Who May Not Be Back For The Cavs Next Fall.

The NBA playoffs have started over the past weekend and for the first time in five seasons, the Cleveland Cavaliers are not participants.

That’s not really a surprise to many who figured the wine and gold’s contending days ended when LeBron James departed for Los Angeles.

As expected, Larry Drew and the Cleveland front office parted ways.  Drew would like to catch on with a contending team as an assistant, while GM Koby Altman’s preference for head coach would be a younger man with a background in player development.

We have already talked about who would be our core group heading into the 2019-20 campaign, the 50th season for the Cavs.

We would build around Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman, and David Nwaba.  Collin Sexton showed enough in the second half of the season to be here as well, although if Cleveland happened to draft Ja Morant, we could see pursuing a deal for the rookie guard.  (Notice we didn’t say point guard).

And our preference would be for Ante Zizic to be on the roster too, although we question whether or not we will ever be a solid interior defender.  You can learn to position yourself properly to minimize your lack of quickness with experience.

We all are aware of J.R. Smith’s situation, his contract, because it is not fully guaranteed is a much better asset for teams if he is moved prior to the end of June.  Because of that, he will likely be moved prior to the NBA Draft.

Notice we have not mentioned two key members of this year’s roster, including someone who was a key piece of the championship team.

We would bet Tristan Thompson will be moved before the next season begins.  Thompson’s contract expires after the ’19-’20 schedule ends, which makes him a valuable piece.

Plus, his skills fit much better with a team contending for a title.  He’s a solid defender inside, a tireless rebounder, particularly at the offensive end, and he has a lot of playoff experience.

Besides, the Cavs have Love, Nance, and Zizic who we are sure they would rather give more minutes to going forward, and don’t forget John Henson as well.  And we would bring Marquese Chriss back on a smaller contract if he is amenable.

The other member who received a lot of playing time this season is Jordan Clarkson.

Clarkson provided scoring (16.8 PPG) for a team that at times needed it badly.  But we still don’t know if he is anything more than a guy who can score points for bad teams.

He’s been in the association for six years, and made one playoff appearance, last season with the Cavs, where he was frankly, terrible.

His shooting numbers this season weren’t anything out of his norm, and he’s not a great passer or defender.

His contract also expires at the end of next season.

Our guess is Altman would be willing to move either and take back a bad contract with perhaps two years remaining if first round draft picks were included.

Nick Stauskas is also a free agent, but we believe the organization picked him up after he was waived to fill a roster spot, and they don’t have plans for him next season.

We believe the Cavs will be very active before the draft and when the free agency period kicks off, looking to make more moves like they did in getting Brandon Knight.

And of course, they will have a high draft choice as well.  The floor is all yours, Koby Altman.

MW

 

Advertisements

Can CarGo And Kipnis Provide A Lift?

It would not be an understatement to say the Cleveland Indians’ hitting has been disappointing to date.

Granted, only 15 games have been played (so tonight will mean 10% of the schedule is through), but there aren’t many categories the Tribe doesn’t rank near the bottom.

They are 14th in runs scored per game.  The Tribe ranks last in the AL in on base percentage, which many people thought would be a hallmark of this season’s edition of the Indians’ offense, the ability to take pitches and work counts.

They are second from the bottom in slugging percentage, meaning extra base hits aren’t coming either.  And for those old school statistic people, Cleveland is the only American League team hitting under the Mendoza line, sitting at .194.

We have been told help is on the way, with Carlos Gonzalez and Jason Kipnis now activated, and hopefully the return of Francisco Lindor, maybe as early as next week.  However, will that be enough?

It has been well documented that Gonzalez has struggled away from the thin air of Coors Field for several years.  Will he make adjustments to his approach now that he is not playing 81 games per year at altitude?  And if he does, will the adjustments work in a new home park and a new league?

No doubt, Kipnis will be an upgrade over what the Tribe has had at shortstop, but that’s not where he plays.  He plays second base, where Brad Miller has given the team decent production.

