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In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the month “August, 2011”

Browns take a big hit

We all feared the news was coming, but Tuesday’s announcement that Browns guard Eric Steinbach will miss the season after undergoing back surgery still stung.

“He was a starter, so we’re gonna have to make some decisions to see who plays left guard for us,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur told The Beacon Journal. “So we’ll be going through that process.”

That process includes fifth-round draft pick Jason Pinkston, who has played in Steinbach’s absence during the preseason is in the running to take over the starting left guard spot between Alex Mack and Joe Thomas.

Pinkston has impressed the coaches so far.

“I tell you what, Jason Pinkston has made huge, huge strides in three-plus weeks,” Shurmur said. “It’s one thing to be on the perimeter running routes as a rookie and doing it, but when you’re in there in the thick of it, it’s very challenging for those big guys. It really takes development and seasoning and I think he’s making huge progress.”

However, is it realistic to expect a fifth-round draft choice to step in and play effectively? One thing working in his favor is that Pinkston, if he is the starter, will have Thomas to his left and Mack to his right.

“Sometimes I come up there and I freeze a little bit,” Pinkston told The Beacon Journal. “Joe will say, ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’ Then I have Alex to my right. Those guys have been great.”

If Pinkston doesn’t cut it, the Browns may be forced to turn to Oneil Counsins, who the team claimed off waivers from the Ravens this week.

Cousins was the Ravens staring right tackle when the preseason started, but was moved to right guard after a bad game and then demoted. The Ravens then signed Bryant McKinnie, who was cut by Minnesota after showing up after the lockout at almost 400 pounds.

We don’t like where this is headed.

With Steinbach in the lineup, the Browns had a great left side of the line, now you just don’t know. Plus, with Peyton Hillis (252 pounds), Owen Marecic (245) and Montario Hardesty (227) the Browns were building a beefy backfield that would have looked good running behind Thomas and Steinbach.

Now they’re left trying to fill a major hole less than two weeks before the season opener.

***

The Indians didn’t want to let the Browns have all the player transaction news on Tuesday, so they got in on the action by sending Matt LaPorta to AAA Columbus in a move that was, in some ways surprising while also being overdue.

Someone had to go to make room so Jeanmar Gomez could start Tuesday night and LaPorta, the centerpiece of the C.C. Sabathia trade of 2008, earned the short straw with his season-long poor play.

LaPorta is hitting .238 with 18 doubles, 11 homers and 44 RBI in 97 games. He has struck out 79 times, while drawing 20 walks. He heads down I-71 with a .289 on base percentage and a .404 slugging percentage.

The question is, what took so long?

LaPorta hasn’t been good all year; his monthly batting average and OBP are April (.247/.337), May (.240/.301), June (.239/.271), July (.217/.246) and August (.246/.266) all bear that out.

Plus he seems to not have a lot of baseball smarts, especially in the field.

So, to summarize, the Tribe traded Sabathia and wound up with:

  • LaPorta, now in Columbus
  • Michael Brantley, on the disabled list with his .266 average and .318 OBP
  • Rob Bryson, still in the minors
  • Zach Jackson, out of baseball

Boy, that sure worked out well.

Quick Saturday slants

After three preseason games, Phil Taylor continues to play like a No. 1 draft pick.

The highlight of Thursday night’s game against Philadelphia was Taylor’s 14-yard sack and forced fumble of quarterback Michael Vick. He also drew another holding penalty as the Eagles struggled at times to contain Taylor.

“I’ll tell you what, there were flashes of what you want from a defensive tackle in this league,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur told The Plain Dealer. “And then again, there were some areas in the game where he needed to be a little bit more explosive and consistent. But generally, I think he’s making steady progress, and so that’s good.”

Which is good, because we’ve certainly seen plenty of No. 1 picks put on a Browns uniform and act as if they’ve never played the game before.

***

We caught Vic Carucci, who writes for the Browns official website, on Sirius NFL Radio earlier today.

