This week has been one where I was either working or watching ballgames live at a ballpark or playing the game or trying to catch up on rest. Whatever you may think, it has been a busy time.
Since I last wrote a blog, my thoughts were focused on Pavano pitching like the ace of the staff this year. What happens? He gets shelled. It was a night I wish I would have taken off early when working at the gate. Instead, I stayed and saw the worst game of the year so far performed by the team. The team gave up early and the effort given was inexcusable.
The next night, it was clear on paper that we were going to outdueled by Zack Greinke, a candidate for the AL Cy Young What happened? We got to him late and pulled off an upset thanks to Jhonny Peralta key hit to tie the game up with a shot that almost went off the left field wall. Shin Soo-Choo later hit a bird that was well publicized. It caught the attention of one of co-workers the next day saying they were a good luck charm. Also, he thought, it might be a sign that we need to change the name of the team to the Lake Erie Seagulls instead of the Cleveland Indians. Whatever results from this suggestion, the team more importantly won another series.
Friday was a spectacular night. The sun was shining. The atmosphere was buzzing. In were coming the St. Louis Cardinals. Someone told me without naming the source that nationally, the Cardinals were the third or fourth most followed team in the nation as a whole behind the Yankees and Dodgers at least. Although, I think the Red Sox are above the Cardinals in popularity, nationally. Anyway, scouting the Cardinals as I was, (Mind you, I am an amateur) I found the Cardinals to be a team where Pujols is the only one to worry about on that team. Hey he hit 2 homeruns and drove in a third to help the Cards score 3 runs while our team approach was good enough Friday to score 7. Game 1 of the series belonged to the Tribe.
Saturday I went to the game with my children and my wife. We sat in the upper deck to see Albert Pujols hit another two home runs. Someone please tell Wedge, the manager that it’s okay to walk Pujols. Quit pitching to him. No one else seemed to hit that much. To solve the bird problem, the team kept shooting fireworks to keep the birds off the field and it worked. The effort offensively was not there this day and it resulted in a loss.
After the game, the birds were everywhere on the field as the fans including my family were treated to Major League. For Cleveland Indians fans, this will always be a classic.
Sunday afternoon, my family again attended a minor league game at Classic Park to see a game between the Lake County Captains and the Phillies affiliate from Lakewood, New Jersey. Lakewood is on their way to winning the first half of the South Atlantic League. The Captains fell behind early yet scored 4 in the bottom of the ninth to make it interesting and almost pull off a solid comeback. Wow, what a finish! Unfortunately it was not enough as the Captains fell short losing 9-7. Hey we were down 9-3 and were able to make it interesting at the end.
Sunday night, I needed a break from baseball. Yet I still wanted to watch to scout the Indians hitters since I needed to perhaps pick one to continue my streak from Beat the Streak. Here I was surprised to find how easily our team was getting to Chris Carpenter. On paper, I was thinking again that a loss might be ours. Why? Cliff Lee led the league in hits allowed and Albert Pujols was a hitting machine. Yet, this is not what happened. Instead, Mark DeRosa hit a two-run homerun and Kelly Shoppach hit a solo shot and had a double. This alone was enough to beat the Cards. Pujols and the rest of the Cards were almost no-hit by Cliff Lee. A three hit shutout was thrown by Lee on the second consecutive national television audience. What it meant was a third consecutive series win by the Indians. All I can say is WOW!
One nice thing to see from the Cardinals’ series was the amount of Cubs’ fans with DeRosa on the back of their jerseys amidst all the Cardinal fans that showed up. Way to go Tribe and way to go, fans!
Tonight, the NL Central leading Brewers are in town. Its’ again time for Pavano to erase the poor start he had against KC. He will be going up against Dave Bush who lost his last four starts. Hopefully this series winning mentality will be continued. We shall see. Go Tribe!
When the Red Sox play us, it is intense. Tonight, expecting to sit in the upper deck, my sister-in law surprised me by saying tonight’s plans had changed, we were going to sit right behind home plate. It was very intense and I was into it from the first pitch.
