April 2008

They paid me their money, and I knocked the men down

I haven’t watched a wrestling match since I was about 5 years old. I was a Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake fan, but only when he was a bad guy. He became a good guy at some point, and I lost interest in his wrestling career (which, I can only assume, has since ended… perhaps Brutus went back to cutting hair).

Well, while standing around in the clubhouse tonight, waiting for an interview that never happened, I had the … pleasure? … of watching a WWE video featuring a championship match between John Cena and Some Other Guy Whose Name I Didn’t Happen to Catch.

This fight dragged on for about 45 minutes. Each guy was knocked unconscious several times by either A. a ladder, B., a chair or C. a table. The goal was to reach the championship belt, which was dangled above the ring (hence the need for easy access to ladders). Cena had his hand on it for a second, but SOGWNIDHC pushed the ladder over, causing Cena to fall on a suspiciously well-placed table outside the ring. Then, SOGWNIDHC summited the ladder, only to reach the same table fate on the other side. Then some female wrestler, presumably fresh from an appointment with her plastic surgeon, got involved, in SOGWNIDHC’s defense, but Cena, who is not exactly a gentleman, slammed her to the ground with extreme prejudice. Then he grabbed the belt, and everybody went nuts. Long live the Champ.

If you’re interested in watching this fight for yourself, you can get the DVD, “WWE: Best of the Ladder Matches.” I wish I were making this up, but that’s the name, according to clubhouse attendant Josh Ball, who also informed me there are 14 total hours of footage. Go crazy, folks, go crazy.

This has the makings of a dead night at Progressive. The Cavs are finishing off the Wizards (we hope) next door, and it’s bone-chilling cold. But baseball’s hottest pitcher, Cliff Lee, is on the mound. If he tosses a complete game and gives up just one earned run, his ERA will actually rise. In the lineup, Travis Hafner and Jhonny Peralta are both getting a day off. 

INDIANS: CF Grady Sizemore, 2B Jamey Carroll, 1B Victor Martinez, DH Ryan Garko, 3B Casey Blake, RF Franklin Gutierrez, C Kelly Shoppach, LF Jason Michaels, SS Asdrubal Cabrera. LHP Lee goes for five straight.

MARINERS: CF Ichiro Suzuki, 2B Jose Lopez, LF Raul Ibanez, 3B Adrian Beltre, DH Jose Vidro, 1B Richie Sexson, RF Wladimir Balentien, C Kenji Johjima, SS Yuniesky Betancourt. LHP Jarrod Washburn on the mound.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY:

  • Lee’s career ERA has dipped from 4.64 to 4.46 this year.
  • Martinez has only had 20 plate appearances with RISP this season. By comparison, Sizemore has had 21 in the leadoff spot.
  • The Indians have three of the top 10 ERAs among starting pitchers (Lee, Carmona and Westbrook).
  • Last year, fans voted Victor Martinez the Tribe’s “Work Hard, Fly Right” MVP on Indians.com. For winning the award, Martinez received 1,000,000 frequent flyer miles from Continental Airlines. Martinez turned right around and donated those miles to Esperanza, a Hispanic non-profit organization here in Cleveland. Two twins boys from Honduras who were badly burned by a fire when they were infants used the miles to fly to Cleveland and have cosmetic surgery performed. They were on the field for batting practice. I’ll have a story on them in next week’s issue of Game Face Magazine

~AC

UPDATE (8:40 p.m.): My good buddy Marc Lancaster of the Tampa Tribune informs me Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake is only semi-retired. My apologies. 

Tramps like us…

Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski is a better blogger than I’ll ever be. His blog even has the subhead, “Eleven. Exactly. One louder,” which completely kills the idea I had to possibly name this blog, “These Go to 11.” (If you don’t get the reference, just… don’t worry about it.)

Anyway, my boss passed along this fantastic Posnanski blog entry, comparing Pete Rose to Bruce Springsteen (in a favorable way), that I’m going to pass along to you. Use it well.

As far as the Indians are concerned, I wrote a story last night about Andy Marte’s lack of April playing time. Clearly, someone on the Indians’ coaching staff read the clips today and was reminded that Marte is on the team, because he’s in tonight’s lineup (for my next magic trick, I’m going to write a feature on Craig Breslow — yes, he’s still here — and watch as he miraculously turns up in the rotation). Casey Blake moves to 1B and the slumping Ryan Garko gets a mental health day. Oh, and Grady returns.

