Tag Archives: Detroit Tigers

Indians fans: It is our lot in life to suffer

This blog has been silent through the September wild card chases, and it took the Indians’ disheartening performance last night to stir me to write again.

Although their pitching ranged from acceptable to excellent, the Indians failed utterly at the plate. I credit a gutty performance by the Rays’ starter for much of that, but the Tribe’s inability to drive in runs was largely their own doing.

The worst was Nick Swisher striking out late in the game with two men on and a great chance to score. Swisher took three vicious, aim-for-Lake-Erie cuts. The first? OK. Why not take a chance. But the second and third roundhouse swings were inexcusable when solid contact putting the ball in play would have brought something good. Every kid in Cleveland who ever played sandlot ball knows that. But Buckeye native Swisher evidently forgot. The Indians’ hopes for a comeback evaporated as he headed back to the bench.

The one-game wild card playoff is just another tease to lure Indians’ fans into another round of false hope. I imagine in a year or two, Major League Baseball will, in an effort to squeeze out even more TV revenue, propose another pre-qualifying round of playoffs, maybe with five-inning games, all to tantalize and taunt Cleveland fans (increasingly few who remain alive or in memory of the last champions from 1948). For 2013, we’re stuck with the memory of watching the Rays — an expansion team that plays in a dome — celebrate at Jacobs Field while our guys sat glumly in the dugout.

Realistically, the Indians were lucky even to get a shot in the post-season, which lasted a measly three-plus hours. During the season, they beat up on the weaklings (many in their own hapless AL Central Division) and struggled against the elite teams, most shamefully against Detroit.

No, this was not a championship-caliber team, and we Tribe fans will endure another gray winter needled by a bitter wind off Lake Erie,¬†waiting for a new season to begin. On this sad, predictable morning, it’s tough to find hope amid the pain.

Just a flesh wound: Some thoughts on baseball at mid-season

Wow, have I been a baseball blogging phantom this season. I cringe at the mere thought of checking the date on my last post, which itself was weeks and weeks after the previous post.

My lack of posting doesn’t mean I haven’t been a fully engaged baseball fan. In fact, I’ve watched plenty of games this season with a wider variety of teams than I have for a long, long time. So the headlines:

– What the devil is ailing my San Francisco Giants? I knew their pitching staff couldn’t sustain the level of excellence they’ve shown in recent years. The streak of good-arm years was bound to end sooner or later, but I’m befuddled that all have seemingly broken down at once. Tim Lincecum has been slipping the past two seasons; Barry Zito somehow beat the odds last year but has reverted to monster-contract form; Ryan Vogelsong is out injured. The shocker to me is that Matt Cain has faltered.¬† Only Madison Bumgarner has been consistently strong. Not a pretty picture, and I’m not even going to get into the bullpen.

– Perhaps even more shocking with the Giants is their crumbling defense. Please, give me back the light hitting, good fielding Brandon Crawford at shortstop of recent vintage, not this year’s porous model.

– Amid the cellar-scraping doom, one of the all-time highlights for the franchise was Lincecum’s no-hitter. I was blissfully asleep on my Eastern time zone mattress while Timmy was dominating the Padres. I woke up to the news on the MLB app on my iPhone and when I saw the video replay of the last pitch, I cried. Yes, tears at 6 a.m. Three-Finger Brown could record the times I’ve cried over baseball: Timmy’s no-no, the Indians advancing to the World Series in 1995, and when the Tribe traded away Rocky Colavito when I was a little kid in Cleveland.

– (I’m putting this item well down into the post, so as not to shock too many people.) I’ve kind of got a thing for the New York Mets. Matt Harvey is winning me over, I’m digging the underdog schtick and I’ve come to enjoy the broadcast teams on radio and TV. I’m not abandoning the Giants, but the Mets are moving up on my preference list.

– They try gamely, but I don’t consider the 2013 edition a real New York Yankees team. Mariano’s victory lap not withstanding, there are too many so-so players on the injury-plagued team. It’s the Dooley Womack era all over again.

– I try to get behind the Phillies, I really do. But their fans seem to have written them off and I can’t stand that. I have a Monty Python Black Knight approach to backing my ball club. The Phillies fans (and I’m over-generalizing here; I know there are plenty of Fightin’ faithfuls) are more like Sir Robin, running away.

– And how about those Cleveland Indians?! They’re hanging with the Tigers and playing solid, entertaining baseball. I was lucky enough to catch them in Cleveland back in June, the only big-league game I’ve seen in person this year. I’m hoping for good things ahead.

– Final word: If the Giants can’t make it back to the series, my wish is for an Indians-Pirates tilt. That would be special (that underdog schtick again), save maybe for network executives. All the more reason.

 

This year’s spring training caps are hideous

Let me repeat that headline: This year’s spring training baseball caps are hideous.

As my long blogging layoff will attest, I’ve paid little heed to the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues these past few weeks. So what I saw on a television set in a neighborhood shop a short while ago hit me harder than it might have otherwise. On the tube was a Tigers-Mets game. When I saw the Mets’ caps, I blanched.

