Sunday, September 23, 2007

AL Central Division Champs

The Cleveland Indians clinched their 7th American League Central Division Championship in 13 years with a 6-2 victory over the Oakland A's in front of a sellout crowd at Jacobs Field. Jake Westbrook went 7 strong innings and Senor Slow closed out the game. Oh - the Indians currently have the best record in baseball. Not the Red Sox. Not the Yankees. Not the Angels. The Cleveland Indians. I point out this last fact for those of you who depend primarily on ESPN for your sports news.

Some more pictures from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Three Is a Magic Number

"Three is a Magic Number" - Schoolhouse Rock

Three is now the magic number for the Cleveland Indians to clinch the American League Central Division after yesterday afternoon's victory over the Motor City Kitties.

After spotting the Kitties a 2-run lead in the top of the third inning, the Indians came back off Goggle Boy Nate Robertson with a solo home run by Casey Blake in the bottom of the inning to cut the deficit to 2-1. The Indians took the lead in the 5th with three runs. Key hits were back to back doubles by Gutierrez and Michaels and an RBI single by the Beaded One, Asdrubal Cabrera.

CC Sabathia went 7 strong innings, giving up 5 hits and 2 runs, striking out 7 and walking only 1, turning in another ace-like performance. CC Sabathia knows how to Beat Michigan. Senor Slow came in and pitched an uncharacteritically tense 8th inning, loading the bases before getting Marcus Thames to fly out to end the rally. Joe Knows Closing pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to send the fans out to get an early start on celebrating happy hour. Jason Michaels got served Leadership Pie.

The Tribe now has the opportunity to clinch at home this weekend without anyone's help by sweeping the Oakland Athletics.

A few words about the Tigers. It strikes me that their window is closing while the Indians' is opening. The Tigers took a risk by signing expensive free agents that priced themselves too high for anyone else (Rodriguez and Ordonez), and it paid off last year. Everything went right for the Tigers last year - their young pitching matured all at once, and all their overpriced veterans stayed healthy and produced.

The problem with depending on overpriced veteran free agents, especially older and/or injury-prone ones is that eventually they do experience a drop in production, and they may not stay healthy. This year, unlike last year, their overpriced veterans did not stay healthy (Kenny Rogers, Gary Sheffield).

Their young pitching also got hurt or was not nearly as effective (Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney both spent significant time on the DL, Jeremy Bonderman spent the last couple months in a funk before being shut down, Nate Robertson was ineffective most of the season, Mike Maroth is now a Cardinal).

Kenny Rogers is finally showing his age, leaving a void at the top of their rotation. Andrew Miller wasn't ready this year - he might be next year. How badly is Bonderman hurt? Was their pitching staff a victim of overuse last year? The Tigers will probably come to regret giving up top pitching prospects for Gary Sheffield, especially if Sheffield continues to miss games at the rate he did this year while their prospects go on to shine for the Yankees.

Pudge Rodriguez is a shell of his former self, both offensively and defensively. Craig Monroe and Marcus Thames had career years last year, and both came crashing to earth, Monroe crashing so hard that he was dealt to the Cubs.

The Tigers have a solid core in Granderson, Verlander, Ordonez and Bonderman. However, they have a lot of questions - is all the hype on Andrew Miller legitimate? Can they find a shortstop that will give them enough offense to allow them to move Carlos Guillen to first base to keep him healthy? Can Ordonez continue to avoid injuries? What do they do with Pudge now that he's lost it? How long can they keep riding Todd Jones at closer, and is Zumaya really ready to close? Can they put together a decent enough bullpen to get games to Rodney/Zumaya/Jones?

It will be a critical off-season for the Motor City Kitties that determines how well they continue to stay in contention.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Truth About Asdrubal Cabrera's Necklace

From the Plain Dealer:

"Clubhouse confidential: No, that's not a pearl necklace that second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera wears. It's a necklace of beads that his wife, Lismar, made for him."

Now you know, as Paul Harvey might say, the rest of the story.

Chicks Dig the Long Ball - Magic Number Now 5

Jake Westbrook walked a tightrope for 5 innings, Jensen Lewis shut the Motor City Kitties down for the 3 more to secure his first major league win, and the Indians beat the Tigers 7-4 behind 4 home runs by 4 different players off Tigers ace Justin Verlander.

The homers:
  • Inning 2 - Ryan Garko (solo) - tied game at 1
  • Inning 3 - Pronk (3-run) - tied game at 4
  • Inning 6 - Victor Martinez (solo) - gave Indians 5-4 lead
  • Inning 6 - Franklin Gutierrez (2-run) - gave Indians 7-4 lead

Three of the four home runs (Garko, Pronk, Gutierrez) were measured at over 400 feet. They were, indeed Mighty Clouts.

