The joy of Spring gives people a sign of life, new beginning, a chance to start over, become better. It is this wish I hope for Miguel Cabrera, Austin Kearns and Coco Crisp. In my previous blog, I gave sincere praise to Mr. Crisp. It was shortly after I posted the entry that Mr. Crisp was the third player caught with a DUI. I just hope that these three gentlemen and others find what Spring is supposed to be about beyond the game of baseball off the field as well as on it. It is easy for me to preach because I don’t drink but I do have my addictions that are known to God alone. I fight them every day once I address them and can only address them with God’s help. Hopefully, these ballplayers can address their problems with God, family and friends to guide them also.
Also in my previous blog, I addressed the pitching and how wonderful it was so far to see pitchers go out there and put their work in rather successfully. Yesterday’s game was different. Masterson was not masterful as he he gave up 2 runs and 2 hits in 2 innings pitched. What troubled me more than this was the amount of walks that he had: 3 of them.
Jordan Bastian, the MLB.com beat reporter for the Tribe mentioned after the game on Twitter that Justin Masterson loved bowling. I responded back to him without a response that Masterson was now throwing more strikes in bowling than in baseball at this time. Well, yesterday’s performance showed it anyway.
On a positive note for the Tribe, the combination of Drew Pomerantz, Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano pitched the following line 3 innings pitched 1 walk allowed and 5 strikeouts with no runs allowed. This is what I call relief. I really hope this attack of the strike zone can continue. Way to go so far!
DEAL WITH SEATTLE
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Movement off the field of play saw one of my favorite players traded away to Seattle yesterday in Aaron Laffey. Hopefully he will find an opportunity to compete for a starting role with former Indians manager Eric Wedge and former pitching coach Carl Willis reunited with Aaron. I really wish Aaron well and enjoyed meeting him briefly at Progressive Field. I really think he has potential. I just hope he does not do well against us, of course.>
In return, the Indians received Matt Lawson. Two things I thought about, when first reading the news on Twitter, was Matt Lawton and the former local food mart, Lawson’s which was bought out some time ago. However, Matt Lawson is not related to either thought.
In case, one wants to know more, Matt Lawson was one of the prospects who was received by Seattle when they traded Cliff Lee to Texas. His history has him playing 2nd base or shortstop but not at third. Hopefully, he will continue to blossom in the Indians’ farm system.
Later today, the Indians take their squad to face a split-squad Ranger squad in Surprise. I remember in their debut year in Goodyear seeing the Royals there against the Tribe. It is a beautiful park. Hopefully there will be little to no surprises for the Tribe to face when playing Texas. Neftali Feliz is scheduled to get some work against Cleveland as well as Derek Holland a AAA pitcher battling for a spot in the rotation for the defending American League champions. For the Tribe, the Rangers game will be a litmus test and hopefully will be fun to see how we match up with them.
Next game against
I was traveling in tonight’s return to February in Cleveland at a time when everything representing new life, springtime, Easter, Opening Day was coming up this weekend with the return of Opening Day. Instead I received an image I remember from 2007. Seattle came to town. I was one of many volunteers asked to carry the U.S flag and unfurl it on the field. Before the ceremonies last year, there was a huge snowstorm on the field. I was asked to volunteer which I gladly did. I took and strapped on a leaf blower and helped assist the grounds crew to clear off the snow on the field for Opening Day so the game and all the festivities could be performed.
Tonight down around Progressive Field, the snow and wind and cold all were factors again as in 2007 as it was bitter. I was walking around the outside of the ballpark and thought to myself how mentally tough any of the Indians would have to be to play in this weather. I think the same thing applies for the Indians today in Texas. We are going to have to expect that the hitters that Texas has are relentless and we are going to have to be that much tougher mentally to compete, to overcome their offensive prowess and win the game.
