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Cleveland Indians Activate Grady Sizemore, Send Mitch Talbot To DL

Grady Sizemore will return to Cleveland today, starting in centerfield, as well as leading off.  To make room on the roster, starter Mitch Talbot will be placed on the 15-day DL, in a bit of a surprising move. 

It was believed that Travis Buck would be sent down since he has an option left, but he gets a temporary reprieve.  Talbot is officially out with a strained right elbow, and likely won’t be back until the middle of May.

On May 16, 2010, Grady Sizemore was hitting .211 without a home run, and with a deplorable .271 OBP.  It would be the last game he’d play with the Indians in 2010.  Sizemore went on the DL with a sore knee, which turned into something a bit more serious.  After microfracture surgery, Grady was done for the season, and thought to be out six to nine months.

Fast-forward nearly a year. 

Sizemore is currently wrapping up a stint with the Indians’ top two minor league affiliates.  Grady’s combined statistics are fairly impressive.  He’s batting a sizzling .353, with an OBP up to Grady standards—and then some—at .450.  He has six hits (two doubles, a homer and three singles) and a 1.097 OPS.  Granted, our cross-section of games is only five games old, but compared to last season, these are surely re-assuring numbers.  Grady played all five games in center, without making an error.

So, what does this mean for the Tribe’s centerfielder?  It means exactly what you think it does. 

With Sizemore apparently fit and healthy for the first time in over a year, the Tribe management is set to bring him back up to the big league club.  It’s unknown how much he’ll play, but Manny Acta has already placed him back in center, and back in his familiar lead-off roll.

Both positions are currently owned by one Michael Brantley, who has done a tremendous job in his stead this season.  Brantley is currently hitting .333, with seven runs scored and two stolen bases, in only 13  games.  He’s played center in all 13 appearances, and in 36 chances, he has only made one error.  Brantley will officially move to left field, as well as move down in the order to make room for the Indians former All-Star.

Sizemore has already said that he couldn’t care less where he bats, as long as it’s somewhere where he’d be productive.  Might Manny Acta play around with the lineup while the Indians are torrid hot to start the season, or will he just pop Sizemore back in, and let Brantley force his way onto the club?

Either way, it’s a good problem to have.

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Cleveland Indians: Is Travis Hafner Back, or Are We Set for a 2009 Redux?

If there was one thing that I was fairly sure about heading into the 2011 season, it’s that Travis Hafner would never be the same player that he was before he signed his large contract, became injury prone and seemingly lost all his power and worth to a rebuilding club like the Cleveland Indians.

I know it’s early, but boy does it seem like I was wrong.

Tribe manager Manny Acta indicated early in spring training that Hafner was going to play more this season, was 100 percent for the first time in a long time and that there was no need to worry about the surgically repaired shoulder.

These comments weren’t all that surprising, since we’ve been hearing the same thing since the days of Eric Wedge. What was surprising was the fact that other than Acta’s brief bro-mance with the 34-year-old DH, there hadn’t (hasn’t) been all that much discussion about the shoulder from the Indians’ camp.

As a matter of fact, it’s been a non-factor.

Hafner has currently played in 11 of the Tribe’s first 14 games, and has done his best to imitate his former self. Hafner is currently hitting .293, with three homers, eight RBI and an .884 OPS.

Last season, Hafner didn’t hit his third homer until May 5th, and never hit above .281.

Certainly, the season is still early, but Hafner is clearly hitting the ball harder than he has in the past few seasons. Still, what I still can’t get out of my mind is the 2009 season, in which Hafner came out of the gate like the Pronk of old. After the sixth game of the season, Hafner had three homers and six RBI, and his slugging would ultimately reach a peak of .714 in those early days of the season.

I was already to re-dub Hafner to his old Pronk self. Unfortunately, the injury bug bit, and Hafner was placed on the DL for soreness and fatigue to that wonderful shoulder.

Nobody thought it was all that serious, including Eric Wedge, but it turned out that Hafner had to miss over a month. He would return and wouldn’t have a horrid season, but Pronk was seemingly gone.

Enter 2011. The Indians are playing outstanding baseball, and find themselves at 10-4 early on. Every card is lining up for the Tribe so far, including Hafner. Is it a false sense of security for the Tribe slugger? Is he just getting some extra protection because of a slew of hot bats, or is the shoulder finally as strong as it was five years ago, prior to the injury bug?

If it is, that false sense of security I just mentioned, just got a little less false.

Welcome back Pronk, we’ll take it as long as we can get it.


Jim Pete also writes for Indians Prospect Insider and Bringing Back Boudreau

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Cleveland Indians Sweeps the Boston Red Sox In a Twilight Zone Finish

If you would have told me that the Cleveland Indians were going to be 4-2 five days ago, I’d have laughed you under the rock you just crawled out of.  I half think that I would have laughed had you said 2-4.  Somehow, the Indians have righted the ship behind solid starting pitching, a rock-solid bullpen, solid play from supposedly un-solid acquisitions, and some great “feel” calls from Manny Acta.

I don’t know if the Cleveland Indians are going to be contenders this year, or even next year.  I don’t know if the starting pitching is going to hold up all season, or head to Seattle and give up 40 runs in three games.  I don’t know if Manny Acta is going to continue making the right calls against the grain, or if by next Friday, the masses will be calling for his job.

What I do know is that Cleveland Indians baseball has been fun to watch, and none more fun than today’s sweeping victory against the struggling Boston Red Sox.

Today, the tipping of the cap starts with Fausto Carmona.  Carmona got beat into submission last weekend against Chicago, and looked a lot like the guy that made us cringe in 2008 and 2009.  No, he didn’t get the win, and he may not even have been the best starter today (Jon Lester struck out nine, giving up three hits and three walks in seven scoreless innings), but he was his old viscous self.

Carmona pummeled the strike zone with his dancing sinker, and the Red Sox couldn’t do a thing with it.  Carmona gave up two hits, singles by Jacoby Ellsbury and Marco Scutaro in the third and fifth respectively.  He walked only two batters, and struck out four in his seven scoreless innings.  He threw 18 first pitch strikes to his 25 batters, and induced 9 ground balls.  He wasn’t quite dominant, but pretty darn close.  If this is the Carmona we get for the rest of the season, I’ll take it in a heartbeat.

Enter the bullpen.  Chad Durbin came in the game, and likely continued his path out of Cleveland, giving up a single and a walk after getting his only out.  Enter Rafael Perez, who was brought in to face Carl Crawford with runners on first and second, and one out.  Perez induced Crawford into a weak grounder to third in which Brooks Robinson…er…Adam Everett fielded cleanly charging in, and nailed Crawford for the second out.  The runners advanced, and all hope was surely lost…right?

Surely, Perez would purposely walk Dustin Pedroia to load the bases with first open, and newly acquired Adrian Gonzalez would jack one out of the park.  That’s when crazy happened.  Manny Acta let Raffy pitch to Pedroia?!  A cruddy chopper to…you guessed it…Raffy, and the inning was over, and all was right with the world.  Of course, it was still 0-0, but the Indians miraculously made it through an inning with two runners in scoring position.

