Month: February 2014

Indian Fever: Is It back?

asdfhFINALLY.  Spring training is in full swing, and the team took their first full-squad practice the other day.  As I am sitting here looking out my window at the snow, all I can think is that maybe there is something finally brewing over there in Goodyear, Arizona.  Something that we have been waiting for for a very very long time.  Honestly, it sure feels that way, and it is something that I don’t really every remember having before.  I understand that this might sound like we are all fair weather fans after our success of last season, but when you look at it, all of they hype that the tribe is stirring up is justified.

For the past couple seasons when spring training came around, it was always more of a “let’s see who we can bring up to maybe give us a better chance” type of deal.  There really was no guarantee that we were going to make any progress at all, and it was almost more of a therapy session.  I would watch the games thinking “well…maybe, but the conditions have to be right.”  We all had hope that maybe they could be something, but it was always shadowed by the misfortunes of our past.  However, it’s a little different this time around, and I am not just saying that because I am a super fan or because we actually did well last season, I just think we finally have met those conditions.

Terry Francona

Wikipedia

First off, even though we lost in the wild card game last season…we STILL made it to the playoffs.  Also, while some teams would come home disappointed and it would rock them into the next season, for us Cleveland fans, it gave us HOPE and opened up the skies to make us realize that we really do have something going here.  For seasons we have always been the team that kind of drags their feet, and worries about what will happen by the end of the season, but now that we got a little taste of the glory, we know what we can do.  Momentum is key in all sports, and just that little preview of what we are capable of gave us that momentum, and is still going strong into spring training.

Next, we have (finally) one of the best coaches in the league.  Honestly, I wasn’t too impressed when we got  him, but boy did I eat my words.  Yes yes yes I know that some super fans still have a bitter taste in their mouth for what he did with the Red Sox against us, but who cares, he is with US now, and that’s all that matters.  Plus the fact that he essentially turned this team around in a single season!  That is something that few can do.  He has a drive and a level of expectation that is hard to meet, but because of this, our players try their hardest and know that the minute they mess up, they are on the bench.  Not to mention the rest of the front office.  For  a while I was skeptical of them for their decisions, but I trusted them.  Thank God I did.

-af2df12ad21143c0Finally, and most importantly, the team itself.  Over the years I have been following the Tribe, I have never seen a team this cohesive and supporting of each other and the fans.  They look like, and act like, a team of backyard baseball players.  While this might sound like a bad thing, it really isn’t.  It shows how confident they really are with each other and with the team.  They truly enjoy stepping on the field every game and work together perfectly as a unit.  Also, they are GOOD.  They can actually play ball, and might be one of the best up and coming teams in the league.

I see lots of good things coming up for these guys, and I truly think these next few years will be the best Indians baseball we have seen in quite a long time.

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Indians Baseball: The Best Sport to Watch in Person

img_0410.jpg

Paul Laux Photography

Maybe I am biased, or maybe I am just right, but let’s be honest, there is nothing better than sitting back on a nice cool night watching  a baseball game under the lights.  This is especially true right here in Cleveland.  Just imagine it, you’re sitting in the lower level of Progressive Field as Giambi smashes one to homerun alley after it goes into extra innings.  Get the feels?  I sure did.

For a while I always thought the following was personal opinion, but after a while, I soon realized that a lot of people began to feel the same way as me.  That is, there really is no bad seat in the stadium.  I can have an excellent time, and view, from the lower level, to lower reserved, to upper level, to even the bleachers.  Every seat and section gives a unique experience to the game, and since the game is played over the entire field every moment, no matter where you sit, you’re guaranteed to see something cool.  Also, baseball is the only sport where the “cheap” seats get you more of a chance to be in on the action of the game itself by catching a foul ball.

I’ll admit, while this is a Cleveland Indians blog, this does apply to pretty much every field not just in the MLB, but pretty much ever.  I have been to Safeco field in Seattle, Chase field in Phoenix, and several others including Chicago and New York, and they all offer the same thing.  There is just something about a baseball stadium that just makes  you feel like you’re part of the action no matter where you sit.  Every different section has something new you can see, and something new to experience.

