Friday, March 04, 2011

Cleveland Indians 2011 Season Outlook Part II

Fausto Carmona of the Cleveland Indians in Fen...Image via WikipediaStarting Pitching
Fausto Carmona enters the 2011 season as the Tribe's ace. After trying to find his form of 2007 for the better part of 2008 and 2009, Carmona found some stability last year and really finished the season strong. After Carmona, the Indians will likely slot Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin. The fifth starter will be decided in camp. One name no longer in the running is the serviceable Aaron Laffey who was just traded to Seattle for infielder Matt Lawson. Masterson is being given the shot to prove he is a viable starter in the big leagues. If he can be more consistent and keep is BB/9 in the low threes, his stuff is dominant enough to let him stick. This is the year Carrasco must make the leap from prospect status. Based on what he did in his late season stint with the Tribe last year, that jump could realistically happen and it'll be fun to watch. After the top three, the talent falls off fairly dramatically. While there is still hope that someone will emerge to seize the opportunity, let's not hold our breath. Just for the record, here are some of the names under consideration; Mitch "The Fury" Talbot, David Huff, Anthony Reyes, Don Schulze and Josh Tomlin. I know, right?

Bullpen
One area that shined for the Indians last year was their bullpen. And from a stockpile of prospects acquired in roster clearing deals over the past few years, a bonafide closer has emerged. Chris "Pure Rage" Perez was dominant after being handed the closer role full time last June. From June 28th until season's end, Perez had an ungodly 0.53 ERA. He finished the year with a 1.71 ERA overall and 23 saves (the youngest Indian to convert 20 or more saves). Of course predicting the success of any MLB bullpen from year-to-year is akin to correctly guessing tonight's mega millions numbers. That said, the Tribe has some live arms and relievers who are looking to build on last year's success. Raffy Perez seems to have finally righted himself and will be the late inning lefty specialist. Jensen Lewis is out of options and thus assured a spot in the pen. Others in the mix are Josh Judy, Vinnie Pestano, Frank Herrmann, Tony Sipp and Joe Smith. Newly acquired Chad Durbin will almost assuredly make the final 25 man roster. All-in-all, Manny Acta will have numerous solid options to choose from. And, if anyone falters, there will be viable replacements waiting in the wings in Columbus.

Summary
If the Indians can score enough runs and play solid enough infield defense to get the game to Chris "Pure Rage" Perez in the 9th, they have a chance to hang around and make the AL Central interesting. I'm not saying they're going to content this year, rather they should continue to build around the core of Choo, Santana, Carmona and Perez. If one or two others can progress (I'm looking at you Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley), this could develop into a very fun to watch mid market team that could contend for the Central title next year.


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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cleveland IndiansImage via WikipediaPitchers and catchers have reported in Goodyear and many other position players are already in camp. The grass is cut, the baselines are chalked, the 2011 season is fast approaching. What to expect then, of this year's Cleveland Indians?

Kenny Lofton was just announced this morning as a special spring training instructor. When that is the biggest off-season announcement your team makes, you better set your expectations pretty low. Here's a quick positional breakdown of what to look for from your 2011 Cleveland Indians.

Catcher
Tribe medical staff have said Carlos Santana is fully recovered from his season ending knee injury and subsequent surgery. That said, he'll be eased into full "baseball activities." The best case scenario is that Santana catches four games a week and plays first/DH the other two. Word is that Lou Marson may be optioned back to AAA Columbus to see regular duty while Chu Chen or some other flotsam and jetsam backs up Santana.

Outfield
Is Grady Sizemore ever going to recover the form that made him an almost superstar? Sizemore is coming back from the always dangerous micro-fracture surgery on his left knee. He's taking batting practice and running but is not cleared for full baseball activities. While his goal remains to be ready for opening day, it's more likely the Indians will take a cautious approach and we'll see him mid-April. In the meantime, we will see Michael Brantley man CF with Shin Soo Choo anchored in RF and the newly re-acquired Austin Kearns stationed in RF. Once Sizemore returns, Tribe brass says he will take over CF with Brantley slotting over to LF and Kearns becoming the Tribe's fourth OF. Sizemore is in a potential walk-year and Choo hired the dreaded Scott Boras to represent him in his quest for a long-term deal. That said, there could be more upheaval ahead for the Tribe.

