Tag: Russell Branyan

Russell Branyan Arrested: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Russell Branyan, a former Major League Baseball player who suited up for 10 teams over the course of 14 seasons, was arrested Monday evening for allegedly breaking into the home of his ex-wife, Jill Branyan, on Oct. 30.  

According to the warrant from Davidson County in Nashville, Tennessee, Branyan was arrested after the following events allegedly transpired: 

The defendant made entry into the residence of the victim without having the legal authority. The defendant and victim are divorced and the victim is the legal resident. The defendant entered while the victim was asleep and removed various items from the home. The defendant also tampered with the thermostat inside of the home, making it extremely cold. The defendant acknowleded [sic] to the witness that he had removed the items from the residence and now wanted to return them. All events took place in Davidson County Tennessee.

The warrant indicates Branyan was charged with felony aggravated burglary, which is a Class C charge in Tennessee. 

Branyan had a previous run-in with the law in 2008, when he was charged with domestic violence against his then-wife, per Joey Morona of the Northeast Ohio Media Group.     

According to filings from Shaker Heights Municipal Court, Branyan pleaded no contest to the domestic violence charge two days after entering a not-guilty plea. He was subsequently ordered to participate in one year of a first-offender program, which included counseling. 

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Arizona Diamondbacks Waive Goodbye To Russell Branyan

According to Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic, the Arizona Diamondbacks have released 1B Russell Branyan. Branyan hit .210/.290/.339 with one HR in 69 plate appearances.

Branyan was made expendable because the Diamondbacks needed to make room for Micah Owings on the 40-man roster. He is only one year removed from hitting 19 HRs in 322 PAs against right-handed pitching, so there will be a team out there that could use someone like Branyan.

Teams that might show an interest in Branyan are:

Cleveland Indians: With Travis Hafner out 2-to-3 weeks, the Indians could use a left-handed bat against righties.

Toronto Blue Jays: Adam Lind is on the DL, so the Blue Jays could look to Branyan. Last night they started Eric Thames at DH.

New York Mets: The Mets reached .500 last night and they could use another 1B and a power hitter off the bench.

Tampa Bay Rays: The legend of Sam Fuld is dying on the vine and the only 1B on the roster is Casey Kotchman.

Cincinnati Reds: The Reds’ only lefty off the bench is Fred Lewis. Like the Mets, they could use a power left-handed bat off the bench.

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Seattle Mariners: 5 Reasons Jack Cust Is an Upgrade Over Russell Branyan

Felix Hernandez took the Cy Young last year after going 13-12 for Seattle. He went 1-9 when the Mariners scored two runs or less, and had the lowest run support of any pitcher in baseball.

Seattle needs some help in the bat department.

In homers, RBI’s, batting average, runs scored, on base, slugging and OPS, the Mariners were the major’s worst offensive team in every department.

The 513 runs that the Mariners managed to score were the lowest in the designated hitter era.

This off season the Mariners added Jack Cust and parted ways with Russell Branyan.

Seattle brought in Branyan back in 2009, and the organization believed that he could be a run producer in the middle of the lineup. He was productive when he played, jacking 31 homers in just 116 games back in 2009; but that was the problem. Branyan often found himself on the disabled list.

The Mariners hope Cust can come in and an anchor an offense that is so very desperate for some power.

Cust and Branyan look very similar on paper, but the Mariners made a major upgrade when they added Jack Cust to their lineup.

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2011 MLB Free Agency: Five DHs More Valuable Than Adam Dunn In 2011

Adam Dunn finally got his wish.  When Dunn’s signing with the Chicago White Sox becomes official, he will have the longest contract of his career.  Last time he went through free agency, he could only find a two year deal.  But, thanks to GM Kenny Williams, Dunn has long-term security through 2014.

And Williams will have another albatross contract.

Before the ink is even dry on Dunn’s deal, Williams will be stuck with a contract he can’t move.  Dunn is a great power hitter.  This is not in question.  But Dunn wasn’t even the best left handed power hitter available.  And some of Dunn’s numbers are cause for long-term concern.

In 2010, Dunn hit .280 against right handed pitching.  But he only hit .199 versus lefties.  His numbers from 2007-2009 vs. LHP: .268/.195/.238.  Dunn isn’t a complete player, and yet he’s going to be banking the highest number of any designated hitter.

Another cause for concern is after six straight seasons of 100 or more walks, Dunn’s free bags fell to 77 in 2010, and his on-base percentage dropped nearly 50 points from 2009 to 2010.  His strike outs also increased to 199, up from 177 in 2009 and 164 in 2008.

That being said, here are five players who will provide better bang for the buck of their future 2011 teams.

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Cleveland Rocks: Why the Indians’ Deadline Deals Are Huge Wins For Tribe

It’s been a whirlwind week for Indians fans.

After finally trading longtime fan frustration Jhonny Peralta on Wednesday, the Indians traded Austin Kearns to the Yankees Friday night, flipped ten-year Tribe veteran Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals Saturday afternoon, then pawned off Kerry Wood’s contract.

Most Clevelanders’ instinctual reactions to this news would be to moan and groan, to relive the moments from last year when Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez were shipped out of town and mumble something about the futility of rooting for a small-market team.

I can certainly relate to the abandonment issues my fellow Tribe fans are dealing with, and I understand the urge to crawl into a corner and sit in the fetal position for the rest of the season.

However, depression and rage are the wrong reactions to this year’s four deadline deals and the June trade of Russell Branyan.

The trading season for the Tribe can only be described with the words of a wise man from Kazakhstan: “Great success!”

Branyan, Peralta, Kearns, Westbrook, and Wood all had one thing in common: either their contracts were set to expire at the end of the season or they had options for the 2011 season that the Indians had no interest in picking up.