Adam Everett led off the bottom half of the eighth with a walk.  With Orlando Cabrera squaring up to bunt, Everett stole second.  Cabrera then did bunt, and Everett moved to third.  The funny thing is I actually laughed thinking…wouldn’t it be funny if they bunted again, and scored on a suicide squeeze? 

Up came Asdrubal Cabrera, and sure enough, down came the bunt, and sure enough, Everett scored the first and only run of the game.  Back-to-back big games for A-Cab…from a three-run jack, to a one-run sac.  After the three seasons we’ve had, it felt like the world series again.

In came Chris Perez to face off against the meat of the Red Sox order, and more hilarity ensued.  Perez retired Gonzalez and Youkilis with ground balls, but of course, it’s never really over, is it?  David Ortiz drew a walk, and up came J.D. Drew.  Drew hit a high-chopper to Everett, who looked at first, didn’t have the play…then pulled up, looking for an out at second base. 

Sure enough, pinch runner Darnell McDonald flew around second as though he were going to try and score, and there was Everett waiting for it.  A quick throw to Cabrera, a close play at second, and the final out of the game.

In all honesty, it seemed like some sort of wacky episode of The Twilight Zone, but either way, the Indians get the win.  Is it hustle?  Is it luck?  Is it just fine play?  Is it all of the above?  I don’t know, but whatever it is, it sure is fun to watch.

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Cleveland Indians Baseball: Did Cliff Lee Cost the Indians Bartolo Colon?

Go ahead, read that title over a few times and let it settle in. It appears that the Cleveland Indians are not only trying to sign Bartolo Colon, but they may end up in a bit of a bidding war for the services of the 37-year-old righty.

While nothing has been confirmed as of yet, Colon told reporters prior to a start during yesterdays Dominican League playoffs that there were three teams interested in potentially signing him. Of course, the team that’s already been talked about all winter are the Indians. That’s not a surprise. What is a bit of a shocker are the other two teams.

Who are the other two teams? As hard as this is to believe, it appears as though the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees have been scouting Colon. The Rangers and the Yankees were both the rumored winners in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes at one time or another during this past offseason. Now, they apparently decided to find another Tribe starter.

Rumors were abound that both teams were fishing around Ontario and Carnegie to see if Fausto Carmona was available in a deal. When that door was politely closed, they apparently decided that it was imperative to sign anyone that used to wear Chief Wahoo on their jersey.

I seriously couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

Colon was fairly dominant in his seven starts for Águilas Cibaeñas, going 2-1 with a 1.47 ERA. The Indians, in need of a veteran starter, were known to be interested in their former ace. While Colon being a factor in free agency is somewhat jokeworthy, it may turn out that the joke is on the Indians after all.

The culprit of this potential battle for Colon’s services is former ace Cliff Lee. While I’d like to think that Lee didn’t do this on purpose, I’m starting to wonder. Is there some greater conspiracy at work here? Did Rocky Colavito bury an old jersey under home plate at the Jake? Is Jaret Wright somehow involved?

When Lee spurned both the Yankees and the Rangers by signing with Philadelphia, the move certainly took the Yankees by surprise. There’s no doubt that the Yankee-ego had all but assured itself that Lee was a lock. Nobody spurns the Yankees when they throw around that kind of cash. Oops.

Both the Yankees and the Rangers teams have been actively seeking players that can add depth to their rotation. The Rangers have been more active. The Yankees, well, haven’t. They seriously didn’t have a back-up plan in place, until now of course.

After the Lee debacle, the Yankees have been hoping that Andy Pettitte would return for one more season, but with retirement seeming more and more likely for the lefty, the Yankees may be ready to turn in another direction. Apparently, Bartolo Colon may be at the top of their list.

Seriously, that’s hard to say with a straight face.

The Rangers weren’t as stoic and whiny as the Yankees after losing Lee. They went out and signed Brandon Webb to a one-year, $3 million incentive-laden deal. Webb has only made one start since the start of 2009, so the gamble is obvious for the Rangers, but they have contingencies in place.

It’s believed that the Rangers would like an alternative to Webb should the lefty not pan out, and since they only dropped three million, they had money for another insurance policy. Enter Bartolo Colon.

Both teams seem set for return to the playoffs, and at the very least, are a lot closer to the playoffs than the Tribe. If that’s important to Bartolo (and that’s questionable), the Indians may not have a chance in this fight.

Cleveland is the one team that can guarantee Colon a sure-fire spot in the rotation. I’ve read some stuff saying that Colon would be the #5 starter, but the number by his name doesn’t matter. As long as he’s healthy, he’ll start for the Indians.

The Yankees and Rangers would likely spot start him unless someone didn’t pan out. In other words, he’d end up in the same situation that he walked out on in Boston and Chicago, his last two major league destinations. So perhaps these three teams are on some even ground.

Still, you have to find the ironic humor in all this. Cleveland needs a starter, and they’ve been universally panned for even considering Colon. The former Cy Young winner is believed to be long past his MLB prime, has spent the better part of the past ten years eating (although he’s supposedly in great shape), and seemed to be an easy get for the Tribe, should they decide to go that route.

Now, Bartolo Colon has not only managed to become relevant, but has potentially placed himself in the middle of three teams looking for a starter. Only in Cleveland.

The ultimate irony in all of this is Cliff Lee. He was acquired by the Indians many moons ago through a trade with the now-defunct Montreal Expos. Who did Cleveland give up to get Lee, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens? How about Bartolo Colon. So Colon left because of Lee in 2002 (which was a good thing), and now, perhaps he’s done it all over again (perhaps another good thing).

So, what does all this mean?

I’m still not sure that I even want the Indians to sign Colon. There’s nothing that indicates he can be effective at 37, or 47, or however old he may be. I can tell you that having the Yankees and Rangers interested sure makes me want the Indians to sign him all the more.

I know that it’s not very Sabr of me, but such is life. It may be the only win the Tribe can get against the Evil Empire and the World Series runner-up Rangers this season, so I’ll take what I can get.

The real humor in all this is that it’s distinctly possible that Colon has made these comments with the direct intent to garner more cash with whomever he ultimately signs with. It’s a common ploy for most agents and players to let it be known that they are wanted somewhere else, and Colon has been around the block a few time.

For some reason, this all makes some sort of strange, ‘you have to be kidding me’ sense. The New York Yankees and Texas Rangers outbidding the Indians for Bartolo Colon.

Shhhhh, I hear Jamie Moyer is available.

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Cleveland Indians: The Greatness of Bob Feller, to This Kid Anyways

Bob Feller.

It’s hard to talk about the Cleveland Indians and not mention the name of Bob Feller.  There were several years when there was nothing else to talk about as Cleveland Indians fans than their greatest player of all time, but it was always so much more than that. 

Feller was always both larger than life and the regular guy next door.  The legend was scary to walk up to, but the stories he would tell were always worth the risk.  He was Bob Feller.  The greatest pitcher to wear an Indians jersey, the ambassador for a team that didn’t have any, the guy that could throw harder than maybe anyone to step foot on a baseball field.

