- Centrefielder Grady Sizemore once missed the start of the game after he caught a glimpse of himself in a reflective surface and was unable to look away. Slap a sawbuck down on Sizemore being AL MVP, Chief (or not). All he would have to do is put up something close to his 2008 numbers, except do it on a division winner so the right people notice.
- The wormballer, Fausto Carmona, will probably bounce back. Righty Anthony Reyes, now that he's out St. Louis' bad books, might be able to turn his career around and give Cleveland a solid third or fourth starter.
- Eric Wedge is one of MLB's youngest managers and one of its most old-school. His teams don't steal a lot of bases (the Mets' Jose Reyes had more base swipes than the entire Cleveland team, 78-77) and his starters go deep into games.
- Cleveland's bullpen ERAs, from 2005 to '08, have been 2.80, 4.73, 3.92 and 5.07. They will either return to compentency, or try to shoot for a 6-something figure this season. Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez typically handle those seventh and eighth-inning situations.
- The team on the field Opening Day, give or take super-prospect Matt LaPorta, is probably the one they'll have all season. The estimable Terry Pluto reported, "I sense ticket sales have not been brisk -- although Opening Day is a sellout. I doubt there will be much money available in the budget for a midseason pickup of a player who has a hefty contract.
- Ohio is suffering its worst job losses in three generations. What happens if LeBron James leads the Cleveland Cavaliers on a long playoff run and then the Indians make the MLB post-season? You could see a lot of empty seats.
- Cy Young Award-winning left-hander Cliff Lee finished spring training with a 12.46 ERA. C'est la vie for a flyball pitcher. Maybe it was the dry, dusty Arizona air (or not). His fake baseball ERA last spring was 5.68 and he turned out OK.
- The AL Central winner will likely face the wild-card team in the Division Series. Consider yourself warned if Carl Pavano's surgically repaired wing holds up the entire season and the Yankees end up making the playoffs, because you'll hear all about that storyline.
- Kerry Wood is now the closer. What are the odds of seeing him pitch in a World Series against his old Cubbies team?
- Eric Wedge can win bar bets and impress his grandchildren by telling them he was one the home run leader on a team which had Jeff Bagwell. Yes, it only took five homers to lead the 1990 New Britain Red Sox.
- Travis Hafner is probably not going to hit again like he did in 2007, let alone '06. He's a buyout waiting to happen.
- Asdrubal Cabrera (yes, it was naive to think once that the Jays could somehow trade for him) and Jhonny Peralta are a not half-bad middle-infield combo at second base and shortstop. Both of them will probably rotate one spot to the right before long.
- Fielding was not the Clevelanders' strongest suit last season, which might explain why they crashed to an 81-81 record. Sizemore won a Gold Glove more as a consolation prize than anything else.
- One drama for the Indians is that Lee's personal catcher, Kelly Shoppach, presents a pretty good sell-high proposition. He's better than most teams' starter, but probably won't produce an .865 on-base-plus slugging again. Having two co-No. 1 catchers, the other being Victor Martinez (who moonlights at first base and DH), means Cleveland could jettison one of them and become a better team, at least on paper.
- Cleveland has gone 45 years without a major pro sports championship (the nearby Ohio State football team doesn't count, since they're, technically amateur and their sport doesn't have a real championship). This fact gets run into the ground any time a Cleveland team is in the hunt for anything, so thankfully you only have to hear it in May with the Cavs and October with the Indians.
- Corner outfield used to be a Cleveland strength since the days when they had Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez in the same outfield. They were so deep in the late '90s that they let Brian Giles go for very little.
Wedge is a master of, well, wedging three or four players into the right and left-field jobs. Shin-Soo Choo probably offers the most after OPS-ing .946 last-season.
- Josh Barfield (son of Jesse) has gone from being a potential 20-homer-a-year second baseman to being kept on the team as the "designated runner." Thing is, he's not that great a base stealer.
- Sizemore's 33 homers and 38 steals last seson made him Cleveland's second-ever 30-30 man after Joe Carter in the '80s. Sizemore also actually knows how to draw a walk, too.
- The power hitter positions are all pretty malleable over the next two seasons, save for Travis Hafner being owed $52 million through 2012. The Indians have a lot of good hitters coming through their system.
- Their Double-A team in Akron might be more worth watching than the major-league club on some nights. Four genuine hitting prospects, lefty DH Beau Mills (former Expo Brad Mills' son), lefty outfielder Nick Weglarz, oversized shortstop Carlos Rivero and switch-hitting catcher Carlos Santana (chuckle once at the name and get it out of your system) will all be opening the season there.
- Nick Weglarz is red-haired, left-handed and Canadian, which automatically makes him pretty awesome. The big takeaway from his '08 season is he cut his strikeout rate from one whiff every 4.1 times at bat to one per 5.8. The power numbers are not yet there (20 doubles, 10 dingy-dongs), so keep an eye on that at Double-A Akron.
- Weglarz' extended family lost out a bit when the Indians moved their Triple-A affilation from Buffalo to Columbus, since he's from Stevensville, Ont., just across the border. The upshot is the Tribe's top two farm clubs are both in Ohio, so it's not too far a drive.
- Utilityman Jamey Carroll had his No. 3 jersey retired by the Ottawa Lynx. His highest batting average in three part seasons with the late and lamented Triple-A team was .280, but his hustle forever endeared him to the now forlorn faithful (who have not given up fighting to bring pro ball back to the city in 2010).
- Family Ties did a send-up of the Indians' poor attendance long before the Major League movies. In one episode, Jennifer Keaton called the Municipal Stadium box office to ask, "Do you have two tickets for tonight's game? (Long pause) You have 35,000?"
Incidentally, everyone knows Michael Gross, who played the dad on that series, appears in How I Met Your Mother as the father of Ted Mosby, who's from Ohio and who is an Indians fan.
Similarly, the guy who played Dauber on Coach, which was set in Minnesota, plays the factor of the Jason Segel character, Marshall Eriksen, who's from St. Cloud, Minnesota. That attention to detail is legendary.
- It's a real shame some of Bob Uecker's best film work was wasted in Major League II.
Back goes Cerrano. He's gonna need a rocket up his ass to catch this one. That one's out here. That looked like like the'terminator,' only slower. Maybe it was his 'out-of-stater.' Maybe it was the hibernator. That baby is definitely goin' away for the winter. Whatever, for Vaughn, it could be 'see ya later,' he's probably going to become a spectator.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Batter up: Cleveland Indians
It's that mystical, wonderful time of year where you commit to a baseball team who you know fully well won't win. This season, in honour of an popular Internet meme, we'll present 25 things about each team. At bat: The Cleveland Indians.