From a distance, they look like something for a beer league softball team. On closer inspection, there’s Mr. Met running the bases — in the wrong direction. (Yeah, it’s the Mets, so why should I be surprised?)

I was vaguely aware of the unveiling of these new cap models when they were announced a couple of months back but I didn’t pay attention. After doing a Google search for images of the new caps, I wish I’d skipped the spring altogether.

The white-billed Yankees’ caps may be the worst of the lot. Or maybe it’s the egg-splatter Tampa Bay Rays model. All in all, these caps look like they belong on sale by street vendors in the seedier sections of any number of Rust Belt cities.

I started this blog based on my love of baseball caps, but I have standards. Most of these spring training caps are devoid of artistic merit and devalue the brands of the teams they represent. The teams see this merchandising as a profit center, which is why there’s a continuous stream of new models.

Sorry, MLB. I ain’t buying.

 

 

O Holy Cow: The Baseball Solstice coincides with Christmas

The high priests have looked to the sky and determined that the Baseball Solstice will coincide with Christmas this winter, to be celebrated from sundown on Christmas Eve to sundown Christmas Day.

The Baseball Solstice, noted in this blog a year ago, marks the midpoint of the long layoff in play between the final out of the World Series and the first exhibition game of Spring Training.

Sergio Romo struck out A.L. MVP Miguel Cabrera in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 4 of the series on Oct. 28 to complete a San Francisco sweep of the Detroit Tigers.

The next games between major league opponents begin Feb. 22 in Arizona and Florida.

As fate would have it, that makes the midpoint Dec. 25, the second most holy day in Christendom. (The first is Easter, which coincidentally marks the point at which fans of the Chicago Cubs traditionally abandon hope for the new season.)

It is a bit awkward for baseball’s midwinter ritual to come at Christmas, and we baseball fans mean no disrespect on such a sacred day that many of us will be observing. (We’re also a bit leery that fans in Philadelphia will boo Santa Claus.)

But there’s apt symbolism for the pairing: We baseball fans cherish the sport as one of the greatest gifts we have.

You can mark the days to the start of Cactus and Grapefruit league play on the terrific Countdown to Spring Training site on Facebook.

As for marking the solstice, we encourage all baseball fans to do so in a meaningful, fun way: break out the baseball cards and find your favorite players, get in touch with fellow baseball fans by phone or email or social networking or (and this may sound crazy in this era) around the dining room table. We encourage you to visit the nearest ballpark and look eagerly forward to warm, sunny days on the field or in the stands come spring (or July, if you’re a Brewers fan).

As a Giants fan, I’ll be savoring the memories of the 2012 season. As an Indians fan, I’ll be lighting a few candles. And as a baseball fan overall, I’ll be glad to know that the first cry of “Play Ball” is drawing nigh.

Will we ever see someone pitch a complete World Series game again?

We’ve seen some outstanding performances by starting pitchers in the league championships and the World Series this year, but has anyone pitched a complete game?

No.

The closest anyone came was Justin Verlander, who went 8 and two-thirds as the Tigers defeated the Yankees in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner were excellent in leading the San Francisco Giants to victory in the first two games of the World Series, but Zito didn’t finish the sixth inning and Bumgarner was relieved after seven frames.

You have to go back to the American League Division Series to find a complete game. There were two: one by Verlander, and one by C.C. Sabbathia.

I’m not demeaning the performances of any of the pitchers who started and won without closing out the other team through nine innings. It’s merely more evidence of the ascendancy of relief pitching.

Baltimore-Washington wins the 2012 Major League Baseball metro-area title

Which metro area had the most successful baseball season? After listening to the Athletics overtake the Rangers on my way home from work last evening, I was all set to declare the Bay Area the cross-league, total victory champions.

But then I remembered that Baltimore-Washington is eligible, and a check of the standings this morning shows the Orioles and Nationals with a combined 191 victories. That’s three better than the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s at 188.

Third place goes to Los Angeles, with the Angels and Dodgers piling up 175 wins. The New York metropolitan area checks in at fourth with 169 wins for the Yankees and Mets. And in fifth, the White Sox and the wretched Cubs trailed with a mere 146 victories, well below the .500 mark of 162.

Does anyone else on the planet care about this matter? I doubt it.

What people do care about is predictions on who will meet in the World Series.

I’d love to see an all orange and black series with the Orioles facing the Giants, and another Bay Bridge series between the Giants and A’s would be fun.

No team is a lock to make it out of its first round, let alone get to the Series. Acknowledging that the playoffs are all the more so a crap shoot with the new wild card format, I’ll pick the Giants to square off against the Yankees.

Justing Verlander comes oh-so-close to a no-hitter

The Pittsburgh Pirates have just broken up a no-hitter bid by Justin Verlander, who held the Buccos hitless for 8 and 1/3 innings tonight. A solid hit up the middle by Josh Harrison broke the spell. Verlander was able to wrap up the game and finish a one-hitter as the Detroit Tigers won easily, 6-0.

I’m sure Verlander is disappointed, but a one-hitter is still a great accomplishment.