Thursday, February 28, 2008

And we're off!

Spring training games begin today at 1:05 PM Eastern, with the Tribe going up against the Astros. Radio coverage on the station formerly known as WWWE or Gameday Audio for those out of market. Jeff Harris will start on the mound for the Tribe, in place of Jake Westbrook, who was scheduled to start but is being held out with a "sore right arm."

Friday, February 22, 2008

Big Day in Cleveland Sports

Yesterday was a big day in Cleveland sports, as all three major franchises made transactions.

The big news was the trade that reshaped the Cavaliers, who traded their spare parts and overpaid veterans for two other teams' spare parts and overpaid veterans. The Cavs gave up Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, Cedric Simmons, Shannon Brown, Ira Newble and Donyell Marshall for Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak (to be henceforth referred to as Wally, or Wally Eyechart), plus a 2009 second round draft pick (Chicago's).

In doing so, the Cavs take on enough salary to have luxury tax implications this year, but also take on players with complementary skills to LeBron James and that should fit in well with what Mike Brown wants to do with the team (ie, play tough defense and let LeBron do his thing). Let's break this down player by player, starting with the new hires:
  • Ben Wallace: if motivated, a key enforcer down low with tough defense - we probably won't be able to truly measure his impact until the playoffs. With Chicago - big contract, not much performance. With Cavs? Who knows? The Cavs are gambling that a change of scenery will inspire him.
  • Wally Eyechart: 3-point shooter, defensive liability. All he has to do to help this team is spot up on the 3-point line and wait for the kickout. His presence should open up more room for LeBron to do his thing.
  • Delonte West: combo guard with more point guard skills and better outside shooting ability than Larry Hughes. Should be able to provide a perimeter threat as well as the ability to distribute the ball and provide another late game ballhandler other than LBJ.
  • Joe Smith: solid veteran forward having a good season.
What they lost:
  • Larry Hughes: slasher who was miscast as a point guard. Solid perimeter defender. In hindsight, he was never a good fit for the Cavs because he is more of a slasher than an outside shooter and point guard. He was starting to make some progress offensively in the last few weeks. Often hurt and cast as a villain by fans upset with his inability to play up to his contract and tendency to get hurt. Genuinely seems like a good guy and will likely perform better in Chicago assuming he can stay healthy.
  • Drew Gooden: when he's good, he can be very good. When it's not his night, you might as well sit him early. Excellent offensive skillset - defensive skillset questionable. Should do well in Chicago with former KU running-mate Kirk Hinrich to set him up.
  • Cedric Simmons and Shannon Brown: Projects with some potential upside
  • Ira Newble: solid perimeter defender, occasional offensive skills. Defense will be missed.
  • Donyell Marshall: streaky shooter capable who has run hot and cold throughout his career. With the Cavs, mostly cold.
The question now is how well the Cavs can integrate the new team with the holdovers. How good of a coach is Mike Brown? We're about to find out.

The Browns have resigned Jamal Lewis, apparently to a 3-year deal, believed to be worth $17 million. Good for the Browns, and good for Lewis, who genuinely seems to like playing for the Browns and being in Cleveland.

The Indians signed Jason Tyner to a minor league contract, without an invitation to the major league camp. Even with the glut of fourth outfielders in the big league camp, it seems that Buffalo will need outfielders, too. What does it say about Jason Tyner that no team wanted to give him as much as a non-roster invitation to their big league camp?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Longtime PD portswriter, Chuck Heaton, dies at age 90

Longtime Cleveland Plain Dealer sportswriter, Chuck Heaton, succumbed to complications arising from pneumonia at age 90.

You may have seen his daughter, actress Patricia Heaton, on a TV show or two. Bob Dolgan wrote a fine obituary.

Chuck Heaton was most known for covering the Browns in the early days, but he also covered the Indians extensively over the years, and retired from writing with BBWAA Card #1, indicating the longest tenure of active members when he retired in 1993.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pitchers and Catchers Report, But How Long Will CC Stay?

