July 2008

"This hot dog's been here since the silent era. You'd have to be insane to eat it."

Forget about Dodger Dogs or those Pink’s Hot Dogs they serve in Hollywood. The best hot dog in these parts, allegedly, is the one served up at the Exxon station on the corner of Arbor Vitae and Airport Blvd., across the street from the National Rental Car facility near LAX. The sign outside the gas station says so — “Best Hot Dogs in L.A.,” it reads.

You can’t argue with that. If it’s on a sign, it must be true.

This reminds me of those “Best Corned Beef in Cleveland” signs you see in the window of virtually every deli back home. The sign is mass-produced, which automatically hurts its credibility. But I’ve always appreciated the effort.

I can say with no amount of certainty that this is the “Best Blog Entry on the Web.” Let’s use it to read tonight’s lineups, shall we? Note the day off for Jhonny Peralta and Casey Blake’s move down to the cleanup spot.

INDIANS (44-54): CF Grady Sizemore, 2B Jamey Carroll, DH Ben Francisco, 1B Casey Blake, LF Shin-Soo Choo, C Kelly Shoppach, 3B Andy Marte, RF Franklin Gutierrez, SS Asdrubal Cabrera. RHP Matt Ginter (1-0, 0.00) gets his second and final spot start.

ANGELS (60-39): 3B Chone Figgins, 1B Casey Kotchman, SS Maicer Izturis, RF Vladimir Guerrero, DH Garret Anderson, 2B Howie Kendrick, LF Juan Rivera, C Jeff Mathis, CF Reggie Willits. RHP Jered Weaver (8-8, 4.03).

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Fausto Carmona’s 40-pitch side session went as expected, so he’s good to go for Saturday’s start against the Twins. “I’m happy to be back,” Carmona said with a smile.
  • This is just a standard day off for Peralta, who has five multi-hit games in the last nine games. Peralta is batting .337 (31-for-92) with 13 doubles, six homers and 21 RBIs in 23 games since his move to the cleanup spot. 
  • The Indians have homered in eight straight games and 16 of their last 17. The Tribe’s 99 homers are the seventh-most in the AL. The club is well off its pace of last season, when 118 homers were hit through 98 games.
  • Andy Marte is batting .286 (8-for-28) with two homers and two RBIs over his last seven games.
  • Rafael Perez leads the Indians and is tied for 10th in the AL with 13 holds this season. 
  • Brendan Donnelly pitched a scoreless sixth inning in his Triple-A Buffalo debut last night.
  • Morgan Ensberg drove in all four runs in the Bisons’ 8-4 loss to Norfolk. But Ensberg is batting just .181 since joining Buffalo last month.

~AC 

When they built you brother, they broke the mold

Today, the baseball world is mourning the loss of Jerome Holtzman — former baseball writer for the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, inventor of the save statistic and baseball’s official historian — who died over the weekend at the age of 82.

I was just discussing Holtzman’s legacy with longtime Tribe beat reporters Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal and Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer, who both got to know “The Dean” of baseball writers pretty well over the years. They were not short on praise for Holtzman as a person and as a professional.

“How many guys love baseball enough to invent their own stat, and everyone uses it?” Ocker said.

Indeed, Holtzman created the first formula for the save in 1959. Ten years later, it was officially adopted as a statistic. Considering that was the first time baseball adopted a new stat since the 1920 introduction of the RBI, it was clearly a major development. And just think how many millions of dollars Holtzman has earned for relievers over the years (I somehow doubt he got any kickbacks for his efforts).

Hoynes told me that one day Holtzman’s editor called him up to tell him he was using too many cliches in his stories — phrases such as “two-bagger.” Turns out, Holtzman invented those, too.

“He told his editor, ‘Those are my cliches!'” Hoynes remembered with a chuckle. “So he was allowed to keep using them. He’d say, ‘It’s not a cliche if you invented it.'”

I’m sure many of Holtzman’s cliches have made their way into my stories. I only wish I had as good an excuse to use them.

Here are tonight’s lineups for the first of a three-game set between the Indians and Angels…

INDIANS (43-54): CF Grady Sizemore, 1B Casey Blake, RF Ben Francisco, SS Jhonny Peralta, DH David Dellucci, C Kelly Shoppach, 3B Andy Marte, LF Franklin Gutierrez, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera. RHP Paul Byrd (3-10, 5.47).