The Tigers stranded 10 runners and had several opportunities to put the game away in the first five innings against Westbrook, but were unable to get the big hit, and the Indians came back with a mighty clout in the bottom of every inning that the Tigers scored to keep the pressure on.

Jensen Lewis knows how to Beat Michigan, taming the Kitties by retiring 9 of the 10 batters he faced, with the only blemish an errant pitch that plunked Placidao Polanco. For his efforts, he was rewarded with Leadership Pie, and the Indians dropped their magic number to 5. Joe Knows Closing pitched a reasonably uneventful ninth for his league leading 41st save.

In another good sign, Jacobs Field was full, with over 5,400 walk-up tickets sold on Dollar Dog Night at the stadium.

The Indians have a chance to drop the magic number to 3 with a noon game. Sabathia vs. Robertson.

Mojo Watch -

Good timing for the Pronkmeister.

Still rollling with Full Elvis.

Tigers: Right now, the Motor City Kitties got no Elvis. They are Michael J Fox.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reason to Hate the Babe Ruth Historical Museum

I saw the name Art Modell pop up in an article I was reading online and thought I'd do a websearch, just for the heck of it. Turns out one of the hits was to a page at the Babe Ruth Historical Museum. Every year they do a fundraiser honoring someone prominent in Maryland sports history. This year's honoree: Art Modell

For $125 ($110 for Babe Ruth Museum members) you can go to this black tie event on October 23 honoring the man who mismanaged a great franchise into the ground and ripped the heart, soul and guts out of Cleveland and Browns Nation.

This is the same guy who ran Cleveland Municipal Stadium, refusing to upgrade it, and gouging the Indians for years, refusing to let them have a share of the stadium suite revenue - truly, a man who has made mighty contributions to baseball. Here is what they will be doing for Mr. Modell, according to their press release:

The evening will include a special tribute to Art Modell (the list of dignitaries who will participate in the event will be announced soon), silent auction, carving stations/hors d'oeuvres and open premium bar. In recognition of Mr. Modell's numerous accomplishments, the Museum will unveil a specially designed plaque in his honor that will become a prominent piece of the Ravens' Gallery in Sports Legends Museum.

Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards is the home of the Official Raven's Team Store and has an extensive gallery dedicated to the Baltimore Ravens.

It would make me happy if some Browns fan in Baltimore were to stand silently outside the grounds with a picket sign dressed in Browns gear in silent protest.

Lucky Number 7

The Indians reduced their magic number for clinching the American League Central Division by beating the Tigers 6-5 in 11 innings on a walk-off home run by Casey Blake.

The Tigers led most of the way, as Kenny Rogers' Deal With Satan continued long enough to allow him to agetreacheryguile a 5-2 lead after 7. The Indians were clubbing the ball the last three innings Rogers pitched, but right at the Tigers' fielders. Paul Byrd, after being deserted by his defense in the 4th inning, allowed 5 runs (4 earned) and agetreacheryguiled his way through 7 -1/3 innings. Aaron Fultz pitched out of a two-on, one-out jam in the 7th.

That's when the fun began. The Tigers brought in Joel Zumaya, a hard thrower who has been known to hit 100 mph on the gun, to start the 8th. He walked the Sizemore, and Cabrera followed with a single. Hafner advanced the runners to second and third on a groundout. Martinez also grounded out, scoring Sizemore, bringing Jhonny Peralta to the plate as the tying run with two outs. Jhonny proceeded to zhoom one of the park, his second home run of the game, tying it at 5.

Joe Knows Closing came on in the 9th, and, of course, that always means excitement. This time, Sean Casey, pinch-hitting for Timo Perez, lined a one-out single up the middle. Cameron "Beanstalk" Maybin, pinch-running for Casey, stole secong base, giving Cabrera an elbow to the head while popping up on his slide and forcing Cabrera to drop the ball. The next batter, Marcus Thames, grounded to short. With the play directly in front of him, Beanstalk tried to take third anyway, and was cut down by a good throw by Peralta, as justice for his assault on Cabrera. Brandon Inge flied out, ending the threat.

Indians 9th - on comes Zach Miner. Indians get winning run to second base with one out. Sizemore flies out, Cabrera walks, Hafner grounds out. Bonus baseball ensues.

Detroit 1oth - on comes Rafael Betancourt (Senor Slow). Polanco doubles with one out. Sheffield Ks on a high fastball, nearly screwing himself into the ground. Ordonez flies out.