It’s hard to describe what Mr. Feller meant to me as a kid growing up on the West Side of Cleveland in the 1970s.  You see, the Cleveland Indians of that era weren’t very good, which may be overstating the case.  I didn’t know any better.  As a Tribe fan, finishing in fourth place was always a fantastic year.  There were quirky, blue-collar players that many second division teams are famous for that I followed, like Charlie Spikes, Buddy Bell, Andre Thornton and Duane Kuiper, but there weren’t any icons you could hang your hat on.  The closest thing to a legend was Gaylord Perry, who was known as much for hiding K-Y jelly as he was for winning a Cy Young in Cleveland.

But there was always Bob Feller.

My first memory of Feller wasn’t of a strikeout, a victory, a trip to the Pacific or an Opening Day no-hitter.  No, my first memory of Bob Feller came from my dad, a devout New York Yankees fan to this day. 

I’ll never forget the story my dad told me right before bed, when as a five year old, I was still trying to figure out what that silly game of baseball was all about.  Normally, he sprinkled me with stories of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra, and was, in all likelihood, trying to steer me towards his childhood team and away from the painful heartache of becoming a Tribe fan.  But even Dad couldn’t help himself.

There came the day that Dad mentioned Bob Feller.

While I don’t remember what my father specifically said about Feller that night, I do remember the main event of the conversation.  You see, Bob Feller threw faster than a motorcycle.  Today, pitchers are routinely clocked at stadiums through the use of radar, but to a five year old, 100 miles per hour might as well be 10 or 1,000.  It was all relative.  But, you see, Bob Feller could throw the ball faster than a speeding motorcycle.

The next day, I told the story to my neighbor, and we set about creating the same test.  Out came the big wheels, the Schwinns, the mitts and the tennis balls.  The test was on.  Which kid could throw faster than any of the vehicles that we all brought out to the street in front of my house.  First against the big wheel with a worn wheel.  Then, against the gold Schwinn that everyone swore was the fastest bike this side of Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium.  The Green Machine was also tested.  Today, I don’t know who could throw faster than what, but that fateful summer afternoon, a kid with a sore arm and a few scrapes became a lifelong baseball fan, and Bob Feller became his hero.

Over the years, I would learn more about the greatness that was “Rapid Robert”.  I remember listening to an old timer at a game in Cleveland in the early 80s telling the 12 people sitting in the entire section about how Feller had told him that his dad had mowed over part of his Iowa farm to build him a baseball field.  Can you imagine that?  A father building his son a ball field in the middle of his cornfield!  I was a little more than torqued when my father refused to bulldoze the forest behind our house for a ball field of my own.  I was even more ticked off a few years later when Field of Dreams came out. 

I still wonder, did Feller get a cut of the movie’s proceeds?  If you think the ball field was a dedicated move for his son by Bill Feller, Bob’s dad, how about Dad getting rid of ALL the corn, to instead grow wheat, because it would allow him to focus more energy on teaching his son how to become a major leaguer.  He’d create a team of local ballplayers, and they’d play other teams during the weekend.

I remember reading about Feller, as a high school junior, making an ungodly jump from high school baseball to the major leagues.  That’s right, he never played a second of minor league baseball before finding himself pitching for the Indians after his junior year in high school.  Feller went back to high school after the season and finished his senior year with the help of tutors on the road during his second year.  He still made it to his graduation however,  and it was broadcast on radio from coast to coast.  Think about it.  Most kids DREAM of playing in the majors in high school.  Feller did it.  But that’s was always his M.O.

I remember watching Jack Morris throw a no-hitter on the first Saturday game of the week on NBC way back in 1984.  While I don’t remember much about the game, I do remember Vin Scully and his broadcast partner Joe Garagiola.  In painting the picture of Morris’ brilliance that day, they kept referring to one Bob Feller, who was the one and only pitcher to throw a no-no on Opening Day.  While Morris was already making his second start for his no-hitter, Feller had done it on Opening Day in 1940 when he was all of 21 years old.

Then there are the numbers, and there are just far too many to get into them all here.  As a 20 year old, Feller would win 24 games in 1939.  As a 21 year old in that no-hit year of 1940, he would lead the majors with 27 wins and 31 complete games.  As a 22 year old in 1941, he would win 25 games.  That was Feller’s sixth year in baseball.  In today’s game, he’d be about to enter his first unrestricted free agent year.  I wonder what kind of deal a 22 year old coming off three 24+ win, sub 3.15 ERA seasons would get…200 million…300 million…perhaps his own island and a kingdom of his own?

Obviously there wasn’t free agency in the 40s, but Feller still offered up his services to something else: the U.S. Navy.  I’ll get to that in a second.

Feller would return late in the season in 1945 for a few starts but would return for a full season in 1946.  He promptly won 26 games with a 2.18 ERA.  He had 36 complete games, 10 shutouts, pitched in 371 1/3 innings and struck out 348 batters in that remarkable season.  In 1947 Feller would win 20 games.  During that five year playing stretch, Feller would win 122 games, lose 59, pitch 129 complete games and throw 30 complete game shutouts.  Overall, Feller would go 266-162 with a 3.25 ERA and 2,581 strikeouts.  He’d throw three no-hitters and 12 one-hitters.  In other words, he was otherwordly.

As a kid, I couldn’t stand seeing that four year block of empty games in the early 1940s.  Surely Feller couldn’t have wanted to miss part of the prime of his career.  I mean, imagine the numbers had he stayed healthy.  Based on the five year average from the three years prior to his service and the two years after, he’d have averaged 24 wins a season.  Figuring in the five wins he DID win in 1945, that would be another 91 wins, another 1,000 wins, a lower ERA. 

Of course, Feller wouldn’t have had it any other way.  It wasn’t about numbers, wins or even playing baseball.  He enlisted in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor, after waiving a deferment because his dad was ill, leaving Feller as the sole provider for his family.  Feller’s father would die while he was serving during World War II.  Feller never questioned it.  It was his duty.  While there have been many references to “Chiefs” during the existence of the Cleveland Indians, Bob Feller was a legitimate one.  He was baseball’s only Chief Petty Officer elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to see Feller on several occasions, and I even talked to him briefly a couple of times, because the guy went everywhere in the name of baseball.  No, I’m by no means saying that I created a friendship with the guy.  Not a chance.  He wouldn’t have been able to pick me out of a lineup.  That’s not my point.  My point is simply that I got to meet Bob Feller. 

My most memorable meeting was back in the late 80s, when Feller was a young man in his early 70s.  Feller was throwing BP for a bunch of sportswriters at a small ball field in Erie prior to a minor league game.  I was standing in the outfield shagging fly balls.  You got it, I was on the same team and field as the great Bob Feller, at least that’s the story I’ll always tell.  Anyways, I didn’t have to shag many balls that day.  Why?  The fireballing 70 year old was busy making the sportswriters look like morons, blowing the ball by them even at his old age.

My most humorous time seeing Feller was at a Winter Caravan meeting a year or two after that.  He signed my ball cap, and I asked him if he remembered me from the two years prior, the day I was shagging fly balls.  Feller, ever the honest, said, “Hell no, I meet a million kids every year, how am I supposed to remember you?”  Then, he looked over at my dad, who was wearing a Yankees cap, and said, “Who let him in?”  I didn’t get a chance for a follow up because of the massive line for autographs. 