Infield
Oh, what a mess. And to add to the mess, the Indians just signed Orlando Cabrera. Yes, he is a two-time Gold Glove winner but where does he play? Manny Acta's current plan is to have Orlando man 2B with Asdrubal Cabrera at SS. Matt LaPorta will play 1B and Jayson Nix, Jason Donald and Luis Valbuena will be in the mix for the 3B/utility role. An ugly mix to be sure. 3B is a mess until Chisnehall, Goedert or the ghost of Travis Fryman can take over. LaPorta comes into the 2011 season healthy unlike last season when he was still recovering from hip and toe surgeries. Hopefully, he will begin to show signs of being the corner infield power stick the Indians thought they were getting in the Sabathia deal. While the defense up the middle should improve dramatically with the Cabrearas at 2B and SS, 3B is a black hole and LaPorta must stay healthy, and more importantly, productive for the Indians to have any chance at success.

Stay tuned for my breakdown on both the Indians' starting pitching and the bullpen.


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Friday, October 26, 2007

Same Time Next Year?

So many comments and observations around the Tribe collapse last week. Here's a few in no particular order...

-Travis Hafner - I'm worried that it's going to come out in the off season that this guy is suffering from Lou Gehrig's Disease. That would be about the only explanation for that guy's absolute disappearing act in that series. He needed a map to find the plate he was so lost out there. Typical Hafner at bat went like this: Look at strike one right down the middle. Swing at strike two on a ball away. Take ball two just off the outside corner. Swing and miss at strike three in the dirt. Thanks for playing, see you next year. Could that guy have looked more defeated after every feeble AB?

-Sabathia and Carmona - After watching Westbrook and Byrd pitch their respective asses off you're telling me they couldn't pony up ONE quality start between them the WHOLE SERIES? Both of these guys have 1000x more talent and ability than Westbrook and Byrd will ever have yet they can't sac up for one win in two games. Unacceptable.

-Joel Skinner - Nuff said.

Grady Sizemore - Way to seize your spot on "the national stage," fag.

I think Wedge managed well overall. He played some hunches that paid off and his bullpen was solid outside of Rafael Perez shitting the bed (that dude, not good). I'm not mad at Betancourt; he was stretched a bit too much in that series. Franklin Gutierrez needs some work, but I liked his composure. Cabrera really shined, if not always at the plate then certainly in the field. Although I don't like these stories I'm reading that suggest the Tribe ship off Peralta and Lee for Jason Bay then give the SS gig to Cabrera and 2B to Barfield. Peralta was the Indians' most steady hitter all series; I wanna keep that kid.

It's hard to say which series made me more disappointed, the '99 series or this one. I didn't think anything could top that '99 series but I think this one did it. There are a lot of questions this off season. What do we do in left? Do we ride CC out or try to trade him for a strong bat? Do we bring Lofton back in a diminished role, if at all? What's up with Sowers and Lee? Has Laffey surpassed them both? Do Miller, Lofgren et al get a look in spring training next year?

Fuck it, those questions are all for another day. Today I remain bitterly disappointed. I love the Indians more than any other sports team on the planet. For me, it's:

1. Indians
2. Ohio State football
3. Cleveland Browns








4. Cleveland Cavs
5. Cleveland Force
6. Akron Aeros

I will fall down and weep the day the Indians get it done. Despite my abject suffering over the past week, I do believe that the Indians will win the World Series some day. I just hope I'm able to celebrate properly when it happens. I guess I mean I hope my wheelchair is fully powered and my c-bag is strapped in tight.

Ugh,
Jason

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering (Part One)

I've found myself in situations lately where I've been made to remember a lot of things from my past; both distant and recent. Now this isn't a post about 9/11 per se, but the events of the day certainly factor in here.

Recently a friend sent me a YouTube clip of U2 playing live somewhere circa 1984. I responded by asking him how crazy was it that my mom was actually at Wembley Stadium in 1985 for Live Aid and witnessed first hand the now classic U2 performance of "Bad". Not two seconds later did he hit me up with that very clip, and man if I wasn't instantly transported back to my living room on Euclid Heights Blvd the morning of July, 1985. My good friend Harry Richards had come over just to see U2 with me then we were heading down to WRUW's Studio-A-Rama on Case's campus. It was the best college radio station's (sorry Berni) all day outdoor live event and Harry and I, both 16, had a plan.

After thinking about that specific day, I thought about 1985 in general. Summer '85 still to this day, is my favorite summer ever. My best friends and I skateboarded all day and then drove around all night looking for parties or new skate spots. It didn't matter if it was as far east as Chesterland or as far west as Elyria. Amato would drive and we would skate, laugh, crack on each other and eat a lot of really bad food. Alpha Park and Denny's always seemed to factor in somehow. We were the "Heights kids". But we never drank. And we were always together; most of us had gone to the same grade school. Our parents all knew each other and they knew that we were pretty responsible kids (for the most part). We were generally left to our own devices until all hours. Not because our parents were irresponsible, more because we were good kids who could be trusted to make the right decision. I remember Rob Gilmore, Jim Amato, Pat Whelan, Mike Jones, Charlie Garriga, Mark Konopka, Sam Nigro, Robbie Stevens (my best friend for all of that great summer of '85). I remember swimming at Thonton Park and having a huge crush on Katie Moore (she lived on Townlie!). Some of the guys are no longer with me (Rob, I'll miss you always) and some, like Charlie, I see and talk to frequently. But for one summer, it was all there for us. All it took to bring it flooding back was a simple U2 clip from Josh.