First, the good news. Pitchers and catchers report to Winter Haven today.

Now, the bad news: C. C. Sabathia has released a statement via his official website saying, in essence, that he has ceased negotiations with the Cleveland Indians on a contract extension.

This move makes it overwhelmingly likely that Sabathia will not be an Indian beyond the 2008 season. Some other team, desperate for pitching, will go well beyond what Cleveland is willing to offer Sabathia in both cash and years. If Sabathia were willing to give the Tribe a hometown discount, he would have done it already.

The Indians now have a hard choice:
  • Option A - go for it all this year and ride one of the best pitchers in the major leagues, knowing that at the end of the year, he will leave and all you will get will be draft picks.
  • Option B - trade one of the best pitchers in the major leagues for lots of prospects to a big market team that can afford to sign him , knowing that if you do this, there is the possibility that doing so potentially closes the window of opportunity for this year and alienates the fans, who will likely be showing up at the ballpark again this year after last year's exciting postseason.
Not much of a choice, is it? It seems clear that the Indians have chosen Option A. Their window to win it all is now, and they've finally won back the fans who deserted the team after their terribly underperforming 2006 season. If they do win it all, then it will be easier to justify publicly letting Sabathia go, as Tribe fans will be giddy and hungover with glee. If they don't win, however, and cannot resign Sabathia, then all we'll be hearing, once again, is how cheap Dolan is, while CC likely puts on pinstripes and plays for the FEDBU.

Even Option B looks bad - let's look at the teams who can afford Sabathia: FEDBU, FEDBU-lite, the Angels of the OC, the Dodgers, and the Mets. The Mets are out - they ponied up for Santana. The Angels have the prospects to make a trade and the money to sign Sabathia, but have made it clear in the last couple years that they're not trading prospects. The Dodgers have prospects and money, but the NL West is wide open, and it looks like they're going to try to win with the pitching they have. Both the FEDBU and FEDBU-lite have the prospects and the money, but with the Indians having their window as this year, what incentive do they have to trade their best pitcher, during their window of opportunity year, to teams that might slam that window shut in the postseason? Can you imagine what it would be like in Cleveland if the Tribe trades Sabathia to either one of these teams, and then Sabathia pitches the clinching game in a postseason series that knocks the Tribe out of postseason? If CC is set on filing for free agency, he has even less value as a rental than Santana did, as Santana was very clear that he would likely sign an extension with the right team.

Bottom line - unless the Indians win the World Series this year, they are screwed. When CC walks, they lose fickle fan support, Dolan's reputation for being cheap gets unfairly renewed, and their ability to compete takes a major hit with their loss of an ace.

It's hard to be an Indians fan today, even with pitchers and catchers reporting. The pressure to win now just increased dramatically.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Larry Hughes - Beta Unit?

Larry Hughes scored 40 points for the Cavs last night against the Magic. He must have been kidnapped by Centauri to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada and replaced by a beta unit that was not programmed properly.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

One of these things is not like the others..

Sammy Hagar? Seriously? Didn't he used to RAWK?

Thoughts on Super Bowl XLII

I know I primarily cover baseball, but I am also a fan of the Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Columbus Crew, Columbus Blue Jackets and Ohio State football and basketball, so I reserve the right to weigh in on some other sports occasionally.

I have to admit that I was conflicted going into the game on who to root for. Really, for the most part, both cities (Boston and New York) and their fan bases are pretty much insufferable, especially for those of us here in "Flyover Territory." Do I root for the Patriots, the bullies of the NFL with their cheating head coach and their tendency to run the score up mercilessly on weaker teams? Or, do I put aside my dislike for Eli Manning and New York fans in general and root for the plucky underdog Giants?

