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The dog days of August

I remember around the All-Star break, I posted a midseason review. At that point, the Indians had thrown in the towel on 2008 and traded CC Sabathia to Milwaukee, where he has yet to lose and has already hit two home runs. This came on the heels (actually, the trade was in the midst of) a ten-game losing streak that effectively ended the Indians’ hopes at making a postseason run.

And yet, as I write today, the Indians have won their tenth game in a row.

Stranger things have happened, right?

A few encouraging things I’ve seen in the midst of this streak (apart from the fact that the Indians are now a fun team to watch again):

  • Kelly Shoppach is giving the Indians a very real reason to think about making him more than a backup catcher. He homered again last night (a monster shot, too), and is hitting .263 with 17 home runs this season. After his miserable start, .263 is a drastic improvement. Realistically, Shoppach may never be the caliber hitter Martinez is, but I think you could pencil him in to hit about .280, maybe hit 25 home runs and drive in 80-90 runs in a year where he plays every day. Those kind of numbers are good enough to start on most teams, and depending on how Martinez comes back from this injury, may merit searching for a solution that gets Martinez and Shoppach in the lineup every day.
  • Who doesn’t like watching Jhonny Peralta hit? Ever since getting thrown into that cleanup spot (sort of by default, because no one else besides Grady had any experience whatsoever), he’s been an RBI machine. He’s got 73 RBI this year – an outside shot at getting 100 with 30 games left. But it’s how he’s getting those RBI lately that is more impressive. Yesterday, he swung at a first pitch from Justin Verlander in the first and simply served it into left field. He broke his bat, and he didn’t hit it especially hard, but he got the RBI with two out. It’s really been a remarkable turnaround for Peralta: before he started batting cleanup in June, I think he had something like 11 home runs and 20 RBI. Today, he has 21 homers and 73 RBI.
  • Franklin Gutierrez is finally starting to hit. And he’s hitting in the clutch too, driving in go-ahead and winning runs in three of the Indians wins over the streak. I don’t want the Indians to give up on this guy. We all see what he can do defensively, and if he can ever figure out the offense he’ll be a premier outfielder.
  • Shin-Soo Choo is showing no ill-effects after his surgery. He’s making strong throws from the outfield and yesterday he hit an absolute bomb to the second deck in right. He’s another guy I’d hate to see them give up on – what about platooning him with Francisco and Gutierrez next year? All three guys can play both corners. Francisco is showing he can hit everyone, and the other two are, shall we say, “improving” at hitting same-handed pitchers. Why not keep a loose platoon for part of the year and then if two of those players start to stand out move to a strict starting lineup?
  • Asdrubal Cabrera looks like the Asdrubal Cabrera who gave the Indians a spark in 2007. He still plays phenomenal defense, and now he’s starting to hit too. He’s more patient at the plate, he lays down a good bunt if needed, and last night he stole a base. I think it goes without saying that the Indians shouldn’t give up on this guy; he might be the shortstop of the future.
  • Ben Francisco is putting up Rookie of the Year-like numbers. After last night, Francisco is hitting .284 with 14 HR and 50 RBI in “limited” playing time (he now has the fourth most AB of any Indian on the roster, behind Sizemore, Peralta, and Garko). If he can continue his pace, he might edge out Longoria (of Tampa Bay) for Rookie of the Year simply because Longoria has been hurt.
  • Ever since getting benched, Garko is back to his 2006 form. Part of what was so frustrating with Garko most of this year is that he has shown he can be a great hitter with two strikes, he has shown that he can get RBIs even without hitting the ball well…he just wasn’t doing that. It seems like now he’s choking up on the bat with two strikes like he used to, and he’s playing smarter: just trying to make solid contact and get base hits without worrying about hammering the ball all over the ballpark.
  • I like what I’m seeing out of Anthony Reyes and Zach Jackson. Both have pitched pretty well, particularly Reyes, who is now 2-1 with the Indians. I’m anxious to see what both can become the rest of the year – are these guys we want in the rotation next year?
  • “And now into close for the Indians…Jensen Lewis?” He’s 7 for 7 in save situations this year, and finally overtook Joe Borowski as the Indians saves leader. I don’t think he’s our closer of the future, but he’s doing a better job than I thought he would.

Look, the playoffs are probably still out of the question for the Indians at this point (win 10 more, then we’ll talk). But .500 is definitely reachable. There’s still a chance for Grady to hit 40 home runs this season and drive in 100. Cliff Lee never loses. So even though this team probably won’t be playing in October, keep watching – things are getting interesting.

