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Another Old-Timer in the Clubhouse

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On February 9 the Cleveland Indians signed 42-year-old free agent slugger Jason Giambi to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Since the last few years have been seen as the twilight of his career, especially since he was nearly named the new manager of the Colorado Rockies, not many people in Cleveland expected Giambi to make the Opening Day roster.

However, Tribe manager Terry Francona is on record saying he likes Giambi’s leadership ability. As a result, the former American League Most Valuable Player is on the team to at least start the season. The question is, other than leadership, how much more production can we expect out of him?

The Cleveland Indians have a trend in my lifetime of signing or trading for stars of the past whose best days were behind them, dating back to when I was a child.

The first instance I clearly remember occurring was in 1990 when they signed 36-year-old Keith Hernandez from the New York Mets. Hernandez was a former MVP, five-time all-star, and 10-time gold glover in his career. Little did I know as a naïve seven-year old that he also suffered debilitating injuries in the years prior to when the Tribe signed him and he was a shell of his former self.

Hernandez was the primary first baseman on that team until rookie Carlos Baerga was ready to be promoted to take over third base and slide Brook Jacoby over to the other corner. Hernandez played in only 43 games for the Indians that season, hitting only .200 with one home run and eight RBIs. He retired after the season. The Indians finished 77-85.

For the next few seasons the Indians emphasized a youth movement, straying away from players past their primes like Hernandez. The next time they did this was 1994 when they signed Eddie Murray.

Like Hernandez, Murray was a star in the late 1970s and all throughout the 80s. Unlike Hernandez, however, the former Rookie of the Year and eight-time all-star was called upon to be a veteran piece to their young lineup. Instead of playing the field, Murray was the primary designated hitter. He proved he still had some gas left in his 37-year-old tank.

Murray played two and a half seasons with the Tribe, hitting .281 with 50 home runs and 203 runs batted in over 309 games as a middle of the order hitter on the Indians’ first American League champion team since 1954.

Since the lightning in a bottle captured with Murray, the Indians went on to sign other past stars that were, like Hernandez, were very forgettable.

Dave Winfield, like Murray was a former multi-time all-star and MVP candidate in the late 70s and during the 80s. In 1993 he was still a productive hitter. When the Indians picked him up two years at later age 43 his tank had run out. Winfield played only 43 games for the Indians in 1995, hitting only .191 with two homers and four RBIs. He did pick himself up one last American League championship ring as part of that World Series team before retiring at the end of the season.

The Indians went back to the senior citizens center in 1997 when they called upon 35-year-old Kevin Mitchell for an aging veteran presence on their last World Series team. On a team full of hitters in their prime, Mitchell was not needed in the lineup, as he played in only 20 games. Like Winfield, he did collect one last league championship ring before his retirement.

The next season was Cecil Fielder’s turn. Though he was only 34 at the time, he was still overweight and lost in another crowded lineup of hitters. He was clearly past his prime and stepped up to the plate in only 14 games in 1998.

The following season, in the midst of their fifth straight playoff run, the Indians traded for Harold Baines. At 40-years-old, Baines was showing he could still hit at a Major League level. With the Indians he hit .271 with 22 RBIs in 28 games and even hit .357 in four playoff games that season. However, he was granted free agency by that offseason, he went back to Baltimore, was traded to the White Sox where he began his career, and retired two years later.

In 2001 the Indians found another version of Eddie Murray in Ellis Burks. At 36-years-old, Burks could still hit a ton and as the primary designated hitter, did not need to do much else. In a little over two years with the Tribe, Burks hit for a .287 average with 66 homeruns and 193 runs batted in. However, his first year with the club was the last that they saw any success. A 3-2 loss in the division series to the Seattle Mariners that October saw the end of the dominant Cleveland Indians dynasty over the American League Central that spanned seven years. They dipped below .500 the next season for the first time since 1993 and have yet to recapture any sustained success.

Since Burks, the Cleveland Indians have not gone to the well with many trades or signings of aging, past their prime hitting stars, save for bringing back Kenny Lofton for their playoff run in 2007 and Jim Thome in 2011. In 2005 Juan Gonzalez saw one at-bat in which he strained his hamstring running out a ground ball and called it quits later in the season. But that was all.

