Monday, October 30, 2006

Major League Baseball--Catch the History?

League ParkA quick one today. I was watching this year's world series, asking myself, "What in the hell happened to the game I loved." Don't get me wrong here. I'm not trying to say anything bad about the Tigers and the Cardinals. I AM trying to say that this world series (and I didn't capitalize it on purpose) lacked anything worth talking about.

It got me thinking a bit about the game that I love so much. Perhaps the problem is just that it's time for baseball to fall into a bit of obscurity. Perhaps the problem is that the players don't give a flying leap about the game. Perhaps the problem is that the owners refuse to come up with a collective bargaining agreement that will ever give the teams like my Indians an even shake in acquiring parts, or better yet, keeping home grown parts to make a serious run.

I'm not really sure, but I'm going to do my part.

The MuniAs a kid, I spent a good part of my free time reading everything I could about the game. I think that's a part of the game that's forgotten. How many of us poured through box scores (a forgotten art) daily to find the miniscule stats. How many of us read about the 1919 Black Sox, and Murderer's Row, and the Gashouse Gang. So I'm going to bring it all back, year by year.

The POJO Dojo is going to look at the history of the game, with a Cleveland slant whenever possible. It will take me a bit of time, and I'll fit it all in between my regular rants.

So baseball fans rejoice, groan, or whatever it is you want to do. But if you want a history of the game that was dubbed "America's Pasttime" nearly 200 years ago, this is the place to come and check it out.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Tribe Offseason: Post #1

VMart is to GoodAnd so it begins.

Will the Tribe find a second baseman?

Will the Tribe find a power hitting outfielder?

Will the Tribe find a closer?

Will the Tribe find a starter to fill innings?


Will the Tribe give their farmhands a chance?


Will the Tribe trade VMart for a start at any of the above, or more than one?


Will Dolan actually open up the checkbook to answer even 1 of the issues?

...and keep Shapiro as well...

There's a sense of urgency this offseason for Cleveland, that if they don't do something now, this team, full of potential, will end up in the crapper. I am left thinking that we need to do something big this offseason, but not something drastic that could change this team. But of course, the buzz has been to deal VMart because of his defense. Truthfully, it leaves me shaking my head.

The great Terry Pluto said it best today, and I happen to agree with him 100%. You won't be able to replace the offense, and if you take away his starts behind the plate, both his offense will improve, as will his defense, just in stress alone. In my humble opinion, Kelly Shoppach is a fantastic option, and using him more will only improve the club, and at the very least, give them a very, very valuable option come the trade deadline. If you deal anyone, it's Shoppach, after showing the league how good he can be.

As for answering the other questions, I'll dive into those through several more off season posts, one at a time, and if everything works out, we'll have the answers soon. Until then, there are a boatload of options of some blogs to help you get through the hard times. The DiaTribe, perhaps my favorite Tribe blog focuses on Pluto a bit, but gives us the nugget that Chris Antonetti, the Tribe assistant GM and highly sought after by numerous other clubs, is building a house here in Cleveland. Good news for sure for the Tribe. It does make you wonder if Shapiro's days are numbered however.

Let's Go Tribe is focusing on where closers come from, in a not so hidden way of saying, it's not so damn easy to just sign a closer. Where will the next Cleveland closer come from? Good question, but it may not be prudent to throw 2 or 3 million to someone with a history, if they are on the downside of that history. Great freakin' read.

Tribe 24/7 takes a look at the true plethora of Tribe prospects there are. Scroll down, because there are a few. They may not be studs in the making, but they should, at the very least, fill in the bench at the very least, for years to come.

Finally, at the Indians Most Valuable Network, they take a close look at Trevor Crowe, and how he could be the prototypical lead off hitter that the Tribe may be looking for to take over for Sizemore, so they could move him down the order.

And finally, take a look at Mistake by the Lake Sports. They have a must see with the Indians Awards. One of the original ones. They do a real nice job of stats as well. It's a must have for all Indians fans.

All great stuff.

