Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the month “July, 2011”

On the fence about Ubaldo

A day later and we’re still trying to sort out our feelings about the Indians trading for Ubaldo Jimenez.

We were hoping the team would try to do something before Sunday’s non-waiver trade deadline, but we weren’t expecting this.

When your offense is batting .191 in its last 10 games … and the team has gone 6-10 since the All-Star break … and just finished the month of July 11-15 … and has only scored more than 3 runs three times in the last 13 games … and just lost 2-of-3 to the last place Royals … and finished a homestand with a 2-6 record

Well, let’s just say, adding pitching wasn’t the first thing that popped into our minds.

We understand that you have to give up prospects to acquire major league talent, but we do have to wonder if the Tribe overpaid by giving up both Drew Pomeranz and Alex White – the top two pitching prospects in the organization.

On the other hand, the financial aspect of the trade can’t be overlooked. This isn’t a two-month rental as Jimenez is under contract for $4.2 million in 2012 and a club option for $5.75 ($1 million guaranteed) in 2013. That kind of reasonably priced player simply can’t be underestimated for a small-market team like the Indians.

The question becomes, then, is Jimenez worth the price the Indians paid?

As Jayson Stark pointed out on ESPN:

(The Indians) know the guy they traded for isn’t the same Ubaldo who hit the 2010 All-Star break at 15-1 with an ERA barely above 2. Since then, this fellow has won just 10 of his past 36 starts, his velocity his down, and his ERA has more than doubled.

However, Stark goes on to say:

Nevertheless, in Jimenez’s 10 starts between June 1, which was about the time he finally began to get his strength back after some early-season issues, and the third week of July, at about the time the trade rumors began to swirl, the Great Ubaldo had a 2.58 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings. Want to put those numbers in better perspective?

The only starters in the big leagues with a better ERA and a better strikeout rate over that period were Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia and Gio Gonzalez.

Well the sounds pretty good. And Jimenez did that while pitching his home games at Coors Field, not exactly a pitcher’s park.

One nagging question we can’t shake is, if Jimenez is so good with such a team-friendly contract, why did the Rockies trade him?

Also, according to this article in The Denver Post, the team originally floated out the idea of trading Jimenez as a way to motivate him. Does that sound like the kind of pitcher who is going to hold up during a pennant race?

But what’s done is done; the trade has gone through and Jimenez is an Indian. As long as his uniform says Cleveland on it we’re behind him.

Even if we’re still not totally sold on the trade.

Rollin’ with Jürgen

U.S. Soccer got its man on Friday, naming Jürgen Klinsmann as head coach of the national team.

“I am proud and honored to be named the head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team,” Klinsmann said. “I would like to thank the U.S. Soccer Federation for the opportunity, and I’m excited about the challenge ahead. I am looking forward to bringing the team together for our upcoming match against Mexico and starting on the road toward qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.”

Now we get to find out if a big-name European coach can turn the United States into a world soccer power.

Klinsmann’s greatest coaching success has come on the national level, he guided Germany to a 20-8-6 record and a third-place finish in the 2006 World Cup, and left a solid foundation for continued success, including the core of the national team’s coaching staff and players.

He also spent a season coaching club team Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga. While the team had on-field success, reaching the quarterfinals of the Champions League, he was fired after less than one full season with the team.

Within those two stories lies the blueprint for Klinsmann’s potential success with the U.S. team.

As coach of the German national team, Klinsmann was able to develop a system that led the country’s club teams to invest more heavily in player development. Now, the Germans have some of the best young talent in the world.

Klinsmann needs to have that same level of influence in the U.S., especially with the MLS teams. Those squads have to get on board with player development to help not only themselves, but for the good of the national team.

The U.S. also has openings on both the Under-23 and Under-20 teams, so if Klinsmann and Claudio Reyna, the U.S. youth technical director, can work together to enhance the system from the ground up, the U.S. will be that much better off.

As for his struggles at Bayern Munich, we were a little troubled by that since it was his most recent coaching stint. But Sports Illustrated‘s Grant Wahl came up with an interesting quote from Bayern president Uli Hoeness:

“I still think that Jürgen could be a good coach for a national team,” Hoeness told Wahl. “I’m not so sure anymore if he’s a good coach for a (club) football team. Jürgen is a free spirit who needs his time out, you know … In the national team you have your day off, your weeks off, your weekend, and that is for his character very important. With us I had the impression that was not the right thing for him. I could easily imagine if he’s taking (a national-team job) as he was with Germany, it was a super time. I still believe that could work.”

