Monday, October 15, 2012

The Yankees and Bad Umpire Calls

Two words:  Jeffrey Mayer

In Game 2 of the ALCS, the umpire blew a call against the Yankees that led to a Tigers 2-Run eight inning.  The Tigers were already leading and the Yankees never did score, so the runs were not really important.  Girardi made the weak case that the insurance runs changed the tone of the game, taking pressure off the Tiger relievers.  Still, Detroit handled the pressure fine in the first seven innings of the game.

The Yankees are imploding, and all non-New York fans are likely pretty happy.  As a Cleveland fan, I certainly have no love for Bronx Bombers.  We lost a whole lot of games to their high priced line-ups.

I still like CC Sabathia, by the way.  He was traded away (for very little) and he likely would left through free agency, anyway.

No doubt Yankee fans will spend half the time bemoaning this call, along with skewering the overpriced Alex Rodriguez.  They quickly forget the calls that go the Yankees way, including the one referenced above from 1996 when a fan interfered in the game and no call was made.  Just last week against Baltimore there was another questionable call on a home run that went to the Yankees.

So, no tears here for the Yankees.  A blown call, yes.  But it made no difference in the game.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Terry Francona Named Indians Manager

I guess he will be an OK hire. He shouldn't have to deal with all the prima donnas he had in Boston. Just a bunch of extras and chorus girls.

My issue is, what is the big hurry? They interview two guys over two days and make their decision? When a business hires a upper level leadership position, it takes months, and they interview at least a half dozen candidates.  

As far as whether a manager can make a big difference, I would come on the yes side of that.  Not so much in game decisions.  Maybe a genius can gain a game or two based on replacing the pitcher at the exact right time.  Chances are the new pitcher that comes in will do no better or worse than the guy he replaced. 

The difference is in talent evaluation.  A good manager can see quickly that a player doesn't have it.  In working with the GM and front office, they can get the better players.  The GM can work to bring them in, but the manager makes the decisions on playing them or getting them out.  The best example here was the Hargrove-Hart tandem.  They didn't like each other, but worked well together. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Why Does Baseball have an Infield Fly Rule?

In baseball, if there are men on first and second and less than two out, an umpire can rule that a pop fly to the infield is subject to the infield fly rule.  In this case, the batter is automatically out.   The fielder does not have to catch the ball.  It is played as if the ball was caught.  In that case, the runners can advance after tagging up.

The reason for this is that a fielder doesn't attempt to get a cheap double play.  If there were no such rule, a fielder could intentionally drop a an easy fly and double up the runners at third and second, who would be at risk for being doubled off if they strayed any distance from the base.  It is to protect the integrity of the game by letting a fielder gain an advantage by intentionally dropping the ball.

In the Cardinals - Braves Playoff game on October 5, 2012, the extra right field umpire called the infield fly rule for that purpose.  However, it really wasn't a good call, as this wasn't an easy catch, and the fielder was so deep that he could not have easily doubled up any runner.  The call was made late, but before the catch was made.  So there was no way they could have overturned it.  It is possible that the shortstop heard the umpire call the runner out, and thought it was the outfielder calling him off.

That game is being played under protest, but it is unlikely to be upheld.

Friday, September 28, 2012

No More Manny Acta to Kick Around

Manny Acta was fired yesterday.  It's almost always too bad when a manager gets fired, but usually it's not his fault, it's a matter or not enough talent to fulfill the expectations fans have for the team.  For the Indians, expectations wouldn't have been very high except for the great starts that the team had in the last few years.

The total collapse in those years, particularly this year, have to blamed on someone, and it seems to fallen onto Acta.  It is a bit surprising that Mark Shapiro continues to be coated in Teflon.  No criticism is allowed for him.  Even I have a hard time blaming him, because he clearly is strapped for cash to invest in players.

It is a vicious cycle.  As the team gets worse, fewer fans come out, and that means less money to spend on good players, so that team gets even worse.  All that allowed, the choices that the team made this year, like resigning Grady Sizemore, and picking up Derek Lowe did nothing to help the team.  If they are going to commit to the future, what is Jack Hannahan doing here?  Chisenhall should have been playing for the whole year.

As for Chris Perez, you do have to admire how Eric Wedge would have handled that.  Perez would have shut up or been pitching elsewhere by midseason.

So, wishing all luck to Sandy Alomar, but if we don't either get some cash or superior ability to judge talent, the team is going to continue to be stuck at the bottom of a weak division.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Indians beat Angels 9-5

A strong offensive performance on a warm and rainy night in Cleveland carried the Tribe to a comeback win. on July 3 against the Angels.

Despite the nine runs, the story was the pitching. Zach McAlister had four shutout innings, blew up in the fifth (with the help of shoddy defense) and recovered.

The focus really should be on the continuing strong performance of the bullpen. Vinnie Pestano continues his great, unheralded setup work.  When they get them, the Tribe can hold a lead.

A decent attendance number of 29,000.  Not good for a July night, but there wasn't going to be a walk-up crowd with the questionable weather.  Not in Cleveland.

By the way, does everyone have the trouble that I do getting the Indians website to load.  It takes forever.  Yuck.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Indians lose to Angels 3-0

Another rough night for the Tribe offense as they amass five hits against Jerod Weaver and the Angels on July 2.  The warm weather hasn't perked up the Tribe bats.

A quick look at the batting averages in the lineup reveals the problem.  The first four hitters have respectable, if not great averages, but the last five are low.  The 5 through 8 spots are flirting with .200 (the Mendoza line, for those that have been around a while) and Jack Hannahan is in at .250 in the nine spot.