INDIANS: CF Grady Sizemore, LF David Dellucci, DH Travis Hafner, C Victor Martinez, SS Jhonny Peralta, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, 1B Blake, RF Franklin Gutierrez, 3B Andy Marte. Fausto Carmona on the mound.

MARINERS: CF Ichiro Suzuki, 2B Jose Lopez, LF Raul Ibanez, 3B Adrian Beltre, DH Jose Vidro, 1B Richie Sexson, RF Brad Wilkerson, C Kenji Johjima, SS Yuniesky Betancourt. RHP Carlos Silva.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY:

  • Adam Miller tossed four scoreless innings for Buffalo last night. He gave up just four hits with two walks and four strikeouts in a 5-2 win over Scranton. Miller has now made two starts for the Bisons after a late start to the season because of that Spring Training blister. He hasn’t allowed a run in nine innings.
  • Ben Francisco went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs in that Bisons win.
  • According to Elias, LHP Aaron Laffey became the first pitcher to have a no-hitter through five innings and go on to lose the game since Jon Lieber did it while pitching for the Cubs against the Cardinals on Sept. 20, 1999.
  • The Indians are batting .211 in losses and .286 in wins.
  • Of Victor Martinez’s 27 hits, only four have gone for extra bases. All doubles.

 ~AC

"I'm sorry, but the card says Moops"

It’s always an odd sight to see a lineup card without Grady Sizemore’s name on it. It looks like a Moops-like mistake. But the Indians are Grady-less again tonight. Sizemore and Wedge both agreed that the sprained right ankle is better, but the wet field conditions simply made it too risky to send him out there. The hope is that he’ll be back Tuesday.

David Dellucci is again in the leadoff spot and Franklin Gutierrez is in center. I didn’t realize this, but Dellucci batted primarily in the No. 1 spot with the Rangers in 2005 — the year he hit a career-high 29 homers.

In roster news, Aaron Laffey was called up and Bellevue native Brad Snyder was sent back down, as expected. Brad, we hardly knew ye.

In not-so-important news, my Mom read my post from earlier today and offered to buy me some bananas. Thanks, Mom.

Here are the lineups for the series finale…

INDIANS: LF Dellucci, 2B Jamey Carroll (A-Cab just getting a day off), DH Travis Hafner, C Victor Martinez, SS Jhonny Peralta, 1B Ryan Garko, 3B Casey Blake, CF Gutierrez, RF Jason Michaels. LHP Laffey gets his first start of ’08. 

YANKEES: CF Melky Cabrera, SS Derek Jeter, RF Bobby Abreu, DH Alex Rodriguez, 1B Jason Giambi, LF Hideki Matsui, 3B Morgan Ensberg, 2B Robinson Cano, C Jose Molina. RHP Mike Mussina.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY:

  • If you think a Sizemore injury is rare, look at Yankees C Jorge Posada. He went on the DL on Sunday for the first time in his 14-year career, which is amazing, especially for a catcher. “When you talk about his season,” Wedge said, “you’re not just talking about six months, but six and a half or seven months, because of the success they’ve had. It’s a great testament to him taking care of his body, his toughness and what he’s been able to do from a consistency and performance standpoint.”
  • Speaking of toughness, tonight’s ceremonial first pitch will be thrown out by Willard, Ohio, native Sean Swarner, a two-time terminal cancer survivor and the first cancer survivor to summit Mt. Everest. We’ll have a story about Swarner up on the site later tonight. 
  • Casey Blake leads the Tribe with 18 RBIs. He is tied for 10th in the AL. He’s batting .407 with RISP.
  • Jensen Lewis will visit Kenston Intermediate School in Chagrin Falls on Tuesday. Sixth grader Samuel Weitzman won the classroom visit through the Plain Dealer’s NIE Tribe Curriculum Guide contest. 

~AC

Monday Morning Musings

I don’t claim to know much about much, but I can tell you with great certainty that the absolute worst time to go grocery shopping is on a Sunday evening.

I went to my local Giant Eagle last night and was floored to find they were out of bananas (as well as other various forms of fruits and produce). I can only guess that banana shipments arrive on Monday mornings. At first, I thought I was the only one in the store who was blown away by this development, until I passed a guy who was in the store with a friend and heard him say, with a quiver, “No bananas!? No bananas!?” He sounded like he was about to schedule an appointment with his therapist.

(The best times to go grocery shopping, as I’m sure you know, are Fridays around 5 p.m. and Saturdays in the late morning. Yes, the store is most crowded at these times, but the grazing opportunities for free samples are limitless.)