Before I go further, I must declare that I believe Eli Manning to be a Punk. A special kind of Punk, to be precise - a Punk who believes himself bigger than the game. It's a class of Punkitude that lumps him in a group that includes John Elway, JD Drew and Kobe Bryant. You are a punk if, coming out of high school or college, you refuse to play for the team who drafted you because you feel that they are not deserving of your talents:
  • Elway played baseball (not very well, I might add), in order to avoid having to play for the Colts.
  • Drew refused to sign with the Phillies, instead playing in one of the independent leagues.
  • Bryant, well, as a 17-year-old high schooler (high schooler!) declared that his game was so huge that he would only sign with a team from New York or Los Angeles, and to prove his point, held out and forced the Charlotte Hornets to trade him to the Lakers.

Manning, as is well known, refused to play for San Diego, the team which picked him, and pretty much forced them to trade him to New York. This has led me to seriously question his judgment - you're a 21-year-old kid, and you don't want to be the toast of San Diego, make millions of dollars and live year-round where the weather is great and you can party on the beach in the offseason and hand the ball off to LaDainian Tomlinson? You'd rather face the New York media every day? Dude?

So, Manning is a Punk who believes himself bigger than the game. It's hard for me to root for teams led by Punks. And, really, who doesn't want to see the annoying loudmouths from the '72 Dolphins silenced? So, going into the game, I bit the bullet and started the game rooting for the New England Patriots to make history, but not very hard.

As the Giants continued to keep Brady and The Incredible Hulk of Sulk (Randy Moss) in check, forcing him to make bad decision after bad decision, I started to believe that the Giants could actually do it. More importantly, I began to want them to do it. And when Tyree made that amazing catch, I knew that it was over - the Giants were going to be this year's Team O'Destiny.

Despite my personal dislike for Manning's Punkitude, I have to admit that I'm feeling okay with watching the Patriots fall hard, simply because it takes Boston sports and their insufferable fans down a notch. Really, the only people who don't like watching a bully get what's coming to him are the bully and his mother.

And, really what could be more indicative of the Patriots' true colors than Bill Belicheat (see picture below) leaving the sidelines with time left on the clock?

And, in an exclusive scoop, I got a picture of the New England offensive line after the game:

I have to admit to some schadenfreude in watching the New England Patriots fan express their post-game sorrow and pain. Hey, guys and gals, you don't know pain and sorrow and despair. Try being a Cleveland fan for any length of time. I've got a quarter for you to call someone who cares.

And, I have to admit, I'm happy for my Uncle Marc in Hartford, Connecticut, who is a lifelong Giants fan and has been on the waiting list for season tickets for 20 years, and still isn't very close to getting them.

Commercials: generally pretty disappointing. The clear winner was the FedEx commercial with the giant carrier pigeons.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Checking Back In

The latest dishes cooking on the Hot Stove:

  • Casey Blake, Super Utility Mountain Man (SUMM), has reached agreement with the Indians on a $6.15 million contract before arbitration. Management keeps repeating that Blake will be the starter at third, while Ande Marte, out of options, will likely moulder on the bench, getting spot starts and likely not getting anything going. Blake's a good guy to have around because of his versatility, but I remain unchanged in the opinion that the Tribe needs to either play Marte or trade him. Free Andy Marte!
  • The Indians apparently no longer have Johan Santana to treat as their personal rented mule. While last year's domination of Santana was enjoyable, I suspect it was also a statistical anomaly, and I'm glad to find that the Twins dealt him to the National League and not to the FEDBU, or the FEDBU-lite. Although it would have been nice to watch either of those teams empty their farm system for Santana, I'm fully aware that this has a big impact on the Indians for 2008. Santana might win 25 games while pitching in AAAA for the Mets. It was also extremely smart of the Twins to extend Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer before announcing the Santana trade, if only to placate their fans that they're not completely blowing up the team. How long till the Twins sell high on Joe Nathan?
  • The Santana extension has still not happened for the Mets, so CC's price remains unfixed. However, it appears that both CC and Mark Shapiro are saying the right things and keeping negotiations out of the media - in other words, everyone's acting like a grown up so far. Gotta love that about this organization.
  • Jorge Julio has been extended an NRI (non-roster invitation) to attend spring training with the Indians. If they can get him to throw quality strikes, and has a great spring, it's a good move - he has closing experience,and he still throws heat.
  • Since my last post, the Tribe has also extended Senor Slow. Another fine move to lock up the best of the people you have by Tribe leadership.
  • Indians lose Brian Barton (no surprise) and Matt Whitney (big surprise) to Rule 5. I have to believe that Whitney will be back, given the glut at first base of the Nationals. Barton - it would have been nice to have been able to keep Barton, but I find no fault with the guys they did protect instead. It's nice to have so much talent at the upper end of the sytem that you can't protect it all.