Just like some people are meant to be college coaches and some can succeed on the professional level, some are better working on the bigger picture and stage of a national team. That appears to be the case with Klinsmann, which would point to him being the right man for the right job.

One thing we definitely like is Klinsmann’s desire to develop an American style of play for the team.

“The U.S. is known worldwide as a melting pot,” Klinsmann told Wahl. “Soccer in a certain way transmits the culture of a country … You have the Latin influence (in the U.S.). You have the cultural backbone of your university system, which is completely different from the rest of the world. You have the fact that it’s mostly organized soccer, when we know that the best players in the world come out of unorganized events. I think it’s a fascinating topic.”

Klinsmann himself is a bit of a melting pot – while he is German, he has spent a large part of his post-playing career living in Southern California. That has provided him with the opportunity to observe both the MLS and the U.S. team up close, so there shouldn’t be as heavy of a learning curve as there would be if the U.S. was bringing in a foreign coach who had never even set foot in the country before he was hired.

This move comes at a good time. The senior team doesn’t have a single meaningful game until June, when the next cycle of World Cup qualifying games begins. That gives Klinsmann and everyone else involved in U.S. soccer time to evaluate where the team is and figure out where they are heading.

When the announcement came out that Klinsmann was the new man, friend of Red Right 88 Jim Kanicki asked us what we thought. We joked “ask again in three years.” While it is true that we won’t be able to fully evaluate the hiring until after the 2014 World Cup, this move has the potential to be much more.

Because if Klinsmann turns out to be everything his followers say he is, the U.S. team will be set up nicely for not only Brazil in 2014, but for many years after that.

Busy day on the transactions desk


Lots going on today in the world of Cleveland sports, starting with the Indians trading with Chicago for outfielder Kosuke Fukudome.

We’ll admit our first reaction was “that’s it?” as Fukodome isn’t the big bat the Tribe needs right now, but we came to realize that, at a minimum, Fukodome is an upgrade over Austin Kearns and Travis Buck (who was designated for assignment after the trade).

As the always reliable DiaTribe points out, Fukodome’s .742 OPS would put him fourth among current Indians behind Travis Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana.

Fukodome doesn’t hit for power, only 20 extra-base hits and three home runs this season, but he does get on base at a consistent level and, as having runners on the bases greatly enhances your chances of scoring, that’s a good thing – especially with this team.

***

Not to be outdone by the Indians, the Browns made several moves of their own on Wednesday.

To no one’s surprise, they released quarterback Jake Delhomme, who injured his ankle in the season opener last year and was never able to get what was left of his game back on track.

The team also reportedly signed second-round draft picks Jabaal Sheard and Greg Little; having them in camp from day one will be nothing but positive.

The Browns also agreed to a contract with Usama Young, a safety and former Kent State Golden Flash who played the past four years with New Orleans.

Young was a third-round draft pick of the Saints, playing safety the past two years and contributing on special teams for the past four. He recorded three interceptions and one sack in limited duty on defense.

Young played with current Browns linebacker Scott Fujita in New Orleans and with Josh Cribbs at Kent State. No doubt Cribbs and Fujita briefed the coaching staff and front office on what Young brings to the table.

And as Kent State has produced more Pro Bowlers in recent years than Ohio State – and did it without cheating – what’s not to like about the signing?

Finally, the Browns reached a deal with Brandon Jackson, who should fit nicely as a third-down back in the West Coast offense.

Jackson caught 43 passes with Green Bay last season and has 110 receptions in four years wiht the Packers. He also rushed for 703 yards last year.

He’s also only 25, so he comes to the Browns without a lot of mileage.

***

The Arizona Cardinals took the bait and traded for Philadelphia quarterback Kevin Kolb on Thursday, surrendering a second-round pick and staring cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a Pro Bowler in 2009.

In addition (as if that wasn’t enough) the Cardinals are expected to sign Kolb to a $63 million, five-year contract that includes $23 million guaranteed.

All for a quarterback that has seven career starts in the NFL.

For those fans who think the Browns should have pulled the trigger on a deal for Kolb, chew on this for a moment: current Browns quarterback Colt McCoy has eight career starts. Looking at the numbers for the two finds that:

  • They both have completed 60.8 percent of their passes
  • McCoy’s yards per attempt is 7.40; Kolb’s is 6.53
  • Kolb has 11 touchdowns to McCoy’s six
  • Kolb has 14 interceptions to McCoy’s nine
  • McCoy’s quarterback rating is 74.5 to Kolb’s 73.2

So why would anyone think that Kolb is an upgrade over McCoy, especially at $63 million?

