Reading through your comments here and those elsewhere in the Internet stratosphere, it’s obvious that the most vocal of Tribe fans are overwhelmingly in favor of the Indians making a managerial change.
And maybe that change will happen. If so, it probably wouldn’t happen until the All-Star break, and it might not happen until season’s end, if at all. But a team can only look this bad so long before changes are made — and managerial changes are often a part of that process. We’ll just have to wait and see.
The Indians are 29-42, entering tonight’s scintillating series opener against the Pirates. You can point to Eric Wedge’s constant lineup juggling, his snake-bitten bullpen moves and some questionable in-game decisions, and you can certainly make an argument that he should take the fall for that record. When a team has sunk this low (only the Nationals, at 20-47, have a worse record, and they entered the season with no expectations to contend whatsoever) this late in the year, arguments in favor of the manager tend to sound like spin and excuses.
All that being said, I have not read one argument or witnessed one sustained stretch of play this season that has convinced me that the Indians ridding themselves of Wedge would be the difference-maker. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe the Indians could have used his dismissal as a wake-up call to a stagnant ballclub. But I’m afraid that time, if it even existed, has passed for 2009. The Indians are 10 games out on June 23, which does not exactly bode well for AL Central survival — no matter how poor the AL Central is this season.
Relieving Wedge of his duties at this juncture, then, would also look like a spin job and a desperate search for an excuse. GM Mark Shapiro called the notion a “cop-out,” and he’s right. Because the fact of the matter is that Wedge inherited a poorly constructed ballclub. The rotation, as we all knew entering the season, was suspect. The bullpen, as few of us predicted going into the year, was a disaster. And the team was ill-equipped in the upper levels of the farm system to offset the multitude of injuries and the dazzling display of ineffectiveness affecting some key members of the ballclub, most notably Fausto Carmona and Rafael Perez.
These are problems that are more accurately pinned on the front office, not the manager.
Still, this is a business, and the Indians have to keep the interests of their fans in mind with each move they make. Maybe Wedge will get the axe at some point, and maybe those fans who are ranting and raving about his performance will be temporarily appeased. And again, maybe that would have a positive impact on this club’s play.
But I’m watching a ballclub that has plenty of problems, managerial and otherwise. And no matter how much venom I read in the comments and on the message boards, I don’t see a quick fix. All I see are a lot of excuses for a team that has simply not had the talent or the depth to contend — or even avoid the cellar – in what might be baseball’s worst division.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- Grady Sizemore’s back, but he won’t be in the lineup on an everyday basis. At least not this week. Wedge didn’t get into specifics, other than to say that Sizemore will be considered on a day to day basis and might be used as a DH when the team returns to playing in AL parks.
- Asdrubal Cabrera (sprained left shoulder joint) begins his rehab at Double-A Akron tonight and will likely play two games before the Indians evaluate him again. He could be back with the club as soon as Thursday.
- Cabrera will return to the leadoff spot when he comes back. As a result, Sizemore is back in the No. 2 spot.
- Rafael Betancourt threw a 30-pitch bullpen session today, using just his fastball and changeup. He threw curveballs off flat ground. Betancourt is three weeks removed from straining his right groin, and he said he feels great physically. Now, he just has to get back in the flow of pitching after the long layoff. He’s scheduled to throw another bullpen Thursday.
- Tony Sipp has become the Tribe’s elevator man of ’09, as this is his third promotion to the big leagues. He said in his last outing at Columbus, he got a strikeout on a wild pitch with a split-fingered fastball he hadn’t thrown since college. “I was going down memory lane,” he said. Unfortunately, catcher Damaso Espino had called for a changeup, so he didn’t know the pitch was coming. Hence, the wild pitch.
- The Indians are not carrying three lefties in the bullpen by design, Wedge said. “We’re just looking for the best arms and the best options we can have as we move forward,” he said. “You’re always looking for something to click.”
- Ryan Garko remains day to day with a sprained wrist.
- Right-handed reliever Greg Aquino cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A Columbus.
