February 2011

"I've never seen a beautiful lady reading 'The Guide'"

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The printed word has no doubt lost some luster, thanks to modern technology (just ask the good folks at Borders), but count me among those who still enjoy the annual release of the media guide.
When you’re covering a team, the media guide is always along for the ride, there to provide quick and easy access to Jayson Nix’s career OBP when you’re unable (or too lazy) to access a wireless signal.
But the media guide has plenty other information, much of it oft-ignored. If you’re around a ballclub on a daily basis, much of the biographical information available in the guide becomes known through basic human interaction. However, as I flipped through the Indians’ 2011 guide while bored out of my mind on the flight out of Phoenix over the weekend, it occurred to me that this 474-page tome contains quite a few nuggets that might not be common knowledge to the common fan.
With that said, here is a very special edition of CastroTurf:
EXCRUCIATING MEDIA GUIDE MINUTIAE…
  • Fausto Carmona’s favorite movie is “Major League II.” Not “Major League,” mind you. “Major League II.” 
  • During his undergrad days, GM Chris Antonetti spent a year and a half as a student manager for the Georgetown men’s basketball team, working for head coach John Thompson Jr.
  • Assistant GM Mike Chernoff’s father, Mark, is the vice president of programming at WFAN in New York City.
  • I’m not sure why, but this has been a favorite media guide entry of mine for several years: Shin-Soo Choo’s favorite music is listed as “soft contemporary.” I smell an endorsement contract with WDOK on the horizon.
  • Carlos Carrasco, meanwhile, likes country music. Keith Urban’s huge in Venezuela.
  • Hitting coach Jon Nunnally’s nickname when he was a player with the Royals was “The Flying Nuns.” OK, this info isn’t in the media guide, but it ought to be.
  • shawshank.jpgTrevor Crowe, David Huff and Lou Marson all list “The Shawshank Redemption” as their favorite movie. Would you believe me if I told you I never saw “The Shawshank Redemption” until a couple weeks ago? Just never got around to it. In fact, I even toured the Mansfield prison where the movie was shot (during an Indians Press Tour stop) long before I even saw the movie. Naturally, the movie is as phenomenal as I expected. Worth the wait.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum (though still great), Matt LaPorta and Vinnie Pestano both list “Dumb and Dumber” as their favorite film.
  • Scouting director Brad Grant’s sister is married to Lee MacPhail IV, the director of professional scouting for the Orioles, great-grandson of Hall of Fame executive Larry MacPhail, grandson of Hall of Fame executive Lee MacPhail and nephew of O’s GM Andy MacPhail. 
  • Jared Goedert’s father, Joe, holds the single-season batting average record for Cloud County Community College. He hit .510! I don’t use many exclamation points, but felt it necessary here.
  • While at the University of Washington, Nick Hagadone and Tim Lincecum combined on a no-hitter against Santa Clara in 2006.
  • Hagadone’s wife’s name is Pesarakphorn. No, a cat did not just walk across my keyboard. That’s her real name. I double-checked with the PR department. I’ve written here before about how people always butcher my last name, but I can only imagine what poor Mrs. Hagadone has had to go through over the years. Anyway, they got married over the winter, so congrats to the happy couple.
  • In addition to appearing on “The Amazing Race,” third-base coach Steve Smith was inducted into the Pepperdine Hall of Fame last year. He was also first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr.’s manager at Beaumont, Wichita and Las Vegas from 1986-89.
  • van.jpgFrank Herrmann likes “The Godfather,” Van “The Man” Morrison and “Seinfeld.” Check, check, check.
  • Speaking of “The Godfather,” Crowe is the godfather of Jordan Brown’s son, Mason.
  • Before coming to Cleveland, Dan Smith, the Tribe’s vice president of food and beverage, served as GM of the House of Blues in New Orleans. I’m only including this note because it simultaneously makes me hungry and brings back extremely pleasant memories of my 21st birthday weekend.
  • Huff has a new tattoo of a samurai slaying a three-headed dragon, with Japanese letters that translate to “The Silent Assassin.” Again, not in the guide, but ought to be.
  • I’ve mentioned here once or twice that Raffy Perez is probably the most elusive guy in the clubhouse, from a media standpoint. So I find it fitting that this is the full extent of the “personal/miscellaneous” section of his bio: “Single… resides in Santo Domingo, DR.” Enlightening.
  • Newly signed reliever Chad Durbin obviously isn’t in the guide. So I’ll take it upon myself to provide this nugget about the Durbster. Back when he was with the Tribe in ’04, the Illinois native guided the Chicago Cubs to video game glory. I can’t remember which game, exactly. MLB High Heat, maybe? Anyway, that’s not important. What’s important is that Durbin acquired himself to pitch for the Cubs, and he made himself the fifth starter. Not the ace. The fifth starter. Humble guy, that Durbin. Good to see him back in the fold. 
  • OK, now I’m getting completely off-track from the media guide stuff, but I must include this note, as well: Also in ’04, myself and former Indians PR intern Jeremy Martin were rooting for a game in which Chad Durbin gets the win, Scott Stewart gets the save and Rob Deer comes out of retirement to hit the big home run, only because the Indians.com headline could have been “One Durbin, One Scott, One Deer,” with a tip of the cap to George Thorogood. Maybe now that Durbin’s joining a bullpen coached by Scott Radinsky, this can still happen, somehow. Just need a Deer.
  • All right, back to the guide… Radinsky is the lead singer of the alternative punk rock band, Pulley, and was formerly the front man for Ten Foot Pole. He owns a skateboard park in bronxtale.jpgSimi Valley, Calif. Radinsky might be the coolest guy in baseball, and that’s saying something.
  • This will make some of you feel old: Mike Hargrove has eight grandchildren.
  • LaPorta’s favorite TV show is “Swamp People.” I have no idea what that is, but color me intrigued.
  • Chris Perez majored in criminology at Miami.
  • And finally… Manny Acta’s favorite movie is “A Bronx Tale.” Well done, Manuel. A classic film. So classic that my uncle uses “bronxtale” as his computer password. For my money, there are few bits of movie dialogue better than the one delivered by Robert De Niro when he gives his young son, Calogero, the “working man is the tough guy” speech. And then, of course, you have “A Bronx Tale’s” greatest contribution to our society – spreading the gospel of The Door Test. I’ve employed this test multiple times in my life, and suffice to say it works. (My
    wife, naturally, passed The Test… otherwise she wouldn’t be my wife.) Great movie. And I didn’t know it was Manny’s favorite until I read the media guide.

