Today, at long last, I’ve gotten around to fulfilling one of my first ideas when I first joined IPL – my Sunday notes feature.
I find that Sunday is a perfect day to look through the digital newspapers from around the country and read the stories coming from each local writer. On Sunday evening, as I sit down for the ESPN game of the week and sift through the days’ scores, I’ll attempt to put out an article looking at the big picture in baseball from a Cleveland Indians perspective.
We’ll look through the Indians’ upcoming week, then across the American League Central, and anything else pertinent that strikes my fancy from week to week.
Please feel free to leave comments below for ideas for this format or topics that I may have missed, and thanks as always for reading!
The Week Ahead
Seattle Mariners (Monday thru Thursday)
31-25, 3 GB of Texas
The Indians begin their 10 game road trip on Monday with a four game set in Seattle where the Mariners, fresh off a remarkable comeback victory, are starting to get very optimistic about their season, according to this Seattle Times article.
On Thursday, 6/2, the Mariners rallied from a 12-2 deficit for a 16-13 victory over the San Diego Padres. Interestingly, the Times article mentions the magical 2001 season in Seattle in which they went 116-46, the only season the franchise has topped 100 wins. That was, of course, the same season that the Indians had their own remarkable comeback on Sunday, August 5th, against – who else – the Seattle Mariners!
I remember the game well. It was an 8pm Sunday night match-up on ESPN and I caught parts of the game while wandering the memorabilia shops in Cooperstown, NY. It was an embarrassing start as the Indians trailed 14-2 by the 5th inning. While I missed the meat of the twelve-run comeback while we drove back to a buddy’s house in Painted Post (3 runs in the 7th, 4 in the 8th, and 5 in the 9th), we did witness Jolbert Cabrera’s game-winning single in the bottom of the 11th. Incredible!
Hopefully last week’s win will be as memorable for Mariner fans as 2001’s victory remains for Cleveland baseball fans.
Trivia question – who was the Indians winning pitcher in that game? Answer at the bottom of this article.
Projected Starting Pitchers
Monday, 6/6, 10:10PM ET – Trevor Bauer (3-2, 4.27) vs James Paxton (0-1, 7.36)
Tuesday, 6/7, 10:10PM ET – Carlos Carrasco (2-0, 3.00) vs Wade Miley (5-2, 5.85)
Wednesday, 6/8, 10:10PM ET – Danny Salazar (6-3, 2.24) vs Taijuan Walker (2-6, 3.94)
Thursday, 6/9, 10:10PM ET – Josh Tomlin (8-1, 3.54) vs Nate Karns (5-2, 4.23)
Fortunately, the Indians miss ace Felix Hernandez, who just hit the 15-day DL with a calf injury
Los Angeles Angels (Friday thru Sunday)
26-30, 8 GB of Texas
Pitching has been the Achilles heel in Anaheim this season largely due to injuries to key cogs Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney as well as ineffectiveness by veterans Jered Weaver, Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker. The Angels rank 21st in the majors with a 4.31 team ERA.
The Angels do have a notable name working his way back through AAA, though – two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum appears to be in line to make his Angels debut on June 12th against the Indians, according to this LA Times piece.
Lincecum is far removed from his All-Star days in San Francisco, but it will be interesting to see “Big Game Timmy Jim” in his new duds.
Around the AL Central
White Sox Make First Move – Acquire SP James Shields to Bolster Rotation
As the Chicago Tribune notes, Shields will make his Sox debut on Wednesday on the road against the Nationals. The immediate fall-out is that former Oriole Miguel Gonzales slides into the bullpen to accommodate Shields.
What to make of Shields? It seems that he was rumored to be on the way out of San Diego from the moment he signed a four year deal before the 2015 season. It’s hard to find much to be optimistic about with the 34-year-old Shields at this point in his career.
His fastball velocity continues to decline (down over 2 mph to 90.2 from his peak with the Royals) and his control is deteriorating (a career high 3.61 BB/9 so far this season, up from his career mark of 2.91 BB/9). Shields was on a decent run of three starts (posting a 1.83 ERA over 19.2 innings) before getting thumped by Seattle for ten runs in 2.2 innings in his final start as a Padre, a 16-4 loss on May 31st.
Victor Back at Heart of Tiger Line-up
It’s great to see a healthy Victor Martinez back and hitting as well as ever in Detroit. After enduring an injury-plagued 2015 where he hit .245/.301/.366 and slugged 20 doubles and 11 home runs in 485 plate appearances, the former Indian has been torrid so far in 2016. Martinez is 2nd in the AL in average (.349), 6th in OBP (.392), and 7th in slugging (.554). Victor also has 9 home runs and 13 doubles in his age-37 season.
Meanwhile, the Tigers just completed a three game sweep of the White Sox, bringing each team to right around .500. To quote Lester Bangs from “Almost Famous”, “You’ll meet them all again on their long journey to the middle”.
The Twins miserable season continues as they’ve lost six of their last seven and are on pace to lose 116 games this season. One recent bright spot has been 23-year-old slugger Miguel Sano who rebounded from a cold April to hit eight home runs in May. The young Twins slugger stands at an impressive 6’4″ and 260 pounds.
Possible Outfield Help – Carl Crawford?
The Dodgers announced today that they’ve designated veteran outfield Carl Crawford for assignment, and it seems likely that he’ll pass through waivers and earn his unconditional release. Should the Indians be interested?
On one hand, Crawford has hit a miserable .185/.230/.235 this season, is 34 years old, and is about six years past his peak.
On the other hand, Crawford’s contract will be absorbed by the Dodgers, meaning any other team can have him for the league minimum. Considering the Indians remain woefully short of outfielders in both Cleveland and Columbus, Indians management may convince themselves to squint very hard and look back to the last time Crawford was healthy in 2014 and hit a decent .300/.339/.429 and stole 23 bases in 105 games in LA.
Book Report – The Selling of the Babe
In my new-found re-commitment to reading, I’ve intentionally avoided baseball books so far in 2016 but I caved when I saw a copy of “The Selling of the Babe” in the library last week.
Published in March of this year, author Glenn Stout examines the most infamous transaction in baseball history through the lens of a three year window from 1918 through 1920 which covers the Babe’s last two years in Boston and his first in New York. Stout not only does a fine job breaking down the complexities of the sale itself (spoiler alert – it’s far more nuanced that a simple cash transaction that saved Red Sox owner Harry Frazee from a bad production of No, No, Nanette), but it’s also a time capsule to an era that is often overlooked in both baseball and world history.
Stout digs into how the Spanish Influenza barely missed the Bambino (the flu killed more people in one year than AIDS has killed in 24 years), how the lingering World War drastically affected the shortened season in 1918, the off-field antics and selfishness that made Ruth a team cancer in his last season in Boston, and an analysis of his quickly-fading pitching career.
Check this one out of your local library and take it down to Camden Yards and get some Boog’s Barbecue on Eutaw street.
Trivia Answer – Which pitcher received the win in that 2001 Indians comeback against the Mariners? None other than that erratic media darling John Rocker in his lone season in Cleveland.