11.04.2016

When Will We Be Finally Satisfied?



I sat in my car for what was the longest drive back from Cleveland in my entire life.

This had nothing to do with bridge from Ohio City to downtown being closed (probably for the best) and me having to take an alternate route to get to the highway. And yes, I've had longer drives from downtown to wherever I was going distance and time wise, but you know exactly what I mean.

It felt like an eternity driving back home. It felt like it took me forever to fall asleep even though I had been up since five in the morning and was straight up exhausted from driving back and forth to Cleveland the past few days.

I should have fallen asleep the minute I laid down. But there I was, staring up to the ceiling, feeling like everything is moving incredibly slow, yet my mind racing incredibly fast.

In these days after, I still don't know how I feel. The first song that came on the radio Wednesday night/Thursday morning after I switched off Tom Hamilton and the post-game show was a favorite band of mine, X Ambassadors and a song of theirs that is one of my favorites. I love "Unsteady" because it's one of their better slow-beat songs with a dope rhythm to it. I completely hated that that song was on right then and there, but it also felt like it was completely appropriate. 

Hold onto me right now friends, because I am, in fact, a little unsteady, and I'm not sure where this is going.

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After the ALCS win, I sat there comfortably numb. I relayed my feelings of being completely overwhelmed by the situation, not knowing what to say first or how to feel about what was happening.

The day after, I now try and look back at the wild ride that culminated in one night, with not one moment sticking out more than any other, trying to feel and understand the emotions that I feel right now. 

You surely have left many situations in your life feeling satisfied, have you not? It could be something incredibly small or entirely large. Maybe you put a lot of work into studying for a test, worked really hard to do well and when you got your grade back, the results matched exactly what you expected them to based off your preparation. Maybe you put a lot of work into a project at work, hoping it would lead to a raise or a promotion and it did. Maybe you did something good for someone in need and they thanked you for your kindness. Maybe you ran a half marathon and just really wanted to eat your body weight in Swenson's burgers and when you did, you felt all was right. 

That last one was me, I'm sure you could tell.

Look, we get satisfactions from lots of things in life, big or small, inconsequential in the grand scheme of things or incredibly grandiose. We can get it from and for things that don't really matter or things that should take priority in our lives.

We can most definitely feel satisfied about sports. Yet, it's the hardest thing to feel satisfied about because there's always a next year, win or lose, a team always competes and you will always be there to cheer and put your emotions and feelings into your favorite team. After 108 years, Cubs fans can FINALLY feel satisfied about watching baseball and investing in a team. Most of us probably invest emotionally, whether you invest financially in different levels or physically or in other ways. But if you are a fan of a team, and I really mean, a fan that cares for the outcome for more than just 10 minutes after the game, you invest emotionally. That is damn near 100% of sports fans. It is an emotional investment. It comes at different levels, but it is one thing we relate to.

So, we get it right? 108 years. Lifetimes of emotional investment, young and old, unless you are a 115-year-old Cubs fan that can semi-remember. There's a few of those out there, right?

And now for us, as fans of the Cleveland Indians, emotional investments of our wide-age ranges. Some are around and can remember the last title in 1948. It will grow another year and perhaps, the emotionalism of what we had to go through will only give us a little more grief in the short term and built up our long-term anticipation of emotional relief.

When it actually happens, it will be so satisfying, right? Many of you are Cavaliers fans who got to celebrate a few short months ago. That was awesome, and that was great and the city of Cleveland got themselves a title, which they haven't had in quite some time.

But dare I say this, for all of us who don't happen to be Cavaliers fans, maybe this is short-sighted, but a World Series would mean just a little bit more because this baseball team has been around for a little bit longer. A franchise who was so close in the 90's at several points. A franchise that has gone with, what is now (let that sink in), the longest drought in it's sport without a championship. A franchise that sees it's ownership and front office pummeled over and over again in the modern day by people who don't understand the landscape and economics of baseball. A franchise that gets constantly overlooked in it's own town because they don't throw a brown leather ball and clank orange helmets every Sunday. A franchise that, for all purposes of how they are owned, ran, operated, and how they play, is Cleveland.

I've said this before, but the Cleveland Indians are a perfect embodiment of what the city of Cleveland claims to be. A blue-collar town that prides itself on "earned not given" taglines and working hard and others around it using it as a punchline or an afterthought. And yet, they're overlooked in their own city. They're miscast in a role that is perfect for them because the audience doesn't want them there.

