The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Archive for the ‘Cleveland Indians’ Category

Opening Day Genesis

Posted by disappointmentzone on 31 March 2008

I am usually loath to so blatantly steal from another website, but in the spirit of opening day I cannot help but quote the following in its entirety. To do any less would be to violate the word of God, or at least one man who seems to be particularly well-connected to him (or her). The historical validity of the following might be questionable. But its message does not err. To quote, then, from Glenn Birkemeier, by way of McSweeney’s, Opening Day Genesis:

“In the big inning, God created Heaven on Earth. And it was without form, and void. God separated the dirt from the grass. He called the grass Outfield and the dirt He called Infield. God made the Infield a 90-foot square and the Outfield not less than 400 feet to center and 320 feet down the lines. He declared this Fair Territory. All other territory, God then declared, was Foul.

And God divided the players into two teams of nine players each, under direction of a manager, to play The Game on His field. God called some of these players Pitchers and some of them Hitters. He placed a Pitcher precisely 60 feet 6 inches from a Hitter. Then God commanded that it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the ol’ Ballgame.

And God granted jurisdiction of The Game to lesser Gods, whom He called Umpires. God said the Umpires are infallible, blessed with Heavenly authority, whose judgment is not to be questioned under penalty of expulsion from The Game. And God looked at his creation and He was pleased. Then God created the Infield Fly Rule to confuse nonbelievers.

And God said, Let there be light beer, and there was. And, God said, let there be peanuts and hot dogs and overpriced souvenirs and let there be frosty chocolate malts with little wooden spoons that you can buy nowhere else except at this Heaven, which God called a Ballpark, and there was. God looked at His creation and it was good.

And the Lord God formed, from the dust, a collection of elite players in His own image. The Lord God then breathed the breath of life into His creation. God called this creation the National League.

And God said, It is not good for the National League to be alone. The Lord God shall make it a mate. And thus, while the National League slept, God took several of its top players and created the American League.

And God blessed The Game, saying, Be fruitful and multiply. Put teams in every city with deserving fans, God added, even if this occurs at the expense of starting-pitching depth.

From time to time, God understood, The Game would be corrupted by the Serpent. The Serpent was more cunning than any other beast and he would take many wicked forms: the Black Sox, segregation, the Designated Hitter, the Reserve Clause, dead balls, juiced balls, spit balls, corked bats, George Steinbrenner, AstroTurf, the 1981 strike, collusion, lockouts, Pete Rose, the 1994 strike, greenies, cocaine, HGH, Andro, steroids, $20 parking, corporate mallparks, Scott Boras, Donald Fehr, and Bud Selig.

But, God said, the goodness in The Game shall always prevail. As needed, the Lord shall bestow upon The Game a Savior. And the Savior, like the Serpent, can take many forms. The Savior shall remind Fans how blessed The Game truly is. The Savior shall be called by many names, including Cy, Matty, Honus, Big Train, the Babe, Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Lou Gehrig, Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson, Buck O’Neil, Hank Greenberg, Red Barber, Harry Carey, Vin Scully, Jack Buck, Satchel Paige, Bill Veeck, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks, Hammerin’ Hank, Cool Papa, Dizzy, Lefty, Whitey, Stan the Man, Big Klu, the Say Hey Kid, Campy, Duke, the Mick, the Splendid Splinter, the Gas House Gang, the Big Red Machine, the Damn Yankees, Pudge Fisk, Pudge Rodriguez, Yaz, Pops, the Wizard of Oz, Fernando, George Brett, Moonlight Graham, Roy Hobbs, Wild Thing Vaughn, Bingo Long, the Ryan Express, Donnie Baseball, Rickey, Eck, the Big Unit, the Cactus League, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Camden Yards, Rotisserie Drafts, Web Gems, Derek Jeter, Dontrelle Willis, Vlad Guerrero, and, from the Far East, Ichiro. And, God guaranteed, there are many more to come.