Looking at this history, it is quite clear Jason Giambi was not called upon to provide like Eddie Murray and Ellis Burks did. Rather, he is a veteran presence in the clubhouse much like Dave Winfield, Kevin Mitchell, and Cecil Fielder. There is a potential he could produce in a part-time role like Harold Baines did at his age, but that remains to be seen. The difference is the others played for teams with proven playoff caliber lineups. While the 2013 Indians have definite potential, it is a team with much turnover. For however long Giambi is on this team, he will be a valuable mentor and player-coach type to back up Terry Francona as he leads this young team into the 2013 season.

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Tribe Fest Review

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Tribe Fest

A winter event the Cleveland Indians have held in the past which I enjoyed was Tribe On Tour. Several players, the manager, broadcasters, mascots, and the Fun Bunch made their way to a few different malls across northeast Ohio to sign autographs, allow for photographs, and answer questions from interested fans.

This year the organization announced it would not be holding the mall tour. Instead, the Indians introduced Tribe Fest, a more elaborate version of Tribe On Tour held in the basement area of Progressive (Jacobs) Field.

Though I enjoyed the mall tour, mainly because it was free as opposed to a $10 charge, Tribe Fest sounded much better in theory for a few reasons. First, Tribe On Tour was only held at each venue for only a few hours while Tribe Fest was slated to run for an entire afternoon into the early evening.

Secondly, the main attraction for Tribe On Tour was the autograph session with the players. As a result, in addition to the short amount of time, fans had to arrive two hours before the event began to ensure a good spot in line and a timely exit.

Finally, there was only so much a mall event had to offer. Holding the event at Progressive Field appeared to solve all of the problems I just mentioned. Tribe Fest boasted autograph sessions which ran for the entire duration of the event, photograph opportunities, baseball skills clinics for children to attend, and full access for self-guided tours of the Indians clubhouse. Tom Hamilton and Jim Rosenhaus conducted interviews with players, alumni Mudcat Grant and Tito Francona, and Chris Antonetti. The team barber even gave interested fans their own personalized haircuts.

I purchased tickets for myself and one of my friends to attend the Sunday session of Tribe Fest. Despite hearing and reading reports over social media that the Saturday event was overly crowded and horrendously unorganized, I kept the faith that Tribe Fest would still be worth my time and money.

After seeing pictures on twitter of a lengthy line outside Gate A before they were opened, my friend and I made sure to arrive more than a half hour early. Unfortunately with Sunday came an extreme drop in temperature, making for a very frigid wait. Luckily those in charge of the event made the decision to have mercy on those of us who arrived early and allowed us to enter a warmer tunnel until the noon start time.

As Tribe Fest began it was clear the problems from the day before were addressed. Tickets were handed out for each autograph session as opposed to fans in attendance flocking to the area. Upon arriving to the autograph area, staff members stood by, directing attendees to a designated line. Also, to avoid terribly long lines, players listed in back to back sessions on the program were included in two sessions in an effort to prevent fans from missing their favorite players.

At first glance everything seemed well organized. My friend and I quickly made our way through the first autograph session with Nick Hagadone, Corey Kluber, and Lonnie Chisenhall, who was a last second replacement for Carlos Santana, who chose to move to another session.

Next we moved on to the clubhouse tour, which was an impressive sight. I came to find out why Jason Kipnis and Vinnie Pestano get along so well.

Jason Kipnis and Vinnie Pestano are locker neighbors.

Jason Kipnis and Vinnie Pestano are locker neighbors.

Thanks to my friend who holds a Key Bank card, we were allowed access to the KeyBank Lounge (the visitor’s clubhouse), which provided food and other autograph sessions, first with rookie pitcher Cody Allen and next with Jason Kipnis. I was relieved to find out Kipnis would be signing in the Key Lounge because his group session was scheduled for the same time as the Tribe Fest Tweetup, held in the Terrace Club, which I was set to attend. Kipnis is one of my favorite players and, after missing out on his autograph at Tribe On Tour last year, I was determined to get the chance to finally meet him at Tribe Fest.


The Tweetup, attended by those who RSVP’d by email earlier in the week, was host to a Town Hall gathering atmosphere. Mark Shapiro and Terry Francona addressed the crowd while fielding questions from the fans. Excellent insight was provided. In addition I saw many familiar faces from the social media spectrum and matched some new people to the twitter names as well. Overall the two men in charge of the team appeared to leave those who attended the Tweetup with a positive outlook.