I saw him at minor league games, major league games, Spring Trainings, All-Star Games, Hall of Fames, World Series’ and basically everywhere in between.  You see, Feller loved baseball, and it was his job to do it some good.  It was the same mentality he had playing the game with, and the same mentality he had in serving his country.

I loved listening to him talk about ballplayers.  I recently heard Tim Kurkjian telling a story about Feller watching Willie Mays making that catch against the Indians in Game One of the 1954 World Series.  According to Kurkjian, Feller said, “We all knew he was going to catch it.  It wasn’t that tough a catch.”  He was loaded with up-front comments like that.  It didn’t come from a guy out of touch, it came from a guy who played baseball better than most.  Perspective, you see, is different when you are standing in the clouds to start with.

Ted Williams said Feller was the best pitcher that he’d ever seen:

“(Feller was) the fastest…pitcher I ever saw during my career. . . . He had the best fastball and curve I’ve ever seen.  Three days before he pitched I would start thinking about Robert Feller.”

Yeah, Ted Williams said that…

You see, Bob Feller was a hero.  He’d never admit that he was.  Feller would likely grunt that he was just “doing his service for his country, and doing his job playing baseball.”  That’s exactly what he did….his job…and better than most anyone else that ever did it. 

He was Sandy Koufax (albeit a righty) before Sandy Koufax. 

He was Nolan Ryan before Nolan Ryan. 

He was Randy Johnson before Randy Johnson. 

He was Roger Clemens (minus the steroids) before Roger Clemens. 

Was he better than all of them?  That’s up for debate.  Is he in the mix?  Of that there is no doubt.

It’s funny really, looking back.  I had never seen Feller pitch to major league ballplayers.  I was born fifteen years after he threw his last pitch for the Tribe, and thirty-five years after he threw his first pitch.  But he was always there, talking about the game that he loved.  He was the Tribe’s connection to the great barnstorming teams of the 1930s, when Feller would travel the country with Satchel Paige and Cool Papa Bell. 

He shared the same field as Dizzy Dean and pitched against Lou Gehrig. 

He fought against the likes of Joe Dimaggio and forced Teddy Ballgame to sweat three days before pitching against the Red Sox. 

How many players can say they struck out Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle, and stood on the same field as Babe Ruth the last time he was in a stadium.  Ruth used Feller’s bat as a cane during his last public appearance at Yankee Stadium.

He even shared the field with me….or I should say…I shared the field with him…

….and he could throw faster than a motorcycle.

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Bartolo Colon About To Re-Sign With the Cleveland Indians?

There’s something strangely fitting that former Tribe starter Bartolo Colon is rumored to be a potential free-agent target for the Indians during the 2010-2011 hot stove season. 

No, I’m not talking about Colon now “fitting” into his old Tribe jersey now that he’s allegedly lost 50 pounds, I’m talking about how he could fit on this team as a relevant starter.  Seriously, I know you all are chuckling.

I know most of you think that Colon is long past his prime.  I know that you think this rapid weight loss is bogus, or some sort of Oprah-Winfrey like rubber-band diet.  I know that you all think he’s really a grandpa.  I know you think he’s past his prime.  But c’mon, you’ve got to open up your mind a bit here.

I’m going to assume that the five of you that read my sad excuse for a blog are seated in front of your computer while viewing this exquisite and well thought out piece, and while you are likely dedicating the next ten minutes of your life into a wonderful retort about how insane I am (you’d be correct), please try and remain calm for a few more moments. 

Give me some time here people,  so please take this moment to relax, get nice and comfortable, close your eyes, and think back to the good ole’ days of 1998.  Don’t worry, if you can’t remember back that far, I’ll help you along a bit. 

Ah, yes, 12 years ago when the Indians were one of the upper echelon.  Back then, Mr. Colon was a 23-year-old ace-in-waiting.  He had helped the Tribe along to their second World Series appearance in three years back in 2007, and had really emerged as a plus pitcher in ’08.  He would win 14 games that year, and would then go on to win 10 or more games in his next four seasons with the Tribe. 

He was good…really good.  So good, in fact, that the Indians dealt him away for a net return of Lee Stevens, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips.  While Stevens turned into an afterthought, Lee and Sizemore became extremely valuable pieces to the Tribe cause, and Phillips did the same, just not for the Tribe (you’re welcome Cincinnati). 

Colon continued to pitch well for a variety of teams before winning the Cy Young with the Angels in 2005.  It was his last relevant season.

Okay, now open up your eyes.  I wanted to be fair to the former ace before we took a look at the reality of the “fit.”  Yeah, I know, you thought I was being serious.  You thought I really thought that Colon was a perfect fit.  Please let me rephrase a bit.  I don’t think he’s a good fit, but the Tribe brass does.  No, I’m not kidding. 

For once, I’d like to believe Paul Hoynes, who stated on his twitter account a few days ago that the “Indians have no interest in re-signing Bartolo Colon, who quit on his last two teams.”  Tonight, during Bart’s start with his Dominican team, sitting in the stands was one Manny Acta.  Of course, he could just be taking in a game…right?

Colon is nothing if not interesting.  “Manny being Manny” is a popular phrase, but there was also Bart being Bart.  Remember when I said that he was 23 years old back in 1998?  It turns out that a birth certificate showed up in 2002 with a birth date of 1973, instead of 1975.  So, as it turns out, Colon wasn’t as promising a prospect as he was.

Granted, a 25-year-old winning 14 games is still fairly outstanding, but it’s just not the same as a 23-year-old.  Like many players from the Dominican, questions to this day remain about Colon’s age.  Is he really 37?  Is he 40?  Is he 50?  Is he still alive?  It’s hard to tell.

There’s also the issue of Colon’s weight.  With the Tribe, Colon consistently struggled with his weight.  While he was never a svelte starter, Colon did manage some eating restraint.  Over the years, however, Colon’s food demons had seemingly caught up with him.  Of course, once they did, Bart actually ate them too. 

I remember seeing some listings of Colon’s weight back in 2006 and 2007 as somewhere around 185 pounds.  Now, I could believe that he was 185 pounds back then, perhaps if he was filled with helium, and not the better part of the Golden Corral buffet. 

Colon hasn’t pitched for the Tribe since June of 2002, and hasn’t pitched for any major league team since 2009.  In 2008, the Red Sox signed Colon, and he pitched fairly well.  Still, Colon wasn’t considered a starter with the Sox, and after making seven solid starts, Boston manager Terry Francona planned to meet with Colon about moving him to the pen.  Colon allegedly never showed up to the meeting…twice. 

Then, Colon headed off to the Dominican for “personal matters.”  While I can’t speak to what those matters were, it’s generally believed that Colon was ticked off about relieving, and spot starting.  Apparently it’s better to not pitch at all, or in this case, pitch in the Dominican.

Colon then signed with the White Sox.  After his initial signing, it took the White Sox three days to locate Colon to talk to him.  He’d again pitch fairly well.  He’d go 3-6, but he had a respectable 4.19 ERA before going on the DL on June 9. 