One final note before I move onto some other posts. I would be remissed if I didn't mention that Major League Baseball has delivered on a labor deal without the worry of a strike. The interesting piece here is that Larry Dolan apparently was one of the major reasons why. As most of you know, Dolan was formerly a labor lawyer with MLB. He apparently was at every meeting, and was the calming influence that kept the meeting moving forward. Probably the big quote coming from Dolan through all of this was
"We are right in the middle," said Dolan. "If you project it out for the next five years, we'd still be getting $8 million. But damn it, we're going to change that. We want to improve to where we are a payer, not a payee."
Let's hope he speaks the truth. And you know what Larry, I'll pat you on the back for this one. But trust me when I say, if you don't step up and make that statement true for once, that pat on the back will be a kick in the ass.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Tribe Notes

Yeah, it's a day of football, but why not take a look at some rumors floating around the internet. Let's not forget, the winter meetings aren't that far away, and Cleveland SHOULD be a player this year.

Giles to Cleveland? No, not that Giles, the other one-- The Braves are trying to deal Giles and his 3.25 million dollar deal. My deal with this though is that as good as Giles is, and his play didn't show how good he is last year in my humble opinion, he is an injury issue. I'm not a big Paul Byrd fan, but you would think you could get someone a little more reliable than Marcus Giles. You could certainly do a lot worse though.

Japan to make a visit to Cleveland?--It appears as though the Indians will be bidding on 2 players. The first is a right handed starter named Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka was, of course, the MVP of this year's first baseball classic. He's a power pitcher, but has a bunch of movement, and can nip the corners. Check out this link for a nice little updated stat and article page. He is generally considered the most coveted free agent pitcher. The other is a 3rd basman named Akinori Iwamura. The curiousity about Iwamura is that he can play 2nd base as well. Iwamura is a solid infielder, who has a ton of Japanese power. How that translates to US pitching is beyond me. Still, he could answer a bunch of questions, but he won't come cheap. Private bidding will decide their fate, much like Danys Baez.

Carl Crawford coming to the Tribe?--This has many of us salivating. The only problem here is that it's not going to happen. The ONLY way Tampa deals Crawford is if they get a starter (Cliff Lee), and a position player stud-in-the-making (Kouzmanoff) and perhaps Michaels. Um, if Cleveland makes this deal, then we know that the Tribe hasn't learned from past mistakes. If you can get Crawford, get him, but never for someone like Lee, and inexpensive 2 or 3 starter, who will only get better.

Lidge to the Tribe?--It's not going to happen, nor do I want it to happen. Cleveland has a lot of prospects that a bunch of people want in deals...but I just don't see Lidge as the guy you want to close games...his head is gone.

More notes as they come it. Hopefully something good will happen in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

MLB Playoffs: The POJO Take

Oh, everyone's going to get all technical, and break it down by position, offense, defense, ownership, manager...blah...blah...blah. So often, these playoffs are created by a ball bouncing one way or the other, or someone hot, or a manager that's just off the charts. So I'm going with gut. Analyzing is pointless, because these 4 teams really aren't that far apart:

The ALCS: Detroit vs. Oakland

I see two teams with similar Starters. I see Detroit with slightly better offense, but not off the chart better. Detroit is hotter than a firecracker after rolling over the Yankees. Of course, Oakland made equally short work of Minnesota, and beat Johan Santana to boot. So, what's the bottom line here? Two people. The first being Ivan Rodriguez. He not only wasn't finished after Texas, but has undoubtebly solidified his hall of fame credentials. He has masterfully handled the Tiger pitching staff, and has this team playing very well. He's no doubt the leader on this team. Then you have Jim Leyland. JIM LEYLAND IS THE BEST MANAGER IN BASEBALL. Hopefully this job will LOCK THAT IN PLACE. So many people think this guy is good because of Barry Bonds and the Marlin spending spree. It's not. He's just damn good.

I like Oakland a lot, and could talk for days about their staff, and moxie, but I really see Detroit rolling through this series rather quickly...perhaps 5 games, no later than 6.