26CTRIBEC

Cleveland.com

However, as hard as they may try, I still feel that Progressive Field is still the best stadium to see a baseball game.  As I said before, I have been to a couple other baseball stadiums, so I have the right to say that I feel this is the best.  Sure, we don’t have the field on a river like down in Cincinnati, and we don’t have a history like over at Wrigley, or a roof like they do in sunny Phoenix,  but what we do have is something that only Cleveland can offer, and that is Cleveland itself.

Unlike most cities and ballparks I have been to, Progressive field does something that is quite unique, and that is actually let you IN the city and be a part of downtown Cleveland itself.  As weird as it sounds, ball parks are not usually downtown in its home city, but rather in a suburb…no Cleveland.  The ballpark is located in one of my favorite parts of town, and the view is awesome.  From the field you can see Key Tower, Rhodes Tower, and all the other buildings that make Cleveland what it is.  Sure, they aren’t the fanciest buildings in the world, but they are what make us Clevelanders, they are what make us, well…us.  Plus the fact that, after the game, you can head right to the beach and hang out at beautiful Lake Erie.

Discover Cleveland

Discover Cleveland

Some people will laugh at this and think I am crazy for making Cleveland sound so amazing with this description of the ballpark, but you know what?  It is that amazing.  Out of all the ballparks I have been to, there has never been a park that isn’t more centrally located in the heart of the downtown area than Progressive.  There hasn’t been one with a better view of the skyline that truly defines what Cleveland is (sorry Seattle, Safeco is cool and all…but it’s facing the wrong way!!  You’re sky is cool though).  Finally, there hasn’t been a stadium that makes you feel like you’re part of the action, no matter where you sit, better than Progressive.

Baseball games are amazing and something that everyone needs to experience, even if you don’t love the game.  And if you’re going to go to a great game on a cool summer evening, why not pick the greatest park in the league right?

The 5 Most Underrated Cleveland Indians

They always say that baseball is one of the most team-oriented sports that exists.  Since players are so specialized, especially with pitching, there is no way that a good team can be good  because of one person alone.  Granted, there is always going to be those couple players that make the team shine like the Ortiz-s or the Sabathia-s, however there are a lot of people that never get any credit at all.  Just think about it, can you name EVERY player that played for the Red Sox when they won the World Series last year?  I mean ALL of them?  The answer is probably no.  So let’s take a moment, and think about that.  Here are, to me, the most underrated Indians players of the modern era.

5.  Aaron Fultz – Pitcher

lkjhI know what you’re thinking and I can already feel the judgement, but let’s be honest, for the one season we had him on the main roster, he really was pretty good!  First off, he was with us that classic year of 2007, which should instantly put some noteritey on this guy.  He was usually pretty quiet however.  He ended the season with a 4-3 record, however he ended with an ERA of 2.92…yes 2.92!  A lot of people gave him flack saying his arm would never hold up to the test of time, and while he never really had the star studded career he did with the Giants, he surely was worth what what we paid him.  Honestly, I think if we used him a little more that season the results might have been a little different.  While he did give up 31 hits, he was pretty reliable for what he was worth.

Sadly, the 2007 season with the Indians was his last.  After this season he tried to look elsewhere for a home, but never quite found one.  He hasn’t been heard from since, and is probably just at home polishing that chiseled face of his.

4.  David Dellucci – Outfielder

medium_Dellucci-designated for-assignmentHailing from Louisiana, David Dellucci is one of the most underrated outfielders that has probably ever played for the Indians.  Shadowed by the big headed players of the late 2000’s like Grady Sizemore, a lot of people forget just about how amazing of a fielder he actually was, let alone his reliable hitting.

