Wednesday, March 31, 2010

You Th' Feller Sellin' Homemade Amish Jam? Derf Previews the Tribe

Posted By on Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 3:47 PM

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In Caze You Mizzed It

Posted By on Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 2:13 PM

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The 50th Anniversary of the Trade of Rocky Colavito

Posted By on Tue, Mar 30, 2010 at 3:53 PM

terry plutos curse of rocky colavito

It's really a testament to Frank Lane's botched transactions that he's still among the most vilified of GM's to ever work in Cleveland. 50 years ago this month, Rocky Colavito was shipped, unceremoniously, out of town for Harvey Kuehn. Who? Right.

Of course, if you've read Terry Pluto's wonderful tome on the trade and Indians history since that moment, you know that nothing has gone right since then. Can we blame it on Frank Lane and the "Curse of Rocky Colavito"? Maybe.

The Baseball Heritage Museum is "celebrating" the anniversary on April 17 with a day full of longing torment and masochistic memories. At least that's what I think is happening. Full press release below.

The 50th anniversary of a seminal moment in baseball history, the one-two punch of Rocky Colavito and Herb Score being traded from Cleveland, will be the focus of a new, day-long event produced by October Productions on April 17 at the Baseball Heritage Museum. “Where Were You on April 17, 1960” will look back at the Colavito for Harvey Kuenn trade as well as the Score for Barry Latman deal the following day.

The event will coincide with the spring meeting of the Jack Graney Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). A day of presentations, discussion, and events will take place at the Baseball Heritage Museum in the Colonial Marketplace, 530 Euclid Avenue, in the Historic Gateway Neighborhood of downtown Cleveland, Ohio. Events are scheduled to take place throughout the day.

Our celebration will include reflections on the careers of Colavito, voted the Most Memorable Personality in Cleveland Indians history, and Score, the beloved pitcher/broadcaster and a part of Indians baseball for over four decades. The event will include audio and video highlights and reflections on those memorable days. Frank Lane, Score’s minor league career, and literature related to Colavito and Score will be among the topics covered during the day.

Admission cost for the event is $7, $5 for SABR members and $3 for kids 12 and under.

Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.

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For the Love of Lonnie

Posted By on Tue, Mar 30, 2010 at 7:24 AM

chisenhall__lonnie.jpg
  • Courtesy of Dan Mendlik, Cleveland Indians

I wrote this for the old-school paper version of Scene that's coming out tomorrow (hit those newsstands, kids!). Figured I'd throw it up here as well.

Prospect is a dirty word around these parts. It's the one-word analog of the popular pessimistic wait until next year refrain. It's the bill of goods Mark Shapiro and the Dolans have sold fans as they've unloaded the Tribe's best veterans — Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, C.C. Sabathia, and others — in seemingly yearly fire sales because they couldn't afford to pay them market value in a small market. Don't worry, they say, we got a lot of prospects back and they're going to be good! And like the famous Grady Sizemore haul of 2001, they could and might actually be right (hell, if the Indians are ever going to win, they better damn well be right), and with the Tribe's budget concerns, prospects on the cheap through the draft and trades is the only viable way to build a contending squad.

Still, patience is not a virtue many fans in the Forest City have, so they don't want to hear about the prospects and how well they're doing in the minors. Which is exactly why I'm about to tell you why you should head down to Akron and watch the Tribe's minor league prospects. Well, one in particular.

Yes, the Tribe's Double-A affiliate is home to a lot of Never Was's and Never Will Be's, but it's also a first stop for many of the Tribe's top-level prospects. Anyone who's been to an Aeros game over the last decade knows well the run of current or soon to be major leaguers and stars that roamed the field for Akron at some point in their careers. A short list: Carlos Santana, the Tribe's next (and, most agree, better version of) Victor Martinez was there in 2009, Matt LaPorta in 2008, Asdrubal Cabrera in 2007, Aaron Laffey in 2006, Franklin Gutierrez and Fausto Carmona in 2005, Grady Sizemore in 2003, and Victory Martinez and Jhonny Peralta in 2002.