Carucci took a call from a Browns fan asking about the wide receivers this year. Carucci made a point to single out Brian Robiskie, saying the third-year receiver looked “impressive” against the Eagles.

We’re not sure we’d classify three catches for 23 yards as “impressive” – although those are the same numbers second-round pick Greg Little put up. And his pass interference penalty – wiping out a 43-yard reception – is further proof that Robiskie doesn’t have the speed necessary to gain separation against NFL secondaries.

As we head into another season wondering about the wide receivers, Carucci’s comments raise the question of whether he really believes that or if he was parroting the company line about Robiskie.

If it’s the latter, that makes it sound as if the Browns are willing to give Robiskie a chance this year to show what he can do in the West Coast offense.

***

Mike Sando at ESPN.com ranked the NFL teams based on the age of their current rosters, and its good news for the Browns, who are the 29th youngest team in the league.

The Browns are 26th youngest on defense and 28th youngest on offense as general manager Tom Heckert continues to rebuild the roster.

Hey, if you’re going to struggle, you may as well do it with younger players.

***

Finally, Liverpool moved to the top of the Premier League table – at least for a day – with a 3-1 win over Bolton.

Charlie Adam continued to show why the club was willing to pay a $13 million transfer for him, putting a perfect cross off a corner kick to Martin Skrtel, who headed the ball home for the second goal.

A minute later Adam got on the board himself with a sweet left-footed goal, his first on the season.



The Reds have seven points after three games in their best start to a season since 1994.

(Photo by Reuters)

Is there a doctor in the house?

Injuries are the word of the day in Cleveland sports.

For the Browns, starting left guard Eric Steinbach and third-down back Brandon Jackson reportedly will be out for a while – and Steinbach may be looking at season-ending back surgery.

Coach Pat Shurmur told The Plain Dealer that Jackson will be out “an extended period.”

As for Steinbach … well it doesn’t sound good.

“At this point, he’s going through some treatments that we’re hoping will get him back, and there’s no real final call yet on whether he’ll be back — or when actually,” Shurmur said of Steinbach.

Doctors are trying to determine whether he needs surgery, according to The PD and, if that’s true, he could be put on injured reserve and be out for the season.

If that turns out to be true then what was shaping up to the a true strength for the team – the offensive line – takes a big hit. Shurmur said rookie guard Jason Pinkston has made “tremendous progress” and Pinkston is expected to replace Steinbach if he can’t come back.

The only possible bright side to that scenario is Pinkston would line up between Joe Thomas and Alex Mack, two of the best offensive linemen in the NFL, who would be able to help him out.

In addition to Steinbach and Jackson, (take a deep breath) backup linebacker Titus Brown has a high-ankle sprain (apparently he didn’t get the memo that that was last year’s injury), while wide receiver Jordan Norwood (knee), defensive end Marcus Benard (sore shoulder), wide receivers Josh Cribbs (hamstring) and Mohamed Massaquoi (left foot), strong safety T.J. Ward (hamstring), free safety Usama Young (hamstring), weakside linebacker Chris Gocong (pinched nerve), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle), wide receiver Carlton Mitchell (finger surgery) and linebacker Steven Octavien (unspecified) are also all injured and had limited to no participation in Thurday’s walk through.

Did we mention that the season-opening game against Cincinnati is just over two weeks away?

The news isn’t much better for the Indians, who just keep seeing players fall by the wayside.

Starting pitcher Josh Tomlin and outfielder Michael Brantley were placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday.

“Michael was seen again by Dr. (Thomas) Graham at the Cleveland Clinic,” head trainer Lonnie Soloff told The Beacon Journal. ”It was unlikely that he would be able to play in three to five days, so he was placed on the disabled list.

As for Tomlin, ”Josh experienced discomfort in his right elbow during his last start,” Soloff said. “”After an examination and an MRI, it was determined that he has a sprain of the elbow. He will shut down all throwing for two weeks then be re-examined.”

