Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the month “June, 2011”

Brain scrambler


Took the family to Cedar Point today – it was our daughter’s first visit.

Ten roller coasters – including the 120-mph Top Thrill Dragster – later and our brain is completely scrambled.

We got nothing today.

Indians riding the K Train hard

As the Cleveland Indians offensive malaise continues, it may be time for the team to try a new approach.

Namely, stop striking out so much.

The Tribe is currently striking out an average of 7.3 times a game, which projects to 1,183 Ks on the season. That total would put this year’s team just outside the Top 5 all-time in team history for most strikeouts in a single season.

And the numbers have been worse since Bruce Fields took over for Jon Nunnally – even though one of the reasons given for Nunnally’s firing is the team was striking out too much.

In the seven games with Fields as hitting coach – admittedly a small sample – the Indians have struck out 65 times in 186 at bats – or 35 percent of the time.

Cut back on those strikeouts and the team might actually start scoring runs again. When they put the ball in play, the Tribe is batting .318 this season – compared to .247 when you include the strikeouts.

That’s a pretty big difference. Might be time to start choking up on the bat a little more guys.

***

Shin-Soo Choo had surgery on his left thumb this morning and will be out eight to 10 weeks.

Which means, as hard as it is to believe, we could be looking at the Austin Kearns, Travis Buck and Shelley Duncan trifecta in right field for some time now.

“There is only so much you can do,” manager Manny Acta told The Plain Dealer. “You can talk to the 29 other clubs and they’re not going to give up there best player. It’s very tough to find a player of his caliber on any club or in our system. We’re just going to have to do the best we can to have guys pick of the slack. There’s no magic wand on this one. We lost a good player.”

Oh boy, somebody pass us the Maker’s Mark. Like now.

***

The city of Pittsburgh will hold a rally to “honor” Hines Ward’s win on the reality show Dancing with the Stars.

How utterly appropriate and pathetic at the same time.

Those are Cleveland Indians!

Anyone who grew up in Northeast Ohio in the ’70s and ’80s took the requisite summer trip to Cedar Point.

And as the day wore on and you needed a break, the riverboat ride was a good opportunity to catch your breath and recharge for another run through the park.

The ride featured rather crude animatronic hillbillies and other river folk along the riverbed, and the boat’s narrator provided “witty” commentary throughout the ride.

At one key point, the hillbillies would be engaged in a shooting match with a band of Indians, but the narrator always assured guests not to worry because, “they can’t hit anything, those are Cleveland Indians!”

We thought about that as we watched the current group of Indians stumble their way through the weekend series with San Francisco.

The teamwide offense slump has to be reaching historic proportions. Consider these offensive numbers (according to The Plain Dealer):

  • Orlando Cabrera is 17 for his last 100
  • Grady Sizemore is 17-for-96
  • Jack Hannahan is 19-for-104

Or how about these batting averages by month (April/May/June):

  • Cabrera .283/.230/.197
  • Sizemore .378/.143/.188
  • Hannahan .273/.184/.175
  • Travis Buck .241/.263/.171
  • Adam Everett .375/.200/.125
  • Austin Kearns .139/.257/.182
  • Shelley Duncan .370/.190/.000

Looking at those numbers it’s no surprise that Carlos Carrasco and Justin Masterson combined to give up one earned run over the weekend and both walked away with losses. And don’t forget Sunday’s effort where the Tribe struck out 16 times.

So now what?

Obviously what the team is doing is not working. It’s only been a few days, but replacing hitting coach Jon Nunnally with Bruce Fields didn’t bring a quick turnaround in the fortunes of the batters. It’s going to take more than that.

How manager Manny Acta can continue to give at bats to Duncan, Kearns, Everett, Hannahan and Orland Cabrera on a regular basis is beyond us. We know his options are limited – Albert Belle, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez circa 1996 aren’t walking through the clubhouse door any time soon – but staying the course no longer seems like a true option.

It’s nice having veteran hitters on the team, but veteran can sometimes be a euphemism for old. Duncan, Kearns, etc., are what they are at this point, we don’t see any reason to believe they are going to start hitting all of a sudden.

