Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Radio Nowhere: Does Cleveland need more sports talk?

92.3 FM flipped the switch Monday morning from modern rock to sports talk in becoming Cleveland's only FM sports station. "Sports Radio 92.3 The Fan," owned and operated by CBS radio, offers a mix of North Coast-centric sports speak as well as NFL and college football play-by-play coverage.

The new station will go up against WKNR, previously the market's only dedicated sport-talk source, while WTAM 1100 will remain the flagship home of the Browns, Cavs and Indians. 92.3 arrives with an eclectic if somewhat locally unknown lineup to battle WKNR's mix of local and national shows. For a city that loves its sports, you'd think breaking up WKNR's veritable monopoly would be a good thing.

The question is, Does Cleveland really need an FM sports station? The answer would seem to be "Hell yes," as over the last few years WKNR has degenerated into an odd grab bag of local programming that doesn't know if its wants to entertain or inform.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thome comes back to the Indians, but the sun is setting

It's going to be a weird sight when Jim Thome steps back into the batters box at Jacobs--whoops, now Progressive--Field for the first time in almost a decade. #25 would have been on a statue and a banner in right field had Thome decided to stick to his word and not let his uniform be "ripped off his back" back in 2002. But he made his choices, and I'm sure, while he will get his cheers, there are a number of true-blue Indians fans who will find it very hard to root fully for Thome. Not to mention our very own Ryan.

Jim Thome is no longer out of the box new.
That being said, I don't know how to feel. The Thome defection was a true stomach punch. I had taken him at his word, and truly felt, like many Indians fans, that Thome was a true Tribe legend.  The brass thought so too, as they never offered a statue to Dion James, after all.  But I never bought into the pure hostileness that many fans did. I guess I saved that for TGiM.

Regardless, this Indians season has turned into one of disbelief-slash-unbridled-joy into one of disbelief-slash-injuries-and-losing-streaks.  The Indians have somehow gone from being 15 games over .500 in May to one game under, as of this morning. Ridiculous. Much of that has to do with injuries. Travis Hafner's first trip to the DL coincides almost directly with the losing ways, and between then there was Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore, Carlos Carrasco, and now Jason Kipnis. Among others. It's getting to be a joke.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thome to the Tribe? You're kidding, right?

Cleveland, how quickly we forget.

Do we not remember what Carlos Boozer, I mean Art Modell, I mean Lebron James, I mean Jim Thome did to us? He told us he loved us, he said we were his rock (or maybe he said that about his wife), that we would have to "Rip the jersey off (his) back". Or grease it with a little cash, I guess. Jim Thome lied to us. DO WE NOT REMEMBER?!

Would any of you take Lebron James back? Jim Thome did the same thing! (Minus that little TV show on ESPN) You always knew Lebron might jump ship, he wanted/wants to be a global icon and he never gave a damn about Cleveland, and never really even pretended to. "The Thomenator" flat out told us he wouldn't leave, said it wasn't about the money, and then left for the biggest pot of gold he could find.

I'm told time heals all wounds, well...not for this guy.

I don't fault Manny for leaving. Or Albert Belle. Or even Cliff Lee. (Yes, I know he was traded--but he was going to be leaving), I would even have taken them back on the Tribe. They never lied to me. They never pretended to be something they weren't. They never pretended to love me.

So if the Tribe does add Thome you won't see me cheering about it. I would much rather win with guys I can respect.

I am now reading rumors on Twitter how he might veto a trade to the Tribe because he wants to go to Philly.

That's funny. And not the least bit surprising.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

As the earth shook, Shin-Soo Choo still crushed

As the earthquake, centered in Virginia, made its way across the country, sending people out of buildings and walking confusedly in the streets, the Indians were playing the Seattle Mariners in Cleveland. And at 1:51 PM, in the bottom of the third inning, the earthquake started shaking the stadium all the way in Ohio during Shin-Soo Choo's at bat.

