August 26, 2014

Nick Swisher doing a Hafner impression and the Foo Fighters on TV… While We’re Waiting

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As you all are reading this, I’m likely in the middle of driving to Indianapolis for the weekend. Just so you know I’m not typing and driving. More on Indianapolis later in this post. For now, let’s get started, shall we?

Nick Swisher is the Travis Hafner sequel nobody wanted

Hafner SwisherI might feel sorry for Nick Swisher if I wasn’t too busy feeling sorry for my fellow Tribe fans. Indians fans had enough heartache with the trades of Cy Youngs, Victor Martinez and having to ride out the Travis Hafner contract. To think that the Indians would sign someone like Swisher, even with largely modest fan expectations for the guy, and have him turn into another Travis Hafner is just crushing. The news that he not only has aging, achy shoulders, but now needed double arthroscopic knee surgery to clean things out is hair-pullery that Indians fans had hoped was long-gone.

I don’t have a point here. I was in favor of signing Swisher or a guy like Swisher. I know that he’s a great teammate and a good person who wants nothing more than to make Indians fans happy by producing above his contract. Travis Hafner was the same way. I couldn’t hate him for all his struggles either. It’s just the unlucky roll of the free agent dice, I guess. It’s just too much. And there’s still two years and $30 million left to go before the Indians are free.

For reference, when the Indians had two years left to go with Hafner, he’d played 57, 84 and 118 games before finishing his Tribe career with 94 games in 2011 and 66 in 2012. Hopefully the Indians can get more than 160 quality games from Nick Swisher over the next two years.

Incommunicado during a very big sports day

I won’t pretend to be a big Gladiators fan, but they’re playing in the Arena Bowl on Saturday. The Browns are playing their most important pre-season game at the same time. The Indians will be live and in person at Progressive Field. All the while, the dormant Cavaliers might have a Kevin Love trade to announce. As one of the resident Browns guys, you’d think I’d be tuned in and writing furiously about the Browns as they’re making news on the field. Alas, I’ll be in Indianapolis at my wife’s1 high school reunion, DVR’ing the Browns, likely not glued to my phone for news.

And even if I could steal away for some TV time, how would I ever find the Browns pre-season game without Johnny Football scheduled to take starter snaps? I often say that given technology it’s the best possible time to be a sports fan. Even the wonderful advent of technology won’t save me this weekend. We’ll have to talk about it all after it’s already gotten stale by Monday morning.

Following up on the Ferguson chat on the podcast…

I had a great time talking to WayneEmbrysKids on the WFNY podcast and it was mere moments before he was driving to Ferguson to help out. Once he got back, he wrote about his trip on the pages of Scene Magazine’s website. It’s well worth a read.

As I enter the room, I am monitored by a camera and listened to by microphones. A booming police officer voice addresses me over a speaker and I respond while looking around at the ceiling as if I am talking to Jesus Christ himself floating in a cloud over my head. I am struck by the positive reaction to my very frank explanation that I am here to get arrested people out, and also to my request that I be permitted to wait in this three-chair fluorescent light lobby rather than be outside and myself be subject to arrest for a curfew violation.

There’s no good way to segue out of Ferguson talk, but I’ll do it anyway.  Here’s my pop culture / entertainment tidbit for the week…

This. Show. Looks. Cool.

Let’s be honest, music-themed TV shows aren’t usually all that great. Most music TV is reality-based singing competitions where in the end the audience choices end up not doing all that well artistically or commercially. Musical documentaries are better for art of course, but for every good one, there are 100 bad or boring ones. If I have to bet on one based on a trailer, I’m going to bet on the Foo Fighters doing a show for HBO about making their latest album with different musicians at different studios all over the country.

Sonic Highways is a bit of a cheesy title, but Dave Grohl and his band are consistently consistent and always have their heart in the right place. When you see guys going about their thing the right way, you just have to support it. Once I saw the opening to the Foos video for the Skin and Bones album where Dave Grohl walks around an arena with an acoustic guitar, I knew that I could trust the band with more than just music. Here’s the trailer for their new HBO show.

Have a great weekend everybody! Listen to a WFNY Podcast.

