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Luis Valbuena’s Horrific Offense is the Problem


THE SUBJECTLuis Valbuena, also known as Baby Louie.

Luis Valbuena came over to Cleveland in the three-way deal with with the Mets and Mariners that sent outfielder Franklin Gutierrez to Seattle and J.J. Putz to New York.

After spending 22 games in Triple-A Columbus, Valbuena made a quick debut with Cleveland and opened a lot of eyes as a potential second baseman for the club’s long term future.

Valbuena hit 10 home runs and scored 51 times in 103 games played for the big league club. But that didn’t stop the Indians from trying to pursue other options at second base. They offered Orlando Hudson a multi-year contract and signed several veteran middle infielders.

Hudson didn’t accept the offer, which left the Indians with Valbuena as the default second baseman. That couldn’t have instilled much confidence in him and if that is any indication to how he’s played, then it would make sense.

Valbuena has struggled and he’s lost at-bats to the likes of Mark Grudzielanek, Anderson Hernandez, and rookie Jason Donald. Had Asdrubal Cabrera not gone down with a broken forearm, he’d be back in Columbus instead of splitting time at second with Donald.

So while he’s here, we might as find out what exactly is wrong with him.


THE PROBLEM Just about everything offensively.

Luis Valbuena has been downright atrocious this season. Offensively he’s been anemic with the bat and defensively he’s had his issues, especially when called upon to play shortstop.

But even recently his defense at second base has fallen off. Yet you could live with the defense because he does make his fair share of decent plays.

When Asdrubal Cabrera went down earlier in the season for a few games, Valbuena was called-upon to start at short and the results were less than stellar. So when Cabrera broke his arm and was placed on the disabled list, the Indians called up Jason Donald to get the regular starting nod at shortstop and Valbuena would split time at second with Mark Grudzielanek.

While his second base defense is somewhat tolerable, his offense, regardless of position, has been horrific to watch. There are players getting called up that are approaching his statistical totals in a shorter span and he isn’t getting any better.

This presents us with a huge problem. Luis Valbuena is killing the bottom of the order and has been for the entire season. 


THE EVIDENCE Numbers that are important

Luis Valbuena Ratio Statistics





































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His extra-base hit percentage is higher than the average for his career and it has a lot to do with last year, where it was abnormally high. However this year is incredibly low. He was also hitting a homer every 37 at-bats, where he’s up to one every 70 at-bats this year.

Last year his percentage of hits that went for extra-base hits was at 41% while this year he’s dropped to 29%. The pattern here is obviously the fact that he may not be as a much of a prolific extra-base hit machine that we thought he could be.

Luis Valbuena 2009 and 2010 Comparison














































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Generated 6/19/2010.

Luis Valbuena had a career year regardless of level last year. It was the most home runs he’s ever hit in a season and ten of them came at the major league level, the most he ever got was 11 for the Mariners Double-A club. He also had the most doubles he’s ever had in one year. He fell short to his RBI number, but matched his 2007 year with 44.

Left-Right Splits 2010














vs RHP as LHB













vs LHP as LHB













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Generated 6/19/2010.

One of the problems with Luis Valbuena coming into the year was the idea of him facing left-handed pitching. Well, they’ve done their best to shield Baby from the lefties, but when he’s gotten the small opportunity, he’s actually come through.

It may be a very small sample size against the left-handed pitching, but if you project those numbers out to how many times he’s faced right-handers, he’s doing a great job in this instance. In a way it is a bit puzzling, regardless of sample size, to see him hit lefties like this.

He had just eight hits in 39 at-bats against left-handed hitting in 2009, so he’s definitely made some progress there.



Is there really a solution to fix this mess of a hitter?

One thing that really stands out to the naked eye is the fact that Valbuena’s average is still under .170 despite it being June. Even Lou Marson was creeping up to .200 before his demotion. Valbuena has just been downright awful.

It appeared that he might start to erase his first two months with a decent June, but he’s not getting regular enough playing time to do so. His bat has been so bad, it hurts to put him into the lineup.

We might as well start with the most obvious reason he’s struggling. Maybe he’s just not that good. Maybe 2009 was a bit of a fluke, has that struck the minds of anyone? Now is Luis Valbuena .167 average bad? I don’t think so, but I don’t think he’ll ever do what he did in the second half of 2009.

Valbuena only hit .250, so he’s not going to hit for a high average. The most remarkable thing he did in 2009 was hit 38 extra-base hits, 25 of them doubles, 10 of them home runs, and three of them triples. I don’t think he ever has it in him to hit 30 extra-base hits in a season, mostly because that’s what he’s trying to do.

If Luis would concentrate on just trying to make contact and hit like a second baseman should, he may not be in the rut he is now. It’s obvious to anyone who watches him hit his goal is to hit the ball as hard as he can and that just shouldn’t be his game.

Lou Marson, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Grady Sizemore all have more extra-base hits than Valbuena in less at-bats and they are all either injured or in Triple-A. Trevor Crowe and Jason Donald both have more extra-base hits and they’ve been here for less time than Louie.

It took Carlos Santana all of one week to match Valbuena’s totals in doubles and home runs.

When players who have been here way less than you have started matching the statistics you were depended on, there is a bit of a problem.

The only solution, if there is a solution to this problem, is to send Luis Valbuena to the minor leagues, a place he can do no damage to the big league club. The problem is with Asdrubal Cabrera on the disabled list, they don’t really have someone to be the backup at short and second if they start Anderson Hernandez regularly and send Valbuena down.

So Valbuena has to remain on the roster, at least until Cabrera is ready to return to action. The club could call up Brian Bixler, but they would have to create a 40-man roster spot for him and the Indians probably don’t want to do that until they have to, which is when Cabrera is due back.

Essentially then, the club is stuck with Valbuena getting some meaningful playing time at the major league level to try and end this hard skid he’s in.

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Believe The Hype: Carlos Santana Comes Better Than Advertised

It was a mild Saturday evening for a Cleveland Indians baseball game.

It was the night after Carlos Santana’s much anticipated debut in Cleveland and the day before the Strasmas holiday hit Progressive Field, Strasmas Eve if you will.

Santana broke tradition by deciding to deliver his gift on Strasmas Eve, rather than waiting another day. When the ball hit off Smooth Swingin’ Santana’s bat in the fifth inning, you knew where its landing spot was going to be.

For a Saturday game, it was a small crowd. For a Saturday game in which the promotion was a Shin-Soo Choo bobblehead, it was a small crowd. But that small crowd witnessed the start of something a little special on June 12th, 2010.

I remember back to the day of Victor Martinez’s major league debut. It was only one hit, but Martinez made it count as he knocked in two runs against Toronto in his mid-September major league debut.

This wasn’t Santana’s debut, but it certainly was his coming out party.

Santana stands at the plate like Martinez, holding the bat just as the Indians old catcher does. He is a switch hitter as well and he even sports the same jersey Martinez did a year ago, the number 41.

Sitting from my seat in right field on Friday, I could have sworn that it was eight years ago, when I was sitting in the same spot, watching Martinez make his debut.

In a way it was kind of eerie. It is 2010 and yet, here I am again, in the same section I was in 2002, watching this switch-hitting phenom of a catcher make his major league debut.

And then a day later, as I was coming back from the concession stands to get something to drink, I heard the thunderous crack of the bat and a follow up roar from the crowd.

I carefully power-walked with my filled cup over to where I could see the field and just in time I caught the ball clear the fences.

Although a bit younger, I still understood the magnitude of Victor Martinez’s debut. It hit me that it was something special, something different.

That same buzz was in the air for Santana’s debut and you could just tell right then and there, despite not doing what he did a night later, that this kid was different.

The crowds from both nights could sense it too; even the ones who may have been hearing his name for the first time. The fact that someone with a .000 average was hitting third in the lineup for a game in the middle of June may have clued even the most part-time Cleveland fan that this was something worth cheering about.

So we did.

Many people stood up and clapped for Santana on Friday, including myself, despite the fact that he hadn’t played an inning at the major league level. Many did the same on Saturday night after he smacked a ball past first base and down the right field line for his first career hit and first pair of runs batted in.

The reception got even bigger when the Dominican product who had ignited a fan base just a few innings ago with his double, launched his first career home run over the right field wall.

On Strasmas a day later, Santana got the starting nod yet again. Manager Manny Acta decided to throw out the rule book and give Carlos the start behind the dish in a day game after a night game, most likely due to the magnitude of the match up between two phenoms.

With or without the day off on Monday, Acta’s choice was the right one. This opportunity doesn’t come around very often.

Santana won the battle over Strasburg, getting on base twice against the Nationals first overall pick in 2009. But Strasburg put on a strikeout clinic yet again despite walking a few more hitters than he would have liked and exiting the game in the sixth inning.

Quietly, outside of Cleveland at least, Santana goes on about his business. And now even quietly, with the hype wearing down, Carlos continues to play his game. What hasn’t been mentioned yet is the reason that has been holding Santana away from that moment on June 11th, 2010.

His defense has been the reason the Indians have been slow to promote Santana, or at least one of the main reasons. With a bat that has been deemed major league ready over a year ago, calling a game and working on his foot work defensively have been two issues the Indians have focused on.

And in two games, Santana showed that those issues may have been greatly exaggerated, or else he’s worked really hard to make them a non-issue.

In the first inning of Friday’s game, Nyjer Morgan tested the arm of Santana, which in hindsight may have been a mistake. The Indians know Santana is armed with a cannon right arm, they just worry about him making accurate throws.

Worry no-longer. Santana wasted no time gunning down Morgan in the first inning. It seems as if Carlos was almost waiting for the opportunity to show off that arm and Morgan afforded him the opportunity to do so.

How about that game-calling ability?

While it still may be a work in progress, Santana’s desire to learn and work ethic in terms of knowing what is going on with a hitter doesn’t need to be questioned. Both Jake Westbrook, who started Friday, and Fausto Carmona, who started Saturday, did not shake off the rookie in his first two games.

Carmona even went out and threw a complete game in a matter of two hours, his best game of the season.

There is some serious legitimacy to the belief that Santana isn’t some over-hyped prospect that is destined for mediocrity, but yet a big time bat with year-to-year All-Star potential.