The other night I was working the door at a club in the city. For any of you that know me, it's always something I've enjoyed doing in addition to having a full time job. Somewhere around 12:30 a familiar face approached the door with a group of similar looking kids. It wound up being a kid named Itchy who was on the road with A Static Lullaby when I was their tour manager during the summer of 2003. I said hello and asked how he was and if he still talked to the guys. He let me know two of the guys quit and formed their own band while Joe and Dan are still in ASL. I quit grilling him and let him hang with his friends.

Later that night, as I lay in bed, I began to think back on those eight weeks I spent on the road with ASL. I was 34, they were all between 18-22. Some nights I wanted to kill them, other nights they wanted to kill me. We were in a van with a huge equipment trailer hitched behind us. I remember every venue we played. From Denver to Quebec City, from Vancouver to Baltimore. I remember getting to know the other bands on the road with us, Strung Out, Eighteen Visons, Form of Rocket and The Kinison. There was a legitimate bond between bands by the end of it all. I remember being a big brother, a cop, a dad, a mom, a maid, an accountant (and not a very good one), a negotiator and a tough guy. I remember driving more miles across Canada than anyone ever should have to. I remember my best friend, Dean meeting me in Pittsburgh and providing one night of sanity in a posh hotel. I remember Joe asking if he could hang out with my friends and me in Chicago and being flattered he'dwant to hang out with a geezer like me. I remember getting everyone to stay at the Sheraton in Saskatoon because it had indoor water slides. I remember thinking that might not have been the best idea as the boys decided to climb up the supports of the water slides to the top. Dealing with the promotors at the venues was always fun. It certainly helped to have a solid booking agency behind the tour; less chance for those local lizards to fuck us. All it took to remember those eight weeks in that van with Joe, Dan, Phil, Nate, Ben, Eric and Itchy was seeing Itchy for about ten minutes outside the door of a club.

Bed time. For those that care, I promise part two will not take me a month to write.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Who's the Man?

Back in this Bitch

Yeah, I've been on hiatus for a while on this thing. And you know what? It's been for no good reason. It's summer time, the last time I posted was in March. That's unacceptable. While this post will be short, I promise that it will be the first in a series of consistent, well thought out (for the most part) entries.

I'll even go so far as to give you a teaser. The next entry you read will be about NY "fashion" and what I could live a lifetime without ever seeing again. So look out all you ladies walking around in thrift store skirts and old cowboy boots, I'm coming to get you. And it's gonna be quick, and it'll get ugly, real ugly. So, check back soon, please.

Of course I know I'm pretty much talking to myself at this point. But anyway...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

New Personal Best!

Good news, I improved on a personal record today. I got shitcanned from a job quicker than I've ever been shitcanned from a job before! One day shy of two months. It took me being in the best shape of my life to reach this lofty goal, it was no easy feat. There are so many people for me to thank, where do I begin?

I'd like to start by giving a shout out to the L train. L train, thank you for consistently sending five trains towards Canarsie before sending one into Manhattan. Of course by that point, only four people out of the 300 now amassed on the platform could fit onto that train. Getting me into work at 9:08, four trains later on a regular basis really put me in good stead with my new employers right off the bat.

While we're here, a hearty thanks to my new (now ex) employers. Your warm welcome and clearly stated expectations really set the tone for my outstanding sales career with your organization. Putting me in the corner next to the 64 year old lifer was a stroke of genius. What better way for me to learn key products and corporate culture then to expose me to the sound of Methuselah's
hacking cough and "positive" attitude? Jack effing Welch couldn't run a company better than you guys, congratulations!

I certainly can't forget my old friend, Grey Goose. Oh, Goose, without you where would I be? Oh yeah, probably still employed. Oh, I kid. I thank Grey Goose for seeing me through so many cold winter nights (and early mornings). If not for your comforting effect I would have woken up on time and clear-headed, ready for another fantastic day in corporate America. Clearly you recognize this is no way to approach a bright new day, thanks for consistently sending me on my way under the "fog of war."