That’s what’s on my mind. Let’s see what’s on yours…

  • Jeremy Sowers or Aaron Laffey? Who do you prefer? Sowers got the first call-up, but Laffey gets the start tonight and is now in Westbrook’s rotation spot.
  • Is there any realistic scenario in which C.C. repeats as the Cy Young winner, or have those first four starts definitively knocked him out of contention?
  • You are Eric Wedge on Sunday morning, and Grady is out of the lineup. Who is your leadoff hitter and why?
  • Have you ever successfully purchased a banana on a Sunday night?

“BECAUSE THE MAIL NEVER STOPS!”

No Monday mailbag on the site this week, but let’s take a few bonus questions here. If you have a question for the mailbag (next edition runs May 5), send it to tribemailbag@yahoo.com. And remember to include your first name, last initial and hometown…. 

How long before Ryan Garko moves to the three hole in the lineup? Hafner is just killing us with K’s in that spot, and I’m of the mindset that your No. 3 hitter should be your best hitter, pound for pound. Grady is fine where he is at the No. 1 spot. I think dropping Travis down to five or six, depending on a RHP or LHP, would be ideal. What do you think?

– Adam L., Euclid, Ohio

 

It might be time, Adam. Really, when was the last time Hafner came up to bat in a clutch situation and you just knew, instinctively, that he would rip the ball to the gap or hit one out? Last April, maybe?

 

I’m not saying Hafner hasn’t come through in the clutch since then. It’s just that you used to get that feeling of limitless possibility with Pronk at the plate, and that feeling has unfortunately dissipated over the past year. Garko doesn’t have Pronk’s power potential, but he’s been a much more consistent offensive presence this year and much of last.

 

Perhaps you can help me understand something. The Indians brought Sowers up to pitch in Westbrook’s place (at least that’s what I thought). So who is Laffey replacing? I just don’t understand how they lose one pitcher but call two starters up when they only need one to replace him.

– Kevin W., Lexington, Ohio

 

When Wedge named Sowers the Saturday starter on Wednesday afternoon, the idea was that Sowers would be taking Westbrook’s spot. But that night’s game got rained out, prompting the need for a Monday spot starter (Fausto was bumped to Thursday and is therefore on short rest today). Laffey got that Monday opportunity, and with Sowers optioned back out and therefore unavailable to the big-league club for 10 days, Laffey holds onto that last starting spot.


My question is about vision testing. Are the players responsible, or does the team test every year? Ted Williams always said it’s hand-eye coordination for hitting.

– Jim D., Sarasota, Fla.

 

An eye test is part of the physical exam every player – including the Minor Leaguers – is subjected to at the outset of Spring Training.

 

UPDATE: Master of Self Promotion Jason Stein said I am remiss in not mentioning the iTrac vision training system several Indians players use (and Stein runs). It’s a tennis ball machine, and numbers and colors are printed on the balls, which come in at speeds up to 140 mph. It helps train hitters to read the spin on the ball. 

 

~AC

Grady out, Sowers down, Snyder up

The streak is over. Well, maybe. We’ll see if Grady Sizemore pinch-hits today (he always seems to sneak into the lineup at some point). But he’s not starting against the Yanks because of a right ankle sprain suffered Saturday. He did all the pregame work and ran some sprints and figure 8’s in the outfield grass, but Eric Wedge decided to give him a day. Sizemore has played in 382 straight.

Jeremy Sowers was optioned back down to Buffalo on Sunday morning. He was basically a victim of bad luck. Had Wednesday’s game not been rained out, Sowers would stay here in the rotation. As it stands, the Indians need Aaron Laffey to come up Monday, and they needed Brad Snyder to come up today as an extra body with Grady out. Thanks to all this craziness, Laffey is now the owner of Jake Westbrook’s rotation spot.

Snyder will most likely be optioned back down Monday, when Laffey is officially called up.

Today’s lineup reminds me of one of those Springsteen concerts where The Boss comes out and opens with something totally random, like “So Young and in Love” or “Darlington County.” I never would have guessed David Dellucci would take over the leadoff dutes. Wedge is a master showman…

INDIANS: LF Dellucci, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, DH Travis Hafner, C Victor Martinez, 1B Ryan Garko, SS Jhonny Peralta, 3B Casey Blake, CF Franklin Gutierrez, RF Jason Michaels. C.C. on the mound.