- Another Draft pick has signed on with the Tribe. This time, it’s 18th-round selection Dwight Childs, a catcher out of the University of Arizona. The Indians have signed 19 selections and 15 of their top 19 picks. The Tribe also signed left-hander Ryan Anthony (Emporia State) and infielder Dan DeGeorge (Princeton) to non-drafted free agent Minor League contracts.
- The Indians are just 9-21 in Interleague Play over the last two years.
- In the course of losing seven of eight games, the Tribe has blown leads of five runs twice and seven runs once.
- Finally, don’t forget about the Mystery Ball charity event taking place during Saturday’s game against the Reds. For $50, you get one of 1,200 baseballs signed by players, coaches and managers from the Indians and around MLB. Tickets will be sold at Gates A and C once gates open. A silent auction will also take place with items such as a Kerry Wood game-used glove and a Victor Martinez catching mask. All proceeds benefit the Providence House.
Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game at PNC Park will be broadcast on WTAM and STO.
UPDATE: Slight lineup change. Choo is now in LF and DeRosa in RF.
INDIANS (29-42): 2B Jamey Carroll, CF Grady Sizemore, C Victor Martinez, LF Shin-Soo Choo, RF Mark DeRosa, 3B Jhonny Peralta, SS Luis Valbuena, 1B Chris Gimenez. LHP David Huff (2-2, 7.09).
PIRATES (31-38): CF Andrew McCutchen, LF Nyjer Morgan, 2B Freddy Sanchez, 1B AdamLaRoche, C Robinzon Diaz, 3B Andy LaRoche, RF Steve Pearce, SS Jack Wilson, RHP Ian Snell (2-7, 5.08).
Little late posting this, as I was navigating the rugged terrain of the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the time it became official, but Grady Sizemore was activated from the 15-day disabled list today.
To make room for Sizemore on the active roster, the Indians optioned outfielder Trevor Crowe back to Triple-A Columbus.
And in a separate roster move impacting the ever-evolving bullpen, the Indians promoted left-hander Tony Sipp for the third time this year and designated right-hander Luis Vizcaino for assignment.
Entering the week 13 games under .500 and 10 games back in the American League Central Division standings, the last-place Indians are hoping the returns of some key players from injuries will spark them. Sizemore will only do so if the elbow, which had been bothering him since Spring Training, continues to cooperate.
Arthroscopic surgery, which would have sidelined Sizemore for an additional four to six weeks, was avoided because the elbow responded well to treatment. Now, the Indians will see how it responds to in-game activity. The Indians did not take the extra precaution of having Sizemore take part in a Minor League rehab assignment prior to promoting him – a measure they are currently taking with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who sprained his left shoulder joint earlier this month and was set to begin rehabbing with Double-A Akron tonight.
Easing the blog back into action after a weekend off (and an eventful series in Chi-town, for all the wrong reasons), here are a few pieces of excruciating minutia for you…
- The “Eric Wedge on the hot seat” chatter has reached new levels with the Tribe possessing the worst record in the AL and in the midst of a six-game losing streak. It appears slightly overplayed, as the Indians are not believed to be on the verge of making such a move at the moment. A decision on Wedge’s future is more likely to be made at season’s end.
- Apparently there was some confusion over the weekend when a reporter asked owner Larry Dolan about a potential change and Dolan responded, “I’ll talk to you later” and “I just don’t want to lie to you.” Dolan, from what I understand, was under the impression that the topic at hand was possible trades, not Wedge’s job security.
- It’s looking likely that Grady Sizemore (sore left elbow) will be activated before or during the series in Pittsburgh this week.
- Asdrubal Cabrera (sprained left shoulder) begins a Minor League rehab assignment at Double-A Akron on Tuesday night. The rehab can last up to 20 days but will probably be a short one.
- Aaron Laffey will make his second rehab start for Akron on Tuesday night.
- The Indians signed 13th-round Draft pick Jeremy Johnson, a right-hander out of Washington State University. They have now signed 18 selections overall and 13 of their top 16. Negotiations with top pick Alex White should be underway soon, if not already, as White’s UNC team was bounced from the College World Series.