From this writer’s perspective, Tribe Fest was a complete success. There was something for every one of the fans to enjoy at their own pace. I did not get to experience everything the event had to offer. However, that was of little concern to me.

Because I did not attend Saturday’s event, I am not personally aware of the problems that were reported by those who did. But from what I gathered from those I met who were there on Saturday, it was a distinct improvement. There were attendees who still felt the event on Sunday was too crowded. However, large crowds have never been a problem to me.

I am thankful to the Cleveland Indians organization for holding Tribe Fest instead of the mall tour that I attended the last two years. It was well worth the $10 price of admission and I hope it lasts for many years to come.

A Championship Caliber Lineup

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The last time the Cleveland Indians were anywhere near the level of the New York Yankees was in 2007. That year was the Tribe’s last winning season, let alone postseason berth. They had just defeated the Yankees 3-1 in the American League Divisional Series.

Since then the Indians have gone down the complete opposite path as their counterpart. They began a rebuilding project while the Yankees spent millions of dollars on Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett en route to their first World Series victory since 2000.

So why am I talking about the Indians and the Yankees in the same writing? Because with the Indians’ rebuilding project and latest array of moves to build a new lineup for the upcoming season, I am reminded of the last time the New York Yankees had something that resembled a true dynasty.

As I mentioned, 2009 was the first time the Yankees won a World Series in nine years. What I did not mention was 2000 was the last of three straight World championships and fourth in five years for the Bronx Bombers. The ironic part is those three championship teams were hardly bombers.

Many teams aspire to have at least two “bash brothers,” the term the late 80s Oakland A’s coined for Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. These are players with extreme power, capable of hitting 30 or more homers each season. Some teams even try to litter their lineups with them. But as the Texas Rangers have proven in the last three seasons, lineups filled with power hitters do not necessarily win championships.

The New York Yankees, on the other hand, won their four World Series titles in the 90s and 2000 with a different strategy.

None of those four teams had a hitter in its lineup eclipse 30 home runs. Bernie Williams had the highest home run total in that span with exactly 30 in 2000.

Furthermore, none of those four championship teams had a player steal more than 31 bases, accomplished by Chuck Knoblauch in 1998.

So how did the Yankees win four World Series titles in a five year span without a monster basher or someone with blinding speed? A healthy balance would be the answer.

For starters, at least half of the players in every lineup hit for high average. In 1996, all but one player in the Yankees’ lineup hit .292 or higher.

Secondly, while those lineups were not littered with power hitters, almost every single player hit at least ten homers. In 1998 and ‘99 seven every day hitters totaled more than 17 round trippers. In 2000, six players hit 15 or more.

Finally, each of those teams had at least two players steal 14 or more bases. The ’98 championship team had five players do so. However, the highest total on the ’96 team was 17 by Bernie Williams.

What do the Cleveland Indians have to do with this New York Yankees World Series dynasty? In 2007, the last time the team was a contender, the lineup resembled those Yankees.

First of all, six of the nine regular batters hit for a respectable .270 average or higher. Victor Martinez was the leading hitter on the team with a .301 average.

Secondly, six of the regulars hit at least 18 home runs. Five hit 21 or more. However, again Victor Martinez was the leader with 25.

Finally, only one person in the lineup stole more than 14 bases. Grady Sizemore topped out at 33.

That Indians team was one win away from the World Series, in which it would have been a heavy favorite to win it all. While heavy blame is placed on Fausto Carmona and C.C. Sabathia for laying eggs in their final playoff outings, equal blame could be placed on the lineup for not doing its part. I know the phrase “pitching wins championships” very well. In fact I am a firm believer in it. But it also helps to have a strong, balanced lineup to counteract opposing pitching.

While that lineup resembled the Yankees’ four championship teams, it was not nearly the caliber of it. What was missing from the Indians? A strong, experienced core. The four Yankee teams all had the same core in Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, and Paul O’Neill. They were also managed by Joe Torre.

The core of the 2007 Indians team, comprised of Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, and Jhonny Peralta had not played together as long as the Yankee counterparts. Furthermore, manager Eric Wedge was also very inexperienced.

Which brings me to the present. The Cleveland Indians have the youngest team in the Major Leagues. But with its youth it also appears to be building a strong core. Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, and until Francisco Lindor arrives, Asdrubal Cabrera make up that core. This postseason the front office has added veterans Mark Reynolds, Nick Swisher, Drew Stubbs, and Mike Aviles to the team along with new, experienced manager Terry Francona to help the core.

