. I stand on the other side of the fence. I think the one-game Wild Card places a premium on actually winning your division. Why should a team that didn’t win its own division be on par with a team that took care of its own inner-division business? Plus, with MLB still going with a five-game ALDS and home field advantage in baseball usually meaning the least in any of the four major sports in the playoffs, the Wild Card winner should have to fight more of an uphill battle.

The American League Wild Card race is as wide open as any since the advent of the original expanded format in 1994 (There were no playoffs that year due to the strike, but ’94 was the first year of the three divisions in each league). Six teams are separated by two and a half games. Two monster series between four of the teams started last night and will help shape the final two weeks. [Read more...]

WFNY Stats & Info: Indians’ playoff odds over 50 percent

What a weekend. With four straight wins over the Chicago White Sox and a boatload of help, your Cleveland Indians are suddenly one-half game behind both American League wild card spots.

With a fortunate schedule on deck, that leaves the Indians now as a near-favorite to grab one of the spots. Here are what popular playoff odds websites say about the Tribe’s current chances:

Baseball Prospectus (link) — 54.4%
FanGraphs (link) — 64.9%
ESPN (link) — 68.3%
CoolStandings (link) — 69.9%

As a brief note, FanGraphs and ESPN both use slightly altered methods related to CoolStandings’ season-to-date approach. That means they focus more on what already has happened with run differential thus far in 2013. Baseball Prospectus’ approach is much different. I’ll have more about this for The Diff on Wednesday.

Per CoolStandings, the Indians’ odds jumped over 40% with the four-game series against Chicago. Per Baseball Prospectus via MLB.com, that number was closer to about 35%. Both are still incredibly substantial changes for this late in the season. For both, Cleveland’s playoff odds are as high as they’ve been all year.

The Indians face off against the Kansas City Royals this week in a pivotal three-game road matchup. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays — the two teams tied for the wild card spots right now — play four in St. Petersburg.

[Related: Tribe Weekend Recap: “Its All Happening!”]

In defense of the under-appreciated Carlos Santana

carlos santana celebrationIn a season that largely has been better than expected, it’s hard to tell that based only on the vitriolic commentary about the Cleveland Indians.

Yes, of late, among the variety of possible scapegoats, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera has been the most prominent and deserving punching bag. The 27-year-old former All-Star has been all over the place this season and is mired in a rough six-week slump.

While now-released Mark Reynolds and closer Chris Perez also have taken turns as the enemies in the fans’ eyes, the criticisms of one player just don’t sit well with me.

This fellow 27-year-old has never been an All-Star, but deservingly could have been one over the past few years. He’s also having his best offensive full-season in the major leagues, as demonstrated by his 29 doubles, 60 walks, career-high batting average and 129 OPS+.

This player is, yes, the defensive albatross of Carlos Santana. And for all his misgivings, he’s still a very valuable player and highly undervalued in Cleveland. [Read more...]

Brian Spaeth on the PD layoffs, 2 Guns, Indians attendance, The Wolverine and much more – WFNY Podcast – 2013-08-08

WFNY Podcast LogoBrian and I talked about a lot of things today other than the movies. Check out Brian on Twitter @brianspaeth or at his website Brian23.com

  • The Plain Dealer laying off employees
  • cutting delivery dates
  • the future of the newspaper business
  • 2 Guns movie review
  • Is Mark Wahlberg somehow underrated?
  • Brian Spaeth takes a bathroom break
  • The Indians attendance issue and how contentious it is on twitter
  • NBA Twitter vs. NFL Twitter vs. MLB twitter
  • The Wolverine and whether it needed to be made or not
  • Michael Bay movies
  • Should Darren Aranofsky have stayed on Wolverine?
  • Craig is lazy about putting plugs in his show notes
  • He shouldn’t be so lazy with his show notes


Check out this episode

Sunday Tribe Notes: Target Field, lefty relievers and 2014 salaries

kevin correiaThis was not how the Indians front office wanted their team to begin the second half. Entering the break at 51-44 and riding a four-game winning streak, there were high hopes for the immediate future, especially with Minnesota and Seattle the first two teams on deck.

After back-to-back disheartening 3-2 losses at Target Field, the Tribe might have gotten a desperate wake-up call. In the two games, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall has two (nearly three) errors, the Cleveland bullpen has blown it both times and the Indians offense has hardly had any traction against Twins relievers.

Fortunately, the Detroit Tigers also have lost their first two games in Kansas City to start the break. But it hasn’t been pretty for the optimistic baseball fans in Cleveland. [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting… Andrew Bynum’s new home in Cleveland

While We’re Waiting is the daily morning link roundup that WFNY has been serving up for breakfast for the last several years. We hope you enjoy the following recent collection of yummy and nutritious Cleveland sports-related articles. Anything else to add? Email us at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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Is another change of scenery enough for the All-Star center to turn his career around? “Andrew Bynum smiled and spoke confidently. That’s probably more than Bynum did last season with the Philadelphia 76ers, and for the Cleveland Cavaliers, it’s a pretty good start.” [Sam Amico/FOX Sports Ohio] [Read more...]

MLB All-Star game, Fixing baseball, future of football and more – WFNY Podcast – 2013-07-18

WFNY Podcast LogoAlways good to catch up with Jon. He had a night available and I was starting my vacation, so I had to log in and fire up the notebook to do it. It was a typical meandering podcast.