- Lastly, for those of you who make Twitter a part of your daily diet, you’ll definitely want to check out the Tribe Insider tweets, brought to you by Bart Swain and Jeff Sibel of the Tribe’s media relations department. They’re posting lineups, injury updates, roster moves, etc., so you can get the news as it happens.
More to come Tuesday from Pittsburgh.
UPDATE: My apologies for neglecting to include the Twitter link earlier. It is up there now.
This weekend, the Indians will make their first trip to the hallowed shrine that is Wrigley Field since 1998. And while this may very well be the only hallowed shrine where it is reasonable to be inebriated at noon and where the concourse possesses a smell ordinarily reserved for dorm hall bathrooms, it is a hallowed shrine, nonetheless.
Wrigley does not possess the amenities, the sight lines and the comfort of many modern parks, and the scalpers outside can and do command all contents of your wallet and claim to one of your kidneys in exchange for a seat with an obstructed view. Yet Wrigley remains my favorite atmosphere in all of baseball.
Recognizing that some of you might be visiting Wrigley for the first time this weekend, I figured I’d share a few guidelines for the unitiated:
1. Avoid falling concrete.
2. Don’t pull a Bartman.
3. Should, for some reason, you be asked to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” don’t say this.
4. If a ball gets lost in the ivy-covered wall, it’s a ground-rule double. If it hits a seagull, then gets lost in the ivy-covered wall, play stops and the entire ballpark is evacuated.
5. The white “W” flag that flies atop the scoreboard following a Cubs victory signifies “Win,” not “Wedge.”
6. I don’t remember the name, but there’s a nondescript little Mexican place just outside the exit to the Addison “L” stop, en route to Wrigley. They sell burritos the size of your head. But if you eat one, don’t make any sudden movements, and keep the Rolaids handy.
7. My first visit to Wrigley came in the summer of 1993, when I was 12. I was a huge Ryne Sandberg fan, so you can imagine my excitement when I discovered the official Ryne Sandberg chocolate bar in a gift shop across the street from the ballpark. It might have been the best candy bar I’ve ever had.
So, what’s the advice? Well, it’s 2009 now. If you happen upon a Ryne Sandberg chocolate bar, for the love of God, don’t eat it.
8. If you can’t get into the game, you can do what my friend Ed is doing Saturday and pay $180 to sit a block away on a Waveland Avenue rooftop, sucking down all the hot dogs and flat Budweiser you can stomach.
9. Or you can just take the sane route and watch it at Murphy’s Bleachers.
Whether you’re in attendance, on a roof, at the bar or stuck in Cleveland or points elsewhere, enjoy the games this weekend.
Due to a scheduling conflict, I will not be covering the weekend series in Chicago. Instead, I’ll be in the Happiest Place on Earth, the Land of Milk and Honey, the Navel of the Universe — Athens, Ohio, which is home, of course, to Ohio University and, in a newer development, my buddy Brad’s wedding. The blog will be back up and running next week, assuming I make it out alive.
We’ve talked quite a bit about music in the blog this homestand, because, well, that’s the kind of thing that happens in a blog about a last-place ballclub.
Indians iTrac vision coordinator Jason Stein, who is known in this and many circles as the “Master of Self-Promotion,” doesn’t know a thing about music. Well, unless it originates from his native land — a foreign country by the name of Texas. You might remember that during Spring Training, Stein offered up a blasphemous take on Clarence Clemons’ transcendent saxophone solo in “Jungleland,” so his abhorrent musical acumen is well-established.
Stein and I are in the midst of an ongoing argument regarding Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan. The debate basically comes down to “legend status.” Which of these icons possesses more of it?
You can weigh this on many fronts — chart success, national and international acclaim, respect and clout within the industry, etc. – but everything and anything must be taken into consideration.
I want to open the floor for your take on this matter, and I won’t reveal which of us is arguing for Dylan and which is arguing for Nelson. (But I would like to point out that when Dylan and Nelson take the stage at Classic Park in Eastlake next month, a certain genius wordsmith from Minnesota will be the headliner, while a certain pot-promoting Texan will be his opening act… and I think that speaks for itself.)