Boy, we just can’t handle all the good news going around town today.

At least Jim Thome has come back to save us all from … something.

But unless Thome earned his medical degree in the nine years he was away from home, it may not matter much.

It was fun while it lasted

We hate to say the season is over for the Cleveland Indians when the team still has 35 games to play.

But after Wednesday’s loss to Seattle, the Tribe sits 6 games out of first place and it’s hard to see this team turning things around.

Because of injuries manager Manny Acta rolled out his AAAA lineup against the Mariners, with Ezequiel Carrera, Cord Phelps, Shelley Duncan and Jason Donald. No Shin Soo-Choo, Travis Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera, etc.

Coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Tigers in Detroit, the Tribe started their longest – and most important – home stand of the season needing to get things rolling.

Instead the Mariners, who came into the series with a record of 53-72, manhandled the Indians in taking three out of four games. Seattle, the worst-hitting team in the American League, scorched the Tribe for 29 runs and 51 hits in the four games.

In less than a week the Tribe has gone from being 1.5 games behind Detroit to losing 6-of-7 and being outscored 51-27 along the way.

Things have finally caught up with the Indians as a seemingly never-ending string of injuries has robbed the lineup of any potency. If it’s not Hafner succumbing to a foot injury, it’s Michael Brantley’s wrist or Choo’s “trunk soreness.”

The strain of having to be perfect every night has finally taken its toll on the pitching staff, which has struggled the past week – from Ubaldo Jimenez, to Josh Tomlin and Chris Perez. Against Detroit and Seattle, the starting pitchers were 0-5 with an ERA of 9.35. They couldn’t get through the fifth inning in four of the seven games, wearing out the bullpen.

While it is certainly possible the Indians can get back in the pennant race, they have to hope Detroit fades in the final month, and they also have to worry about White Sox, who sit just a half-game back in third place.

The big fear is all the injuries and inexperienced players will lead the Indians to stumble through the last month of the season, spoiling what has been an entertaining and, ultimately, a successful season.

For the first time since 2007, it’s almost September and fans still care about the Tribe.

Young starting pitchers Justin Masterson, Tomlin and (for the most part) Carlos Carrasco grew up this season.

The bullpen (most nights) has been lights out, with Perez, Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano and Rafael Perez.

Youngsters Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis have had an extended taste of life in the big leagues and lived to tell about it.

Sadly, if the team stumbles down the stretch that is what some fans will remember about this season, undoing all the goodwill the team built up during its 30-15 start and battle for a division title through most of the season.

Even if a playoff spot is no longer a realistic option, the Tribe needs to finish relatively strong so that they can walk away from this season knowing they have started building a foundation toward contention for the next few years.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

Browns lock up their cornerstone

Josh Cribbs, Peyton Hillis and Joe Haden may be the heart of the Browns, but Joe Thomas is clearly the hardworking soul of the team.

So it was no surprise that the team and the Pro Bowl left tackle have agreed to a seven-year contract extension worth $84 million, including $44 million guaranteed.

And you don’t have to read too hard between the lines to realize that the changes that team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert have made since arriving in town played a big role in Thomas staying with the team.

“We’re really building something special with Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren and I think this program is headed in the right direction,” Thomas told The Plain Dealer. “It was really important for me to make this a real long-term deal so that I can finish my career here.

“I’ve been so impressed with coach (Pat) Shurmur and the staff that he brought in and the way he teaches the players. Tom Heckert’s been drafting guys I really want to be around and I want to be part of this really great thing that’s going on now. The way the team has picked up the new offense, plenty of mistakes have been made, but you can just see the potential there. It’s so exciting to be part of it.”

Read more…

Can You Go Home Again?

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame …” – Thomas Wolfe

Now that Travis Hafner is on the disabled list with an injury to his right foot – “Travis is going to be out for a little while,” general manager Chris Antonetti said – the Indians find themselves in the market for a designated hitter.