On the other hand, the longtime Tribesman has had an OPS hovering around the 700 mark in each of the last two years.  If that trend continues, how much extra production will he be providing?

That leaves Lindor, which will be a dramatic offensive boost over the historically bad combination of Eric Stamets and Max Moroff at the position.  Those two (and we know Moroff has played second as well) have combined for a 4 for 64 mark (.063) and 35 strikeouts.

One player will not turn around the hitting.  If you don’t believe that, then analyze why Mike Trout has only been to the playoffs once in his big league career.

An obvious help would be for Jose Ramirez to start hitting like he has for much of the last three seasons.  The good news is Ramirez isn’t striking out excessively, just 10 times in 61 plate appearances.

His walks are down greatly, with just two in 2019, compared to 106 all of last season.

We think Ramirez needs to go back to basics.  He is overanxious right now, leading to not walking and a lot of pop ups.

He needs to get back to an all fields approach and we think he will be fine.

So, basically the Indians are in a spot where Gonzalez and Kipnis have to be above average hitters so the Tribe can start to generate some runs.  If they aren’t, the front office is going to have to get to work quickly.

Leonys Martin has been very good after a slow start, and Carlos Santana has gotten off to a quick start, thankfully, because that is not his norm.

We have always said, a good big league lineup has six to seven solid bats.

Right now, you would have to say the front office’s plan this off-season hasn’t worked, but there is still time.

Let’s hope the faith they have in some players isn’t misguided.

MW

 

Tribe Pitching As Good As Advertised To Date

The Cleveland Indians have played 14 games so far this season, and as of now, their pitching has been as good as advertised.

Opponents have scored more than four runs in just three of the contests, and remarkably, Cleveland pitchers have held the other team to three runs or less in 10 of the games on the slate.

That’s how the Tribe has managed an 8-6 record despite having the second worst runs per game total in the American League, ranking only ahead of Detroit.

Their pitchers rank third in the league in ERA, are fourth in strikeouts and have issued the third least walks in the AL.  So to date, they are as good as advertised.

The usually reliable Carlos Carrasco has two of the three bad starts, but in his other effort vs. Toronto, he struck out 12 Blue Jay hitters in five innings.  Corey Kluber had the other poor effort in the second home game of the year against Chicago.

It appears Shane Bieber has made the leap many projected for him in his two starts, and Trevor Bauer was dominant in his first two outings, and not bad in his third.

The loss of Mike Clevinger, who was spectacular in his first two starts, likely until after the All Star Game, does put a damper on things, but Jefry Rodriguez stepped up last night and gave Terry Francona a solid effort.

Yes, the Indians have played the other two worst offenses in the Junior Circuit to date in the Tigers and Blue Jays (the Tribe is the third), but they do get a solid test starting tomorrow in Seattle, where the Mariners have scolded the baseball through the first three weeks of the season, averaging over seven runs per game.

On the other hand, Toronto scored just six runs in a four game set at Progressive Field, but has averaged over four runs per game in games that didn’t involve the Tribe pitching staff.

So, the Tribe is keeping its head above water despite getting production above replacement player status from just two positions on the diamond, first base (Carlos Santana) and centerfield (Leonys Martin).

In fact, Cleveland shortstops and leftfielders rank as the worst in the AL.  The first spot will take care of itself with the hopefully soon return of the league’s best, Francisco Lindor.

But LF has been manned by Jake Bauers, who is putting the ball in play and drawing some walks, but is batting just .159 so far, with an OPS of 518.  The contact and patience make us feel good about his future, but his production is magnified by the black holes the Indians have at short, and Jose Ramirez’ continued slump.

And the bullpen has been fine too.  Jon Edwards struggled with his control and was sent back to the minors yesterday, but otherwise, there have no major hiccups in the first few weeks.

When the offense has scored enough runs, they have made the leads stand up.