Anyway, chew on that debate, if you feel up to it. And we have plenty of Indians info to chew on during tonight’s rain delay.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- Carl Pavano has been skipped in the rotation. He said he’s not injured, but Eric Wedge said he’s dealing with mild right shoulder soreness. Tomo Ohka will take Pavano’s start Saturday in Chicago, and Pavano said he will start Wednesday in Pittsburgh. “This will allow me to catch up on some things,” Pavano said. As Pavano put it, this doesn’t make much of a difference for him, in terms of number of starts, because either way he will get four more starts before the All-Star break.
- It’s only two rough starts in a row, but you can’t help but wonder if Pavano might be dealing with a tired arm, in addition to the sore shoulder (which may or may not be related to the neck stiffness he felt two starts back). After all, he only threw 53 1/3 innings between the Minors and Majors last season and just 93 1/3 innings over the last three years. He’s already thrown 81 2/3 innings this year. Definitely something to track going forward.
- Jake Westbrook is still dealing with elbow soreness, so his setback has set him back even further. He did not throw his bullpen session today, and it’s been postponed indefinitely. Wedge guessed that it will be at least a few days before the Indians consider having Westbrook throw again. Westbrook has had an MRI that revealed no structural damage, so that’s encouraging. But until the soreness dies down, don’t look for him to boosting the rotation any time soon.
- Wedge remains upset with Jhonny Peralta’s approach, both offensive and defensively, but he said he basically had to start Peralta today because Travis Hafner needed a day off and Ben Francisco, who is clearly lost at the plate right now, needed a day, as well. As for Peralta… “He knows how I feel, and I know how he feels,” Wedge said. “The ball’s in his court. He’s a good player when he really commits.”
- Wedge implied that Peralta hasn’t seriously committed to becoming “a very good third baseman.” And though Wedge didn’t say so, I can’t help but wonder if the move to third has had a negative impact on Peralta’s mindset on both sides of the ball.
- Wedge also had some pointed words for catcher Kelly Shoppach. When a guy is striking out at a rate of about once every three plate appearances, it becomes difficult to justify having him in the lineup regularly, no matter what he brings to the table defensively. That’s what Wedge is dealing with regarding Shoppach, who has become the regular catcher not just for Cliff Lee but also Pavano and David Huff. “Kelly makes it tough when he gives away at-bats like that,” Wedge said. “He knows that.”
- On the flip side, Wedge had more glowing things to say about Luis Valbuena. The gist is that if another rookie had the same exact numbers as Valbuena but looked over matched, Wedge would have had him sent down by now. But he feels Valbuena is putting up good at-bats and has shown some “moxie,” so he’s sticking with him.
- The Indians announced the signing of five more Draft picks today, bringing the total number of players signed to nine, including eight from the first 16 rounds. Fifth-round pick Austin Adams (Faulkner University), eighth-round pick Cory Burns (Arizona), ninth-round pick Preston Guilmet (Arizona), 16th-round pick Dale Dickerson (Nicholls State) and 27th-round pick Tyler Sturdevant (New Mexico State) were all inked.
- Travis Hafner is batting .310 (9-for-29) with two doubles, three homers and eight RBIs in eight games since returning from the DL. He feels the rest about every third day and the decrease in the number of swings he takes pregame has helped his right shoulder remain strong. “It’s progressing better than it was two weeks ago,” Hafner said of his shoulder. “Soon, I’ll be able to play three days in a row, and hopefully I’ll build up from there.”
- “Chulkamania” is running wild at Triple-A Columbus. After two scoreless innings in last night’s 10-3 win over Rochester, Vinnie Chulk now has a 0.66 ERA in 12 total appearances covering 13 2/3 innings with the Clippers this season. He’s walked three and struck out 11. He has five straight scoreless outings and hasn’t allowed an earned run in 11 of 12 appearances.
- Left-hander Chuck Lofgren got the start in that win over Rochester, allowing three runs on seven hits over seven innings. It was his fourth start at the Triple-A level.
- Jordan Brown went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and three RBIs. He’s batting .307 with an .859 OPS for the season.
- At Double-A Akron, first baseman Beau Mills has a seven-game hitting streak in which he’s hit .423 (11-for-26) with three doubles, a homer and six RBIs. He’s batting .352 in June to raise his average from .247 to .271.