If the Indians want to trade for someone, the list of possible available players doesn’t really do anything for us, especially if the Tribe has to give up too much in return.

Seems like a good time to start bringing up the kids from a “stacked” AAA Columbus team. Give Ezequial Carrera, Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall a chance to see what they can do on a regular basis with the big club.

UPDATE: The Tribe promoted Chisenhall on Monday and he had two hits and an RBI against Arizona. Everett, who had one RBI in 34 games, has been designated for assignment. And Orlando Cabrera hit the game-winning home run.

And the circle of life continues
.

While its unlikely they will be able to single-handedly turn this thing around – witness Cord Phelps and his .216 average – but can they do any worse than the group of non-hitters the Tribe currently employs?

If nothing else, promoting the youngsters will help re-energize a fan base that has grown jittery during the team’s recent 10-21 slide that erased the good feelings of the 30-15 start.

And while you don’t want the team to do something just for the public relations boost, especially since the Tribe is only 1 game out of first place despite everything that’s gone on, if now isn’t the time to do something, when is?

(Photo by The Associated Press)

USA finds fool’s gold at Rose Bowl

It started out so well.

But then everything went so very, very wrong.

The U.S. Men’s National Team jumped out to a surprising 2-0 lead (on goals by Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan) over Mexico in Saturday’s Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl, but couldn’t hold on as their top rival stormed back with four unanswered goals to claim the title.

“They’re as dynamic as any Mexican team I’ve played against,” Landon Donovan, who has played for the United States since 2000, said in published reports. “They’ve got a few guys who can change the game in a heartbeat.”

The “few guys” that Donovan referred to would be Giovani dos Santos and Javier Hernandez.

The back four for the Americans – especially Jonathan Bornstein – simply had no answer to dos Santos and Hernandez, who were so much quicker all night long.

“They’ve got a very good mix of attacking talent,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. “They come at you. They play quickly from the flanks. There’s a lot to deal with.”

Yeah, thanks coach. We noticed.

Read more…

U.S. goes for the Gold against Mexico

Huge day for the U.S. as they take on Mexico in tonight’s Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl.

The winner earns a spot in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil, which serves as a warm-up for organizers of the 2014 World Cup. The U.S. earned a spot in the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa and knocked off Spain, providing the team with the confidence that carried it into the knockout stage of last year’s World Cup.

More importantly, the U.S. wants to earn a win over its biggest rival in a series that has been decidedly pro-USA for the past decade. Since losing to El Tri in Mexico City in 1999, the U.S. has gone 10-4-2 against Mexico.

That decade-long success should negate what is expected to be a home field advantage for the Mexican team playing in Southern California.

“It’s difficult. Anytime you play in the States against teams from Latin America, it’s always tough for us,” said midfielder Clint Dempsey in published reports. “We’ve gotten used to that. I think that makes us stronger as a team.”

It won’t be easy, as Mexico has scored 18 goals (to the Americans’ 7) on its way to the final, but the team needed extra time to get past Honduras on Wednesday night. So some of the early shine is off for Mexico.

There will be a lot of pressure on goalkeeper Tim Howard and the U.S. back line, especially in trying to keep Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in check. Hernandez has seven goals in the tournament so far (by comparison, Clint Dempsey leads the U.S. with 3).

The one advantage is that Howard (who hasn’t given up a goal since the second game of the tournament) knows how to play Hernandez, having faced him twice last year in the Premier League when Howard’s Everton team took on Hernandez and Manchester United.

“No player is unstoppable,” Howard said in published reports. “But they’ve got a good team. They’ve got a lot of big players. So it will take all of us to stop all of them.”

It what should be a close game, any little edge helps.

“When you come into these types of tournaments you grow along the way,” U.S. coach Bradley said in published reports. “You certainly grow when you lose and you look hard at certain things. I think that’s been important. The first round is always about advancing and using the games to figure out where you are. I think we’ve gotten better from start to finish. There’s a good level of confidence, and it’s a strong group that has been through this before.”

