Thursday, August 31, 2006

Welcome to the Fold

If you read any add for an investment fund, there is a boilerplate statement in small type warning that past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. Indeed, particularly when applied to the Indians and particularly when it comes to handicapping the chances of next year's team.

We've been pointing out in as many ways possible that this team was doomed from the outset because of the penny-pinching ways of owners Larry & Paul Dolan. They forced GM Mark Shapiro to make moves to benefit the Dolans and their dwindling bank accounts at the expense of a competitive team for the fans.

To that we welcome Plain Dealer columnist Bud Shaw to the fold. In his column in this morning's Plain Dealer, Shaw attempts to dump the same sort of cold water on the fans as we've been trying to splash them with repeatedly. As Shaw points out today don't get too excited about the recent success of the Tribe, even after sweeping the sinking Toronto Blue Jays and coming off an 18 win 10 loss month. To the ultimate apologist, say someone like WTAM's Mike Trivisonno or Kevin Keane, this amounts to something to build on. To the ultimate realist, like Bud Shaw or us, this is something not be fooled by.

We've noted, as does Shaw, that the Tribe has some legitimate top-line players who would fit well on any team. That's not exactly unique insight. But we've also noted that this team has numerous holes in it and stringing together a few wins this late in the season is hardly reason to get excited. Shaw's spin on it is that "ownership must turn fans on to something more than the promise of Ryan Garko and the grit of Joe Inglett if this August optimism is going to have any shelf life," a sentiment with which we could hardly disagree.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Maybe It's Her Integrity

Notes From a Busy Sports Weekend

We chuckled, again, at an item in Roger Brown's increasingly idiotic column in this morning Plain Dealer. According to the laziest working man in all of sports, Channel 19's house joke Sharon Reed has scored, in Roger's words, the juicy assignment as ring announcer for an upcoming boxing card in the Flats. Muses Roger "give Reed her due: She's a news anchor, yet she somehow consistently lands juicier sports assignments than Channel 19's actual sportscasters. Last season, Reed was the TV sideline reporter on Cavs regular-season and Browns exhibition games."

We like it when Roger purposely misses the point in order to stroke a source. Even if we can suspend reality and assume that the ring announcer at a Flats boxing card in mid-September qualifies as a juicy assignment, does anyone doubt that the only reason Reed landed the assignment (or any outside assignment for that matter) is the distinct possibility that she may perform it in the nude? Stated differently, does anyone even want to contemplate a naked Channel 19 sports anchor David Pingalore?


We've been rolling around in our mind Sheldon Ocker's comment in yesterday's Beacon Journal that the Indians shouldn't break the bank in order to sign a closer next year. The knee jerk reaction is to wonder whether Sheldon is even watching the games anymore. But Ocker has been around the block more times than Sharon Reed at her high school reunion, so we think it's best not overreact to what seems like an absurd statement.

On close inspection, we need to keep in mind that Ocker is talking about the closer role specifically and not the bullpen generally. And while not offering much analysis, we can't help thinking that in the back of Ocker's mind is the fact that the Indians squandered away the opportunity to vastly improve their bullpen this last offseason because they were so focused on finding a successor to closer Bob Wickman.

In the final analysis, it does seem to make little sense to spend wildly on the closer role, particularly if your team is owned by renowned cheapskates like the Dolans who will make GM Mark Shapiro make the Hobson's choice of spending the limited dollars available on a closer or on depth in the other bullpen slots. As we saw this season, Wickman's effectiveness was hardly the problem. It was the fact that the bridge between the starters and Wickman was more rickety than Sharon Reed's flagging credibility. And this was attributable directly to the fact that Shapiro was so obsessed with getting Trevor Hoffman that he let Bob Howry slip out of town rather than give him a three-year contract.

So maybe Ocker's right. But we think he's right for all the wrong reasons. According to Ocker, history is replete with teams turning failed starters into serviceable closers. While true, this reminds of us former Browns GM Ernie Accorsi's admonition that it is a waste to use high draft picks on offensive linemen. That may be true in any number of cases, but we don't believe it's true generally. And even if true generally, from a Browns fan perspective, a plethora of injured quarterbacks and ineffective running and passing games tells us otherwise. We simply think that Ocker is right because the Indians aren't close to being a contender anyway. They have numerous holes to fill and not enough money in one offseason to do it. Maybe not even two. Given the options that the Dolans lay out, it's better for Shaprio to spend the limited money he has on rebuilding the rest of the bullpen first and continuing to experiment with the closer role. We won't be a contender anytime soon anyway.


We saw that Fausto Carmona was sent back to AAA Buffalo for reprogramming. It turns out that a young pitcher with a live arm and no mental make-up to speak of is probably better suited for a starter's role than a closer, at least that's Shapiro's thinking this week.

Our thinking is that the Indians better stop playing Dr. Phibes and develop Carmona properly or else risk losing him forever. Whether Carmona has the rubber arm required of a closer is unknown at this point. What is known, though, is that he has a brain full of gravy at this point and little trust in the organization that's rushed him through the ranks out of desperation. What's also known is that the quickest way to injure a young arm, indeed any arm, is to keep jerking the pitcher around between starter and closer.


We thought it was a rather anti-climatic preseason game for the Browns on Saturday night. Generally, that's about the only game we really care to watch because the starters play more in that game than in any other preseason game. Nonetheless, the rather ho-hum performance, despite the last-second victory, leaves us at least as perplexed about the outlook as we were going in.

About the only definitive conclusion we could draw from Saturday night's game is that we're glad Channel 19 imploded and we weren't left to suffer Sharon Reed. Beyond that, we are starting to see this former collection of individuals begin to gel into an actual team. We liked what we saw out of Braylon Edwards and the self-proclaimed greatest tight end of all time, Kellen Winslow, Jr. And Jerome Harrison is a legitimate threat to Reuben Droughns later in the year. We also think the Browns will be just fine with Charlie Frye at quarterback, if only because he doesn't seemed overwhelmed by the experience. By comparison, watch Ken Dorsey play. He still looks like a guy who got to suit up because some coach lost a bet. He may be a veteran in the loosest sense of the word, but it's clear that he'll never be more than a distant back-up. Stated differently, we'll buy the whole Stadium a dog bone the first time the fans start clammoring for Dorsey.

Today also is cut down day. As of post time, no big names find themselves on the outside looking in. One mild surprise is that newly acquired cornerback Jeremy LeSuer already finds himself on the injured reserve list and lost for the season. No running backs have been cut but there still is one move to make by 4 p.m. tomorrow. The guess is that GM Phil Savage is trying to move one of them. Given Droughns and the emergence of Harrison, whether or not Savage is successful has about as much import as remembering what you had for lunch last Tuesday.