~AC

PS: In case you missed it, here’s my column on Grady Sizemore’s ongoing recovery from microfracture surgery.

"Dream beneath the desert sky"

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Greetings from the Valley of the Sun, otherwise known as the Land of Traffic Cameras.
I’m taking short-term residence in the posh Hotel del Bastian for the next few days, visiting a few Phoenix-area Spring Training sites — including, of course, the Tribe’s spring safehold here in Goodyear. And with Jordan getting a rare day off, beating his drum and donning his coonskin cap somewhere atop the Estrella Mountains, I figured I’d help provide you with your daily helping of all things Indians.
It’s worth noting that upon touchdown at the Sky Harbor Airport, I headed straight to the Giants’ camp in Scottsdale for a bit before heading west to Goodyear, where a Manny Acta interview session awaited. So if you’re wondering how far the Indians are from being a championship club, I can tell you — about 45 minutes or so, traffic dependant.
With that said, let’s roll.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
  • Grady Sizemore. Grady Sizemore. Grady Sizemore. It’s the No. 1 rule of Indians coverage at this juncture. If you write Grady Sizemore’s name, people – even non-Indians fans… and especially fantasy baseball folks — will read it. (I mean, at least, I hope so… I am here, in part, to do a Grady column, after all). So I’m going to lead off with some Grady Sizemore news. He is… wait for it… ahead of schedule in his rehab, in that the Indians are overjoyed with the way he’s swinging the bat, given all the time missed. “If you could have a designated runner for him right now,” Acta said, “he’d be in the lineup.” (IMPORTANT NOTE: This doesn’t, of course, mean he’s ahead of schedule in every other facet of baseball. Just hitting. I didn’t make that distinction clear enough, initially. Count me among the highly skeptical that we’ll be seeing Sizemore before mid-April, at the absolute earliest.)
  • grady.jpgBut you know the line on Sizemore: The fearless (reckless?) way he approaches the game is what led to his downfall (I’ve already taken to comparing him to Billy Mumphrey, in that regard). So as he progresses in his rehab from a rare surgical procedure, he’ll simultaneously have to learn to rein himself in, where appropriate. “Right now, we’re in a dangerous spot, because he’s swinging the bat so well,” Acta said. “We don’t want him to get overly excited and do something that’s not going to be in his best interests.”
  • It will certainly be interesting to see if two years’ worth of injuries affect Sizemore’s style, once he is in the lineup. I asked Shin-Soo Choo, who returned from Tommy John surgery in 2008, about that process, and he said, “When I came back, I didn’t worry about sliding or anything. You can’t control anything. You can’t worry about injury and play scared or afraid.”
  • Kenny Lofton arrived today as an Old Guy Teaching the Young Kids – a Spring Training specialty. You’d have to imagine Lofton would be a good influence on a young player like Michael Brantley, who is learning how to make the most of his speed and developing as a potential leadoff man. “Kenny participated in our baserunning lecture [Wednesday morning],” Acta said. “Kenny and Eduardo Perez have already made an impact in our camp. They’re full of energy and knowledge. They’re part of that group of players that not only had good careers at Major League level but have a lot of savvy they can pass on. Kenny, in his first day, right away made an impact.”
  • Beware anybody who offers assurances, positive or negative, about a Major League bullpen. Nobody really knows what they’re talking about. That’s why it helps to have depth, and this is one area where – on paper, at least – the Indians possess such a luxury. Acta was asked if he thinks there’s such a thing as “momentum” carrying over from one season to the next for a bullpen. After all, Tribe relievers posted a 2.95 ERA after the All-Star break last year – the second-lowest such mark in the AL and the fourth-lowest in MLB. “I think the offseason can stop any momentum, because it’s four months of inactivity,” Acta said. “Confidence [carries over]. Guys were pretty dominant in the second half, and they feel pretty good about themselves. I just don’t see them backing down right now.”