As luck would have it, the Twins reportedly put Jim Thome on waivers on Monday.

“Today, I know nothing really about that, so it’s hard for me to answer your questions right now when I don’t know any of that stuff. I think that’s safe,” Thome said. “Out of respect to the organization and all that, the best thing is not to comment, really, to be honest.”

Could Thome come home to Cleveland and, like Kenny Lofton in 2007, help the Indians as they try to get back into the playoff race?

At first we thought, no way. Thome is a 41-year-old part-timer; surely he wouldn’t be an improvement over Hafner?

But then we looked at the numbers. Since the All Star break:

Hafner is batting .220, with a .642 OPS, 3 homers, 14 RBI and 31 strikeouts in 118 at bats.

Thome is batting .300(!), with a .971 OPS, 6 homers, 21 RBI and 27 strikeouts in 90 at bats.

Looks like an upgrade to us, at least on paper.

The good news is, if the Indians do bring Thome back, it would be because they think he can help for the rest of the season, and not just as a PR move. As Terry Pluto pointed out in his column in the Sunday PD, ticket sales are up 45 percent on the season and TV ratings are up nearly 100 percent.

Seems like the Tribe should at least kick the tires on Thome.

***

Switching to the NFL, Pro Football Talk reports that there is more bad news for members of the 2009 NFL Draft class.

Last week, of course, the Bills cut linebacker Aaron Maybin, the team’s selection at No. 11 in that draft. And the Bengals decided not to pick up the option on tackle Andre Smith (selected No. 6), reducing his rookie contract from six years to four.

Now the Seahawks have done the same with linebacker Aaron Curry, the fourth overall pick.

Throw in Jason Smith, taken No. 2 by the Rams, Tyson Jackson (No. 3 to KC), Darrius Heyward-Bey (No. 7 to Oakland) and Michael Crabtree (No. 10 to San Francisco) and that draft starts to look pretty ugly.

The Browns of course selected Alex Mack in that draft. When you play in a division where you have to go against Casey Hampton and Haloti Ngata twice a year, it was a solid pick.

And looking at what the Browns could have ended up with, the pick just looks that much better.

***

Finally, Peter King shows the Browns some love in this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback column.

King writes that:

I think if you look at Cleveland’s schedule — the Browns play the NFC West this year — you can see them winning eight games. At least I can. I mean, you look at the schedule in the first 11 games and you think: Somebody at 280 Park Avenue is very fond of Randy Lerner.

The slate includes one team, Indy, with a winning record in 2010: 1. Cincinnati, 2. at Indianapolis, 3. Miami, 4. Tennessee, 5. at Oakland, 6. Seattle, 7. at San Francisco, 8. at Houston, 9. St. Louis, 10. Jacksonville, 11. at Cincinnati.

Not saying they’ll go 10-1, and you gotta think the other teams are looking at Cleveland on the schedule and thinking it’s an eminently winnable game. But the point is, no other team in the league has the kind of chance to start strong and stay strong as Cleveland has. The problem with the first 11 weeks for the Browns is the season isn’t 11 games. It’s 16. And the last five games include two with Baltimore and two with Pittsburgh. But when you face one strong returning playoff team in the first 11 games (Seattle, at 7-9, will forever be asterisked, even with the decisive win over New Orleans), you think it might just be your year.

Indians feeling the Motown blues

Well, that was a waste of a weekend.

The Cleveland Indians limp home after being swept by the first-place Detroit Tigers, and how sit 4.5 games behind in the AL Central.

It’s nice that the Tribe battled back on Sunday after falling into a 7-0 thanks to “ace” Ubaldo Jimenez (more on that in a bit), especially since they couldn’t do that Saturday night after No. 5 starter David Huff finally pitched like a No. 5 starter in putting the Indians into a 5-0 hole in just 2.1 innings of work.

But feistyness alone isn’t going to win the division; and going 2-4 on road trips through the division doesn’t help either.

