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In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “Grady Sizemore”

International Man of Mystery

Over the years we have seen more than our fair share of strange moments in Cleveland sports.

From Ten Cent Beer Night, to an Indians player breaking into the umpire’s room to retrieve a teammate’s confiscated bat to Bottlegate, to Dwayne Rudd’s helmet toss, there has been no shortage of interesting times.

But even by Cleveland’s standards, we weren’t really prepared for Thursday’s news about Peyton Hillis.

A day after Hillis split with Kennard McGuire, his third agent change in the past year, ESPN’s Adam Schefter cited unnamed sources in reporting that Hillis told Browns coaches at the end of last season that he was thinking of retiring and possibly joining the CIA.

Read more…

Tribe takes a sip of sweet & Lowe

The Cleveland Indians were movers on the first day of baseball’s off-season, declining the option on outfielder Grady Sizemore, picking up the option on pitcher Fausto Carmona and trading for starting pitcher Derek Lowe.

Wait, what?

The Indians traded for the 38-year-old Lowe, who was 9-17 with a 5.17 ERA for the Atlanta Braves last year. The Braves were so frantic to get rid of Lowe that they will pay $10 million of his $15 million salary for next year.

And those 17 losses? They were the most by a starting pitcher in the big leagues this season.

Oh boy.

We just can’t join the crowd in trying to talk ourselves into Lowe as a viable starting pitcher any more. If he couldn’t do any better in the weaker NL, what is he going to do taking the mound against the Tigers, Yankees, Rangers and Red Sox?

We understand the reality of the economic situation for the Indians, however. They don’t have the money needed to be active participants in free agency so this is the only kind of move they can make. And that is probably what gets on our tits more than the thought of Lowe taking the mound every five days for the Tribe.

We just finished a post-season where the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals were praised for taking on the “big-money teams” in baseball. Of course, the Cardinals had an Opening Day payroll of $105 million and the Rangers were at $92 million; both far more than the Indians $48 million.

And let’s not forget the Rangers have an $80 million per year TV contract in place to start in 2015; the Tribe ain’t getting that kind of money.

Consider that the Yankees will pay C.C. Sabathia $24 million next year – about the same, or slightly more, than the Indians will pay for their entire starting rotation.

So, wahoo to a starting rotation of Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Carmona, Josh Tomlin and Lowe.

As for Sizemore, there was no way the Indians could bring him back at $9 million a year, no matter how much money they had. Not after he played in only 210 games over the past three seasons.

Of course, if the Indians pony up the cash then Sizemore will be back in Cleveland next year.

“Grady is not going to rule out playing for anyone, including the Indians,” said Joe Urbon, Sizemore’s agent. “The only difference is now he is able to engage with all 30 teams.”

In other words, Sizemore will sign with the team that gives him the most money. And there is already speculation that Sizemore will be the “right fit” for the Red Sox.

Something tells us we’ve seen the last of Sizemore in Wahoo Red, White & Blue.

Huffin’ & puffin’ the Twins

Just when we start to worry about the Tribe, they surprise us and pull us right back in.

After losing two straight to the last-place Orioles, the Indians headed to Minnesota for a big four-game series with Minnesota.

Monday’s day-night double header featured David Huff and Fausto Carmona taking the mound for the Tribe, leading us to worry about the prospect of a four-game losing streak.

So what happens?

Huff goes out in the opener and throws seven innings of shutout baseball to lead the Tribe to a win. And Carmona went six innings, somehow giving up just two runs as the Indians swept the Twins.

Just the way Manny Acta drew it up before the game.

“David Huff did a nice job,” Acta said in published reports. “David really pitched good with the lead. He attacked both sides of the plate. I can’t say enough about the job he did because he was on three days’ rest and it was so humid and hot.”

“(Fausto is) a guy with great stuff,” Travis Hafner said in published reports. “He’s one of the leaders on this team, so if he can pitch well it’s a huge boost for our club.”

Huff pitched so well that he earned another turn in the rotation, as the Indians sent Jeanmar Gomez back to Columbus after the game.

See what we mean about surprises?

No matter how many times the Tribe gets knocked down, they find a way to come back.

The latest punch came from Grady Sizemore going on the disabled list for the third time this season. Sizemore told The Plain Dealer that the injury feels similar to the one that led to season-ending microfracture surgery last year on his left knee.

“There’s a lot of concern,” Sizemore told the paper. “I just hope I don’t have to go through what I went through last year.”

That doesn’t sound good.

But the Indians have done nothing but play through injuries this year, and hopefully this won’t be any different. But we do have to wonder how much more one team can take and still keep on winning.

Taking the double header was huge for the Tribe. The Twins have been on a roll lately, but now sit seven games back in the standings.

With Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin scheduled to pitch Tuesday and Wednesday, it sets the team up nicely to (at least) win the series and put some additional distance between them and the Twins.