  • As written here and elsewhere, the first five spots in the ‘pen are assured to the Perezes, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith and Jensen Lewis. It’s a traffic jam in the mix for the last two spots -http://www.indians.com- Frank Herrmann, Vinnie Pestano, Josh Judy, Justin Germano and Zach Putnam are among those getting consideration. You also have to factor in Josh Tomlin, Aaron Laffey and even Anthony Reyes, if they don’t land a rotation job. “I feel I have about 10 [relievers] I can count on,” Acta said. “It’s going to be an interesting competition. You can say that five guys are probably in there, but those other guys… Herrmann pitched well for us and so did Germano. So did Pestano. And then the way Judy threw the ball in Triple-A, that gives another guy we feel can come up and help us out.”
  • Acta said non-roster invitee Bryce Stowell, who posted a 5.49 ERA in 17 appearances at Columbus last season after blowing past Double-A competition, is not competing for an Opening Day job. “He’s made big strides in our system,” Acta said. “But Bryce knows he has work to do with his secondary pitches and command of his fastball.”
  • And Reyes? Really? The guy has plenty to prove, considering he made just eight starts in ’09 before blowing out his elbow and having Tommy John performed, costing him essentially all of 2010. The Indians consider him a viable rotation candidate, but today, to my knowledge, was the first time he’s been mentioned as a potential bullpen candidate. Acta quickly admitted the Indians would have to be careful with how they use him in a relief role, if it comes to that. “We’re going to find out in Spring Training,” Acta said. “But if you have a guy like him in the bullpen, you have to take [his elbow history] into consideration. You’re not going to be getting him up and down, up and down, up and down.”
  • Closer Chris Perez had his ups and downs very early in 2010 but he righted himself with improved command of his fastball and slider as the year progressed. From June 18 on, his ERA was 0.96. It was 0.53 from June 28 on. “Repetition,” Acta said. “That’s what makes people better in the game. Last year was basically the first opportunity this guy had to pitch consistently at the big league level. Even when he wasn’t closing games for us, he was still the most important guy in our bullpen. He was the guy that was a bridge to our closer. Even when season started, he was closing games [when Kerry Wood was on the DL]. The fact that he was able to go out there three times a week, that helped.” Perez is working on a changeup this spring. Acta said that would be a “huge” weapon for him.
  • If the Indians do, indeed, go with five right-handed starters, then you have to like Laffey’s chances of landing in the ‘pen as a long man. “Last year, we started with that,” Acta said. “It can help us, especially in our division. It helps to have a left-hander with some length in the bullpen, based off all those right-handed starters we have.”
  • Looking forward to seeing the Jason Donald Experiment at third base. Donald is
    one of my personal favorites in the clubhouse. A true gamer/grinder/whatever buzzword Eric Wedge would use for guys who put the team first and uniform cleanliness second. I have, however, voiced some concerns about him as a third baseman, but the reports, thus far, have been positive. “His footwork and his clock from third have been really good,” Acta said. “We’re excited. Workouts are not the same as game speed. We’ll wait and see. We like what we see.”
  • The Indians will see some semblance of game speed tomorrow, when they have their first intrasquad game at Goodyear Ballpark. First pitch is set for 10:45 a.m. local time. Jeanmar Gomez gets the start for Sarby’s Sour Balls (coached by Mike Sarbaugh), opposite Justin Masterson of Smitty’s American Racers (coached by Steve Smith). Another intrasquad is scheduled for Friday here at the complex, where Carlos Carrasco and Mitch Talbot will get the starting nods.
  • My good friend and MLB.com comrade Jesse “Save the Money” Sanchez was here today to profile Carrasco. Be sure to check that out on Indians.com later.
  • Tomorrow’s game will be followed by a charity golf outing with the Reds. Acta will be among those hacking up the local links. Choo won’t be taking part, though he will be receiving his first set of golf clubs tomorrow. Mizuno offered him a personalized set of clubs. Choo said he’s planning to try to discover his inner Y.E. Yang next offseason.
~AC