This Cleveland Indians team, and even specifically in 2016, beyond all expectations is one that shattered any sort of frame of believably. They defiantly waved their swagger in the faces of doubters, kicked and pedaled as hard as they could through any sort of challenge or obstacle, and gave us a run to never forget because they played their absolute hearts out. I think many of the players understood that they were playing for more than themselves, even if a lot of those people distrusted them for some time.

It's hard to be satisfied with a losing outcome, but when you take a step back and look at everything your vacuum collected over the past month, you can't help but be satisfied on some level in regards to what was gathered a long the way. I certainly am to have been able to witness some of the things we did. I know that I'm still hungry and ready to tackle a few more Galley Boy's, but I'm pretty content with what I've already had. Maybe get me some potato teezers. Sorry, too many Akron references, but at least it's a shorter drive than Chicago.

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The Chicago Cubs were supposed to win the World Series from the first moment the season started. They ran rampant over their division, one of which was impressive on many fronts, won over 100 games, and assembled an incredible squad of young superstars mixed in with proven winners. They're managed by a cerebral game tactician and the guy who assembled them has a proven track record of delivering incredible moments to historic franchises thanks to the moves he makes. I don't have to tell you that this team was the favorite and anything short of winning it all would be unexpected. You know all this and have been beaten over the head with it for the past few days. It's not an excuse as to why they lost, it's a reason to not be discouraged by the result. Look no further than Keith Olbermann summing it up pretty perfectly in regards to the Cubs. They were supposed to be there at the end and there's no shame for a team like the Indians to have lost to them, especially when they played hard and earned every bit of the position they were in.

And yet despite all of that about how the Cubs are more talented, more hungry, younger, stronger, deeper, and in a more advantageous position, there they sat, down 3-1 to a team decimated by injuries and ravaged by real circumstances that should have put them out in the first round if you played the game on paper (or newspaper). The Cubs were there, but the Indians shouldn't have been and they were the one's threatening to make history, 108 years and the stars aligning be damned.

Nobody said it better than Cody Allen. He hit it perfectly and I think about his words as I reflect back on my night watching the final game of the series. From the fact that they just got beat by a really good team to just wanting next year to start right now. That's where I am at and it's hard to sit here and not only believe that this run is finally over and we can't celebrate and that the opportunity to do so is a full year away, at the very least, because nothing is guaranteed, as we saw for a shining moment with the Cubs.

The opportunity to do this all again is far too draining to think about. This team poured their heart and soul into this run. When I talk about being satisfied, I think about how satisfying it would have been for this team to win the World Series. How I'm ready to take a 100-year nap after that and not have to worry about watching my team try and win it all.

Is it great that we get Michael Brantley and Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar and Yan Gomes all back and healthy for a run next year? Of course. Is it great that we still have years left of watching a guy like Francisco Lindor dazzle and amazes us? Of course. It is great that there's players like Jose Ramirez, Trevor Bauer, Cody Allen, and Carlos Santana  and that they will be key pieces to a 2017 team? Of course. Is it great that the Indians still have a few more years of the dangerous bullpen weapon that is Andrew Miller? Hell, yes. I'm certainly okay not having Clint Frazier anymore. Can we trade Bradley Zimmer for a right-handed cloning machine so we can get another one?

But it's so hard to duplicate success in baseball. You play a 162 game season to get to the point the Indians were able to get to: the postseason. And from there, there's a lot of things that have to go your way. We talked about it after the ALDS in what Terry Francona did to push the right buttons. You look at the runs the Royals made the past few years and things went their way a lot of times. The Indians had a lot of things roll their way to get them to Game 7 of the World Series.

It's hard to imagine, even though the Indians have a talented team, of strapping up and doing it again.

But then I look at the team that did beat them and how, as Keith Olbermann put it, talent prevailed.

Talent prevails. And talent will prevail with the Cleveland Indians because they have it in spades and can absolutely get back to the postseason. Of course, as you saw with the Cubs, talent can always get upended by hard-nosed baseball, great decisions, stellar pitching, and unique ways of accomplishing your goals. Things the Indians did to get to that position. That's what makes it scary. The fact that the Indians could have had done it the hard way, but just as could easily be in a situation to lose it the easy way too.