Travis Hafner, who left Sunday’s game with an injury, killed the Tribe on the swing through Chicago and Detroit. Hafner hit .160 (4-for-25) from the No. 4 spot with 11 strikeouts.

Asdrubal Cabrera didn’t help much either in the No. 3 hole, hitting .208 (5-for-24) on the trip.

Hafner and Cabrera picked a bad week to hit a slump, as Shin Soo-Choo and Carlos Santana, who hit No. 2 and No. 5 most of the trip, had a solid swing through Chicago and Detroit. Choo hit .393 on the trip while Santana was at a .321 clip.

None of it really matter, though, as the starting pitching let the Tribe down over the weekend.

Josh Tomlin, Huff and Jimenez combined to go 0-3 with an ERA of 12.41 in the three games against Detroit.

As bad as Huff was Saturday night, Jimenez was even worse on Sunday, primarily because he was sold to the fan base as being an ace when the Indians acquired him at the trading deadline.

In four starts for the Tribe so far, Jimenez is 1-1 with two no decisions. He’s worked just 21 innings, has an ERA of 7.29 and a WHIP of 1.47.

“The difference between this year and last year is my command,” Jimenez said after the game. “Last year I was ahead of almost every hitter. This year I’ve been pitching from behind.”

We tuned into the game in the midst of the Tigers’ seven-run third inning to hear announcer Tom Hamilton talking about how, before the game, Indians manager Manny Acta was stressing how Jimenez needs to control his pitches better.

We are beyond tired of hearing that about Jimenez. You’re not an ace if you can’t control your pitches; it’s the control that makes you an ace. Or something like that, we’re still upset about the weekend and are starting to ramble.

In any event, so far the evidence seems pretty strong that the Tribe severely overpaid in this deal.

Luckily the Indians still reside in the AL Central, so no matter how bad it seems they are never out of it. The Tribe now has an 11-game homestead against Seattle, Kansas City and Oakland, who are collectively 57 games under .500.

The Tigers, meanwhile, hit the road for seven games (Tampa and Minnesota) before coming home for four games against Kansas City. Those three are collectively 27 games under .500.

So the opportunity is there over the next week and a half for the Indians to make up for this weekend.

The question, as always, is are they up to the challenge?

***

Luckily the weekend wasn’t a total loss as Liverpool finally beat Arsenal at the Emirates, the first time that has happened in 11 years.

Luis Suárez and Raul Meireles found the back of the net after coming on in the second half to give Liverpool a 2-0 win in a game that wasn’t pretty.

“We just about deserved to win,” Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said. “We have a stronger squad than last season and, when you have two substitutes of that quality to bring on, they deserve the chance to make a difference. It wasn’t easy, but at least our season is up and running now. It was a better performance than last week and we didn’t concede a goal. The new players have had a week to settle in and we are beginning to see what they are capable of.”

While it’s nice that Liverpool finally walked out of the Emirates with three points, they need to come up with an offense that includes more than just lobbing the ball into Andy Carroll and hoping that Carroll will head the ball in. Being predictable ain’t gonna get it done.

For now, we’ll just be happy to take the three points and get out of town.

(Photo by The Detroit Free Press)

The glass is empty this morning

Cleveland had a rare sports double header with Detroit on Friday night and woke up this morning to an empty glass.

In the game that mattered, the Indians fell to the Tigers to drop 2.5 games out of first place.

Josh Tomlin needed to be perfect for the Indians because the offense decided it was a good time to take the night off.

Tomlin tried his best, shutting out the Tigers through five-and-a-third innings, but the long ball did him in, with Austin Jackson hitting a two-run shot in the sixth, and Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta adding solo shots in the seventh with two outs.

Tomlin has now given up 23 home runs on the year, or one every seven innings.

“I thought Josh pitched well and gave us a chance for six innings,’’ manager Manny Acta said in published reports. “We just couldn’t get anything going against (Max) Scherzer. He got better as the game went on.’’

