Agreeing with Wedge on C.C.

 
I realize many fans are appalled at C.C. Sabathia’s admission that he gave up in Wednesday’s 9-2 loss to the Cubs after defensive misplays by Ben Broussard and Ronnie Belliard.  His own manager, Eric Wedge responded to the big lefty’s comments by saying he wished more of Sabathia’s teammates would be so forthcoming about their performance.  If Sabathia never lets that happen again and he learned from the experience, I have no problem with what happened.  And I agree with Wedge on the rest of the Tribe.
 
What I would like to see tonight is Belliard and Broussard on the bench and not in the starting lineup.  Play Joe Inglett at 2B, and either Eduardo Perez or even Travis Hafner at 1B.  Perhaps the last weapon Wedge has is to take playing time away from those who play with their head up their ass.  I understand that this is the big leagues, and that players have worked a long time to get there, but it might just send a message.
 
Many coaches and managers have said they can tolerate physical errors, but not mental ones.  The mistakes made in the third inning were most definitely mental.  What could Broussard have possibly be thinking about when the ball was hit to him.  The play was right in front of him.  A simple look at third would have told him the Ronny Cedeno was not going.  Plus, Phil Nevin is slow and Broussard could have easily beat him to the base after looking back the runner. 
 
Belliard had two options on the jam shot hit to him, either force the runner at second or throw the batter out at first.  He picked neither, electing to eat the ball.  It should have been no worse than a 3-1 or 4-1 game at the end of the frame, instead of 9-1. 
 
This team will not make the playoffs, but it could finish the season over .500.  Sitting people who have given up on the team is necessary for that to happen.
 
JK 
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Finally!

 
The influx of youth has begun for the Cleveland Indians with the word that Jeremy Sowers will start Sunday’s game against the Reds at Jacobs Field.  Hopefully, there are a few more moves to come to replace players not performing up to standards.
 
I know the front office may believe that bringing up some of the youngsters in an admission the Tribe cannot win this season.  I think fans view it differently.  They look at the arrival of Sowers and perhaps soon an Andy Marte to be an upgrade over the horrific production they received out of Jason Johnson and Aaron Boone.  I looked at the games that Johnson started as a loss, and would be very surprised if the Indians won those games.  Any scoreless frame the righty put up was looked at with relief.
 
Fans look at Boone in the same manner.  They look at his lack of power, plate discipline, and poor defense and they think could Marte be any worse?  At least with a Marte, there is the promise of getting better.  Putting Marte in the lineup would create a curiousity with the ticket buyers, not a thought the team is giving up.
 
As for the bullpen, why not try Edward Mujica?  Again, it’s not like he could be appreciably worse than the other guys in the ‘pen.  It looks like they’ve got a keeper in Fausto Carmona, who now is being used as a set up man.  If Fernando Cabrera can get straightened out and learn to throw strikes, that would give the Tribe several power arms in relief.  The veteran haven’t done the job, so let the kids get some experience.
 
It isn’t giving up the season, it’s making an effort to improve some weak spots.  After 69 games, it looks like Mark Shapiro and Eric Wedge are finally starting to admit there are things that need to be fixed.
 
KM

Time to Look Forward to 2007

 
With the three game sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend, the Cleveland Indians have dropped to 31-37, 14 games behind the Tigers for the AL Central Division lead, and 12-1/2 behind the White Sox for the Wild Card.  It would take a remarkable hot streak by the Tribe to climb back into serious contention for a post-season berth.  I’m not advocating gutting the club like the front office did in 2002, but it would be appropriate to get the team ready for 2007 right now.
 
Aaron Boone has hit for a much better average this year (.266) than he was hitting last year, but he is not a productive player.  His on base percentage is just .323, and his slugging percentage is below .400 as well.  At 33, he is simply not going to get better.  So, it’s time to bring up Andy Marte to play the hot corner.  Marte is on a tear at Buffalo, and the time he will get this season will help him when he is the regular in 2007.  This was the same scenario the club used for Grady Sizemore in 2004.
 