With only one preseason game to go before CBS takes over the regular season and Sharon Reed finds herself back on the sidelines, the only real question right now is whether she'll do the reports naked.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Along Baseball's Scenic Route--Part I

Editor's Note: In honor of Russell Branyan's recent trade from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to the San Diego Padres, and the Padres touting of Branyan's versatility as they prepare for their final stretch run, the author has decided to republish this short story, "Along Baseball's Scenic Route", written shortly after Branyan left the Indians--for the first time.

This is not a true story, but it could be.

I got the chance to strike out Russell Branyan, former part time infielder, part time outfielder, full time strike out king of the Cleveland Indians. There was a lot of pressure on me, by the way, to accomplish this task. I would have lost my house (and, perhaps, my family) had I failed. But more on that in a moment.

This story really starts well before Branyan joined the Indians as a regular. It actually started two seasons ago and with Richie Sexon, Branyan’s apparently twin brother of a different mother.

During the 1999 season, Sexon made a relatively decent splash with the Tribe. He had something like 31 home runs and 116 rbi, but he struck out a bunch, too. And he didn’t just strike out. He did so in a big way. This was great. Baseball needed a new Dave “King Kong” Kingman (1816 strikeouts in 6677 career at bats). We all were growing weary of sluggers who could also hit for average, as if that’s a bad thing. I’m not sure, though, that others paid much attention to the strike outs and I heard not one comparison between Sexon and King Kong. More’s the pity.  The Tribe was playing well, Sexon was hitting home runs and all was well on the corner of Ontario and Carnegie. But another playoff failure and 1999 soon became 2000 and the Tribe was struggling—playing with the kind of mediocre indifference previously only heard on a Goo Goo Dolls album. Like his teammates Sexon stopped hitting home runs and his strikeouts became more obvious. My 8-year-old began to notice. Unknown to me at the time, my journey had officially begun.

I still remember the night. I was over a buddy’s house watching the Tribe. Sexon was up and before I could even lick the foam off a newly poured Bud Light, the count was 0-2. Disgusted, I made the boast for the first time—“This guy is awful. Hell, even I could strike him out.” As idle guy-talk goes, this wasn’t that unusual of a statement. Later, following Sexon’s third strike out of the game I even added: “I guarantee if you gave me 10 chances, I could strike him out. I’d even bet my house on it.” Again, being guys and being half-drunk, no one got more than a little chuckle out of this.

But this stuck with me. Pretty soon, I was saying it every time Sexon breezed through another at bat without advancing a runner. Regrettably, though, Sexon was traded and I lost a foil. Interestingly, it was to Milwaukee, whose dubious past includes the Sexon historical precedent—Gorman Thomas (1339 strikeouts in 4677 career at bats, 268 home runs, a .225 lifetime batting average). He was now Milwaukee’s problem. At last check, he was leading the National League in strikeouts and was near the leaders in home runs, too. Gorman Thomas lives! (Interesting side note: Gorman Thomas played for the Indians, too, striking out 98 times in 371 at bats, but with 17 home runs.)

And then along came Branyan. Now Branyan is no Sexon Not by a long shot. Whereas you could only run, say, two or three Chrysler Town and Country Mini Vans through Sexon’s swing, you can squeeze an extra three or four of them suckers through Branyan’s. But I will give Branyan his due on two counts though—first, when he does connect (which, at this pace, is once every 17 or so at bats) the ball goes a long way, a real long way. Second, he’s creative. When he’s completely frustrated (which, surprinsgly to me was not as often as one would think) he’d try to lay down a bunt. It worked once so of course, being nearly completely out of his element, he’s tried it six or seven times since without even a hint of success. Oh, well. But what he lacks as a polished hitter, he more then makes up for in his lack of fielding skills. He is equally inept in the outfield as the infield. I once saw him play 3rd base at the beginning of the game and left field later in that same game. Made an error at each position. One more pratfall and it could have been a bad Adam Sandler movie, which itself is redundant anyway. In General Manager speak, he’s what they call a 4-tool guy. He can’t hit, he can’t catch, he can’t throw, and he can’t run. It takes a real eye for talent to scout out someone so complete.

Branyan’s big break came at the expense of a real pro, Travis Fryman. Fryman is everything Branyan is not—a gold glove infielder with a decent batting eye. Fryman hurt his elbow in spring training and had to go on the DL.  Branyan would thus start the season as the third baseman for a World Series hopeful—Good God! I was at opening day. I remember leaning over to a buddy of mine from out of town and telling him about the fire and ice that is Branyan. True to his roots his line for the day looked like this: 1-4, with 1 rbi. Looking back, that would be a season highlight. In his next game, he struck out twice and the floodgates opened.

One game turned into 10 and Fryman wasn’t coming back anytime soon. My impatience with Branyan grew by the second. It became especially intense each time Charlie Manuel trotted Branyan back out there. They say that the surest sign of insanity is continuing to do the same thing in the same way but hoping for a different result. I now understand much better why Manuel does the things he does. I also understand why he eventually got fired by the Indians.

Branyan was on a Sexon-like pace—25 home runs, 100+ rbi, a robust .230 average, and the league lead in strikeouts. By the 20th game, I was telling anyone who would listen, which included the 3-year old next door, that I could strike out Branyan. At first, I used the 10-chance barometer I developed with the Sexon. But Branyan had a worse batting eye than Sexon (!) and I lowered it to 5 chances.  After all, Branyan had yet to have an at bat this season in which he did not swing at the first pitch. Every pitcher in the league knew it. He might as well have walked to the plate with an 0-1 count. All you had to be was within the same zip code as home plate with your first pitch and you automatically had Branyan down in the count. Truth be told, in my heart I felt I could strike Branyan out with 1 chance. But owing to the fact that I had never actually pitched before and Branyan was a major leaguer, I kept that thought, thankfully, to myself.

Center of Attention

You're probably thinking that this is just another in a seemingly endless string of stories about the Cleveland Browns problems at center. You'd be wrong. Sure, we noticed that the Browns signed their 83rd center this pre-season and sure we're hoping this one is drug-free.

So then you're thinking that this is probably another column about the Indians and their improbable comeback against the other night against the Kansas City Royals. You'd be wrong, again. Sure, we noticed that on the night that the Royals set a franchise record for most runs scored in the first inning they also set a franchise record for squandering their biggest lead ever. And sure we noticed that manager Buddy Bell is fast approaching personal records for managerial frustration. Some 900 games into his career as a manager with Detroit, Colorado and Kansas City, Bell is a about 150 games under .500 and has a lifetime winning percentage of .422. That's a lot of bad baseball.

But no, this isn't about either. It's about Russell Branyan. Little noticed perhaps was yesterday's news that Branyan was traded by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to the contending San Diego Padres, supposedly to add depth to the Padres. To those of us who know and love Branyan, he's batting a lofty .201 with 12 homers and 27 rbi. Of course, that's what Sportsticker is reporting. What they're not reporting is some of Branyan's other offensive contributions. For example, through 2006, he has played in 600 games and has 659 strikeouts. But it's not just the strikeouts. Consider, for the moment, the enormity of a career on-base percentage of .323 or a lifetime batting average of .229.