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Footnotes:

  1. cough 20th []

Now and Later: Sorting out the Indians’ options at the plate

Zach Walters

Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Ryan Raburn, and Jason Giambi—four players who were all significant contributors on a 92-win playoff team last year that featured just twelve hitters1. This season, all four have spent time on the disabled list, and three of them have missed significant action2. So just how are the Cleveland Indians still standing and in the AL Wild Card race? Much like the core of their team, it’s in large part to unlikely contributors.

With the trades of Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera, coupled with the significant injuries to Swisher and David Murphy, the Indians have to see what they have not only to hang in the race this summer but to set their roster up for 2015. Throughout different stretches of the season, the Tribe has had winning hits or hot weeks from the likes of Nyjer Morgan, Justin Sellers, Chris Dickerson, Zach Walters, Jose Ramirez, George Kottaras, Roberto Perez, and Tyler Holt. Only Morgan was on the Opening Day roster, and none of these guys were in anything but contingency plans for 2014, if that. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that the upper levels of the organization were completely devoid of serviceable position player talent.
[Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Swisher, Bourn, Raburn and Giambi combined for a 7.6 WAR, 74 doubles, 53 homers, 199 RBI, 24 steals, and 433 games just to name a few stats []
  2. The same stats? -2.9 WAR, 38 doubles, 16 homers, 90 RBI, 8 steals, and 252 games []

Nick Swisher’s (brutal) season comes to an end

Swisher Best 140711

Is age catching up to Nick Swisher? The Tribe first baseman was evaluated on Tuesday and was found to have medial meniscus wear in both of his knees. Less than 24 hours later, Swisher will undergo arthroscopic debridement surgery to repair the chronic pain. He will subsequently miss eight-to-ten weeks for recovery, effectively ending his 2014 season with the team.

Swisher was placed on the 15-day Disabled List with knee soreness on August 10. He was also on the DL with similar discomfort from May 27-June 11 of this very year.  Prior to today’s season-ending surgery, Nick hit .208 (75-360 in 97 games) in with 20 doubles,  eight home runs and 42 runs batted in. In the field, Swisher was charged with nine errors on the season. According to Baseball-Reference’s calculations on runs saved, he was the second-worst fielding first baseman (to amass at least 50 games played) in all of baseball1.

The 33-year old is due $15 million in 2015 and 2016, respectively, with a $14 million vesting option in 2017.

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Footnotes:

  1. Only Houston’s Jon Singleton has ‘saved’ fewer runs []

Cedar Point, Johnny Manziel, LeBron James, and the Indians playoff chances with TD – WFNY Podcast – 2014-08-14

WFNY Podcast LogoI got a chance to talk to TD about all three Cleveland teams. That’s always a blast for me. Today we spent a good amount of time talking about the Tribe and the season they’ve put together.

We also talked about LeBron coming home and what that means for a sports family like TD’s that is baseball, and football first.

Lastly we talked about Johnny Manziel, the Browns and what it must be like for Brian Hoyer to try and win the starting job. We talked about how even as we expected hype around Manziel that it’s surprising just how crazy things are around him.

Oh, and we led off talking about Cedar Point, which rules.

Check out this episode!

Indians Notes: Bourn to be activated on Friday, Swisher getting second opinion

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The Indians take on the Arizona Diamondbacks today in a traditional doubleheader starting at 4 pm. The team is currently on a two game win streak after beating the New York Yankees two out of three games this past weekend. The Tribe could get a boost on Friday when they are expected to activate Michael Bourn off the D.L. He was placed on the 15-day D.L. on July 6 after injuring his hamstring. Manager Terry Francona said before the doubleheader today that Bourn will start on Friday and Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles and sit on Sunday. This move could give the team an offensive boost for the stretch run.

On a less positive note, Nick Swisher will get a second opinion on his injured right knee. He will travel to Los Angeles on Tuesday to meet with Dodgers’ team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache. The Indians should know more after this examination on the status of Swisher for the rest of the year. It will be interesting to see how the team handles Swisher’s status for the rest of the regular season.