Two key people that will have to show this mental toughness are Fausto Carmona whose mental toughness was at its best in the infamous “bug” game in the 2007 ALDS and Travis Hafner, whose mental makeup was tested as he came through with the game winning hit that day. If we get a similar result tomorrow from both, we will prevail. Hopefully he can lead the offense while Carmona can pitch without distractions. If both results can take place, and the bullpen can acheive as advertised, then a win is likely. Still the key word at this moment is “If.”
One thing I realize is that the Cleveland Indians seem to do better when the spotlight or expectation is off them. Today for example, the talk was all about “the reigning Cy Young” taking the mound today. Last year when Cliff took the mound, Cliff Lee was an afterthought. No one seemed to care whom he was. Yet today the promise of a winner began with him. This is understood and expected and comes with the territory of a Cy Young.
One thing I admired about Cliff was what I heard. I analyzed the game that was played Monday afternoon in Arlington. I saw that when Cliff was hit in the forearm on a “come backer” off of Hank Blalock that the mental edge was not there. After that, He seemed to keep the ball up. He wasn’t exhaling right before the pitch was thrown like last year. He never appeared to be in a rhythm. As a result, the hits and runs kept coming. Yet when asked after the game, Cliff said this was not the reason he lost. He was not going to sulk and make excuses. Plain and simple, he did not have it this day. Chalk it up as a loss. We will get them next time.
The offense also seemed to be out of sorts trying to be timely with the big hit. Yet we didn’t seem to get the timely hit when we needed it with runners in scoring position. It looked ugly for us fans, yet the good thing is there is always Wednesday, a chance to regroup behind Fausto, which I believe we can do. The mental part of the game has to be sharper in order for us to pull off a win which I think we shall. Here is to looking forward and hoping for a win on Wednesday.
On a side note, I picked Victor Martinez who was able to get one of the Indians’ five hits and get me on the board for the Beat the Streak Contest. His final stats were 1-4 as he hit a single in his second at bat off Kevin Millwood to left field while batting left handed with Grady Sizemore on second driving him to third. Hopefully this “streak” will continue tomorrow.
A Tale of two Lees: Game 1 Preview for 2009
Location: Arlington TX
Time 205 EDT
It was July 21, 2007 in Arlington, Texas. A dark day for Cliff Phifer Lee. He beaned then Texas Ranger, Sammy Sosa in the head on a night when Sosa was being honored for hitting his 600th home run. This led to an altercation between catcher Victor Martinez and Cliff on the mound during the game and also led to a players’ only meeting after the game. His final line for the game was 7 runs given up, all earned along with 8 hits in 6.2 innings pitched with one walk and five strikeouts. The Indians went on to lose 8-5. Less than a week later after another terrible performance, Lee would be sent to Triple-A Buffalo and only be called up September 1st only to have four calls out of the bullpen, and not as a starter. From July 6 to July 26, 2007, Cliff was in the midst of a stretch prior to Buffalo that had him at 0-4 with an 11.70 ERA. In 2006, Cliff was an 18 game winner. There were some after outings like this that were calling for Cliff to be traded, one year after being one of the best.
2008, a season of dreams for Cliff Lee as it would be for any other major league starting pitcher and a treat for all Cleveland Indians’ fans as Mr. Lee earned a Cy Young award. In one outing last year, Cliff had similar numbers giving up 6 runs, all earned along with 9 hits, walking 2 and striking out 8. Very similar numbers. Face it, its Texas! Nothing looks like a pitching duel here. Yet, with this outing he won 15-9 and was headed to be the Cy Young Award winner that year.
Now the ace of the Indians’ staff for 2009, and coming off a spring training that had him 0-3 with a 12.70 ERA similar to his stats shown above in July 2007. Yes there will be runs scored. The question will lie in the fact if we can match the Rangers in a slug fest whether or not, we can match enough support to help Lee come out with the victory. Also, one might ask will we see signs of the 22-3 “Cy Young” Lee of 2008 or rather the 5-8 Lee of 2007 who was almost traded?