Hopefully, the hitting will give the pitching staff some relief when Lindor and Jason Kipnis return, and Jose Ramirez returns to form.

Right now, the pitching has been as billed.  They may have to continue to be spectacular with the offense performing this way.

MW

Drew Deserves Credit For A Job Well Done

More than likely, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be looking for a new head coach after the season ending loss to the Charlotte Hornets.

Our guess is Koby Altman will want a head coach who will work side by side with him for several years, meaning someone younger and with a strong player development background.

That’s not to say Larry Drew didn’t do a good job though.  With Kevin Love missing more than 50 games, let alone taking over the squad after six games into the season, Drew held the team together and had them playing hard all year long.

We have said through much of the season the front office deserves credit for this as well.  There were no knuckleheads on this roster.  All of the losing can lead to players wanting to better their statistics, but the Cavs pulled together and played as a team.

That’s the legacy of the players remaining from the LeBron James era, guys like Love, Tristan Thompson, and Channing Frye, who is a first class person, and we wish him well for the future.

Besides creating a good atmosphere on the floor and in the locker room, Drew developed the team’s young players. particularly rookie first round pick Collin Sexton.

Look at these numbers–

Sexton (Pre All Star Game):  15.1 PPG, 2.9 assists, 40.8% from the floor, 39.2% from three
Sexton (After the ASG):  20.8 PPG, 3.2 assists, 47.7% from the floor, 41.3% from three.

Sexton will regarded by people not in the know as a bust before the All Star contest, but showed you can’t judge most 19-20 year olds by how they start their career.

Cedi Osman:  (Pre ASG):  12.6 PPG, 4.6 boards, 2.3 assists, 32.7% from three
(Post ASG):  14.0 PPG, 4.8 boards, 3.2 assists, 38.8% from three

Larry Nance Jr:  (Pre ASG):  9.1 PPG, 8.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 51% from the floor
(Post ASG):  10.1 PPG, 8. 2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 54.2% from the floor.

Ante Zizic:  (Pre ASG):  6.7 PPG, 5.0 rebounds, 51.9% from the floor.
(Post ASG):  10.2 PPG, 6.3 rebounds, 61.2% from the floor.

Granted, some of this extra production came as a result of more playing time because of injuries to Thompson and Love, but all four of these young players (Nance is the oldest, turning 26 on New Year’s Day) progressed as the season went on.

And we would think this quartet, along with Love and David Nwaba, who is interested in staying long term, and the Cavs should make this happen, make up a good starting point for the future.

Yes, we understand Love is 30, but he seems to embrace the leadership role here and as we all saw when he returned, he can make a big impact on this basketball team.

Ending the season with a ten game losing streak guaranteed the Cavs have a better than 50% chance of picking in the top four of the draft, where they should get another very good player to add to this group.

While it would be great to get Zion Williamson, there are some others available who will turn out being solid NBA players.

Credit goes to Drew for turning what could of been a disaster into a learning environment for the young players.  We know, a 19-63 record isn’t anything to be thrilled about, but seeing guys getting better within the season is something to grab onto.

This should be a big summer for the Cleveland Cavaliers.  It is likely a player or two who has been here a while will be moved before training camp starts.

Regardless of whether he stays or goes, Larry Drew should get credit for a job well done.

MW

Plenty Of Time For Browns To Address Remaining Holes.

Since the Browns’ surge in the second half of the 2018 season, fans are chomping at the bit for training camp to start.

This feeling was intensified by the trade in which GM John Dorsey picked up All Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr, and pass rusher Olivier Vernon from the Giants.

That move, along with the free agent signing of DT Sheldon Richardson, and of course, the drafting of Baker Mayfield, have the Browns going from the doormat of the league in 2016 and 2017 to media darlings.

However, it is time to maintain calmness.

Not in thinking the Browns should be a good football team in 2019, on paper, it says they should, but in wanting the roster to be complete…right now!