No matter what happens, it should be one heck of a match.

Updating the rule book – part 2

Now that Shin-Soo Choo is going to be out of the Cleveland Indians lineup for a while, we’re eagerly awaiting today’s press conference where Giants general manager Brian Sabean calls for a rule change.

Choo sustained a fractured thumb when he was hit on the left hand with a pitch from San Francisco’s Jonathan Sanchez in the fourth inning of Friday night’s game.

“He’s still at the hospital; he’ going to be out for awhile,” manager Manny Acta said after the game. “This is huge for us. Choo means so much not only to our offense but to our defense and by the way he runs the bases.”

Clearly, pitching inside is inherently dangerous to the batter and must be immediately outlawed.

That’s the new protocol, right? At least that’s what happened when San Francisco catcher Buster Posey was hurt in a play at the plate last month. His agent and Giants general manager Brian Sabean both cried about the injury and how the rules should be changed – conveniently overlooking the fact that Posey was blocking the plate without the ball in violation of a rule that actually exists.

So we fully expect Sabean and the Giants to stand up and publicly reprimand Sanchez for his “malicious” and “unnecessary” pitch, right?

The Giants wouldn’t want to be seen as hypocrites, would they?

(Photo by The Associated Press)

Memories of 1995


With the Indians having a late start Friday night on the West Coast, SportsTime Ohio rolled out the 1995 highlight reel to hold fans over until game time in San Francisco.

We don’t care if everyone in Wahoo red, white and blue was on steroids, we still love that team.

One hundred wins in a 144-game season, seven regulars who batted .300 or better, Albert Belle’s 50 home runs and 52 doubles, a young Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome, Orel Hershiser and Dennis Martinez.

It doesn’t seem possible that it was 16 years ago.

We’ll never forget the sweep against Boston, Paul Assenmacher striking out Ken Griffey Jr. in Game 5 against Seattle, Kenny Lofton’s dash home from second on a wild pitch in Game 6 at the Kingdome, and Hershiser coming up big in Game 5 of the World Series against Atlanta.

The only thing we’ve never figured out is how the Indians could be 10 games better than any other team that year, yet not have home field advantage for any round of the playoffs.

The rebuilding continues

The rebuilding continued for the Cleveland Cavaliers Thursday night in the NBA draft, as the Cavs found coach Byron Scott his point guard in Duke’s Kyrie Irving at No. 1 and selected Texas power forward Tristan Thompson.

Irving is quick, tough and intelligent and if he had played the entire season last year there’s little doubt he would have been a clear No. 1. He made 46 percent of his 3s in college and 90 percent of his free throws.

Scott won in New Jersey with point guard Jason Kidd and in New Orleans with point guard Chris Paul. If there was ever a player to match with a coach, this seems to be it.

As for Thompson, he has a chance to be the second best NBA player to ever come out of Canada. He’s a rebounder – he led the Big 12 with almost four offensive boards a game last year – and a shot blocker. He can also get to the free throw line – he averaged 7.3 free throws a game last year – but was a Shaq-like 48 percent on those free throws.

In a lot of ways, Thompson is a younger version of young J.J. Hickson, which makes us wonder what the Cavs have in mind here.

We know there are plenty of people who wanted the Cavs to select Jonas Valanciunas as he was sitting there when the team picked at No. 4, but we don’t know. Valanciunas only played 14 minutes a game in 14 games last year in the Euroleague and we’re not enamored with foreign players the way some people are.

Plus, Thompson is foreign, even if he did play at Texas.

General manager Chris Grant is going to get some grief for the Thompson pick because too many people fell in love with Valanciunas despite never seeing him. We’ll obviously find out over the next few years if the team made a mistake or not.

But if Irving turns out to be as good as everyone thinks he will be, and Thompson turns into a solid player, then we have to rate this draft as a winner.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

The only Cavs draft preview you’ll need

The Cleveland Cavaliers head into tonight’s NBA Draft in a good position, holding the No. 1 and No. 4 picks.