Sometimes you can just tell with a player, before they even step up to take their first cuts in a major league batter’s box, if they are made for this or not. With someone like Carlos Santana, we not only assume, we kind of know.

Did that belief exist with someone like Andy Marte? No, there was simply just a “hope” that surrounded him and his debut with Cleveland. The statement wasn’t, “We can’t wait to see this kid, because we know he’s destined for great things,” the statement read, “We can’t wait to see him, because we hope it works out.”

With Santana, we almost know it will work out because we believe we’ve seen this story before. It goes beyond the comparison to Victor Martinez, a switch-hitting Latin catcher that wears 41 and holds the bat up high at the plate.

It’s just that feeling you get when you see someone special up at the plate and everyone else realizes it without having to be told. Scouts think they know it, management believes they know it, but only the fans actually do, and they’re the only ones that don’t have to actually watch the player hit before making that decision.

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The Baseball Cluster: Ken Griffey Jr. Sleeping and Trey Hillman Packing


Every week there are three things I deem to be really important. It’s kind of like the “meat” of my lineup. This week, there is only two because my DH is on the disabled list.

1. Trey Hillman Fired

I’m a little shocked that the Kansas City Royals decided to pull the trigger on firing Trey Hillman this early. Not so much because I believed the vote of confidence that Drayton Moore cast in favor of Hillman, though.

You would think that a team in the Royals position would realize the manager isn’t the problem, but maybe the talent is just too far away. They’ve got some talent, but they need someone at this level that can help develop the talent they do have.

Quite frankly, it isn’t there. I don’t really know if Hillman is to blame for Alex Gordon’s failures, but this team shouldn’t be concerned about winning ball games. If the culture isn’t there, or the development isn’t there, than firing Hillman was a good move.

And maybe Ned Yost is a good choice to take over. He did a great job with Milwaukee as they brought up their young core of players throughout the years.

But I thought Hillman was doing an admirable job of what he did have to work with. That being said, Hillman is probably just another gear in this cycle for the Royals. They look like the Pirates in terms of just going around and around in this vicious circle.

The drastic difference is some of the players the Royals advance through their system. Players like Alex Gordon and Luke Hochevar are high-prized prospects that should be finished off at the MLB level. Is Hillman to be blamed for that?

Guess the Royals believe he is.

2. Don’t rock the crib, Junior is asleep.

The Seattle Mariners have lost 10 games in the final at-bat this season. While I’m not sure Ken Griffey Jr. and the rest of the Mariners veterans are to blame, you’d expect a team with the veterans they have to be better in these situations.

That is beside the point, though. The big story this week concerning Griffey and the Mariners is the whole “Was he asleep in the clubhouse or not?” debacle. Reporter Larry Larue credits two young Seattle players in finding Griffey asleep at his locker when he was needed for a pinch-hit appearance.

Not only has Griffey refuted the rumor, the Mariners have collectively banded together in claiming what happened isn’t true and even going as far as not speaking to Larue during sessions with the media.

This all has gotten real ugly and real fast. Initially ESPN reporters like Buster Olney and Tim Kurkijan both said Larue is respected and wouldn’t make something like this up or hastily report something.

The Tacoma News Tribune came out through Griffey’s agent saying the story was published by accident, which doesn’t make any sense to me, but now that it appears Larue is on his way out, it kind of makes sense.

Regardless of what really happened, Griffey isn’t hitting right now and there should be some serious thought put into what to do with him.

Was Larue publishing an unfounded rumor based on an agenda like some believe? Is Seattle’s little boycott of Larue silly and sophomoric? Only the players involved know, but what we do know is that the central figure in this, Griffey, is the one that needs to perform regardless.

Seattle probably won’t cut ties with him out of respect, but if they are going to turn it around, he needs to at least hold his own in what little playing time he gets.



Baseball never has a shortage of weird and wacky statistics or situations. These are those situations. Cue the “Law and Order” chime.

Why is everyone falling asleep? In addition to the debacle that has gone on with Ken Griffey Jr., Mets announcer Keith Hernandez fell asleep during a game the Saturday before last. Sometimes I wonder if people in the radio booths take naps if I don’t hear them for awhile, so I believe this is totally possible.

Many know Hernandez from his mustache and I’m always fascinated by players and their facial hair tendencies during a season, especially if someone tries to pull of a Keith Hernandez.

Matt LaPorta has the early makings of a mustache and while this picture is from a few days ago, it still is visible. My guess is that he decided to do it after a double he hit on Thursday. It might be working after LaPorta hit his first home run of the year on Sunday.

LaPorta knows about the seagulls that invaded Progressive Field last year (and guess what, they made their reappearance this past week!) but it’s safe to say that Twins players have to adjust to life with the birds.

We’ve seen the Minnesota fans have to deal with rain and weather due to their new outdoor stadium, but now they must also battle nature. During Thursday’s game against another bird (the Orioles) most fans had their attention turned to a bird that was resting on the right field foul pole.

Reportedly it was a falcon chewing on moths. Sounds delicious.

There is no clever way to tie in a falcon and Tim Stauffer diagnosing appendicitis on his iPhone. Yes, the Padres pitcher didn’t feel right, pulled out his iPhone and correctly diagnosed himself. Every time I pull up WebMD I think I’ve acquired a fatal disease. Those sites scare me.

Remember last week when we found out that recently released Eric Byrnes would be joining a softball team, rather than trying to catch on with another major league club? Turns out that wasn’t a joke and neither are his softball skills, thankfully.

Byrnes said he didn’t give up on baseball and he’s good with leaving the way he did knowing full well that his time has come up. Byrnes got a chance to extract some revenge off the coach that didn’t take him for a Little League team 25 years ago.



Every week we look at Luke Hochevar, because a first-round pick needs pressure, even if he plays for Royals.

Last Week’s Line: 1 GS, 0-1, 6.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 3 K

Our boy Luke Hochevar turned in another shaky outing after his short four-run performance against Texas the previous week. He’s now 3-2 with a 5.86 ERA in 43 innings pitched this year.

Hochevar has now given up at least four runs in four of his last five outings and he’s lost three of those games and very well could have lost all four.

Hochevar is slated to go this upcoming Thursday against Cleveland, which means I get my first look at him this season.



I’m not really a big statistics guy, but I guess it’s better than being a scat man, because I don’t know what that is.

We might as well lead off strong, quite like Dan Haren did last week when the first nine outs he recorded were strikeouts. I’ll finish stronger than he did though.

Some more factoids rolling in from that Dallas Braden perfect game on Mother’s Day a week ago. The Rays being involved in the last two perfect games has created some fun facts for the future, but the coolest one involves Gabe Kapler.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, the Tampa outfielder is the first player ever to bat in the ninth inning of two perfect games.

Braden’s encore performance wasn’t too bad, but he ran into a stellar outing by Joe Saunders. Braden threw a complete game and is the second pitcher ever to throw a complete game following a perfect game. The other was Lenny Barker in 1981.

Mat Latos was one measly hit away from throwing a perfect game of his own. The Padres pitcher shutdown the San Francisco Giants big time last week and was actually his own offensive support, as he knocked in the only run of the game.

Latos is just one of the many Padres pitchers who seem to be more than just pushovers with the bat. Padres pitchers are hitting .227 on the season with nine RBI. That’s better than or just as good as some nine-hole hitters in the American League!

Lou Marson – .221 AVG, 1 RBI; Cesar Izturis – .206 AVG, 6 RBI; Jack Wilson – .253 AVG, 7 RBI; Nick Punto – .262 AVG, 9 RBI; Adam Everett – .193 AVG, 2 RBI; Brandon Wood – .170 AVG, 7 RBI

Oh and Ronny Cedeno hit .205 during his stint as the No. 9 hitter for the Pirates. I’d be ashamed if I were those players.

Omar Vizquel was a light-hitter coming into the league, but he has since turned himself into a very capable bat. Still he was never really a designated hitter because he was so valuable defensively. Plus he played on teams with Manny Ramirez, Travis Hafner, Jim Thome, and Albert Belle.

But Vizquel got his first career appearance at designated hitter this past week in his 22-year career. There’s a first for everything, even the 43-year-old Vizquel.

Alright we need some muscle, all this light hitting talk is making me feel like we don’t have enough flash in The Cluster. The Braves manned up and broke a 235-consecutive-game streak without a grand slam this past week.

That seems like a long time for one franchise not to do that.

Put it this way, two teammates have had at least five hits in the same game more times in that 235-game span, which is weird because you’d think that feat would be tougher to accomplish.

Friday both Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones combined to go 10-for-11 while the rest of the Pirates lineup went 6-for-31. They are also the first pair of five-hit teammates to homer in each game since 1999 when Mo Vaughn and Randy Velarde did it for the Angels.

Let’s keep up the scoring with a nice little bit from Elias. Only three teams in the past 30 years have done what the Cleveland Indians did on Saturday night against Baltimore.

They scored all eight of their runs in the ninth inning after being shutout for the previous eight.

The last time it was done was in 2005 when the Phillies cored 10 against the Marlins and before that, 1983 when the Athletics did it to Cleveland.

Finally, remember last week when I brought up the point about Zack Greinke starting the season 0-5 as a Cy Young winner? Well he won his start against Cleveland, preventing that from happening, but I found out that Frank Viola started 0-5 a year after he won the Cy Young award. Turns out I just had to go back one more year to 1989 to find that out.



For all the stuff that defies categorization, this is the utility player of the weekly feature. We play everywhere and anywhere here!

We cover a lot of stuff in The Utility Player, which is why it is named as such. However this week we are all over the place and there really is no good place to start.

Starlin Castro committed three errors in game (welcome to the big leagues, kid), Pat Burrell was designated for assignment, and Oliver Perez was finally moved to the bullpen. All important stories, but I actually have much bigger fish to fry this week.

Jose Valverde has always been one of those guys who probably over-celebrates after he nails down a save. But he is in the mold of a Joba Chamberlain and Francisco Rodriguez in terms of being very emotional.

Chamberlain is probably a reason that many of the Yankees had no problem with Valverde’s excessive fist-pumping after he shut one down against New York this past week.