In this new and improved Indians lineup I see the potential to resemble the New York Yankee lineups that won four World Series titles in five years. There is no visible extreme power to date. Mark Reynolds is capable of hitting more than 40 homers, but has not done so in four years. Nick Swisher’s career high is 35 seven years ago. Since then he has not hit 30, even playing with a short porch at Yankee Stadium. However, each of the regulars in the lineup, mainly the core I mentioned, are capable of hitting at least 10 homers.

The Indians teams of late have also not been known for their blinding speed. The fastest player on this new team is clearly recently added Drew Stubbs, who has stolen at least 30 bases in the last three seasons. It is well known in those seasons he has had issues reaching base. But perhaps a change of scenery will do him good and he will improve his play at the plate. Jason Kipnis stole 31 bases to lead the team this past season. Though his career high is only 12, I firmly believe Michael Brantley, with his ability to get on base, has the potential to swipe at least 30 bases himself each season. Mike Aviles has also stolen at least 10 bases in a season four times in his career.

The problem with the lineup that I will now mention is the ability to hit for a consistently high average. In recent years Asdrubal Cabrera has been an all-star caliber hitting shortstop to start the season, then tailed in the second half due to poor conditioning.

Carlos Santana, in his first two full seasons, struggled at the beginning but caught fire late. This past season his struggle could be attributed to a concussion he suffered early in the year.

Jason Kipnis, like Cabrera, was an all-star caliber hitter for much of the first half but also slumped badly for most of the second half. He has all the tools to make an excellent three hitter, though much of his success was found in the two hole.

The Indians appear to be full speed ahead with Lonnie Chisenhall as the full-time third baseman. He has not set the world on fire in his short stints in the Major League. But the talent and potential is there. Now it seems we will finally get to see what he is capable of with consistent plate appearances.

Michael Brantley, other than Shin-Soo Choo, who was dealt to Cincinnati, was the team’s most consistent hitter. Despite his struggles in this spot, I truly feel like Brantley has finally gained the confidence to be the team’s leadoff hitter.

What I am saying is when I look at the young core plus the newly added pieces, I see enormous potential. Like the Yankees dynasty of the late 1990s, it does not appear to boast explosive power or mind blowing speed. It does suggest that it has the capability of producing high batting averages, on-base percentages, and runs; all statistics it has sorely lacked the last few years.

With Terry Francona, a manager with two World Series rings, at the helm, he can mold this young squad together with the veterans that were added into something special.

I am not saying it will happen this coming season. In fact, I would be pleasantly surprised if it did. I am saying with experience and an opportunity to gel under a new, highly esteemed manager, a bright future lies ahead for the Cleveland Indians team.

How does this new lineup look for Opening Day?

2013 Indians lineup

Written by apokorny

January 4, 2013 at 3:59 pm

A Lesson in Unprofessional Journalism

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If you got paid to watch and write about a game, would you enjoy it? Better yet, would you be grateful for the opportunity? These are questions I have been pondering ever since the dog days of August when the Cleveland Indians were mired in a terrible slump that effectively ruined their season.

During that fateful stretch of time one Tribe game went into extra innings after an already lengthy affair that lasted past 1a.m. When this occurred, several reporters were caught on twitter making jokes about the game continuing on much longer and how they could be subjected to anymore bad baseball. Others tweeted about how they could not wait until all the baseball talk on twitter would be silenced because football season had begun. Suffice to say, I and others I follow on the social media forum were not amused.

Lately on nights when I don’t have to get up early the next morning for work I find myself staying up late at night for different reasons. Sometimes I read news articles and other interesting stories I did not have time to during the day. Other times I watch random video clips for nostalgia purposes or catch up on my DVR recordings.

A relative once suggested I stay up so late because I am always afraid I will miss something if I turn off my computer and go to bed. I am extremely inclined to agree. Wednesday night was a perfect example of such a time where I would miss something big if I turned off my computer.

This is the big week of winter meetings in Major League Baseball. All eyes in Cleveland, well diehard baseball fans’ eyes anyway, are on the Indians, hoping they make some kind of trade or acquisition that would positively benefit the organization for at least the upcoming season. My twitter feed has been abuzz as many of my fellow diehard fans I follow and reporters in the business discuss rumors of these potential deals.