With the Indians already firmly out of the race, keeping these players around for the final two months would have been ridiculous. Had we just let them walk at the end of the season, we would have gotten nothing—the only ones who might possibly qualify for Type B status are Branyan and Peralta, and offering arbitration to either would be risky because they’d be likely to accept.

With the possible exception of Westbrook, who the Indians may try to reacquire in the offseason, they had no place in the Indians’ long-term plans.

We didn’t get a huge haul in return for anyone—two useful but uninspiring young position players (outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and shortstop Juan Diaz, both in the Branyan deal), a pair of solid pitching prospects (righty Corey Kluber for Westbrook and southpaw Giovanni Soto for Peralta), two PTBNLs (both from the Yankees, one each for Kearns and Wood), and at least $3 million in salary relief.

But even if the youngsters we’ve acquired don’t grow up to be All-Stars and Larry Dolan loses all the spare change in a single poorly played hand of Texas Hold ‘Em (stranger things have happened), the point is that in exchange for the outgoing veterans who weren’t helping us anyway, we got a chance to have more hope for the future—six of them, to be precise, maybe more if we put the extra money towards a solid free agent.

The Indians had five useful players who didn’t mean anything to us. All of them have been swapped for potential pieces of a future pennant-winner.

Mission accomplished.

This was outgoing GM Mark Shapiro’s last big chance to score. He brought home a winner.


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Tribe Talk: Let the Annual Cleveland Indians Fire Sale Begin!

Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Cleveland Indian fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.

This week, we discuss the beginning of the annual Tribe fire sale, wonder what to do with players behaving badly, and come clean about which bandwagon we may be jumping on in the second half of the season.

I would like to thank this week’s participants Dale Thomas, Scott Miles, and new Tribe Talk panelist Dan Tylicki for their contributions. A big special thanks is also in order for guest panelist M.T. Robinson, a Padres writer here to give us a little outside perspective. You can find his work at sd72degrees.com.

This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week.

Go Tribe!

1. Let the fire sale begin!

Last weekend Russell Branyan was traded back to his old team, the Mariners, for a couple of prospects, the first to go in what will likely be a number of players moved by the Indians before the trade deadline this season. 

Do you think the Indians will completely clean house before the deadline and trade away everyone they can who isn’t part of their long term plans? 

Who do you think will be the next to go, and who are all of the players you see as likely to be moved by July 31st?

Are there any players frequently discussed as trade candidates who you DON’T think will be going anywhere this season?

Samantha Bunten: Death, taxes, and the Indians’ annual fire sale. The yearly salary dump has become as predictable as Manny Ramirez developing a mysterious hamstring injury whenever he so much as hears the word “Boston.” 

I’ll be sorry to see Kearns go, even now that his average has plummeted back to earth. He will absolutely be gone by the deadline.

Obviously, we all hope Kerry Wood gets moved, but I can’t see anyone taking him off our hands unless we eat 70-80 percent of his salary, which would sort of defeat the purpose. 

Much as it saddens me, I don’t see Peralta going anywhere. No one wants a third baseman who can’t hit, can’t catch, can’t throw, and gives about 40 percent effort on the base paths. Unless the Mets or the Mariners are out scavenging for junk like they often do, Peralta is going to be the last item left on the lawn at the yard sale, wearing a cardboard sign that says “free to good home.” 

Dale Thomas: I’ve been trying to figure out what the heck this “long term plan” is. The Indians have already cleaned house. They did that last year. Now they are cleaning out the garage, trading the guy they just got. I guess Branyan’s rust was staining the garage floor or something. Next I suppose we’ll clean the bathrooms, closets, and attic. 

So what does “long term plan” mean? The only viable plan that will work for the Tribe is to trade away ownership. 

As far as the last part of this question, it seems as if every last member of this team is trade bait except, of course, Trevor Crowe. We need him here to blame things on.

Scott Miles: You know, maybe Mark Shapiro is some kind of evil genius, signing Branyan and Austin Kearns with the intent of flipping them for multiple prospects to bolster the farm system. (OK, maybe not, but at least I’ll tell that to myself now.) 

I’d say the Indians are in full spring cleaning mode, it’s just a matter of what options are available. Kearns’ snap back to reality has probably killed his market and at this point, I don’t even know if the Tribe could get back what they did for Branyan

I don’t think Peralta will get traded…who wants a third baseman with little power and no glove? Wood, with his salary, would need to save about 20 more games in a row before anyone would take him on, though he is off to a nice start this week with that. Westbrook, behind Kearns, is probably the next likely to go, especially with the talk of bringing Carlos Carrasco up.

Dan Tylicki: I can see quite a few players leaving as they try and open more room to our farm system, mainly on the position player side, where things seem pretty good. 

I think Kearns is almost guaranteed to be traded for a couple pitching prospects. Shelley Duncan could be a potential trading piece, but I can’t think that we would really get anything for him. 

On the pitching end, if anyone wants Kerry Wood near the deadline, he’ll be gone. I don’t see too many of the pitchers leaving; I think Fausto Carmona will stay on the Tribe, as will Mitch Talbot. Jake Westbrook I have no clue on, for some reason. I can’t see him leaving or staying, though I think the Tribe can get a few good pieces for him. He would be a reliable fourth or fifth starter in pennant-race rotations.

M.T. Robinson: Looking at the Indians from afar, clearly the most attractive player currently on the Indians roster is outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. At 28, Choo is still in his prime, but his 30th B-day is just around the corner. Choo could fetch a nice load of prospects, and his trade value may never be higher. If Choo is not part of the overall plan to rebuild with youth, he could see his ticket punched to the Yankees or even Boston, both of whom have done business with Cleveland before. 

Next on my short list is pitcher Fausto Carmona, who’s 3.68 ERA is stellar in the American League. Carmona would excel in facing the weak bats and wide strike zones of the National League, and he is exactly the kind of player a team like the Dodgers or Phillies like to add for the stretch run. 