For all three seasons with the Indians, he had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage recording 2,400 outs his first two seasons!  He was an animal and, quite literally, never let anything by him.  The only fault that was accredited him was the fact that he was only 5’10”,  a stature that is very rare with outfielders.  However, even though this never affected his game, he was forever shadowed by the other “greats” of the 2007-09 seasons, even with his batting average of almost .275 for three straight years.  He wasn’t the guy you’d call up for the grand slam, but he sure got on base if you wanted him to.  Sadly, the horrible cloud of steroid use started to float above his head as well, and he could never quite recover.

After he was cut halfway through the 2009 season, he headed over to Toronto for the rest of his career, where he began to fall off.  After that season  he was cut, and hasn’t returned to baseball since.

3.  Paul Byrd – Pitcher

indians6Out of everyone on this list, Paul Byrd is the only one that really got any sort of recognition, and while he still might ring in peoples minds, he sadly never got credit for the things he accomplished.

While he had an average ERA riding around 5 or 6 the three seasons he was in Cleveland, in 2007, the year that mattered, he went 15-8, and scored one of the best records for a pitcher that season.  His wind up and throw was oddly equal to his name with that funky thing he would do with his arms, but hey, it worked.  Unfortunately, he also fell under greats that he just would never be able to pass up, and while he was never a hall of fame pitcher for the club, he was a key reason we got as far was we did in 2007.  Something that rarely is ever attached to his name.

Oddly enough, the following season he rubbed salt in Cleveland’s wounds and headed to Boston to finish up his career.  However, he became nothing more then a back up there, and faded away into the dark.

2.  Matt Laporta – Infield/Outfield

laporta“LaPorta-Potty?  Really?”  Okay I get it, he has a HORRIBLE connotation with the Cleveland fans, but if you look past all of the artificial things we hate about him, he actually was a very essential part to the team!  For one thing, he never played for any other team, and was with us his entire career…even though that was only 4 seasons.

One thing that people seem to forget about is the fact that his was essentially impossible to hit past, seriously, this guy was like a vacuum.  In 2010 and 2011 he had 2,400 outs each, and when he played first base…forget it, you were done.  It was like he had the reach of Mr. Fantastic.  However this always seems to get past fans who remember him playing, and they can only seem him as the…odd…guy he really was.  He won games for us though in the long run, which is all that should matter.

He had a moderate swing, and almost led the team in homeruns for two seasons, though that also never helped his case for some reason, and he was always the butt of peoples jokes.  Don’t worry Matt, I think you’re cool.

1.  Lou Marson – Catcher

LouMarsonPointsLast, but not least, the guy we love, the guy we hate, and honestly… the guy no one ever remembers.  He has to claim the number one spot simply for how weird of a player he really was, and while he wasn’t the gold gem we thought he was going to be, he was still pretty good.

However let’s get this out of the way by admitting his batting was HORRIBLE…seriously, he couldn’t hit a beach-ball.  Though when you think about it, there are a lot of  our more well known players that couldn’t hit anything…I’m looking at you Hafner.

Anyways, putting that aside let’s look at his catching skills.  I honestly think even now he might be one of the best catchers in the AL.  For two seasons, he had MORE outs then some infielders!  What is that!  Plus, the pitchers loved him.  His calls were clear and he always knew how to trick a batter and jam him up.  So why did we hate him so much?  Why don’t people remember him?  The truth of it is, he wasn’t a good hitter.  Let’s be honest, if a player doesn’t hit well, or make amazing dive catches, the audience doesn’t really notice.  They never notice  how great a player can be behind the scenes until he is gone…case and point.

Sadly his last season here in CLE was plagued by injuries, and he took a long time to recover.  This sent him back to the minors, and out of the light completely.  And when he was ready to come back, we just kind of pushed him away back to Philly.

Without a doubt, Lou is one of the greatest underrated players we have ever had, which is sad.  He was a truly cool dude and needed some more time here, but unfortunately the organization never thought the same.

So next time you’re looking at the Indians rosters, remember these guys and what they did for us.  While they might not be a household name, they were still Indians.

The Great Giambino…Back for one more?