One such deal suggests the Indians trading two-time all-star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to the Arizona Diamondbacks and receiving two prospects from the Diamondbacks in return. Evidently this potential deal does not sit well with one particular Indians beat reporter.

According to this writer the rumored trade would be an epic failure because all the Indians would be receiving in return would be two high ranking prospects. Shortly after midnight Wednesday night, a young man I follow who covered the Indians farm system this past season and sees the value in young prospects stepped in to debate the writer, citing multiple examples in which a deal such as the proposed has benefited both sides. The latter failed to see the point, stating that the young journalist “loves him some prospects” while he loves “real players.”

The debate snowballed and turned into an ugly situation. The writer in question got into another argument with another person who I do not follow. He launched a tirade of unprovoked offensive tweets, using vulgar language and name calling.

While I have seen this happen many times on my twitter timeline, this was completely different than anything I had witnessed before. Here a writer of 15 years, known by any diehard Cleveland Indians fan with a twitter account, resorted to mudslinging on a public forum when someone stepped in and disagreed with what he had to say.

These young men did nothing to deserve the treatment they received. All they did was attempt to show the writer a different side to a story that he immediately dismissed. His behavior was extremely unprofessional for a man of his status. Furthermore, the man’s job title and the name of the organization he writes for is clearly stated in his twitter bio. Anyone who witnessed his outrageous tweets could report him to his employer as well as spread the news like wildfire throughout the community and make the organization look bad.

Finally, this outburst, coupled with the reactions I mentioned at the beginning of this writing of other Cleveland reporters, sparked a discussion among me and other amateur writers. We see this type of behavior and are appalled. These people are being paid to watch and report on a game that we all love and respect. We would do their job for nothing. Yet they sit back and criticize and complain when they are “forced” to watch a game go into extra innings.

These people are living the dream young sports writers aspire to have. They know that and they take it for granted. Their egos become inflated when uneducated fans assume the truth from their reports and heap unwarranted praise. What the uneducated fans fail to realize is there is another perspective when it is not presented by reporters such as the one in question.

I understand the Cleveland Indians are a poorly run franchise and have been for several years now. No, they have not made any significant moves that would impact the team during the winter meetings despite being involved in many rumors. But that is no reason to assume the worst or completely dismiss any potential moves based on history. Rather, look at them from all sides and do some homework. Do your job.

That is what a true professional reporter does. He or she does the necessary research. If you want to complain, step away and let someone with a true passion for the game have an opportunity.

Written by apokorny

December 7, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Indians Wheel and Deal Again

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After the latest trades, the Cleveland Indians are now the youngest team in baseball.

The Cleveland Indians organization has been hit by a whirlwind of events again this season. Just like last year, the events reached their peak at the trade deadline. Over the course of the last week, emotions have been running high.

The beginning of the week was not even like any other. Reason being that the New York Yankees came into town for their only trip to Cleveland this season. In addition, Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez was on the brink of a career milestone, sitting on 599 career home runs going into the four-game set. The Tribe marketing department went all-out to capitalize on any possible fan interest. For weeks prior to the series the organization promoted a special offer by Chuck Galeti, host of the Indians’ post-game call-in show, in which bleacher seats at Progressive Field were only $10 for the first game. The promotion appeared to be a success as the entire section of the stadium was sold out. A few hours before game time, the Tribe Twitter contingent announced another special deal. Lower reserved seats were advertised to those who follow @tribetalk on Twitter, also for only $10 and were only available at a certain ticket window at the stadium. As a result, over 27,000 fans were in attendance to witness a pitcher’s duel. The Indians led 2-1 for much of the game until Jake Westbrook gave up an eighth inning two-run homer to give a Yankees a 3-2 win in the opener. A-Rod, under the immense pressure of hitting his 600th career homer, was 0-for-4 on the game.

The next night, hoping to capitalize on the interest from the first game, the Indians Twitter deal was in effect again. The big team had also just called up Josh Tomlin to make his Major League debut. Another crowd of over 27,000 turned out to watch another duel as Tomlin went toe-to-toe with C.C. Sabathia, holding Alex Rodriguez to another 0-for-4 game as the Tribe evened the series with a 4-1 victory.