…and a pocketful of dreams

Hello, blogosphere! I’m writing today from the spacious, silent first floor of Kelvin Smith Library on the campus of the beautiful Case Western Reserve University. As far as walks to class go, today was probably about as good as it’s gonna’ get: 70 degrees, sunny and a slight breeze.

I’ve already noticed quite a few improvements around campus:

  • The lobby of Nord (and entire first floor) had the floor redone and is now wood. I can’t tell you how good of an idea this was – I think someone puked into the carpet last year and you could smell it all year long.
  • There’s an area in front of Yost by the fountain that used to have a couple of picnic tables on top of a cobblestone base. Well, those picnic tables are gone, and that area, with the exception of a small walkway around the fountain, is now grass. Nobody, and I mean nobody, used those tables. (I mean, seriously, hanging out in front of the math building is far less cool than hanging out in the library.) The area looks much more aesthetically pleasing now.
  • The oft-maligned Euclid Corridor project is finally starting to show some finish. The crosswalks are complete in both directions at Euclid and Adelbert, and while there are still some cones in front of Severance, it’s clear that the end is in sight. Also, they kept the crossing guard! It was interesting to watch all the students say hi to him again and catch up as they crossed Euclid this morning.

Onto this morning’s links. Incidentally, I’m listening to the mellow stylings of Blind Pilot.

  • I seem to remember something happening in Denver this week…and I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with the Rockies, Broncos or Nuggets…anyone know?

    I’m being sarcastic of course, because you could not turn on a TV this weekend without hearing about the Democratic National Convention. I’m going to say something that may shock everyone: I put odds at 1 in 3 that Hillary Clinton walks out of the convention as the nominee. With Barack Obama’s free-fall of late and his, shall we say, “uninspiring” choice as vice president, Clinton might be able to convince those in power to cast delegates to her. It’s a longshot, but we’ll see.

  • Has anyone seen these posters around?

    To me, they bear a striking resemblance to the posters in a certain movie:

    And all you Bush-haters can come back with that Patriot Act mumbo-jumbo, but whether or not Obama wishes to tell you, you can guarantee that our freedoms will only shrink. The difference is that while Bush and McCain would freely share what is being done to protect our freedom, I do not believe Obama would do the same.
  • On that note, I should say that I’m no longer an Obama supporter. I am officially undecided. Thus, this is the time for both candidates to win me over by sending candy to my apartment.
  • Quote of the day:
    I was in a hotel the other day, and on the back of the door in the hotel they have the fire map. I’m flattered that they think I have it together enough to stand in a burning hotel room memorizing directions. “Yeah, I’ll go left by the stairs, right by the candy machine…” I’d probably get lost, have to go back to the room, check the map again…and they always tell you, no matter what, whatever you do in a hotel fire – do not panic. Hey, I got four minutes to live, I’ve never panicked in my whole life – it’s my option. Even if they find you, you have a perfect excuse…”Gee, I heard they saved you swingin’ from the shower curtain naked with an ice bucket on your head. What happened there?” “Well, I panicked.” “That’s understandable.”

    Jerry Seinfeld

That’s all for now. I’ll try to get back to some Indians stuff soon – hopefully now I’ll have some more time to post and more stuff to post about. Until then, later days!

A head full of hopes…

Some tidbits from a cool Sunday evening in Cleveland, post-Feast of the Assumption edition.

  • Apple is screwing stuff up a lot lately. First was the well-documented MobileMe issues and now are the 3G coverage problems. Here’s the thing about Apple: they design sexy hardware and sexy user interfaces, but the underlying code and foundation is crap, especially at first. At any other software company, they teach you to design from the ground up (i.e. get the network issues fixed before worrying about MobileMe, and get MobileMe’s e-mail fixed before you worry about more services). At Apple, it’s backwards, and it screws them every time. Why do you Apple fanboys allow it?
  • TV shows I’m looking forward to this fall, in order: How I Met Your Mother, Heroes, 24 (counts, because there’s a prequel in November)… Monday Night FootballSeinfeld reruns (actually those should be higher)… and finally The Office. We’ll see if The Office is able to turn itself around, but I’m not hopeful. And I somehow forgot about House, which I’m a half-season behind on but love everytime I watch.
  • The Browns play the New York Giants in Monday Night Football (preseason edition) tomorrow night. A couple things to watch for:
    • Will Kellen Winslow play?
    • Will Derek Anderson complete two drives?
    • What kind of circus catch will Braylon Edwards make?