ANGELS (60-38): 3B Chone Figgins, 1B Casey Kotchman, SS Maicer Izturis, DH Vladimir Guerrero, CF Torii Hunter, LF Garret Anderson, 2B Howie Kendrick, RF Gary Matthews Jr., C Jeff Mathis. RHP Ervin Santana (11-3, 3.34).

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Fausto Carmona (left hip strain) will throw a side session here Tuesday. Assuming it goes well, Carmona will return to the rotation Saturday against the Twins. Matt Ginter, tomorrow’s starter, is expected to be the odd man out in the rotation.
  • Byrd is 0-5 over his last six starts and Santana is 0-5 in six lifetime starts against the Indians.
  • The Indians’ series win over the Mariners over the weekend was just their four road series victory this season.
  • On Sunday, Cliff Lee became the first Indians pitcher to give up at least 11 hits in a complete-game win since Charles Nagy gave up 13 against Baltimore on June 17, 1992, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
  • Reliever Brendan Donnelly, coming back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, has been moved up to Triple-A Buffalo after a short stint at Class A Kinston. Donnelly worked two scoreless innings in two appearances at Kinston. He could be a bullpen option for the Indians before the end of the year.
  • Down at Kinston, outfielder Nick Weglarz, who will be on the Canadian Olympic team, has hit safely in nine straight games, batting .400 (12-for-30) with 10 runs scored, a double, two triples and two RBIs. He is batting .280 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs in 92 games this season, and his .408 on-base percentage ranks fifth in the Carolina League.
  • At Buffalo, Michael Aubrey has heated up, batting .480 (12-for-25) over the course of a six-game hitting streak. He is now batting .299 with nine doubles, two homers and 17 RBIs in 39 games with the Bisons.
  • The Angels were the first MLB team to 60 wins this season. In each of the last four seasons, the first team to 60 wins has reached the World Series. The Angels’ nine-game lead on the second-place A’s is their largest on July 21 in club history.

~AC  

Excruciating minutia from Thursday's workout…

Courtesy of associate reporter Andrew Gribble, known in some circles as “The Scribble”…

  • Josh Barfield is now four weeks removed from surgery on the middle finger on his left hand. He is playing catch out to 120 feet, he took groundballs Thursday and he gripped a bat for the first time since surgery Thursday, as well. According to head athletic training Lonnie Soloff, Barfield could be two to three weeks away from returning.
  • Victor Martinez, five weeks removed from elbow surgery, will begin swinging from both sides of the plate in a week. He is already doing running exercises. He is no longer feeling any pain in his the hamstring that had been bothering him. He is about three weeks removed from game activity, according to Soloff.
  • Fausto Carmona is scheduled to throw five innings/80 pitches Saturday at Akron. Eric Wedge said “more than likely” that will be Carmona’s final rehab outing before rejoining the Tribe.
  • Soloff said he is “very optimistic” about Travis Hafner’s right shoulder condition, which has improved to about 65 percent strength. The Indians will recheck the strength of the shoulder in a week, when they return from the road.
  • Lastly, Wedge had this to say about the All-Star Game going into extras: “Just play nine innings and be done with it. If it’s a tie score, flip a coin and whoever wins … you know, it’s home-field advantage. At least then you can know how long going in, you can get all the players you need to get in and stay away from all the people you need to stay away from.”

~AC

Here comes Cabrera

Asdrubal Cabrera will rejoin the Indians at a workout at Progressive Field today, as the club gets ready to head off to Seattle and the second half of the season. Jorge Velandia has been outrighted off the 40-man roster and sent to Triple-A Buffalo.

Cabrera was the everyday second baseman from the outset of the season but batted just .184 and was optioned to Buffalo on June 9. With the Bisons, he hit .326 (46-for-141) with four homers, seven doubles and 13 RBIs in 34 games. He was the International League batter of the week last week.

Cabrera played 29 games at short and just six at second base for Buffalo. Surprisingly, he made 10 errors in his time there. The Indians have insisted that nothing should be read into Cabrera getting the majority of his time at short, but you never know.