I was trying to get her camera to work at the right time. After a while I trusted her to get all the right shots which I will share soon. With the Red Sox, our team had to earn it. Here are some personal observations.
Dustin Pedroia- One can see how he earned the MVP. He is like Mighty Mouse coming to save the day and really an intense competitor for such a small guy.
Kevin Youkilis- He has such quick bat speed.He is very intense. I noticed that the fans of Red Sox Nation throughout the park tonight liked to get him motivated by telling him how bad he is, so I tried the reverse one inning which I cannot recall and told him how he was this year’s MVP so far and he promptly struck out swinging.
Big Papi- He will not get cheated. His outs are LOUD and his hits are louder.
When we down 5-1, I saw a reversal of fortune with error #1 from Mike Lowell. Thank you Mike! It was really special to know that your effort helped us continue the inning.
Also, error #2 was special to see to keep our inning alive. God’s grace was allowing luck to happen again for us.
Now breaking away from the errors, I kept telling the bullpen to trust their stuff and their team defense and we were able to get out of jams in each inning.
Also I told Louis Ben Francisco to earn some respect from these “self proclaimed World Champions of 2009.” At least that was the impression their fans gave as they relentlessly said “Let’s go Red Sox” as though they were already too awesome to ever lose again.
On the next pitch, Louis, in my personal doghouse, nailed it deep of the the left field foul pole to tie up this war of atrition making the score 7-7.
When the Red Sox thanks to Lugo’s key hit helped Bay score and make the score 8-7, I just told the players not to lose their focus and trust their stuff. They got out of another tough jam.
I told DeRosa to do his best to get a hit and he launched one of the very tough Takishi Saito. What a shot! I just thought this was very special.
Still with Boston, one can never feel too relaxed as a fan of Cleveland. The job Kerry Wood did to get out of the ninth inning was awesome. I really was impressed. I hope this can continue tomorrow.
I just kept asking God to help this team win this night for the community, the city and put Boston FINALLY on a losing streak, even if just for a night. Sure enough, in the most unforeseen play so far this season, it looked like such a routine play and when the third error occurred, I knew that my prayer was answered. It took everything in my power to look up and point to the sky with a big smile and bigger exhale knowing I was emotionally spent saying “Thank you God for this big break!” Call it luck for the Tribe, call it carelessness on Lopez. I believe it was an answer to a prayer that led to an eighth win and an opportunity to WIN a series against a VERY tough team that has a nation of fans.
Thank you God for this wonderful blessing. Hopefully it can stir a spark that will lead to a big series win tomorrow. I can only HOPE in God and the Tribe as I will have to stay more neutral and less CRAZY as a fan.
A note about the eighth inning: I kept thinking about “Sweet Caroline.” We have our “Hang on Sloopy” where we cay O-H-I-O and perform the gestures. Well I was trying to inspire the team at the time and say “just O-W-I-N guys” The next inning, call it what you will, we were allowed to do just that, thanks be to God!
Here is another crazy analogy about Tribe history I found ironic that I was thinking about in the ninth that give you that six degrees of separation type of game. As you know Terry Francona’s father Tito played for the Tribe and so did Terry. Pitching coach Farrell played for the Tribe and was one of our key player development personnel before joining the Sox. Now in the ninth, in comes Javier Lopez, former Twin and Angel. His number is 48, the year the Indians last won it all. His name Lopez, which reminds me of Al Lopez, one of the top managers who managed the 1954 Indians. Just a crazy way that helped me believe this was fate and God’s Will for this night.
Here are some pictures I had my sister-in-law took of the Tribe players at bat on base and after the game:
I read about the Indians’ Eric Wedge addressing the team after the Indians dropped another 9-3 to the Royals. I myself was looking like this.
For those that suffer like this, it is no laughing matter. I changed my attitude quickly, snapped out of it and wanted to take a positive approach. They needed to focus on today only and play like a champion. I had to cheer like a champion.
Eric Wedge addressed the team. He said the team had to improve in three areas. They had to get better starting pitching. Today’s result. Enter Aaron Laffey.