God looked upon His creation and He was very pleased. And God spoke, yelling, PLAY BALL!”

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 1 Comment »

Sabathia To Cleveland: I’m Just Not That In To You

Posted by disappointmentzone on 14 February 2008

Last night on his official website CC Sabathia posted the following message:

This off-season, through my representatives at Legacy Sports Group, I have discussed the possibility of a contract extension with the Cleveland Indians. At this time, we haven’t been able to reach agreement. Now that the reporting date for spring training is here, it is time to put aside contract discussions so that I can focus all of my energies and attention on preparing for the upcoming season.

Wave goodbye to Sabathia, Cleveland.

And wave hello to trade speculation.

We’ll never know if he ever seriously considered a contract extension this winter but what’s clear is that he’s intent on testing the free agency market, where he’ll likely be commanding a salary in the $150M range, far exceeding any amount the Indians could pay him. But this much is clear: Sabathia could have signed an extension with the Indians if he really wanted to stay here. He’s making a gamble by waiting another year before signing a new contract. If he seriously injures himself he’ll face the harrowing prospect that he forewent a major contract offer from the only professional franchise he’s ever known.

Not that we wish the guy serious injury. We still need him to win the World Series.

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 3 Comments »

Disappointment Zone Power Rankings: November

Posted by disappointmentzone on 14 November 2007

My elite team of MIT-educated number crunchers has been busy working in a dimly lit basement somewhere in the lower-middle contiguous United States. The mixture of location and importance of purpose has forged in them a bunker mentality. Take that as a sign of how meaningful these rankings are. Take them seriously, if only to give the MIT-educated number crunches an additional modicum of self esteem.

1) The Cleveland Browns

They have captured the minds and hearts of the American sports-minded public, riding a 3-1 record over their last four games and averaging about twice as many points per game during that stretch than they averaged all last season. Though they’re currently on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, they have an insanely easy schedule to close out the season. The Browns should be favored in at least five of their last seven games, if not six, if not seven. Five wins puts them in pretty good shape for a Wild Card berth; six puts them in great shape; and seven wins might put them back in contention for the division crown. When the season began no one expected them to be doing nearly this well. They are essentially playing with house money at this point, and when you play with house money you cannot lose. That said, if the Browns miss the playoffs there will be a lot of broken hearts, but there’s something to be said for having your team crush your soul in the last week of the season as opposed to during the first week of the season. Of course, the Browns are in that rare position of being able to do both at once. Still, we’re holding out hope. The skies are sunny above Cleveland Browns Stadium.

2) The Cleveland Indians

The Indians lost to Boston in seven games of the de facto World Series, a series that very well might have been decided by home field advantage, which the Red Sox won in a tie breaker over the Indians when both teams finished with 96 wins, tied for best in baseball. The core of the team is returning next season, as is most of the peripheral help. The Indians have the option of being extremely selective this off-season; there are no holes. LF and 3B could use an upgrade, but even if neither is addressed the Indians will still be favored to win the Central Division and will be one of the early season favorites for the World Series. Oh, and CC Sabathia won the Cy Young Award. Not too shabby.

3) Aston Villa

Since being destroyed 4-1 by Man U back in mid-October the Aston Villa has run off a 2-0-1 record, leaving them firmly entrenched at #8 in the EPL standings. Villa has six wins so far this season, tied for fifth most in the EPL with four other teams, including Liverpool, whose undefeated. Not too shabby. Were it not for a spectacular run for the Browns Villa might still lay claim to supremacy among Cleveland-related football teams, for for the time being that distinction belongs to the Browns.