Dorsey traded starting safety Jabril Peppers in the Giants trade and last week cut the presumed starter, Derrick Kindred, who was picked up by Indianapolis.  He traded for Eric Murray from Kansas City, sending Emmanuel Ogbah to the Chiefs.

Then, on Friday, he signed former Steeler and Packer Morgan Burnett as a free agent.  Do we believe the front office is satisfied they replaced Peppers, who played very well in the second half of the season?  No, we are sure they aren’t.

Because the Browns have their quarterback, people seem to forget there is a little something at the end of this month called the NFL Draft.  It used to be the highlight of the spring for football fans here.

But since Cleveland dealt its first round pick to New York, it feels like we are forgetting about the selection process, and we have no doubt Dorsey will be looking to upgrade the safety position and probably the linebacking corps in the draft.

We would also expect another quarterback to be brought in via the draft or a trade.  Dorsey keeps telling everyone that Drew Stanton is the back up, but the former Michigan State QB hasn’t played since 2017, and hasn’t completed over 50% of his passes since 2014 when he went 5-3 as a starter with Arizona.

While the Browns don’t have a first round pick, they do have three fifth round picks, which Dorsey may use to move up in the second or third rounds to get a player he feels fits on the Cleveland roster, perhaps a safety or a linebacker.

As for the quarterback, that could come later, perhaps even as late as after teams cut down to 53 players before week one of the season.

Also, the Browns did ink the best QB in the newly defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF) in Garrett Gilbert, who had the most passing yards in the league and was with the Carolina Panthers last season.

The fans need to use patience.  The excitement is real and understandable, but the schedule hasn’t even been released as of yet, so the campaign isn’t starting next week.

There is plenty of time to fill out the Browns’ roster, and we doubt John Dorsey is satisfied with the personnel on his squad.  There will definitely be more to come.

We can all watch the draft differently this season, and the GM’s history shows he is not afraid to make moves.  So, the Browns may be very active that weekend.

Just don’t go crazy because safety hasn’t been addressed, or outside linebacker, or left tackle.  There is a lot of time between now and July when this edition of the Cleveland Browns takes the training field.

MW

Starters Give Tribe A Chance Every Day.

In the past couple of season’s, we have seen major league baseball teams get very creative in how they are using starting pitching.

The “opener” became the new rage a year ago, after Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash, a protégé of Terry Francona, started using it.

Cash using Ryne Stanek as a starter 29 times, and for the season, he pitched a total of 66-1/3 innings.  Similarly, Diego Castillo was the starter in 11 of the 43 appearance he made a year ago, and he pitched just 56 innings.

Milwaukee skipper Craig Counsell used the strategy in the playoff against the Dodgers, who heavily platoon.

While many of baseball’s new age people are celebrating this new use of a pitching staff, let’s make one thing very clear.  Teams that have good starting pitching don’t use an “opener”.

And we see this everyday in Cleveland.

It’s very early in the season, but coming into the 2019 campaign, you can make a very good argument the Tribe has the best rotation in the major leagues.

Corey Kluber is a two time Cy Young Award winner and has pitched over 200 innings in each of the last five seasons.  Since 2014, his ERA has been less than 3.14 four times, and he has fanned 200 or more hitters in five straight seasons.

Not only has Kluber won two Cy Youngs, he’s finished third twice.

Carlos Carrasco has won 35 games the past two seasons combined, and his ERA has been under 3.38 in each of the last three years.  He has struck out over 200 batters in three of the last four years.  He has a 4th place Cy Young finish.

Those two are the old hands, mainstays of the staff for several years.

Then you have the young guns, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger, both 28 years old.

Since the All Star Game, Bauer has thrown 258 innings with a 2.46 ERA and 314 strikeouts.  This season, he has pitched 14 innings and allowed just one hit.  One run too, but amazingly, just one hit.

Clevinger went 13-8 with a 3.02 ERA last season, and fired seven innings of one hit ball in the Cleveland home opener.  He came to the Tribe in a deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and no doubt if he were still there, he would be the ace of the staff.