Cozy little Canal Park — where all tickets are $10 or less, where you can walk up and grab a seat mere yards from the action — is not only a glorious place to spend a summer evening aimlessly watching baseball for no other reason than to aimlessly watch baseball, it's a great place to check out, yes, prospects, those guys that will call the Jake (I still refuse to call it Progressive Field) home in the years to come, and from seats close enough to see exactly where their loogies land.

Which brings us to Lonnie Chisenall, the one guy in Akron you should be watching this year and a player who's already garnering some hefty praise around the league. A scout told Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman this spring that, "[Chisenhall's] going to be a star. He's a badass.'' The scout also laid out a pretty nice player comparison — George Brett. Not bad. Not bad at all, especially for a guy just entering his third year of pro ball.

Chisenhall was drafted by the Tribe in 2008 and has steadily climbed through the ranks, and quickly — Mahoning Valley first, then Kinston, and Akron for the last 24 games of 2009. He's slated to start 2010 in Akron at third base, but will probably end up in Triple-A Columbus before the season is over. All the more reason to head out to Canal Park early and see him while you can.

Tony Lastoria, who covers the Tribe's minor league system for SportsTimeOhio.com and at IndiansProspectInsider.com, has this to say about the rising star: "Chisenhall is on the fast track to Cleveland and is now arguably the best third base prospect in all of baseball. He is certainly in the top two. Many scouts throughout the game call his swing the sweetest they have seen in years. With the tutelage from Travis Fryman, he has blossomed into an above average defensive third baseman. You combine that defensive ability at the hot corner with his potential at the plate, and that is why he is an exciting prospect and why he will be the top player to watch this season at Akron."

I can already hear the retort from the casual fan: Yay! Hype for a 22-year-old possible savior of baseball on the shores of Lake Erie! We're getting George Brett! Shut up, writer boy. And the fickle fates of the diamond may well derail Chisenhall's pre-ordained ascent to Jesus Wahoo, but listen, enough people think the kid's going to be damn good that it's not silly to actually believe the kid's going to be damn good.

Independent of Chisenhall, though, the Aeros are a fine team and worthy of your disposable income and attention. Back a few paragraphs when I said Akron's home to a cadre of Never Was's and Never Will Be's... that might have been a little harsh. They're professional baseball players and there are more than a few good ones in Akron, enough that they won the AA Eastern League championship last year. So it's not like you're watching the Indians of Double-A. Plus, it's baseball. And there's nothing wrong with baseball. Seeing the next George Brett's a nice bonus though.

Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

We All Need Heroes... Delonte's a Good Choice

Posted By on Mon, Mar 29, 2010 at 12:10 PM

I'm genuinely surprised someone didn't do this sooner. Delonte's smooth freestyling at KFC was just begging for viral imitators, but no one stepped up to pay tribute to the raspberry iced tea and Chipotle laden original until now. I know these kids — who are all of, what?, 12? — lacked the production value, the flow, and perhaps some chemical enhancers that made the original the sensation that it was, but credit is dolled out where credit is due. God bless them for trying. God bless them for watching Delonte spout, "Hot sauce in my baaaaag," and think to themselves, Yes, this man is a hero worthy of our time and energies.

Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.

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A Psychic, Castrovince, and PECOTA — An Admittedly Unorthodox Cleveland Indians Preview

Posted By on Mon, Mar 29, 2010 at 7:03 AM

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  • Courtesy of the Cleveland Memory Project

[Dear Reader: Go ahead and insert your own obligatory "Hope springs eternal" reference here, then join me in the next paragraph. Just say the phrase to yourself. If you do so out loud, however, beware of coworkers or strangers nearby who might think you're a crazy and possibly dangerous person who likes to say hackneyed, optimistic phrases to yourself. You can rectify this by saying, "That's right, you heard me. Hope springs eternal, bitch, wanna go?" You'll still be a crazy optimist who says hackneyed phrases to yourself, but you'll also be an intimidating badass and confirm their fears that you're a crazy and possibly dangerous person. It's their fault, really, for eavesdropping. Either way, I'll wait. Thank you.]