I took a rough video of what was going on--you can see the center field camera start to shake after the 2-1 pitch. Then Choo hammers a foul into the third base seats, and it really starts shaking, and Tom Hamilton comments on it from the press box.

Presumably, as he showed in the ninth inning, Choo don't have time to mess around! He's got a one-day-old daughter at home and ignored the earthquake, raking a double to the wall in right center.

Later, in the ninth inning, his eagerness to visit his family had him hammer the first pitch he saw for a three-run home run into the bleachers, giving the Indians the win after blowing it in the top of the ninth.

Indians are now 1-0 with a little rumbling during their games. Hopefully the Angels and Giants line up as opponents should the Indians right their ship and end up in the playoffs. Because they will be right at home with a little swaying.

Joe Thomas gets his

I hadn't remembered that Joe Thomas announced, when he was drafted, that his "primary goal" was to make it to the football Hall of fame**. If I had, I don't think I'd have liked it. Sure, it's not like he said he was "on the hunt to get this money YA DIGG!!" as Phil Taylor so eloquently put it in April. But still, seems unlike Joe Thomas to put himself first like that--not wanting a Super Bowl Ring more than anything--wanting a yellow jacket. Now that he plays here, it seems ludicrous to think that he could have said that.

And Browns fans get their man / Joshua Gunter/PD
What I do remember is a guy who would rather be out fishing with his dad than in the lights of Manhattan when his name was called. And I remembered thinking, that's gonna fit right in, in Cleveland.

Sure enough, four standout, Pro Bowl, never-missed-a-game seasons later, he is the perfect fit. And he could have walked after next year, looking for greener pastures. (Figuratively in two senses--wins and dollars.) But it turns out he never wanted to. Even though he must have been hankerin' for a new contract, he never peeped to the press about it. He never took to Twitter to complain about the front office. He never pointed out that he could never commit to an organization that couldn't keep a coach more than two years. He did (apparently) make his case quietly and effectively, for a raise. And the Browns gave it to him.

Monday, August 22, 2011

In tough loss, Perez owns it

Twitter is a strange animal at times.

Perez was bad tonight and he knows it.

Before I grudgingly signed up for the crazy-popular social media service I found it to be a bastion for spelling-challenged navel gazers who gleefully mix stupid hash tags with ass-hatted non-sequiturs. Now that I'm part of the six-zillion person Twitter revolution, I still find the service to be all those things as well as an undoubtedly addicting news-and amusing bullshit-gathering tool.

On rare occasions Twitter can even offer insight into someone's character. Consider the Tribe's gut-wrenching loss tonight to the lowly Mariners, a game Cleveland desperately needed to stay within hailing distance of division leading Detroit.

Fiery closer Chris Perez came in during his most important outing of the season and essentially does the pitching version of a comic pratfall. Two hit batsmen in a row - a feat I have never seen in two-plus decades of watching the sport - and an error and just like that the Indians are 5.5 games out of first with the Tigers beating Tampa Bay.

What does Perez do after this debacle? In this weird new world of oversharing where social media can make people's lives a human peepshow, Perez (@ChrisPerez54) sent this tweet out into the electronic stratosphere:
"Positives from that outing: no balks, everything else I did sucked."
Perez's message came maybe 30 minutes after the game was over. It's rare for anyone, much less a pro athlete, to own catastrophic failure. The Tribe closer's candor is refreshing, even if it's cold comfort as the 2011 Indians season slips slowly into oblivion. It's just hard to be mad at a guy who unabashedly admits to screwing the proverbial pooch at the worst possible moment.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

15 groundouts and Fausto was a beautiful sight tonight

And I get to catch up on some much needed sleep. No foul ball drama tonight, nor drama of any kind. Fausto was brilliant, making the White Sox pound the ball into the ground time after time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Slipped through our fingers

Early this morning, somewhere after 12:10/1:10 in the morning, in the top of the 14th inning, Travis Hafner fouled a 3-1 pitch high and back. It started off a bit more toward third, but then curved back toward home, directly toward where I was sitting in the first row of the 500-level. I reached over and down, mindful of the 12-inch fence that would hardly have kept my 6-3” self from plummeting to a painful end. But the ball hit the cement facing, skimming my fingertips. Rick Manning commented on STO that it bounded to the lower deck, landing in a long-abandoned (but not fully finished) cup of beer.

DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune
What a waste. Of beer. Of my closest chance ever, through hundreds of baseball games, of catching a foul ball. (Some doofus in the lower deck caught his second of the game shortly after my near miss.) And of course, for the Indians, whose impotence at the plate when it counted late in the game cost a game in the standings looking up and back.

It probably never should have gone that far. The Tribe looked hapless early, and the White Sox were smacking the ball around off Ubaldo Jimenez and nearly anybody who followed him.  But the Sox could never capitalize as much as they should have, and their pitchers proved unable to hit the strike zone. Plus a couple costly mishaps ("Boot it Like Beckham"--classic) let the Tribe back in it.

But as great (interesting?) a comeback it was in regulation, the extra innings were just as frustrating. Bases loaded, men on third, no matter what, the Indians couldn’t bring a runner across the plate when it counted. Sure, the crowd was getting drowsy, but don't they brew extra strong coffee in MLB clubhouses? This is a game that the Indians had to win. It was right there for them to snatch away, and they couldn't come through. 

Hitting medium-deep fly balls with men on third base should be on the practice agenda today.

Whenever the Indians wake up. Me, for one, I’m grabbing another cup of coffee.

Interesting side note: sure, this was the Sox game (on the south side), and it was northbound train after the game, but the Red Line at 1AM was about 55% Indians fans, 35% White Sox fans, and 10% high-as-hell Phish fans who were coming from the show.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I'm not sure what to think of this picture

AP Photo/Amy Sancetta
Sure, it's nice to see Jim Tressel up and about. I've never been one of the staunch defenders of Coach Tressel; something always stuck at me, maybe it's the battered-wife-syndrome of being a Cleveland fan, but so much of Tressel's empty quotes struck me as utter bullcrap.

Never did I think he was a rulebreaker though. I just didn't think he was ever candid. And that, at the end, is what finished him as a big-time college coach. He definitely broke the rules, and the rule here was to be candid and report everything you know, as is clearly written in the rules and your signed contracts and agreeements.

That being said, Jim Tressel visited the Browns' camp today. I've long wondered if Jim Tressel would be an interesting pro coach. I'm not sure his style would translate cleanly to the pro game, but I'm willing to bet he can wring the best out of an undertalented but highly devoted group of players. That kind of coaching would never work in the NBA (because those players don't exist), but football players, who are often very aware of their longevity, may have eaten it up.

What I don't understand is--palling around with Lloyd Carr?  Speaking of beaten-wife-syndrome...

Jim Thome, Indians fans, and hoping for a clean 600

Congratulations, Jim Thome.

That's the sentiment tonight from the baseball world, as Jim Thome finally hit his 600th home run, only one at bat after hitting his 599th. Fortunately, it came against the Tigers, and in a Twins win. So unless the Twins make a miraculous turnaround and overtake three teams in the division, Thome's home runs and anything else he contributes to the Twins have twice as much chance to help the Indians than to hurt them for the rest of the year.

Thome hits his 600th. Getty Images

I, for one, wouldn't mind him hitting a few more versus the Tigers this week.

The fawning of most commentators for Jim Thome is the kind of manual pleasure usually reserved for the likes of Yankees or Orioles shortstops. Terms like "blue collar worker", "great teammate", "cares about people", "best guy you're ever going to meet", "as genuine as they come," are all commonly heard in the effusive praise.

But not from everyone. Certainly some Clevelanders will never forgive Jimmy for how he left the Indians after the 2002 season. One particular rarely-seen contributor to this blog, I'm pretty sure, ranks Thome's defection only under Modell's and LeBron's in the Cleveland Hall of Free Agent Infamy, and above Carlos Boozer, Albert Belle, and miles above Manny Ramirez.