The Indians’ fifth starter is another guy who would likely be a #2 or #3 starter on most teams, 24-year-old Shane Bieber.  He struck out nine Toronto hitters in his first start on Friday night.

Many baseball people think Bieber will have a breakthrough season in 2019, similar to Kluber’s 2014 year.

We understand most hardcore Tribe fans know how good this quintet is, but as long as they stay healthy, the Indians have a chance to win every night they take the field.  How many other teams can say that?

We aren’t reacting to the performances against a perhaps light-hitting Toronto team, or because it was very cold in Minneapolis.  It’s how these guys have pitched over the last year and a half, or in Bieber’s case, since he arrived in Cleveland.

Dominating games aren’t unusual.  Will they have some tough games?  Of course, Kluber had one against the White Sox, and Carrasco didn’t pitch well in his first start.

All starting pitchers have a handful of games every year when they don’t have their best stuff, but when Terry Francona pencils in his starting pitcher, he knows he may see an incredible performance.

And he doesn’t need an “opener” to do it.

MW

Ugly Numbers Continue For Tribe Offense

We thought the offense of the Cleveland Indians might struggle this season even with Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis in it.  Needless to say, not having them available would be a problem.

However, no one could have foreseen this much of an issue.

After five games, the Tribe has scored just 13 runs.  What’s even worse, is that 10 of those 13 tallies have occurred in the eighth inning or later.  And of those 10, half of those have come with Cleveland on the wrong side of a lopsided score.

So, the vaunted starting pitching isn’t getting a chance to hold a lead, because the offense isn’t scoring any runs.

In the season opener, the Indians were shutout, and in game two, they scored a run in the 4th inning and Trevor Bauer allowed one an inning later.

Opening Day in Cleveland saw Mike Clevinger get one run of support in the seven innings he was on the mound.

What this means is the starters have been under immense pressure not to give up any runs.  Think about this, no Tribe starter has taken the mound with more than a one run cushion through five games.

It hasn’t been a matter of clutch inning thus far for the Indians, it has been hitting period.  Only two position players, Carlos Santana and Hanley Ramirez have batting averages of over .200.

H. Ramirez and Leonys Martin are the only Cleveland hitters with more than one extra base hit.  Ramirez has the only two homers hit by the team, while Martin has two doubles.

And the strikeouts continue to pile up, with 58 in the five games, and what’s worse, only 16 walks drawn.  Five of those walks came in the home opener, in which the Indians scored five runs, their high water mark of the season.

On the good side, the hitters did make the White Sox’ Carlos Rodon work, getting to the 100 pitch mark in just six innings.  But they only had one walk to show for it.

Since the extra base pop hasn’t been there, you might think it would be a good idea to play small ball, do some bunting, play some hit and run.  However, there isn’t anyone (besides Santana) getting on base to start some runners, and of course, you have the whole contact issue.

Hanley Ramirez has fanned seven times, but he has the two dingers.  Martin and Eric Stamets have also struck out that many times, and the latter doesn’t have a hit yet.  Max Moroff has 10 at bats, and has been punched out six times, while another player with limited at bats, Jordan Luplow, has seven AB’s and has whiffed five times.

Those numbers are unbelievable.

It’s not as though the team is hitting in bad luck, they just aren’t hitting period.  When almost half of your outs are coming by not putting the ball in play, that’s a developing problem.

If they were putting the ball in play, and opponents were either defending the hitter perfectly or hard hit balls were being converted into outs, it would be a different story.

The pessimism is based on a lack of track record for many of these guys.  No one know what Jake Bauers can do, nor Luplow for that matter.

Putting the ball in play would be a start though.  The strikeouts are very alarming.

MW

A Little Patience Needed For Tribe Hitters and Fans

First of all, it’s way too early.

The Cleveland Indians have played all of four games in the 2019 season, and depending on who is doing analysis, you can’t reach any conclusions about a baseball team until they’ve played at least 27 games (1/6th of a season) or 40 games (1/4th of the schedule).