***

We were shocked at the news that Bob Bradley has been relieved of his coaching duties for the U.S. national soccer team.

“We want to thank Bob Bradley for his service and dedication to U.S. Soccer during the past five years,” federation president Sunil Gulati in a press release. “During his time as the head coach of our Men’s National Team he led the team to a number of accomplishments, but we felt now was the right time for us to make a change. It is always hard to make these decisions, especially when it involves someone we respect as much as Bob. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

As we’ve learned over the decades here in Cleveland, firing the coach is the easy part. The hard part comes when you have to find a replacement that will take the team to the next level.

According to Grant Wahl at Sports Illustrated, the next coach “will not be a surprise,” which means that German legend Jürgen Klinsmann is probably on tap to replace Bradley.

If Gulati is targeting Klinsmann, he better hope he can seal the deal; Klinsmann has turned down opportunities to coach the U.S. team after each of the last two World Cups.

The one thing we’ll say is, if you have to make a move, you want to do it now before the next World Cup qualifying cycle begins.

You have to laugh …

… to keep from crying.

It probably should come as no surprise that the Indians were no-hit on Wednesday by Ervin Santana. The offense has been in such a prolonged slump that it feels almost inevitable that they be on the wrong end of a no-hitter.

Oh, and did we mention that Santana came into the game 0-6 with a 4.98 ERA in 10 career starts against the Indians?

And that left-handed batters entered the game hitting almost 20 points higher than right-handers? Naturally, the Indians lineup featured seven lefties who combined to go 0-for-22 with six strikeouts.

“Lots of guys get to five, six innings, but that’s when things get a little complicated,” Santana said after the game.

Not against this Indians lineup, they don’t.

The way things are currently going, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine it happening again this season.

In the three-game series against the Angels, Tribe starters David Huff, Josh Tomlin and Fausto Carmona threw 19.2 innings and gave up just three earned runs – a 1.37 ERA – but the Indians found a way to lose two-of-three.

Tuesday night it was failing to score with the bases loaded and no outs in the ninth; Wednesday it was the first no-hitter in the 17-year history of the Tribe’s home park.

Over the past nine games, the Indians have gone 3-6 despite receiving the kind of starting pitching that would make most teams green with envy:

  • Huff has a 0.71 ERA over 12.2 innings of work, but is only 1-1
  • Tomlin has a 3.86 ERA over 14 innings of work, but is 0-1 with a no decision
  • Fausto Carmona has a 1.50 ERA over 12 innings of work, but is 1-0 with a no decision
  • Justin Masterson has a 0.61 ERA over 14.2 innings of work, but is 0-1 with a no decision
  • Carlos Carrasco has a 4.26 ERA in 6.1 innings of work (but that was the result of a single bad pitch against the White Sox) and is 0-1

How is that even possible?

And no trade before Sunday’s non-waiver deadline is going to make much of a difference. Unless the Tribe is getting Manny Ramirez or Jim Thome in their prime, no one they acquire is going to be able to get this offense turned around.

No, the Tribe lineup is going to have to do it itself, starting this weekend against Kansas City. The Royals are scheduled to start Jeff Francis (3-11, 4.65 ERA), Felipe Paulino (1-8, 4.54 ERA) and Kyle Davies (1-9, 6.75 ERA).

If the Indians can’t get it going offensively against that trio, they may never get it together.

And with training camp opening this weekend for the Browns, the Tribe picked the worst possible time to go into a funk.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

Browns start making some moves

Browns general manager Tom Heckert wasted no time getting back to work, signing a reported 23 undrafted free agents throughout the day on Tuesday.

As the majority of the players will probably end up as practice fodder for the veterans, we won’t spend too much time trying to analyze the signings (and WFNY has a great rundown, so why try to improve on that?)

The one positive we took from today is that Heckert and Co. obviously did their homework during the lockout. They knew which players they were going to target when the lockout ended and, once they had the OK, were able to move quickly.

That leaves us confident the Browns will be prepared and strategic when the full free agency period starts on Friday.

While the team can obviously use all the help it can get, Heckert has previously stated the Browns won’t be splashing cash around (see Charles Johnson’s six-year, $72 million deal with $30 million guaranteed as Exhibit A of reckless spending).

It would be nice if the team found another starter for the defensive line and the secondary, but they can’t go crazy with the money – they have too many other holes to fill.