While I'm perfectly okay with the Indians having a stocked and reloaded team ready to go and get a World Series title next year, I can't help but have really wanted this one because it's so hard to be able to get that position in the first place, even when it should be easy like it was for the Cubs.

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Jason Kipnis darting around third without even hesitating, the key reason for him scoring on a wild pitch as the second run. It was memorable and had the Indians been the winners, would go down as just as much of an iconic moment as Kris Bryant's smooth base running earlier in the game.

Rajai Davis, starting presumably because Tyler Naquin's defense inefficiency was not going to cost Tito another game. You knew he was taking defense seriously when he subbed out Coco Crisp late to avoid the possibility of him having to make a throw on a sac fly. Here's Rajai Davis, who would have probably been in the game at this point anyway, hitting no only the game-tying blast off a tired Aroldis Chapman, but bringing his team within one in extras.

Only to bring to the plate, quite possibly, one of the statistically worst hitters in major league history in Michael Martinez, with your season definitively on the line. Really?

Rain, improbably pouring down in extra innings of the seventh game of the World Series, causing a delay that would spur a locker room meeting by the opposing team.

Andrew Miller giving up a home run to David Ross in his last major league game. No, no, really?

Kipnis pulling a ball that very much seemed like it was gone, sending me to my knees in absolute euphoria, only to realize it had not come true. I didn't want to stand back up.

These are moments in time that you will never forget. Ones I won't forget. I mean, this WAS everything we love about baseball between two teams that you would have never thought would be here at the same time. How entertained are you as a baseball fan with no rooting interest? Other than your own team being in that position and coming out on top, was there anything greater to watch as a lover of baseball and sports? It's almost a shame that the Indians and Cubs fans had to go through that because that whole scenario is not even dreamable. Major League Baseball couldn't have tried to rig a more perfect scenario.

What perhaps is the most cruel thing about baseball is that it set up this scenario between the two hungriest franchises and said, hey, only one of you will eat tonight.

Moments that I watched and was glued to the screen for. I stood, surrounding by fellow Cleveland Indians hopefuls, hoping that this team would pull out the unthinkable and the unfathomable. To ride the emotional roller coaster of believing your team was going to win the World Series because they were up 3-1, to the doubt that is creeping into your mind because it's now 3-3 and, well, it would seem the advantages are shifting towards the Cubs direction.

To the doom of falling behind, to the hope of tying it up, to the despair of falling behind yet again. To being given the shot of life of seeing this team rise up and not quit, to give us one more shot at it all. To tying it up and making you believe. Making you feel that this could very well happen and that you could very well be running down the street celebrating one of the greatest moments a sports fan can have.

I don't have strong allegiances to any other team in sports now a days. My alma mater has won a National Championship in soccer and as a devout fan of the Akron Zips and someone who went to games and was emotionally invested in that squad that won it all, that was great.

But this is my childhood and this is my young adult life, and now my adult life's one true emotional connection to sports.

I stood there thinking to myself what this would feel like. Thinking about how we really do invest ourselves into this game and wondering why. Why do we do this? This is a game that can only reward one team a year for being the best. We've witnessed a team in Chicago not win for over a century. That's many lifetimes of many people without being able to see through the reward of being a fan.

I'm not sure why we do it, or why I do it. But we do. And I will stand there next year in 2017 if I get the privilege to. I will be there emotionally and invested in this team. As cruel as baseball is as a sport, it is just as amazing. As cruel as it was to sit there and watch the Indians hopes slip away with each run that they improbably scored, it was just as amazing to sit there and watch them come back. To battle. Cruel to see two teams that want this so bad, with fans that want it so bad for them have to put the other down to get what they want. But amazing to see a franchise starved for 108 years finally break down all the bad and come out on top.

Good for the Cubs, right? They can finally put Bartman, the goat, and all that other crap to rest. They can move on and be a baseball franchise again.

I'm so scattered because now I've reach that overwhelmed feeling yet again. But this is the type of overwhelming feeling you don't want to have. I'm anxious for next year, but completely devastated about this year still. I don't know what to say or how to compartmentalize it because it's just everywhere. I'd be a mess had they won it, but at least I could feel good.

This sucks and I'm sad and I just can't sit here and continue to think about the what if. It's hard to sit here and put it in perspective, even though the Cubs are absolutely the most talented team on the planet and everything that has been said up to this point is true. I don't want to put it into perspective because I just want the Indians to have won.