Still, it’s not as though the Tribe allayed people’s fears after an opening series against the Twins in which they scored five runs, had three extra base hits, and struck out a total of 39 times, which for you math majors is 13 times per game.

You get 27 outs, so fanning 13 times in a game is almost half of the outs are coming without making contact.

To calm everybody down, the 1995 defending American League Champions, a team that featured Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, and Kenny Lofton, also started the year scoring three runs in the first three games of the season.

They had one run and four hits in the opener, a single tally and nine hits the next game, and a run and six hits in game three.  The difference?  That team struck out 12 times.  In the three games combined.

Right now, one of the issues is the lack of walks.  The Indians had just 10 in the three game set vs. Minnesota.  And if you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know we don’t like hitters who have high strikeout and low walk rates.

Imagine an entire team doing that.  That’s as good of an answer as any as to why the Indians couldn’t score runs against the Twins.

Yesterday, at Progressive Field it was a different tale.  Cleveland hitters struck out just six times and drew five free passes, including two in a four run eighth inning which gave the Tribe the victory.

The shame of the win was that Mike Clevinger didn’t get the victory.  We know the new age baseball people have devalued the win, and we guess their point is made by Clevinger getting a no decision despite throwing seven innings of one hit baseball, striking out a career high 12 batters.

Some of the negative statistics simply cannot continue.  Tyler Naquin is 1 for 10 with six whiffs, Brad Miller is 2 for 11 with five punch outs.  And as a team, the Tribe has just six extra base hits, getting three yesterday, and only one of them is a home run.

As for walks, Leonys Martin has three, and Carlos Santana (Mr. Walk), Hanley Ramirez, and Greg Allen, who hasn’t played much, all have two.

We said before the season started the walk was going to be to have to be a big weapon for the Indians, and we are sure they will start coming more frequently.

The problem is the start of the season magnifies things, especially if it agrees with your preconceived notions.  And we felt the Tribe’s offense was going to be a problem even with a healthy Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis.

In the meantime, let’s all take a deep breath and relax and let the season play out a bit.  Almost all hitters go through these stretches as we showed with the 1996 Indians, who were as good a hitting team as there has been in the last 50 years.

More patience would be good for both the Tribe hitters and their fans.

MW

Cavs’ Season Ending On Upward Note

The Cleveland Cavaliers have just five games remaining in the regular season, three more on this western swing and then home for games a week from tomorrow and the following Tuesday.

And really, the season couldn’t be ending any better.  The better case scenario for the Cavs is to play very competitively and then lose in the end, so their odds in getting the first overall pick do not lessen.

Outside of yesterday’s blowout loss to the Clippers, the wine and gold’s fifth straight loss, three of the other four defeats were close games until late in the fourth quarter, and were to playoff teams, the Clippers, Celtics, and the Spurs.

By the way, Monday’s game at Phoenix is a big game in the reverse standings.  A loss would move Cleveland within a game of the second worst record in the league.

Despite the record, the front office and coaching staff should be commended for the effort of the squad despite the terrible record.

Larry Drew has held the team together through a series of changes to the roster and injuries.  Kevin Love has missed more than 50 games, and you would have to be devoid of basketball knowledge not to see what a difference he makes to the team.

David Nwaba, another keeper for next season, has missed 30 games, and Larry Nance Jr., who continues to show what an all around talent he is, has been out of the lineup for 15 games.

Drew also deserves some kudos for the development of rookie Collin Sexton, who is going to end the year, averaging over 16 points and shooting over 40% on three pointers for his season, marks no one saw coming in November and December.

The front office deserves a shout out because they’ve assembled a roster without knuckleheads.  After JR Smith was asked to stay away, there hasn’t been any complaining about playing time or frustration about losing among this group.