Colon would rehab in Arizona, but in late June, he disappeared again.  Manager Ozzie Guillen speculated that Colon was “depressed a little bit” because of his affinity for Michael Jackson.  He would turn up, but injuries derailed his season.

Is there anything that’s fitting about this potential signing that isn’t some two-cent joke about his weight?  There is a certain amount of nostalgia, but it’s not like the masses of Cleveland are clamoring for a reunion with the former enigmatic starter.  He was good, bordering on great, but wasn’t nearly as beloved as some of the other members of those great teams.

There is the Cliff Lee factor.  Lee was the young pitching prospect in that deal I mentioned before that sent Colon to Montreal.  Unless you live under a rock. Lee just signed a five-year, $120 million deal with the Phillies, managed by Charlie Manuel, Colon’s last Tribe manager. The Phillies, a relevant, big-market team are signing relevant, marquee baseball players. 

In this case, Cliff Lee, the pitcher the Indians hoped to help take Colon’s place, which he did, and then some.  Perhaps signing Colon to a minor-league, sub-million dollar contract is some sort of karmic balance to Lee’s massive deal.  While Lee fits himself in a staff of aces, Colon could himself in a staff of players half his age.

In a bit more serious tone, Colon is a low-cost option to come onto this club and potentially fill a hole as a veteran starter.  Of course, there’s that thing about him quitting on his last two teams.  There’s also a bit of an injury issue.  There’s also that bit about not having pitched in an important game in over a year.  There’s also his weight problems.  Of course, there is all that nostalgia! 

Maybe the plan is to sign Manny as well, and create some sort of quirky Cleveland sitcom.  I’m sure we could get Betty White involved, and maybe Cerrano as well.  I’m sure we could work some sort of Allstate tie-in.  Wait a second, what are we talking about again?

My guess is that there are better options that bringing back Bartolo.  Of course, if he does sign, and it pans out for the Tribe, I could always change the name of my blog…

For those wondering at home, Colon got lit up a bit tonight, giving up six runs, three earned.  The three unearned came on a throwing error by Colon on a bunt.  Overall, Colon is a respectable 3-1 with a 1.54 ERA in six starts, and 35 innings pitched.  He’s struck out 29 and walked only 3.

Check out Bringing Back Boudreau for more Tribe info!!!

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Cleveland Indians: Top 10 Reasons for Tribe Fans To Give Thanks

I’ve always been a thankful Cleveland Indians fan.  Perhaps the feeling is based in being a fan of this baseball team in the dreadful 1970s.  Not a single Tribe team during between 1970 and 1970 finished above fourth place in A.L. East, and only two teams finished above .500.

It just got worse in the 1980s, with the Indians never finishing above fifth place, with only one team finishing above .500 (the now infamous 1986 Tribe, that led SI to put them on the cover of their 1987 preseason baseball issue, only to have the Tribe lose over 100 games).  No, it wasn’t pretty at all.

Growing up with those sad-sack teams has made it very easy for me to find the silver lining of just about any baseball club that Cleveland can field.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “Yeah, but he’s scrappy,” or “Sure he can’t throw a strike, but he hits 95 on the gun!”  I’ve learned to cope in a world in which coping is the only way to remain a fan.  No, the current version of the Indians aren’t going to remind anyone of the 1927 Yankees, but there certainly is a lot of good, mixed up with the bad.

Here are 10 reasons we all can be thankful for as Cleveland Indians fans.

No. 10: Asdrubal Cabrera could possibly be Cleveland’s version of Derek Jeter.

We all know that Cabrera didn’t have the year he could have had if he didn’t break his forearm last May.  We all know that Cabrera struggled a bit in the field for the first time in his career.  No, he wasn’t horrid, but compared to year’s past, he wasn’t up to par.  With that said, Cabrera did improve after struggling immediately after his return in mid-July.  His stick improved in both August and September, some of his power returned, and he began stealing bases again. 

In other words, the real Asdrubal Cabrera began to show up.  This kid is a slick fielder.  No, he’s not Omar Vizquel (who is), but he’s really good.  Offensively, this is a kid that can hit for .300, can steal 20 bases, can score 80-100 runs (on a good Tribe team) and can be to

the Tribe what Derek Jeter was to the Yankees, a quiet leader (no, not a guy asking for $24 million a year when he’s 37).

No. 9: Tom Hamilton really is one of the best announcers in baseball.

We have been blessed to have had Tom Hamilton announcing Cleveland Indians baseball games for the past 20 years.  It’s hard to believe that it has been that long.  I was talking to my Dad the other day, and he said, “You know, maybe we had all those good teams in the 90’s to make sure that Hamilton would stay in Cleveland.”  While I’m not going to go that far, it’s a good bet that Hamilton would have found a new home.  There was a day when San Diego, or San Francisco (can’t remember now) offered the great Hamilton a deal to become their play-by-play man, but Hamilton stayed. 

Now, his signature drive reverberates through my mind whenever I think of Indians baseball, “A swing and a drive, deep left center, awaaaayyyyy back…GONE.” As a matter of fact, one could make a case that the only entertaining part of Cleveland baseball is Hamilton these days.  The bottom line for me with Hamilton is that he embodies everything that is being a Cleveland Indians fan.  When things are going bad, being upset oozes out of his mouth like cement being poured out of a cement truck.  When the Indians are winning, he announces like the fans are feeling, with his emotions on his shoulder.  Here’s to you Tom Hamilton, the best announcer in baseball not named Vin Scully.

No. 8: Tim Belcher, are you “the one?”

I was never a Tim Belcher fan when he was a pitcher.  There was something about him that always annoyed me.  He was a cocky, in your face, I’m better than you kinda pitcher, that always used to just rub me the wrong way.  Let’s fast-forward a bit to 2010, and Tim Belcher was hired as the Indians pitching coach. 

Prior to that, he spent the past eight years working for the Tribe as a special assistant, helping instruct big-league and minor-league pitchers in spring training, instructing pitchers in the minors and doing advance scouting for the big-league club.  He’d been with the club for years and knew this organization.  Go figure, the very thing that irritated me when he was a player is what makes him a solid pitching coach. 

He teaches the Tribe pitchers to pound the strike zone and attack the hitters.  Virtually every pitching statistic improved by leaps and bounds from the year prior.  Still, his most impressive feat may have been his remaking Fausto Carmona into a big league pitcher.  There were moments when the kid looked every bit as good as he did in 2007.  No, Belcher didn’t have any Cy Young guys to work with, but sometimes that’s when a pitching coach really proves his mettle.

No. 7: Terry Pluto is one of the good ones. 

There are some really cruddy journalists here in the city of Cleveland, and many of them report on our very own Cleveland Indians.  Fortunately, in the midst of most of that fodder is perhaps the best Cleveland sports writer in recent memory. 

Pluto never jumps the gun, and almost always has original thoughts on what the Indians should have done, is doing, or what they might do.  He never falls into the typical entrapments of the other local media that just aren’t as informed or always reporting the next pratfall.  Instead, Pluto reports with sense and a bit of sensibility.  He also mentored Brian Windhurst, who is one of the best NBA reporters in the business, even if he did leave Cleveland for the murky waters of Miami and ESPN.