"The writing's on the wall, come read it, come see what it say"

The U.S. dollar might be worth less than the Canadian dollar and the SI Swimsuit Issue might have been lapped by the Victoria’s Secret catalogue, but you know what hasn’t lost value over the years?
Opening Day roster predictions, made six weeks in advance of Opening Day.
These haven’t lost value, because they never had all that much value to begin with.
So let’s take an early stab at the Indians’ Opening Day roster, shall we?
Starting pitchers (5): Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco, Mitch Talbot, Jeanmar Gomez

Comment: The only undecided spot here is the fifth. Obviously, there’s still a chance of the Tribe bringing in a veteran on a Minor League deal. For now, I’m picking Gomez to beat out Josh Tomlin, David Huff and Anthony Reyes. And I’ll admit I have absolutely no basis for this prediction other than my own opinion that Gomez flashed pretty good stuff at the Major League level last year, while Tomlin perhaps reminded me too much of a right-handed Jeremy Sowers, Huff was a trainwreck and Reyes is too much of a question mark after so much missed time due to injury. Then again, Tomlin threw strikes and turned in more consistent results than Gomez. And now I’m about 45 seconds into thinking about this fifth spot, and, frankly, I’m already bored. Let’s face it: Whoever claims the fifth spot has absolutely no guarantee of being in the rotation all of April and May, let alone all season, so why worry about it? Maybe they’ll throw David Huff a bone and forgive him for his Twitter travails, because, when all is said and done, his stuff is on par with that of the others and he’s left-handed. This rotation needs a little of that, in case you haven’t noticed.
Relief pitchers (7): Chris Perez, Raffy Perez, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith, Jensen Lewis, Vinnie Pestano, Aaron Laffey.

Comment: The first four guys here are obvious, and Lewis is out of options and newly signed so he’s aboard. The last two spots are question marks. The Indians like Pestano, and for good reason, as he was dominant in Columbus and looked comfortable last September. I think they’ll keep him around. I’m including Laffey here because of the aforementioned lack of a lefty in the rotation and the possible need for a lefty long man out of the ‘pen. That could change, particularly if the Indians like what they see from Laffey as a starter this spring. It would appear that, between the aforementioned No. 5 spot candidates and Alex White, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister, the Columbus rotation spots are pretty well spoken for. That’s one reason I can’t help but imagine Laffey returning to relief, but I’ve certainly been wrong before.
Catchers (2): Carlos Santana and Lou Marson.

Comment: Not sure it makes much sense to have Lou Marson, who was anything but Larrupin’ at the plate last year, playing a part-time role in the bigs when he could be getting everyday at-bats in Columbus and improving his offensive game. So I could just as easily see the Tribe going with Luke Carlin or Paul Phillips. That said, the No. 2 guy here will get a little more playing time than your average backup backstop, given that Santana will be at first once or twice a week. Marson, for all his struggles last year, has more offensive upside than those other guys, and he works well with the pitching staff.
Infielders (5): Matt LaPorta, Orlando Cabrera, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jayson Nix, Jason Donald.