But what is amazing is that the Padres gave up two players to get this kind of depth, sending a 23-year old Class A player and, of course, the infamous player to be named later. Sure, the Padres as touting this on their web site as the acquisition of a "versatile" player. It's true that Branyan can play several positions. It's just that he doesn't play them well. His career fielding percentage is .964. But even that is inflated. He's played most of his games at third base where his fielding percentage is .944. Even the Tribe's current butcher, Aaron Boone, has a carrer fielding percentage that is nearly 8 percentage points higher than Branyan. In the outfield, Branyan has a career fielding average of .968. Pick almost any outfielder and you'll find a better fielder. Jose Canseco, who let a ball bounce on his head and over the fence for a home run? .972. Mel Hall? .981. Leon "Daddy Wags" Wagner? .964. You get the point.

The Padres P.R. staff is right, you just can't buy this kind of versatility.

It reminds me of the short story we wrote, which we'll syndicate here, about Russell Branyan. Look for it in installments in future posts.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Lazy Is As Lazy Does

We read with interest and some sadness about the upcoming layoffs at the Beacon Journal in Akron. According to the Beacon's own story, buried as it was in their business section, at least 11 reporters will lose their job. Which got us to thinking, maybe the Plain Dealer can finally find someone, anyone, to take Roger Brown's job.

There is much to gripe about here when it comes to Brown, from his smug mug shot to his catty, almost bitchy demeanor. But the biggest problem, really, is that he's just plain lazy. Today's column in the Plain Dealer is merely exhibit 2384. He muses, for example, that "some folks" are privately wondering whether OSU quarterback Troy Smith can handle the pressure that accompanies the expectations for the Buckeyes and Smith. Well, who exactly are these "folks"? Brown does nothing whatsoever to identify whether its "folks" on the OSU staff or the "folks" who gather at his dry cleaners. The former would be a concern, the latter would be humorous. The more important question is why the empty heads that edit the PD sports pages let Brown get away with such laziness.

But this was hardly the most egregious example in even today's column. We chuckled, for example, at his attempt to somehow pin the Tribe's troubles on the fact that they don't have any former managers (save Joel Skinner who has very limited managerial experience) on their coaching staff. To "prove" his point he notes that playoff contenders such as Oakland, Detroit, San Diego, the Mets and the Yankees all have at least one ex-manager on the coaching staff. Brown surmises that having these kind of "folks" on the staff would supply both Wedge and Shapiro with much needed perspective.

But unless we're wrong, Brown's comment is only true at the moment and not true, generally. As we recall, Buddy Bell served as Wedge's bench coach until called into battle in Kansas City. Mike Hargrove was also back with the Indians for a brief time before landing the Seattle job. But that's the point, isn't it? When the Indians have had former managers on their staff, they've been managers with some viability, which is why they were snatched up by other teams. All of the examples Brown gives are ex-managers who have absolutely no shot at managing again. How having failed washouts on the coaching staff would somehow magically transform the world's worst bullpen remains a mystery to us. But don't look for Brown to explain. That would require analysis, which is in short supply each time his column appears.

Finally, Brown reports that former Akron Hoban running back Tyrell Sutton is becoming the face of Northwestern football as he has been prominently featured on billboards around the Windy City touting season tickets to Wildcats games. If we're not mistaken, and we're not, this item was reported weeks ago in the Beacon Journal. Even Brown must have been embarrassed to "report" this as if it was his own work, given that he placed this item at the end of the column.

Again we ask, why do the empty-headed editors let Brown get away with this kind of laziness? Surely the dwindling subscriber base at the PD deserves better. Surely there is someone being laid off at the Beacon Journal who would actually bring some enterprise to the role that Brown has been asked to serve. If not then surely even blank space where the Brown column formerly appeared would be an improvement.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Predicting the Past

We're always amused to read and listen to prognostications at the beginning of a new sports season. Predicting how a team will do is a meaningless exercise unless your angle is gambling. But like the buzzards returning to Hinckley every Spring, you can count on every newspaper, every televised sports program, and every sports talk radio show to devote an inordinate amount of space and time trying to predict the sporting future.

We note this as the predictions about the Browns are starting to roll in. We heard Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio predict a grand total of 5 wins, based mostly on what they feel is a tough schedule. Most others are predicting that the Browns will improve either one or two games off their six wins last year. To all of this we ask, "who cares?" Getting worked up about what a few folks in the media think is hardly worth the effort it took to write this sentence.

The truth of the matter is that the way the NFL is designed, you can get away with predicting 9-7 for every good team, 8-8 for every mediocre team, and 7-9 for every bad team without doing any research and without embarrasing yourself with among your drinking buddies in the book club. There's no question that some teams will end up doing better, others worse. That's where injuries, arrests and other mid-season distractions come into play. But if there is one thing that's certain, it is that no matter what you think now what will happen will be radically different.

Most thought that the Indians were going to be a playoff team this year. A few of us openly questioned this given how cheapskate owners Larry and Paul Dolan cut the legs out from under GM Mark Shapiro in the off-season. But neither side of the debate foresaw this mess. The same will hold true with the Browns. And that's as far as we want to venture into the prediction business. It will save us both our sanity and our money.

Are You Experienced?

We liked Sheldon Ocker's take this morning in the Beacon Journal on yesterday's Indians victory, especially when we contrasted it to the Plain Dealer's interview with owner Paul Dolan that appeared in the Plain Dealer earlier that day. The curmudgeonly Ocker notes that the grand total of major league experience for the entire Tribe lineup yesterday was 10.6 years. Just hours earlier, Dolan was telling Cleveland fans "We are not in a developmental mode. We're in a compete mode." Which makes us wonder all the more about whether Indians owner Paul Dolan is in denial or actually insane.

Teams in compete mode, like, say, the White Sox, the Tigers, the Twins, the Yankees, the Red Sox, the As, don't sport a line-up in late August where the longest tenured player has a mere 3.8 years of service (Travis Hafner). Teams in compete mode, like, say, the White Sox, the Tigers, the Twins, the Yankees, the Red Sox, the As, aren't on their fourth closer in four weeks. And teams in compete mode, like, say, the White Sox, the Tigers, the Twins, the Yankees, the Red Sox, the As, don't keep lying to their fans about the direction of their team.

We like GM Mark Shapiro, we really do. He's a patient, thoughtful guy. But we won't be surprised if he leaves at the end of the season. Having to come back next season and work for Dolan under these circumstances would be akin to tunneling back into Auschwitz.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Mishandled. Indeed.

If you follow the Indians forum on or have absolutely nothing better to do than to listen to the inane observations of the Larrys from Brunswick that keep local sports talk radio going, then you'd think the Indians either are or should be on the verge of dumping manager Eric Wedge. As we've said before, Wedge is the perfect kind of manager for the "Moneyball" style of baseball club being run by GM Mark Shapiro. That style calls for someone who understands that the field manager is at best a mid-level supervisor in a multi-million dollar operation. In other words, think Lou Pinella and then think the opposite.