No. 6: Chris Perez has the stuff to become one of the best closers in baseball.

Cleveland has had closers with a lot of saves over the years (Joe Borowski and Bob Wickman), but rarely have they had a closer that was equated as their best reliever.  Perez likely could be that guy.  He has a plus fastball and slider and has a similar matter-of-fact mentality with regards to closing that Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan have. 

No, I’m not putting Perez there, but he’s less of a weirdo and more of a “get-the-job-done” kind of guy.  He was dominant last year, saving 23-of-27 games and rolling out a 1.71 ERA, a 1.08 Whip and an 8.9 K per 9 innings.  We all know the volatility of the closer position, but at the very least, we’ve got this kid locked up for four more years.  With a solid group behind him and the likes of Rob Bryson, Cory Burns and Nick Hagadone waiting in the wings, things will only get better.

No. 5: The Diatribe and the Indians Prospect Insider are the best thought out blogs in the land of the Tribe.

I’ve followed the Diatribe faithfully over the past five years, and if you haven’t had a visit yet, you need to.  While I don’t subscribe to Sabrmetrics, I do subscribe to the view that there is some validity to their usefulness.  Still, reading a blog about the wonderful world of sabr is about as exciting as watching Michigan football. 

Paul Cousineau (formerly known as Pat Tabler) writes with the emotion of being a lifelong Cleveland fan on his sleeve, while adding a solid mix of sabr to match his thoughts.  It’s not exactly off the beaten path, but Cousineau is way ahead of the curve of most Indian writers, Pluto included. 

As a matter of fact, in recent days, PC has “scooped” Pluto and his thoughts.  For example, PC recently commented on the potential of the Indians going after Kevin Kouzmanoff.  A couple of weeks later, there is Pluto, talking K2.  When you have the best writer in Cleveland following your lead, well, it doesn’t get much better than that, does it.

Tony Lastoria started off at Swerbs Blurbs/ The Cleveland Fan, before developing his own site, Indians Prospect Insider, to continue developing his thoughts on the Tribe’s minor league system.  IPI is now the definitive Tribe minor league site, with substantial information on all levels of the Tribe system.  You can currently find Tony’s work at the Ashtabula Star Beacon, as well as at Sports Time Ohio, where he’s writing an independent blog entitled, Minor Happenings.

Seriously, it’s rare for big market teams to have two quality sites like The Diatribe and Indians Prospect Insider (Don’t miss out on The Cleveland Fan either).

No. 4: A side order of Jason Kipnis, Carlos Carrasco, Lonnie Chisenhall, Austin Adams, Cord Phelps, Alex White, Nick Weglarz, Matt Packer, Joe Gardner and Chun Chen, if you please.

These certainly aren’t all of the top prospects in the Tribe’s minor league chain-of-command (and I haven’t even mentioned the 2010 picks), but these should be at the top of the pecking order heading into the 2011 season.  I’m not going to give you a play-by-play today of all these guys, but they are good. 

My personal favorites on this list are second baseman Jason Kipnis, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, right-handed starter Alex White and big lefty, Joe Gardner.  The system is loaded, and there are potential superstars waiting in the wings.  Now, if these draft prospects pan out, and the Indians begin to fix their draft program, it can only get better.

No. 3: Thank goodness for the 1948 Cleveland Indians, led by Lou Boudreau!

I recently received an e-mail asking me why I had a Cleveland Indians blog named Bringing Back Boudreau.  After picking my jaw up off the ground, I replied, “Type these three items into your search engine—Lou Boudreau, 1948, and World Series.”  Boudreau was the player/manager of that team in 1948, which just happens to be the last time the Tribe won the series.  I wasn’t anywhere close to being alive then, but hope upon all hope that I can someday change the name of this blog to, “Brought Back Boudreau.”

No. 2: Shin-Soo Choo, the most unsung baseball player in the majors.

I am certain that if you asked 50-of-100 baseball fans about Shin-Soo Choo, they would say bless you.  Choo is a good ballplayer.  Wait, that doesn’t do the kid justice.  Choo is a fantastic ballplayer, and without him on this team over the past two-and-one-half seasons, I’m not sure if there would be any offensive players of note over that same time period. 

He hit .300 again last season, with 22 homers and 90 RBI.  He had a .484 OBP and an .885 OPS.  He stole 22 bases for the second straight year and scored 81 runs in only 144 games.  Choo isn’t all that unsung, as he did finish 14th in the MVP voting, but boy, you do have to wonder just how bad it could be without our favorite South Korean.  Choo also gained exempt status from the South Korean military this offseason just as tension escalated with North Korea.  Lots to be thankful for here. 

No. 1: A main course of Carlos Santana.

Santana only played in 46 games last season but did manage to prove that average doesn’t mean a thing.  He “only” batted .260, with six homers and 22 RBI.  He walked a stellar 37 times, while only striking out 26 times.  His OBP was .401, and his slugging was a stellar .467.  He’s got a cannon for an arm, calls a good game and can play in the infield, with rumors everywhere from first base, to returning to third base. 

Santana is a prodigious talent and has the potential to be a special, special major leaguer.  Think back to when Manny was coming up; he’s that kind of player.  You can tell he was built to be a ballplayer, and he’ll be the centerpiece of the Tribe offense for years to come.

You see what I mean…if you close your eyes long enough, finding 10 reasons for us Tribe fans to be thankful isn’t all that difficult, now is it. 

Remember, at least we aren’t Pirate’s fans…;)

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Cleveland Indians: A First Look at the Tribe’s Top Prospects

It’s that time of year when the Major League Baseball top prospect lists start pouring in.  Normally, it’s just a part of the normal hot stove season for each major league team. 

You know the drill: sign some free agents, make some trades and reevaluate your minor league system.  For the Indians, that drill should be a much simpler proposition thanks to Paul Dolan’s recent revelation to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer:

“It’s not the right time to spend. No question about that. It’s not the right time to spend in the cycle of this franchise. The spending is deficit spending. When New York and Boston spend, they’re spending from their profits. It’s a riskier proposition for clubs like us to spend. We’re taking a far greater financial risk than whatever it is a large-market club spends on a large free agent. It’s the unfortunate nature of our game.”

While the conversation about Dolan’s statement will take the better part of the winter months, and likely the entirety of the 2011 baseball season (you know, the one in which Mark Shapiro believe the Indians would be in contention again…oops), let’s instead discuss the first of the baseball prospect ratings that have come out.

On November 17th, Baseball America released their top 10 rankings. BA’s rankings always tend to veer towards the current drafts and/or trades, and while there is value to their rankings, the definitive rankings tend to come from Tony Lastoria via his prospect book and website, Indians Prospect Insider. To give some perspective, let’s take a look at last year’s rankings, compared to this year’s, both compiled by Baseball America’s Ben Badler:


BA 2010 Tribe Top 10


BA 2011 Tribe Top 10

Carlos Santana, C


Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B

Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B


Alex White, RHP

Nick Hagadone, LHP


Jason Kipnis, 2B

Jason Knapp, RHP


Drew Pomeranz, LHP

Michael Brantley, OF


Nick Weglarz, OF

Nick Weglarz, OF


Jason Knapp, RHP

Hector Rondon, RHP


Levon Washington, OF

Carlos Carrasco, RHP


Tony Wolters, SS

Alex White, RHP


Joe Gardner, RHP

Jason Kipnis, 2B/OF


Nick Hagadone, LHP


Looking at last year’s ranking, No. 1 Carlos Santana, No. 5 Michael Brantley and No. 8 Carlos Carrasco have all been promoted to the major league level.  Santana likely remains the true No. 1 prospect in the organization. 