The Dallas Morning News had a story about how the Texas Rangers have joined in the trend of scouting umpires. Yes teams are now tracking umpires in terms of ball and strike consistency and even what location the crew is coming from.

The basic balls and strikes are nice for a pitcher and catcher to know, but does where the umpire crew come from really matter? How can you really impact the game by knowing this information?

Carlos Guillen on the move again, this time to second base in place of Scott Sizemore, who was optioned to Triple-A Toledo after opening the season as the Tigers starting second baseman. Sizemore was hitting just .206.

The Tigers are getting tremendous production from the other rookie that started the season, Austin Jackson, so they can’t be all that disappointed.

Oh and that Brennan Boesch guy, he’s doing pretty well, too.

Why do these stories from the Phillies not interest me? Last week it was the fan getting tased and this week it is binocular gate. As I’m sure you’ve heard, the Phillies were slapped on the wrist for using binoculars in the bullpen. The Rockies were not really, who would be?

Were they stealing signs? Who really knows, maybe they were. Point is stealing signs is a part of the game. Using binoculars to do so, however, is not. You would think a team would know better, but people do what they can to get the upper hand.

This story about the Phillies does interest me. Turns out they are gaining three home games due to a G20 Summit in Toronto. The Jays and Phillies series slated for later in June is being moved from Toronto to Philadelphia, instead of say, to a neutral site?

When Vernon Wells was told that Cleveland was a possibility (and actually quite convenient since the team would be traveling there to start a series the day after the Phillies series) he remarked that they would “then have to spend a week in Cleveland.”

Look I’m not a Cleveland apologist or anything, but why does the city get such a bad rap from some players? Is it the greatest city ever? No, but being a little more courteous didn’t hurt anyone.

I have to call out the MLB here. Obviously with the whole Mother’s Day thing the MLB embraces the use of Pink wristbands, bats, batting gloves, etc. However they put the kibosh on Matt Wieters wearing a chest protector with pink padding and his mother’s name etched into the collar.

It’s their own fault for starting the thing. They should just let Wieters do his thing instead of looking like a bad guy by stopping something they basically opened the gates to.

Finally, on the subject of catchers, remember Greg Zaun’s issues last week? Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been having some issues of his own down at Triple-A and it may be the reason he hasn’t been called back up.



The above is Ozzie Guillen’s feelings towards columnist Jay Mariotti. It is the representation for The Cluster’s section on weekly rants.

This originally was in the following section as it was going to transition nicely from our Tweet of the Week, but it kind of stroked a fire with me.

Bengie Molina is not pleased with ESPN for emphasizing his…lack of speed?

I actually agree with Molina 100 percent on what he’s saying and it is part of the problem I personally have with ESPN.

I can complain all I want about the other things, but the fact that actual highlights have taken a serious hit over the years is the most infuriating part about ESPN and Sportscenter.

The Molina stuff aside, why is that the only highlight you are showing in a game that, as Molina pointed out, had plenty of highlights to recap?

Then you add in the fact that they are throwing him under the bus. Their not-top ten plays is funny once a week when they do it, but is there any reason to, basically as Bengie said, humiliate a ballplayer who simply isn’t fast?

The answer would be no. Would anyone like to invest in the MLB Network for me?



Everything from Rasmus girl to the latest commercials, this is your weekly update about things that really have nothing to do with baseball on the field.

I’m going to lead off this section with the latest and greatest feature of The Cluster that is sweeping the nation. I’m of course talking about Tweet of the Week!

Matt Antonelli is quickly becoming the dominator of this newly born feature after he churned out this gem on Wednesday.

Woah this is weird…the Yankees are on ESPN tonight”

He narrowly beats out Brett Anderson who, despite being very mundane and quick, watches a ton of The Office , which is very respectable by my standards.

From The Office to Letterman, Dallas Braden appearing on the show only made sense after he achieved superstar like status for the week after he did something only 18 other players in the history of baseball have done.

He used that opportunity to do Top Ten and of course his landmark line was “Grandma was right, stick it A-Rod.” Oh boy this feud will just not die.

And neither will this Jason Varitek story. I think I’ve seen Boston Mayor Thomas Menino say “Varitek splitting the uprights” quite enough already. But I credit Varitek with the greatest part of the story.

Varitek told the Boston Globe that he actually did some kicking and punting for his high school football team. Someone should really tell Mayor Menino his mistake actually wasn’t that horrible.

Okay it was pretty bad; you are the mayor of Boston.

There is joy in Cincinnati as Uncle Phil’s Düsseldorf Mustard has returned to the Great American Ballpark. I don’t know where it went or why it went away (who takes Mustard away from a baseball stadium?) but thankfully it is back. I’m not really a fan of mustard, but no fan base should be deprived of it.

Some say that the brown ballpark mustard at Progressive Field is some of the greatest mustard ever. I don’t like mustard, period, so I can’t say for sure.



Because we aren’t all fun and games, I highlight one good deed that I’ve come across in the world of baseball. If you know of one, please send it my way.

Love the idea of the Civil Rights game that seems to have become a tradition every year now in Major League Baseball. Also love the spotlight it puts on their Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities program.

Shift focus to people like Mike Collins and Vince Ward, who are just two of the people doing what they can to increase the presence of African-American kids playing baseball.

And then you have the Reds who are doing their part in the RBI program by coordinating an offseason academy that will focus on younger kids.

Overall it’s just good to know some of the strong initiatives that are out there.



Every week we take a look at the latest happening in one of the game’s Central divisions. Why? Because it provides us with the most entertainment, that’s why!

The Cincinnati Reds are in first place.


The Cincinnati Reds are in first place!

I sort of feel dignified, even though we are only halfway through May, that the Reds are in first place because I picked them to finish at least second in the division. In a way, it feels like vindication.

On the flip side, this became possible due to the poor play of the St. Louis Cardinals, who I fully expect to snap out of it soon enough. They’ve lost seven of their last ten and their ace, Adam Wainwright, went toe-to-toe with rookie Mike Leake and lost.

It’s going to be a long summer, but the initial fight from the Reds is a positive to see, especially for the likes of people that picked them to do well this season.



Each week I pick my top three defensive plays, because Ozzie Smith didn’t make the Hall of Fame for swinging the stick.

3. Ike Taylor gets an eight for his catch; his teammates get the other two for being brave enough to catch him.

2. We talked about the misfortunes of Seattle earlier and this was one of them. Yeah props to Corey Patterson but this was all Matt Wieters.

1. Little did Denard Span know, he would later rob Derek Jeter of a hit, but even his play did not top the highway robbery that Brett Gardner pulled off.

Nino Colla writes “The Baseball Cluster” every week, or so he hopes. If you’ve got something that you think fits one of the sections, send him a private message. All absurdities are welcome.

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The Problem: Grady Sizemore’s Power Production

Welcome back to this running series on the Cleveland Indians titled, “The Problem,” where we examine one issue surrounding the current club. Although there is probably more than one problem with the Indians, you have to fix one issue at a time.

Today’s problem involves the club’s biggest star, Grady Sizemore, and the lack of power production. Not only has the power not been there, Sizemore hasn’t even been getting on base as much as the Indians had hoped.

Sizemore’s success is crucial to the Indians’ success offensively, so it isn’t any surprise that Cleveland is near the bottom in many offensive categories in all of baseball.

Where is the answer to Sizemore’s power failure? Can we find a solution to ignite a Sizemore power surge?


The Subject  

Victor Martinez is gone, Travis Hafner is no longer the MVP-caliber hitter he was a few years ago, and a lot of the other familiar names are no longer familiar names.

But Grady Sizemore, he’s the guy in his prime. He was and is supposed to be the lifeblood of this team’s offensive order, regardless of where he hits.

He was supposed to be a perennial MVP candidate since 2008, but so far, his numbers  have only gone down year-by-year. The worst of it was in 2009, when he struggled with injuries and time spent on the disabled list for an extended period of time.

Most assumed 2009’s production was because of those injuries, and that 2010 would be the year he got himself back on track.

The Problem

Grady Sizemore has been off to a horrendous start this season at the plate, and it is mighty puzzling. Last year, Sizemore battled injuries to his midsection and elbow, and both led to surgery before the season even ended.

Sizemore ended up being 100 percent healthy for spring training, and even put on a performance that made Mark Shapiro say it was the best he’s ever seen Sizemore swing the bat.

If we can conclude that the injuries don’t seem to be the issue for his lack of power and overall lack of production, what can we conclude?

Sizemore was moved down a slot to the two-hole, in an effort to give him more RBI opportunities, and some have even suggested the move has been the reason for his struggles.

If that is true, it would be purely mental. Who really knows if that is the case or not—only Sizemore knows.


The Evidence

Grady Sizemore’s Past Five Seasons

2006 162 655 134 190 53 11 28 76 22 78 153 .290 .375 .533
2007 162 628 118 174 34 5 24 78 33 101 155 .277 .390 .462
2008 157 634 101 170 39 5 33 90 38 98 130 .268 .374 .502
2009 106 436 73 108 20 6 18 64 13 60 92 .248 .343 .445
2010 29 116 15 26 6 2 0 12 4 9 32 .224 .289 .310
Provided by : View Original Table Generated 5/13/2010.

I used to say that his drop in average doesn’t matter as long as his on-base percentage isn’t drastically dropping. Well, now it’s dropping—drastically.

His 2007 season was an MVP year, but it was probably abnormally high. However, 2008 measures comparably to 2006 in terms of OBP, despite a moderate change in batting average.


Grady Sizemore’s 2010 Left/Right Splits

vs RHP as LHB 70 21 6 2 0 11 6 18 .300 .351 .443 .794
vs LHP as LHB 46 5 0 0 0 1 3 14 .109 .196 .109 .305
Provided by : View Original Table Generated 5/13/2010.

Shockingly Sizemore has actually been killer on right-handed hitters this season, as all but one RBI have come off a right-hander and all his extra-base hits have as well. The home run that did not count against Detroit came off a right-hander as well, Jeremy Bonderman.

He can’t even hit left-handers period, but one thing that doesn’t change whether or not he’s facing right or left-handed pitching is his strikeout rate. Against the left-handers, he’s striking out every 3.2 at-bats. Against right-handers, it’s 3.8.