After that, the Indians hand gets weaker, although pitchers Jake Westbrook and Mitch Talbot might bring a few prospects. Below those four guys, the Indians’ major league roster is not very enticing to look at. Perhaps Grady Sizemore would have some value even while rehabbing on the DL.

2. Let’s take a minute to discuss the specifics of the Branyan trade. Many people were baffled by the details of the move:

Seattle, 14 games back in the AL West, seemed to have little reason to want to reacquire Branyan. Why would the Mariners give up prospects for a player with mediocre-at-best skills, especially considering they aren’t looking like contenders in their division and they just let this same guy go a couple of months ago?

The move makes more sense for the Indians,who were clearly just trying to open up playing time for Matt LaPorta at first base. Still, they didn’t get much in return for him in terms of quality prospects, and seem to have sold oddly early on Branyan when they might have gotten more for him closer to the deadline from a team in contention desperate for a power bat.

What do you think of the move? Did the Indians get anything of real value in return for Branyan, or was the only purpose to get more at-bats to LaPorta at first? Should they have held out a little longer before trading him in order to get a better yield in return? And the most baffling part: What on earth was Seattle thinking?

Samantha Bunten: Seattle runs the best preseason con game in baseball. Every offseason the Mariners make all kinds of big moves, spend all kinds of money, fool us all into picking them to win their division, and then promptly run out of gas sometime around the first of May. 

Seattle has a history of making terrible, terrible moves all season long as well (recall how we got Asdrubal Cabrera and Choo), so I’m not surprised by the Branyan trade, even though I’m baffled by it. Really, why on earth would you give up prospects for a guy who generally gets about one hit per 50 strikeouts who you just let go a couple of months ago? 

The Mariners seem to be perpetually swapping deck chairs on the Titanic. They also seem to put a lot of faith in overrated, expensive players with nothing left in the tank. Exhibit A: Eric Bedard. Last I heard, he was pitching in A-ball. 

As for the Indians, I would have preferred they hang on to Branyan to see if they could get more for him once some contender got desperate for a power bat down the stretch. From what I know of the two prospects we got from Seattle for him, I’m really not impressed. 

Dale Thomas: This move makes little to no sense for the Indians. They still have the bulk of his salary, got nothing in return, and lost a guy with some savvy and experience to share with our younger players…plus he’s a nice guy. 

For Seattle? Hey maybe it’s because they get a decent bat for about 500 grand. Other than that, I can’t imagine why they would do this. They are totally out of any kind of contention for anything, and Branyan has showcased himself as a defensive nightmare, with average hitting. Go figure. The whole deal is eerily weird.

Scott Miles: I think the Indians got pretty good value for him considering he’s a one-trick pony. They were able to sell him about as high as they could because none of the contenders would have wanted him for that price. I think it’s a win-win-win. 

One, you get him off the team (Tribe is 9-5 this year I believe now without him, through Wednesday). Two, you get LaPorta those at-bats. And three, you get two players who have a better chance of playing with the Indians in a few years than Branyan did. 

As for what Seattle was thinking, I don’t even want to speculate because I might say something I can’t take back later.

Dan Tylicki: I was surprised when I heard it, like most others. The Mariners have no real need for him, and we don’t have much need for the prospects we were given. 

Getting LaPorta playing time at first is a must. We have to know if he can play in the majors day in and day out, so might as well do it now. 

In terms of holding out, we could have, but we probably would have gotten the same amount. Players like Branyan are pretty easy to find when one looks, and Adam Dunn would be the first one everyone would be after. 

As for what Seattle was thinking…they’re not. Only thing I can think of is the Mariners are that desperate for any power on their roster. They have a good pitching staff, so maybe if their hitting clicks something will happen. Or maybe as I said, they are just not thinking. 

M.T. Robinson: Let’s face it, the Mariners are not world renowned for their brilliant sports acumen. 

Branyan still can blast the long ball, but I don’t see how he will be around in three seasons, while who knows how OF Eziquiel Carrera and SS Juan Diaz will be doing in their development? Carrera has shown a solid glove combined with a quick bat and feet during his first five seasons in the minors, and at 23 may not be far away from The Show. 

Carrera is now stashed at Triple-A Columbus, but look for a September call up. SS Juan Diaz is hitting .295 this season for Double-A High Desert, hitting seven home runs with 41 RBI, which are nice numbers. 

Diaz could be in the Indians’ starting lineup by 2012, if not sooner if he continues to hit. I give the Indians the edge on this trade in the long term, and I am looking at the Mariners scratching my head.

3. We spend a lot of time heaping criticism on the Indians woeful pitching staff. While they may well deserve it, it also would be nice to be able to occasionally say something positive about one of our hurlers.

One of the few candidates on our staff for such a distinction this season? Mitch Talbot.

While Talbot’s numbers don’t exactly jump off the page in any statistical category, he has posted a solid 8-6 record so far this season with a 3.88 ERA overall and an impressive 2.39 ERA on the road.

What were you expecting out of Talbot going into the season? Have you been pleasantly surprised by his performance? Do you now consider the trade of Kelly Shoppach that brought him here to have been a good deal for the Indians?

Where would you rank Talbot among the current Tribe starters? How do you see him fitting into the Tribe’s long term plans?

Samantha Bunten: Initially, I didn’t expect much out of Talbot. I had originally thought Tampa Bay was just pawning its junk off on us, but now it looks more like Talbot may have just been a roster casualty there.

I liked Kelly Shoppach, but the Indians really didn’t have a place for him. Suffering through Lou Marson for a couple of months B.C. (Before Carlos) was worth it in retrospect, since trading Shop netted us a guy who has turned out to be a pretty darn good pitcher. 

I think Talbot is a great fit for the long term plan. I see him moving comfortably into the No. 2 slot behind Carmona next year after Westbrook is gone, and eventually, if guys like Masterson and Carrasco pan out as advertised, landing in the fourth spot in the rotation. 