His line score read IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Laffey 5.1 3 2 2 3 5 0 3.38
Starting pitching better after one game
Next Eric said that the Indians would have to get better defensively to help the starting pitching. Today’s result: enter Grady Sizemore.
He and the rest of the team had great defense and zero errors to help Aaron’s effort stand up.
Defense helps starting pitching after one game
Finally, Eric said the team had to do better with runners in scoring position.
Today’s result: enter Mark De Rosa.
With one week to go before the games will start to count, I began to receive training as a member of Indians security. I go back in one week to receive further training. It will be interesting for me to see games from this vantage point. I will be interested to see how this will affect the way I observe the atmosphere of the game and perhaps the game itself. I am looking forward to April when this all becomes reality and really counts as I’m sure everyone else is too.
Until then, spring training is still in session. Yesterday was a painful Cubs reunion for all Cubs fans. For me, it was awesome to read about. Seeing the box score say DeRosa had two roundtrippers and a double, going 3-4 and scoring three times was a pure delight. In addition, Indians closer and former Cub Kerry Wood was able to get some work in giving up no runs or hits and only giving up a walk and striking out one in his inning of work made it special. I noticed that the Cubs countered with former Indian Milton Bradley getting one big hit, a homer of his own off Carmona in the third inning with 1 on. Talk about matching intensity from players doing damage to their former teams. Fortunately, the Indians were a little better. Still when I read about these types of things going on, this song comes to mind from the musical “Annie, Get Your Gun.”
This reportedly is what was said in the area in the parking lot between the players.Just imagine, Kerry Wood, Mark DeRosa representing one singer and Milton Bradley, the other. I wonder if someone called for the Mesa Police to break it up. Just kidding! I just have not so fond memories of how Milton used to be while with the Tribe. To review this is an article here showing just how Milton was. All I know is I now like the new team members compared to Milton before.
The effort is so much better
The attitude is pleasant to be around.
The focus on winning and team first is there!
I was trying to justify why Milton was so attractive to the Cubs, now I know why!
Nevertheless, here is the irony: there were two former Cubs vs. two former Indians.
Today the Indians will be under the lights against the Padres. It will be nice to see how this goes. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Indians will do when Pavano pitches against Correia in Goodyear as the final week of tuneups begins.
The morning brought news that made me smile.
The news broke that Choo and his Korean team would be part of the second round in the WBC as they won 1-0. Not only are they a rivalry with the two countries, there is a part of me that thinks the rivalry continues when Ichiro return to the Mariners and Choo to the Indians. the reason for this is listed here. Also was the news that last night De Rosa and the USA advanced to the second round with a win against Venezuela reviewed here. So, all in all, the Tribe’s week was starting off well. However these results were not going to help at a place called Camelback Ranch.
Enter some potential and former WBC participants to pick up the slack. Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez helped lead the tribe with other great performances from Andy Cannizaro, Tony Graffinino and Michael Brantley, the same one I thought of highly when he first arrived. Now we are on a winning streak. As meaningless as these Spring training games are, a win is a win is a win.
Looking forward to games this week and who to watch for, Tribe fans have to be eagerly anticipating the debut of some Wood on Tuesday followed by a Smith on Wednesday. I wrote about them here.
There is much riding on these contests. With God’s help and grace, these games can be a tuneup to an opportunity to shine like the sun for 2009, much like it does in the Arizona sky, mostly every day.
It has been an eventful day. At 5:30 a.m. the weather in Cleveland wasn’t exactly like this.
It was actually a day that would be sunny, dry and in the 40’s with no snow on the ground as we left Cleveland. However, one who can go to Arizona surely understands why…not only do we go to see baseball but to leave this behind.
At 7:30 we checked in only to wait for a 9:05 takeoff. However when you know as a fan you are leaving the snow and headed for warmer days, there are smiles all around.
We landed in Phoenix around 11:30. The local game time at Goodyear was 1:05. While several may have been rushing to get over to see “Opening Day” as one passenger said, my family was taking in the AZ landscape and scenery and catching up on 30 plus years with family and friends. I felt foolish taking this picture after church today being Ash Wednesday because there was nothing religious about it.