4) The Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs are 4-4 and coming off their toughest road trip of the season, a six game swing through the second tier of the Western Conference. Entering the season a 4-4 mark would have been considered a large success. After the first game of the season, however, a 4-4 mark would have been considered nearly impossible. When they’re not tired or unfocused, the team has shown the ability to play quite well. Other than poor free throw shooting LBJ has been a monster; Daniel Gibson is showing that last spring was no fluke; Devin Brown has been every bit as good as anyone hoped; Larry Hughes has missed a few games due to injury, which is probably a good thing; and both Z and Ilguaskas are having terrific seasons. All that’s left is getting Varejao signed, which one hopes happens sooner rather than later.

5) Ohio State Football Buckeyes

Boy does that loss to Illinois hurt. Too painful to write about. They better defeat Michigan or this might go down as one of the most depressing collapses in their fabled history.

6) Ohio State Basketball Buckeyes

The jury is out on this team until further notice, which is as generous an assessment as one can make after they lost to DII Findley. A finish in the upper half of the Big Ten and a 10-7 seed in the NCAAs would represent a good season. Lighty is a beast.

Posted in Aston Villa/English Premier League, Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Sports, Ohio State Buckeyes | 10 Comments »

Bridesmade

Posted by disappointmentzone on 24 October 2007

The World Series is the last major sports championship in 2007. Thank god. I mean, how much more heartache can a fan take?

* The Ohio State Football Buckeyes get whooped by Florida in the BCS Championship Game

* The Ohio State Basketball Buckeyes get whooped by Florida in the NCAA National Championship

* The Cleveland Cavaliers get whooped by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals

* The Cleveland Indians lose to the Boston Red Sox in the de facto World Series, the 2007 ALCS

2007 has been one of the most rewarding and painful years in recent memory. So many teams have come so close to the sweet taste of glory only to wind up on the wrong end of a trophy presentation. Fortunately we’re out of the woods.

Wait…. What’s that? The BCS standings are in? So what?…. Huh?…. Really?….. Oh…. Good grief!

———————————

At the start of the season few people gave the Buckeyes a shot of making a return trip to the BCS Championship, but here we are, eight weeks into the season, and there they are, atop the BCS standings. If there is kindness in the world the Buckeyes will face Boston College in the BCS Championship. Because let’s be real here: LSU is scary.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Indians, Ohio State Buckeyes | 2 Comments »

ALCS in perspective

Posted by disappointmentzone on 22 October 2007

The history of Cleveland sports is hung on a timeline of defeat. Born by bad luck and even worse collapses, Cleveland’s sports failures are noted by a functional shorthand for the heartbreak and pain that is the bridesmaid of all Cleveland sports successes. The Drive. The Fumble. Red Right 88. Jose Mesa. To that most inglorious of lists we can now add one more name: Joel Skinner.

Joel Skinner will be forever remembered in Cleveland lore as the guy who put up the stop sign on the Indians’ chances of winning the 2007 pennant. He made an egregious error that cost the team the tying run late in Game 7, holding Kenny Lofton at third base on a single down the left field line by Franklin Gutierrez. Skinner’s name will never be spoken without evoking that most painful of memories, the day the 2007 Cleveland Indians came to rest, aged 102 wins, 70 losses.

But Joel Skinner did not cost the Indians the pennant.

While assigning blame for such an epic failure so soon after its arrival might but be crass, it is nonetheless worth doing if only to better understand just what it is Joel Skinner’s name will be standing in for in all the years to come. Because let’s face it. There are only two undeniable truths about the 2007 ALCS: there’s a lot of blame to go around and Joel Skinner will be remembered for all of it.

* CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona finished the regular season as two of the best pitchers in all of baseball and they entered the series as the two guys everyone counted on to shut down the Red Sox. They were our aces in the hole. They were pitching four times combined. They were the biggest reason why this team had a shot at the title.

Then they pitched and came down on the wrong side of history. This was the first time ever in the ALCS that a team had two pitchers start two games each where both finished with an ERA higher than 10.00. Sabathia’s ERA was 10.45. For Carmona, 16.50. They combined for 38 wins during the regular season but when 0-3 in the ALCS. That the Indians managed to win three games is a testament to a team who, without either ace, no on would have given a chance in the series.