Carmona starting Saturday in Akron

Fausto will make his second rehab start as he works his way back from a left hip strain. This could potentially be his last start before rejoining the Indians’ rotation, but that’s yet to be determined — or, at least, announced.

 

At dusk, the stars all appear on the screen

Welcome to the 79th All-Star Game at New York’s Yankee Stadium.

Well, this is the big one. It’s the final Midsummer Classic in the House that Ruth Built and George Steinbrenner Rebuilt. It’s the event that has New York City buzzing, even by New York City standards. Stars of stage, screen and sports will be in attendance, including 52 Hall of Famers. And more than 1,800 credentialed media members are here, which means more than 1,800 pounds of free, stale popcorn will be consumed.

I’m excited. Are you excited? Of course you are.

So much more goes on at these All-Star Games than just baseball. For example, in a couple hours, a “Stand Up 2 Cancer” press conference will take place in the room to my right. Sheryl Crow and Sarah Jessica Parker will be talking about, presumably, their stance against cancer. I suppose that’s a good stance to take. Personally, I’d like to stand up to people who use the number 2 in place of “to.” That needs 2 stop.

Remember that the winner of tonight’s game gets home-field advantage for the World Series, which is a remarkably dumb arrangement that has somehow lasted several years now.

So without any further ado… the lineups…

AMERICAN LEAGUE (36-40-2): RF Ichiro Suzuki, SS Derek Jeter, CF Josh Hamilton, 3B Alex Rodriguez, LF Manny Ramirez, DH Milton Bradley, 1B Kevin Youkilis, C Joe Mauer, 2B Dustin Pedroia. LHP Cliff Lee.

NATIONAL LEAGUE (40-36-2): SS Hanley Ramirez, 2B Chase Utley, 1B Lance Berkman, DH Albert Pujols, 3B Chipper Jones, RF Matt Holliday, LF Ryan Braun, CF Kosuke Fukudome, C Geovany Soto. RHP Ben Sheets.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Lee is the fifth Indians pitcher to start an All-Star Game. The first was Bob Feller in 1941 and 1946, next was Luis Tiant in 1968, Gaylord Perry got the nod in 1974 and Charles Nagy started it in ’96.
  • The AL is unbeaten in the last 11 All-Star Games, including the 7-7, 11-inning tie in 2002, which prompted the aforementioned dumb, home field advantage arrangement. The 11-game unbeaten streak ties an ASG record set by the NL from 1972-82.
  • The scores of the previous 78 ASGs add up to 331 runs for the AL and 330 runs for the NL. Now that’s parity.
  • This is the eighth time the ASG has been in the Big Apple. Ebbets Field hosted it in 1949, it was at the Polo Grounds in 1934 and ’42, Shea Stadium had it in 1964 and Yankee Stadium has had it three other times — 1939, 1960 and 1977. No other city has hosted the event more. Chicago had it seven times.
  • Speaking of Chicago, the Cubs have eight players here (Ryan Dempster, Fukudome, Aramis Ramirez, Soto, Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Marmol and the injured Alfonso Soriano and Kerry Wood). That’s a club record.
  • The Red Sox have seven players here (Jason Varitek, Jonathan Papelbon, Pedroia, Youkilis, J.D. Drew, Ramirez and the injured David Ortiz). It’s the fifth time in club history that’s happened. 
  • The AL team features six closers (Papelbon, Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan, Francisco Rodriguez, George Sherrill and Joakim Soria). That created a controversy when Papelbon said that if he were manager, he’d give himself the shot at closing the game over Mariano Rivera. The NY media had a field day with that one, and Papelbon was just in the AL clubhouse looking rather surly.
  • A-Rod and Manny Ramirez are the senior members of this year’s ASG cast. Both have been selected to 12 All-Star teams.
  • Three 24-year-olds are in the starting lineups — Ramirez, Braun and Pedroia.
  • All in all, there are 28 first-timers here, the most since there were 28 ASG first-timers in 2003.
  • Soria, Hamilton and Dan Uggla were all Rule 5 selections.
  • Next year’s game is at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Should be a little less hectic.

Enjoy the game.