Indians 10th - Peralta walks with one out. Josh Barfield is paroled long enough to pinch run for our most productive hitter of the game. Inning ends on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out doublte play with Gutierrez striking out and Barfield, who got a horrible jump, getting thrown out at second.

Detroit 11th. Guillen flies out. Next two batters K'd by Senor Slow.

Indians 11th - Lofton grounds out. Blake launches one into the left field bleachers. Game over. Mass hysteria. Dogs and cats sleeping together. Casey Blake gets the Leadership Pie. Magic Number at 7.

Casey Blake and Jhonny Peralta Know How to Beat Michigan

Mojo Watch:

Cleveland Indians:
This team still has the Full Elvis going strong. Different hero every night. Looking like a Team o'Destiny.

Mojo Shrinking. Maybe Pronk lent his free-floating mojo to the University of Michigan so they could finally win a football game.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Brady Who?

Quarterback controversy? What quarterback controversy?

The Cleveland Browns played inspired football yesterday, at least on offense, and beat the Cincinnati Bengals 51-45, behind 5 touchdown passes from Derek Anderson and 215 yards rushing from Jamal Lewis. The offensive line looked like it had actually received an overhaul in the offseason and the defense made just enough key plays, including a nifty interception by Leigh Bodden with 21 seconds left the Bengals driving for a potential game-tying touchdown.

The Browns' playmakers - Kellen Winslow, Jr., Braylon Edwards, and Jamal Lewis, stepped up and made plays. Derek Anderson resembled an NFl quarterback, throwing confidently, getting rid of the ball quickly, and making the right read. The much-maligned offensive line, gave Anderson time to find the open receiver and opened some giant holes for Jamal Lewis, who showed some the same kind of open field speed that he did a couple years ago when he was all-everything in Baltimore.

So, what happened? I think two things happened. First, I think the Bengals came in thinking that all they had to do to win was show up. Given how bad the Browns have been, this is understandable. The Bengals defense played an inspired game on Monday night against the Forces of Evil and Darkness in the Football Universe (FEDFU), and all the press about how much they had improved apparently got to their head.

Second, I think the Browns came out inspired and determined that one week as a national laughing stock and the accompanying public humiliation was enough. To quote Twisted Sister, I think they decided "We're not gonna take it." And so they didn't. This team, unlike other Browns teams we've seen recently, actually appears to have some character and resiliency.

I have been telling people all off-season that, if the Browns are lucky, they will win 6 games, but they will be more competitive. I still think that. However, I'm more than willing to allow myself to watch this team prove people wrong. The Browns took a big step forward this week to becoming a winning team. However, it is important to keep this in perspective - their defense still got shredded, and they won playing in their own stadium with their manhood on the line against a division rival that was taking them lightly. After this performance, I guarantee that no other team will look on the Browns as the equivalent of a bye week again.

In addition, we may have seen the arrival of Derek Anderson as a pro quarterback. He may be just good enough for the Browns to actually give Brady Quinn the Full Carson Palmer Treatment, which I think is what management would really like to do. Derek Anderson slugged it out, toe to toe, with the guy who is pretty much acclaimed as the second-best quarterback in the NFL, and won the game.

It will be a pleasant few weeks in the office, giving "Who deys" to my co-worker Bengals fans, of which there are several.

Oh, and Chad Johnson did score that touchdown, and did jump into the Dawg Pound where Browns fans tried to pummel him and successfully poured beer on him and gave him the finger.

Number 9, Number 9, Number 9

I did not see the Indians play the Royals yesterday. My wife (a Steelers fan - what can I say?) and I went to a sports bar to watch football.

However, most accounts indicate that the Indians' fifth starter lost a relatively uninspired game to the Royals, 4-3. It would have been nice to sweep the series, but the Tribe will have to settle for winning the series instead.

The Indians' magic number remains 9, with the chance to knock it down in a hurry with a three-game series beginning against the Motor City Kitties tonight, who have won their last 5 after sweeping a series from the Twins, who appear pretty much to be phoning in the rest of the season. The Kitty Cats remain 2.5 games behind the Yankees for the Wild Card and 4.5 games behind the Indians in the AL Central.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

It's Good to Be Back Home Again

When last we left our intrepid band of Wahoo Warriors, they were in the midst of a wicked 10-game road trip featuring stops in Minnesota, A Nameless Place in Southern California, and Chicago. They had just dropped the first game of a 4-game set in that Nameless Place in Southern California.

The good news is that, after dropping a tough game 2 of that series, the Indians went on to take the next two, including a Sunday night victory on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, to split the series.