* Travis Hafner was a hole in the middle of the lineup. He went 4-27 with 12 strikeouts. In Game 7 he came to bat with two runners on base and the team down by three runs. Three pitches later he struck out.

* Jhonny Peralta completely disappeared after hitting what turned out to be the game-winning home run in Game 4. He had one hit in his final 10 at bats and manned the infield like a guy with shoelaces tied together. With two sinkerball pitchers on the mound in Carmona and Westbrook, Peralta’s lack of range was costly.

* Grady Sizemore failed to catch a lazy fly ball that got caught up in the wind in Game 5. The result was a 380 foot single for Manny Ramirez and a run for the Red Sox. Then he misplayed another fly ball later in the game that cost the team a couple more runs. At the plate he went 3-17 over the last five games.

* The Indians drew 16 walks in the series. The Red Sox, 31. Attribute this to the Indians’ lack of patience, Boston’s over-abundance of patience, and a healthy dose of getting squeezed by the umpires.

* Eric Wedge made a few poor decisions, the most glaring being brining in CC Sabathia to start the seventh inning in Game 5 and then not pulling him after a leadoff double by Dustin Pedroia. Youkilis was next to bat and had tagged CC for a homer to start the game. He promptly tripled. Entering the seventh the Indians trailed only 3-2, with a fully rested Betancourt waiting in the bullpen. With an off day on Friday Betancourt could have gone two innings. Instead he came in couple batters too late.

* The umpiring was comically bad, particularly behind home plate. Strike zones changed from pitch to pitch. When you face a team as patient as the Red Sox getting squeezed out of the strike zone is absolutely deadly. When you’re as aggressive as the Indians, thinking every pitch could be a strike no matter where it’s thrown is a recipe for failure. Is it any surprise that the Indians struck out 63 times compared to Boston’s 43?

And do not discount the importance of the missed call in Game 7 where Lofton attempted to stretch a Fenway single into a double. He appeared safe in real time and it was confirmed on replay. Unfortunately the 2B umpire called him out. Were he called safe he could have scored on Gutierrez’s single, with Gutierrez’s eventual run tying the game instead of bringing the Indians to within one.

There are probably other areas to find fault, and the Red Sox ought to be complimented on their victory. They earned it as much as the Indians gave it away, if not more so. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen here, at least not right now. Right now it’s about remember the Indians and the 2007 season, the one in which we came so close but ended up about 90 feet short.

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 5 Comments »

ALCS Game 7: The Tag or Joel Skinner?

Posted by disappointmentzone on 21 October 2007

The Tag: Lofton attempts to stretch a Fenway single into a double but is called out sliding into second. Replay shows he safe. Indians only score one run in the inning instead of two. Two runs would have tied the game.

Joel Skinner: Indians trail by one run with Lofton on second. Gutierrez singles down the left field line, the ball caroming of the wall in front of Manny Ramirez. Lofton rounds third but is held up. Ramirez is still twenty feet from the ball. One run would have tied the game.

Take your pick, Indians fans, on which designation will enter the lexicon alongside The Drive, The Fumble, and Jose Mesa.

Both were critical plays that resulted in the Indians losing at least one run. Had either gone differently the entire fabric of the game would have changed. Had both gone differently the Indians would have entered the seventh inning leading by at least one run. As it is the Indians suffered a small implosion and the rest, as they say, is history.

My vote: Joel Skinner. Hard to fault the ump for missing an admittedly tricky call. Skinner just screwed up in the biggest way imaginable. No excuse.