The Tribe offense was inept, scoring its sole run in the seventh inning courtesy of a wild pitch by Max Scherzer.

The Indians have apparently decided that putting the ball in play is not important, as batters have struck out 47 times in the first four games of this road trip. Travis Hafner has contributed 21 percent of that total as he continues his second-half transformation into Adam Dunn.

The Tribe continues to ride the K Train, striking out at a staggering rate of 7.8 times per game. At that pace they will finish with a franchise record 1,265 strike outs on the year.

Having said that, there is still a lot of baseball to be played. If the Indians can take care of business today and tomorrow, they come home just a half-game back of Detroit.

“The way they are playing, the way we are playing and even the way Chicago is playing, I don’t think this is going to be decided in the next couple days,” Tomlin said.

***

In the game that didn’t matter as much, the Browns lost to the Lions in Cleveland’s second – and final – home game of the exhibition season.

Colt McCoy continued to give us confidence that the West Coast offense is the right fit for him. McCoy completed 10-of-18 passes for 96 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.

“He did a good job,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said of McCoy. “He executed like you’d expect. They came after us with some pressure and he stood in there and executed. I think he would tell you he missed some throws out there.”

Evan Moore caught two touchdown passes and rookie wide receiver Greg Little had one as the first-team offense put up 21 points despite missing Peyton Hillis, Ben Watson and Eric Steinbach, none of whom played because of injuries.

“He can really run and catch the football,” Shurmur said of Moore. “That’s how we’ll try to use him throughout this deal. I think he’s improved as a blocker, but I think his real value is a pass catcher.”

If Moore can stay healthy – he left Friday night’s game with what may be a concussion – and Ben Watson can have another solid season, that will take a lot of the pressure off of a group of unproven and unproductive wide receivers.

“Evan is definitely a weapon,” McCoy said. “He’s a big target and he creates mismatches. I thought he played excellent. He got some good balls and then we got him out of there.”

The best part of the night was that the cool, refreshing breeze of Shurmur’s offense continued to blow through Cleveland Browns Stadium. After two exhibition games, it’s clear that Shurmur thinks touchdowns, not field goals.*

“Tonight we faced a good front and we had our ups and downs, for sure,” McCoy said. “We capitalized on some short fields. We didn’t settle for field goals.”

The first-team defense didn’t play all that bad, either, holding Detroit’s first-team offense to just 10 points. And they did it while playing without starters Usama Young, T.J. Ward, Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita.

Ahtya Rubin and Jabaal Sheard were active on the defensive line, with Rubin notching a sack and Sheard forcing and recovering a fumble.

“I thought they battled,” Shurmur said of the Browns starters on defense. “(Detroit) is a pretty explosive group on offense. I thought they did a good job battling.”

The Browns travel to Philadelphia on Thursday to take on the Eagles in what is normally the last true test for the starters in the preseason. It should be a good test for the Browns new offensive weapons.

*Sarcasm font is activated at 35 percent.

We’ve heard this one before

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Brian Robiskie is ready to take on a bigger role in the West Coast offense and is finally going to produce like an NFL wide receiver.

“It’s completely different than (the offense) we had last year,” Robiskie said in published reports about the offense under first-year coach Pat Shurmur. “The receivers are a lot more involved. For me, it’s been a matter of learning it and making sure I’m exact in what I’m doing.”

“I would say Robiskie has been very steady,” Shurmur said. “You can say that a lot about what he is. He’s just a steady guy in terms of his personality, his performance, being on time and doing the right thing. He’s had a steady camp, and I think that speaks well to him.”

Yeah, but …

We get that Robiskie is a good kid who doesn’t cause trouble in the locker room or off the field. And that’s always a good thing, especially as we’ve had our share of hoople heads in recent seasons.

But eventually the team needs to see some production on the field – 36 total catches in two seasons just isn’t going to cut it.

The switch to the West Coast offense should help. The offense wants wide receivers who can run precise, sharp routes, which should play to one of Robiskie’s strengths.