Dale Thomas: I didn’t expect much from Talbot coming to the Tribe with his 11-plus ERA after a whopping three games pitched with his former team. It looked like one of those nothing-for-nothing trades. 

It was an easy trade to stomach because we weren’t really giving up anything we needed, and we got someone at least claiming to be a pitcher…and looking at our staff at the time, each and every one of them was only someone claiming to be a pitcher. Carmona coming off a dismal season, Westbrook coming off a dismal surgery, the largely unknown Huff, and that guy Masterson. Talbot seemed like one of the gang already! 

Fact is, Carmona has pitched better than I thought he would. So has Jake. Huff was far worse than expected and Masterson did exactly what I expected him to do. So yes, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Talbot thus far, and I actually think he’s got potential to improve from where he stands today. 

Right now I’d have him ranked number three. Yes indeed, I think he should be in the Tribe’s long term plan…whatever that is. This has been one of very few good moves in the last few years where we actually traded up.

Scott Miles: I liked Talbot through spring training, knowing he was a victim of a numbers game within the Rays organization (wow, 10 years ago, I never thought I’d write that sentence). 

He just seems to be the type of pitcher who “gets it.” He is not overwhelming with his stuff, but he knows how to pitch and what to throw in the right situations. 

It will be interesting to see how he adjusts his second and third time through the league, but even though he is a rookie, he’s also 26 years old, so he has some experience and innings behind him.

Dan Tylicki: Right now, I would put Talbot second behind Carmona. He’s been surprisingly solid, and while he isn’t amazing, he’s played well enough that he’s at least someone we don’t have to worry about. 

I was not expecting much when he started, but I have been impressed, and I now consider the Shoppach trade a good one, especially because, where would we put Shoppach now? 

Talbot is only 26, so I would be for trying to sign him long-term as he reaches his peak. He won’t be an ace, but we can use a reliable number three pitcher, which is what he would likely be.

M.T. Robinson: As I said before, from afar, the Indians starting pitchers’ numbers do not look that bad. Three starters with ERAs under 4.00 in the AL is nothing to sneeze at. 

Talbot has scratched out his eight wins and a 3.88 ERA pitching uphill this season for a sub .500 Indians team that is one step away from cashing their chips in for 2010. On the value side, Talbot turns 27 after this season, which is considered the maturation age for Major League players. Talbot also may never be worth more than he is now. 

It’s a close call here; he could be dealt, he could be in the rotation for the next six years if he can stay healthy.

4. Last week, three Indians’ minor leaguers were arrested for allegedly assaulting a bar bouncer in Akron.

Pro athletes engaging in criminal activity is certainly nothing new, but until now players in the Indians organization have largely avoided running afoul of the law.

What’s your take on this incident? Do you think the Indians or MLB should punish the players?

What’s your opinion on athletes’ legal offenses in general? Do you think athletes who get in trouble with the law should be punished by their team or league, or do you think off-field issues should stay off the field? Does it depend on the severity of the offense?

Samantha Bunten: I can totally understand the reasoning behind getting in a “fair fight.” Someone steals your woman or your dog or your roster spot, I can see why you might clock the guy. But that is absolutely not what happened here. There is NO possible justification for three guys jumping one guy on the street and beating him until he needs to be hospitalized just because apparently, they didn’t really like the guy.

There’s also something about getting in bar fights while you’re stuck in the minors that’s akin to shooting yourself in the foot. Maybe if these guys spent more time swinging bats and less time swinging their fists, they wouldn’t be stuck in Double-A. 

The Indians and MLB need to throw the book at these guys. Do you want your kid running around in a Beau Mills jersey after this? I didn’t think so. 

Dale Thomas: My take on the incident is that it’s been brewing for a long time. It starts with a bunch of good ol’ rednecks in a bar that were probably totally out of line. So the bouncer does his job, which is to bounce rowdy hounds before things get out of hand. 

That said, I’m guessing the bouncer made a big mistake by engaging in arguments with these guys in the bar, and doing it more than once. That brings a lot of emotion and resentment to the table over and above the bounce itself. So the guys learn to hate the bouncer and want vengeance. Boys will be boys or something like that. 

So they randomly cross paths outside the bar and the players start a fight. What’s up with that? 

The problem is that these players represent the town they play for. They have to step away from the idiocy of drunken contests like this and hold to their commitment to their team, their city, and their sport.

I think the team/league should impose penalties, as these guys represent them. Besides…three on one? C’mon guys, how impressive is that? It’s like smashing your hamster with an SUV, then claiming self defense.

Dan Tylicki: I think there’s no question that the Indians have to dole out some sort of punishment if MLB doesn’t. These minor league players should be honing their skills rather than getting in bar fights. If they’re spending their time like that then no wonder they’re still down there. 

Maybe I’m sounding harsh, but if they’re running afoul of the law, they need sanctions from their team or the league. They are role models for kids across America whether they like it or not. 

As a side note, I’m about ready to consider Beau Mills a bust. He should be in Triple-A, ready to hit the majors this year. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh since he’s still just 23.

M.T. Robinson: Here is the quick version of the incident, which I had not read about until now. Akron Aeros players Jerad Head and Beau Mills, who was Cleveland’s first-round pick in 2007, along with Josh Tomlin of the Columbus Clippers took on Theodore Zeman, the bouncer at Whiskey Dicks in Akron, Ohio. 

My first impression, trouble at Whiskey Dicks? Say it ain’t so…”Well, we were on our way to the YMCA, and one thing led to another…” 

Allegedly, the three players were verbally ripping Zeman, telling him he was soft and ‘roided up, then they started in on Zeman’s woman, always a mistake. The three beat Zeman into submission,when he tried to take matters into his own hands, resulting in broken ribs and a punctured lung for him. 