- Right-hander Trey Haley, the Tribe’s second-round pick in last year’s Draft, is just 18 years old but pitching in a full-season league at Class A Lake County. Over his last three starts, he is 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA. For the season, he is 2-3 with a 5.47 ERA.
Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game will be broadcast on WTAM and STO.
INDIANS (29-38): 2B Jamey Carroll, RF Mark DeRosa, 1B Victor Martinez, DH Shin-Soo Choo, LF Ryan Garko, 3B Jhonny Peralta, SS Luis Valbuena, C Kelly Shoppach, CF Trevor Crowe. LHP David Huff (2-2, 7.39).
BREWERS (36-29): C Jason Kendall, 2B Craig Counsell, LF Ryan Braun, 1B Prince Fielder, RF Corey Hart, CF Mike Cameron, SS J.J. Hardy, DH Mat Gamel, 3B Bill Hall. RHP Jeff Suppan (5-4, 4.48).
"I've been reviewing Darren's internship journal. Doing laundry, mending chicken wire, high tea with a Mr. Newman."
This week, we officially welcome associate reporter Matt O’Donnell into the fold at MLB.com, and he’ll help out on the Tribe beat.
Matt graduated from Ohio University over the weekend, so he’s still got a little Court Street coursing through his blood. And I’m excited to have a fellow Bobcat in the fold.
Previous associates include Andrew Gribble, who is covering Auburn for the Opelika-Auburn News, and the inimitable David Briggs, who is working for the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune. O’Donnell has big shoes to fill — and not just because Briggs is 7-foot-3.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- Eric Wedge had strong words for Jhonny Peralta today. Peralta is batting .249 with a .336 slugging percentage and .340 on-base percentage. He simply has not been driving the ball, as evidenced by his 14 total extra-base hits. Wedge has already benched Peralta for consecutive games twice this season, and he’s contemplating doing so a third time. “He’s got to get his head straight,” Wedge said. “Jhonny’s not a baby anymore. He’s been up here five or six years. He’s going to have to figure it out. I don’t want to keep seeing the same thing day after day.”
- Luis Valbuena, owner of a .179 average, is not only a regular, but now (or today, at least) he’s batting leadoff. Wedge wanted to give Jamey Carroll a day off, and he didn’t want to move the struggling Ben Francisco (5-for-42) back to leadoff. So Valbuena gets the job for the night. Wedge said he liked seeing Valbuena work two walks off Dave Bush last night, and he’s talked the past week about how his at-bats are better than the stats indicate. “I don’t look at the numbers,” Wedge said. “This is a good opportunity to get him up there. It could be a good shot in the arm for him.”
- Wedge railed against two areas that bother him about this ballclub — the walks (an astonishing 261 and counting) and the strikeouts with runners on third and less than two out. “I’m tired of talking about it and tired of seeing it,” Wedge said.
- The pies in the face worked in ’07. Maybe the championship belt will work in ’09. WWE’s Jerry “The King” Lawler delivered a replica belt to the clubhouse today, at Travis Hafner’s request. It will go to the player voted “player of the game” after each win. Whoever wins the belt the most over the remainder of the season gets to keep it all winter. More on this important development in this story on Indians.com.
- Head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff said Grady Sizemore will begin taking batting practice and making throws from the outfield this weekend in Chicago. If his left elbow tolerates that well, he could avoid arthroscopic surgery. We’ll see how it goes.
- LHP Scott Lewis makes his second rehab start tonight, getting the nod for Double-A Akron.
- Victor Martinez drove in his 500th run last night and hit his 99th homer. He’s now second in the AL in batting average, with a .341 mark.
- Hafner’s three-hit game last night was his second of the season after not having a three-hit game in all of ’08. His seven total bases equaled a season high.
- How about the news on Mel Hall? Terrible.
Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game will be broadcast on WTAM and STO.
Refresh my memory. Was this the Opening Day lineup?
INDIANS (29-37): SS Luis Valbuena, 3B Mark DeRosa, C Victor Martinez, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 1B Ryan Garko, DH Travis Hafner, LF Chris Gimenez, CF Ben Francisco, 2B Josh Barfield. LHP Jeremy Sowers (1-3, 5.10).