That said, it is doubtful Drew will return next season, and that will be a mutual decision.  The Cavs want someone to guide a young team for the next two to three seasons, and at 60 years old, Drew probably wants to be somewhere winning is ready to happen.

We would want and expect the front office to bring in at least an assistant coach with a defensive mindset because that has been a huge weakness for the team over the past three seasons.

There is no reason to get into a long diatribe about Mike Longabardi, who is supposedly in charge of the defense, but the team’s inability to defend the most basic basketball play, the pick and roll, effectively, has to be addressed at some point.

If we were GM Koby Altman, we would want to find our version of the Nets’ Kenny Atkinson (20-28-39 wins in three seasons) or Orlando’s Steve Clifford (Orlando won 25 games last year, this year they have 38) to guide a young team through a growing period.

Don’t forget, it is very likely the Cavs will add another young, talented player through the draft, even if it isn’t Duke’s Zion Williamson.  There are still players like Ja Morant, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Jarrett Culver from Final Four participant Texas Tech, that look like they should be able to help.

It also says here that having guys like Love, Nance, and even Matthew Dellavedova, veterans who play the right way and have a good attitude will make the new coach’s job easier.

It is true the record isn’t good, but much of that has to do with injuries.  If Love were available most of the year, the Cavs could have been just a notch below the 6th to 8th seeds in the East.

So, the future does look bright with the right moves.  It’s up to Altman to make those moves.

MW

What A Day, It’s Opening Day!

Today is the most special of days for a baseball fan, it’s Opening Day.

We aren’t going to wax poetic about it, that has been done by some of the great sportswriters who have ever put pen to paper.

However, if you are a baseball fan, you have Opening Day memories.  Some of them are great, and being born and raised in the Cleveland area, some of them are about freezing your butt off.

The opening of then Jacobs Field was an amazing day.  After a lifetime watching baseball in dilapidated Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the city had a new park for the Tribe.  It took several years for the feeling of newness to wear off.

Randy Johnson flirted with a no-hitter, carrying it into the 8th inning, before Sandy Alomar Jr. broke it up with a single, and rookie Manny Ramirez tied the game later that inning with a double.

Wayne Kirby, who will throw out the first pitch Monday in Cleveland on the 25th anniversary of the ballpark, won the game in the bottom of the 11th with a single.

With the passing of Frank Robinson this winter, our biggest memory is that of 1975, Robinson debut as the first African-American manager of a major league baseball team.  In his first at bat as a player-manager, Robinson homered off Doc Medich, while we sat in the lower deck between home plate and first base.

In 1973, we were one of the still Opening Day record of 74,420 in attendance to see Gaylord Perry outduel Mickey Lolich and the Tigers, 2-1, making a Chris Chambliss first inning two run homer stand.

The immortal Gomer Hodge sent us home happy in 1971 with a walk off single in the bottom of the ninth, beating Boston, 3-2.  Hodge had only 17 major league hits, but was a folk hero early in the season, collecting hits in his first four at bats.

He started his career going 6 for 10, mostly in a pinch-hitting role.  Unfortunately, he went 11 for 73 for the rest of his career.

Other games are memorable for another reason.

In 1986, newly acquired Phil Niekro seemingly went to 3-2 on every Detroit hitter on a very cold Friday afternoon, and the Indians went down to a 7-2 loss.  It may have been the most frigid game we had ever attended.

1992 saw the home opener go 19 innings, before a Tim Naehring homer gave Boston a 5-3 victory.  The game went six and a half hours, although most of the 65,000 who were there at the start of the game remained.

And of course, the 2007 opener in Cleveland featured the game that fell just short of being an Indians’ win because the falling snow made it impossible for players to see.  The snow didn’t stop, forcing the Tribe to play a series in against the Angels in Milwaukee because the field was unplayable.

We do have one more memory we would someday like to have.  That would be when the Indians players line up to get their World Championship rings and raise a banner commemorating a World Series title.

Perhaps next year can be that year.  All Indians’ fans can hope for that.

MW