The same is true with 2B Ronnie Belliard.  Belliard’s extra base pop has disappeared this season, and since he is not signed for next year, GM Mark Shapiro should gauge if there is interest in the veteran.  Rumors have the Mets and Blue Jays as possible trade partners.  This is a tricky spot for the Tribe since they have no heir apparent like Marte at 2B. 
 
It’s also time to bring up Kelly Shoppach and catch him at least once a week.  Victor Martinez needs more rest than the team is giving him, and many (including us) think he should be playing first base next season.  The team has to find out if Shoppach can be a regular at the big league level.  They know if can do it at Class AAA. 
 
The first move in the pitching staff would be to end their ridiculous obsession with Jason Johnson.  If they don’t want to bring up Jeremy Sowers (1.27 ERA at Buffalo), then start Jeremy Guthrie, who has pitched exactly 0 innings since being recalled a week ago.  In fact, I’d have Guthrie warming up at the first sign of trouble for Johnson against the Cubs tonight.
 
Lastly, I would see if any contenders are interested in Bob Wickman, and let Fausto Carmona try closing.  First, Wickman is really an average closer.  Secondly, teams like the Red Sox give opportunities to youngsters as closers, so why shouldn’t the Tribe. 
 
The primary players are still there for the Tribe to make a run next season.  The foundation of this team are guys like Hafner, Martinez, Sizemore, Sabathia, Lee, Peralta, and I think even a Paul Byrd and Jason Michaels can be contributors on a very good team.  I’m also not saying the Tribe should tank games.  Keep pressing.  Get over .500.  Win 85 games.  Build the foundation for next season.  Climbing over the Tigers and White Sox is too tough a task for this edition of the Indians.
 
MW 

Brandon Phillips: Superstar?

 
Former Indians infielder Brandon Phillips is the new cause celebre for the talk show circuit.  How could Mark Shapiro unload this potential Hall of Fame talent?  Isn’t he exactly what the ballclub needs right now?  Let’s look at some reality regarding the Reds’ 2B.
 
After Omar Vizquel left as a free agent following the 2004 season, the Tribe had two options to replace him, Phillips who hit .303 at Buffalo in ’04 and the MVP of the International League that same season, Jhonny Peralta.  Peralta won the job in training camp and was the everyday starter for the Tribe last season, hitting .292 with 24 HRs and 78 RBI.  Phillips went back to Class AAA and had a bad season, batting just .256 with 15 HR and 46 RBI while striking out 90 times.  He whiffed just 56 times the year before.
 
Then there was the incident.  It was reported that Phillips screamed at farm director John Farrell when he was not given a September call up after Buffalo ended their season.  That was probably the last straw for the front office. 
 
Phillips is currently having a good season for the Reds, batting .303 with 7 HR and 38 RBI this season.  Meanwhile, Peralta is stuggling through the first prolonged slump of his career.  But looking closer at the numbers, Phillips is putting up huge numbers at Great American Ballpark, a hitters’ paradise.  He is hitting .347 there.  He has also done most of his damage against the Milwaukee Brewers, tatooing the Brew Crew pitchers at a .447 mark (17 for 38). 
 
Removing those numbers would make Phillips a .270 hitter with 4 HR and 27 RBI for the season, comparable except for the average to Peralta’s number this year.  If you do not think piling up big numbers against a specific opponent is meaningful, remember Jody Gerut’s rookie season when he feasted on Tiger pitching.  Where is he now?
 
This is not to say Phillips is a bum, nor was the situation handled well by the Tribe.  If they wanted to trade him, they should have done it over the winter, not right before the regular season started.  But, if Brandon Phillips is hitting .250 next season, won’t all the people hailing him feel a little foolish?
 
Update on the farm:  Jeremy Sowers threw seven shutout innings yesterday to raise his record to 8-1 with an ERA of 1.27 on the season.  Keep trying to convince me he is not a better alternative than Jason Johnson.  Also, Andy Marte remains hot with his 7th HR yesterday.  He has belted 5 dingers in the last week and a half. 
 