For most of his career here, Wedge has had the luxury of flying under the cloud of lowered expectations. He inherited a bad team being slowly rebuilt by Shapiro. And to his credit, Wedge didn't screw it up. Each year, until this year, the team's improved by double digit wins. But of course, there is this year. And while we believe the blame starts with the stench created when cheapskate owners Larry and Paul Dolan cheated the fans by reneging on their commitment to spend once we were competitive, no part of the operation should be safe from scrutiny.

That's why we're surprised that the only criticism Wedge seems to have garnered has been in the internet chat rooms and the outer stretches of local radio. Local media has all but ignored his performance. But that changed this morning with Terry Pluto's column in the Beacon Journal. In measured tones, Pluto ably lays out the case for the mishandling of the highly combustible Fausto Carmona, who amazingly absorbed his fifth loss in the last two weeks.

We think Pluto's right in a narrow sense, but what strikes us most is that in this season of heightened expectations here we are in late August talking not about a key series against Chicago but about how the manager may have mishandled an emotionally fragile rookie unfairly thrust into a closer role because of bad ownership and bad decisions by the GM. Frankly, this is the kind of talk we thought we'd be well past going into the season. Heck, we thought we got past this kind of talk three years ago. But what goes around comes around and whether the bizarrely clueless owners want to admit it or not, we're in rebuilding mode, again.

Maybe Wedge mishandled Carmona. Or maybe Carmona just doesn't possess the mental make-up needed for a relief pitcher. It's an interesting debate but don't resolve that at the expense the bigger picture--this franchise has little chance of returning to the post season under present ownership.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


This is why it's neither healthy nor wise to read signs. In a year in which all the signs seemed to point to better days for the Browns, it's turning out that we may have been through the looking glass at the time. Right is left, up is down, exit is enter and so on.

After surviving last season's palace coup by the nearly forgotten John Collins, GM Phil Savage went about systematically restocking a cupboard that was a few cans of peas from being completely empty. He signed top level free agents, including a pro bowler (LeCharles Bentley) who was just entering his prime. He completed a draft that at this juncture looks to be their best since the Browns returned from their forced hiatus. And to top it off, they basically got all of their players into camp on time and without distraction.

But in other towns, where such signs seem to point to prosperity, in Cleveland they point to despair. Since camp opened the Browns have lost Bentley for the season, seen Bob Hallen, another free agent center signee, abruptly retire, lost another center to the infamous "high ankle sprain" in their first preseason game, and now face the prospect of their most recent center, Alonzo Ephraim, being suspended for four games for violating, again, the league's substance abuse program.

We'll leave for another day why the Browns had no idea when they signed Ephraim that he faced such a suspension (and it may not be their fault) and focus instead on why, suddenly, such an innocuous position has suddenly become the latest in a long string of black holes. Is it just a run Of bad luck or something more ominous?

Before answering, we need to consider a few other signs. In addition to the free agent signings and draft day coups, Phil Savage also quietly acquired much needed depth in the defensive backfield. But since training camp opened, that depth has been all but eliminated with injuries to Daylon McCutcheon and Gary Baxter. Savage tries to do the right thing by using the one area of depth, running back, as leverage to fill other needs, sending oft-injured Lee Suggs to the Jets for Derrick Strait, only to have that blow up in his face as well. Suggs, naturally, fails the Jets' physical and thus finds himself back in Browns camp while Strait is on the 7:38 a.m. Continental flight out of Hopkins back to LaGuardia and on to Jets camp. In his place, Savage signs free agent Jeremy Lesueur, who is notable for two reasons: the really odd spelling of his last name and the fact that he was a third round pick of Denver in 2004. Of course, Maurice Clarett was also a third round pick of Denver, this time in 2005, so history doesn't look too favorable on that front either. At least, to our knowledge, Lasueur didn't show up wearing a bullet proof vest and sporting an arsenal of automatic weapons.

So again we ask: is this a run of bad luck or something more ominous? Clevelanders, most of them anyway, will immediately default to believing something more ominous is afoot. After all, most are still lamenting the curse of Rocky Colavito to explain why the Indians haven't won a World Series since 1948, never mind the nearly unprecedented run of underfinanced owners and bad management. For us and for now, we won't succumb. This is just bad luck which, we suppose, is better then no luck at all.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


We have great respect for Terry Pluto, if only because he seems to be one of the hardest working writers in the business. Right now he's probably polishing off his 8,754th book about how he and his Dad watched Sam McDowell drink himself out of the major leagues while simultaneously finishing six different columns for this week's Beacon Journal. So from our standpoint, he gets a wide berth.

That being said, what was with his softball interview with Indians co-owner Paul Dolan in this morning's Beacon Journal. Dolan admits the obvious, that this season has been a disappointment. But Pluto doesn't challenge Dolan's assertion that the disappointment mostly stems from his claim that "we thought we had put a championship-caliber team in place" at the beginning of the season. To which Pluto should have asked, "based on what?" Isn't Dolan the one who dictated an uncompetitive budget in the first place. Wasn't this cheapskate budget responsible for us the systematic weakening of the bullpen, the loss of Kevin Millwood, and the failure to sign any A level free agent? Tell us exactly, Mr. Dolan, what planet you are living on where this year's team looked championship caliber?

While that may be the most egregious example of letting Dolan squirm off the hook, that wasn't the only example. When Dolan said, apparently proudly, that next year's payroll will be north of $60 million, it begged for the obvious follow-up as to why the increasingly delusional Dolan thinks this will make the Indians any more competitive. Pluto notes that our current budget falls well below the Twins at $63 million but fails to put into context that even if Dolan goes north of $60 million, nearly every other team in the league, let alone in our division, would have to either stand still or cut payroll for the Indians to start closing the gap. If the Twins already are north of $63 million and our 19th in the league in total payroll, at best the Indians will remain a bottom tier club still being outspent by the likes of the Twins. And anyone who thinks that either Chicago or Detroit will stand pat on payroll is living every bit the fantasy life that ensconces brother Dolan and his daddy.

This is a franchise in trouble and nothing in Pluto's "interview" with Dolan should give anyone comfort that any sort of change is on the way. We can only hope that Browns owner Randy Lerner loses in his bid to buy the soccer club and licks his wounds by buying out the Dolans.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Harmonic Convergence

So many stories, so little time. Where to start? The Indians a.k.a. Team Streak? Nah, we’ll get to them in a minute. The Browns a.k.a. Team Injury? Nah, we’ll get to them in two minutes. The Cavs a.k.a. Team LeBron? Yes, the Cavs.