Grady Sizemore’s 2010 Hit Location

To Infield 34 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0
To Outfield 50 26 6 2 0 11 .520 .510 .720 1.230 0 1
Fair Terr 82 26 6 2 0 12 .317 .313 .439 .752 1 1
Pulled-LHB 21 7 1 0 0 3 .333 .333 .381 .714 0 0
Up Mdle-LHB 50 17 3 2 0 8 .340 .333 .480 .813 1 1
Opp Fld-LHB 13 2 2 0 0 1 .154 .154 .308 .462 0 0
Provided by : View Original Table Generated 5/13/2010.

As you can see from his hit location numbers, Sizemore has not been going the other way with much success, if at all. He’s just got two hits to the opposite field, but hey, shocker, they’re both doubles!

Let’s see how he’s done in previous years, as far as pulling and going the opposite way.



Pulled-LHB 100 50 13 1 11 40 .500 .500 .980 1.480 98 0 0
Up Mdle-LHB 179 47 5 4 7 22 .263 .261 .453 .714 81 4 1
Opp Fld-LHB 65 11 2 1 0 1 .169 .169 .231 .400 15 0 0
Provided by : View Original Table Generated 5/13/2010.
Pulled-LHB 177 75 13 2 21 47 .424 .424 .876 1.299 3 0
Up Mdle-LHB 248 70 16 2 12 33 .282 .281 .508 .789 2 1
Opp Fld-LHB 79 25 10 1 0 7 .316 .313 .468 .781 0 1
Provided by : View Original Table Generated 5/13/2010.
Pulled-LHB 147 72 16 2 13 30 .490 .490 .891 1.381 1 0
Up Mdle-LHB 249 84 13 3 11 37 .337 .336 .546 .882 2 1
Opp Fld-LHB 77 18 5 0 0 9 .234 .231 .299 .529 0 1
Provided by : View Original Table Generated 5/13/2010.

In case you can’t believe your eyes, no, Grady Sizemore has not hit an opposite field home run in the past four season. In fact, he’s only go one in his entire career, which is saying something.

Jhonny Peralta has 13 career opposite field home runs. How can someone like Sizemore only have one? Probably because he’s a pull hitter. He murders the ball when he pulls it—that’s a fact and it always has been.


Grady Sizemore Batting Second

Percentage of at-bats with runners on base

Sizemore 2010: 43 percent

Sizemore 2009: 40 percent

Sizemore 2008: 38 percent

Cabrera 2010: 29 percent

Cabrera 2009: 45 percent

How interesting is that? The increase in opportunities so far has been minimal, but still, his opportunities with runners on have gone up. Last year would indicate that Cabrera did get more opportunities to hit with runners on base.


The Solution 

I don’t think there is a solution that you can just initiate. There is no real answer to this, because simply put, Grady Sizemore is in a slump.

Injuries are not an issue, so this isn’t a disabled list situation. Is there anything wrong with his swing? Most people around the club that have been asked this question haven’t really been able to see anything wrong.

He’s just in a slump.

That’s all we can really deduct from the numbers. The scope of the other numbers here suggest a bigger problem though. Grady Sizemore has become a slugger.

He has gone from all around good-hitter and high-on-base guy to a pull-hitter who only has successful power numbers when he tries to pull the ball. He has enormous success when doing so, but as we’ve seen this season and even last year, he isn’t even doing that.

What’s the reason for the percentages of at-bats with runners on base?

I just wanted to see and compare the move that Acta made. While it is only a month and a half, there only is an increase in three percent in terms of how many at-bats Sizemore is getting with men on.

Even then, he’s knocked in 12 runs this year, which is good enough for fourth on this team. With runners on base, he’s hit .280, which isn’t horrible.

Heck, it is way better than his actual season average, but it still isn’t what the Indians are expecting from him, especially now that he’s in a position to get more RBI opportunities.

There may be no solution that the Indians can initiate, so it is all up to Grady Sizemore.

He has to work with Jon Nunnally if his hitting coach sees something wrong, but from what it would look like, there is nothing wrong mechanically.

So, if it’s all upstairs, he has to get out of his own head.

I’m sure it did nothing for his confidence to see that home run he hit taken away from him because when he steps into the batters box. He still sees that big ugly zero staring back at him.

The Indians need Grady Sizemore though, especially if they are going to turn things around offensively, and be the offensive threat we think they can be.

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The Baseball Cluster: The “Unwritten But Often Spoken of” Rules of Baseball


Every week there are three things I deem to be really important. It’s kind of like the “meat” of my lineup. This week, there is only two because my DH is on the disabled list.

1. Zach Duke isn’t plunking anyone.

This whole “unwritten rule” thing has gone far enough. We are talking about these things way too much for them to be “unwritten” at this point. So let’s start calling them “The unwritten but often spoken of” rules of baseball.

Zach Duke didn’t hit any Dodgers with his fastball after Andrew McCutchen hit a home run and “sort of” showboated around second. Rookie Carlos Monasterios replied by hitting both Lastings Milledge and Ronny Cedeno. Or did he? Truth is we don’t know.

Then Ramon Ortiz tried to cut McCutchen’s hair off a few times, much to McCutchen’s displeasure.

Duke didn’t do anything about it, even when he faced Ortiz. Jack Taschner did though and he threw behind Andre Ethier. That’s just stupid in its own right, but let’s continue.

First off, Zach Duke is your best pitcher and has probably been your only pitcher this season, why do you want him chancing a suspension because a few people on the Dodgers got offended by McCutchen?

This is one of those “unwritten but often spoken of” rules that I disagree with because if a pitcher doesn’t want to hit a batter, he shouldn’t be expected to. This isn’t high school; we don’t get angry at someone and retaliate in a petty way like that.

Maybe that’s because I never played the game before, so I might not understand the significance, but I view it all as silly.

This all being said, Jason Turbow has a book coming out called The Baseball Codes . I think you already know what it’s about.


2. Milton Bradley

This Milton Bradley story has gone from explosively hilarious to positively sad. Trying to peg when and why Bradley would blow up almost became like a game.

But now with Bradley asking for help, something long overdue, and it has now become sad more than anything.

The latest issue was downright hilarious. Never in the history of the world has someone been upset about hitting clean up. Okay he was probably upset at failing in the clean spot, but because it is Milton, we have to stretch things out a little here.

Either way it caused him to get benched and he promptly left the stadium. Fantastic Milton, fantastic!

However Bradley is now out of commission for who knows how long. He’s asked the Mariners for “help” in dealing with what manager Don Wakamatsu called “emotional stress.”

Is this a personal problem or is this a baseball problem? With Bradley, we’ll probably never know. What we can all agree on though is that Bradley has needed help for a long time now and the Mariners efforts are long overdue. We all know though that Milton can’t get help unless he wants to be helped, and just the fact that he asked for it may be the turning point for him that people have been counting on for awhile now.


3. Get off my lawn…err…MOUND!

Before the story with Milton Bradley got bigger, I had planned on making him my rant this week. When that story got more involved I moved Dallas Braden into that spot.

But after his perfect game, I’m pretty much rant-less. Braden was talking again, about the whole “Get off my mound” fiasco with Alex Rodriguez.

Now, none of that matters because he literally yelled “GET OFF MY MOUND!” when he pitched a perfect game against the MLB’s best team on Sunday.

We’ve already talked plenty about unwritten rules earlier in The Cluster, but did you see Evan Longoria drop down a bunt well into the game? It came at a point where you could legitimately say it was kind of rubbish on Longoria’s part.

But then again it was only the fifth and they were down four, so Longo straddled that unwritten rule line.

Anyway congratulations to Dallas Braden, who’s mother passed away when he was in high school. His grandmother was in attendance and I’m sure Braden got very emotional over doing this feat on Mother’s Day.

On the lighter side, his grandmother provided probably one of the best quotes of the year by saying , “Stick it, A-Rod!”

Oh how I hope that is true.

How about the Rays though? Two perfect games in such a short span, adding in Mark Buerhle’s perfect game against them last year. They are also the team with the highest winning percentage to ever fall victim to a perfect game.



Baseball never has a shortage of weird and wacky statistics or situations. These are those situations. Cue the Law and Order chime.

Are you ready for a baseball game in 3-D? Of course the New York Yankees and the YES network are at the forefront of such a thing.

July 10th will be your chance to see the Mariners and Yankees if you have a 3-D television set. At least Yankee Stadium’s scoreboard won’t show the game and hand out glasses like the Cowboys did last year.

Teams in the minor leagues are usually busting out wacky promotions in order to drive fans to the ballparks, but this one by the Round Rock Express in Texas takes the cake. It was really a promotion, but to someone in the crowd it might have looked like Round Rock was actually bringing in a reliever by the name of Rojo Johnson.

It was actually Will Ferrell with a mustache . Props to Round Rock for the commitment to authenticity with the press release .

Perhaps Rojo Johnson should be relegated back to the softball league he came from. He’d still be no match for Eric Byrnes, who was released by Seattle this past week. Instead of seeking out another major league job, which he could definitely obtain, Byrnes is opting to play softball.

He’s going to go down as a softball legend if he plays long enough.

Has anyone ever seen someone get fined for dropping a pop up? That’s what happened to Royals shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. Manager Trey Hillman says it is mainly because Betancourt doesn’t use proper technique in catching fly balls and instead of making him learn the right way, he’ll just fine him every time he drops a ball like that.

At least that is what was implied .

Finally, I have nothing on this Phillie fan that got tased. I really don’t, so we’ll just leave it at that. It was weird, man.



Every week we look at Luke Hochevar because a first round pick needs pressure, even if he plays for Royals.

Last Week’s Line: 2 GS, 8.2 IP, 5 H, 5 R (4 ER), 8 BB, 4 K

Well our guy did a great job in the Royals 7-2 win over Chicago, going six and picking up his third win of the season.

But then on Sunday against Texas, Luke Hochevar ran into some problems in the third inning. It was a bit of a disaster. Hochevar got through the first two innings of the Royals loss to Texas, but he was all sorts of wild in the third.

An infield single and two walks would be followed by a fielder’s choice and sacrifice fly. That sort of minimized the damage, until Hochever hit Ian Kinsler, who then stole second after Josh Hamilton stole third and then gave up a double to David Murphy.