ESPN.com

ESPN.com

Mr. Jason Giambi, what a great guy right?  43 years old and he plays better than anyone I know, which makes me feel funny, but good.

Let’s be honest, we were all a little scared last season when we first heard the news that good ol’ Giambi was headed to Cleveland after his deal with becoming the COACH, not a player, of the Rockies fell through.  But in all honesty I really didn’t feel that confident with the decisions of that off-season anyway…man I was wrong.  With only a few swings of the bat and a great award-winning smile, he quickly became the fan favorite, and a man-crush to many…except anyone who lives in Chicago or has once admitted that they were a fan of the White Sox, and for good reason.

Funny story about Giambi.  When I was in 5th grade back in 2001 (again showing my age), we had this project to teach us how to write and mail a letter.  Those were the good old days…..anyways, my teacher was big into baseball, and coming from someone who is also big into baseball, this guy even beat me…and I write on a blog!  I remember he  had a huge deck of baseball cards sitting on his desk, and one at a time we had our names called, and when we went to the front of the room we had to pick a card, and whoever you got was the player you sent a fan letter too.

Now seriously, I was how young?  So naturally I had NO idea who any of these people were, even though I was pretty into the game for a kid.  They were essentially just faces of people with baseball bats and MLB logos, I had no idea what was going on.  But that day when I got called to the front, it was destiny as I picked up the card from the Jason himself, from one of the years he played for the OAKLAND A’s, I think it was 1998 if I can remember correctly.

Cleveland.com

Cleveland.com

A lot of other students got rookies, which was good for them.  After we wrote our letters weeks began to pass by.  The other kids who wrote to rookies got stuff back within days.  Mostly with another letter from the player, but some with actual autographed stuff!  I loved baseball, so naturally I got envious as weeks passed by, nothing.  Months passed by, nothing.  YEARS passed by…still nothing.  After a while I forgot I ever sent him a letter at all, a letter from a young ball player simply asking for a response.

I won’t lie to you, I got a little upset with him, though I began to realize his agent probably intercepted it and honestly he probably never even ever laid his eyes on it.  However,  I couldn’t help but be a little mad.  When I heard he was head to my home land, it brought a little anger back.  Though I put feelings aside, and waited to see what he could do, and I am glad I did.

It became apparent very quickly once he started with the team that he was something special for the Indians and that, maybe my negative feelings towards him were unjustified.

Cleveland.com

Cleveland.com

After his first pinch hit homerun, and then his SECOND pinch hit walk off against Chicago, I realized that all the hate I ever had for him was gone, and he quickly became one of my favorite people on the team.  The last season was magical, and he was a huge part of that.  Not only did he play amazing on the field, it was clear that he was one of the most loved guys in the clubhouse and added energy to the team that helped push us into the post season for the first time in years.  He even would give PEREZ hugs after the games he blew “because he needed it.”  With a personality like that, there is no way you’re not only going to win over the crowd, but become a players favorite as well.

A lot of people hate him, or don’t think that he belongs in the league because of his age and needs to hang it up.  Remember though, he tried that in Colorado, it just wasn’t his time…their loss.  Besides all of the personality pluses he has, he actually is an amazing DH for his age.  He is one of the MOST reliable DH’s in the league besides maybe Ortiz over there in Boston.  While he is always swinging for the fences, if he needs to hit…he will.  He might not be the best runner in world, but if you hit it to the gap, who cares about that anyway?  That’s what a pinch runner is for.

ESPN.com

ESPN.com

All in all, even though he never sent me that card back, I still love Giambi in Cleveland.  I think he has a lot to offer in this season, however, I do agree with the minor league contract.  He is getting old, and that might have just been a magical season, but I do think he needs another shot at it, and hey, if he doesn’t do well in Arizona, at least we have him as a coach!

So Giambi, even though you never returned my letter and baseball card from when I was kid, I have faith in you and boy am I glad you’re an Indian.  I really only see amazing things coming from this guy, both as a player and as a coach, and maybe one day, when all the hype dies down…you can finally send me back that card.