By most accounts — okay, almost all accounts — the Cleveland Indians are going to be bad this year. Very bad. Like, one of the worst in the majors bad. Like, only describable in terms of quotes from Major League bad. (And because I can't pass up a chance to quote the movie, here's my favorite exchange, and one that's certainly to be apropos for this year: Harry Doyle — That's all we got, one goddamn hit? Assistant — You can't say goddamn on the air. Harry Doyle — Don't worry, nobody is listening anyway.)

You all know how we got to this point, so there's no reason to rehash the trades and injuries and free agent flops and Dolan's insufferable cheapness. Okay, maybe one note on Dolan's cheapness, because it really has reached a truly epic and insufferable level. Scott Sargent of WaitingForNextYear.com provided the best description of our penny-pinching owner on Twitter recently. He wrote, "Larry Dolan just saw the iPad - decided to buy seven TI83's instead #selltheteamdolan." The truth warms the cockles of your little baseball heart, doesn't it? Dude's probably still rocking a VHS player, too.

And now, here we stand, on the precipice of Opening Day and a healthy Jake Wes... Hey, look! Z's back! The Cavs are going to clinch home court through the playoffs! I bet LeBron will be unanimous MVP this year. I really really think he's going to stay in Cleveland. Sorry, where was I? Right. A healthy Jake Westbrook and a more consistent Fausto Carmona will be ess... I wonder who the Browns are going to draft? I hope Eric Berry falls to them at No. 7. I know Mike Holmgren was going to focus on making the defensive backfield stronger this year, and the team has to target that area of need in the first two rounds. I apologize, again. It's just, even for a hardcore baseball fan like myself, who lives and dies with the team, the Indians are a bit of an afterthought right now. No hype, no ticket sales, the Cavs, the Browns, and all seven of Larry Dolan's TI83's have combined into a perfect storm of "Cleveland doesn't really give a shit right now." At best, it's apathy. At worst, it's a severe level of pissed off fans who are pledging not to go to any games this year.

But there are many of us who care deeply and will go to games and want to know if the doomsday predictions are really true. Short of Bif Tanner showing up on Twitter somewhere, the best we can do is sort through the endless projection models out there, consult our guts, and listen to the experts. In that vein of investigation, I rounded up predictions from three reputable sources.

1. PECOTA. Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm. Pioneered by stat guru Nate Silver and used by Baseball Prospectus. Input lots of numbers and ages and stuff, and out comes predictions. They tend to be pretty accurate. At least that's what experts tell me.

2. Anthony Castrovince. Beat writer for Indians.com. Find his work there and at his blog, http://castrovince.mlblogs.com, and on Twitter: @castrovince. Also, loves Seinfeld.

3. Sonya Horstman. Psychic Sonya (440-775-1217; hauntedclevelandtours.com). Diviner of the future. Incidentally, Psyhic Sonya will be live with WTAM's Mike Trivisonna on the plaza outside the Jake before Opening Day to perform a ceremony to break the curse of Cleveland. That makes her an authority on baseball and the truth of all future happenings. Also, after she gave a reading on the Indians, she told me my future, and it involves meeting and marrying a 21-year-old who looks like Wonder Woman, and that is absolutely going to happen. I will punch you if you say otherwise.

(Indians' stat guru Keith Woolner suggests using the acronym TEALEAF for Sonya's predictions — Telepathic Estimates Assembled by Learned Experts in Auguring and Fortune-telling.)

We'll bypass discussing role players and low-level bullpen guys and useless, aging veterans, because there's only so much space here and no one wants to read about Jason Michaels David Dellucci Russell Branyan. We'll just focus on the big picture and the big players.

Onward!

The 2010 Cleveland Indians

PECOTA: 79-83, fourth in AL Central.

