Posts By Mike Brandyberry
Every manager talks about it as the key to success in nearly every aspect of baseball. You can’t listen to a player talk about their game without mentioning it as a key. You can’t listen to a pregame or postgame press conference without hearing about its importance.
Through 17 games, the Indians are struggling mightily to find consistency and it shows on the field almost daily. Some of the Indians’ lack of consistency is due to bad luck and injuries. The rest of their inconsistencies are a result of their play.
The old adage goes that offense sometimes comes in bunches. The Indians found a bunch of bunches on Saturday night.
Cleveland had been struggling to hit with runners in scoring position, but Saturday they were 11-for-22, generating 19 runs of offense on their way to a 19-6 rout. The Tribe controlled the game from the onset, forcing Philip Humber from the game after only one out. The Indians Scott Kazmir was less than stellar in his first game back in the big leagues after two seasons.
It’s only 23 miles from Sugar Land, Texas, to Houston, but when Scott Kazmir takes the mound this evening at Minute Maid Park in his hometown, in front of friends and family, it will be quite the milestone in a long, tough journey back to the big leagues.
Tonight will be Kazmir’s first start in more than two years. His last appearance, allowing five runs in one and two-third innings, on April 3, 2011, with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was one of the several low points in the decline of a two-time All-Star. Now, he’s hoping the journey finally has found smoother roads.
“It’s very exciting,” Kazmir said. “I’m proud of myself to be able to come this far over the last couple years. It’s been great.”
The Indians fell behind early Friday evening and were never able to catch up, losing 3-2 to the Houston Astros.
All five runs in the game were scored on the home run ball. Brett Myers was stung by two home runs on the evening, while Lucas Harrell was only struck for one home run. The extra long ball turned out to be the difference in the game.
The Astros jumped on top in the bottom of the second inning, when with one out, Carlos Pena walked. J.D. Martinez then homered to right to give Houston a 2-0 lead. Rick Ankiel followed with a solo shot to make it back-to-back homers and give the Astros a 3-0 lead. The two homers were Myers’ ninth and tenth home runs allowed this season, respectively.
Baseball is full of stories. For Jason Giambi, he’s slowly transitioning from the final chapter of one novel and to the likely beginning of another in his baseball journey.
His baseball story has All-Star Games, a Most Valuable Player award, Silver Slugger awards, accusations and admissions of steroid use and a Comeback Player of the Year award. When you’ve been a big leaguer since 1995, your baseball story has time to take many twists and turns in the novel.
Giambi, near the end of his career, has spent his last four seasons as one of the last men on the Colorado Rockies’ roster, often pinch-hitting late in the game and mentoring their younger players. His 429 career home runs and 1405 runs batted in were nearly all achieved before he reached Colorado, during his dominant seasons with the Oakland Athletics (1995-2001, 2009) and New York Yankees (2002-2008) when he was one of the most feared hitters in the American League.
Last year, at the end of a disappointing season, it appeared the final chapter of his playing career was over. He applied, and was a finalist, for the Rockies’ open managerial job. Had the Rockies hired him, he was willing to retire, but when they elected to hire Walt Weiss instead, Giambi still had the itch to play. Looking for a chance to write one more chapter in his playing career, Giambi needed a chance and the Cleveland Indians came calling.
“I’m grateful to have the opportunity,” Giambi said. “Three months before that, I was interviewing for manager of the Colorado Rockies. So, when Terry (Francona) and Chris Antonetti called up and said, ‘hey we want you to come here and we think there’s a role you can fit. We think you can DH.’”
It’s why games aren’t played on paper.
On paper, the Indians appeared to be a deficit heading into today’s game, struggling to score runs still and left-handed Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale on the mound against less-than-consistent Zach McAllister.
But games don’t always play out as they appear as McAllister outdueled Sale for a 9-4 Indians win on Saturday afternoon. Sale was not dominant and eventually lost his cool, while McAllister pitched through early struggles for a fine effort and Mark Reynolds had one of the better days of his career to provide all the offense the Indians would need.
“He’s a young pitcher that is gaining experience,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I thought the command of his fastball today was tremendous. He started the game out with an error and we give up a couple runs, we got right back and he settled in throwing a lot of quality strikes. That’s a great way to pitch.”
When you aren’t honest, you can only receive the benefit of the doubt for so long.
“I really want to say I’m sorry,” Carlos Carrasco said after last night’s 14-1 drubbing from the New York Yankees. “I don’t want to hit anybody. I’m coming from a six-game suspension, I don’t want to do anything real bad and I’m just telling the truth. That’s what happened.”