(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)

Tribe Weekend Recap: Consistently Inconsistent play, King Kluber and the rebirth of Carrasco

Jason Kipnis

Win four straight. Lose four straight. Get everyone thinking that, once again, you are sunk. Lose two more veterans to the disabled list. Go to New York and visit Yankee Stadium, your personal house of horrors, and take the series for the first time since 2008 while throwing 20 straight scoreless innings. Yep, just your ordinary average week with your Cleveland Indians, where inconsistency is the one constant.

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Bauer, Swisher, and a theory on baseball aesthetics

Jon is in a bit of a writing rut, so he’s asking the WFNY gang to help him get out of it. After circulating some juicy topics around WFNY Headquarters, Craig said he was interested in talking Trevor Bauer, Nick Swisher, Travis Hafner, and what it means to like some players more than others.  So we did that. We’ve got some more of these in the hopper and we’ll try to keep the discussion going in the comments as well.

WFNY_roundtable

Craig - I obviously root for anyone wearing an Indians uniform, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Even as a young, impressionable baseball fan, I knew the dangers of standing up for Albert Belle. I cut my teeth as a co-dependent sports fan when I tried to defend Belle’s plastering of Fernando Vina.

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Second-half Storylines: What are you watching?

Nick Swisher

The Cleveland Indians started things off with a relative bang, taking three of four in Detroit. As we close in on the month of August, the Tribe stands 4.5 games behind the Tigers and will need to piece it all together heading into the fall if postseason play is to happen for the second consecutive year. There are copious amounts of storylines to look at for the second half of the season, but which ones are we watching? Take a walk with us as we plan for the next 10 weeks of baseball.

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The Indians at the break: The Bad

Justin Masterson

47-47. .500. The middle. Average. Not great, but not bad. This is what our Cleveland Indians are as we sit here at the All-Star break.

Heading into the season, Terry Francona’s group had to deal with something that was not on the docket a year before; heightened expectations. Coming off of a 92-win, Wild Card season and bringing back essentially the same core group, the Tribe now wore a bulls-eye. They were not going to sneak up on anyone. And they haven’t.

The first half has brought moments of greatness and despair, moments of disappointment and exuberance. Certain guys have broken out, while others have taken huge steps backwards. We’ve seen regression to the mean from a few Indians as well. Hall of Fame Football coach Bill Parcells famously said “you are what you record says you are,” and the Indians are 47-47. All of this has added up to what they are: An average baseball team.

On Tuesday, we looked at “The Good” things the Tribe has done. In part two of our Tribe at the All-Star break series, we will examine what hasn’t exactly gone well for the Red, White, and Blue. [Read more...]

Indians 5, Yankees 3: Bauer and the long ball do in Bombers

Nick Swisher

So let me get this straight. The Indians can get completely shut down by rookie Shane Greene one night, then beat down arguably the best pitcher in the American League this season in Masahiro Tanaka the next? Sounds about right. These, ladies and gentlemen, are your 2014 Cleveland Indians in a nutshell.

I mean seriously, how does this happen? Monday night, Greene took a no hitter into the fifth inning and left after six with a 5-2 lead en route to his first Major League win. Yet last night, All-Star Tanaka departed after the Tribe knocked him around for five runs on 10 hits in six plus innings. This is why anyone who gambles on baseball is crazy. [Read more...]

The weekend that wasn’t: Tigers sweep the Tribe

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It is such a shame. How many times do the Indians draw over 100,000 fans in a weekend? I’ll tell you how many: Zero in the past three seasons. Its the first time this has happened since August of 2011. I don’t know what it is about the Indians and big crowds at Progressive Field, but it seems as though they are allergic to winning in these situations.

I know, I know, that might be overstating it a bit, but again, it is such a shame. How many more chances do you get to capture the live attention of over 100,000 people? I wish that Indians fans weren’t this fickle, but they are what they are and it is what it is. The Tribe HAD to come up with a better performance this weekend that the egg that they laid in a place they have been great all year long.

I’ve say this almost every Opening Day and I said it last season when the Tigers came to town July 4 weekend and smoked the Indians in front of a sell out crowd: When you get this opportunity, one that doesn’t come nearly enough at Progressive Field, you must take advantage of it. Winning at least one of these games would have been good enough. Instead, the Tigers came into Cleveland with thousands of their fans and swept the Tribe in their own house.