I went to the Indians Press Caravan in Columbus last week. It was a zoo. There must have been several hundred people milling about the ballroom at the Columbus Easton Hilton. Some notes from that event:

  • It was amusing to see women lined up two deep with cameras to take Grady Sizemore's picture while he talked with the sports talkers from WBNS-AM.
  • Tom Hamilton does not believe the Tigers have the pitching to win the AL Central. Neither do I.
  • Eric Wedge believes we should just relax in the 9th inning when Joe Knows Closing is on the mound, because it is out of our hands and in the hands of the baseball gods.
  • The line for Grady Sizemore's autograph was significantly longer than the line for Scott Lewis' or Jensen Lewis'.
  • Eric Wedge radiates confidence and again repeated what we've been hearing from Mark Shapiro about other teams wanting major leaguers on the current roster in trades, rather than prospects, and Wedge was extremely reluctant to give up on anyone on this team.
  • According to Wedge, Barfield is almost certain to start the season at Buffalo, specifically to work on his hitting. It seems that The Beaded One is the second baseman next year, period, unless Josh Barfield works some kind of miracle and Cabrera fails to hit.
  • When asked about left field, Wedge expressed significant confidence in the Dellucci-Michaels platoon.

In other news:

  • Troy Glaus for Scott Rolen? It's hard to believe that the reputations of both of these players have diminished to the point that this deal provokes a yawn on my part.
  • Nick Swisher to the Sox - Shapiro is taking a lot of heat on the fan boards for not going hard after Swisher, but it seems to me like Swisher was not available until the White Sox made the A's an offer they couldn't refuse. The White Sox continue to baffle me - they should be blowing this team up and rebuilding, yet they're selling low on their best prospects. It's okay with me if they want to continue to be a 70-win team, but I imagine all 12 Sox fans are puzzlecd by the way their front office is handling this team. Yeah, they're making moves, but it seems like they're making moves just to make moves.
  • If the Erik Bedard deal with the O's falls through because Peter Angelos is clueless, then the Tribe should explore trading Sabathia to the M's for a similar package if it seems that CC and management have an unbridgeable negotiating gulf. Adam Jones would look fantastic in left field. Could you imagine an outfield of Adam Jones, Grady Sizemore and Frank the Tank?
  • Now that Santana is off the board, it will be interesting to see how the pitching market shapes up for the remaning free agents (Lohse, Livan Hernandez, etc.). Cliff Lee, anyone?
  • I have suggested on at least one other forum that, now that the A's are blowing things up, the Indians should make a push for Eric Chavez and Huston Street, with a package built around Marte, and some excess pitching. The A's would have the luxury of playing Marte every day, and the Indians could use a more reliable (albeit injury prone) closer. Blake could back up Chavez when (not if) he gets hurt. Sure, it would be expensive, but it could also help put the Tribe over the top. Chavez is a vacuum cleaner at third, and we have more than our fair share of groundball pitchers.
  • The Super Bowl - Yawn.
  • Yanks sign Ensberg - do the Yanks really need any more expensive reclamation projects? I guess that's why they're the FEDBU - they can afford to throw bucnhes of guys like Ensberg against the wall in the hopes that one of them will stick, unlike the Indians, who have to be right on every time.
  • I'd love to believe Roger Clemens. I just can't. He can trot out as many statistics as he wants, but now he's more than a headhunting punk - he's a headhunting punk on PEDs.
  • Mike Hampton is healthy? Heard that before. If you believe that, you'll buy this watch.