I gotta say, I was convinced Jim would sign with the Indians. I remember arguing the point in the Muni Lot before that week's Browns game, thinking there's no way, with what the Indians were offering (a statue in right field??), the adoration of the Indians, and his obvious affinity for Jacobs Field (I was there when he put that one 460 feet or whatever, which might be the longest home run in Jacobs Field history.) (Some would disagree.) But mostly, his words about his love for the Indians were what convinced me he would stay.

Monday, August 15, 2011

How firm thy friendship, indeed.

Now if only Republicans and Democrats could remember we're all Americans, like Browns and Packers remember that they are still Buckeyes...

AJ Hawk, Ryan Pickett, Brian Robiskie, and Brandon Saine represent after the Browns preseason victory over the Packers on Friday night.

Quiet offseason a risky business for Browns' front office

Heckert, Shurmur and Holmgren...Cleveland's new hope.
The Browns' workmanlike performance during the first quarter Saturday night was nice to see, even if the preseason is a dull and virtually meaningless exercise that the NFL has the gall to charge good money for.

But if you were looking for progress I guess we saw some in the small sample size of a couple of possessions. The offense, led by Colt McCoy and his much-maligned receiving corps, looked crisp in scoring two touchdowns, albeit against a vanilla Packers' defense without the services of cornerback Charles Woodson. The Browns' defensive first-team, meanwhile, forced a punt on one possession and got burned by Aaron Rodgers on another.

There were unsurprisingly no clear answers to be gleaned from this first bit of post-lockout competitive football. It was fun seeing the guys on the field again. Even the predictable tedium of the preseason has a certain feeling of well-worn comfort to it. After all, people don't watch practice games to get stressed out. We save our sweaty palms and rapid heartbeats for the regular season, and hopefully for heights far beyond anything this town has seen since about 1989.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What is Ubaldo wearing on his head and how do I get one?

As Ubaldo deals with the 'pressure' of his first home start, all I have to ask is--what is on his hat?

Hope the adoring fans and gorgeous ballpark help him deal with it!

UPDATE: The lack of sleep has gone to my brain, and apparently to my eyesight. Those are sunglasses, which now I can see clear as day. What a stupid post. My fault.

From mlb.com homepage
Here's a link to the accompanying article by Anthony Castrovince (@castrovince), including some interesting chatter on whether Ubaldo's presence could be a spark for Fausto Carmona.

Bleary eyes, sore elbows, can't lose for the Indians this morning

Thomas Ondrey/ Plain Dealer
What a morning. What an evening? I don't even know, because waking up this morning after about 4.5 hours sleep was pretty tough. I actually had a dream in which I thought that I had dreamed that the Indians won, since I almost went to bed after the ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth inning. But no, this is real life.

But I didn't go to sleep. Like many of the Indians faithful in the seats and on their couches (and on Twitter, it seems), I stayed up and watched the Indians pull off the antithesis of an exciting walkoff, scoring on a Fukudome bases-loaded hit-by-pitch. in the bottom of the fourteenth inning. Whatever! Looked like it hurt for sure, and even though Kosuke had done nothing but strike out four times before the fourteenth, the last thing the Tribe needs is another subtraction from their income.

Either way, Tuesday and Wednesday were going to be big games because of the daunting prospect of Justin Verlander on Thursday. The rain delay took our ace Masterson out of the game, but the Bullpen Mafia lived up to their name, pitching an amazing twelve scoreless innings. Even though a few hits were scattered throughout, there was no serious Detroit threat to score.

What I won't dwell on is the botched suicide squeeze in the eighth inning. All I'll say is that if it had worked--and it easily could have--Manny Acta would have been seen as ballsy and smart. So with the Indians' bats virtually silent for six innings, let's not criticize him trying to manufacture a run.

