The Tribe Heads to the Apple on a Downer

The fans are jumping of the Titanic after last night’s 7-3 loss to Detroit yesterday.  Heading home following the game last night, I heard people calling the talk shows saying now the Tribe will get swept in the upcoming four game series against the Yankees, how the team needs to make massive changes, and how left hander C.C. Sabathia should be traded for prospects.  This sort of talk amuses me.
It is true the team laid an egg last night, their first clunker in a while.  After sweeping a doubleheader on the 4th of July, Cleveland lost a close game on Tuesday, 3-2 before getting just a split in the four game set with Wednesday’s defeat.  Fans said the team didn’t capitalize on the momentum gained with the sweep on Monday.  Baseball followers will tell you that in this sport, momentum is based on your team’s starting pitcher.  Each game is different, and if you are facing good pitching, your streak can end.
The truth is the Indians are playing well, still just a game out of second in the AL Central Division.  But listen up fans…THERE STILL ARE 78 GAMES LEFT IN THE SEASON.  Being four games ahead or four games behind at this point in the season doesn’t matter.  There still is a long, long way to go in the season.  This team is a contender for post season play after half of the schedule has been completed.
This is not to say this is a perfect team.  The biggest need in my opinion is a right handed hitter who can hit in the middle of the lineup.  They need to upgrade the offense at third base, first base, or rightfield, so that is the direction they should look.  The pitching staff is fine at this point of the season, and Jason Davis’ peformance in Monday’s second game shows that reinforcements are there if injuries come up.
As for Sabathia, we must remember that he still has not reached his 25th birthday, and has a career record of 60-40.  Is he a top of the rotation pitcher at this point?  No, but he is definitely headed in that direction.  His most glaring need is to pitch his way out of trouble, instead of just rearing back and firing.  He will learn that.  A couple of weeks ago, no less than Curt Schilling took the big lefty aside to council him.  If Schilling thinks C.C. is the read deal, that’s good enough for me. 
If the Tribe can split four with New York, it’s a good series for them.  It will mean a 48-40 record at the All Star break, and they will be in the thick of the postseason race.

Tribe's Hot Stretch is Ignored Nationally

The hottest team in Major League Baseball is right here in Cleveland, but it is possible that fans of the Cleveland Indians are the only ones who know that.  The Tribe is 33-17 over their last 50 games, almost a third of a season.  If the Indians had started the season with that record, it would have been a major story.  However, a 13-19 start has relegated the team to flying under the radar.
After winning the first game of yesterday’s doubleheader with the Tigers, Cleveland finished the first half of the season with a 45-36 mark, on pace to win 90 games.  But when the national pundits talk about the American League wild card (The Tribe is not catching Chicago), you hear talk of Minnesota, Baltimore, New York, and Texas.  Forget about the fact the Indians have a better record than all of those teams excpet for the Twins. 
This team has moved from 13th in the AL in runs scored to eighth in a matter of three weeks.  Parlay that with a pitching staff that ranks in the top five in ERA, and has the league’s top bullpen, and you will find one of the better teams in the Junior Circuit. 
The media can ignore the Cleveland Indians all they want, but the team is for real.  Adding another productive right handed bat can make the Tribe a serious contender for the post season in 2005. 

Gilbert Leaves Cavs' Future in Inexperienced Hands

Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert is entering a crucial phase in the team’s history.  Their resident superstar, LeBron James has two years remaining on his contract (assuming the team will exercise the fourth year option), and could choose to move on to another team with a better chance to win a championship.
The people Gilbert chose to move the Cavs into position to win and win big, and therefore make James want to stay in Cleveland have no track record in their newly hired positions.  This is a tremendous risk on the new owner’s part.
Head Coach Mike Brown comes highly regarded, and apparently was considered one of the top assistant coaches in the NBA.  He is defensive oriented, which is greatly needed if you saw last year’s Cavs play, and he is very young, which will serve him well in relating to a very young roster.
But, most new head coaches have learning curves, and Brown cannot afford to have a long one.  He needs to win, and win quickly.  A playoff spot is what everyone needs to expect in the 2005-06 season, so Brown better adjust quick to his new position.  He does have a veteran assistant coach, Dick Egan, to help with the process, but still he has never been the guy in charge before.  There is a difference being the players friend as an assistant, and being the boss.
New General Manager Danny Ferry has been around the NBA his entire life, and has learned from some of the great basketball minds in the country.  But, he has never managed a salary cap, never made a trade with an experienced NBA GM, and never been the final word on talent evaluation.  Ferry is under the same pressure as Brown to win quickly.  Since he was aquired by the Cavs for the popular Ron Harper, if he doesn’t make it desirable to keep James in Cleveland, he could be the most hated sports figure in Cleveland sports history.  Not much pressure there!
Perhaps Brown is the next Gregg Popovich, and Ferry is the next Red Auerbach.  Everyone has to start somewhere.  However, with the franchise entering this crucial phase , it’s a tough spot to put people who have no proven track record. 