[Editor’s note: We’re making the executive decision that the game turned on Skinner holding Lofton at third in the top of the seventh. That’s what killed the game. If you think Manny would have thrown him out your insane. After the game he was asked what he would have done had Lofton turned for home. His answer? “I would have thrown it to the cutoff man and let him deal with it.” Yes folks, that was the ballgame right there. If you’re Skinner you have to send Lofton. Jonathan Papelbon was set to pitch the next two innings. The chances of making up that run against Papelbon were much smaller than the chances that Manny would throw out Lofton at home. Even if he had thrown him out Gutierrez would be at second. Joel Skinner, you messed up. Now go take your place alongside Jose Mesa and Ernest Byner.]

That said…96 wins, tied for the best in baseball, even with four fewer home games than every other team in the league. Sabathia is the likely Cy Young winner and Carmona will finish in the top five. Garko showed he can man first base for years to come. Betancourt transformed into the best set-up guy in baseball. Lewis and Perez emerge as scary arms in the bullpen even though they both began the season in the minors. The rally pies and Kenny Lofton turning back the clock. This was a great season, which is why it hurts so much right now.

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 40 Comments »

ALCS Game 6: strike!…er…ball

Posted by disappointmentzone on 20 October 2007

A weary fan base turns its eyes to you, Jake. Please, throw strikes.

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 1 Comment »

ALCS Game 5: Gulp

Posted by disappointmentzone on 18 October 2007

You know how it’s impossible for clinically depressed people to think themselves into happiness? Well it’s impossible for Cleveland fans to think themselves into confidence. I’ve officially begun to prepare myself for the (inevitable) let down that is the ugly bride of every Cleveland sports fan.

My emotional self is beating down my rational mind. Here’s the tale of the tape:

RATIONAL MIND

* In games not started by Josh Beckett the Indians are 3-0
* Number of future games to be started by Beckett: 0
* The Indians have already won in Boston
* Fausto Carmona vs Curt Schilling = advantage Cleveland

EMOTIONAL SELF

* The Drive
* The Fumble
* Jose Mesa
* 2004 ALCS

Game 5 was a cosmic hip check to put us back in our place. We were riding too high after Game 4. Statisticians call it regressing to the mean. I call it all too expected. We should have known. We should have known!

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 5 Comments »

Suck it, Boston

Posted by disappointmentzone on 18 October 2007

Everywhere I turn I see people making the argument that if any team can come back from being down 3-1 it’s the Red Sox. Hell, they came back from being down 3-0 in 2004 so they must be suited to do it in 2007! Um, no. I’m not sure how much bearing the team’s success in 2004 has on this team’s success in 2007, but my guess is very little.

That’s not stopping Red Sox fans from being insufferable, though.

To get you in the mood for Game 5 let me offer up this brief exchange I just had with a friend of mine from Boston:

Him: You forget this is the Boston Red Sox.  We invented playoff magic. We’ll see you ComeLatelys in a few hours.

Me: If by “playoff magic” you mean choking away every opportunity except for 2004 then yes, you’re right. Of course, it is typical of a Boston fan to think that the Red Sox invented anything. The Cubs invented losing and the Yankees invented buying their way to the top. The Red Sox are derivative and right now they’re also redundant: the AL already has its World Series representative. Just go home already and hang up your pink cap. It’s over.

Suck it, Boston.

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 4 Comments »

ALCS Game 4: cunning and guile

Posted by disappointmentzone on 17 October 2007

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* The Indians have a better, deeper starting rotation than the Red Sox. (1)

* The Indians have a better, deeper corp of relievers than the Red Sox.

* The Indians have a better, deeper lineup than the Red Sox.

* Enough said.

* (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

fn 1: I swear to god, if I ever have children I’m teaching them to throw a knuckle ball. It is the most devastating pitch in baseball when it’s working. It saves your arm so you can pitch for 20 years and so few people throw it that you’re always going to be a rare commodity. No team is used to facing it so you quickly become the metaphorical knuckleball of starting pitchers and that, my friends, has value. Teach your kids to throw a good knuckler and you’ve taught them to fish forever.

Posted in Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Sports | 1 Comment »