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

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

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

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Tribe Weekend Recap: Bullpen saviors, struggling offense, Swish’s return, and the bunt

Nick SwisherLast year, the Indians were “Team Streak.” This year, the PD’s Paul Hoynes has dubbed them “Team Clank” thanks to their tendency to commit errors at the worst times. I think they are a combination of both. We have seen the full arsenal of good and bad over the past two weeks. An on fire offensive juggernaut for a few days follows up with a group that can’t hit their way out of a wet paper bag. We’ve seen great starting pitching and then eight consecutive games without the starter going six innings. The one constant has been the steady back end of the bullpen.

The 10 game, three city road trip started out great, looked like a mess mid-stream, and then finished strong. Coming out of Texas, Kansas City, and Boston 5-5 is good enough for me. That is about as tough of a trip as you could ask for. When you consider the final eight games of the trip where the starting pitcher failed to go six innings, it looks even more impressive. [Read more...]

Indians News: Nick Swisher activated, Jason Giambi hits the DL

Nick SwisherLast night in the second of his two-game rehab stint  in Akron, first baseman Nick Swisher had two doubles and had no issues running on his sore knees. He has been deemed ready to go by the Tribe medical staff, so the Indians have officially activated him from the 15-day DL.

There has been much speculation about which way the Indians would go once Swisher returned from the disabled list. Would they DFA “The Summer of” George Kottaras and risk losing him on the waiver wire? Would they send down a reliever such as Nick Hagadone and go with a seven man pen? Or would they finally cut the cord on the 43-year old part-time DH Jason Giambi?

The good news for manager Terry Francona was that Giambi’s knee has magically flared up and he has been placed on the DL with what has been described as “left knee inflammation.” Papa G will be on the shelf for a few weeks or longer. There is no doubt Giambi is an important part of the clubhouse, but on the field, keeping Kottaras on the roster is the correct play. Carlos Santana’s days as a catcher this season should be limited to nothing unless an emergency situation comes up.

As for Swisher, he is in the lineup tonight as the DH, hitting seventh, as the Indians start a four-game series in Boston. Swish is looking to improve on his slow start, where he is hitting just .211/.312/.319 with thee homers and 19 RBIs.

Tribe Weekend Recap: Bauer & Tomlin as saviors, Carlos’ triumphant return, and a major roster decision looming

Josh TOmlin

If the last three weeks taught you anything, it is that a baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. In this space a short three weeks ago, I wrote that as Yogi Berra once said “its getting late, early” and that the Indians season was spiraling downward in an out of control manner. The starting pitching wasn’t cutting it, the offense couldn’t score in a whorehouse with a fist-full of $20′s, and defensively, the Tribe resembled the Bad News Bears. They sat 10.5 games out of first place in the AL Central behind the smokin’ hot Tigers who could do no wrong.

So now, here we are 21 days later and the Indians have crept over .500 for the first time since April 9 when they were 5-4. [Read more...]

Swisher to DL, Santana out with concussion so Kottaras gets another shot

George KottarasThe Indians put Nick Swisher on the 15-day Disabled List with his hyper-extended knee. Carlos Santana was placed on the 7-day concussion list, retroactive to the 26th.

The Indians purchased the contract of George Kottaras from Columbus. Kottaras made news earlier this year with the Tribe when he homered in his first two at-bats for the Indians. He was the first player in franchise history to do so. At Columbus he is hitting just .119.

(In my book, any chance to use the picture to the right is a good opportunity. Seriously, look at the size of that dog!)

The Indians also brought up Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar is also making his second appearance with the big league club, having played sparingly earlier this month. Aguilar is among the International League leaders in OPS, slugging percentage and home runs.

Cleveland also designated pitcher Blake Wood for assignment.