I sit here and scroll through these damn pictures, looking at the pain and anguish on the faces of these people. Fellow Indians fans who were just as downtrodden as I was last night. I wish there was a camera on me as I left the bar and followed me to my car. To capture the look on my face that was properly showing the emptiness in my heart. The hollow feeling of there being nothing there when you expected it to be.

People around me cursed, cried, and collapsed. I looked down to the ground and put my hands on my head. I am those people in those pictures, we all are, even if there isn't a picture of us that exists. Forget Jordan Crying Meme, slap one of those faces on a picture of me.

To have done this all. To have watched this team battle against everything that was thrown their way. To have turned every excuse upside down and back around. To have it all go their way when it had to and to have played their tails off. To watch it not happen.

I'm not sure how one recovers from this. But we will, because most of us have been living with this most our lives. This team lost Game 7 in the World Series 19 years ago. This certainly isn't the first time this happened. This team lost a 3-1 lead in the playoffs nine years ago. This certainly isn't the first time this happened either.

As painful as it is, we'll go through this offseason and get hungrier and hungrier for the new season until it is finally here. Until we can finally stop saying, "let's just start playing now" and we are actually seeing our team play. When November 2nd, albeit still fresh, is now a distant memory that we will treat as such, a distant memory.

Like Cody Allen, I don't want to wait. I want it to start right now despite the emotional drain that was. This was a team that was so perfectly what our true core fan base is. And I couldn't be more prouder to have my allegiances lie with this team and those players. They make me proud to walk around today with my Block C hat on despite coming up short.

They make me proud and justify the emotion, passion, money, respect, love, time, effort, joy, and frustration that I put into them.

You will never get a run like this again and it is a shame that historically, it won't be as remembered as it could have been and won't be because this team didn't win it all. And this was the Cubs team that did it to boot, the team that broke the drought. The Indians and their run will be an afterthought, and really, that's not a bad thing, it's just a reality of success and winning it all. We'll remember it, but we won't remember it as fondly as we could have.

And that perhaps is the most saddest part of this all. That this run that won't be immortalized is now over and that the one group that could immortalize it regardless of outcome probably doesn't want to because it ended in absolute heartbreak. As drained and exhausted as we all are, this magical moment has now come to a close. Yes, it is crushing that it comes to a close without a chapter of celebration and joy, but it's just straight up sad that it's over period.

When I started writing this, I didn't know what it would end up looking like. To be honest, I don't even know how to end it just as much as how I didn't know how to start it. I'm yet again stuck on how to put these really strange emotions that I don't think I've ever encountered in quite this way into words and it sort of haunts me.

It haunts me because I feel like there's more to it and that I'm missing something. This is where we wake up and today is the real Game 7 right? That was so absurd that it wasn't real and the real game where Corey Kluber goes out and doesn't look completely gassed and gives us six strong innings. Mike Napoli goes out and redeems his terrible postseason with a three-run shot that actually brings to life the Party at Napoli's mantra that has surrounded this team all year. Jose Ramirez slaps a double up the alley to score Kipnis to take a three run lead while Andrew Miller comes in and continues to look like the cyborg he is for two innings. Cody Allen's ball hits Roberto Perez's mitt not soon before they sprint into each other's arms and the team comes flying in to pile on. Michael Martinez trails out of the dugout not to hit, but to be the last one on the dogpile.

That's all going to happen right? We're all going to wake up and the real game will happen.

Or, we're all going to go to bed now, hoping we wake up and April 2017 is here and we can begin this journey all over again, hoping for the outcome that we can't stop ever dreaming of. The one that everyone will remember.

10.20.2016

Cleveland Is Going to the World Series and It Is Completely Overwhelming

I'll never forget staring into the back of Alex Escobar's number six jersey on a windy night in September. With ample room to put your feet up on the back of a green chair at what was still Jacob's Field, it seems pretty strange to enjoy that moment, but it was all too-routine to be doing it and I enjoyed that routine.

From the view of section 109, I would sit, waiting for something good to happen for my team and often times, nothing good would happen. But when it did, boy, that was fun. Those moments were few and far between. Lots of looking out to home plate, trying to not fixate on whatever right fielder was out there.