Comment: LaPorta’s locked in at first, and his performance will largely dictate the success of this season, from a developmental/rebuild standpoint. (Unless the Indians have plans to make a bid for Pujols or something.) Asdrubal’s at short and must stay healthy. When I look at the Opening Day outlook for second and third base, let’s just say I’m reminded of that scene in “This Is Spinal Tap” when Marti DiBergi is reading the band some of the reviews of their work. I reasoned through the O. Cabrera signing last week, with the general point being that the Indians just need a little veteran stability on-hand until the likes of Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis and Cord Phelps are ready to crack the big-league roster. Obviously, the hope on the Indians’ part is that those guys break in by year’s end, though you just never know.
For now, it’s looking like O. Cabrera and Donald at second and Nix (who is out of options) and Donald at third. Yes, I think the Indians will give Donald time at both positions, with the thinking that versatility (buzz word alert) adds value. In a stunning(?) upset, Luis Valbuena did not crack my Opening Day lineup. Keep in mind, Manny Acta can also utilize Nix as a sort of poor man’s Casey Blake (and isn’t that saying something?) and give him some time as an extra outfielder, if it comes to that. I mentioned Nix is out of options, which is ultimately why I think the Indians will keep him as part of their inventory, if only for a few weeks or months. That doesn’t mean I think he’s going to last at the hot corner. Given that he’s a couple years younger than Nix and more likely to be a part of this roster long-term, Donald might make more sense for the Indians at third, but his participation at the position is completely experimental at this juncture, so I have a hard time predicting he’ll win the job outright.
I’m going to cut myself off there, because, when you get down to the heart of the matter, not one part of me firmly believes in any of the above as the long-term, everyday answers at second or third. So for now, let the Indians place some warm bodies in those spots, even if those bodies happen to be playing out of their natural position. There are development and service time issues that will keep Chisenhall and Kipnis (and, to a lesser degree, Phelps) from cracking the big league roster in the season’s first two months, and a little early spring speculation won’t change that.
Outfield (5): Austin Kearns, Michael Brantley, Shin-Soo Choo, Trevor Crowe, Shelley Duncan.

Comment: I don’t see any point in rushing Sizemore, who played just 33 games last year and isn’t expected in Cactus games until mid-March, merely for the feel-good story of him being in the Opening Day lineup. I see him on something resembling the Russell Branyan schedule of a year ago, joining the team in mid- to late-April (and no, this doesn’t mean I see him traded by June). In the meantime, you’ve got Kearns in left and Brantley in center, which should look familiar. Acta likes the athleticism and speed Crowe can bring off the bench and the help Duncan can contribute against lefties. 
DH (1): Travis Hafner
Comment: Meet the 2011 Pronk, same as the 2010 Pronk. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the chronic shoulder issue could have completely erased his contributions to the lineup, rather than just drastically diminishing them.

"Stuck in the middle with you"

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

orlandocabrera.jpgHey, look, the Indians did something.

Just as the electricity of the Austin Kearns signing was dying down, the club reportedly reached agreement with infielder Orlando Cabrera on a Major League contract today.

I like this move, not because the new Cabrera will light up the lineup (78 OPS+ for the Reds last year… yowza) but because, in case you haven’t noticed, there is a great deal of uncertainty and instability in the Tribe’s infield this year, and a guy like Cabrera – a veteran of six postseason clubs – can be a stabilizing force, regardless of how impactful his offensive numbers may be.

A couple years ago, while talking to the Chicago Tribune, Cabrera summed up his role in this game.

“My whole career,” he said, “I was brought into places when they have something to fix. And once the problem is fixed, they move me on because someone else requires my service.”

So, what are the Indians fixing?

Well, for starters, this Cabrera can spell the other at short, and that’s important.

Asdrubal Cabrera has had some durability issues (not that any of us wouldn’t have had durability issues if Jhonny Peralta smacked into our forearm). It’s encouraging that Asdrubal is taking his conditioning more seriously than he once did, but the Indians have been wise to avoid any talks about a long-term extension with him until he can actually get through a full season without any issues with his performance or his body. His range at short had diminished quite a bit upon his return from the forearm fracture last year. Whether that was related to the return from the injury or is a serious cause for concern is something we’ll have a better feel for once Spring Training ends.

(By the way, if I’m Asdrubal, I’m a little perturbed by this move… no player wants to have to put his first initial on his jersey to differentiate himself from his teammate of the same surname.)