Spring Training: Fun in the Sun? Or Just a Hole in Your Pocket?

cactus_st_logo

MLB.com

Well, it’s that time of year again.  That time of year where we get to stay in Cleveland and sit in the snow, literally, as we watch the Cleveland Indians equipment bus drive off into the sunset (again, literally)  towards the sunny region of Goodyear, Arizona.  It’s a bittersweet feeling as we know the season will be starting soon, but it pains us all to sit here and watch as they get to play in the sunny desert, and we, well, don’t.  However, there is a way to escape all of this snow here in the big CLE, and there is a way to follow the bus all the way to its destination to watch your favorite players sit on the bench and watch the rookies play, but the question is…is it really worth it?

To me the answer is yes, even with some bumps that I will explain.

Ever since I was little kid, I always dreamed of not only playing in the MLB, but also going to the land of the sun to play in spring training.  In fact, sometimes on hot days playing ball as a kid I would pretend that I was doing just that, and that I was trying out for the current Cleveland Indians team…adorable right?  Anyway, as I said, it has always been something that I have wanted to see and do, it’s something that really shows not just how much of a fan you are of the team, but of the game itself.  It’s almost like a right of passage into the true “fandom” that exists.  Ironically, last summer I actually was IN Arizona and drove right by all of the stadiums where teams would play, the only bad part was that it wasn’t during spring training.  I would see “Home of the ____ Spring Training!” Every time I saw one of these I would slow down and just admire what I was looking at.  It was a place where past greats have started and where future greats would be starting right in front of my eyes.  I was kind of like one of those kids looking at a brand new video game, wanting to just sit there and play for hours.

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cactusleague.com

Sadly, as I was looking for ways to actually make my dream come true, I was quickly shot down by what the “business” side of the game has done to it.  Believe it or not, the actual tickets themselves aren’t the problem.  Tickets range anywhere from $15-$50.  Really not that bad for a game in a smaller stadium with players that might not even ever make the team.  When I saw that I finally thought that I would be going to my first spring training game!!…then I saw the other components.  Flights to Phoenix were nearly triple, and a good hotel couldn’t be found for less than an arm and a leg (around $200 a night).  Right…RIGHT?!  To be that close to finally achieving something I’ve wanted for so long, only to have it collapse in front of me hurt the most.

It truly saddens me that something this cool and this awesome could be made so unaffordable to the heart of the people who watch the game in the first place, the people who CAN’T afford all the luxuries.  Oddly enough, the main problem wasn’t even the MLB!  It was everything else that thought it would be cool to suck the life, and money, out of the people who made it all the way out to Goodyear.  Unfortunately, that’s the way of the world now though, you see something, and try to make as much money off of it as possible!  Maybe some day this will change, but until then, I guess I’ll just keep saving so I can pay my dues…pun intended.

seguro

wikipedia.org

However, even with all of the annoyances about how business have taken advantage of the very people that support them, let’s put that aside.  It still is SPRING TRAINING.  To some, that’s no big deal, but to me that’s an experience that is almost like the SuperBowl.  It’s a side of the game and a side of the players that you have never seen before!  You can watch the game and all, but still be so close and so wrapped up into it that you almost feel like you’re the coach making the roster!  If you love the game and the Tribe, then there is no doubt in my mind that this is a one of a kind experience for you.  Especially if you love warm weather and palm trees!  And sand…lots of sand.

Long story short, I still believe that it is worth it, and it is worth the extra overtime it will take to get there, unless you live nearby.  Baseball is an amazing sport and something that is good any time of the year.  That mixed with the cool combination of seeing players a lot closer than usual, and in a more relaxed setting makes it even cooler.  So if you’re really into the game of baseball and want to see where it all begins each year, then I recommend you keep pushing ahead, save up those frequent flier miles, and keep dreaming about the day you will step off in Goodyear, Arizona for your first Tribe Spring Training game!  In the end, it’ll all be worth it.