St. Louis vs. New York

I hate this series. I am absolutely sick of St. Louis. I'm sick of hearing how great Albert Pujols is, and how great Tony LaRussa is. WHO CARES. They aren't good enough. Yeah, Pujols is the best player in the series, and Carpenter is probably the best pitcher...but the Mets are going to win this. Why? I really have no idea. I'm going with the overall sticks in New York. I figure the Cardinals' pitching staff will continue to stink, and the Mets' staff already stinks...but they've been fighting through it all year. The Mets are scrappy, and do have offensive firepower. Pujols COULD win this damn thing by himself with a big swat, but I don't think so. I suspect St. Louis will find Pujols getting walked an awful lot. New York wins this in 7. Yeah, not very statistical, but I don't give a flying rat's ass.


You know, I wished this commentary ended here, but it doesn't. St. Louis is freakin' St. Louis. It's baseball town, everyone LLLOOOOOVVVVEEEESSSSS freakin' St. Louis. I've been there, and I get it. I say who cares. They might as well be the freakin' Yankees Midwest. The hell with the Cardinals. The Mets are the Mets. They have the money to be the Yankees little brothers, even hiring Randolph as their manager...a good move. But you look at Oakland and at Detroit, and my blood really gets boiling. Detroit has been the freakin' bottom feeder...losing, I think, 1,000 games a couple of years ago. They resembled our current Tribe very much. Great young starting pitching, a mix of Vets and young position players. Building for the future. They have a bit more money, yes, but there's no way that team should bounce ahead of Cleveland. They spend money for a guy like Pudge, which was brilliant, and take a chance on Kenny Rogers, and he carries that damn team and staff to the freakin' precipice of the World Series. Way to go Dolan, you piece it. Then you have Oakland. They are frugal. They let go of people and grab guys to recycle every year. And every year, there they are at the end. No rebuilding, just reloading, and in a baseball way, not the Evil Empire way. The Tribe? Who knows IF WE'LL EVER get into the freakin' playoffs again...with Dolan running this team. And to Eric Wedge. You suck.

Thank you for your to you soon...

Saturday, October 7, 2006

The Demise of the Yankees


Oh, I can't wait to hear it!

"So what, we have won 26 championships, how many have you won?"

or how about this one...

"At least we MADE the playoffs!"

That's right, here it comes folks. What's becoming an annual event, is about to start again. The Yankee fans, who handly losing as well as they handle winning (poorly), are lining up their quotes as we speak.

"It's the best franchise in the world, so what if we lost this year."

"Steinbrenner will clean house, and raise the payroll to 300 millions."

"That's okay, we'll just trade for your players."

"Yeah, well, what did your team do."

It's one of the best times of the year. You don't even CARE what the Yankee fan says, because you know it's coming. The same fans that all year talk about 'what have you done for me lately' (See ARod, or any of the players that haven't actually won a title with the well as the ones that have...but of course, not in six years) all the sudden start talking about what they did all those years ago.

"It's a conspiracy! Bud Selig doesn't WANT the Yankees to win it, so he rigged the games!"

"Freakin' Umpires!"

For the past month, ESPN had virtually assured the world that all was well in Yankee land. ARod was hitting again, and looked less like Chuck Knoblach in the infield, and more like, well, ARod. The Big Unit's back ailments were finally healing. The staff was maybe not the best, but certainly was the deepest. With Sheffield and Matsui back, their offense would average 10 a game. And hell...THEY ARE THE YANKEES!

"We are still the best team, we just weren't healthy, so screw you."

"Shut your damn pie hole. I SAID SHUT YOUR DAMN PIE HOLE!"

Well, ARod batted .070, the Big Unit's back acted up again, the Yankees age and fringe pitchers pitced like old, fringe players, and the YANKEES WERE SHUTOUT BY KENNY 'THE GAMBLER' ROGERS and no-hit for five innings today by Jeremy Bonderman. Yes, folks, once again, this Yankee team was overrated, and once again, their 250 odd million in payroll got them to the exact same place as our Cleveland Indians...making tee times long before the world series is set.

"No...they lost? NO...THEY LOST? NOOOOOOOO!!!!!"

So goodbye Yankees, and good freakin' riddance.

Friday, October 6, 2006

Where Have You Gone Dick Jacobs?