That WHIP is climbing Luke, time to reel it in buddy.



I’m not really a big statistics guy, but I guess it’s better than being a scat man, because I don’t know what that is.

Joe Mauer is getting back into the lineup, but not even he got off to the start Wilson Ramos, his replacement, has gotten off to. Ramos had two consecutive three-hit games, the first catcher to do so. No catcher has gone three straight games since Victor Martinez in 2005 and according to Baseball Reference, Carlton Fisk is the only catcher to go four games.

More kudos to Baseball Reference for finding out something I wondered myself. Andre Ethier has been the most clutch hitter since 2008. After his walk-off shot this past week he’s now got 11 game ending hits since 2008, and the next most is Kurt Suzuki with five.

Joe Torre said he can’t recall managing someone as heroic as Ethier has been.

Friday was a special day in the game as we saw both the old and the young make history.

Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher to record a complete game shutout. Back in 1990 he was with Texas in his fifth major league season, which was the same year Starlin Castro was born.

Castro became the first 1990’s born player to make his MLB debut and that makes even a child of the late 1980’s feel old. Not only did he just make his debut, he made his debut special. He became the third player to homer this year in his first at-bat and he also set a MLB record for the most RBI in a debut with six.

Speaking of shutouts, sort of, Fan Graphs has developed a few new statistics called “shutdowns” and “meltdowns.” I’m far from understanding what either does because it involves another statistic I’ve never heard of called WPA.

Don’t even try to explain to me what any of them do. I will not listen to you.

When is the last time a Cy Young award winner started the follow season 0-5? I can’t find an instance going back to 1990, but Greinke is on the verge of doing it as he now stands at 0-4. The last pitcher to start 0-4 was Bartolo Colon in 2006 in what was an injury riddled season.

I’m sure Elias will dig something up if he does indeed go 0-5 this week.

I don’t know if Elias found this one out but Alfredo Aceves is the fifth Mexican-born pitcher to record a save on Cinco de Mayo.

The Twins had a home game rained out for the first time in 30 years on Friday. The Twins probably thought it never rained in Minnesota.



For all the stuff that defies categorization, this is the utility player of the weekly feature. We play everywhere and anywhere here!

I actually have some analysis for you this week in regards to the utility player, so buckle up.

Jake Peavy has turned the calendar over to May in a big way, and he’s now 2-2 after a 0-2 month that saw him get pounded for 25 runs. So far in two May starts he’s gone at least seven innings and struck out eight in both games. This is the reason I picked the White Sox in the AL Central.

In large part, Peavy’s latest success is due to revamped mechanics, or at least a return to old mechanics, you know the mechanics that he won a Cy Young with. Peavy had changed the way he pitched during his stint in Chicago last year and actually stuck with it early this season, but now he’s back to the ways of old.

Mike Lowell isn’t the exact reason I picked the Red Sox, but his presence and that deep Red Sox bench is a big reason I picked them. It’s time to start playing Mike Lowell more for David Ortiz. You can’t sit Youkilis and Adrian Beltre, so the next logical guy is Big Papi. Lowell has hit right-handers real well this season, while left-handed Ortiz has scuffled to a .175 average in 57 at-bats against righties.

On the subject of third baseman, Alex Gordon may not be one anymore as the Royals have not only demoted him to Triple-A, but have moved him to first base and outfield duties. Oh how the mighty, highly-touted prospects have fallen.

Speaking of getting moved, C.J. Wilson has really taken to this rotation role the Rangers have thrust upon him. Last year it was Scott Feldman getting moved, now Wilson has done is admirably.

You know Adam Rosales was never a top prospect and he has to make up for that with all-out effort and hustle, which is why I love him . His favorite website should be a site called Wezen-Ball .

Wezen-Ball tracks how fast players run around the base after hitting a home run. Rosales has the quickest trots around the bases that were not inside-the-park home runs this season and two are even faster than an Aubrey Huff inside-the-park home run.

Henry Blanco and Rod Barajas didn’t have to run all that fast but I’m sure they wanted to after sending the Giants away with two-straight walk-off home runs this past weekend. When’s the last time two catchers did that?

Buck Showalter called out scorekeepers and their inconsistencies in deciding what an error is and what isn’t. I must echo his thoughts as I saw Matt LaPorta make a horrible play on a ball Fausto Carmona gave up last week. LaPorta got a glove on it and it was far from a routine play, but the ball bounced in and out of his glove after he spun around like a whirling-dervish.

Finally I must say how I proud I am of my fake brother Jody Gerut as he hit for the cycle this past weekend. The cycle is pretty meaningless in the scope of things, the four hits and runs you knock in mean a lot more, but Jody Gerut did it, so that’s all that matters.



The above is Ozzie Guillen’s feelings towards columnist Jay Mariotti. It is the representation for The Cluster’s section on weekly rants.

Both of the rants, as I noted, that I pinpointed have been moved to top stories, so I’m sort of rantless this week.

But I do have to wonder.

Where are all the manager tirades? It’s May and we haven’t had any spectacular f-bomb laced tirades from Ozzie Guillen. Lou Piniella has popped off, but nothing like the old Sweet Lou. Heck usually some lesser candidate for a managerial tirade has always stepped up and provided us with entertainment.

The best “rant” has come from a commentator on SportsTimeOhio, the Indians television network. For me, I see it on a daily basis because this is nothing new from Bruce Drennan, but his imitation of Russell Branyan is spot on.



Everything from Rasmus girl to the latest commercials, this is your weekly update about things that really have nothing to do with baseball on the field.

Bobby Cox was honored at the US Capitol last week and presented with congressional statements of honor by Georgia’s senators. How many managers hang around that long to be honored in that sort of way by non-baseball people? You got to love Bobby Cox.

The latest issue of Sports Illustrated has a feature on Carlos Peña and they quote Carl Crawford with the following statement: “This core group is going to still be together, me and Carlos are the only two guys that are going to be leaving.”

Crawford is upset at the author of the article however, Ben Reiter. He said Reiter didn’t quote him right and he “combined” the words of his question with the response given by Crawford.

I’d be irritated as well if that isn’t what I said, even if Reiter believes he was “giving away more than he should.”

We have a winner in the MLB 2k10 “Pitch a Perfect Game” contest. Who is the pitcher that was used? Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami, who is winless in real life. The rules specified all sorts of different regulations, but Wade McGilberry won the million with a Brave despite being a White Sox fan.

I threw a one-hitter the other day with Adam Wainwright. He’s my go-to guy. I have the Wii though so I was ineligible from the start.

A new feature added to The Cluster this week. I call it, “The Tweet of the Week.”

Some major league tweeters are entertaining and weird, like CJ Wilson. Some update as if most of the people following them don’t follow baseball (I KNOW your pitching Thursday Ryan Rowland-Smith, you’re on my fantasy team! (not really)!), and some are straight up, uh…brief ?

This week’s tweet of the week goes to growing favorite of The Cluster, Matt Antonelli, who made it last week thanks to his nerf basketball video.

“Today was my first time watching the television show “Kendra” and I am extremely frightened now”

I felt the same way Matt, double time for “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

Finally the baseball world lost two well known names this past week. Everyone has been talking about the passing of Ernie Harwell, but pitcher Robin Roberts also passed this past week.

What’s not nice, but great in a different instance, is how we are celebrating the life of Harwell because we all knew this was coming sooner rather than later. Harwell was battling cancer and had really lived a full-life. While it is sad for all the Tiger fans that grew up on Harwell (and there are plenty of them) there is also some joy in hearing their memories of him.

It’s better to celebrate a life than mourn one and that’s what has been going on with Harwell this past week.



Because we aren’t all fun and games, I highlight one good deed that I’ve come across in the world of baseball. If you know of one, please send it my way.

Usually we highlight charity and good organizations in this space of The Cluster every week, but this week it is a little different.

The finding and returning of a championship ring is certainly a good deed. It is real refreshing to see there are young people in my generation with decency like this out there. It makes me feel a lot better that someone can lose something like this and get it returned.

Not only that but the effort the girl went through, that’s just awesome.



Every week we take a look at the latest happening in one of the game’s Central divisions. Why? Because it provides us with the most entertainment, that’s why!

There is a story in ESPN the Magazine this week about Kyle Farnsworth and how he’s the “Baddest Big Leaguer,” and the last guy a major league wants to see in a benches clearing brawl.

The horrifying part of this is the picture of Farnsworth with his shirt off. Was that really necessary in proving he’s the “Baddest Big Leaguer?”



Each week I pick my top three defensive plays, because Ozzie Smith didn’t make the Hall of Fame for swinging the stick.

This week simply boiled down to the flashy play. There was no shortage of them this week.

3. Not only is this play by Dioner Navarro not easy to make, it is ten times harder when David Price is HURDLING OVER YOU!

2. Jerry Hairston wins for the most creative out recorded this week, that’s for sure.

1. Welcome back Ian Kinsler, showing exactly why the Rangers missed you . Elvis Andrus had a play of his own that was top three worthy, but he’ll have to settle for the assist. 

Nino Colla writes “The Baseball Cluster” every week, or so he hopes. If you’ve got something that you think fits one of the sections, send him a private message. All absurdities are welcome.

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The Problem: Cleveland Indians Slugger Matt LaPorta’s Scuffling Offense

Welcome to a series on the Cleveland Indians entitled “The Problem” where we examine one issue surrounding the current club. Although there is probably more than one problem with the Indians, you have to fix issue at a time.

Today’s problem is Matt LaPorta and the horrific numbers he’s put together offensively. Not only is the power not there, he flat out is one of the worst overall hitters on the club.

He’s been a dependent rally killer when in the lineup and the reason for a lot of run-producing failures.

What can be done to fix LaPorta? Can LaPorta be fixed? Hopefully with “The Problem” We can find the answer.



Matt LaPorta was traded to Cleveland in 2008 from Milwaukee in the C.C. Sabathia deal. It was a whirlwind few months for LaPorta as he not only dealt with the trade to a new organization, but also with the death of his grandfather, a trip to the future’s game in New York, and then a trip to China to play in the Olympics.