The Indians were riding high after the superb debut they got from Tomlin and stellar work from the bullpen. But Wednesday night the storm clouds rolled in, literally. As they had the previous two games, the Tribe marketing department put up the $10 Twitter deal, but this time the weather was working against it. Shortly before game time, a rainstorm hit, delaying the game for an hour. Once it began, Fausto Carmona took the mound and was bombed right out of the gate. He obviously was not in the form he has shown all season long. He looked more like the Fausto Carmona of the last two seasons. He struggled to find the plate early and when he did, the Yankees pounded him. If Manny Acta had not pulled him early, he could very well have given up A-Rod’s 600th bomb. Again the Tribe bullpen pitched well enough to shut the Yankees, including Rodriguez, down. But the Indians lineup could not figure out A.J. Burnett and were the victims of an 8-0 shutout. Unlike the previous two games, A-Rod appeared to take some of the pressure off himself and just try to hit the ball, instead of hitting it out of the park. As a result, he went 2-for-5 with a double and a run batted in. The only entertainment for Indians fans was a near riot in the bleachers when a fan was spotted wearing a Lebron James Miami Heat jersey. Luckily the fan was ejected from the ballpark before anything disastrous could occur.

The series finale was the game I was eyeing. In addition to Alex Rodriguez still searching for that 600th home run, it was also dollar dog night at Progressive Field. Once @tribetalk announced the lower reserve seats were again on sale to Twitter users for one more game, I was sold. I headed off to the ballpark in hopes of seeing the Indians finally win a game with me in attendance. The game started off well and good as the Tribe took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. However, the possibility for disaster struck when Mitch Talbot had to leave the game in the third inning with an injury. While the Tribe bullpen had been very solid in recent weeks, it was also overworked. The Indians held the Yankees down for five innings, but by the sixth inning, the pitching staff was worn down. The Yanks posted seven runs in the seventh inning and two more in the eighth to take a commanding lead. Meanwhile the Tribe again could not figure out the Yankees’ pitching. This time they were facing youngster Dustin Moseley, who was filling in for the injured Andy Pettitte. The game was so out of hand that Manny Acta was forced to put third baseman Andy Marte on the hill to pitch the ninth. Marte rewarded Acta with a 1-2-3 inning, the Indians’ only one of the game, including a strikeout of slugger Nick Swisher, and received a massive applause from the Tribe fans left in attendance. The pop was probably the biggest the Indians received the entire game and most definitely the loudest of Marte’s career. The Indians showed a bit of life in the ninth, scoring three runs, but the game was too far out of hand to make the comeback and lost the game 11-4. Once again Alex Rodriguez failed to hit his 600th career home run. While it would have been interesting to be in attendance for something so historic, I was glad he did not do it in Cleveland. The loss left me now 0-5 in attending Tribe games. Although the team cannot seem to play well when I am at the games, I always seem to enjoy the action. However, because of such a poor record, perhaps I should consider banning myself from Tribe games for the rest of the season.

In the midst of the Yankee hoopla was the buzz over the latest Tribe trade talks. Wednesday the Indians pulled another trigger, trading struggling third baseman Jhonny Peralta to the Detroit Tigers for a single-A pitcher. This comes as no surprise as Peralta was not in the Indians’ future plans and the Tigers were desperately in need of a corner man when Brandon Inge went down with an injury. While the moves continued after the Yankees left town, the Bronx Bombers were still heavily involved with Indian affairs. Although Austin Kearns did not play well during the series, he obviously has been good enough to convince the Yankees he can contribute to their playoff run. Kearns was shipped to New York for cash or a player to be named later. The trading with the Yankees did not stop there either, as they were willing to take on the contract of Kerry Wood in another deal for cash or a player to be named. Each of these deals made sense as the Tribe is in the middle of a massive youth movement. Wood was definitely not working out for the team to warrant his ten-million dollar contract. Trading Kearns, while he was showing some good production as a middle of the order hitter, allows the organization to see if Michael Brantley has finally figured himself out after one last tour through Triple-A Columbus. Finally, the Indians were involved in another three team deadline deal which sent Jake Westbrook to the St. Louis Cardinals. In return the Tribe got a minor league pitcher from the San Diego Padres, who was described as having a “projectable arm.”