Castrovince: Honestly, I had more fun watching this team's young guys develop at the end of last season than I did watching a more-veteran version labor through the first half before the fire sale. Hopefully, this year they'll provide me with something to write about and the fans with something to believe in.

And if not, well, there's Pierre's ice cream in the press dining room every Friday night. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Psychic Sonya: There's a storm brewing here, dear. You have a storm brewing in May. This is what's going to happen. They'll start the season really strong, building up, building up, but a big storm comes in May. Is there a man with a 'howl' or a 'wolf' name? Is there a wolf? Something with a wolf. 'Howl' could be part of a name. The wolf, he's like a firestorm. He's going to be a big deal. I see... which guy has stomach problems, or Crohn's Disease. This is not just an upset stomach. It's a dark haired man. I see that could be one of the major players. I see major problems with the stomach of a major player. There's going to be a strong year for the Indians, but definitely a major storm. Major controversies in May. I see a rainbow over the whole reading, though. That's elements of good and bad. I see a strong start, a good two year run, and then a bad three years."

Comment: Perhaps controversy over playing Michael Brantley or Matt LaPorta more in May? Maybe Branyan will be too injured or too inept to be functional and he'll still be getting playing time over the youngsters. Otherwise, maybe Anthony Castrovince eats too much Pierre's ice cream and develops an ulcer. I think that's what Sonya might be seeing.

* * * *

Travis Hafner

PECOTA: .256/.362/.418 (Batting Average/ On Base Perecentage/ Slugging Percentage)

Castrovince: It won't quite be a return to Pronkville, but I wouldn't rule out the possibility of 30 homers if he stays healthy. Finally seems to be driving the ball to all fields again.

Psychic Sonya: I'm picking up a blank on him. He might not be even playing.

Comment: Like I said, I'm marrying Wonder Woman, so my guess is Hafner gets injured again.

* * * *

Grady Sizemore

PECOTA: .271/.385/.485

Castrovince: Still a bit miscast, this time as a No. 2 hitter, but he's back to being the picture of health (as opposed to being a picture-taker) and he'll produce at his old clip. Still needs to shorten his swing.

Psychic Sonya: Does he enjoy sailing or boating? I see red sails. Red sails mean luxury — very expensive. It's a winning color. I almost see him going to another team, towards the water. He ain't going to New York, he's going somewhere warm. I have no bad feelings about this guy. He just longs for the water. I wouldn't be surprised if he had a boat docked in Cleveland somewhere.

Comment: Grady's on a boat, on a motherfucking boat. Well, crap. Leave it to the cards to say what every Indians fan is afraid of. Whenever it happens, enjoy him L.A. At least it won't be New York.

* * * *

Shin Soo-Choo

PECOTA: .278/.383/.459

Castrovince: Enjoy him while he's here, as the Scott Boras affiliation probably killed any hope of a long-term deal with the Tribe. A five-toll player who works harder than anybody else on this team, "Big League" Choo has a bright, bright future. And on a programming note, I'm planning to begin a new segment on my blog this season called "Choo On This," in which I'll get Choo's take on various issues Big Fun.

Psychic Sonya:
Didn't see anything.

Comment: Choo's a freaking rock star. Seriously, best player in baseball that no one besides Clevelanders and baseball nerds know about. He posted the highest WAR (Win Above Replacement) on the team last year — 5.0. Don't understand WAR? Doesn't matter. Just know he's ours until 2014 and try to forget that he just hired Scott Boras as his agent. Also, a note to Castrovince: I want to hear Choo's take on the pie vs. cake debate, psychics, and the Americans he sees when he shops at Wal-Mart. Make it happen.

* * * *

Manny Acta


PECOTA:
79-83

Castrovince:
Great talker and a real breath of fresh air, especially on a young ballclub. There were only two managerial openings in baseball this winter, and Acta was offered them both. Alas, his in-game abilities, which were knocked in Washington, will be in question until he proves he can win at this level.

Psychic Sonya: Does he have a really big belly? Maybe he's the one with stomach problems. It brought me right back to the stomach problems. He's got to watch his digestion. I feel like he's a real straight guy — no drinking or anything. Maybe because his stomach is delicate.