After a 4:30 AM arrival in Chicago, the team managed to show some spunk, behind a 3-run 7th-inning rally to win a rain soaked 6-2 game that lasted well into Tuesday morning. After a 2-hour-plus rain delay, the Indians poured on two more runs while Chicago was phoning it in. Chicago phoned in the next game as well. With the off-day coming, Eric Wedge decided to rest key regulars to give them a two-day break. Unfortunately, the Indians were facing Javier Vazquez, who is pretty much the only consistent pitcher the Sox have left, and, with the Sox' Konerko given a gift home run that was clearly foul, as well as a poor relief performance from Cliff "Sleepy Kitten" Lee (see below), the Tribe managed to lost 7-4.

So, the grueling road trip is over, and the Indians went 7-3. This caps a stretch of 23 straight days with a game, during which the Indians went 16-7, and ended with a 5.5 game lead, and a magic number of 11. You know, this team might turn out to be pretty good after all, after all the hand-wringing we've been through this year.

After an off day for everyone, the Tribe last night managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat once again, coming from a 4-1 deficit against the Royals on a 2-run homer by Franklin Gutierrez in the 7th, a solo homer from Victor Martinez in the 8th, and a leadoff, walkoff solo shot by Casey Blake in the 9th against Tribe castoff David Riske. Joe Knows Closing got the victory for pitching a reasonably uneventful 9th. Last night's victory leaves the Tribe's magic number at 10.

Mojo Watch:

Pronk: It seemed like Pronk was about to turn it around. He hasn't, at least not to the extent we all have hoped. He still has managed to knock in 91 runs. However, his 21 homers is half of what he put up last year in 8 fewer games than he has already played this year.

Indians: The Indians continue to run on Full Elvis. They're winning the games they should win, and sometimes even winning the games they have no business winning. The magic number is 10.

Bill Belichick's New Media Guide Photo

In light of recent events, the Patriots have released a new photo of Head Coach Bill Belichick. It is now pretty clear why the coach has preferred hooded sweatshirts.

A spokesman for the NFL indicated that the new photo, while seeming to be appropriate, showed Belichick in an outfit not meeting NFL apparel guidelines, and that a fine would likely be forthcoming.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Special Browns Edition: Steelers 34 - Browns 7

I've been telling people for weeks that any optimism on behalf of Browns fan is misplaced. It's extremely disheartening to have been proven right in such a brutal fashion. Some thoughts.
  • This team was beaten 2 minutes into the game after that sorry punt attempt. How does your team break down so completely that you draw four penalties on one play?
  • I thought Jamal Lewis had a reputation as a guy who didn't fumble.
  • Charlie Frye looked like he had a serious case of Tim Couch disease. Throw the ball away, Charlie. It is beginning to look like Charlie Frye will not ever be able to make decisions quickly enough to be a successful NFL quarterback.
  • Derek Anderson, on the other hand, appears quite decisive, and seems to make the right read most of the time. He just can't reliably get the ball into a position where the receiver can catch it.
  • The defense played relatively gamely considering they were on a short field all day. It could have been 50 or 60 to 7.
  • Hines Ward is a cheap-shotting punk. Considered by his peers as one of the dirtiest players in the NFL, Ward threw a blindside helmet to helmet hit on Daven Holly after the whistle, giving Holly a concussion and drawing a personal foul. It would be one thing if this were Ward's fist such incident against the Browns, but in 2004, he laid Earl Little out on a downfield block from the blindside and then taunted Little while he lay on the ground, injured. What was almost as bad was CBS color commentator Rich Gannon, who should know better, commending Ward for the cheap shot hit, saying he was someone who "plays through the whistle", while Holly was lying on the ground concussed. Ward regularly taunts opponents and opponents fan. In short, he's a punk. And, amazingly, he get's a free pass from the media. It's about time that somebody in the media called out Hines Ward for his cheapshotting punk-ass behavior.
  • It's going to be a long, demoralizing season. They're already making plans for the Browns first-round pick in Dallas. If they don't beat an improved Oakland team in a couple weeks, they could easily not win a game until November or December.
  • Despite all this, I still think Brady Quinn should get the full Carson Palmer treatment. Playing him behind that line, even if it is allegedly improved, could be disastrous.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Indians 3, Angels 10

Executive Summary (the less said the better):
  • Escobar was hittable - Indians let him off the hook.
  • Byrd was hittable - Angels did not let him off the hook.
  • Jensen Lewis - OK; Rest of bullpen who won't be pitching in postseason anyway - not good.
  • Garret Andersen - en fuego

Thursday, September 6, 2007


If the Indians do indeed go on to win the AL Central, their performance this year against the Twins, a team that has given them problems in recent years, will be one of the key reasons why. Yesterday's 6-2 win left the Indians 14-4 in the season series versus the Twinkies, including 5 victories against Johan Santana (who, despite the thorough beatdowns he's received from the Indians, still seems to get all the pub for AL Cy Young).