It’s Matt Bush all over again. Bush was the Padres number one a few years ago. Bush got in a fight with a bar bouncer the day he was drafted, and flamed out of baseball like a meteor. 

I think all three of these guys will be suspended for a year, and should face criminal charges, like any of the rest of us would.

5. Fun Question of the Week: With the first half of the season coming to a close and the Indians well out of contention, it’s time to start thinking about your backup plan for who you’ll be rooting for down the stretch to make the playoffs.

Who are the AL and NL teams you’ll be rooting for this year as your backup plan? In other words, which bandwagons will you be jumping on for the 2010 season? Why?

Samantha Bunten: I’m backing Texas in the AL, but I’d even root for the Twins or Tigers if they were in a position to get rid of New York or Boston. Mostly though, I’m an Indians-Or-Bust type of gal, so I prefer to focus my attention on an NL team in the big dance. 

Regarding the NL, I’m going Reds all the way. You have to love how they’ve built their team from the ground up, reminiscent of what the Indians did in the early 1990s. You also have to like the Padres for their incredible turnaround between last year and this year. 

I’m also a big fan of the Brewers. I like Atlanta because they’re the classiest, most well-run organization in baseball,l and I like the Dodgers because they’re the new home of many of my favorite former Indians. But really, I’ll support any NL team but the Mets. 

Dale Thomas: For the NL, I’m going to root for the Reds. It’s a lot like rooting for the Indians. Does this mean I’ll need a backup to my backup plan? Of course it does! When the Reds go down I’ll root for the Dodgers. When they go down I’ll root for St. Louis. 

On the AL side, I predicted the Twins would win the division, and they raced out of the blocks like they could easily go all the way. Now all of a sudden they’re battling Detroit for first, and if things keep going as they have, they’ll be battling the White Sox too. 

Next, the division will go down in a small insignificant puff of smoke and I’ll be rooting for…the Yankees? Haha…ain’t gonna happen. Go Tribe!

Scott Miles: In the AL, it would have to be the Rays and/or the Twins. The Rays for obvious reasons (unseating the Yankees and Red Sox), and while I don’t like the Twins, damn it I respect them and their organization. 

In the NL, it’s tough to say, but probably the Cardinals, because like the Twins they just seem like a classy organization that does things the right way. I would include the Padres in there but I can’t name more than three players on their team so I will refrain.

Dan Tylicki: On the AL side, I haven’t thought much about it. I’m a Yankee hater, so as long as someone beats them in the playoffs I’m good. I’m an AL Central guy at heart, so I’ll support Minnesota and Detroit in their endeavors. 

NL-wise, I’m leaning towards either the Reds or the Padres to root for, since they seem unappreciated. In general I root for the small-market teams, just because the large markets sicken me, buying a championship rather than winning it through hard work and smart planning.

M.T. Robinson: I’m rooting for the Padres of course, and we have a shot this season. San Diego needs to add two bats to make a serious run, but may take it right to the wire anyway with baseball’s best pitching staff. More than likely though, Philadelphia will get hot again and take the NL pennant. 

In the AL, I like Toronto’s bats, but as always, no one really has a chance but Boston and New York. Tampa Bay is also still in the hunt, but I feel that the Rangers will get wiped off the field in the playoffs. Go Tribe!!!






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Cleveland Indians Trading Russell Branyan to Angels, Rockies, Yankees?


Welcome to the Cleveland Indians Trading Post, a weekly segment meant to help my fellow Tribe fans sort out which of the few familiar faces left on the team won’t be around much longer.

This week’s potential trade bait is Russell Branyan.


The basics

Ranked the 26th-best prospect in baseball before the 1998 season, Branyan bounced between the Indians and the Triple-A Buffalo Bison until 2000, when he became a semi-regular part of Cleveland’s lineup. He was revered as a source of tremendous untapped power, but his all-or-nothing mentality (39 percent career strikeout rate) made him a poor contact hitter (.234 career average).

In 2009, Branyan went to the Mariners (his ninth organization in seven years), and finally got a taste of regular playing time. He excelled, mashing 31 homers with an .867 OPS in 116 games.

Branyan signed a one-year, two million-dollar contact with the Indians before Spring Training, with a five million-dollar mutual option for 2010. This is his fourth separate stint with the Indians organization.


Why he has value

Branyan might not hit the ball with great frequency, but when he does, it goes a long, long way. His moonshots are so massive that even fans of the opposing team often applaud in awe.

He started off slowly as he struggled with injuries and a good old-fashioned slump. On May 10, he was hitting .200 with just two RBI and a .586 OPS. A man whose entire game revolves around the long ball had yet to hit a home run.

But on May 11, Branyan hit two homers in what seems to have been the turning point of his season.

In 86 at-bats since, Branyan has smacked seven long balls—on par with Albert Pujols and Ryan Zimmerman over the same time period—and driven in 13 with a .535 slugging percentage.

Don’t try and call this an unsustainable hot streak, because his numbers in the last 30 days are right in line with what he did last year. Assuming the injuries are behind him (at least for now—Branyan always seems to have something wrong with him), it is the slump that will end up looking fluky.

He’s not your prototypical middle-of-the-order guy, but what team wouldn’t love to have a slugger like him?


Why he’s expendable

The Indians aren’t contending in 2010, so having him around this year doesn’t do the team any good. However, this situation is more complicated than Austin Kearns’ or Jake Westbrook’s because of his option for 2011. And unlike Jhonny Peralta , there’s a legitimate case to be made for the Tribe keeping him around past this season.

No one’s expecting a pennant run in Cleveland next year, but the Indians certainly have the potential to contend in 2011. By the end of next season, the Tribe’s lineup will likely be boosted by prospects like Carlos Santana, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Nick Weglarz, while the rotation could feature the likes of Yohan Pino, Hector Rondon, and Carlos Carrasco. Throw in a healthy Grady Sizemore and another year of seasoning for the Indians’ young current regulars, and you’ve got the makings of at least a respectable team.