Do you remember the days from year's past? You remember those days, when we'd run and grab the newspaper looking for the deal to get us to the World Series. It started with some name guys who were older, El Presidente, Eddie Murray and Orel Hershiser. We grooved into some Tony Pena and Dave Winfield. They were past their prime, but brought the Cleveland Indians veteran leadership and clubhouse respect. We dealt for Julio again, brought in Jeff Kent and Jack McDowell. We signed Matt Williams to a big deal. We traded for Marquis Grissom and David Justice and snagged Tony Fernandez. We brought back Kenny Lofton and dealt for Travis Fryman. We even had Dwight Gooden for a bit. We took a gamble on Juan Gonzalez when he was still good.

No, those guys didn't always pay off, but they brought respect, and a winning attitude to a team that was knocking on the door of a World Series. You combine that with the homegrown talent, and you get yourself a run of division titles.


Now, we're left with the empty promises of the freakin' Dolans. What was it, two years ago when we were promised with big free agent signings that would carry us over the top? Tic-Toc-Tic-Toc.

What we're left with now are a bunch of young guys that are surely talented, but can't seem to find the clubhouse presence to win the big games...which left us out of the playoffs last year...and a lost cause this year.

Who have we spent our money on? Well, we haven't spent our money on key componants that made the Tribe contenders last year, and brought in, well, PAUL Byrd?????

You are getting my point. Dolan is an idiot, and as long as he's throwing around empty promises, this club, the Cleveland Indians, won't win, and certainly won't draw. We have a hell of a talent base, in the pitching staff, as well as our starting lineup. WE have guys that will have other teams hammering on the door of free agency in a few years. We have a group that with some added talent, would have made a push and been in the playoffs this year. There would have been more fans at the Jake.

Of course, that's to much to ask for.

So, Dolan has said this year he's not going to sit pat. He's going to make the moves we need to make to put us over the top. What's that mean in "Dolan Speak?"


Thursday, October 5, 2006

The End of Another Season

Another Indian Season is over again, and I found myself...

...sitting on my deck pondering my baseball history...thinking back on all the years I've been an Indians fan. I remember one of my first baseball memories, listening to a game on the radio, and Boog Powell launching a home run. Good ole' Boog...and it's funny...not many people even KNOW he spent 2 years in Cleveland.

I remember an autograph signing a year later, with my 2 favorite Indians, at the local Fisher Big Wheel. My Dad worked that day, and my Mom didn't want to go, so I did what any five year old kid would do...I rode my Big Wheel down the main drag with my Indians gear on, and got Charlie Spikes and Buddy Bell's signature on it all. It was also the first day I was pulled over by the police. Yeah, I actually had a cop pull me over on Electric Boulevard. Apparently, my Mom was getting worried.

I remember my first game...against the dreaded Yankees. I don't remember much about the game...but I sure do remember that old cliched story...where you walk through the concourse...and out into the stands for the first time. And if you've never had the opportunity to walk through Municipal was big...HUGE...and especially to a 5 year old kid. I remember Catfish Hunter, my Dad's favorite player (along with Thurman Munson--who signed a ball for "me" that day that my Dad still has) started the game for the Yanks. I remember watching Mickey Rivers in the outfield shagging flies...and telling my Dad he walked funny (he did...kind of like a duck). And I remember the game going WAY into extra innings. The Tribe gave up a bunch of runs in the ninth...and the game went 15 or 16, with the Yankees dropping 5 or 6 in the last extra frame to blow out the Indians. I also remember there couldn't have been more that 5,000 people there. We bought 1.00 bleacher seats...and said in the front row on the third base side.

That same year...we went to all the Yankee games during the fourth of July weekend. Yeah, Cleveland lost all three games we saw. I remember bits of the game. Catfish Hunter won a game, and I remember Lou Pinella hit a dinger. I know that funny walkin' Mickey Rivers hit a home run at some point, because I remember making fun of the way he ran around the bases. I remember George Hendrick hitting a few dingers, and I even want to say he hit three in three games. I remember the Saturday and Sunday game had more people in on place than I had ever seen. The place seated 60-some thousand for baseball (it varied...and I one could seat over 75,000...and the seats were full. What a site. It was sad in many ways though, as most people were there rooting for the Yankees. I truly think I was in the minority as an Indians fan. What I remember most though is watching Duane Kuiper and Buddy Bell guard the third base side, and thinking they were probably the two greatest players to ever lace up the spikes.