While establishing himself as a major leaguer during the 2010 season, Santana sprained his lateral collateral ligament on the outside of his knee during an early August collision at home plate and missed the rest of the season.

Brantley spent the beginning of the season in Cleveland, but after early struggles, made a quick exit back to Columbus.  After a solid two months for the Clippers, Brantley returned and slowly began to show off some of the skills that the Indians saw when dealing for him in the CC Sabathia deal. 

During the first half of the season, Brantley batted .118.  In the second half, he rebounded nicely, batting .284, and bringing up his overall average to .246.  He also managed to steal 10 bases, while only getting caught twice.

Carrasco was a September call-up after a fabulous season in Columbus, and he continued to pitch well for the big league Tribe.  Carrasco never went less than six innings in seven starts, while going 2-2 with a 3.83 ERA.  He struck out 38 batters in 44 2/3 innings, while only walking 14 batters.

Hector Rondon dropped out of the top 10 after having a season to forget.  The lanky righty went 1-3 with an 8.53 ERA before the Indians shut him down for rest and rehab.  Then, in late August, Rondon had Tommy John surgery, and likely won’t be a factor again until next season.

The other six prospects on the list, remain on the list.  Lonnie Chisenhall, Nick Weglarz, Alex White and Jason Kipnis all moved up, while Nick Hagadone and Jason Knapp both dropped.  Newcomers to the top 10 are 2010 draftees, Drew Pomeranz, Levon Washington and Tim Wolters, and 2009 draftee Joseph Gardner.


No. 1: Lonnie Chisenhall

Chisenhall, the No. 1 pick for the Tribe in 2008, is certainly one of the top three prospects in this organization. He had a fantastic 2010 season. While the numbers may not scream future All-Star, you have to keep in mind that “Chis” spent much of the season battling through injury issues.

The Aero’s third baseman hit .278, but slugged 17 home runs, driving in 84 and scoring 81. He led the team in runs, RBI, hits and total bases. With one more solid year in Columbus, he’ll be on the fast track to the majors. While I do feel that Chisenhall got passed this season by another infielder, I have no problem raking him No. 1.


No. 2: Alex White

White was the No. 1 pick for the Tribe in 2009, and he did everything he could to prove that during the 2010 season.  In his professional debut, White was solid, if a bit spectacular in two levels of the Indians organization. 

At High A Kinston, White went 2-3 in eight starts, but don’t let the win-loss confuse you.  His ERA was a solid 2.86, striking out 41 in 44 innings, while walking only 19.  He was promoted early to Akron and went 8-7 with an even more impressive 2.28 ERA. 

His overall ERA was 2.45, and it looks like this kid knows how to pitch.  He did struggle a bit with only 6 1/2 K’s per nine innings, and I think you’d want more at a guy this high, but he’ll only get better. 

Look for White to start the year off in Columbus, and make some noise to join the big league club earlier, rather than later.  I would have White in the top 10, but I’m not sure he’s a No. 1 starter down the road…more like a No. 2 or No. 3.


No. 3:  Jason Kipnis

Kipnis was the second-round pick of the Tribe in 2009. Understand that Kipnis made the move from the outfield to second base this season and did it as seamlessly as possible.

How seamless? Kipnis started the year off in High A Kinston and ended the season winning titles in Triple A Columbus. In 54 games in Kinston, Kipnis hit .300, with six home runs, 33 runs and 31 RBI. He did have 10 errors, but this would improve.

In Akron, Kipnis continued to improve, batting .311 with 10 homers and 43 RBI. His defense also improved, with 13 errors in 75 games.

After finishing the regular season, the Tribe sent him to Columbus to help out in the playoffs. Kipnis exploded, hitting for the cycle in the Clippers game-clinching game for the Governor’s Cup, the trophy awarded to the best Triple A team.

In the five games he played for Columbus, he hit .455 with a 1.045 OPS. Kipnis is a shooting star in this organization. He’ll start the year off in Columbus, but look for the Kipnis watch to begin in spring training. This guy may be the top prospect in the organization.


No. 4:  Drew Pomeranz

Pomeranz was the Indians top pick in 2010. Without knowing much about the big 6’5″ lefty, it appears as if this kid is the type of workhorse that the Indians have been stockpiling over the past 2 1/2 years.

He has a nice fastball that’s in the 91-92 range, but can bring it up to 95. It’s extremely explosive, but not his best pitch. That would be his 12-6 curve, which may already be the best curve in the organization.

He has a decent offspeed pitch, but it’s likely the Indians will be tinkering with this over the next couple of years. I wouldn’t have him this high yet, but there’s no doubt this kid is going to be good.


No. 5:  Nick Weglarz

Weglarz was the third-round pick of the Indians in 2005. It’s unknown where Weglarz is going to play, whether it be outfield, first base or DH. This year, he hit .285, with 13 homers and 47 RBI.

He had a .503 OBP, and an .893 OPS. Weglarz is in the Jim Thome-mold…a mountain of a man, who walks as much as he strikes out. The only concern with the kid is health. He had less than 400 at bats this year. If healthy, I fully expect Weglarz to show up in Cleveland.


No. 6: Jason Knapp

Knapp was a second-round draft pick of the Phillies in 2008 and made his debut for the Tribe in rookie ball with six weeks left in the season.  The kid is talented and has a lot of stuff, but it’s really hard to figure out what we’ve got with this kid. 

He made nine starts, to the tune of 28 1/3 innings.  He went 1-2 with a 2.86 ERA, striking out an incredible 47 batters, while walking only 12.  If you’re counting at home, that’s 15 K’s per nine innings.  He is a long way from the Majors, but he clearly has the best stuff of any Tribe pitcher.


No. 7:  Levon Washington

Washington was picked in the second round of the 2010 draft.  Here’s another kid I don’t know a lot about, other than the fact that many consider him to be the best overall athlete in the entire draft.  Washington is a raw talent, he’s fast and has above average offensive talent. 

Many compare the kid to Johnny Damon and/or Carl Crawford.  While I can’t go there yet, there is a lot of hope for this kid down the line.  His biggest knock is on his arm, and many say it may cost him from being a centerfielder.  I just don’t see the kid in the top ten yet, but what do I know.


No. 8:  Tony Wolters

Wolters was picked in the third round of the 2010 draft.  The Indians hadn’t really drafted a top SS prospect since Jhonny Peralta about 200 years ago.  Wolters is just that, a top prospect.  Many believed that Wolters was going to college, and that there was no way that he’d sign. 