MW

Find Another Adjective

 
As the Cleveland Indians continue to struggle this season, I’m hearing many fans referring to the team as horrible, awful, and terrible.  The Tribe’s record this season is 30-33, a few games below the .500 mark, so while the squad is definitely disappointing, they are clearly not horrible.  If you are my age, you have seen awful teams and this isn’t one of them.
 
Since I started being a fan of the Indians in the mid sixties, there have been four seasons where the Wahoos lost 100 games or more:  1971, 1985, 1987, and the 1991 campaign when they lost 105 games.  Those teams were god awful.  At least the ’91 team featured some of the players who won two American League titles in 1995 and 1997.  Carlos Baerga, Sandy Alomar, Albert Belle, and Charles Nagy were on the team that year, and Jim Thome was a late season call up.  The ’85 and ’87 ballclubs could hit, but the pitching was truly terrible.  The 1971 team was a great building block for the Yankees, as it featured rookie Chris Chambliss and 3B Graig Nettles, both cornerstones of the late 70’s New York champions.
 
The current edition of the Tribe is not a horrible team, it’s mediocre for sure, but they are not 100 loss bad.  Most of the venom dripping from fans lips has to do with the expectations of the team after they won 93 games in 2005.  We include ourselves in expecting more, since we thought this would be the year the Tribe returned to the playoffs. 
 
Are there any encouraging signs that the Indians can turn it around this season?  One thing is Cleveland’s record in blowout games, that is games decided by five runs or more.  The Indians are 16-7 in these games and historically, good teams have good records in these types of games.  You don’t see a Kansas City winning a whole bunch of blowouts and losing all kinds of one run games. 
 
The other good sign is the Wahoos run differential, as they have scored 35 more runs than their opponents this year.  Based on this statistic, the Indians record should be 35-28, five games ahead of where they currently are in the standings.  This shows the Cleveland Indians are not a horrible team.
 
I don’t mean to come off as a stat geek, because 11 games out is 11 games out.  The Tribe has to get it going, and needs to do it right now.  But, is this a horrible team?  No.  Should they be doing better?  Absolutely!
 
KM

Trying to Snatch Defeat

 
The Indians headed into the ninth inning at US Cellular Field last night with a 10-2 lead, no problem right?  Wrong.  The Tribe barely held on for a 10-8 win over the White Sox to salvage one game out of the three game set, thanks to Jason Davis spraying gasoline on a open flame. 
 
Once again, the Wahoos are making a curious roster decision.  Davis obviously is not a reliever, most, if any success he has had at the major league level is as a starter. Yet, he remains in the bullpen.  Send him back to Buffalo to be used in the rotation, let him build up some value and deal him.  Maybe you could get a slick fielding middle infielder in return.  Which brings us to Ramon Vazquez…
 
Vazquez was recalled from Buffalo prior to yesterday’s game to give Jhonny Peralta some time off to cure whatever is ailing his bat.  The former Padre promptly made three errors in his first game back.  I’m not going to invoke the name of Brandon Phillips because I personally do not think he is as good as he has showed in Cincinnati thus far, and I don’t think he would have been happy sitting on the Tribe bench.  But, can’t we find someone who can handle the middle infield defensively and isn’t as offensively inept as former Indian John McDonald? 
 
There was a Todd Hollandsworth sighting in the game last night, as he replaced a struggling Casey Blake and went 0 for 5.  At least, Eric Wedge remembered he was on the team. 
 
On another note, another bomb for Andy Marte yesterday, his second in two days.  Maybe his bat is finally heating up.  Now the Tribe heads to New York to take on the Yankees, which version of Sybil will show up in the Bronx?
 
JK

Shapiro & Wedge Need to Get on Same Page

 
Indians’ GM Mark Shapiro likes to say that he and Manager Eric Wedge are partners.  They share the same opinions on most baseball matters.  However, it is apparent that the make up of the roster isn’t one of them.  Wedge plays with a 20 man roster.  No, the Tribe still has 25 men wearing the Chief Wahoo logo.  The manager hamstrings himself by not using everyone.
 