Time for another cup of coffee. If someone in my office left an empty pot there will be hell to pay.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What If?

What If?

What if last week was a bad dream?
What if dreams where something is just out of reach are worse than total nightmares?
What if the Indians had won six or seven of the games where they were tied or ahead in the eighth or ninth inning?
What if their August Monday off sets them in the right direction?
What if they realize that neither the Tigers nor the White Sox are a team to fear?
What if the Indians could put it together over the next two months of almost solid AL Central games?
What if twenty-two games versus Detroit and Chicago are plenty to make a statement?
What if I mean that those twenty-two games are a fine way to make a GOOD statement?
What if the Indians do what they should and dominate the lesser teams still remaining on their schedule?
What if Ubaldo Jiminez continues to hit 97-98 MPG and his spots?
What if it's not 150 degrees every time he pitches?
What if Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin are the real Tribe studs for the next two three months?
What if Carlos Carrasco is on the DL under false pretenses?
What if he comes back in a bullpen role to make the team even stronger?
What if Shin Soo Choo's reengineered thumb makes him stronger?
What if we have to start calling him a "six-tool" player because of that thumb?
What if our bullpen cosa nostra figures out that they are made men, and play like it?
What if they let morons on Twitter just go unanswered?
What if the two rookies in the lineup keep getting better?
What if "We are all Kipnesses" becomes a trendy slogan?
What if Fukudome is indeed getting comfortable in a new league?
What if the Indians can just put it together again, at a level even close to the beginning of the season?

A huge stretch of games starts tonight versus the Tigers. But it's not just three games this week that are "make or break." It's not far from that--being down four games is a lot better than being down eight games come Friday morning. Being down two is even better. But the Tribe plays the AL Central so much in the next month that a sweep either way vs. Detroit wouldn't be the end of the world--or a cause for Champagne.

What if this Indians season didn't resemble the stock market?
What if investors and Tribe fans didn't need a cabinet full of Pepto Bismol?
Because it's Cleveland and there's no other way.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Curious start to the trip for the Indians. Plus Kenny Powers and Ubaldo.

This week opened unusually for the Indians. Obviously an important road trip was starting, with visits to first place Boston and Arlington. The Indians had looked like a joke for a number of weeks, with the third worst record in the American League over that time. A feeling of "here we go again" was rampant for Tribe fans. For every thrilling walk-off win, there were a couple games of Indians hitters looking like they were straight out of double-A.

Jim Rogash/ Getty Images

So what the the team do? At the trade deadline, they made a huge wager on the future of Ubaldo Jiminez, and that did send a bit of excitement through the team, although didn't seem to solve the Indians biggest problem areas. But Ubaldo isn't pitching until tonight, and the Tribe had four games versus the bloody hose to worry about first.

Ohio State players sport silly bands

This story had escaped my attention until just now but seems like a few Buckeye football players (freshman, it seems) were wearing "JT" wristbands to support departed coach Jim Tressel. Then today Ohio State University made them stop wearing them, and reimbursed them the money they apparently paid a staffer for them.

A couple things:
-This loyalty is understandable, as Tressel (and his staff) recruited these players, sometimes for years
-These kids (hopefully) don't understand that wearing something like that pokes a finger into the eye of the university and NCAA in some sort of misguided show of support for a discredited coach who will never coach at a high level again
-But it's no big deal. It's not a huge poke in the eye--it's basically on the same level as Terrelle Pryor wearing eye black supporting Michael Vick. Distasteful maybe, unwise certainly, important not at all.

Stephen Colbert taking over @MLB Twitter feed now...

Stephen Colbert has wrested control of the MLB Twitter Feed for today, until midnight on Friday.  Not sure if this gives him ability to sneak a hitter through waivers for the Indians.

Check out the tweets at @MLB, and follow Stephen regularly at @StephenAtHome.

And of course follow us at @CleveSpTorture, @Pucky22, and @CSTDoug.