BREWERS (35-29): 2B Casey McGehee, 3B Bill Hall, LF Ryan Braun, 1B Prince Fielder, RF Corey Hart, CF Mike Cameron, DH Mat Gamel, SS J.J. Hardy, C Jason Kendall. RHP Yovani Gallardo (6-3, 2.88).
Where do you come out on jinxes?
When Cliff Lee was hurling a no-no last night, I’m assuming you didn’t let the words “no-hitter” come out of your mouth. But how far did you take the superstition? Did you refuse to leave your seat or adjust the volume on the TV for fear that the slightest alteration in viewing experience would negatively impact Clifton Phifer?
People get antsy when no-hitters and perfect games are on the line, especially people directly affiliated with a ballclub. So there were some players who were quite a bit of a surprised when the operators of the jumbotron at Progressive Field decided, just before the start of the eighth inning, to flash a graphic noting that the last perfect game in Tribe history was Len Barker’s May 15, 1981, gem against the Blue Jays.
Well, as it turns out, the graphic was a scripted part of the Indians’ weekend celebration of all things ’80s. It was scheduled to run regardless of what Lee had going on.
I’m not a big believer in jinxes, but maybe this would have been a good time to deviate from the script. Or maybe Lee shouldn’t have left a changeup over the plate. Either way.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- Jake Westbrook’s rehab is on hold. In the first setback Westbrook has had since his Tommy John ligament replacement surgery one year ago, the Indians appear to have scrapped previous plans to have him make his third rehab start Wednesday. Westbrook is still dealing with some soreness in his right elbow from after his start Friday for Double-A Akron. He played catch today and is tentatively scheduled to throw a bullpen session Wednesday. No word on when the Indians are now targeting that third start to take place, but this would obviously push back Westbrook’s big league return.
- Grady Sizemore had an MRI on his sore left elbow today, and the results were positive enough that the Indians had Sizemore play catch out to 60 feet and take dry swings with the bat. These are his first baseball activities since he went on the DL on May 31. The Indians still won’t know if Sizemore’s elbow will require surgery until he continues to increase his baseball activities and they see how his elbow responds. They don’t even know what his schedule is for tomorrow yet, because they want to see how he responds from today’s action.
- Aaron Laffey’s rehab assignment will begin Thursday, when he’ll throw three innings in a start for Triple-A Columbus. The Indians are building Laffey, working his way back from a right oblique strain, back up as a starter. He could be back within a couple weeks.
- The Indians announced the signing of four of their 2009 Draft picks today. First baseman Ben Carlson (Sixth Round, Missouri State), right-hander Brett Brach (10th Round, Monmouth), left-hander Kirk Wetmore (11th Round, Bellevue Community College) and infielder Kyle Smith (14th Round, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo).
- I caught some flack for writing this article about Yadier Molina’s double and whether or not Choo could have made the play. It was not an opinion piece. It was a simple statement of fact that there was debate — both in the press box and in the Indians’ clubhouse and, I can only imagine, among many of you – as to whether or not Choo made the best of efforts to catch that ball. And I felt the debate was strong enough that it necessitated a short separate story.
- If you want my opinion on the matter, I don’t think Choo could have realistically made the catch, given how shallow he played, but I definitely think he could have made a better effort to get a glove on it at the wall. The replay is linked to the story, if you’d like to judge for yourself.
- According to Elias Sports Bureau, no Indians pitcher had taken a no-hit bid into the eighth inning since CC Sabathia did so at Detroit on April 7, 2002. Lee would have been the first reigning Cy Young Award winner to throw a no-hitter since Bob Gibson did it for the Cardinals on Aug. 14, 1971, against the Pirates.
- Lee now has a 2.07 ERA over his last 12 starts.
- The Indians are 15-11 since May 20.
- Don’t forget about the American Red Cross blood drive taking place on Gateway Plaza before tomorrow night’s game.
- Choo was playing with a yo-yo before tonight’s game. He can do the “around the world” and the “rock the cradle.” In my book, that’s talent.