If Branyan keeps up this pace, picking his option would be a no-brainer for Cleveland. But remember that it’s a mutual option. If he finishes with 35 homers, he’d probably be able to claim more than five million dollars on the open market.

Plus, if the Indians hold onto him past the Trade Deadline because they plan to pick up his option and he ends up going down with one of his trademark injuries, we’ll have missed a potentially lucrative opportunity.


Where he’d go

A half-season of a power-happy slugger who will make only about a million dollars over that time—what contending team wouldn’t be interested? The most interested teams, though, would probably be those that are looking to replace their injured or struggling first basemen.

The Colorado Rockies certainly fit the bill. For the first time in 14 big-league seasons, franchise icon Todd Helton is looking like a below-average hitter. His .240 batting average and .309 slugging percentage are by far the worst of his storied career. The man who once reached 49 homers and 146 RBI is currently on pace for just three dingers and 31 men knocked in.

The Rockies are sitting in fourth place in the ultra-competitive NL West. Just keeping pace with the Dodgers, Padres, and Giants will be a challenge, let alone making up the lost ground. If they want to return to the playoffs, they can’t keep looking the other way with Helton.

And what of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? We’ve looked at their offensive struggles before , and things have only gotten worse with the loss of Kendry Morales.

With the Wild Card spot all but claimed by the AL East, the Halos’ only hope of making the playoffs is by winning the wild, wild AL West. They need a bopper to help fend off Texas and Oakland.

Finally, Branyan may be courted by the New York Yankees. The Bombers are looking up at the Rays and have the resilient Red Sox breathing down their necks, and first baseman Mark Teixeira is having the worst season of his career. How long can they wait before pulling the plug on the slumping $180 million man?


What do you think? Will Branyan be traded? Where will he go, and who will we get in return?


More Trading Posts

May 13: Austin Kearns

May 20: Jake Westbrook

May 27: Mitch Talbot

June 3: Jhonny Peralta


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Tribe Talk: Now Casting The Role Of Team Scapegoat


Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Tribe fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the Indians each week throughout the season.

This week, we compare the Tribe’s performance to our expectations for them after the one-month mark, point fingers at our chosen scapegoats, and volunteer our baseball playing services to the Tribe, in case they’re so desperate that they’re looking for walk-ons with no professional experience.

I would like to thank this week’s participants: Dale Thomas, Scott Miles, and Jon Sladek for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week.

Go Tribe!


1. This week we officially pass the one-month mark of the 2010 season. Everyone had their opinions during Spring Training about whether the Tribe would be good, bad, or ugly this year.

At this point, where is the Tribe relative to where you expected them to be? Is this team better, worse, or exactly the same as you predicted?

What player or group of players on the Indians is better than you had expected, and which is worse?

Finally, how indicative do you think the Tribe’s current level of play is of how they will fare over the full season ?

Samantha Bunten: Looking just at the Indians record, they are only a little worse than I expected. Unfortunately the overall caliber of play I’ve seen has been much more disappointing. The things that strike me most are the preventable mistakes made by players with enough experience to know better, and the glaring power outage this team is having. 

While the defensive blunders and pitching woes aren’t good, much of that has been as I expected. To me, the element of this team that is far worse than I imagined is the offense. This team was supposed to, if nothing else, be able to put runs on the board. 

Right now they’re having an appallingly difficult time moving runners and even more difficulty showing any power or any speed. You expect a struggling team to lack either speed or power, but you don’t expect it to come up so short in both areas. 

As for who is better than I expected, Kearns and Carmona are the stand-outs. I’m also generally okay with how the rotation is faring. 

I think this team will get better as the season progresses because the young guys on the squad will surely continue to learn and grow as players. What is more uncertain is whether our veteran guys can improve enough just to play the way that they should have been playing from the start. 

Dale Thomas: By win/loss record as of Tuesday night, the Tribe is just a little worse than I expected them to be. I expected them to be next-to-last, but alas….they are in last place by a game. Looking at Chicago and Kansas City, I would expect the standings to continue to waffle around as each game is played. 

Kearns has been a pleasant surprise, as he is better than I expected him to be, and appears to be our best hitter at .333 with a whopping two dingers. Cabrera and Choo are performing well, each hitting over .300, which I expected, but then you get to the entire remaining roster which is under-performing even by my extremely low expectations. 

Sizemore is at .221 with 26 strikeouts. Hafner is at .208, Branyan is at .207, and Valbuena is at .167…I mean Jeez! This lineup couldn’t even hit Indians pitching. It’s horrible for a team that was supposed to be all about offense. 

And Pitching? Holy cow…Talbot is our leader? I didn’t expect this at all, but he has the best ERA and is tied for most wins with Carmona. I’ve actually switched my thinking from focusing on winning games to just scoring a run.

Jon Sladek: Just fair warning, the gloves are coming off this week. 

I’m appalled at what I have witnessed the first part of this baseball season. Nobody expected the Tribe to contend for the Central, but the brand of baseball we have witnessed is unacceptable. Mitchy Talbot is about the only guy who has exceeded expectations. The list of underachievers is too long to name here. The current level of play is indicative of a long, uninteresting season.

Scott Miles: Though the record is probably about what I figured, maybe a shade or two worse, the season has been full of individual surprises for me. 

First, three unpleasant surprises: 

1. Grady Sizemore: .220 average, zero HR. Not comfortable in two-hole? 

2. Valbuena and Brantley: They should be young cornerstones of team. Both are batting below .175, with Brantley already back in Columbus and Valbuena single-handedly murdering Wednesday’s game. 