This came to light during yesterday’s game with the White Sox, when it was mentionned on the radio that the skipper doesn’t have the confidence to use relievers Jason Davis or Guillermo Mota with the game in doubt.  I can understand the reluctance to use Mota, but if you don’t want to use Davis, then Shapiro needs to fill the roster with a more useful player.  Heck, Davis is in his mid 20’s and throws in the high 90’s, I’m sure you can get somebody who has ability in return.
 
In fact the list of guys Wedge doesn’t want to use is as follows:  Todd Hollandsworth, Davis, Mota, Tim Laker, and now rookie lefty Rafael Perez.  Hollandsworth didn’t even pinch hit in the ninth inning of Friday’s loss to the Sox against Booby Jenks.  Now, Wedgie will probably tell you the veteran didn’t have a chance since he hasn’t played recently, but who’s fault is that?  The manager let struggling Jhonny Peralta bat against the flame thrower and where is the logic in that?
 
By contrast, Ozzie Guillen isn’t afraid to use anyone on his roster.  I don’t like Guillen and I feel he has a short shelf life as a manager because of his abrasive style, but he doesn’t leave himself short players.  With Casey Blake scuffling at the plate, why can’t Hollandsworth get some at bats.  There is no reason Aaron Boone has to play every game.  And you know our feelings on the Kelly Shoppach situation. 
 
It seems the whole organization is caught with this type of thinking.  In today’s Plain Dealer, it is mentioned the reason lefty Jeremy Sowers hasn’t been brought up is the brass doesn’t think he would be any better than Jason Johnson.  That might be true for right now, but Sowers will get better, and Johnson is what he is.  How long does Kevin Kouzmanoff have to hit .400 at Akron before he is promoted? 
 
One other thing.  The Tribe was the subject of an article on Baseball Prospectus.com a few days ago.  The article addressed the team’s defensive woes.  One player scoring higher on defense this year than last year was Peralta.  The two biggest drops were Ronnie Belliard and Aaron Boone.  Andy Marte’s bat is warming up at Buffalo.  Let see him in a Tribe uniform before he hits his 30th birthday.  Maybe at that point, Eric Wedge will have the confidence to use him.
 
MW
 

Enough Patience, Let's Shake It Up

 
We at Cleveland Sports Perspective like to think we are very patient baseball fans.  Last year, when things were failing early, we believed the Tribe was a good team and some of the young guys would continue to improve.  We bought into Mark Shapiro and Eric Wedge’s theory of taking it one game at a time.  However, after last night’s game, the Indians need a good swift kick in the ass.
 
Why did Wedge let Scott Sauerbeck start the eighth with a two run lead?  If it had been the ninth, he would have let right hander Bob Wickman pitch to Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez, so why doesn’t Rafael Betancourt get the same benefit of the doubt.  Betancourt is Cleveland second best reliever.  Sauerbeck has struggled getting tough lefties out all year, so it was no real surprise when Chavez took him out of the yard.   
 
Another troubling event was an error by Aaron Boone which put the winning run on base.  Boone has been a good defender, but has now made nine miscues on the season.  Andy Marte has had a few good games in a row, might he be visiting Cleveland soon. 
 
The point is, the season has gone through almost 60 games, and this team just can’t get it going.  The patient route doesn’t seem to be working.  Maybe it’s time for a shake up.  Eric Wedge isn’t going anywhere, nor should he be after winning 93 games a year ago.  But, something needs to be done to make the players feel a little discomfort.  Maybe trading a guy like Ronnie Belliard or Boone, maybe releasing a ineffective reliever like Sauerbeck or Guillermo Mota. 
 
Wishin’ and hopin’ is a Dusty Springfield song, not a management style.
 
KM

Consistency? Not the Tribe

 
After a big series win against the White Sox, it was hoped the Cleveland Indians had a little momentum going into the weekend set versus the Angels.  However, in baseball it is said that momentum is today’s starting pitcher, and the Tribe had Jason Johnson going on Friday.  Enough said.  Final score:  LA 10, Cleveland 3. 
 