The Indians continued their recent trend of jumping out to an early lead by getting to Scott Baker for 3 runs in the first inning and peppering him for 11 hits in 5 innings. Tribe starter Fausto Carmona spent most of the game pitching with runners on base, but was also bailed out by three double plays, and only had one bad inning, giving up 2 in the fifth. The Tribe put it out of reach with 3 big insurance runs in the 9th on big RBI hits by Jhonny Peralta and Kenny Lofton, allowing Rafael Perez to stay on and get his first major league save, giving Joe Knows Closing the day off.

Pronk: 2 for 3 with 2 walks, 2 runs, and 1 RBI. Hitting streak now at 7 games. Batting average up to .260.

With this victory, the Indians have now won 16 of their last 20 games, and continue to hold a 7-game lead in the AL Central after Detroit's extra-inning 2-1 victory over the White Sox.

Mojo Watch:
Pronk: Still not clearly at Full Elvis, but clearly not regressing either.

Tribe: This team remains at Full Elvis. We'll see how much Elvis they'll have after a West Coast swing, as they start a four-game series today against the Angels of Somewhere Between LA and San Diego. Tonight - Byrd vs. Escobar.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Since we left our intrepid Wahoo Warriors for the Labor Day weekend, the following has happened:

8/31 - Tribe 8 - White Sox 5
The Tribe bailed out Fausto Carmona, who had a bad outing, by scoring 6 runs in the 8th. Kenny Lofton tied it with a two-out bases loaded walk, and then Casey Blake followed by lifting an outside pitch down the right field line for a bases clearing double. Fultz with the vulture win.

9/1 - Tribe 7 - White Sox 0
Paul Byrd gets a complete game shutout, completely dominating the Pale Hose. Gutierrez and Shoppach homered, Pronk had an RBI double.

9/2 - Tribe 0 - White Sox 8
Win streak ends at 8 with this thorough beatdown by the Sox. Jose Contreras showed up, instead of phoning it in, and we got Hittable Jake Westbrook instead of Dominant Jake Westbrook. Games like this happen. The Tribe still took the series at home

9/3 - Tribe 5 - Twins 0
Johan Santana remains the Indians personal rented mule. CC Sabathia continues his quest for the Cy Young Award by shutting down the Twins on 6 hits and 1 walk with 6 Ks through 8. Santana is now 0-5 against the Indians with 1 no decision in 6 appearances against the Tribe. Sabathia has beaten him head to head in each of his last three appearances.

Last night: Tribe 7 - Twins 5
It was Pronktacular! Pronk went deep twice, including a two-out bomb in the ninth off closer Joe Nathan to push it into bonus baseball. Pronk then drove home the winning run in the 11th with a bases loaded screaming line drive to the right centerfield gap that Torii Hunter barely tracked down, but that served as a sac fly. Victor Martinez followed with a single. Joe Knows Closing pitched a 1-2-3 11th to get the save. Note: Daddy Pronk was in the stands to see his boy smash two out of the yard.

Could this 2-homer, 4-RBI night be what Pronk needs to get out of his slump and go on a rampage? Let's hope so. Pronk has now hit in his last 6 games. The Tribe has now won 10 of their last 11. Today's afternoon matchup: Fausto Carmona vs. Scott Baker. Baker shut the Tribe out 1-0 in his last appearance versus the Tribe and almost threw a no-hitter in his last outing. Baker is hot right now.

September callups for the Tribe: Cliff Lee, Luis Rivas, Edward Mujica, Juan Lara, Andy Marte, Ben Francisco and Mike Koplove. I hope that we see Marte spelling Casey Blake at 3b often for the next month. Marte was raking the ball in his last month at Buffalo, while Blake could use some more off days. Lara gives us another lefty in the bullpen to match up with, while Koplove, Lee and Mujica give us more arms for mop up duty. Francisco gives us another solid outfielder to spell some regulars, and Rivas - well, who the hell knows why he's here?

Mojo Watch:
Pronk We'll give Pronk 4 Elvi after last night's show and hope he's on his way to Full Elvis

Tribe: Don't step on this team's blue suede shoes! Full Elvis! 10 of 11. 7 game lead. Enough said.