Despite that, at that point in time I was just a kid who enjoyed watching baseball. Sure, the Indians, in the midst of a rebuilding phase, were not very good. But, it was baseball and it was my team. And it was my Dad and I sitting there as we did about a dozen times each year. If it wasn't Alex Escobar, it was somebody else we would be fixated on, the right fielder being the thing we could admire every time we would go to a game because they were so close.

I don't think I could begin to tell you the different names I had to stare at in the early 2000's. They run the gambit of bad to terrible, flash-in-the-pan to young guy who would never make it. You likely remember most of them unless you blacked out that point of time in Indians baseball. Of course, there was also Jody Gerut, the greatest right fielder to ever play for the Cleveland Indians, but besides that, it was a lot of Chris Magruder and Shane Spencer and Karim Garcia and Matt Lawton and I'm just going to stop now.

I thought the highlight of my fandom of the Cleveland Indians was in 2007 when the team made the playoffs and made an enjoyable run through the ALCS. I stood in the concourse chanting Casey Blake's name with 35,000+ others after he came up with a big hit to help beat the Detroit Tigers. The Indians were on their way to winning the division. I sat in the outfield and watched Joba Chamberlain spray himself down with bug spray and Travis Hafner come up with a walk-off hit that helped the Indians trajectory aim towards the ALCS. Then I watched the Indians go up 3-1 on the Boston Red Sox from the way up seats behind home plate. Never had I ever felt energy around me feel so powerful.

My favorite team is going to the World Series...

Until they didn't. And as crushed as I was, it's blurry to me, all that happened. I have those as lasting memories, but they don't really mean a whole lot. I remember a lot about that season but I don't remember how I felt at the end of it all. I was crushed, like you probably were at the time, but now I sit back and try and remember and I can't. I probably put them into words, but those words are long gone. I can't describe the feeling as perfectly as I can some of the moments.

I can remember feeling joy and pride when those young and untested teams of the early 2000's would go out there and fail time and time again, but sometimes come up with a moment of happiness. I remember the feeling, but I don't remember the moments. I remember the moments of 2007, but not the feeling. Of course, electricity and energy and just absolute euphoria for some of those memories, in those moments. And a little bit of disappointment in the moments of heartbreak.

But what does it really feel like? Maybe it is the moment of now that is kind of clouding that and when this ride is all said and done, that will change and I will be able to feel what 2007 was again. Probably not.

That's where I am at now, strangely enough. I can't grasp this idea that the Cleveland Indians are in the World Series. That they are on the brink of potentially winning the whole entire thing and sending my entire body into a complete state of okay what do I do now I don't know cry laugh celebrate jump shrug emoji overload okay overload system shutdown...this must be what happens when my computer overloads and just quits. My brain just over-computed. I can't handle this.

I don't have an idea of what that moment will even feel like or what I'd even do, because I can't even feel this moment. I think the best word is overwhelmed. I now truly can understand and feel and understand what that feeling really is. The anticipation of this moment here and any moment beyond this has been a long time build. I now get it and understand the 2004 Boston Red Sox thing for fans of that team or the feeling many of you probably had earlier this year with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It now all makes sense. The "ohhh I get it now" moment you have when a friend talks about something and your like "sure okay" and then you experience that and...you get it.

Sports is a thing and it's fun and games and you should enjoy it. Of course long periods of unsuccessful outcomes for your favorite teams is kind of brutal, but at the end of the day, it's just something that's there and life will go on as such. But this is a team that I've invested a lot of hours, lots of words, lots of thoughts, lots of pride, and numerous other tangible and intangible things in. And now I get it and I truly am overwhelmed.

I know there's more games to play, but this is now unfamiliar territory. I've wondered for years what a trip to the World Series would feel like and now that it is here, I am overwhelmed. Do I run around the room screaming my head off in excitement? Do I cry? Do I shout at all the people that doubted/downed the regime that put this team together? Do I celebrate with friends and talk about all the good? Do I do all of that? Can I do all of that? Where do I begin? What do I do first? I'm running around in a sea of people. Who do I hug first?