We can dream about a cornerback duo of Joe Haden and Nnamdi Asomugha, but there’s no way the Browns are going to take up residence in that financial neighborhood – nor should they.

While the team does have money to spend – and will have to spend some to get to the league-mandated salary floor – we’d rather see them spend the money and effort continuing to build depth and get younger throughout the roster. Tying up a huge chunk of your salary cap in one player just doesn’t seem prudent for this team at this time.

It seems more likely that the Browns will look at the second-tier of free agents, players that are young enough to not command big money but with potential to improve – we’d rather the Browns pay players to perform for Cleveland, rather than pay them for the way they performed for their previous teams.

One player we were interested in seeing the Browns pursue was Minnesota defensive end Ray Edwards, who is familiar with the 4-3 defense the Browns are going to start playing this fall.

But then River Burns alerted us to comments Edwards made on Monday about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and we started to rethink out stance a bit. While we are all for the Browns defense picking up some feisty players on defense, we have to worry about someone who might be a knucklehead.

It’s going to be an interesting weekend no matter what the Browns do. And until he shows us otherwise, we remain confident in Heckert’s ability to continue building the team.

The five greatest words in sports

The Browns are back baby!

The NFL and the players finally signed a settlement agreement on Monday, approving a 10-year collective bargaining agreement with no opt-out clauses.

“This is a long time coming, and football’s back,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at a press conference announcing the deal, “and that’s the great news for everybody.”

According to NFL.com:

  • The free agent list was made available on Monday
  • Tuesday: Facilities open “for training, conditioning” and “classroom” work; trading period begins (no time specified); teams can start signing undrafted free agents and their own draft picks at 10 a.m.; teams can begin negotiating with any free agents – their own and those who were with other teams.
  • Thursday: Waiver period begins and teams can begin terminating contracts at 4:01 p.m.
  • Friday: Full free agency begins – teams can begin signing their own free agents and those who played with other teams at 6 p.m.

Training camps can open on Wednesday – the Browns will reportedly start on Friday – but no teams can be in pads until Saturday.

“I’m just glad it’s over. It feels like a weight has been lifted,” Browns linebacker Scott Fujita said in an e-mail to local media. “I’ve spent countless hours this off-season away from my family, working toward this agreement. To say I’m tired would be an understatement. I just want to move past this and enjoy these last few days with my wife and kids before I leave for training camp. It’ll be nice to join my teammates in Cleveland and get back to business as usual.”

If the NFL the greatest sport ever? We say yes it is!

Iceberg, dead ahead captain!

Another day, another loss as the HMS Wahoo drifts ever closer to the iceberg that will sink their season.

Somehow, the White Sox scored four earned runs this weekend and were still able to take the abbreviated two-game series from the Tribe. Chicago stinks but the Indians make them look like the best team in baseball.

Friday night, Carlos Carrasco made one bad pitch, Carlos Quentin deposited it for a three-run homer and that was the ball game.

Sunday, Justin Masterson gives up one earned run in seven innings of work, but three Tribe errors helped give the White Sox three unearned runs and take the win.

What must it be like as a starting pitcher for the Tribe knowing, every time you take the mound, if you give up more than one or two runs it’s game over, man?

The only saving grace in all of this is the AL Central is full of mediocrity. Even with Sunday’s loss, the Indians head into the three-game series with the Angels only two games out of first. A good week and they could be back on top of the division.

But with the offense in its current state of distress, it’s hard to see how that can happen. If you can’t win with the kind of pitching the Tribe received this weekend, when will you win?

With the non-waiver trading deadline coming up at the end of the month, fans will be wanting the Indians to make a move to save the season. But who is out there that can save the team? Who will be the Tribe’s Leonardo DiCaprio when they are floating adrift in the North Atlantic?

Someone at The Plain Dealer was obviously paying attention when we wrote earlier this week that the Indians don’t exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to deadline deals. Today the paper ran an article detailing every trade deadline deal the Indians have made since 1994 and it’s not pretty.

It turns out that sellers come out ahead of the game far more often than buyers in these deals.

And with no real reason to believe that this year will be any different, it may be time to accept that Tribe fans will be rooting for the team they currently have, rather than the one they think they want.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

You can’t win if you can’t score

The Tribe was shut out by the White Sox Friday night, falling 1.5 games behind first-place Detroit.

It’s the farthest the Indians have been out of first place since the first week of the season.

“There’s not much you can do when you don’t score any runs,” Indians manager Manny Acta told The Plain Dealer. “We’ve had to battle all year with our offense.”