In 2009 LaPorta spent some time in Columbus before getting his first call to Cleveland. He played sparingly and was eventually sent down, but not for anything he didn’t do, but more for anything he wasn’t given the chance to do.

Later in the year LaPorta got the call again and this time it was permanent. LaPorta underwent offseason surgery on both his hip and his foot, but that didn’t prevent the Indians from giving him a everyday starting spot in 2010.



Matt LaPorta has been atrocious at the plate this season. He’s knocked in just one run and has only two extra-base hits, neither of which have cleared the fences.

He’s a singles hitter right now that doesn’t even hit that many.

LaPorta is coming off that offseason surgery that caused him to start spring training a week later than everyone else. That also had him starting fewer games from the outset of the season.

You would assume at this point he’s healthy enough to be a regular starter, but he’s struggled so much, and Austin Kearns has been so hot, playing him everyday has become a liability.

There is no way around it, LaPorta is struggling against everyone, lefties and righties, home and road, day and night, left field and first base, it doesn’t matter.

But there is something interesting about LaPorta in terms of left-handed hitting that you may have not known. It did take him a few weeks and 18 at-bats before he got a hit against a left-hander, but there is reason to believe those struggles aren’t just a product of his slump.



LaPorta Against Left-Handed Hitting

2009 (CLE) .211 AVG, 38 AB, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 7 K

2010 (CLE) .077 AVG, 26 AB, 2 BB, 7 K

Career Minor Leagues (202 AB) .223 AVG, 11 HR, 22 BB, 45 K, 9 2B. He hit one home run every 18 at-bats and  one double every 22 at-bats.


LaPorta Against Right-Handed Hitting

Career Minor Leagues (637 AB) – .314 AVG, 41 HR, 80 BB, 118 K, 50 2B. He hit one home run every 15 at-bats and one double every 12 at-bats.

So what does it all mean?

Well it means that LaPorta has never really been one to torch left-handed pitching, which is odd for a right-handed hitter. But it really is eye-opening to see how well he’s hit right-handed pitching in his career compared to how he’s hit left-handed hitting.

He has a career minor league average of .292 which isn’t bad at all if you can give it at the Major League level. But when you look at how radical his splits are against lefties and righties, it just puts it into even more perspective that he’s never really hit left-handers.

If he is to improve this season, don’t expect it to be against the left-handers.


LaPorta In Clutch Situations
Full Count 5 3 1 1 0 1 2 2 .333 0
Two Strikes 41 39 6 1 0 1 2 17 .154 2
Provided by : View Original Table Generated 5/7/2010.
RISP 21 5 1 0 1 4 7 .238 3 0 1
34 7 1 0 0 1 8 .206 0 0 0
Men On 36 8 1 0 1 5 9 .222 6 0 1
-2- 5 3 1 0 1 1 1 .600 0 0 1
–3 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 0 0 0
-23 3 0 0 0 0 1 2 .000 0 0 0
on 3rd, lt 2 out 4 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 1 0 0
on 3rd, 2 out 5 0 0 0 0 2 2 .000 0 0 0
Provided by : View Original Table Generated 5/7/2010.
2 outs, RISP 9 2 1 0 1 3 3 .222 0
Late & Close 7 2 1 0 1 1 1 .286 1
Tie Game 17 6 1 0 1 1 3 .353 3
Behind 32 3 0 0 0 2 10 .094 1
Provided by : View Original Table Generated 5/7/2010.

Look how horrible he’s been with runners on third and less than two outs, two strikeouts and a double play. I know it is only four at-bats, but that is not acceptable.

The good is the three hits in five at-bats with a runner on second base, but what isn’t good is the fact that is has only ended up in on RBI. That is where the power needs to come into play.

Ground Balls 27 27 9 0 0 0 0 0 .333
Fly Balls 13 13 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Line Drives 13 13 6 2 0 1 0 0 .462
Provided by : View Original Table Generated 5/7/2010.

Not a single ball that he has hit into the air has landed for a hit.

That means he isn’t bashing anything off the wall or hitting a sky shot that lands. He’s hitting ground balls and line drives. Line drives are good and account for both his doubles and his RBI, but nothing is getting absolutely killed like you would expect it to from a guy like LaPorta.

In the minor leagues LaPorta was a career .558 slugger. Last year’s highest slugging percentage was .658 by Albert Pujols and only nine players had anything higher than a .558 slugging percentage in the Major Leagues.

If LaPorta is capable of at least slugging in the .500s, he’s guaranteed to reach at least 20 home runs and 20 doubles, which is the bare minimum that everyone who had a .500 slugging percentage had (Alex Rodriguez was the only one who didn’t have 20 doubles, but he hit 30 home runs and only had 444 at-bats due to an injury).

Last year LaPorta slugged .442 in the 52 games he played in, so we know he’s capable of it. He had 20 extra-base hits total in 181 at-bats. Double that and you have less than 400 at-bats and 40 extra base hits, which is legit power for a Major Leaguer.

The power isn’t there, the situational hitting isn’t there, the left-handed hitting isn’t there and never really has been.



What do you do?

He’s struggling and pressing, it’s obvious by the numbers he puts up when runs needed to be scored and could be scored just by putting the ball in play properly.

He’s a power guy who should be driving the ball with a runner on third and less than two outs for sacrifice flies if he can’t get a hit. He’s rolling over into double plays for the most part.

Is he still hurt? Is the hip still bothering him? Perhaps it is but he is too prideful to say anything and it is impacting the way he swings. It certainly would explain the lack of power and the lack of power is probably making him try too much and probably leading to those double plays and strikeouts.

Does he need to go back to Columbus to refine things? Short answer, no. Long answer, he looks bad at the plate, but he doesn’t look like he’s lost or over matched.

He has nothing to gain by clobbering Minor League pitching except confidence. But he needs confidence at the Major League level; he needs confidence he can hit Major League pitching.

He needs to be placed on the disabled list, point blank. That’s the only solution other than letting him play it out. But how long do you let him play it out before you say, “Okay is that enough?”

They should really confront him about the injury and find out if it’s bothering him more than he is letting on. Playing hurt is not the answer right now, especially for a guy the club needs to find out about this year.

The left-handed issue isn’t going to get fixed and probably can’t. He is who he is and he is a right-handed masher. But he isn’t displaying those mashing capabilities and that is something that needs to be fixed.

This article is a modified version of a previously posted entry on The Tribe Daily.

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The Baseball Cluster: Affect Albert Pujols? You Can’t Affect Pujols!


Every week there are three things I deem to be really important. It’s kind of like the “meat” of my lineup. This week, there is only two because my DH is on the disabled list.


1. Ryan Howard Contract Extension

The Philadelphia Phillies made headlining news when they signed their MVP first baseman Ryan Howard to a contract that will make him only the second player to earn $25 million or more per season.

Howard, of course, is now in what they call “A-Rod Territory” with his contract, leaving many to gawk at the Phillies for making such a move.

And the half that aren’t gawking at the Phillies, are gawking at the St. Louis as they now have to pay Albert Pujols.

Many are wondering how this will impact Albert Pujols and what type of money he will get. Here is a news flash for you.

The money that Ryan Howard makes has absolutely no impact on what Albert Pujols will get. Pujols’ agent Dan Lozano said it best when he said Albert is on an island all by himself.

Pujols is going to make just as much, if not more, than what Alex Rodriguez makes on a yearly basis. He’ll make more than what Ryan Howard is making; the Cardinals won’t insult him with anything less. He would have made more than that even if Howard didn’t sign that contract.

In fact, that is exactly the reason the Phillies are smart for signing Howard when they did. While Howard can’t impact what Pujols makes, Pujols can definitely impact what Howard makes. The higher Pujols drives up his price, the higher Howard could have gone with justifiable reason.

Sure they are tying a lot of money up in a 30-year-old first baseman that they had long term concerns about just a few years ago, but they could be saving themselves some money in the long run if they wanted to bring Howard back.

Back to Pujols and the Cardinals situation though. It behooves the Cardinals to get a deal done with Albert and to basically pay the man what he wants. If this club wants to assure themselves contention, all they have to do is hold onto Pujols. They’ll not only do that, but  in the process they’ll sell out all their season tickets from now until Pujols’ contract ends. They will have no problem financially if they have to break the bank for their guy.

2. MLB Makes Four Rule Changes for All-Star Game

The party planning committee , I mean the committee that Bud Selig assembled in the offseason, made what was really their first shake-up when they added four rules to the MLB All-Star game.

They’ve officially done away with the pitcher ever having a chance to hit, which was something I never understood for an All-Star game. The DH will now be used regardless of what park the game is played in, and that is long overdue.

The committee also has sort of put into writing what was pretty much already done, with no pitcher who started on Sunday being able to pitch in the game. Now they’ll be officially ineligible to pitch and replaced with someone who can.

Perhaps their best change is letting each manager designate one positional player to return to the game if someone at any position is injured. They also have a rule already in place that lets a catcher come back if a catcher is hurt.

What I don’t understand is the roster expansion from 33 to 34 players. They are basically adding another position player, which doesn’t seem like it was all that needed. With the new injured position player rule, do we really need another third baseman that won’t play?


That’s Just Weird Man

Baseball never has a shortage of weird and wacky statistics or situations. These are those situations. Cue the Law and Order chime.

I’ll save my comments about the Cleveland Plain Dealer for another time, but the headline for this story makes me lose it. Every once and awhile the Plain Dealer gets it right.

It took Greg Zaun numerous tries to get it right the other day. Zaun tired and failed, numerous times, to throw the ball back to Yovani Gallardo. I’m sure Bob Uecker found the situation to be awfully familiar. Is that Zaun or Rube Baker?

It may be 2010 but the Mets are still feeling the effects of the Steve Phillips era. After waiving Bobby Bonilla in 2000, the Mets and Bonilla’s agents negotiated a deal that pretty much cleared them of his $5.9 million salary. The catch is they would start paying him a little over $1 million every July from 2011 to 2035.

Are you kidding me? Bonilla’s agent and Phillips are both geniuses. Bonilla gets a whole lot of cash long after he retires and Steve Phillips set up a deal that he would never even see come to fruition in his tenure.