Who will they pick? We’re pretty sure general manager Chris Grant knows what he wants to do.

And that’s all we can really ask for as fans.

Forget mock drafts, even especially detailed ones. Don’t worry about which seven-foot European player – that most people have never seen play – the team may or may not select.

Because when it comes to drafting, the only real certainty is nobody knows.

As fans, we should expect the front office to do its homework, figure out what positions are weakest on the team, and draft the player they think best fits their team’s system.

Consider the past two drafts by the Browns: they needed help in the secondary, they draft Joe Haden and T.J. Ward. This year, defensive line was an issue and they chose Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard.

After that, it truly is a crapshoot. There rarely is ever one singular player that a team must have, so getting too worked up leading into a draft is not really productive.

Clearly there are wrong draft picks. If the Cavs had selected Darko Milici instead of LeBron James in 2003, that would have been a bad pick. But what if the Cavs weren’t picking first that year? If they had selected Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade that year, would things really have been that much different the past seven years?

The thing with draft picks is you just never know.

A team can make the right pick and things can still not work out. Players can have their careers cut short by injury (think Austin Carr and Brad Daugherty), or their time with the team can be limited by bad trade decisions (Mike Mitchell, Ron Harper).

As long as the Cavs have done their homework and identified where they need help, and don’t do anything crazy (someone should keep a close eye on Dan Gilbert), then everything will be fine tonight.

Remember: if fans can figure out what the team’s weaknesses are, then the team can figure it out.

So if the picks are Kyrie Irving and Enes Kanter, or Irving and Jonas Valanciunas, or Derrick Williams and Brandon Knight, it will be OK.

Whatever they do, it will help the rebuilding process. Link

Is staying the course an option?

Top of the fifth inning … two outs … Chris Iannetta, the No. 9 hitter at the plate … Tribe leading 4-1 … Fausto Carmona melts down … and by the time the inning is over the Indians trail 7-4.

Carmona’s outing Monday night against Colorado brought about a (NSFW) reaction from Tribe fans everywhere that is certainly understandable.

After the game, the response about what to do about Carmona’s ongoing struggles was less cohesive.

One person who is clear about Carmona’s future is manager Manny Acta – and his opinion is really the only one that counts.

“He’s pitching in five days,” Acta said in published reports. “That’s the solution we have here. You can’t just get rid of him and bring somebody else in here.

“The ability to make a pitch when it counts just hasn’t been there. I don’t know if I can attribute that to a lack of focus. In this case, you’ve got two outs. … You do have to smell blood and get after those guys and get out of that inning.”

But is staying the course really the best option for the Indians as they try to stay in first place? Is the Tribe really prepared to put the pitcher with the highest ERA among American League starters back on the mound Sunday night against San Francisco?

It would be one thing if this was an isolated incident, but Carmona shows no signs of becoming a functional starting pitcher any time soon.

Per Sheldon Ocker in the Beacon Journal, in his past eight starts, Carmona has posted an 8.87 earned-run average, given up 12 hits per nine innings and one home run every 41/3 innings. His record over this span is 1-6.

The Indians are obviously not going to release Carmona; that would be ridiculous. They can’t send him to the minors without his permission. But they can move him to the bullpen and let him try to sort things out away from a situation that will cost the Indians a game.

“I don’t feel like I did in 2009,” Carmona said. “Talking about the fundamental side, I feel fine. I’m working. I’m doing stuff. I’m making pitches. I’m not getting the results I want, but I don’t feel like I felt in 2009.”

Of course, if Carmona keeps pitching the way he has been lately, he will make the choice a pretty simple one for Acta.

***

This is easily the best thing we read today, and probably one of the best things we’ve read in a while.

The SummerHoopScoop blog created a fake college basketball recruiter to disseminate information and see if people would believe it just because it sounded credible.

And boy did it work.

The blog exposed the nonsense spewed by self-proclaimed “experts” and highlighted that subset of fans who have an unhealthy interest in the recruiting of high school athletes.

Well played indeed.

(h/t to Deadspin)

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