While the reasons for these deals make sense, the execution and return show one of two things: the true value of the players being traded as seen by the receiving teams, or a lack of effort to get quality in return by Tribe management. Receiving players to be named later are rarely ever a good thing. Mitch Talbot was the player to be named in the Kelly Shoppach trade. While he has been pitching well, whether he is a quality starter or a fluke remains to be seen. Fans can only hope Mark Shapiro or Chris Antonetti can pull rabbits out of their hats with the players to be named that they get from the Yankees for Kearns and Wood. As for the Indians now, they are the youngest team in the league and many fans see them as a glorified Triple-A team playing in the Majors. As I have stated before, I enjoy watching the youngsters play. Many times they will be overmatched against seasoned veterans but it will give them a valuable learning experience. Many top organizations build the core of their Major League teams from within the organization. The Minnesota Twins did it with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Francisco Liriano. The Boston Red Sox did it with Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Kevin Youkilis. The Colorado Rockies did it with practically their entire roster. The Indians did it themselves once upon a time. They are capable of doing it again, even with cash strapped ownership such as the Dolans.

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State of the Indians Address

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Despite their current state, I believe the Cleveland Indians can win.

Lately, all anyone in sports can think and talk about is the circus the NBA free agency period has become. All eyes and ears are on the news surrounding the top prize, Lebron James. More so now since James scheduled his announcement to be broadcasted live on ESPN. After the Cleveland Cavaliers were eliminated from the NBA playoffs, many Clevelanders became cynical and even despondent with the belief that James will leave the city for a bigger market or to team with fellow free agents Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. I, on the other hand, prefer not to become too involved with that mess and would rather spend my time focusing on my favorite sport, baseball, a sport which currently has a season in play. For those of you frustrated or on the verge of tears with the Lebron James saga, allow me to deter your attention.

The first half of the 2010 Major League Baseball season ends this weekend. It has been a wild first half, to say the least. Some of the brightest stars of the future have made their Major League debuts while stars from the past are stepping down from their pedestals. There has been much evidence to support the declaration that the steroid era, while not forgotten in baseball lore, is long gone.

I could talk at great length about my thoughts regarding the 2010 MLB season thus far, but that would take days. So I will just go over some points about my favorite team, the hometown Cleveland Indians. Yes, the Indians are one of the worst teams in baseball. But trust me, this entry will not be as depressing as it may seem at first.

Going into this season, nobody expected the Indians to be anywhere near contention, and to this point they haven’t even come close to surprising anybody. However, there were definitely plenty of questions, some of which still have not been answered.

The biggest question on the minds of many diehard Tribe fans like myself was, after a disastrous 2009 season, could the organization form a pitching staff that could keep the team in games? The rotation was sketchy as can be with Jake Westbrook finally returning from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, Fausto Carmona coming off a horrible season in which he was sent all the way back to A ball, and the remaining three spots up for grabs in a competition between at least five guys.

The rotation looked very strong early on during the season. Westbrook bounced back from a rough opening day start to show that he has fully recovered from his year-and-a-half long layoff. His 4.59 earned run average is deceiving as when Westbrook had his off-games, he was destroyed in them. He has also had his share of quality starts this season. Carmona’s performance is a testament to all of the hard work he put in over the off-season. With an ERA of 3.68 and only 37 walks in 103 innings, he turned in quality start after quality start to earn his first all-star selection. Part of his turnaround seems to be the abandoning of his 97 mile-per-hour fastball. This season Carmona has relied more on a sinker that tops out at 93 along with off-speed breaking balls, which he appears to have more control over. The big surprise so far this season has been Mitch Talbot. As a rookie who got beat up during his only other Major League opportunity, nobody was expecting him to perform the way he has. Like Jake Westbrook, when Talbot was beaten, he was beaten hard. But like Carmona, the majority of his starts have been quality, with an ERA of 3.86.

Westbrook, Carmona, and Talbot made up the good of the Tribe rotation so far this season. Now to discuss the bad part of it. After winning a team high eleven games last season as a rookie and winning the fifth spot in the rotation, I expected David Huff to continue improving. He appeared as such in his first two starts, but then spiraled downhill. Huff fell into the dreaded “sophomore jinx” and was sent back to Triple-A Columbus with a 2-9 record and 6.04 ERA. Justin Masterson was handed a spot in the rotation as an experiment to see if he can be transformed into a starter. So far, the results have been very negative. He lost his first five starts, struggles against left-handed hitters, and has control issues. With Aaron Laffey pitching well since being called back to Cleveland after Huff was demoted, I would expect Masterson to move into the bullpen once Carlos Carrasco gets the call back to the Indians.