YANKEES: LF Johnny Damon, SS Derek Jeter, RF Bobby Abreu, 3B Alex Rodriguez, C Jorge Posada, 1B Shelly Duncan, DH Morgan Ensberg, 2B Robinson Cano, CF Melky Cabrera. RHP Chien-Ming Wang is hurling.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY:

  • Sizemore last missed a game on Aug. 25, 2005. To put that in perspective … well, I just tried to look up gas prices from 2005, but it was taking too long. So to put that in perspective, that was nearly three years ago and gas was presumably slightly cheaper.
  • Today marks C.C.’s 110th start in Progressive nee Jacobs Field. That officially makes him the all-time leader in starts in this building, passing Charles Nagy’s 109 mark.
  • Nagy is the all-time leader in wins at this park with 50. C.C. is second with 43.
  • Martinez has 425 career RBI but Saturday’s was his first-ever to end a game. The only active player with more RBIs without at least one walkoff RBI is Lance Berkman (878), according to Elias.
  • Today’s game and Wednesday’s game will air on 100.7 WMMS, instead of 1100 WTAM, because of the Cavaliers conflict.

~AC

"The greasy doorknob, the constant licking of the fingers. He's hooked on this chicken, isn't he?"

It’s the “Game of the Week,” or, at least, a “Game of the Week.” I’m just happy with the 3:55 p.m. ET start time today. Every game should start at 3:55 p.m., or, failing that, 4 p.m.

There’s a Chick-fil-A opening by my house this week. Today they were handing out free chicken sandwiches to everyone who drove by. This, in case you can’t tell, is me bragging. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Chicken sandwiches are my lifeblood during homestands. The press dining room at Progressive Field is pretty brutal. Anytime you are in a line for food in a cafeteria and are looking directly at the food and still have to ask what it is, that’s usually not a good sign. Yet it’s a daily occurrence here. Thankfully, they have chicken sandwiches on a daily basis. And, in turn, so do I.

Enough about the chicken. Let’s get to today’s lineups. Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, Bobby Abreu and Robinson Cano are all on the New York bench today.

Indians: CF Grady Sizemore, LF David Dellucci, DH Travis Hafner, C Victor Martinez, 1B Ryan Garko, SS Jhonny Peralta, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Franklin Gutierrez, 3B Casey Blake. On the mound is LHP Jeremy Sowers, the only big-leaguer I know of who has read Alan Greenspan’s memoirs.

Yankees: LF Johnny Damon, CF Melky Cabrera, SS Derek Jeter, DH Alex Rodriguez, 1B Jason Giambi, RF Shelley Duncan, 3B Morgan Ensberg, C Jose Molina, 2B Alberto Gonzalez. RHP Ian Kennedy on the hill. I don’t know what he reads, but he did marry a USC women’s basketball player last fall.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY:

  • Eric Wedge wasn’t especially happy with C Kelly Shoppach’s half-hearted run to second base last night, when he tried to turn a single into a double, was gunned down by Cabrera, despite a moderately acrobatic attempt to jump over the tag. When asked about the play, Wedge smiled slightly and said, “I’m going to bite my tongue.” Safe to say Shoppach was given a talking to.
  • The Indians are batting .444 (20-for-45) with RISP during their current win streak. I wonder if the RISP stat and the win streak are interrelated.
  • Cliff Lee’s middle name is Phifer.
  • Victor Martinez leads the Tribe with six multi-hit games.

Finally, I’d like to share this little nugget from my boy Bryan Hoch’s “Bombers Beat” blog. Seems Hoch sat down for a Q and A with former Indian Billy Traber recently and unearthed this info.

MLB.com: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen associated with baseball?

Traber: That would have to be in Cleveland, my first season. I had fans following me home from Jacobs Field. The ballpark was downtown and it’s obviously a great city because everything was so close, so I didn’t drive. The fans would follow me home sometimes. I’d sign autographs, and you’d think that after a couple of blocks they’d get bored, but there were a lot of days that I’d get followed all the way from Jacobs Field to West 9th Street, which was like 10 blocks away. It was definitely an eye-opener. 

That’s not creepy. Nope, not at all.

~AC

It's Ben real

As expected, OF Ben Francisco was sent down today to make room for Jeremy Sowers, who will make his first start with the Tribe. Francisco went 2-for-6 with a double and an RBI in two games this week. He nearly hit one out in his first at-bat — a pinch-hit appearance Tuesday night in K.C. — but the wind knocked it down near the track.

I have no doubt we’ll be seeing Francisco again this season.