If the Tribe can pull off the sweep of the four-game series, they can push the Twins nine games back, putting a big bucket of cold water on the hot streak the Twins have been on recently.

Let’s hope the Indians have a few more surprises in store for us.

Grady Sizemore’s bad wheel

Apparently, since Portland is out of the NBA playoffs, Grady Sizemore borrowed Greg Oden’s knees.

Sizemore, who missed most of last season after having microfracture surgery on his left knee, hurt his right knee sliding into second base last week against Tampa Bay. Now he’s on the 15-day disabled list.

Of course he his.

”Grady has progressed the last five days, but not enough for us or for him to feel comfortable about his ability to play the outfield,” Indians trainer Lonnie Soloff told the Beacon Journal. ”We feel the most prudent course of action at this point is to place him on the 15-day DL to give him the time he needs to heal.”

”As of yesterday, he was hitting without symptoms, and he was running at about 75-80 percent with only mild symptoms.”

Sizemore started the season on the disabled list, but has been one of the Tribe’s best hitters since returning, batting .282 with 10 doubles, six home runs and 11 RBI.

Hopefully this is nothing more serious and it’s probably for the best that the Tribe is being cautious. He was swinging the bat well and, with Detroit creeping up in the standings, the Tribe needs all the offensive help they can get.

Plus the Indians start a 30-game stretch on Monday where they play at Kansas City, at the White Sox, Cincinnati, Boston, at Tampa Bay, at Toronto, Texas, Minnesota, at the Yankees and at Detroit.

That looks daunting at first, until you realize the Royals are fading; the White Sox stink; Boston,Toronto and Texas are .500 teams; Minnesota is in the Central Division basement; and the Yankees are falling apart as their players are crybabies who only care about themselves, not the team.

So things are set up well for the Tribe to make a nice run into June and come out of this next stretch of games in good shape.

And then things should get real interesting this summer.

***

You have to give credit where credit is due.

After seeing Manchester United claims its 19th league title – finally topping Liverpool as the most successful franchise in English soccer – United fans hung a banner at Anfield on Sunday saying MUFC 19 TIMES before Liverpool’s game with Tottenham Hotspur.

The fans who hung the banner made a quick getaway as they had cars waiting for them outside the stadium.

The banner was in response to one unfurled at Anfield in 1994 – when Sir Alex Ferguson won his first title as Manchester United’s manager – that said “Come back when you’ve won 18.”

Well, they came back, all right.

***

It’s not all bad news at Merseyside, however, as top-notch goalie Pepe Reina is buying what manager Kenny Dalglish is selling.

Reina is committed to staying at Liverpool thanks in part to the team’s climb up the table under Dalglish and because of the team’s transfer plans for the summer.

“In recent weeks I believe we are going in the right direction and we have to keep it like that,” the Spain international told The Daily Mail. “Next season it will be more positive and the quicker we react and improve the better it will be for the club.”

Dude, next time call a cab

Pro athletes never cease to amaze us with the poor decisions they make off the field.

Unfortunately, the Indians Shin-Soo Choo is the latest example.

According to The Plain Dealer, Choo was arrested Monday morning for DUI in Sheffield Lake.

Choo was stopped on Route 6 at 2:25 a.m. and failed a Breathalzyer test, registering a .20, more than twice the legal limit of .08, according to the story.

“We are aware of the incident with Shin-Soo Choo and have spoken to him about it,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said in a statement. “The Indians organization takes these issues very seriously and we are disappointed in the matter. We will continue to monitor the situation and we will not have any further comment at this time.”

“I sincerely apologize to my family, teammates, fans and the Indians organization for the attention stemming from this matter,” Choo said in a statement. “However, I am hopeful that this incident will not be a distraction to the Indians organization while we remain focused on continuing to play winning baseball.”

Choo has a hearing scheduled for 5 p.m. on Thursday at the Sheffield Lake Mayor’s Court. Of course, the Indians are supposed to be playing the A’s in Oakland at that time, so …

We certainly don’t take Choo to task for having a few adult beverages – he’s an adult and cocktail hour is one of life’s little pleasures.

But he certainly has the money to call a cab or hire a driver if feels like having a few too many. Or if he wants to hold on to his money, we’re sure there are plenty of Tribe fans who would be willing to be a designated driver for free.

You’d think someone in Choo’s position would use better judgment – especially in a town where Donte’ Stallworth played.

Apparently not.

***

Not a real surprise since this isn’t Boston or New York, but ESPN’s Jayson Stark isn’t a believe in your first-place Cleveland Indians.

In his latest Rumblings & Grumblings column, Stark sizes up the AL Central Division, saying of the Tribe:

Stat of the day: The Indians are the 23rd team in the wild-card era to start a season by going 19-8 or better, and the fifth to do it in the AL Central. Of the previous 22, 15 made the playoffs – but only two of four in the AL Central.