  • Being a creature of habit and a bit of a completist
  • The summer movie podcast and whether it would have continued
  • The Lone Ranger and how quickly I would have wanted to turn it off
  • The All-Star game and the Mariano Rivera entrance
  • Neil Diamond was bad but it didn’t matter. He’s Neil Diamond.
  • The All-Star game could be missing the star power
  • Interleague play and how it changes the All-Star game
  • Access to players on TV has ruined the spectacle of the All-Star game
  • Start times aren’t the target. Game ending times are the target.
  • Who is the star of MLB?
  • Omar Vizquel being the best means something because I say it
  • Slow pitch softball on TV
  • Baseball vs. Soccer as a game for kids
  • Socioeconomics and football. Will privileged kids play football forever?
  • The future of football and what it just might be
  • Front offices and how they aren’t really connected to the history of their teams
  • Salary caps and where they are good and bad
  • Parity in baseball
  • Bud Selig and how the history books will look back on him
  • What are the chances that Mark Shapiro could be the next commissioner of baseball?
  • Indians trade deadline piece by Jon

MLB Rumors: Cardinals, Indians talking Adrubal Cabrera deal

In his latest column today, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney begins with a trade idea that might not be too heart-warming for Cleveland Indians fans. According to his report, the St. Louis Cardinals have continued discussions with the Tribe in regards to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.

The article states that the two teams discussed such a deal during the offseason, when usually it’s easier to get such a major trade completed. St. Louis has continued to lack production at the shortstop position in 2013. Thus, talks have continued between the two clubs.

Obviously, with the Indians at 48-44 and only 2.5 games back of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, it likely wouldn’t be a popular deal in Cleveland. Olney mentioned that the Cardinals have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, as led by a number of MLB-ready arms such as Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha.

Another interested team in Cabrera is the New York Yankees, who are looking for more future infield production because of injuries (Derek Jeter), a possible suspension (Alex Rodriguez) and the likelihood of an offseason departure (Robinson Cano). They’ve asked about Cabrera repeatedly, per Olney, and feel that he could be a versatile player capable of filling in at multiple positions.

Mike Aviles would be the likely short-term Indians answer at shortstop with High-A Carolina star prospect Francisco Lindor to follow in the long-term, per Olney’s analysis of such a deal. Although the Indians believe No. 2 prospect Trevor Bauer will eventually work out his struggles, the team still is looking for pitching help.

Previously, we’ve seen MLB Cleveland trade rumors related to Matt Garza and the other top pitching prospects on the market. This is the first one in July 2013 that relates to the Indians perhaps selling off one of their better players, albeit one oft-rumored in deals last offseason and only under contract through 2014.

[Related: Indians can’t afford to wait until deadline to make a deal]

WFNY Stats & Info: Danny Salazar’s magical debut

For all those at Thursday afternoon’s Indians game, you witnessed history in the making. Danny Salazar, a 23-year-old right-handed prospect, delivered a standout performance in his MLB debut, among the best in franchise history.

The final line for the Dominican Republic native: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. He had 89 pitches in the contest — as many as he had delivered in his 17 minor league games this season — and carried a no-hitter into his final frame.

Per the Game Score statistic, it was tied for the sixth-best MLB starter debut since 2010, according to Baseball-Reference’s Play Index Tool. Some of the other names on the top-10 debut list are among the best prospects in baseball in the last few years (Wacha, Strasburg, Harvey) along with a fellow Cleveland Indian (Tomlin).

best debuts since 2010

What was more notable, however, was where Salazar’s performance stood out on the list of all-time Cleveland Indians starter debuts. He also ranked sixth in this list, per Game Score, among all Tribe starter debuts dating back to 1916.
best indians debuts

The stat that was being thrown out all around yesterday afternoon on Twitter was this: Salazar’s 7 strikeouts were the most by an Indians starter in a debut since Luis Tiant’s 11 in 1964. Herb Score had 9 in his 1955 debut and Floyd Weaver had 8 in 1962. Then, Salazar ranks fourth.

Per Elias Sports at ESPN, Salazar is also only the fourth pitcher to defeat a reigning Cy Young winner (R.A. Dickey) in their MLB debut.

I’ve written plenty about Salazar already this season, most notably after his promotion to Columbus in early May and then his announced MLB promotion earlier this week. Overall on the season, even though he’s only two years removed from Tommy John surgery, he ranked 8th in the minor leagues with a 33.1% strikeout rate (min. 50 IP).

[Related: Indians 4 Blue Jays 2: Salazar dazzles in Tribe debut]

The Diff: All-Star update on Cleveland Indians prospects

The Diff is your weekly Wednesday WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week’s topic was reader-recommended, as I looked into some key differences with the 2013 Indians. Now, it’s back to prospect talk.

The Diff

As much as I love talking about the Indians and their increasingly annoying major league team, my original writing passion was in minor league baseball. That’s why last year I had my regular WFNY Wednesday Wahoos feature. Every week, it broke down the ongoings of the top prospects and some other players of note. Here in 2013, I’ve been a bit more irregular with these breakdowns, debuting a hybrid approach in The Diff back on June 5. So again today, here are your latest updates on Cleveland baseball prospects as we approach the MLB All-Star Game and trade deadline. [Read more...]

The Diff: Biggest differences with the 2013 Indians

The Diff is your weekly Wednesday WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week’s article was a (mostly futile) attempt at looking at 40 recent NBA mock drafts before the Cavaliers’ big day. This week, we’re talking Tribe.

The Diff

Of late, I’ve been getting lots of questions on Twitter that all cover the same topic about the 2013 Indians: Do they have staying power? Obviously, there’s a bit of burnout with the previous two seasons seeing similar hot starts, yet disappointing finishes. Thus, from a statistical perspective, I’m here today to give another update about where things stand 83 games through the year, with 79 left to go. How well do 45-38 teams usually do? What other main differences exist at this point in the year from years prior? What are the likely playoff odds for this team? Let’s take a look. [Read more...]