In eight years, Bonilla will still be getting paid, and so will Joe Mauer. But one columnist for the Twins did a little day-dreaming about what Mauer may want to do when he’s 35 and his contract extension is coming to a close.

Retirement may be imminent for long time reliever Alan Embree. Here’s what is weird though: Embree was called up by Boston this past week, not to pitch, but to sit around for a few days until he was designated for assignment. Sometimes you just know when something wasn’t planned.

Baseball sure has its fair share of weird injuries and later I will praise someone who went through one of the weirdest you’ll ever see. But Ryan Madson joins the list of macho men that have broken a bone and gone on the disabled list after unleashing their frustration on inanimate objects.

Madson kicked a chair and broke his toe last week, which was perfect timing considering Brad Lidge was just activated off the disabled list. But what are you thinking man? Kick something meant to be kicked, like a soccer ball, not a chair.

Finally, you know those affliction shirts that seem to be all the rage among people my age? They are especially popular within the MLB circles, especially with young players like Ryan Braun. James Shields sort of showed the love for that style of shirt by helping create one for a promotion by the Rays.

It actually doesn’t look all that much like those affliction shirts, but it is a bit too radical for my taste. I’m not even all that sure about what is going on there anyway.


Your Luke Hochevar Update

Every week we look at Luke Hochevar because a first round pick needs pressure, even if he plays for Royals.

Last Week’s Line: 1 GS, 2.2 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 2 BB, 1 K

Momma said you’d have days like this, but I don’t think she expected one’s this bad. Hochevar got straight-up punked by the game’s best team, the Tampa Bay Rays.

The nine runs surrendered is a little less than double the amount he had given up in the first four games he pitched in.

Hang in there Luke, better days will come.


I’m a Stat Man

I’m not really a big statistics guy, but I guess it’s better than being a scat man, because I don’t know what that is.

This week in statistics, Jason Bay hit his first home run of the season.

Congratulations go out to Joakim Soria as he became the all-time saves leader among Mexicans with 94. Teammate Bruce Chen had some fun with Soria’s accomplishment saying he was lucky to be Mexican and not Panamanian.

There’s a guy in New York that is Panamanian and there is relatively no shot of Chen catching him. Someone then had fun at Chen’s expense by putting a piece of paper above Chen’s locker that listed Mariano Rivera’s number of saves, and then the names of other Panamanian’s Ed Acosta and Maldonado.

Both are tied with Chen for seventh in saves by natives of Panama, but instead of listing the number of saves, it just said “531 less.”

Anyone see former Royal John Buck hit three home runs for the Blue Jays? He is just the 27th catcher to hit three home runs in a game. Two catchers have done it twice and for some perspective, first baseman have done it 100 times.

Minnesota Twin rookies had a great week. Luke Hughes homered in his first plate appearance and that makes him the second rookie to do so this year, Jason Heyward being the other. Seven hitters did it last year, but no one yet tops Kevin Kouzmanoff hitting a grand slam off the first pitch against Texas years ago.

Wilson Ramos did his work on Sunday, a day after being called up to provide insurance with Joe Mauer battling a heel issue. Ramos picked up where the AL MVP would have by notching four times, the first Twin to do so in his first game since Kirby Puckett. That is special.

More rookie madness with the Tigers. Brennan Boesch and Scott Sizemore became just the 24th pair of rookie teammates to hit their first career home runs in the same inning. This rare occurrence last happened in 2002 when Cleveland Indians catcher Victor Martinez homered in the same inning as Earl Snyder. We all know Martinez has gone to have a great career, but that was the first and last major league home run Snyder would hit.

Austin Jackson collected 37 hits in first 100 at-bats; no Tiger has ever done that as a rookie. These youngsters are having all the success in April, but will it carry into August? We’ll see.


The Utility Player

For all the stuff that defies categorization, this is the utility player of the weekly feature. We play everywhere and anywhere here!

Miguel Olivo is tougher than anyone you know. What man passes kidney stones during a baseball game and keeps playing?

I have never experienced the pain of kidney stones, but I’ve seen my dad cower to the pain of them, I know what kind of damage they can do. Miguel Olivio may be my favorite person ever now.

A big reason for Miguel Olivo’s resurgence was the play of Chris Ianette, which opened up the door for Olivo to get more playing time. The Rockies made Olivo their number one catcher by demoting Ianetta this past week. Understandably, he wasn’t too pleased with a return stint to the minors.

Another Rockie is injured, but he may be out for awhile. Jorge De La Rosa tore a flexor tendon band and is expected to miss some time. His manager Jim Tracy never heard of such a thing and he is apparently very familiar with finger tendons. It does kind of sound made up.

Remember Dmitri Young? He retired this past offseason, but he’s still around baseball and hopes to make it back to the major leagues. No, not as a player, but hopefully a hitting coach.

Right now he’s the vice president of baseball operations for the Oakland County Cruisers. The Cruisers are not a part of minor league baseball, but rather the Frontier League, a league based in northern United States. Oakland County is located in Michigan, so he’s staying close to the Tigers, a team he had much success with.

Young had his fair share of success against left-handed hitting especially, which is not what a pair of hitters can say early on in 2010. Stephen Drew notched his first hit against a left-hander on Thursday and is just 1-17 on the season while Indians slugger Matt LaPorta started the year in a 0-18 skid against left-handers.

What is startling about LaPorta’s start is that he’s a right-handed hitter. What is even scarier is the realization that I had to endure LaPorta. who has never hit left-handed pitching well. In his minor league career he hit just .223, compared to .314 against right-handers.

On the subject of the Indians, their temporary closer Chris Perez was none too pleased about Howie Kendrick’s game winning RBI-bunt in last week’s game in Anaheim. Perez said he wasn’t going to call it bush league, but he said it was a bad baseball play.

All I can really say is no play is a bad baseball play when it wins the game.

The Angels are one team not having an issue with their designated hitter. The Cleveland Indians are one of the many teams that are. As ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick notes, plenty of clubs are having issues with the DH spot in their order.

At the time Crasnick penned the article, Arizona Diamondback pitchers collected 12 hits to the 13 by hitters from the Twins’ DH spot. That is just downright scary.

Maybe their pitchers should hit eighth? Tony LaRussa brought back the pitcher hitting eighth idea when he placed Brendan Ryan in the nine-hole last week. Can we really consider this LaRussa’s trademark anymore though?

John Russell of the Pirates has been using this tactic all year with Ronny Cedeno hitting in the ninth spot. No wonder the Pirates aren’t scoring runs.


“He’s Garbage, Still Garbage, Going to Die As Garbage”

The above is Ozzie Guillen’s feelings towards columnist Jay Mariotti. It is the representation for The Cluster’s section on weekly rants.

I had the Arizona immigrant law story in this edition of The Cluster, but decided to remove it at the last minute.

Mainly because, while it does involve baseball somewhat, it is way too political for me to want to include. Which leads me to this weeks little rant.

You hate to see this type of stuff impact the sport. Adrian Gonzalez has already spoken out about it, Ozzie Guillen has made his voice clear in it, and many have already said they’d not only boycott the upcoming All-Star game in 2012—which is slated to be held in Arizona—but they’d wish for their spring training site to be moved away from Arizona.

The state and the area has become a staple of spring training. Something needs to be resolved here. I haven’t taken the time to pay much attention to the story because it takes away from the sport, so I’m not sure what needs to be done to resolve this.

But for the love of everyone that loves the sport and the people that play it;the union, Bud Selig, everyone else involved and get to the bottom of it.


Away From the Diamond

Everything from Rasmus girl to the latest commercials, this is your weekly update about things that really have nothing to do with baseball on the field.

This hoodie story will just not go away. Every week it finds its way into The Cluster because every week a new development happens.

This past week, Bill Belichick, a fellow hoodie enthusiast, sent Joe Maddon a dull-gray New England Patriots hoodie with the initials “JM” on the front, just like Bill Belichick’s.

The sleeves were not cut off , yet.

Well wishes go out to Bob Uecker, who I mentioned earlier in The Cluster, as he underwent successful heart surgery. Uecker should be back in the booth later this season, but he at least was around to see Zaun’s Rube Baker impression.

Well known for being the guy who gave up Barry Bonds’ record breaking home run, Mike Bacsik is enjoying life after baseball as a producer for a radio station in Texas. Well not anymore. Bacisk was fired for making comments on his twitter account while drunk at a bar watching the Mavericks and Spurs play in Game Four of the NBA playoffs.

I don’t really have anything witty to say about this, because it stands alone in coolness factor. If you haven’t seen Matt Antonelli’s nerf basketball exhibition, you must now .

Antonelli is probably not on the fantasy baseball radar just yet, but if you want to, his name is different enough to make up a silly pun for your fantasy baseball team. It would be far better than just naming your team “THE YANKEES” or one of the other 200 most common fantasy baseball team names.

I will just say that I’ve played in leagues against the Springfield Isotopes, Chico’s Bail Bonds, Honey Nut Ichiros, Balco Bombers, and The Naturals. I try and be original (Marte’s Buffet is as original as it gets though) but when all else fails, I go with two favorites, Machete Squad and Here Comes Trouble. Both homage’s to one of my favorite television shows, Frisky Dingo.

Can someone tell me why Kevin Deutsch is parading around in Mets garb ? Isn’t he supposed to be an unbiased news source for the NY Daily News? I’m sure there are no shortages of writers who grew up rooting for the team they now cover, but is this responsible journalism?

Speaking of responsible journalism, it turns out that a report from the Wall Street Journal about the Cleveland Indians being the most “despised team” in the game was inaccurate. Not only that, but they didn’t really do a good job of headlining or explaining the study conducted by the Nielsen Company.

What this algorithm actually did was measure internet postings (typically tweets, blogs, and message boards) from a 21 day span in April. That is hardly enough to narrow down who the most despised team is, but it does explain why the Indians ranked so high.


Good Deed of the Week

Because we aren’t all fun and games, I highlight one good deed that I’ve come across in the world of baseball. If you know of one, please send it my way.

The Orioles and Cal Ripken Jr. are doing a great thing for eight children from Iraq this coming week.

Ripken Baseball is bringing eight teenagers to Maryland to watch a game against the Mariners. While in town, Ken Griffey Jr. will hold a clinic for the kids.