This is being overwhelmed. And this is me getting it and finally understanding it. Sports was a thing for me growing up. Now, priorities are different and I've gone from a time in my life where it was everything and all of them were everything to a point where it's just baseball and there is one team that I put everything into. Perhaps the shedding of that was entering adulthood for me. I don't know the starting lineup of every MLB team like I used to and I don't even know every player in the Indians organization like I used to, but my investment into this team has been the one thing that has never changed, regardless of how much I tried to learn about them and the game. And now, with all that investment and perhaps even more of a perspective of what this is, looking back at the tough years, remembering the faint memories of the last time the Indians were here in the World Series as a youngster, taking in the heartbreak of 2007 as a young adult, and the anticipation of knowing that this team is talented and was absolutely capable of doing something like this...

Overwhelmed.

Completely and utterly overwhelmed.

Next Tuesday seems like it should be tomorrow, but it also seems like it is a year away because it feels like you can't realistically wait for it. But it's only next Tuesday and after a weekend and a day, it will be here. With so many years of anticipation, asking to anticipate for five or so more days isn't a big deal. But, really, we all want it to be here, and be here now, so it is a big deal.

In addition to not knowing what to do, I don't even know what to write. I've written a sentences and deleted them so many times throughout getting to this point. But when I don't know what else to do, the thing I do do is write. About life, about sports, about anything, I write things because that's how I express emotions when I don't know how to express them. That's me. Whether you read it or not, whether I go back and re-read it later, or write it and delete it because I just had to say it.

I don't know how to express these emotions, so I am writing. But again, the ironic part to all of it is, I for the first time in my life, don't know what to write. What do I say? It's that overwhelming feeling from above. It's now coming out in the form that I'm most used to. It's disrupting the one thing that I know works when I don't have any options.

So I guess I'm just going to continue to sit here and not put what this is into words. I don't know how many words or characters this has ended up being or if any of it was meaningful. It is the true and ultimate form of me babbling. It is the steady stream of consciousness that you've likely seen from me in the past if you've ever read something I've written in it's most advanced stage.

It's me standing here at a keyboard as always, but for the first time, completely and utterly overwhelmed to the point where I don't know what I could possible say.

And the Cleveland Indians have done this to me. And that is where my dilemma begins and ends. I have so much to say about them and about this moment that I truly can't figure out how to prioritize it or say it properly, so I'm just not going to. One thought is no more important than the other in my mind about this team that I can't decide what to write about them to do it justice in my mind. And if I wait any longer, if I wait for another round and another possible moment where I could feel this way again, then the overwhelming feeling might completely overtake me.

Well, you know what? If it does, just let it happen. Because I'm ready for it, because as much as the feeling of being overwhelmed has been associated to be negative or nerve-ending, I can honestly say this now that I sit here feeling it at one if it's most heightened states.

It's the best feeling in the world. I'm ready to be overwhelmed.

10.13.2016

Pushing is Better than Mashing: How Terry Francona Managed An ALDS Sweep


Ever get so frustrated with a video game you just start mashing buttons on the controller hoping it will work?

Yeah, been there. Just press the buttons man. It gives you a better chance because you know what your pressing.

It would be hard to say that anyone could be envious of any manager in Major League Baseball, given the decisions they need to make on a daily basis, or even decisions they don't make on a daily basis. Because, regardless, it all comes back down to them.

Excuse me while I evoke the wise waxing of Manny Acta for a second.

But being one of the 30 managers in baseball is something that most in coaching would strive towards. Who wouldn't want to be in that position to pull the strings. Right?

Well, not me, but I don't aspire to be in that position. It's a tough spot, because even though there are other coaches on staff and you probably use their input, and there's a front office that puts the talent together, the manager is the figurehead. He gets the praise, and with it, the backlash.

It's no secret that I haven't been the largest fan of the tactical and strategical moves that Indians manager Terry Francona has employed over the past few years. This is the same man who said, during the between-time of his stints with Boston and Cleveland, that when you are bunting you are playing for one run, and then continuously would let his prized rookie shortstop bunt a runner over in the first inning of a game or in a game he is down by one-run in early. What, playing for one run?

The constant utilization of Mike Aviles, in left field to boot, despite evidence to suggest that is perhaps an ill-advised move was simply met with calls of "Mikey does a good job out there." Does he? Does he really?