Of course, the Tribe did score a boatload of runs on Saturday, and Cliff Lee showed signs of turning the corner in a 14-2 Cleveland win.  Lee showed me a lot when he stopped the Angel rally at two runs in the sixth.  Lately, that type of situation became a four or five run frame with the lefty.  So, the Indians were in a position to win the series with their ace going on Sunday night, right?
 
Wrong.  C.C. Sabathia had his worst outing of the season, giving up seven runs in five innings as the Angels turned the tables with a 14-2 victory of their own.  Thus, the Tribe loses another series.
 
Despite Eric Wedge’s mantra of winning series, the Wahoos are actually very poor in this department so far in 2006.  The Indians are 7-8-4 in series this year.  Included in this total are two series losses to Kansas City, a loss to Baltimore, and a loss to Seattle at home.  Therefore, the one word to describe the Indians this year is inconsistent.  And that’s not a compliment.
 
Turning our attention back to Mr. Johnson, you have to love that he doesn’t think his pitching is a problem.  He was quoted as saying the media keeps bringing it up.  I would have to say he is correct.  After all, why does The Plain Dealer have to keep publishing the team statistics that show Johnson’s bloated ERA and awful hits to innings pitched ratio.  The media shouldn’t point out that of the four runs the Angels scored in the first two frames, three reached base by walks.  Maybe they magically appeared on base.
 
Also, the Tribe is really hamstrung by Guillermo Mota.  Since, the reliever is throwing in the mid 90’s, management really can’t make up a phantom injury to get him a respite in the minors.  So, we will be forced to watch him spread out the souvenirs in mop up situations.  Is it me, or does he remind you of Jose Jimenez two years ago. 
 
Anyway, cross your fingers this week.  Which Jake Westbrook will we see on Tuesday against the A’s?  How many runs will Johnson allow on Thursday?  I hear fans calling and complaining about Paul Byrd, but I have no idea as to why.  Byrd is the most consistent pitcher next to Sabathia.  After a rough start, he gives the manager six to seven innings on a regular basis.  I know he technically replaced Kevin Millwood in the rotation, but that’s not his fault. 
 
Those same fans usually talk about Westbrook’s reliability.  Hello???
 
JK

A Little Momentum?

 
What a difference a few days make!  After the 11-0 shellacking at the hands of the White Sox on Monday, the buzzard were circling the Jake.  Kenny Roda started his "Wedge Watch", which is ridiculous because the skipper isn’t going anywhere.  Everyone was talking about the dismal state of the Cleveland Indians, two games under .500 and 10-1/2 games out of first place.
 
Three days and three wins later, the Tribe looks like they may be heading in the right direction.  The Wahoos are now a game over .500 and trimmed two games off the Tiger lead in the AL Central Division.  The reason for the wins?  Decent starting pitching.  C.C. Sabathia threw six good innings on Tuesday, Jake Westbrook went seven shutout frames on Wednesday, and even Paul Byrd bobbed and weaved his way through six last night.  Byrd wasn’t great, but he kept his team in the game and the bats did the rest. 
 
A couple of hitters in slumps also came alive.  Ronnie Belliard has been struggling as of late, but hit a huge 3-run homer to put the Tribe in front to stay, 10-8.  Ben Broussard went through a hitless streak, but has banged homers the past two nights.  Now, if only Jhonny Peralta could get it going.  If he can’t get it turned around soon, Wedge may have no choice but to move him out of the three hole in the lineup.
 
One guy who has taken a lot of crap since the beginning of the season deserves some respect:  Jason Michaels.  Since the beginning of May, the leftfielder has hit .324 and slugged .490 in 102 at bats.  Only Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner have knocked in more runs (17) than Michaels in this span.  It appears he is adjusting to the AL, and doing it very well.
 
With Jason Johnson and Cliff Lee starting against the Angels this weekend, it is important to take the series.  Johnson needs to show some consistency, and Lee needs to show he can turn it around.  I will repeat, when the Indians get good starting pitching, they are tough to beat.  That’s the biggest area of concern as we head toward the interleague play with series against the A’s, White Sox, and the Yankees.
 
KM