~AC

Fausto on the mend…

Fausto Carmona (strained left hip) made his first rehab appearance at Class A Lake County tonight. He went four scoreless innings in which he allowed just one hit and struck out three.

Look for Carmona to make at least one more rehab start before he’s ready to rejoin the rotation. More details on that when they’re available.

"Hey! You know what these cost?! They're like 80 cents a nut!"

I’m well-aware that minibars in hotel rooms are supposed to be pricey. That’s the cost of convenience. If you want to get a Snickers bar in your underwear, minibars are the best way to make it happen without the authorities somehow becoming involved.

That being said, the minibar in the rooms at the W hotel in Manhattan — one of the media hotels for the All-Star Game — is out of control. That aforementioned Snickers will cost you eight bucks. A bottle of Absolut vodka is $150. There’s even a first-aid kid that will cost you $12. So if you cut your finger and you’re bleeding to death, you’re best-advised to grab your wallet with your other hand.

Anyway, I’m about to head up to the Bronx for tonight’s Home Run Derby festivities. We’ll see if Grady Sizemore can hold his own in the event. If you’re interested, I’ll be chronicling the Derby round-by-round and blow-by-blow over at http://homerunderby.mlblogs.com. Stop by and keep me company. After all, I can’t sit through all nine hours by myself.

In the meantime, here are a few excruciating pieces of minutia for you here on All-Star Eve…

  • Brendan Donnelly, a former All-Star reliever with the Angels who is coming back from elbow surgery and rehabbing with the Indians, reported to Class A Kinston today. Donnelly had been in extended spring camp in Winter Haven, Fla.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera has been named the International League batter of the week. He hit .394 (13-for-33) in the Bisons’ last eight games, with three doubles, three homers, six RBIs and eight runs scored. All told, Cabrera has hit .326 with seven doubles, four homers and 13 RBIs in 34 games with Buffalo since his early June demotion from the big leagues.
  • The Indians’ record at the break (41-53) is their worst since 1992 (36-52).
  • Indians players have lost a combined 352 days to injury this season. By contrast, the club lost just 324 days all of last year, the second-fewest in baseball.

~AC

Lee named AL starter

Cliff Lee has been named the starting pitcher for the American League All-Star team after a first half that saw him go 12-2 with a 2.31 ERA.

“A lot of pitchers had outstanding first halves,” AL manager Terry Francona said at a press conference this morning. “None have measured up to Cliff. From his very first start to his start three days ago, he’s been the best pitcher in the league.”

Pretty amazing season for Lee, and this just makes it all the more special.

We're living in the future and none of this has happened yet

Greetings from the Bronx, where I am in attendance for all the All-Star hoopla this week. I figured I’d update the blog with all the Tribe-related goings-on while I’m in the Big Apple, because, hey, I’m just that nice a guy.

Today we’ve got the Futures Game, which is always a pretty cool event. Just look at this list of players from last year’s game: Justin Upton, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsburty, Geovany Soto, Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Rick VandenHurk, J.R. Towles, Luke Hochevar, Clayton Kershaw, Joba Chamberlain, Carlos Gonzalez and Evan Longoria.

This year’s game includes three members of the Indians organization — Matt LaPorta, Wes Hodges and Hector Rondon — and I don’t think I need to tell you which of those guys is getting all the attention. LaPorta, fresh off his status as centerpiece of the CC Sabathia trade, has been hounded by reporters. Last I saw him, he was yukking it up with Peter Gammons during BP.

Been a tough week for LaPorta, between the anxiety of all the trade rumors, packing up his bags at Double-A Huntsville, losing his cell phone, losing his luggage and, most recently, losing his grandfather, who passed away two days ago. But coming here to New York has him all jacked up.

“I’m already shaking because I’m here in Yankee Stadium,” he said. “It’s awesome.”

We’ll have more from LaPorta up on the site later today. If you’re not too caught up in Indians-Rays, you can also, of course, follow the Futures Game action at MLB.com, including the Futures Game blog at http://futures.mlblogs.com. Myself and my MLB.com colleague Jesse Sanchez will be posting live from the U.S. and World dugouts, so it will probably be one of the finest things you’ll ever read in your entire life. Not that I’m overselling it or anything. 

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