It caused him to slide, and the Indians did what they normally don’t, they took a chance at him and signed him. He’s a fantastic fielder, but his specialty is his bat, which is special from both sides of the plate. 

He’s a small kid, but he’s tenacious.  The kid eats, sleeps and drinks baseball.  His biggest comparison is Dustin Pedroia.  When you look at the kid, he’s not going to blow you away on paper, but when you put all the pieces together, he may be the Tribe’s best draft pick.  Again, not sure I’d have him in the top 10 yet, but he’s certainly earned that right.


No. 9:  Joe Gardner:  Joe Gardner was selected in the third round in the 2009 draft.  Gardner made quite a splash in the Indians organization this year.  Gardner started the year in Low A Lake County, and made quick work there, going 1-0 with a 3.24 ERA in only six starts. 

He moved up to High A Kinston, and did an even better job, going 12-6 with a 2.65 ERA in 22 starts.  He finished first in the organization in wins and K’s, and had an overall 2.75 ERA.  Opponents hit .197 against him.  He has a wicked sinker and commands the lower part of the plate, and has a 3.21 GO/AO ratio. 

There’s nothing about this kid that doesn’t sound off the alarms of being a solid top-of-the-rotation starter.  Will his breaking stuff translate to AA and higher?  I believe it will.  Look for Gardner to really rise to the top this season.


No. 10:  Nick Hagadone

Nick Hagadone was a first-round selection by the Boston Red Sox in 2007.  Hagadone may have had the best stuff in this organization coming into this season, after coming over in the Victor Martinez deal last year. 

He had Tommy John surgery in 2008, so this was likely the first we got to see him at the top of his game.  Cleveland was extremely careful with Hagadone, so much so that they moved him in the bullpen when he struggled a bit in Akron. 

Hagadone is another big lefty, who has a mid-90’s fastball, a plus slider and a changeup.  He had a solid season in Kinston, (1-3, 2.39 ERA) before heading to Kinston.  Once there, Hagadone struggled as a starter, so they moved him to the pen. 

It’s still not sure where he’ll end up, but it’s likely the pen.  Hagadone has much to prove, before he gets to the bigs.  This may be too high for him.


The Indians certainly have their doubts heading into the season with regard to the big league club.  What is sure is that the Tribe has a slew of prospects moving up through the organization that should make an impact over the next five years. 

We’ll be taking a long look at many of them over the next three months. It’s not like we have anything else to talk about, do we?

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Shin-Soo Choo Dominating Asian Games In His Quest For Military Exemption

And so, the 2010-2011 off-season begins. The New York Yankees will be debating how many millions they will overpay Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, while not blinking at the 150 million or so dollars they throw the way of former Indians ace, Cliff Lee.

The Boston Red Sox will spend their typical off-season in the midst of their quaint Red Sox Nation, debating how many millions they will or won’t throw at Adrian Beltre or former Indians catcher Victor Martinez, while discussing whether they will dally in the discussion for Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford and/or Prince Fielder.

The Indians? Our off-season will be focused on one player, and one player only: Shin-Soo Choo.

Let’s face facts, Tribe fans, as far as players go, Choo has been the main topic of Cleveland Indians discussion for the better part of 2 1/2 years. You could make a case that he’s really the only major league player worth talking about with any sort of consistency.  Not only has the Tribe right-fielder been far-and-away the best player to put on an Indians jersey since he’s become a regular, but there’s also been a rather large question hanging over Choo’s head: Will he have to leave by July of 2012 to serve a mandatory two-year military service in his homeland of South Korea?

Let’s just say that Choo is doing everything he possibly can to avoid that service.

Choo is currently spending his off-season at the Asian Games in China, trying to earn what could be a reprieve from joining the South Korean army.  Should the South Koreans win the gold medal at the games, the South Korean government would give every member of the team an automatic exemption. Choo is taking this possibility seriously.

On Saturday, in the opening game for Korea, they faced off against the defending Asian Games gold medalists, Chinese Tapei, and promptly blew them out of the water by a score of 6-1.  The clear star of the game was Choo, who went two for four with two homers and four RBI.  Choo didn’t stop there.

In game two on Sunday, he went one for three, with a double, a walk and two RBI in a 15-0 shellacking of Chinese Hong Kong. The game was stopped in the fifth inning, thanks to the long-lost Little League ten run rule.

Yesterday, Choo went two for two with a walk and a double, scoring in three runs and driving in two.  He added a stolen base as the Koreans blitzed Pakistan 15-0. 

You guessed it, the Pakistanis were ten-runned in this one as well, as Choo was taken out after the fourth inning.

Overall, Choo is batting .556 with two homers, two doubles, two walks and a stolen base.  I would guess you could call that motivation.

The South Koreans will face off in the semi-finals tomorrow against the host country, China.  It should be a win, but the game could get interesting.  You never really know what to expect when you’re playing the hosts, who are 2-1, with two dominating wins.  Their only loss came to gold medal favorites, Japan.  Japan is playing in the other semi-final against Chinese Taipei.

Choo is two games away from closing the door on one of the most hotly discussed topics over the years within the Indians community.  Of course, if they do win gold, then what will we have to talk about?

Oh yeah, Choo signed with agent Scott Boras, so then we’ll get to start worrying about how to sign him.  One step at a time folks, one step at a time…

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Manny Ramirez Heads to Chicago White Sox: Will It End Badly?

It’s official.

Manny Ramirez and the nearly $4 million left on his contract are heading to the South Side of Chicago to finish the season out for the White Sox.

Manny, of course, will play his first game for the White Sox against his former team, our Cleveland Indians.

It’s unclear whether or not Manny will play tonight or debut tomorrow for the White Sox, but either way, it could prove to be an interesting conglomeration of personalities.

Manny has been a non-entity with the Dodgers since June 29th because of a calf strain, only playing in six games since then. One of those games was Saturday’s one-pitch performance in which the enigmatic outfielder was thrown out of the game for arguing a call.

When he has played, he’s been effective, batting .311 with eight homers and 40 RBI. Still, it’s distinctly arguable whether at this stage of his career, hitting or not hitting, Manny is ever really effective in helping his team win games.

We all know Manny. When he’s interested, there really isn’t a better hitter in baseball. The swing is sublime and hasn’t changed since picking up his first bat. He’s absolutely a hitting savant. When he’s not interested, well, he’s still a great hitter, but one could argue that he takes more away from a team than he brings to it.

How will this translate to the Chicago White Sox, who are 4.5 games behind the division leading Minnesota Twins? I’m not sure, but it should be an interesting watch.

Manny may show up and may help this team offensively. As a matter of fact, I can almost guarantee it. Ramirez has something to prove, and he’s known to respond under similar circumstances. But you do have to wonder, as a Tribe fan, what could happen if something goes wrong.

What happens if something tweaks Ozzie Guillen? What happens if Manny is Manny, and Ozzie realizes that it isn’t just “Manny being real,” as Guillen stated in his comments about Man-Ram coming to the team just yesterday? What happens if he really gets under the skin of the outspoken White Sox manager?

Well, that could be an explosive proposition, couldn’t it? I, for one, can’t wait to see it happen. There isn’t a team that deserves it more than the Chicago White Sox.

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