To learn more about Ripken Baseball and some of their projects, visit their website .


And This Week in the Central

Every week we take a look at the latest happening in one of the game’s Central divisions. Why? Because it provides us with the most entertainment, that’s why!

The Houston Astros are at it again.

The club didn’t win a game last week and their offense is really scuffling. It currently ranks as the worst in the game as the club struggled to score more than two runs in all but one game.

As a team they’ve hit nine home runs this season. To put that into perspective, Paul Konerko has three more this season than the entire Astros team, and Robinson Cano, Kelly Johnson, Kelly Johnson, and Andre Ethier all have just as many.

This offense is putrid right now and this is coming from someone who has watched the Cleveland Indians hit this past month.


For the Love of the Glove

Each week I pick my top three defensive plays, because Ozzie Smith didn’t make the Hall of Fame for swinging the stick.

This was an incredibly tough week to judge defensive gems. All three of these could be No. 1 on any other week, but it was just that tough. There were so many more that didn’t make this week’s Top Three that could have even been No. 1.

3. Ronnie Belliard’s play here is a last minute entrant that knocked out the Philadelphia Phillies double play that was in my top three all week until Belliard made the Willie Mays of all third base plays.

2. This gets double the praise for not only Pena’s catch, but Wade Davis’ as well. You have to be pretty brave as a starting pitcher to get under Pena like that, but he did prevent his teammate from cracking his head open.

1. I really have nothing to say about this . It is the perfect blend of luck, skill, and Marlon Byrd not being able to see the ball in the sun.

Nino Colla writes “The Baseball Cluster” every week, or so he hopes. If you’ve got something that you think fits one of the sections, send him a private message. All absurdities are welcome.

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April in Review: Cleveland Indians

Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta certainly didn’t get off to the start he and his club were hoping for. After years of rough April outings, there was hope things under Acta would change.

The standings may not indicate it, but I think they have. Acta’s Tribe only won nine games, but they were lucky to even do that after being outscored by 27 runs in the month of April. The team is showing a lot more promise than most expected and it has been the pitching that has carried them to this point.

May is a new month, which means they are closer to the point where they historically heat up. If they hang around long enough, who knows what kind of run this team could go on. Their best offensive players have yet to really take off and if the pitching remains consistent as it has been, the club could easily turn the 9-13 record around.

With that, here is the past month of Indians baseball. The five biggest story lines and three hottest and coldest players for the month of April.

Begin Slideshow

Are the Cleveland Indians the Most Hated MLB Franchise? Don’t Be So Shocked

If you are regular user of the social networking site Facebook, you will have almost undoubtedly noticed the change over from “Becoming a Fan” of a page to “Liking” it.

Right now, 152,462 people like the Cleveland Indians.

I’m not sure I buy into that.

Recently the Nielsen Company took a measurement of the most despised teams in Major League Baseball. The same Nielsen Company that counts television ratings, if you have one of their boxes that is, built an algorithm that does some things I’ll probably never understand.

Point blank, it crawls around the Internet and takes into account reactions to a team. You could score anywhere from a -5 to a 5, but no MLB team received a negative rating.

No not even the New York Yankees, in fact there are four teams more despised than the team everyone that isn’t a Yankee fan despises.

Clearly this algorithm is broke, how are the Houston Astros more hated than the Yankees?

The algorithm isn’t broke because the algorithm isn’t measuring anti-Yankee sentiments; it is simply compiling reactions that are found on the good old Internet.

So it does not shock me in the least bit that the most despised team in the game is none other than the Cleveland Indians.

When Eric Wedge got fired and the link was posted on the Indians page on Facebook, I sat back and watched the comments fly in. Anyway you slice it, roughly 90 percent of the responses in some way were negative.

You’d see anything from “Larry Dolan is cheap” to “Mark Shapiro should go too” to “Good riddance Wedge.”

This is a volatile fan base. A majority are never satisfied, even if you give them what they want because inevitably they change their mind two seconds later. Irrationality and impatience is a staple of Cleveland Indian fandom.

I’m not a diehard Cleveland fan in all aspects, so I’m saved from some of the sting many of my fellow Tribe brethren have suffered through. I don’t have the cynicism built up over years and years of heartbreaks that many all-around Cleveland fans have.

And in a way, I cannot blame them. Cleveland is a city starved for a championship. I’m one of the first to contend to people when I hear them say such and such city has been through the most pain because of their sports teams.

Up until recently, Philadelphia probably had a legitimate argument and in a way still do, but their appetite should be temporarily satisfied by a Phillies World Series.

Cleveland just wants a little sip from the cup of success.

But what about the Cubs you say? I’m talking about in an entire city aspect; Chicago has had much success in basketball and even has a recent World Series thanks to the White Sox. Without a doubt, the Cubs are the most starving baseball franchise, no argument there.

But the city of Cleveland hasn’t won a major championship since 1964 when the Cleveland Browns won an NFL Championship. And even now we care more about Super Bowl victories than we do “NFL Championships” so the Browns can’t even have that little victory.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have never won the NBA crown and the last time the Cleveland Indians touched the World Series trophy was back in 1948.

And what city’s sports teams in the most recent history have had the most championship and or playoff let-downs? Cleveland.

Do we need to list them? From Jose Mesa to John Elway, they all hurt. The two I’ve experienced with the Indians are painful enough to relive and if I mention each downfall by name, every die-hard Cleveland fan might hunt me down in a fit of rage before I even finish this paragraph.

Cleveland is a Browns town and always will be for the foreseeable future. The Cavaliers are currently dominating in fan appreciation because of the simple fact they’ve not only got one of the league’s biggest superstars, but because they are winning.

The Cleveland Indians? Oh man, do I have to?

Larry Dolan is cheap and doesn’t want to spend money because he doesn’t care about winning, Mark Shapiro is his henchman that enjoys trading away our best players, and up until a few months ago, Eric Wedge was every nasty word under the sun.

Travis Hafner isn’t allowed to take steroids anymore, Fausto Carmona is a fluke, Jhonny Peralta is flat out horrible, Grady Sizemore is magically no longer a good player, and Jake Westbrook is old.

Any player that hits below .250 or has a ERA above 3.50 is a hack and needs to be released. Any player that hits near .300 or carries a 2.90 ERA will be traded either this year or relatively soon.

Any prospect the Indians receive in those trades is garbage or damaged goods and any player we trade away are Hall of Famers.

If you think I’m exaggerating, go ahead and check out that Indians page on Facebook. When Eric Wedge was fired, roughly 90 percent, maybe more, of the comments submitted were negative in some way.

So do I believe the Nielsen algorithm? You bet I do.

This is the same team that has #TribeTimeNever as a hash tag that gets used on Twitter that chronicles “failures” by this season’s team.

All this hate is coming from one direct source. The Cleveland Indians fans themselves.

They’re not only the most vocal about their disdain for their team; they are persistent in voicing that unhappiness and do it in large amounts. There may be more people within the Cleveland fan base that actually hate their team than there is in the fan bases of their division rivals.

Why all the hate though? How can this team actually have a fan base if a large portion of the ones that consider them fans display their angst on such a constant basis?

The question to answer number two is simple. Where else?

Where else are Cleveland Indians fans going to go? Will they switch allegiances? No, that isn’t in the character of a true Cleveland fan. They may bash their own team, but they won’t bandwagon jump.

So they live with the hate and they express it.

A large perception of the Cleveland ownership is that they are cheap and their only goal is to make money off the fan’s dime because they don’t put as much money as other clubs do into the payroll.

The reality is, they put more money into their baseball team than a majority of the teams in the game do, but some fans just don’t care to educate themselves on that aspect of the game. You can’t convince typical Randy Quaid in Major League-like Indians fan about anything having to do with finances.

A little over two years ago, Mark Shapiro was being hailed as a genius after the 2007 season. His “blueprint for success” was working and it looked like the team was set up for more than that playoff run that took them to the doorstep of a World Series.

Now he’s a hack that is getting a promotion he doesn’t deserve.

Eric Wedge had become a regular fan punching bag, undeservedly so might I add. Sure he wasn’t the greatest manager and he had his flaws, but he got more of the blame than he deserved.

And Manny Acta when he got hired? Oh they just hired the guy who failed with the Washington Nationals, how is that any better? Can we get Eric Wedge back?

When you break everything down to the surface though, it simply all roots back to the losing.

The losing is the reason this is all common perception among fans. Of course if they were winning none of this would be an issue. Mark Shapiro would be held in the same regard as Athletics general manager Billy Beane that does more with less and Larry Dolan would be as relevant as Twins owner Jim Pohlad is in Internet searches.

Is it just the losing though? The Pirates have been losing for 17 straight years and while their fans are demoralized, alienated, and upset with the franchise, they aren’t in the top 10 of this algorithm.

It all ties in to expectations. For the past two years this club has been expected to win and contend for the division. The past two years this club hasn’t lived up to those expectations. In the process they also traded three of their most popular players and made unpopular free agent decisions that backfired in the worst possible way.

When you spend money and it doesn’t work out, it’s almost as bad as not spending the money period.

Now the club is in a state of what soon-to-be club president Mark Shapiro has characterized as a “reloading” period. They can’t spend a lot of money, they’ve had to not only trade some of those well-known players, they’ve had to trade many players the club’s fan base can identify.

No one wants to see Luis Valbuena out at second base unless he’s established himself. Most want to skip all the way to the part where he’s good. I know who Michael Brantley is but I know avid baseball fans that asked me who he was on opening day.

Shapiro won’t call it a rebuild and he shouldn’t, this club isn’t ripping down the walls and attempting to build them back up by cleaning house. He’s kept a core around and they are a lot closer to trying to establish themselves as they were back when Shapiro was first named general manager.

That’s the root of it all though. Fans don’t want to hear rebuild, reload, or any other word with the “re” prefix. They want to win and if they aren’t winning, they want to see progress and to them, progress is money being spent.

That’s why they’re the most despised franchise. They aren’t spending the money and they are trading away the players they do have to improve the team in the long term. They aren’t despised by any other fan base, if anything Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Boston should have nothing but good things to say about Cleveland.

They are simply despised by their own fan base and unsurprisingly, that collective voice is loud enough to cause such a stir.

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