3. Matt LaPorta: zero HR, one RBI…umm, what? 

Now, the pleasant: 

1. Mitch Talbot: 3-2 with a 2.88 ERA? If he could stop walking so many hitters, whoa. Very impressive. 

2. Fausto Carmona: He’s baaaaaaaaaack. (Hopefully). And echo the comment about walks with Talbot. 

3. Austin Kearns: Capitalizing on his playing time opportunity. Only consistent bat in the lineup besides Choo and Cabrera. 

You’d expect Grady to bounce back, although off of an injury, who knows. The failure to develop young talent was probably the biggest knock on Eric Wedge, and Manny Acta is finding it a tough go as well. Maybe they’re not just as good as billed? I don’t know. And if Talbot or Carmona can’t keep up this production, the Indians might lose 100 games this year.

2. Like the rest of Eric Wedge’s staff, Derek Shelton was let go from his position with the Indians when they made a management regime change last fall.

Shelton is currently the hitting coach for the Tampa Bay Rays, who as a team are 20-7, sitting atop the fiercely competitive AL East, and are one of the best hitting teams in the league.

The Rays have scored the most runs in the AL, the Indians have scored the least.

Perhaps this is merely the product of Tampa Bay having more offensive talent on its roster than the Indians, but is there any chance that perhaps the Tribe made a mistake in letting Shelton go?

How much credit do you give to Shelton for the Rays’ success this season? Do you feel the Indians would be performing better offensively under the guidance of Shelton than they currently are under Jon Nunnally?


Samantha Bunten: If you have a lineup that includes Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena, and Carl Crawford, I don’t care who your hitting coach is—your team is going to score a lot of runs. Slider could coach that group and they would still be among the best hitting teams in the league. In other words, maybe who the hitting coach is isn’t our problem. 

Regardless, I really liked Shelton. I think he was good at guiding young hitters and at getting the most out of every player which that individual had to offer. He did it in Cleveland and now he’s doing it in Tampa Bay. The only difference is that working with the Rays, the amount of talent the hitters each have to offer is far higher. 

Shelton’s dismissal was inevitable, as when the manager goes, generally his whole staff goes with him. Still, I would take Shelton back in a heartbeat, given the opportunity. That being said though, I don’t blame Jon Nunnally for most of the Tribe’s hitting woes. No matter how you swing it, the hitting coach is probably not the problem here.  

Dale Thomas: First off, Derek is from Carbondale, Illinois. I grew up there. Go Salukis! 

This of course has no bearing on anything, but with that said, each season since Derek Shelton arrived in Cleveland, the Indians have finished at least in the top half in the league in runs. 

During his first two seasons, the Indians offense was among the best in baseball. Although he’s had a couple misses (Josh Barfield, Jhonny Peralta), the rest of his record stacks up well, especially given the circumstances in 2008 and 2009. 

Yes, I think the Rays are far better for having Shelton. Yes, I think the Indians are far worse for not having Shelton. As for Nunnally? I think his 2010 record is screaming at the top of it’s lungs something like, “We suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck” (echo, echo, echo).

Jon Sladek: I could sit here and blame Jon Nunnally for the hitting woes, but at the end of the day, these guys are professionals, for goodness sake. 

Is Jon Nunnally making Sizemore continually flail at strike three or Hafner look at the first pitch fastball right down the middle, EVERY AT-BAT? I doubt Nunnally is instructing guys to strike out with one out and the bases loaded. 

Its beyond time to start holding guys accountable for their undisciplined approaches. Grady Sizemore struck out too much under Shelton and does the same under Nunnally. Perhaps the coaches aren’t the problem here.

Scott Miles: The Rays have more proven hitters in their lineup. You could probably start and stop the conversation with Evan Longoria (.374, 7 HR, 20 RBI). Throw in Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist, etc. and that’s a pretty potent order, even if some of those guys are hitting below their usual averages. 

The Indians’ lineup doesn’t have that much margin of error. It’s a mixture of young, unproven guys and guys coming off injuries or prolonged slumps (in Pronk’s case, both). 

I always thought Derek Shelton was pretty solid—the Tribe always had one of the top scoring lineups in the AL and wasn’t putrid at the plate last year even after trading Victor and with Grady and Pronk out—so the Indians might be a tad better with him back this year. But until the light bulb goes for some of the youngsters, it won’t matter who the hitting coach is.

3. Baseball is a team sport, and no single player’s struggles can be blamed for the team’s overall inability to succeed.

But the beauty of being a sports fan is we can assign blame to whatever individual we feel like anyway. If you had to pick one or two players whose performance you believe is personally responsible for the team’s struggles, who would those player(s) be?

What position on the field (other than starting pitcher on a given night) do you feel has the most potential to impact the outcome of a game based purely on the individual at that position’s performance?

(Note: The second part of the question is purely theoretical and meant to address baseball in general; it need not be the position occupied by a Tribe player who you believe makes the most difference to our team specifically, whether in a positive or negative sense).

Samantha Bunten: Aside from Sizemore and Hafner, both of who seem to be unable to make up their minds as to whether they’re going to be power hitters or contact hitters and hence have failed at both, I feel I have to point fingers at the mess on the right side of the infield. 

With Valbuena at second and either LaPorta or Branyan at first, the defense on the right side has been horrendous, and no one over there is exactly making up for it at the plate. 

I’ll give LaPorta the rest of the season to sort things out with his bat (though I think defensively, he’s a lost cause), but Branyan and Valbuena are out of excuses. Sometimes I don’t know why we even bother sending either of them out there. 

The most important position on the field for any team is the catcher. This player has the hardest job on the field physically speaking, and is also expected to be the brains of the operation, the team’s leader, and the in-game therapist for the unfailingly fragile psyches of pitchers. 

It’s a demanding, difficult, and thankless job that calls for an ability to multi-task that isn’t required for other positions. Most first basemen can’t even walk and chew gum at the same time.

Dale Thomas: Personally responsible for the team’s struggles? The two players names are: Hafnersizemorevalbuenaperaltamartebranyanredmondbrantleymarsonlaporta AND Mastersonwestbrookhuffsmithperez. 