Tribe Fans: Don't Worry about the Sox

Looking at the standings in the American League, an Indians fan can be discouraged by the fact the team is 12-1/2 games behind the front running Chicago White Sox.  I look at the standings another way–

  1. Baltimore           42-31        —–
  2. Minnesota          39-32         2
  3. Cleveland           37-34         4
  4. Texas               37-34         4
  5. New York          37-36         5
  6. Detroit              35-34         5
  7. Toronto            37-37         5-1/2

These are the American League Wild Card Standings, and although it is much too early in the season to watch the scores of these teams every night, these are the clubs the Indians will be battling for one playoff spot.

In the East, the Red Sox will get Curt Schilling back and will add another arm for their bullpen in a trade, so the Orioles best chance is the Wild Card.  In the Central, no one is catching the Pale Hose unless they suffer a monumental collapse, so the rest of the division’s best hope is the extra team in the postseason.  The Angels look to be the class of the West, especially after sweeping the Rangers this past week. 

So, Tribe fans, forget about Chicago and check once a week on where Cleveland ranks with those teams I just listed. 

The other thing that concerns me about Eric Wedge’s crew is the amount of work for one of the best bullpens in the AL.  The Tribe ranks in the top four in the league in innings pitched by relievers, so overwork is starting to be a concern.  Wedge needs his starters to go longer in games, so the pen only has to work an inning or two each night. 


Don't Despair after Two Tribe Losses

The usual hand wringing on Cleveland sportstalk radio has begun with the Tribe’s losses in the first two games of the Boston series.  After a tremendous comeback from being down 9-4 on Monday, the Indians were smoked yesterday losing 9-2.  Before you think this is the same as last season, relax just a bit.

The key games for the Indians are tonight and this weekend.  It does no good to follow up a nine game winning streak with a six or seven game losing skein.  So, if Cleveland can salvage one game against the BoSox tonight and then take two of three from the Reds this weekend, that will be 12 wins in 16 games and we can all live with that.

Face it, the Sox are the World Champions.  It is not an embarassment to lose to them.  But, the Tribe does play them in Boston next week, so it would be nice to pick up a win against them at Jacobs Field. 

The Indians pitched well for the first 67 games of the year, but that doesn’t stop people from having the opinion that the true performance of the hurlers is the last two nights.  In reality, the Tribe has solid starting pitching, a very good bullpen, and an offense that is starting to score runs.  That bodes well over the long haul.

Relax, Tribe fans.  Over the last 39 games, almost one quarter of the season, the Indians are 25-14.  They have done it playing some of the better teams in baseball, the White Sox, Twins, Angels, and two of the NL West teams they played (Padres and Diamondbacks) are above .500. 

It says here the Indians will be battling for the Wild Card spot against teams like Minnesota, Baltimore, Detroit, New York, and Texas.  If they can add another bat, preferably a right handed hitter, they will be in that race for a long time.


The Jackass of Cleveland Radio


I do not listen to the Mike Trivisonno show on WTAM, because his views are made simply to be controversial, not to spur a debate.  On Saturday, I was listening to another show on the station, and the buffoon called in to make his usually ridiculous remarks.  They were so stupid, I feel the need to address them.

The highest rated afternoon radio host in the market (which is sad for our fair city), classified the Cleveland Indians of 1995-2001 as "losers".  He said the city glorified this group of ball players, but they never won a thing, and they were in effect losers. 

I have lived in this area since 1958, when I was born.  Until 1995, I thought I would never see the Tribe in the World Series, but they went to two in ’95 and ’97.  They also won the American League Central Division title six times in seven seasons from 1995-2001.  To call a team that accomplished all of that losers is a joke.  I guess the New York Yankees of the past three seasons are losers too!

This belief that now exists, that unless you win the World Championship you haven’t achieved anything is dumb.  WKNR’s Kenny Roda is another who tells listeners the Indians never won anything.  There is only one team the wins the ultimate game, to call everyone else "losers" belittles what athletes do.

Those Indians, guys like Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton, and Sandy Alomar are not and never were losers.  It was a great team.  No, they never won the World Series, but I hope Mark Shapiro and this current bunch of players wearing Indian uniforms can come close to being this successful.  Hopefully, the Tribe will win another World Series soon, their first since 1948.  If they do, I will hail those guys as the team that ended our drought.  But, the players I mentioned previously will go down in history as among the greatest players ever to play in Cleveland. 

The only loser in this case is the guy who made that statement. 



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