Bugs in my pockets, bugs in my shoes, bugs in the way I feel about you

Hey, remember Game 2 of the ALDS, when those bugs got all over Joba Chamberlain and he gave up a run, and the Indians tied the game and they ended up winning? Yeah, I completely forgot about it, too. I guess it happened last October or something. Really, really crazy. If you need to refresh your memory, you can read about it here. Or here. Or here.

Seriously, enough already. That game was six months ago, and I’m already sick of hearing/writing about it. They were bugs. They invade this ballpark at least once a year. And instead of focusing on how much they rattled the iconic, the great, the otherwise-unstoppable Joba, let’s not forget just how dominant and how focused Fausto Carmona was that night, even with about 35 dead midges stuck to his face.

I’ll get called a homer for saying this, but it’s true: The better team won that series. The Indians had better pitching, and that’s why they won.

Now, I don’t know who the better team is this weekend. The Yankees’ rotation is suspect, as is the Indians’ lineup. But we’ve got four games to sort it all out, don’t we?

Here are the lineups for Friday night. For the Tribe, Asdrubal Cabrera and Ryan Garko are both getting a night off. They’ve played more games than anybody this season, aside, of course, from Grady Sizemore and from Travis Hafner.

Indians: CF Sizemore, 2B Jamey Carroll, DH Hafner, SS Jhonny Peralta, RF Franklin Gutierrez, 3B Casey Blake, LF Jason Michaels, C Kelly Shoppach. Byrd is hurling.

Yanks: LF Johnny Damon, SS Derek Jeter, RF Bobby Abreu, 3B Alex Rodriguez, DH Hideki Matsui, C Jorge Posada, 1B Jason Giambi, 2B Robinson Cano, CF Melky Cabrera. LHP Andy Pettitte.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY:

  • Cliff Lee is having a good month. His 0.28 ERA is the lowest by a pitcher winning his first four appearances of a season since Roger Clemens had the same 0.28 mark after four starts in 1991. Let’s hope the good folks at Elias, who provided that information, aren’t misremembering.
  • Lee’s ERA, his .109 average against, .125 OBP against, and .139 slugging percentage against are all tops in baseball.
  • The Indians hit .319 in the three-game sweep of the Royals. This is progress.

 

Thanks to everybody who has submitted a name for the blog so far. Keep those suggestions coming, please. I’ll provide an update in the next few days. 

~AC

Give it a name

This blog is a work in progress. But you knew that.

I caught a lot of grief for the white wine in the picture to the right. It was deserved. In my defense, that picture, in case you can’t tell, was taken in Venice. The previous night, we had been in Chianti country. Suffice to say, I was a bit overserved on Chianti (I won’t get into the details). By the time we hit Venice, I needed a change of pace.

But that’s no excuse, so the matter has been appropriately resolved.

Yet another, more important matter that must be addressed is the name of this thing. Castrovince’s Corner? No, that’s not going to work. So, I’m turning to you, my loyal reader(s) to help me out. Let’s give this thing a name that can stick. Something with panache. Something pithy. Something … palendromic, perhaps?

Paste your entry in the comments section or e-mail it to me at anthony.castrovince@mlb.com. It can be Indians-related, it can be baseball-related. Bonus points if it’s Seinfeld-related (In fact, if it’s a Seinfeld reference, that would actually be outstanding). Winner gets his or her name in lights (or, in the absence of lights, in a blog entry). 

I won’t change the name until I’m suitably moved. So move me.

And sorry about the white wine. Won’t happen again. 

Miller goes on, like a blister in the sun…

Top prospect Adam Miller made his long-awaited 2008 debut for Buffalo on Wednesday night, giving up three unearned runs on four hits with two walks and two strikeouts over five innings.

 

"He was good, strong," farm director Ross Atkins said. "It was just early season form for him, not midseason form. His velocity isn't quite back to where it will be. The depth of his slider is there, but the tighness is not where it will be. Even having said that, he competed, controlled his pitches, and we all feel very good about his outing."

 

Miller didn't make any appearances with the Tribe in Spring Training this year because of a nasty blister that formed on the middle finger of his pitching hand. He was in extended camp to build up his pitch count.

 

Miller, 23, is obviously still being developed as a starter, though it's conceivable he could be promoted at some point this season to help the Indians in the 'pen.

 

"People think about creatively what's best for the organization and him and the Cleveland Indians and the different scenarios," Atkins said. "At this point it's best to develop him as a starter."

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