Reason to believe: The Indians lead the league in runs scored per game – and Shin-Soo Choo (.716 OPS) and Carlos Santana (.191 average) haven’t even gotten hot yet. So the offensive upside here is scary.

Reason to worry: The Indians’ shockingly good rotation is tied for the league lead in quality starts – but 11th in the league in strikeout ratio. That suggests this group has had a lot of luck fall its way so far on balls put in play.

The prognosis: We’ve found plenty of people in baseball who believe in the Indians’ ability to crank out runs – and almost nobody who’s sold on this pitching staff being quite this good. “I just don’t see it from a run-prevention standpoint,” one AL executive said. “If I’m wrong and they go on to win 95 games, God bless ’em. But I just don’t see it yet.”

Trust us guys, it’s there, you just have to look harder. Everyone in Cleveland sees it.

***

We would have thought that someone who “only cares about winning” like Derek Jeter does – or so the myth goes – would realize he’s not the same player and accept a move down in the batting order.

According to an article by Bob Klapisch in The Bergen Record:

“… among American League shortstops, Jeter is 16th in slugging percentage – an embarrassingly low .270. Pitchers no longer fear throwing him fastballs up in the strike zone. In fact, the scouting report has become a virtual prophecy: Jeter can be softened up with inner-half heat, then beaten with breaking pitches down and away.

The result? Just two extra-base hits in his first 100 at-bats. Since June 2010, Jeter is hitting .255, which is reason enough to drop him out of the leadoff spot. Privately, the Yankees would welcome Jeter taking the initiative and offer to drop down to, say, the No. 7 or No. 8 spot.

Jeter take the initiative? How about the manager doing his job and filling out the lineup based on performance, not reputation?

Just for comparison’s sake, Grady Sizemore is hitting .340 with a .389 on-base percentage and a .740 slugging percentage.

Now those numbers are worthy of being a leadoff hitter.

Manny being Manny

We really didn’t think much when Manny Ramirez announced he was retiring rather than face a 100-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

But then we read Sheldon Ocker’s column in The Beacon Journal remembering the playful Manny that was in Cleveland from 1993 to 2000. That’s the Manny that we will always remember.

We’ve always been pretty ambivalent about baseball’s steroid era. The commissioner didn’t care, the owners didn’t care and the players association didn’t care, so why should we?

And, over the years, it has become obvious that, since no one was being tested, it’s impossible to know who was – and more importantly was not – using something.

While it’s easy enough to see the physical changes and improved performance from players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte taught us players used banned substances to recover from injuries and Jason Grimsley showed us not everyone turned into the Incredible Hulk when they used PEDs.

So unless someone has a time machine and can go back to test everyone who played in the 1990s, there’s really no way to be certain – its all speculation. So you either assume everyone was clean or you assume everyone was on something.

It may not be fair to paint everyone with the steroid brush, but it is also probably naive to think that just because someone’s head didn’t grow to the size of an overripe melon that they were clean.

It’s also unrealistic to think that baseball players weren’t using steroids before the 1990s. The San Diego Chargers were using steroids in 1963 and the Steelers probably owe much of their Super Bowl success in the 1970s to steroid use.

Does anyone really believe word of that didn’t spread to major league baseball teams?

It’s unfortunate that Ramirez had to leave the game this way. But he willingly broke the rules and there are consequences for that.

But we’ll always remember him for what he did on the field, rather than for the choices he made off the field.

***

Fausto Carmona picked up his first win of the season, Grady Sizemore homered in his first game action since last May and your first-place Indians swept Baltimore on Sunday for their 11th win in the past 13 games.

Carmona extended a streak of unbelievable starting pitching for the Tribe, going seven innings and giving up just one earned run.

Indians starters have thrown 87 innings over the past 13 games, giving up just 18 runs, good for a 1.86 ERA, and posting a 9-1 record. They have not allowed a run in the first inning of the past 13 games, and opponents are hitting just .095 (4 for 42) in their first at-bat.

It almost goes without saying that Tony Sipp and Chris Perez each notched another scoreless inning of work.

We hate to say the Tribe’s pitching is unprecedented, but really how else to describe it?

And then there was Sizemore, who homered in his second at bat and added a double in his third.

“I just wanted to go up there, have good at-bats, help the team and get a win,” Sizemore said in published reports. “I was definitely nervous.”

There’s no way of knowing yet how much of the old Sizemore the Indians will see this summer. But anything he can bring to the plate and the field will only be a bonus.

The Indians now head to Kansas City for a four-game showdown for first place.

We could really get used to this.

***

Hats off to the Kent State gymnastics team, as the Golden Flashes finished the season ranked No. 12 nationally, the highest ranking in the program’s history.

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