And where would I be without Dave's Place - Top of the Line, the friendly Puerto Rican bar directly under my bedroom? Karaoke night on Wednesdays you say?! I'm there! Well, not really "there." More like 10 feet above "there" in ideal position to absorb as much bass as humanly possible. Dave, I know it's necessary to play your diverse and interesting salsa music at Spinal Tap levels for all four of your loyal customers, really I do. And when Fabiola sings "Summer Lovin'" for the fourth time that night, sheesh, how can a tennant properly thank his landlord for that little gift from above (or, in this case, below)?

Oh shit, the music's starting, wait... um, oh yeah. Last, but certainly not least, I need to thank myself for having the incredible foresight to turn down an additional $20K from another prospective employer to take this last job. It's forward thinking like this that lead to the invention of Betamax.

I know I've set the bar high. To even dream about breaking this record I'll have to dig deep. But with my dedication, my commitment, my undying effort to improve, I'm confident I can do better. And do better I will, this you can trust. Just let me grab my Goose and soda at Dave's Place, I think I've got next song.



Friday, January 27, 2006

James Frey - Celebrity Author or Celebrity Liar

Those of you that know me have heard me talk about and have seen me write about the two books written by James Frey, "A Million Little Pieces" and "My Friend Leonard." You know that I enjoyed both books and have recommended them both to anyone willing to listen. Between then and now, Frey has been called to the carpet in regards to the "truthiness" (thank you Mr. Colbert) of certain aspects of each book. This seems to have culminated in Frey's return to Oprah's couch yesterday where he endured a verbal beat down from his one-time supporter.

Now I know my share of Shaker Heights based kids that had fucked up upbringings and have spent their time battling various demons (hi Josh!). Some of these kids even went to the same grade school as Frey (Josh, hello again, and you too K-Bird!). So, as I was reading "Pieces" I kept telling my mom that I couldn't believe that all of his stories about rehab were completely true. Oddly enough, I also know a few folks that attended Hazelden (what's up xxxxx!). A lot of the things Frey says happened there just would not have gone down that way. I am in no way doubting that Frey had a drinking and drug problem, rather that things happened the way they did or to the extent that they did.

I knew that Frey was a screen writer before penning these two memoirs so he is no stranger to fiction. I also know he pitched "Pieces" as a novel and was turned down by 19 publishers before Nan Talese suggested he write it as a memoir. That being said, my only disappointment is in how Frey addressed the situation he found himself in last week when all this came to a head. Before seeing him on Larry King I had never heard the cat speak. I only knew him from his description of himself in his books and based on the photos I've seen on his dust covers. I expected a guy with a pretty pissed off demeanor; after all, the fury had to still be in him somewhere, right? Nope. What I heard was a guy who sounded pretty reserved, slightly effeminate even in his delivery. Hey, no problem, just address this shit head on, I thought. Nope, he backpedaled, hemmed and hawed his way through a pretty shaky explanation. Oh well, I thought, your image is blown but you're still gonna sell a million more books. Good for you.

Well, good for him until he went on Oprah yesterday. She blasted him, Talese, everyone as his backpedaling continued. If I were in crisis management (maybe I should be), I would have demanded he face the acusations head on. Be that tough guy you described yourself as in your books. Be ready to FTBSITTTD at any point. Go for the throat. All he had to do, from the time he went on Larry King to the time he was administered his rectal pounding by Oprah was to be the aggressive guy we saw in "Pieces." King accuses him of lying? Bring it. "You know Larry, I busted my ass shopping this piece to publishers and got shut down 19 times before Nan Talese took a chance on me. Did certain embellished aspects of my novel filter through to the memoir? Yeah, they probably did." Oprah tells you you mislead millions of people? "You know Oprah, maybe I did exaggerate or even lie in some places, but you know what? I was a freaking drug addled, boozed out addict, I exxagerated a lot to get by, I lied, I got in trouble, I went to rehab but I am clean right now and have been for 10 years. Take what you need to from that and move on." The Smoking Gun calls you out? "Hey, fuck you man! Walk a mile in my shoes before come after me. I didn't ask for all this celebrity. Oprah wants to put me on a pedastal, great, she wants to knock me off, even better. I am who I am and I don't apologize for any of it." Frey maintains that stance and he's a bad-ass. He appears on Larry king with his mommy and he looks like every other punk from Shaker I ever knew who ran home to his mom when the shit got thick (I'm kind of kidding here, but not so much).

Bottom line? Read the books. Fact/Fiction, Truth/Lies, Ethical/Non-Ethical, it doesn't matter, they're a great read. I just wish this guy wouldn't have apologized and caved like he did. I wanted to see that bad ass with the fury attacking his detractors. If anything, the lamb that he turned out to be makes me believe even less of the books' events. Well, don't forget to pony up your $10.25 for the movie version due out in 2007, it's sure to raise this whole ruckus yet again. Any thoughts or comments, I'd love to hear them.