Apparently Danny Ferry hasn’t been spending his summer fishing for steelhead in Lake Erie. He did manage to get Drew Gooden to sign on the dotted line for three years at a reasonable price, $23 million. We like this deal. Gooden is not LeBron’s Scotty Pippen, not by a long shot. But Gooden is a pretty serviceable player in his own right and just the kind of piece that championship teams need. From time to time he disappears both offensively and defensively, which is why he’ll never be Scotty Pippen. He may never even be Carlos Boozer. But when he’s playing well, he’s a force on the boards and more than adequate on the offensive end as well. Gooden has been shipped around for most of his NBA career and has had precious little opportunity to really establish himself. This should provide that stability.

We wonder, though, what else Ferry has in mind. He has little if any cap money to spend and seems satisfied to see how this team, as presently constituted, will progress based on last year’s experience. That team, without a healthy Larry Hughes for the bulk of the season, still managed to win 50 games and go fairly deep into the playoffs. What has us worried, though, is whether simply another year of experience under their belt will be enough given the fact that other teams, like Chicago and Detroit (ironic, isn’t it?) have made themselves stronger this offseason. The Gordian Knot that functions as the NBA salary cap seems to always serve to keep the Cavs stuck in second gear while simultaneously allowing virtually every other elite team to improve. Or at least that’s the excuse we’re constantly fed.

It is true, though, that with a full, injury-free season by Hughes, along with Donyell Marshall possibly rediscovering his shot, along with Damon Jones possibly finding some D and his J, the Cavs look to improve. LeBron’s World Championship experience this summer with Coach K should help him tremendously as well. But stop us if you’ve heard this before—a Cleveland franchise in need of a harmonic convergence of 85 variables in order to be successful. We all know how that comes out, don't we?

Which brings us, of course, to Team Streak. We happened to witness yesterday’s bloodletting of the hapless Kansas City Royals and all we can say with some confidence is that problem seems to be solved. We can finally beat Kansas City. But as Paul Hoynes observed in yesterday’s PD, these games, particularly against dregs like the Royals, are glorified Grapefruit Season match-ups. Translated: be careful to place too much stock in such mirages.

No question, Travis Hafner is the real deal. When he hits the ball, it has a decided thwack that someone like, say, Casey Blake, will never know. Grady Sizemore appears to be a real deal as well, but for different reasons. But we hope GM Mark Shapiro is careful not to draw to sharp a conclusion about Shin-Soo Choo or some of these other “kids”, like Andy Marte. It is just this kind of thinking that will lead to more despair next year. Frankly, we’d feel better about next year if we had kept the crap we had. At least it would drive home the point to Shapiro and cheapskate owner Larry Dolan and his son Paul that this team is not one or two players away. More like 8 or 10 players away. Dolan doesn’t have that kind of money to spend and wouldn’t if he did. Shapiro doesn’t have that kind of talent to hit on that many B and C free agents, no one does. So we’re likely to go into the offseason believing that these salary dumps described as trades somehow brought us filet mignon in return and concentrate our meager free agent dollars on some B level closer.

But before we move off the Indians, a brief word about Jeremy Sowers. Bud Black, former Tribe pitcher and current Anaheim Angels pitching coach, made some great observations about Sowers in Saturday’s Plain Dealer. In essence, Black said that Sowers looked like a pitcher out there who relies more on guile than velocity. Black also observed that some have compared Sowers to Black. I suppose that’s because they’re both lefthanders. Having watched Sowers yesterday, he reminds me much more of Charlie Nagy, which is pretty good as well. If Sowers were to have that kind of career, that would be something for this beleagured team to actually celebrate.

And speaking of beleaguered, that’s been the story of the Browns since they returned. Having some depth at running back, they traded away Lee Suggs to the Jets for additional help in the defensive backfield, help they needed due to, what else?, injuries. We’re sure some fans are disappointed that they didn’t get a bona fide center for Suggs to replace Bentley, but the guess here is that GM Phil Savage is counting on LeCharles Bentley next season and thus wanted to trade Suggs for someone with more than a one-year shelf life. In that regard, we can’t disagree with the thinking. In the interim, though, quarterback Charlie Frye could pay the price.

We are amused that many fans and the media geniuses that feed them are already fretting based on the lackluster performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first preseason game. The only conclusions we could draw is that we’re probably two Dorseys over our quota. Nat Dorsey plays tackle as if he was Ken Dorsey, who plays quarterback as if he was Tommy Dorsey. The other conclusion we could draw was that Bernie Kosar is a pretty good analyst. Too bad he has a bit of a pip squeak voice. With voice lessons, and we’re being serious here, Kosar actually has a future in this kind of work. As for Brian Brennan, as an analyst he’s a pretty good stockbroker. Brennan displays the kind of enthusiasm that this town hasn’t seen since Belichick, the early years, but without the mean streak.

This week’s game should allow us all to draw a few more conclusions before inevitably pronouncing them mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. But at least here, there’s an upside, unless, of course, owner Randy Lerner gets tapped out trying to get his English Premier “Football” Club up to snuff. Now that’s an interesting development for another day.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Changing of the Guard

Is it a coincidence that the Indians first two-game win streak (is that even the proper description?) in a month occurred the same night the Browns opened their preseason? Probably. But if you're into that kind of metaphysics, then perhaps there is some connection not obvious to the yo-yos on local talk radio.

To the extent the items are related, it must be that the dispirited Tribe wanted to send a message to its dwindling and fickle fan base that there is still more to be excited about at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario (a.k.a. Jacobs Field) then at 9th and Lakeside (a.k.a. Cleveland Stadium). Which raises the question, which major pro sports team is really on the rise--the Indians, the Browns, or the Cavs?

At first blush, the answer seems to be the Cavs. Without question, they have an absolute, bona fide superstar in LeBron James, one of the 10, if not 5, best players in all the league. They have him locked up for another four years. With LeBron in the line-up, real success is never that far behind. The Cavs also appear to have a well-financed owner in Dan Gilbert. The only knock on Gilbert is that he's from Detroit and still lives there, which leaves fans with the lingering notion that if the Pistons ever came up for sale, he'd jump at the chance to buy them and sell the Cavs.

But putting that bit of typical Cleveland fan paranoia aside for a few moments, we think that if most Cleveland fans had their choice as to which team they'd like to see win a championship, the Cavs would come in third. In other words, to most fans, the NBA is a lousy form of basketball and is the worst of all major sports. Other than the fact that the Cavs are Cleveland's entrant in the league, it matters little whether or not the Cavs are on the rise.

The other thing is that the NBA's bizarre salary cap and all its exceptions does nothing but confuse the average fan. All they know is that the Lakers seem to be able to get whomever they want at whatever price it costs while the Cavs continue to be saddled with cap problems. GM Danny Ferry isn't helping matters right now with an awful quiet off-season on the heels of a breakthrough season. Hopefully Ferry is watching what's transpiring with the Indians and learning, like George Kostanza did but only too late, to do the opposite. The fear is that he's not, but he's got some time before the Cavs open camp.