Of course, it also wants receivers who can gain separation from defenders and Robiskie just doesn’t have NFL-caliber speed.

Quarterback Colt McCoy is going to spread the ball around a lot, so while it would be nice to have a stud wide receiver, the Browns may not need that to be successful on offense. With Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi (if he ever gets healthy), Ben Watson, Evan Moore, Peyton Hillis and Brandon Jackson, the Browns don’t need Robiskie to put up huge numbers.

Maybe this is the year that Robiskie pulls it together. It could turn out that the West Coast offense and Robiskie being in his third year – which is when receivers generally make a jump in production – will be the right combination.

***

The news that Browns guard Eric Steinbach may not play Friday night against Detroit because of back problems has us more than a little bit worried.

While its nice that rookie guard Jason Pinkston could gain some experience with the first-team offense if Steinbach can’t go, having that come against Detroit may not be the best thing for Colt McCoy’s continued good health.

Luckily for the Browns, defensive tackle Nick Fairley, the Lions’ top draft pick this year, is out with an ankle sprain, which means that old friend Corey Williams will line up opposite Pinkston. The Browns also have to worry about defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

At the very least, Pinkston should be able to take up some space, as he is 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds.

“He’s working through training camp,” Shurmur said of the team’s fifth-round draft pick. “He’s done some things that you need to see in an offensive lineman as far as coming off the ball (and) finishing blocks. He’s a real heavy-body, lower-body guy. He’s got an anchor. He knows how to play the game. We’re pleased with his progress. We’d like to see it keep going.”

So at least he has that going for him, which is nice.

Gaylord the Great

“I’d always have grease in at least two places, in case the umpires would ask me to wipe one off. I never wanted to be caught out there with anything though, it wouldn’t be professional.” – Gaylord Perry

Gaylord Perry spent some time in the Indians TV booth over the weekend, talking baseball with announcers Rick Manning and Matt Underwood.

We’re old enough to remember – barely – when Perry pitched for the Indians in the early ’70s and we knew he was good – he’s in the Hall of Fame after all – but we’d forgotten just how good he was.

Thirty-six years after Perry last wore an Indians uniform, his name is still all over the team’s record list.

Perry pitched three full seasons in Cleveland (1972 to 1974) and part of the 1975 season. He went 70-57 from ’72 to ’74 for a team that was 40 games under .500 during that time, and won 39 percent of the Tribe’s games while he was in Cleveland.

He won the Cy Young Award in 1972, with a 24-16 record and an ERA of 1.92 (his 10.5 WAR was also tops in the league).

His 24 wins in 1972 are the eighth most in team history and are still the highest for an Indian pitcher since 1946. He was also the last 20-game winner for the Tribe until Cliff Lee in 2008.

He is eighth in career ERA while an Indian at 2.71.

Perry pitched an incredible 344 innings in 1974 (third most in team history) and 342.2 in 1972 (fifth most). Those innings are the most for a Tribe pitcher since 1946 and no one has come within 60 innings of that total since Wayne Garland in 1977.

Perry’s 238 strikeouts in 1973 are 13th in franchise history.

We still remember staying up late in the summer of 1974 to watch Perry go for his 16th consecutive win. The Tribe was in Oakland and it was a rare TV game that Ch. 43 (if we remember correctly) televised because of the streak. Perry and the Indians lost the game, 4-3, on a 10th-inning single by Claudell Washington.

As with most things involving the Indians in the 1970s, Perry’s tenure with the team ended on a sour note. He was traded to Texas midway through the 1975 season after feuding for more than a year with manager Frank Robinson.

But while Perry was gone, his legacy lived on with the Tribe. His Cy Young in 1972 was the last for a Cleveland pitcher until C.C. Sabathia in 2007 and then Cliff Lee in 2008. Coincidentally, the Indians traded all three within three years of winning the award.

But that’s a story for another day.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

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