These issues aside, I've harbored a lot of irritation for his strategy. Where I do appreciate Terry Francona is in the clubhouse and the things we don't see. Sometimes, those things that make him great, attribute to the irritations, like his affinity for Mike Aviles, but otherwise, you could do a lot worse than Francona, I'm fully aware of this. In a division that has a real gem like Robin Ventura (not really), a master strategist in Brad Ausmus (you're kidding right?), and a cerebral visionary with Ned Yost (hahahaha, Ned Yost has a World Series), I'll go ahead and say I'm okay with Tito heading up the Tribe, warts and all.

And look, you are talking about a guy who is loved, respected, and heralded in the game. Sometimes that sort of stuff builds up a little bit of an excuse or preservation of reputation, but you can't argue with the fact that the dude has been successful, whether it's by hook or crook. And with that, comes respect that he gets, mostly from his players.

With that in mind, there's been a sort of shifting in dynamic over the past week or so. Hell, it's even been happening for a few months if you go back far enough and comb over things. Slowly, but surely, Terry Francona is becoming the manager that both players and critics are starting to get behind. He's already got that first part down and if he continues wheeling with the sudden gun-slinging visionary tactics he has been and leads the Indians to the promise land, it will be hard to find someone who won't back Tito.

Francona is pushing ALL of the right buttons right now. In addition to that, he's employing strategies and forward thinking that many didn't even think possible. He's leveraging a bullpen masterfully, letting players execute strategy on the base paths to create the best situations possible, and making calls on his lineup and defensive arrangement that make him smell of pure success.

Before the ALCS gets underway and we get to see the game plan of one Terrance Jon Francona unfurl, let's look back at the ALDS and check-down every move he made that helped lead the Indians to a 3-0 series sweep over the Boston Red Sox.

Before the series

Bullpen Makeup

Much was debated about leaving off a second left-hander, likely Kyle Crockett, in favor of maligned starter-turned reliever, but sometimes starter Cody Anderson and Jeff Manship. Even Perci Garner got some "hey what about that guy" love from people questioning the bullpen makeup. Turns out Kyle Crockett had some back-issues and well, Jeff Manship, big HAH if you thought a Terry Francona postseason roster wouldn't carry him. An old dog can still keep his spots even if you give him a haircut.

The thing is, despite my internal screaming of "Whyyy Manship Whyyy" and his 5.11 FIP, if you are using either of these guys, things either went really bad or really good. Manship isn't giving you any meaningful innings and well, Anderson would only be in there for a worst case scenario of a starter not being able to give you anything. The Indians would be in dire straights if they had to use either guy and as it turned out, neither guy was summoned. Heck, Tito didn't even have to use Zach McAllister, so the inclusion of those two is clearly nothing to have worried about in hindsight, Crockett injury not withstanding.

Bench Spots

The other point of contention was the carrying of three catchers, technically. With Yan Gomes's inclusion, surely there was a thought that he was healthy enough to be the full time catcher. That is relatively unknown, but things were clarified when Tito straight up stood by Roberto Perez as the team's starting catcher. Then why is Chris Gimenez around? To catch Trevor Bauer right? Nope! Perhaps because he's the backup catcher, not Gomes. So why is Gomes around? While he didn't get an appearance, you have to believe his inclusion was mainly for late-game matchup reasons that Tito just didn't need to justify because the situation did not present itself.

So all-in-all, even the pre-series moves, Tito and company hit on them, even if we had some questions. Danny Salazar is still not ready to go, so we'll likely see a similar cast of characters and likely have to once again hope Jeff Manship doesn't see the light of day. I've repeated Manship's FIP and xFIP (4.81) numbers so often, I don't even have to pull up Fan Graphs anymore.


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Game 1

If there was ever a time to put on a managing clinic and turn in quite possibly the best game of your Indians managerial career, this is one of those times. And with that, Tito set the tone for the series. Let's start from the beginning of decisions with the puppeteer extraordinaire.

T5- Leon Homers off Bauer, Tito sticks with him

You would think that after giving up a homer to the eight hitter and losing the two-run cushion, Tito would get super itchy and just go straight to his bullpen right then and there. But Tito realizes that every out matters and if he could get a few more out of Bauer, he can get a few more out of Miller if he can bring him in to face the lefty, instead of the bottom of the order. So Tito stuck with Bauer despite the homer and Trevor rewarded him with a Benintendi fly out and a Pedroia strike out, leaving Tito in a position to call for Miller to end the fifth.