That takes us to the Indians. On the one hand, they have locked up some objectively decent core players for several years. It's true that the book on some of them may need to be radically rewritten, but those they've signed seem to be legitimate major leaguers that most teams would pencil into their starting lineups. But on the other hand, the Indians are easily the most underfinanced of all Cleveland sports teams. Larry Dolan is a cheapskate, to be sure, despite what his apologists in the established media will tell you. But he's a cheapskate because, frankly, he doesn't have the money to spend. He overpaid for the Indians and needs this investment to pay off in order to service his debt. He can't deficit spend, not even a little. Thus, do not expect Dolan to ever employ the spending money to make money philosophy. In other words, the Indians will never be competitive, budget-wise, even within their division.

As we've said time and again, for the Indians to be successful, Mark Shapiro has to consistently turn water into wine. And as we've seen this season, a few wrong moves can spiral a team out of control. But a few wrong moves should be expected when you are forced to troll the depths of the B and C levels of free agency every year. In short, as long as the Dolans own the Indians they'll never be the team on the rise in this town. Never.

Which brings us to the Browns. They are an intriguing bunch. They play in the most difficult of all pro sports leagues. Fielding a team of 22 (plus kickers) is a difficult process. You have to be adequately financed but revenue sharing and a hard salary cap puts all 32 teams on similar footing. Thus, a well financed owner like Randy Lerner is a luxury. We'd rather have him then not but, frankly, with the current management in place, Larry Dolan could own the Browns and the team wouldn't suffer nearly as much as the Indians.

And that's the key. The Browns have good management in place. Phil Savage seems to be the real deal with a keen eye for talent. It's difficult to judge a draft just a few months out, but right now the Browns 2006 draft seems to be a dramatic improvement over years past. Their free agency signings were terrific by any measure. They have a well-respected, plain talking, head coach and enough young talent on the rest of the staff that gives you a sense that this franchise is headed in the right direction.

But that's the problem. It's tougher to turn around a franchise in pro football than in either baseball or basketball. Football doesn't have the minor league system that let's you develop players over time. The addition of one or two players can make an immediate and dramatic change to a basketball franchise as witnessed just by the drafting of LeBron James. In football, of course, the climb is longer and steeper.

For our money, then, the Browns are the real team on the rise. Unfortunately getting to the point where the light actually starts peaking through the tunnel is still a ways off, perhaps years. And as we've seen with just LeCharles Bentley, so much can happen on the journey.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Broken Record

At the risk of coming across as a broken record, it was fascinating to read, again, about the Indians payroll issues in this morning's Plain Dealer. As Paul Hoynes points out (something we pointed out weeks ago) the Indians payroll falls well short of the average payroll in the league. Their payroll by the end of the season will be around $55 million. The league average is around $81 million.

Hoynes' point, which he lazily makes in his off-day notes, is that fixing this mess won't be cheap. Really? He gets paid for that kind of insight? The more salient point, we think, is how the Indians stack up against their divisional rivals. Right now, the Minnesota Twins payroll is around $7 million dollars more. It's interesting to note that the 2005 Twins had a payroll roughly equivalent to this year's Indians and increased it for 2006 by, essentially, the price of a quality pitcher and you can see the results in the standings.

Detroit, another allegedly small-market team, has a payroll of $82 million or approximately 50% more than the Indians. In fact, you have to go back two seasons to get to a payroll that is equivalent to this year's Tribe. Of course Detroit had many lean years where they got little for their money and so, arguably, the difference between their payroll and the Indians is even higher than it otherwise appears. But again, look at the standings.

Forget about Chicago. Their payroll is approaching $110 million, or roughly 100% more than the Indians. But they won the World Series last year and are leading the wild card chase this year. Even if they start to cut payroll at some point, the Indians have no chance of ever getting close.

That leaves the hapless Kansas City Royals. Their payroll is about $8 million less than the Tribe or, again, a quality starting pitcher. Look at the standings and see where they fall--about a quality starting pitcher behind the Tribe.

In other words, while absolute payroll may not be the most relevant statistic, it is illuminating. In the AL Central, it highlights exactly why the Indians aren't competitive and aren't likely to be unless and until the Dolans are willing to fund this enterprise in a competitive fashion. Don't hold your breath. As we've said before, the Dolans simply can't afford to own this team and owe it to the fans to find a buyer who can. If that makes us sound like a broken record, so be it. We won't take it off the turntable until it happens.


We see that Cliff Lee signed a contract extension today, locking up the left hander for another four years. It's a move we support. Lee, inconsistent at times, has more upside then the overhyped, overweight C.C. Sabathia, even if Lee is two years older. But don't be fooled by the signing of another "core" player. As good as this signing is, the Indians weren't poised to lose Lee anyway. He was arbitration-eligible and could have remained the property of the Indians for at least two more seasons anyway without the extension. All this does is preserve the status quo, which is a scary thought. And Shapiro is already setting up Tribe fans for another off-season of disappointment, telling the PD that free agency won't solve all of the Tribe's problems.

Of course it won't, at least the way free agency must be practiced under the Dolan regime. Expect another off-season of trolling the "B" and "C" levels of free agency hoping against hope we get Tiffany quality at Wal-Mart prices. It could happen but isn't likely. Our only real hope is that Kansas City stays as undercapitalized as the Indians.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Fighting Words

Now we're mad. We contained our anger, for the most part, as this season of "promise" began to unravel. We didn't get too angry when GM Mark Shapiro started discarding players like Jason Johnson, Eduardo Perez and Ronnie Belliard as if they were old furniture that he didn't want anyway. And we weren't really bothered by the fact that C.C. Sabathia seems to be eating his way out of the big leagues. As Cleveland fans, that's what we expect. But when Eric Wedge said yesterday that he would be giving Fausto Carmona some breathing room by burying him in middle relief, a line was crossed.

This season was doomed from the day that owner Larry Dolan cheated the fans by again failing to provide Shapiro or the fans with a competitive budget, as he had promised. So it's not surprising that there's been very little to cheer about or be entertained. But when Wickman was traded and Fausto Carmona was named the closer, the back end of Tribe games became the best "must see TV" since the third season of "Seinfeld."

Carmona throws a million miles an hour. He has Syd Finch pace and Atticus Finch control. Personally, I rushed home from a party on Saturday night just to see Carmona pitch the ninth inning. And he didn't disappoint. While he did get two outs, which is part of his charm, he also managed to misplay a bunt into a single and hen give up a two-run homer to Ivan "Less Pudgy Since My Prescription for the "Clear" and the "Cream" Ran Out" Rodriguez to end the game. And this wasn't even Carmona's most spectacular flame-out this past week.