The reason I bring this up in a baseball blog is what happened afterwards. There is a term for people who come from cold climates to warm climates know to citizens in AZ. I and others like me are known locally as snowbirds. What I consider weird is just being a snowbird.
Now I have a greater appreciation for rivals in the Cactus League. Two such rivals from the AL West, the Athletics and Angels are literally blocks from each other. I went down a main road saw this Arizona skyline on the top of a hill
and this also on the same hill from a different direction
This was all beautiful to a person who has been through a Cleveland winter but where was the baseball?
Literally, I came down from the hill with my family, went to an intersection (Oakland A’s fans rejoice). and saw this at the border of Phoeniz on Priest Rd.
It was the Oakland Athletic training complex and stadium. Cleveland plays there Saturday.
Here is where the rivalry starts. I blinked after our family tour guide took some simple lefts and down the street at what felt like down across the street was this stadium and complex.
In defense of how close these stadiums appear, my relative who has lived there said at one time there used to be a clear dividing line between Tempe and Phoenix. Now it is so built up, it seems like they are within walking distance. Its actually about a 5 minute drive. It reminded me of baseball in New York at one time when the Dodgers, Yankees, and Giants all were in certain boroughs of the same city. Talk about rivalries.
Speaking of the Giants, they visited the Tribe today in Goodyear and beat my Indians 10-7. However a great time was had by players
and fans alike.
Tomorrow I will go to my first ever Cactus League game for the Tribe. After what I saw today, I look forward to seeing everything up close and personal, literally. I will be off a few days going up to the Grand Canyon and visiting with more family and will have even better photos to share. I have been waiting all year for it and am ready for my first live taste of Cactus League play from the Indians. Aaron Laffey is scheduled to start. I look forward to it and will definitely enjoy it.
This news announced Thursday from Indians MLB.com beat reporter Anthony Castrovince found here was not news to us Tribe fans including this one and me. Andy Marte was released. It was expected. However, it was a story that brought back a lot of memories for me to reflect upon.
The Arrival of Coco Crisp
It began August 7, 2002. On this day, Coco Crisp came to the Indians. At the time, my daughter was 2 and my son just turned 1. I was already a big fan of the game. After watching Coco one night against the Angels, I decided this would be the player I would tell my children to emulate when playing or watching the game. The way he played the game was one i wanted my kids to follow. I kept repeating his name every time I sat down to watch baseball telling my children to watch his every at bat. I remember one such at bat. Coco was up with the bases loaded against the Reds at the time as I recall against their closer at the time, Danny Graves. A shot up the middle from Crisp and the winning run scored. “We came back and won, kids, thanks to Coco Crisp” I guess what helped make him so memorable was that he reminded us all of Snap Crackle and Pop.
The Arrival of Andy Marte
This news hit me hard. It was hard to tell the kids. I think it was harder for me to tell about than it was for them to take. They simply went on to like other players. I, however felt like I lost another Rocky Colavito. Still I was optimistic and moved on. I heard and read many good reports about Andy and was willing to watch him develop into an All-Star third baseman.
We fans expected Andy to be but all we got was Andy had so much potential but just never lived up to his billing.
It was hard for him and hard for us. I was happy to see him go and try to succeed elsewhere. After all I was tired of singing the name game and needing one of these when talking about Marte.
I was also tired of the jokes about K-mart or Wal-Mart and relating them to Andy. It just didn’t work out and needed to change.
The arrival of De Rosa and promise of Hodges
With DeRosa, I feel very confident that we are in good shape. I wrote earlier about DeRosa here and just feel so much better about the situation. Also after seeing Wes Hodges play in Akron, I really believe we have some promise there that could be well worth the price of admission in the future. i know I was impressed with what I saw even though gas was at $4 a gallon. It was well worth the one hour there and back from my house, even at those prices. Perhaps i will need to go two hours to Columbus to continue to see his progress. Hopefully I will see De Rosa and Hodges in some action when I go in a few days to Goodyear. I know no matter what, it will be well worth it.
Image credits: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/fantasy/baseball/news/2003/05/01/nl_report/t1_graves_all.jpg