I wish I could have mentioned more than two names here, but rules are rules. 

The most impactful position on the field with regard to influencing the outcome of a game? The catcher. From calling pitches and defenses to working with pitchers and umpires, catchers have a wide range of responsibilities that require intelligence, tact, baseball sense, and above all, leadership.

Jon Sladek: Hafner and Sizemore. Simply put, these are two guys the team was counting on for the bulk of offensive production and they have both been abysmal. One is a DH that doesn’t “H,” the other somehow forgot how to hit home runs. Did anyone imagine Sizemore homerless a week into May?

Scott Miles: It would have to be Grady Sizemore, no? I’m not entirely sold he’s 100 percent healthy, but he either needs to start hitting or just sit and rest. For someone who was a 30-30 player two years ago, he can’t have a homerless, two-steal month. He just can’t. 

I think there are three “dynamic” positions on the field—first base, third base and left field. These are where your premier hitters, particularly in terms of power numbers, play. LaPorta and Branyan have combined for zero HR and three RBI in 103 at bats. Peralta is hitting .216 with two HR and ten RBI. Only Kearns in left field is holding up his end of the bargain, but with a smaller sample size (.343/2 HR/12 RBI in 19 games).


4. In spite of our complaints that the Indians defense is awful this season, they’re actually far from the worst-fielding team in the AL. As of Monday they had made just 14 errors this season, good for 4th place in the league.

Does this mean that the Tribe’s defense is actually much better than we perceive it to be, or does the number of errors not tell the whole story?

Aside from Jhonny Peralta’s notorious multi-error play against Detroit which cost us a win, how much do you believe the Indians’ defense has impacted their success in either a positive or negative way?

Samantha Bunten: First, I think it is important to note that the above defensive stats come from just two days ago when I wrote these questions. Things have gotten worse since, with the error tally up to 17 and our ranking among AL teams significantly lower. 

Still, I don’t think that poor defense in general is the problem. The Tribe’s issue seems to be that the errors always seem to come at critical points in the game. I would be willing to bet that while we currently rank in the middle of the pack in terms of the number of errors committed per number of chances, we are probably at the top of the list for games lost as the direct result of a defensive error. 

Regardless, the bottom line is that the defense isn’t as terrible as we think. The problem is that they have no margin for error because the team can’t score any runs. If this team was consistently putting runs on the board the way it should, I’m guessing the errors wouldn’t really be that noticeable at all. 

Dale Thomas: Clearly the defense is better than perceived (by the comparative numbers), but let’s face it, our blunders have been huge when we have them. 

Last night I saw one of our guys move all the way around the bases due to errors and wild pitches from Toronto. The Jays still won that game. Errors can and will hurt a team, but they don’t often kill a team in terms of wins and losses. Scoring the most runs wins games. Pitching shutouts positions teams to win games, such that the “most” runs might be just one. Everything else is the delightful drama in between.

Jon Sladek: The stats may say the Indians are playing decent defense, but the errors all seem to be at such crucial points of the same (see Luis Valbuena’s 5-hole job Wednesday). I would love to find out how many of those errors came in the late innings of close games. It’s just another example of a team that has no focus out there.

Scott Miles: The Tribe’s defense has been solid, apart from Peralta and Valbuena’s butchering of two games. You have three legit stars in the field between Sizemore, Choo and Cabrera, and Lou Marson has settled down and thrown out 5-of-14 base stealers. 

I think the overall defensive improvement can be attributed to the focus on fundamentals Acta stressed in spring training. Now, if only that could translate into the batter’s box…


5. Fun Question of the Week:

Every dedicated baseball fan has a dream of actually playing for his or her own team at the big league level.

If you truly had the chance to play for the Tribe, what position would you like to play? Where would you like to hit in the order?

Based on your own baseball skill set, no matter how much experience you have actually playing the game, what would be your greatest strength and greatest weakness as a player? 

Samantha Bunten: During my mostly-mediocre career on the diamond as a kid, I always hit leadoff because my strengths were speed and being a decent contact hitter. Other than that, it always helped that I was left-handed, though I think I mostly got by due to being the kid on the field most willing to hurt herself to get the job done.

Like every kid, I called shots in pick-up games Babe Ruth-style, only to watch the towering home run I envisioned land somewhere between the pitcher’s mound and second base. Suffice it to say my biggest weakness was a total lack of power, followed by a tendency to stop ground balls with my face. Hey, at least I stopped them. 

Position-wise, I’m primarily an outfielder, though in my mind, I’m definitely a catcher. 

Dale Thomas: I’d play lead guitar and lead vocal…oops, wrong forum…I’d play shortstop and hit in the one-slot. 

Forget that my baseball career ended in the ninth grade; that still left me with a nine-year career at short, hitting .315 with two championships. My strengths were putting the ball in play and a solid glove between the bags. My weaknesses were arm strength (some close plays at first, that drove my coaches nuts) and I never hit one out…ever.

Jon Sladek: I would love to be a left-handed middle reliever because as Raffy Perez has shown, you don’t even have to get people out to hold down a spot on the Tribe’s roster.

Scott Miles: I was fortunate enough to pitch an inning at Jacobs Field in a high school game my senior year, and I’d die for that opportunity again. 

I came out of the center field bullpen with the biggest grin on my face. It felt like it took five minutes to jog to the mound. My Solon Comets were up one on Euclid in the sixth when I came in, and I had so much adrenaline going I plunked the first kid in the head with my first pitch. Oops. 

I gave up a hit and then our shortstop botched a double play ball, so I had bases loaded with nobody out. Somehow I settled down and after a sacrifice fly tied the game, I got a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning. We won it in the bottom of the seventh with a suicide squeeze play and everyone rushed the field. Just an incredible experience, and I’d give five years off my life to go through it again.

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