It sounds like a good story if you don’t know Carrasco. However, as he mentioned, last night’s game was his first big league game since Aug. 2011 after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery. His last appearance on Aug. 3, was while appealing a six game suspension from Major League Baseball for throwing at Kansas City Royals’ Billy Butler. On July 29, Melky Cabrera hit a grand slam home run into the right field seats in the fourth inning, giving the Royals a 7-0 lead. The next pitch sailed behind Butler’s head, Carrasco was immediately ejected and later suspended.
On Opening Day, it seems the Indians have traveled thousands of miles this winter in their journey to build a winner.
Mike Aviles can relate with long travels.
Beginning his sixth Major League season and as part of his fourth organization, it would be easy to label Aviles a veteran journeyman. While he fits the description, he is more the journeyman off the field than he is on the field.
Each season Aviles drives from his home to spring training, and from his home ballpark city back to his home at the end of the year.
“I always drive. I do a lot of driving across country. I enjoy driving and hitting the road,” Aviles said. “Going, I get that mental clarity to turn the page to baseball mode, let’s start the season. On the way home, it’s like that mental wind down, we’re done. Now, it’s family time.”
With Spring Training underway throughout baseball, we will take a look at the offseason moves made by the other American League teams. Two teams will be reviewed each Sunday until the beginning of the regular season. Previous previews include: TEX/HOU; OAK/LA; SEA/TOR; BOS/NYY; BAL/TB; KC/MIN
By Bob Toth
The race for the American League Central Division last season was one of the better battles in all of baseball, even if it took a back seat to races in the AL East and West.
The Chicago White Sox surprised many around the league with a young roster built around a trio of power-hitting veterans and a rookie manager who found themselves still in the race in the final week of the season. The Detroit Tigers remained hidden in the weeds, waiting to pounce with a dangerous rotation and a single offensive contribution not seen in 45 years.
Heading into the 2013 season, both teams will return rosters very similar to those they fielded last year. Will it translate into similar results on the field, or will the other three teams in the division be able to unseat last year’s trend setters?
During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the players that are difference makers in how successful the Indians season will be.
By Craig Gifford
Since an August call up to the majors in 2007, Asdrubal Cabrera has been a mainstay with the Cleveland Indians. What has not been a mainstay is consistent, winning, big-league-caliber talent around him. Much has changed for both Cabrera and Tribe since his rookie season.
That first year with the Indians, Cabrera was a contact-hitting second baseman. The Indians got to within one win of reaching the World Series before the wheels fell off against Boston. Since then, Cabrera has transitioned back to his natural shortstop position. He has transformed himself into more of a home run, run-producing threat. He has also seen a great deal of losses pile up leading to the complete makeover of the team, leaving him as the only member left from that near-championship club.
Since 2007, Cleveland’s front office has spent quite a bit of time trading away soon-to-be free agents headed for big paydays. The team put more of a focus on developing young talent than signing Major Leaguers. That is until this past offseason when the Indians went on a spending spree.
By Craig Gifford
The importance of performing well within your division is a known necessity in Major League Baseball. With 76 game, nearly half the 162 on the schedule, against intra-divisional opponents, taking care of business there is a great way to build a high victory total.
This year, in the American League Central, a strong showing against the other four clubs could be even more pertinent. The defending American League Champion Tigers are essentially the consensus favorite to win the division. There is not argument to that here. However, this appears to be a very good year for the Central’s runner up to earn one of the two wild card nods.
By Ronnie Tellalian
With the offseason acquisitions of Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs, and Mike Aviles, the Indians added a great deal of speed to their lineup. The stolen base is now a weapon Tribe fans will see used game after game as the Indians sprinters will be off to the races. Not since the 1990’s has the Cleveland lineup been filled with a number of stolen base artists, and the offensive production they add will surely be reflected in the runs scored column.
From a statistical standpoint, the value of the stolen base has varied greatly from year to year. This is due to the fluctuation in run scoring from year to year. From the 1980s to the 1990s, the stolen base held a good deal of value and fast runners racked them up at an unprecedented pace. That began to change in the late 1990s and from 2000-2012 the stolen base had begun to wane as a well-used offensive tool. From 1982-1999 Major League baseball players stole 3000 or more bases in all but two seasons, and those were the strike shortened years of 1994 and 1995. From 2000-2011, the 3000 mark was reached just once. The lower stolen base totals had a great deal to do with the increase in home runs and run scoring of that time period.