I remember Thunder year..I remember him having nearly 30 home runs, and that put him up with Aaron to me. I remember Eck and Manning...although I was to young to follow who was cheating on who. I remember a deal for a guy named Charboneau...with the Phillies...because of the name, and because it was in the same article as the "Bell traded to the Rangers for Harrah article" that damn near made me hate baseball. I also distinctly recall that article ripping on Charboneau. I remember Bobby Bonds and the Veryzer/Kuiper tandem at short and 2nd. I remember booing Toby Harrah...and it would last for years, like it was his fault.

I remember convincing myself Charboneau was EVEN BETTER than Buddy Bell...and he did everything he could do to make me a firm believer...having a rookie year to remember. I remember Ron Hassey hitting .300, and Barker nearly winning 20 games, BEFORE the perfect game. I remember wondering if Ron Pruitt was perhaps related to Mike and Greg (who HAD TO BE brothers...JUST HAD TO BE). I remember Len Barker DURING the Perfect game, the All-Star game in Cleveland, Bo Diaz and Von Hayes, who was going to be OUR Lou Gehrig (okay, maybe not).

I remember thinking in my soul of all souls, that Chris Bando was going to be a bigger superstar than his dad Sal, and I remember JoeyC shredding his knee. I remember Miguel Dilone stealing a ton of bases, and Bert Blyleven being a guy "stuck" with the Indians. I remember Rick Sutcliffe and John Denny, and for whatever reason, not liking Denny all that much, but thinking Sutcliffe would win the Cy Young down the way. I remember getting some dude named Whitson for Duane Kuiper, and again...believing that I would stop watching the game forever. I remember Bo Diaz getting dealt...and the Indians getting a bunch of crap players, while in the same deal, the Phillies got Diaz and the Cardinals got Lonnie Smith, who both helped their teams to World Series victories. I remember Veryzer getting dealt the same year as Kuiper, and convinced myself that the Indians management had chosen me for their scorn. Little did I was ALL of us.

I remember getting Bake McBride, who had won a series with the Phillies, and thinking that he would surely be the answer. I remember thinking, "boy do we have a bunch of Phillies on our team" after they dealt Von Hayes for half their team and still thinking they got jobbed. I loved Manny Trillo though, and they also got George Vukovich and Julio Franco in the same deal. I think it was 1983, or 82. Julio's still playing, which makes me want to run out on my deck and yell JJJUUUUULLLLIIIIIIOOOOOOO!!!!!...which I did about 1,000 times once my Dad hooked us up with season tickets.

I remember trading Rick Manning in a deal that got us Gorman Thomas and some guy named Camacho...and later dealing Len Barker for Brett Butler and Brook Jacoby. I remember loving that team, even though they were as bad as the rest. I remember a deal somewhere close to those to I think Seattle, that brought us a guy named Bernazard, and some other guys named Carter and Hall, when they dealt Rick Sutcliffe to the Cubs...where he led the Cubs to the playoffs after going something like 16-1. I want to say he won the Cy Young that year.

I remember thinking that the Butler, Franco, Carter, Thornton, Jacoby, Tabler, Hall, Bernazard and Allanson was the greatest potential line-up in baseball. I even get a bit excited about it right now. I remember that line-up winning 85 games, and thinking one more year. I remember Pat Tabler destroying pitchers with the bases loaded, and remember Joe Carter being a dinger and a SB short of 30-30...that's right...29-29 one year. I remember that team being really fast...and really good. I remember Phil Neikro and winning 11 games on that 85 win team, that was anchored by the "Candi-man." I remember a 21 year old phenom named Greg Swindell, who was every bit as good as that Clemens kid...because they went to the same school.

I remember the Indians signing an old Steve Carlton, but thinking, hmmm, Neikro and Carlton on the same team the year after 85 wins can only be a good thing. I remember Sports illustrated putting them on the cover as the winners of the World Series. I remember one of the most disappointing seasons I've ever witnessed, aside from Joe Carter's 30-30 run that year, but of course, also the discussion that Carter was being wasted on this team.

What do I remember the most? Being an Indians fan...and knowing we'd get that damned World Series Trophy some day...

some day...