[Related: No Indians among first wave of All-Star voting]

Indians 5, Tigers 4: Dr. Smooth to the rescue….again

Tribe celebration

Dr. Bleeping Smooth, if you need him, folks. Where would this Indians team be without him?  In a season of struggle, Michael Brantley has been the one shining star, literally carrying the offense. On a night where the Indians blew three different leads, it was Brantley who saved them once again with a 10-inning walkoff solo blast off of Detroit reliever Al Albuquerque to end the Tribe’s four-game losing streak.

“For us to come back and beat these guys,” Nick Swisher said, “it’s a huge step in the right direction for us. We’re still in this thing. We’re only 45 games in and we know what we can do. We have a lot of guys, myself included, who aren’t playing as well as [we'd] like to be, but I think tonight was a good starting point to turn things around a little bit.” [Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Can it get much worse?

Nick SwisherI really don’t even know what to say about this team right now. I have been searching for positives from this horrific weekend series where the Oakland Athletics did their best Harlem Globetrotters impression while the Cleveland Indians donned the uniforms of the Washington Generals. They didn’t hit. They committed more errors (7) than runs scored (6). The pitching was for the most part awful. If it is possible to hit rock bottom in the middle of May, the Tribe certainly was attempting it with this series.

Said manager Terry Francona, who has been as off of his game as his players this season: “What we’re doing, right now is not good enough. We’ve got to play better, and we’ve got to have these guys more prepared.”

The A’s swept the Indians with complete and utter ease, outscoring the Wahoos 30-6. By Sunday, Francona was left searching for answers, so he reluctantly did what he didn’t want to do — moved things around in the batting order. It didn’t work.

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Francona drops Swisher, Santana in batting order

With the Indians’ offense in a massive funk for most of the season, the time for a change is now in manager Terry Francona’s eyes. Some would argue it’s long overdue. In today’s batting order, Francona has dropped Nick Swisher from second to sixth and Carlos Santana from fourth to seventh against right-hander Jesse Chavez as the A’s go for the sweep.

In today’s game, Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn will take the spots vacated by Swisher and Santana, respectively. Swisher is battling to stay above the Mendoza line, hitting .203/.303/.323 (.625 OPS) with 3 homers and 16 RBI while leading the team in plate appearances. Santana is second in plate appearances, batting an appalling .156/.319/.293 (.611 OPS) with 5 homers and 13 RBI.

Francona has a reputation for sticking with his veteran and star players until it’s painfully obvious that a change is needed. One such example was last season, when Asdrubal Cabrera spent most of his abysmal season last year rotating between the second, third, and fourth spots in the order. Finally, in mid-August, Asdrubal was dropped to sixth in the order and remained there for the rest of the stretch run. With the Indians at 19-24, the assessment appears to have been the team couldn’t wait any longer for their cornerstones to turn it around in the top of the order.

Longterm, however, it’s a little head-scratching to see Lonnie Chisenhall, he of the .353 batting average, batting behind these two today and eighth in the order against a right-hander. Some managers pride their lineup on consistency, however, and if Chisenhall isn’t deemed worthy of consistent at-bats against left-handed pitching, you’re committing to two entirely different hearts of the order. With Cabrera and Yan Gomes taking the day off today, it will be interesting to see where those two non-lefties slot in. With Jason Kipnis close to begining his rehab and potentially returning soon, that adds another element to the equation. If this is going to be a semi-permanent arrangement, I’d propose Bourn-Aviles-Brantley-Murphy-Cabrera-Chisenhall-Swisher-Santana-Gomes with Kipnis taking Aviles’s slot once he returns. The one complicating factor, of course, is that one benefit to having Swisher and Santana that high in the order as switch hitters was splitting up the left-handers.

Related: Unsolicited Observations: Cleaning up Santana’s swoon, Jesus is here, Bourn problems, and more

The Ground in Cleveland

Jason Kipnis

Frustrating and underperforming at the plate, are the Cleveland Indians the unluckiest team in the majors thus far?

In 2013, the Cleveland Indians exceeded expectations, winning 92 games and earning their first playoff birth since 2007 thanks in large part to a pitching staff that performed far better than anticipated.

In 2014, thus far, the Cleveland Indians have disappointed some, already 5.5 games back of the Tigers with the fourth-lowest winning percentage in the American League. This has been thanks, in large part, to an under-performing lineup.

[Read more...]