Comment: I'm a Nexium believer myself, but whatever floats your boat, Manny — Prevacid, Prilosec, Tums, etc.

* * * *

Kerry Wood

PECOTA: 4 IP, 3.51 ERA

Castrovince: His back muscle injury is a blessing in disguise for the Indians, because now his $11 million option for 2011 (which would have kicked in with 55 games finished this year) has no chance of vesting and he'll be all the more movable come the trade deadline.

Psychic Sonya: I see him hitting people. He might be doing it on purpose. I'm picking up injuries.

Comment: He'll pitch sparingly until we trade him. Yes, we trade everyone, and sometimes that's bad, but we should absolutely trade Kerry Wood.

* * * *

Jake Westbrook

PECOTA: 133 IP, 23 games, 4.45 ERA

Castrovince: Jake will be Jake. He'll have his days when he flies through the lineup, and he'll have his days where his sinker won't sink and the hits and runs will pile up. He's not a No. 1, but he's the only proven veteran they've got.

Psychic Sonya
: I don't know what's going on with him.

Comment: Two out of the three seem to indicate Jake will pitch a full season. After Tommy John surgery, that's hard to believe, but you got to hope they're right.

* * * *

Fausto Carmona

PECOTA: 139 IP, 25 games, 4.80 ERA

Castrovince:
People keep asking me about this guy because they want to know if they should draft him as a fantasy sleeper. I'm past the point of knowing what to expect from Fausto or guessing if he can get back to '07 form, but I do know he has great stuff and he's pounded the strike zone all spring.

Psychic Sonya:
There's like Mayan ruins here. He's the one related to the dog or wolf, I think. There's something coming up with him in May. I'd watch around the full moons. Something with the howl or the moon. If he keeps his mouth shut he'll be alright.

Comment: I'm not sure, but it seems like Sonya is seeing that Carmona should stop trying to learn how to speak English, and that will make him pitch better.

* * * *

The Seagulls

PECOTA: 14,768 birds, 1 hit by a ball

Castrovince: The Indians found ways to chase them away pretty effectively last season. Unfortunately, a lot of fans were chased away, too, by the 97 losses. Hopefully the fans will come back and the gulls won't.

Psychic Sonya: In the cards, there is a bird, an isis. It's an ancient sacred bird, it hangs off the tree of life. This bird is white. It's like a stork. I don't know what that means. If you look at the page of swords, you'll see a pack of vultures.

Comment: The seagulls may be annoying, but I'd like to see them return if only so I can use the acronym created, specific for Scene by request last year, by Keith Woolner, the Indians' stat guy: WHAM (Waterfowl Hitting Average Metric). Vultures would be bad, though. Probably would mean that Russell Branyan's husk of a carcass is sitting in the stadium somewhere and no one has found it yet.

* * * *

And two final miscellaneous notes:

Psychic Sonya:
Who wears red shoes? There's somebody with red shoes. He's standing on the mound. This could definitely be something strong.

Comment: I do, sometimes, but they're heels, and I don't wear them when I play baseball. Anyone else have any guesses?

And, the most important prediction:

Castrovince: Big year for Mustard. Perennial champ Ketchup distracted by sultry affair with Onion. As the great trainer Mickey Goldmill once said, "Women weaken legs."

Comment:
You're telling me. I'm all wobbly already thinking about Wonder Woman.

Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Apparently Manhattan Has No Problem With the "Prepare for Combat" LeBron Billboard

Posted By on Fri, Mar 26, 2010 at 2:02 PM

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This is the same design that Nike wanted to install in Cleveland where the Witness billboard now hangs. Cleveland, of course, had a problem with it — it didn't feature the Cavs or Cleveland at all and apparently portrayed black men in a violent way.

New York, suitor A for LeBron's services next year, doesn't have a problem with it at all, as you can tell from this pic.

(Hat tip to Tas Melas.)

Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.

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