School’s starting up pretty soon, so I’ll be back on more of a regular schedule with the ol’ blog. Until then, have a good week and I’ll talk to you when I can!

A trade of epic proportions

On May 15, the Indians had won three in a row, were three games above .500, and had first place all to themselves. Since then, the Tribe’s only won 26 more games and lost 43. The Indians have dealt their ace, lost their marquee catcher and powerful designated hitter to injury, and lost their closer who led the league in saves last year to a release.

Meanwhile, back on May 15, the Boston Red Sox were 24-19, a game behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays. Most analysts figured the Rays would be back in their comfortable, familiar last place in a month or so. Since then, the Red Sox played just a game over .500, lost and regained David “Big Papi” Ortiz, and finally started to look like a mortal team.

The Red Sox are getting old, and there’s no one more exemplary of that fact than Jason Varitek. The team captain, he’s a switch hitting catcher who has been instrumental in both Red Sox World Series victories. Varitek is hitting an anemic .218 (that’s below even David Dellucci!) with only 25 extra-base hits all season. It’s becoming clear to me (and perhaps others as well) that Varitek is in the twilight of his solid career.

What I’m proposing is a trade, between the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians, in a move that could potentially help both teams. Let me just throw it out there first, and then I’ll explain it: in my trade, the Indians would get RHP Jonathan Papelbon, and the Red Sox would get C Victor Martinez.

Let’s look at it for a minute. The Indians need bullpen help, particularly a closer. Right now, except for perhaps Mariano Rivera, there is no better closer in baseball than Papelbon. Papelbon is young (he was a rookie in 2006) and thus does not come with an expensive pricetag. He’s got good stuff, including an explosive fastball and a dominant curveball, and has the “stuff” to be a closer (which basically means he’s lucky).

Victor Martinez, with Varitek, Posada and Rodriguez in decline, the best offensive catcher in the American League. He’s a little bit injury-prone, but he has a career batting average of .299 and slugs .463. He’s a team leader, which the Sox will need when Varitek retires. He’s great at calling a game and is defensively underrated.

Meanwhile, the Indians would have Kelly Shoppach as their starting catcher, who has shown in the last few weeks he can handle it. The Indians have depth in the organization at first base and catcher, so finding a backup would not be difficult. The Red Sox have pitchers like Hideki Okajima who could close, or prospects like Clay Bucholz who could do the job. Of course, they also have a gargantuan payroll that could be used to get the best closer money can buy.

Obviously this deal won’t happen. Both teams consider both players too valuable to deal. But it’s an interesting prospect, no?

Same old, part two of many

I should make this a daily thing.

Barack Obama is at it again, folks. This time, he has reversed his position on offshore drilling, saying he is “willing to compromise” as long as there are higher taxes on oil companies.

First of all, why do you think he changed his mind? Is it because he’s suddenly had a change of heart, and suddenly he noticed offshore drilling would be a good idea? If you ask me, I think he saw a recent poll which stated that 69% of Americans support offshore drilling as opposed to 30% opposed. Let’s say you’re Barack Obama: what would you pick? Perhaps you, like most Americans, know that offshore drilling isn’t a solution to the problem, but like most Americans, are sick and tired of paying high gas prices. Or perhaps Barack Obama, being the inexperienced politician that he is, is desperate for approval.

Barack has already tried to spin this as “Change? What change? I never change! I hate change!” (That article is where I pulled that poll from, too.) It’s one thing when you change your mind, it’s another term when you attempt to say you didn’t; the term I’m thinking of is “Orwellian“.

Let’s say now that we all agree with His Holiness, and that offshore drilling is a good idea as long as we tax the oil companies. Does anyone else believe the oil companies will cooperate with this strategy? Here’s a little economics lesson, from someone who has never taken an ecomomics class: when the price of oil goes up as a result of taxes, those friendly oil companies will pass those higher costs along to you! Obama doesn’t seem to get this. In fact, he must think those oil companies are pretty nice guys, overall, based on his plan to have the oil companies stimulate the economy they’re screeching to a halt.

By the way, you may have noticed I’m pulling these articles from CNN.com bloggers with the rare article from the main CNN.com. The bloggers, I’d say, are generally fairly liberal, and the article writers are definitely liberal. But even their liberal bias can’t mask this guy’s confusion over who he is, what he wants, and how he intends to do it.