If you can't be entertained by this brand of baseball, you simply can't be entertained. In fact, consider these last seven games for a moment. The Tribe went 2-5 against Boston and Detroit. But even a troll like WTAM's Mike Trivisonno could scratch just enough below the surface to see that this could have been a stretch that truly made you feel better about next year. It's not just that the Indians lost 5 games by one run. It's more how they did it, systematically snatching, in each case, defeat from the jaws of victory. There were three blown saves by Fausto and one by Fernando Cabrera. Given Wickman's record over his career, in all likelihood we would have won all four of those games.

Then, of course, there was yesterday's debacle. True, no save opportunity was harmed in the making of that defeat. But didn't it figure that Sabathia couldn't get his 300-pound frame off the mound quickly enough to a weak hit, only to have that error lead to the only run of the game? I'm actually surprised the rest of the infield didn't quit on Sabathia and walk off the field when the error was made. And didn't it figure that Travis Hafner, who has 5 grand slams this year, would have probably his worst at bat with the bases loaded? All this did was deprive us all of the chance to witness another entertaining bullpen meltdown.

So as we survey the parched landscaped, made bleaker by Wedge's announcement of Fausto's demise, we find ourselves 15 games under .500 and on a pace to win a robust 69 games. But with the news that Fausto is taking a breather, that pretty much takes the air out of any entertainment value left to be extracted from the remaining games. If Larry Dolan isn't going to give us the money to compete and isn't going to sell the team then at least he can throw the fans one bone and order Shapiro to order Wedge to order Fausto back to his rightful spot as the closer. That may not do much for next year, but it gives us some reason to care at least until the Browns first regular season game.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Firing the Columnist Is Not The Answer

We were a bit surprised and somewhat puzzled by the screaming headline across the top of the Akron Beacon Journal sports page this morning proclaiming "Firing Wedge Not The Answer." The headline preceded a column/story (it was hard to tell) by columnist Terry Pluto.

First, we didn't know that there was a question in search of an answer about firing Wedge. To this point, outside of Bill from Brecksville and a few other guys playing Dungeons and Dragons in their basement while listing to "The Road Man" Kenny Roda on WKNR Sportstalk Radio, there's been virtually no other talk about firing Wedge. So the fact that Pluto raised a straw man question in order to eke out a non-column column is a surprise for someone of Pluto's status.

Second, give the fans more credit than this. If firing Wedge could magically transform this pig's ear into a silk purse we'd be all for it. But on the list of issues facing the Tribe this year and next, the status of the manager ranks, at best, in the bottom third. After nearly four years at the helm, the most we know about Wedge is that this team had improved, at a clip of 12 and 13 games, between seasons. The fact that a giant step backward has been taken is attributable to lousy ownership and poor-decision making by Shapiro. If the Indians have been outmanaged this year in any particular game, it would be hard to tell.

To the extent that anyone is really seriously considering Wedge as the problem, who'd replace him? Lou Pinella? At this point, Sweet Lou's patience run the spectrum from A to B. His constant criticism of the front office in Tampa Bay paved his exit out of the Sunshine State. Does anyone honestly think he'd been any happier here with this ownership group? My guess is that once Pinella did a little due diligence on this franchise at this time there's no way he'd take the job, if offered.

But it would never get that far anyway. Shapiro's management approach simply will not accommodate a strong personality like Pinella. Shapiro is a disciple of Billy Beane in Oakland and I defy you to name the current manager of Oakland, let alone any manager of Oakland under Beane. The point is, Shapiro, like Beane, sees the manager as a mid-level supervisor and that aptly describes Wedge. He keeps the trains running on time. The only problem this year is that the train continues to derail. Given that Wedge isn't the engineer, he can hardly be blamed for the wreckage.


We had to chuckle at Bill Livingston's column in the Plain Dealer this morning defending Mike Reghi as if he were Vin Scully. Reghi was fine and served the team well, but it's hardly as if he were discarded like yesterday's PD.

Apparently what has Livingston and others irked is that Reghi is a friend. Fine, we get that. Defending your friend is honorable and all that. But then say it simply and move on. Instead, Livingston brackets his argument in the context that this move is more evidence of Dan Gilbert trying to control the message. Please, spare us the righteous indignation.

The announcers for every pro team in every city are hand picked by ownership and have been since long before Livingston brought his thesaurus from Philadelphia to Cleveland. Any announcer who strays too far off the reservation is fishing on thin ice and he/she knows it. If memory serves me, Joe Tait found himself on the outside looking in during some of the Stepien years. Tait was openly critical of ownership and lost his job, albeit temporarily.

Gilbert paid huge dollars to own this team. If he wants his own guy in as TV announcer, well, that's one of the perks of being a multi-millionaire. So, too, is ignoring the nonsensical rants of third-rate columnists.

It Must Be the Full Moon

There must be a full moon. Jupiter must be aligned with Mars. Peace must be guiding the planets and love steering the stars. How else to explain what's taken place in Boston the last few nights.

Last night, for example, Jake Westbrook gave up 15, count 'em, 15 hits and won. According to Sheldon Ocker in the Akron Beacon Journal Westbrook is the first pitcher this year to give up 15 hits and the first since 1988 to give up that many hits and win. If I'm a Red Sox fan, and I'm not, I'd be worried about a team that can scratch out 15 hits and score only 6 runs. What that tells me is that they play down to their level of competition, which is why, actually, they won two games in a series in which they deserved to get swept.

Truth be told, the Indians more or less outplayed the Red Sox for much of the series. But for the latest tinkering with the bullpen, the Tribe would have swept the series. In fact, in many ways large and small, it was this tinkering that cost the Tribe not only the series but their season as well. You'll recall that GM Mark Shapiro has been experimenting with the closer role since the last off-season. It was Shapiro's obsession with replacing Bob Wickman that caused him to pursue Trevor Hoffman, among others, will simultaneously ignoring Bobby Howry. Hoffman never left San Diego, Shapiro was forced to re-sign a guy he didn't want and Howry was off finding the 3-year deal that eluded him in Cleveland. And so the dominos began to fall.

The latest new closer is Fausto Carmona (or is it Jason Davis?) Carmona's collapse was spectacular even by Indians standards. Ok, David Ortiz is David Ortiz. No shame, I suppose, in giving up a walk-off two-run homer, although it was a two-run homer. But his flameout Wednesday night was unprecedented. With two outs and no one on and one strike away from recording his first save, Carmona proceeded to hit Doug Mirabelli on the arm on a 3-2 pitch. Not satisfied, Carmona plunked Alex Gonzalez on the arm as well on the very next pitch. Kevin Youkillis, whose surname aptly describes the damage he had done to the Tribe during the series, avoided Carmona's wildness long enough to walk to first. Mike Loretta, predictably, hit a double to end the game. Interestingly, just prior to his walk-off double, Loretta had to scurry out of the way of another fastball gone awry from Carmona.

According to Tribe Manager Eric Wedge, he plans to stick with Carmona, as if he has a choice. Shapiro, aided and abetted by his cheapskate employer, has made a mess of this season by dismantling the heart of last year's 93-win team. At this point it matters little if Wedge trots out Carmona to close out a win. Save opportunities are so few and far between anyway at least we can be wildly entertained by the latest Wild Thing. Maybe what Carmona needs is a pair of glasses. I'm betting that Larry Dolan can at least afford that.