Orlando Cabrera also takes some of the instability out of the second base picture. Jason Donald gets points for the consistency he displayed in his rookie season. He never went through any prolonged rut, and he is clearly a determined gamer who wants to prove himself as an everyday player. But there is a very real possibility that Donald’s bat (.690 OPS in 88 games last year; .711 in 98 games at the Triple-A level) will ultimately suit more into a utility role. Donald has also endured his share of injuries at a young age, and the Indians must take that into consideration at this juncture.

Donald and Cabrera will both vie for time at second. Luis Valbuena? I won’t even go there.

Count me among the skeptical that Donald has the arm to play third (and Cabrera has never played there). It still seems to me that Jayson Nix is the favorite to land the most opportunity at the hot corner. We shall see.

But if you think Jason Kipnis is likely to win the second base job outright this spring, you haven’t been paying much attention to the methodical way the Indians do things. Kipnis just transitioned to second base a year ago, and his only Triple-A experience came in the International League playoffs last fall. He’ll be Columbus-bound.

So given all this youth, uncertainty and instability, the Indians made a wise move in bringing in a veteran stopgap. One who clearly is understanding of his role as a fixer.

~AC

"Nobody wins unless everybody wins"

Judging by some of the e-mails and tweets I received today, I seem to have annoyed quite a few Indians fans with my take on MLB’s parity, relative to that of the NFL.
I hear you, Indians fan. I’m with you. I feel you. We are simpatico.
You look at your Tribe team, entering 2011 with a bare-bones payroll and seemingly little hope of contending, and you know that the game’s grand economic inequities have caught up with Cleveland once again. All the big names developed in the Indians’ system had to be shipped elsewhere because they were due to cash in through free agency. 
It’s a story we’ve discussed in this space once or twice.
You also look at the broader scope of the game and note that the more teams spend, the better their odds to contend. This is indisputable.
So, yeah, baseball’s unfair. It’s been unfair as long as I can remember. If MLB operated like the NFL, the Indians might have maneuvered a way to keep their stars and build a playoff dynasty. Instead, the Indians lost those guys and, on top of that, they didn’t draft well. So now they find themselves among the Royals and Pirates of the world, trying to claw their way back to coherence on a limited budget.
It’s harder to claw in baseball than it is in the NFL. This is indisputable also. The player development process is painfully slow, and free agency is expensive and inefficient.
I get all that. To spend five years covering the Indians and not get that would make me the Hector Luna of beat guys.
But that wasn’t the point of the piece.
My point (apparently, not-so-well-articulated) is that, for all its economic faults, baseball has seen a remarkable amount of unpredictability in terms of playoff participants from year to year. Though you would think otherwise when you listen to talking heads or the casual fan, payroll alone doesn’t dictate the postseason lineup (three of last year’s eight postseason clubs ranked in the bottom 12 in Opening Day payroll, and only two of the top nine payrolls made it). And contrary to popular perception, baseball’s unpredictability in this regard rivals what we see in the NFL.
Is it easier or more efficient to build and sustain a great team — even in a small market — in the NFL? You better believe it (although you wouldn’t know it, watching the Browns operate). NFL teams can draft talent that directly impacts the team the following season, and the NFL has a salary cap and non-guaranteed contracts that ensure more bang for the buck and less chance of an albatross like Travis Hafner hanging around.
But that doesn’t mean the NFL is infinitely less predictable than MLB, when it comes to a preseason prognostication on who might participate in the playoffs and, therefore, get a shot at the title. The stats in the column back that up.
Baseball is actually trending toward more unpredictability. Over the last four years, 24 NFL teams (50 percent of the available spots) have reached the playoffs in consecutive seasons, and only 12 (37.5 percent) have done so in MLB. My suspicion (and I readily admit I could be wrong) is that, as MLB gets younger in the wake of the steroid era, we could see more and more instances of teams in the lower half of the payroll totem pole — teams like the Reds, Rangers and Rays in 2010 — make it to October. For the good of the game, I hope I’m right.
I’m not arguing that MLB has more economic parity. It’s painfully clear such a thing is nonexistent in baseball. I’m arguing that those who dismiss baseball as a sport in which only the big spenders survive aren’t paying attention. The stats demonstrate that, in both sports, a broad range of teams contribute to the playoff pool (a pool that is significantly wider in the NFL, which allows 12 teams in). In baseball, if you draft and develop well, you can put together a club that outplays its payroll and legitimately contends. But if you don’t, the penalties are harsher than they are in any other major professional sport.
That’s where the frustration sets in. And Tribe fans know that frustration as well as anybody.
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