“I could care less how many times we’ve been shut out as long as we’re winning games,” Acta told The Beacon Journal. “If we win 100 and lose 62 by shutout, that’s fine with me.”

What else is there to say at this point?

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

So when do they start playing?

The NFL owners made a perfect move on Thursday, voting to approve a new collective bargaining agreement and regaining the advantage in the battle for the hearts of NFL fans everywhere.

While some people wrongly blamed the players when this all started, the truth is the lockout was 100 percent on the owners. The players were content to continue under the current system, it was the owners that shut down the No. 1 game in town.

And the players responded with a campaign based on the slogan “Let us Play.”

Well, guess who’s holding up the show now?

According to ESPN, the players’ were told that nothing will happen until Monday:

“Our recommendation is for everyone to stay put and keep doing what you are doing where you are doing it. We will meet again Monday to discuss our options and the direction we want to go. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. Your player reps.”

But NFLPA leaders later contradicted that report, telling ESPN that they plan to talk with the NFLPA executive board and player representatives either Friday night or Saturday.

All this delay over a deal that the players could have reportedly had back in March.

We have to wonder just what the players’ side is thinking here. They have to know that this deal isn’t going to change and, the longer they hold out on approving it, the more fan anger will turn against them.

Maybe they are banking on the fact that, as long as no games are missed, the fans will still be there this fall. And there is some truth to that.

And its certainly possible that this will all be resolved over the weekend and things will get rolling along.

But the players wanted to play and now the opportunity is there for things to get back to normal. Let’s hope everyone associated with the players understands that.

Because it is long past time to get ‘er done.

In the meantime, here’s a nice breakdown of the new CBA.

Are the Indians at the breaking point?

We have to say, the Indians have us left us feeling extremely bipolar the past few weeks.

Two weeks ago tonight, Travis Hafner’s grand slam in the bottom of the ninth beat the Blue Jays (up).

Then the Tribe lost three in a row (down).

Coming out of the All Star break, the Indians took the first two games from Baltimore (up).

They then lost the next two (down).

We were worried going into Monday’s double header with the Twins because David Huff and Fausto Carmona were scheduled to start. But the Indians swept the day (up).

But then they lost the past two games with their best pitchers, Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin on the mound (down).

Against the Twins, the Tribe’s starters had a 2.03 ERA, giving up six earned runs in 26 2/3 innings (up).

The bullpen, however, had a 9.40 ERA (down).

Well, you get the picture

Now we’re left wondering if the team is finally reaching its breaking point.

Because of injuries, the Indians fielded an outfield the past two games of Austin Kearns, Ezequiel Carrera and Luis Valbuena, which obviously isn’t going to get it done.

Grady Sizemore joined Shin-Soo Choo on the disabled list this week and now will be out 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia.

It seems unrealistic to expect either Sizemore or Choo to come back and make any kind of positive impact on the team the rest of this season, and the Indians are running out of other options.

They dipped into the minor leagues again on Thursday, promoting second baseman Jason Kipnis from Class AAA Columbus. Kipnis hit .279 (95-341) with 64 runs, 15 doubles, nine triples, 12 homers, 55 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 91 games at Columbus this year.

While it is certainly nice to have another bat in the lineup, Kipnis doesn’t solve the outgoing issue with the outfield.

With the trading deadline coming up next week, there will be calls for the Tribe to “do something” and make a trade. But for who? There’s no guarantee that anyone they trade for will make that big of a difference, and we are nervous about the price the Indians would potentially have to pay.

We still remember the late ’90s when the team traded away prospects to bring in players like Kevin Seitzer, Jeff Kent and Ken Hill, among others, in an attempt to win a World Series. Of all the moves the team made, Hill really is the only one that made a difference and it could be argued the Indians would have reached the World Series in ’95 even without him.

We’d hate to see the team give up any of its top prospects when there’s no guarantee the Indians will make the playoffs even with a move.

Plus, people get excited about getting the best (pitcher, hitter, outfielder, etc.) available without stopping to ask if that player is any good. If you draw up a list of anything, someone has to be at the top, that doesn’t mean the Indians have to be the ones to overpay for someone.

The Indians certainly have issues – they wouldn’t be just five games over .500 if that wasn’t the case – and it’s also true that the AL Central is there for the taking this year. But the front office has worked hard to build this team the right way and we’d hate to see them sacrifice their long-term potential for a short-term game.

But check back in a few days. With the ongoing bipolar issues, we may feel differently come the weekend.

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