All kidding aside, it was nice to see Sandy Alomar get a win in his first official game as interim manager. (Plus I know you didn’t want to see me use a headline like “Offense Gets Jiggy With Will Smith” instead of this one. I didn’t want to subject you to that.) Vern and I were at the game tonight, and Alomar got a nice ovation from the fans when he was introduced. The only bad thing was that it was a very small crowd to begin with, even smaller about 15 minutes prior to the start when they announced the lineups and managers. Much like last Sunday’s game against the Royals, the Indians once again pounded out the hits and runs. Huff gave up a monster home run to Billy Butler, but was otherwise pretty stable. Scott Maine made things pretty interesting when he gave up two runs on three hits without recording an out; he was eventually pulled in favor of Joe Smith. Believe it or not, I think this game could have been an even bigger blowout. The Indians missed some opportunities – they stranded 11 and missed an opportunity in the fifth to really break the game open when they had the bases loaded with nobody out. (They ended up scoring two, after there were already two outs).
You know what it means when Kansas City is in town? It means that one of my all-time favorite players, Jeff Francoeur, comes to town. I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions why I’m fixated with him – he throws money to hecklers, he buys fans pizza and beer, and he just seems like an all-around cool guy. He also compulsively touches himself continually while in right field. I don’t necessarily mean that he does it in an obscene way, he just is in constant motion pulling at his uniform, touching his legs, and grabbing his hat. Sometimes he even pops his glove off in between pitches so that he can compulsively touch himself with his left hand for a change of pace. You may notice that I mentioned nothing about Francoeur’s playing abilities when I provide my laundry list of reasons to love him. Part of that is due to the fact that statistically, he’s having the worst season of any regular player in baseball this year when you look at WAR (wins above replacement). When the story I linked to was written, Francoeur actually had a -3.2 WAR, which meant that he was over three games worse than a generic replacement player. I checked Baseball Reference this evening and he’s actually improved to -2.6…maybe he’s trying to end the season on a high note? Still, he’s hitting just .237/.291/.374 and is getting paid a decent amount of money by the Royals after signing an extension last season. (He’ll be back with the Royals for at least one more year in 2013 at $6.75 million). So perhaps it’s appropriate that if I’m going to be a fan of a player on a division rival, at least I manage to pick one that’s terrible (subsequently benefiting the Indians).
I feel like I’ve made some variation of this statement several times recently, but most of the starting lineup again got at least one hit tonight. The only ones who did not get hits were Carlos Santana (0 for 4 with 1 walk) and Casey Kotchman (0 for 5 with 2 strikeouts). I’ve also said this before, but I’m still not quite sure why Kotchman is getting playing time. I know that defensively he’s the stronger first baseman, but that doesn’t really matter in the final week of the season when you’re already a billion games out of first. I highly doubt he’ll be back here next season (or at least I hope not), so why waste at-bats letting him strike out and hit weak grounders while going 0 for whatever? Several guys had great nights tonight – Shin-Soo Choo, 2 for 4; Cord Phelps, 3 for 5; Lonnie Chisenhall, 3 for 5; Brent Lillibridge, 2 for 3; and Ezequiel Carrera, 3 for 4. I must admit that I’ve never been very high on Phelps, and when I saw that he was batting second tonight I was kind of baffled. However, he performed well in the two-spot and made me eat my words. (Which I’m always happy to do in this kind of situation. You can prove me wrong by playing awesome anytime you like!)
As for the pitching, I also never have had much faith in David Huff. That may be unfair, because he was fine tonight, surrendering three earned runs on eight hits. He gave up a lot of hits early in the game, but appeared to settle down until he gave up the monster homer to Butler. I think the reason I’m wary of Huff is because he’s really only as good as his fastball placement. Too often I’ve seen him leave flat pitches out over the plate, and people just tee off on him. This is another case where I really hope I’m wrong about him, because I’d hate to see yet another first round pick wasted. Scott Maine appeared to calm down after his rough outing on September 18 against the Twins when he gave up two earned runs on four hits in just two-thirds of an inning and took the loss. He allowed no runs in his next two appearances before taking a major step back tonight. He came into a game where the Indians are up by five, and actually let the Royals get back in the game. This had the feeling of a blowout, and it eventually was a save situation for Chris Perez (who notched number 39 of the season).
Last, but not least, Vern happened to notice Homer Bailey’s in-progress no-hitter and we put the game on my phone in the ninth inning. (I have the enhanced MLB app where you can watch live games unless you’re blacked out). Vern and I, along with the guy sitting behind us, peered into the small screen to see if Bailey could pull off his final out. Once he did, Vern had to comment that he never thought he’d be seeing a no-hitter at Progressive Field tonight.
A few other quick thoughts:
– A bit of a follow-up to Neal Huntington and his most recent comments, since I’ve been discussing him and his ties to the Indians’ front office. He made an amazing comment on a call-in show about how “There are a lot of really good baseball people in the industry that feel very differently than our fans do about what we’re accomplishing and how we’re accomplishing it.” Basically, “you fans don’t appreciate how awesome we really are.” Like the Indians front office, it sounds like their former compatriots in Pittsburgh will not be fired either. At least Antonetti isn’t taunting us by saying that we don’t fully appreciate how awesome they are (while on the cusp of your 20th straight losing season). Maybe the “good baseball people in the industry” were Antonetti and Shapiro? Maybe these two groups just keep complimenting each other anonymously, so it seems like everyone else thinks they’re brilliant? Maybe I’m just tired and need to quit ranting.
– I participated in the Weekly Wroundtable at Wahoo’s on First, and we tackled the question “should Chris Antonetti be fired?” (You can probably guess that there wasn’t a lot of love and support for Antonetti).
– This is an interesting piece from Baseball Prospectus about Manny Acta and also talks about how the Houston Astros’ new hire, Bo Porter, is also being brought into a difficult situation in Houston.