The team is without a true leadoff hitter, and has been for many years.  Grady Sizemore had some fine years, but his power was mostly wasted at the top of the order. 

The team wasted a fine pitching performance by Ubaldo Jimenez.  It really can't afford to do that, as he has been very inconsistent.

Where are the Ex-Indians?

The Indians went through a dry period from 2002 to 2011.  They did contend in 2007, as it turns out, a one year wonder. 

Looking at the All-Star ballot for this year, I got an inkling why.  My usual habit is to grab a ballot, choose all the Indians in the American League and flip to the National League and pick ex-Indians for the Senior Circuit. 

According to tradition, I held my nose (in some cases) and picked our current Tribe players.  When I turned to the NL, I had trouble finding any ex-Indians to choose.  Eventually I found Brandon Phillips and Ryan Ludwig.  If there are others, I missed them. 

I took a quick look at the American League:  Two or three ex-Indians there.  The All-Star ballot includes one player from each time, the projected starter from when the ballots are chosen early in the season. 

Therefore, there are only a few Indians from the last few years still starting with any other team in the Majors.  Only a few of the players are still with the Tribe, so most of players who were on hitters on the squad over the last decade are either:

  • not starting with a team
  • in the minor leagues
  • out of baseball

which explains to me why the team has been well out of contention for most of the period.  Where are guys like Ryan Garko, David Dellucci and Andy Marte?  Did I just miss Ben Francisco?

In Major League Baseball, you can’t win without talent.  And the lack of it is evident in the few ex-Indians players that are still around after just a few years.  

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tribe Attendance - The Manager Doesn't Make the Difference

It seems like a fair time to compare the last two Cleveland Indians managers:  Eric Wedge and Manny Acta.  The team's performance has been polar opposites, except they end up in the same place.

With Wedge, the team started slowly every year.  It was a constant complaint, and was used often as a reason the team's attendance was down.  The team was pretty much out of contention every year by May because of the slow starts. 

Even in 2007. the team started slow and then really put it together, compiling the best record in baseball over the last two months of the year to take the division, only to fall one game short of the World Series.

Acta's teams have been the exact opposite, starting fast, and fading quickly when the weather got warm.  We will see if they can recover this year, but the same things that led to last year's collapse are still evident.  And attendance is the lowest in the majors.

The roster is paper thin.  They have only one star player, Asdrubal Cabrera, and he plays at a position, shortstop, that isn't going to carry a team.  The other talented players, Choo and Santana, are still young and subject to long slumps.  The rest of the team is young and barely talented enough to be in the majors.

They aren't any budding Thomes or Mannys in this group.  The pitching has shown promise, but lacks much depth.  Any injuries at all on this team means that role players like Jason Donald are going to get significant playing time. 

So, Wedge vs. Acta?  Though they are different, the results are pretty much the same.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Baseball Gift Ideas and Great Presents for the Major League Fan

Fans of Major League Baseball teams are proud to wear clothing and other items from their favorites. has all the standard jerseys and jackets along with more unusual gift ideas for Christmas presents.

Baseball Jerseys and Team Clothing

Official team websites, specialty sports stores and even general merchandise retailers carry specific team clothing during the holiday shopping periods. Fans can find jerseys, sweatshirts and caps for their local teams year round. Merchandise featuring nationally popular teams like the New York Yankees is available just about everywhere.

Advice on buying clothing items for baseball fans:
  • Buy a bigger size than you might normally. T-shirts and sweatshirts tend to be made of cotton and shrink when washed.
  • Stick to general team merchandise, rather than a specific player. Players tend to change teams quickly these days. It is possible that a player may change teams between the time the present is bought and given.

Baseball Tickets as Christmas Gifts

Baseball, more than most sports, is best enjoyed at the ballpark. Days are warm, the action is leisurely, food and opportunities to buy it are plentiful, and a fan gets a much larger perspective in person than just watching the pitcher and catcher on television.

Tickets to a major league game are a great gift idea for fans. Prices of tickets can be fairly expensive, but great seats can provide a winter’s worth of anticipation. Buying seats in a club section like those in Citi Field in New York or other major league parks can help ensure that the game will be enjoyable even if the weather is less than great.

Be sure that the game doesn’t conflict with family vacations or big events like reunions. A safer choice is buying a voucher for tickets and allowing the fan to select their own game.

Minor league baseball tickets are also a good choice. Less expensive than the majors, minor league games are still a lot of fun. Plus, it is a chance to see young players before they become famous. Fans love to be able to say about a major leaguer, “I saw him down at Double AA, and I knew he was going to be good.”

Other Baseball Holiday Gift Choices

Along with clothes, anything that enables a fan to show off his loyalty for his favorite team can be a good choice:
  • Duffel bags and totes with the team insignia
  • Watches and jewelry, especially for women fans
  • Travel mugs and glassware, particularly beer mugs.
  • Portable chairs, seat cushions and even household items such as shower curtains.
If a loved one is a collector, there are baseball cards and patches to commemorate teams and players. These are not usually a good choice for adult casual fans. Something useful is more likely to be enjoyed.

Those buying gifts for fans may want to avoid expensive items not likely to be used often, such as team neckties or dress watches. A businessman may love his team, but will still want to maintain a professional image at work.

Fans who love baseball will enjoy getting a useful gift as a Christmas present. A little bit of planning can make the experience even more enjoyable on the holiday.