It Must Be the Full Moon

There must be a full moon. Jupiter must be aligned with Mars. Peace must be guiding the planets and love steering the stars. How else to explain what's taken place in Boston the last few nights.

Last night, for example, Jake Westbrook gave up 15, count 'em, 15 hits and won. According to Sheldon Ocker in the Akron Beacon Journal Westbrook is the first pitcher this year to give up 15 hits and the first since 1988 to give up that many hits and win. If I'm a Red Sox fan, and I'm not, I'd be worried about a team that can scratch out 15 hits and score only 6 runs. What that tells me is that they play down to their level of competition, which is why, actually, they won two games in a series in which they deserved to get swept.

Truth be told, the Indians more or less outplayed the Red Sox for much of the series. But for the latest tinkering with the bullpen, the Tribe would have swept the series. In fact, in many ways large and small, it was this tinkering that cost the Tribe not only the series but their season as well. You'll recall that GM Mark Shapiro has been experimenting with the closer role since the last off-season. It was Shapiro's obsession with replacing Bob Wickman that caused him to pursue Trevor Hoffman, among others, will simultaneously ignoring Bobby Howry. Hoffman never left San Diego, Shapiro was forced to re-sign a guy he didn't want and Howry was off finding the 3-year deal that eluded him in Cleveland. And so the dominos began to fall.

The latest new closer is Fausto Carmona (or is it Jason Davis?) Carmona's collapse was spectacular even by Indians standards. Ok, David Ortiz is David Ortiz. No shame, I suppose, in giving up a walk-off two-run homer, although it was a two-run homer. But his flameout Wednesday night was the stuff of legends and poetry. So complete and bizarre was his undoing you just had to marvel at its historical proportions. With two outs and no one on and one strike away from recording his first save, Carmona proceeded to hit Doug Mirabelli on the arm on a 3-2 pitch. Not satisfied, Carmona plunked Alex Gonzalez on the arm as well on the very next pitch. Kevin Youkillis, whose surname aptly describes the damage he had done to the Tribe during the series, avoided Carmona's wildness long enough to walk to first. Mike Loretta, predictably, hit a double to end the game. Interestingly, just prior to his walk-off double, Loretta had to scurry out of the way of another fastball gone awry from Carmona.

According to Tribe Manager Eric Wedge, he plans to stick with Carmona, as if he has a choice. Shapiro, aided and abetted by his cheapskate employer, has made a mess of this season by dismantling the heart of last year's 93-win team. At this point it matters little if Wedge trots out Carmona to close out a win. Save opportunities are so few and far between anyway at least we can be wildly entertained by the latest Wild Thing. Maybe what Carmona needs is a pair of glasses.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What's That Smell?

Normally, we ignore the gossip column in the Plain Dealer as written by Chuck Yarborough. First, he's too clever for his own good. Second, who cares? It is a daily regurgitate of driblets picked off the wires about mostly B-rated celebrities. But we did like one item today that is worth mentioning here.

According to Yarborough, "New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is launching his own fragrance. It's called Driven. The Tribe is working on a team fragrance, called Ground Out to Third on a 3-1 Pitch Down the Freakin' Middle of the Plate with Two Runners in Scoring Position. It's the perfect complement for an aftershave named for the Indians relief staff that is called Bullpen. The first syllable refers to the main ingredient. "

Wish I had written that.


Speaking of things that smell, it's being reported today that Mike Reghi is out as the voice of the Cavs on television in favor of former Clevelander, by way of Detroit, Fred McLeod. Reghi is, at most, an acquired taste, but he's a professional broadcaster nonetheless. Nothing against McLeod, but Reghi didn't need to be replaced. What makes the Cavs telecasts almost unwatchable is having to listen to the likes of Austin Carr and Scott Williams alongside Reghi. If they were just awful, that would be OK. They are well beyond that standard.

I can take the fact that both were "homers". That kind of stuff doesn't bother me as it does most of those in the print media. In fact, given that it is the Cavs that have to approve the hirings, being a "homer" is expected. When done right, it works quite well. Witness Rick Manning, for example, on Tribe telecasts. But neither Carr nor Williams ever has anything particularly interesting to say or any particular insights to share. If the Cavs are looking to save money and improve their broadcasts at the same time, stick to one announcer, be it McLeod or Reghi. Dispense with the ex-player in the booth mentality unless and until you can find someone who actually understands the game and can convey that knowledge to the viewer who can't.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

It's Not the Humidity, It's the Heat

We liked Bud Shaw's column in this morning's Plain Dealer about the Indians cornering of the market on platoon players. As Shaw points out, the Indians are short on guys who can hold down one position for multiple games in a row. Put another way, most of their efforts these days seem geared toward ensuring that they are long on guys who can't play regularly.

This season is starting to remind me of a game of Gin in which you start out trying to collect a run of spades only to switch strategy mid-game and begin collecting hearts. Meanwhile the rest of the table has stayed on course, someone has knocked and you suddenly find yourself with a hand full of nothing and getting whacked on points. That's what the Tribe's deck must now look like to GM Mark Shapiro. Not only is the roster radically different but different bad, not different good. Our offense is weaker without Eduardo Perez, Ben Broussard and Ronnie Belliard. Our pitching is worse without Bob Wickman. Our defense, always bad, has not improved.

Shapiro and Tribe fans can only hope that the next shuffle of the deck is more kind because with the Dolans as the owners, luck is the only chance we have.


We also enjoyed the photo of Kellen Winslow on the front page of the PD sports if not his confidence. Maybe a guy who has played two games in three years ought to refrain from declaring himself the elite NFL tight ends even at 90% health. Let me put it this way: you're on the clock in your fantasy draft. You can choose between Antonio Gates and Kellen Winslow as your tight end. Any debate? I didn't think so.


Speaking of confidence, it didn't do much for WOIO and their legal team, which confidently predicted that they would win their request for a preliminary junction to keep the Browns from breaking their contract. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Timothy McMonagle denied their request paving the way for the Browns to break the contract and put their games on another local station.

That, of course, doesn't mean that the Browns ultimately will win their lawsuit. It just means that if the case ultimately goes to court and WOIO were to win, they'd be entitled to monetary damages. Knowing this and knowing that they would have difficulty prevailing, the Browns are deep in negotiations with WOIO on a financial settlement. Look for that soon followed by the typical press releases from each side declaring their satisfaction with the outcome.

The real loser in all this appears to be Sharon Reed who now won't get the opportunity to cavort on the sidelines during games in low-cut blouses and high-cut skirts. But on the other hand, Playboy Magazine was just in town scouting for a new crop of Playmates so perhaps there's hope for Reed yet. Certainly this journalism gig isn't working out too well.