The lineups are out there for all to see. Now all we need is to “Play Ball!” And we will at 2:05 EDT tomorrow, Monday April 6th, 2009, FINALLY! In order for the Indians to win, I believe the offense must keep us in this ball game because as history has shown, runs will be given up by Lee in this ballpark. It will be interesting how our lineup responds to match the Rangers’ offensive juggernaut led by Josh Hamilton. Good luck to Cliff and the rest of the team as they face Kevin Millwood and the rest of the Rangers. I can’t wait!
I recently gave my opinions for the National League teams and now its time for the American League teams. First up are the teams in the American League West.
The Mariners have a new attitude infused into the management side of things with the debut of Manager Don Wakamatsu. General Manager Jack Zduriencik continued to make moves by dealing J.J. Putz as part of a trade with the Indians and Mets for players like Franklin Gutierrez while also trying to recapture some memories of the glory days with the re-signing of Ken Griffey Jr..They are searching for a closer and will probably have a few closers. With all this indecision and instability, fourth place will still be the result. Still, there will be improvement and excitement returning to the northwestern U.S. soon. At least that is the hope.
The Athletics are like a ticking time bomb. If the young pitching and the new hitters on this team like Jason Giambi and Matt Holliday click together, this will be an interesting team to watch to see if they can contend. They have excellent pitching prospects and a solid bullpen. The question is if they can explode fast into contention or have to trade away Holliday or Giambi by July to rebuild. I think the latter. Third place will be a result.
The Rangers will be a scoring machine. The key to the Rangers success will be the pitching. With Mike Maddux as their new pitching coach and Nolan Ryan as their team president and the best minor league system, they should improve, yet will it good enough to contend for the division. I think their starters are not good enough to do this. I may be wrong but I think third place will be the result because the starters and relievers just do not strike me as star calibur players ready to help this team compete with the Angels. They are close, just not close enough. Second place will be the result.
The Angels lost key free agents in Texieria and K-Rod and replaced K-Rod with Brian Fuentes. I think they may have enough to repeat as division champs. However, it will be a tighter division for them. I think the risk taking in fundamental baseball that Scoscia has makes them a contender and they are deep enough to have spot starters to fill in to start the season. I pick them to be first but I’m nervous about it. it will all be about carrying momentum for them and getting off to a fast start if they want to truly win, otherwise it may be a dogfight to the finish.
Thank you one and all for your support for me in keeping me at #48 on the latest leaders list for fans of MLBlogs.com. Today I want to dedicate this ranking to a player on the Tribe the year my wife was born and the year I was born. For us, baseball is a family affair. That person was Sudden Sam McDowell.
Sudden Sam McDowell played for the Cleveland Indians from 1960-1971. For the Tribe, he was a 20 game winner in 1970, He was a six-time all star. He is second all-time in strikeouts to Bob Feller for the Cleveland ballclub with 2159 strikeouts. He also played for the San Francisco Giants, New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates. He is current #34 of the Top 100 strikeout pitchers of all time with 2,453 K’s all-time.
His greatest achievement happened off the field as he was able to admit he had a drinking problem and checked himself into rehabilitation. He then earned a degree to be in sports psychology and addiction and went on to be a sports addiction counselor with the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers. He even earned a World Series ring while working as part of the 1993 Blue Jays.The character of Sam Malone, the alcoholic ex-Red Sox pitcher portrayed by Emmy Award winning actor Ted Danson in the television program Cheers, was based on the baseball life of McDowell.
This information is inspiring to me because he is a man that was caught up in fame, admitted and overcame his addictions and has lived a productive life. We all can be inspired by Mr McDowell to overcome our present situations and strive to make the best of what seems like impossible odds by turning our lives over to a higher power and trusting that life can and will improve for all of us no matter what life holds. Thank you Sam for your example on and off the field.
Interestingly enough, his last playing year was 1975, the year my sister was born. Like his nickname Sudden, I received some sudden but exciting news as my sister announced she is engaged. I hope and pray for her life ahead and welcome her fiance as part of the family.