While the rotation has its ups and downs, the Indians bullpen has been Jekyll and Hyde on seemingly a nightly basis. Like last season, the Indians have been calling up and demoting pitchers like a revolving door for the better part of the season. Joe Smith and Jensen Lewis have both been sent back to Columbus this season to figure out their issues with mixed results. Rafael Perez appeared to have the same issues which plagued him for most of last season, but has since calmed down and may be playing back to form. Hector Ambriz has been solid. As a Rule 5 draft pick, he must remain with the Indians all season long. With this season in the basement, the Tribe might as well keep him on, even if he falters, just to get a better look at him. Closer Kerry Wood is one issue that baffles my mind. His last season with the Chicago Cubs, his first as a closer, he saved 34 games with a 2.95 earned run average. The Indians signed him to a two-year contract and his career has rapidly declined. His issues could be explained by a lack of work. Since the Indians are a losing team, Wood has not had many save situations and rarely gets into ballgames for mop up duty. Interestingly though, the month of June has been very good for Wood. In ten appearances, he converted six of eight save opportunities, including three in a row in dominant fashion to close out the month. The one consistent bright spot for the Tribe bullpen has been Chris Perez. He started out as the closer when Kerry Wood began on the disabled list. After struggling the first few weeks, Perez has settled into a very stable setup role.

While preseason questions about the rotation loomed, the Cleveland Indians lineup looked like it could actually be productive. Anchored by veterans Asdrubal Cabrera, Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, Jhonny Peralta, and a finally healthy Travis Hafner, this team was expected to hit. Until recently though, this team has not done anything of the like. With the exception of Cabrera and, at times, Choo, the Cleveland Indians struggled consistently to score runs or even get on base. Peralta continued his string of early season struggles. Sizemore, coming off surgery, showed he was not at 100 percent. To make matters worse, Luis Valbuena and rookies Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley, expected to produce as the crown jewels of the C.C. Sabathia trade, also struggled against Major League pitching and were sent back to Columbus. Matters were made worse when Cabrera and Sizemore were lost for extended periods of time with injuries. As a result, the lineup fell completely out of sync. Many times opposing pitchers flirted with no-hitters and one even came within one out of a perfect game. Remaining Indians fans were praying for Carlos Santana to get the call, as he was tearing up the minor league system. It was only a matter of time as the season was quickly being lost and neither of the Indians’ catchers were producing at the plate.

Lately, however, something seems to be happening with this Cleveland Indians team. Jason Donald, making his Major League debut after Asdrubal Cabrera was hurt, is making the most of his opportunities. He plays every game with fire and adrenaline. I really like the hustle and effort he puts forth. He won me over when he hustled down the line at the end of the would-be perfect game when he could have easily dogged it and let the perfect game stand. Russell Branyan, who was signed during the off-season to my surprise and even displeasure, was traded back to Seattle and LaPorta was called back. Since then, LaPorta has been on a tear and is finally showing the potential fans expected of him. Carlos Santana finally got the call in early June and has never looked back. He was immediately given the third spot in the lineup and continued hitting a ton at the Major League level. The biggest surprise may be Jayson Nix. After the Indians claimed him off waivers, he’s hitting over .300 with four homers and seven RBIs in 11 games. While the youngsters are now producing, the veterans have seemed to finally catch on. Hafner and Peralta could always do better than they are now, but when they struggle, the younger players seem to pick up the slack. The one man who has never stopped hitting after an excellent start is Shin-Soo Choo. He has been such a highlight that he was heavily believed to be the Tribe’s only all-star this season. However, his crazy train was derailed late last week when he sprained his wrist diving for a fly ball. Like Cabrera and Sizemore, Choo will be out for an extended period of time and has given way back to Brantley, who was brought back to replace him.

Yes, like most of the Cleveland Indians season, most of this entry is filled with lowlights. However, unlike many people, I have not stopped following or enjoying Indians baseball. Maybe I just enjoy rooting for the underdogs. Whatever the case may be, the Cleveland Indians are now a team of young players who are hungry. I believe they can and will make the most of their opportunities. We have seen it happen with many other franchises in baseball. Not all World Series teams are bought like the New York Yankees. I have faith in my Cleveland Indians. They can win with the talent they have. Their recent five game win-streak is proof. It may take a few years, but the Indians will be back.

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