As this is unfolding, I'm thinking Bauer is looking better than his statistics indicate and hoping Tito at least let's Bauer continue. He's getting ahead of guys, throwing strikes, he hadn't walked anyone, but he was just having issues putting guys away. He got bit by Leon and that's something you just nod your head to and be thankful it didn't put them behind. His trust in Bauer paid off.

T5- Tito deploys Miller in the fifth to face Brock Holt

It didn't produce the immediate result that Tito was looking for, which was likely Miller getting Brock Holt, but going to Andrew Miller in that situation was the right call. Ideally he gets Holt, the left-hander, and gets Betts leading off the inning rather than with a runner on. No biggie, after walking Betts, Miller met the guy, despite what role he would be called upon to fill, he is expected to neutralize, be it in the fifth or the ninth. Miller faced David Ortiz and struck him out, exactly what Tito wants, the Miller/Ortiz matchup.

B5- Indians rally, knock out Porcello, score a run, Tito sticks with Chisenhall

An extra run was added in the fifth after a Roberto Hercules Perez single, Santana fly out that (smartly on Roberto's part) advanced Perez to second, and Kipnis single. Big ups to Mike Sarbaugh for making the call to send Roberto, it worked out. Pomeranz was brought in to bring Jason Kipnis, similarly how Miller was brought in to face Holt. After a ground rule double and an intentional walk, the bases are all of a sudden very loaded and the Indians have a chance to really make a mess of things in the fifth.

It's the fifth, you already have gone to your pen, whose to say you can't go to your bench? Brandon Guyer, a lefty-masher to face Pomeranz? Would it prompt Boston manager John Farrell to make a counter move, which would invalidate your move to Guyer? There's a bit of psychology to play here as you have to basically decided what your better matchup is: Brandon Guyer vs RHP of Farrell's choosing or Chisenhall vs Pomeranz if you think Farrell is going to go away from Guyer/Pomeranz. You can either get the matchup you want, or get rid of Pomeranz.

This felt more like a move for innings, not matchups, and Pomeranz was in it for the long-haul. So Tito makes the call to keep his better defender in there, even if he has to let Chisenhall strikeout with the bases loaded to end the fifth.

T6 - Miller settles in

A 1-2-3 inning helps Tito's Game 1 plan immensely.

B6- Tito goes to Rajai Davis

Last inning, Tito had a chance to make a switch and bring in Brandon Guyer. Here he has the opportunity to dispatch the other half of his outfield platoon by using Rajai Davis for Tyler Naquin. The at-bats for Naquin against lefties are virtually non-existent, so the call is made to lose Naquin for this particular matchup, which will give you another idea of what Farrell intends on doing with Pomeranz. Davis, despite his handedness is actually a higher wRC+ player against righties than he is lefties, and has a smaller difference between at-bats between lefties and righties than Naquin. Tito assumes he'll get one at-bat against Pomeranz but then have Davis the rest of the way against the righties in Boston's pen.

Of course, Davis strikes out, and so does Perez, as did Crisp a hitter before, making this a clean inning for Pomeranz and all of this pretty moot. The strategy is interesting though.

T7 - Shaw relieves Miller

Tito squeezes two more at-bats, one against Leon and another against left-handed Benitendi out of Miller before he brings in Bryan Shaw, who he utilizes to get righty Dustin Pedroia. Shaw is in for three lower leverage (as lower as a middle of an order can be) outs before Ortiz comes up again, Tito wants him to get three batters so Ortiz has to come up in the eighth inning with nobody on, two outs, and a two-run lead.

T8 - Shaw doesn't go with the plan, Tito brings in Allen

Tito's master plan goes out the window with a Brock Holt home run to lead off the inning. Now Betts and Ortiz can bat with just a one-run deficit, making all of their at-bats the potential to be lethal. Shaw is kept in to get Betts, and that prompts Tito to go for a five-out save with Cody Allen. From here, it is a lot of hoping Allen gets the job done, which he does, even if it was shaky.

Call back to leaving Chisenhall in the game, although he didn't peg him, Lonnie came super close to nabbing Ortiz at second. This likely doesn't happen with any of the Indians other outfielders. Regardless, Cody Allen gets the job done and not once was there a doubt. Well, yes there was, this was filled with lots of beads of sweat and stomach knots.

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Game 2

Getting through Game 1 masterfully was obviously the ideal scenario seeing as you had Corey Kluber on the mound for Game 2. Now you're looking for a little more length out of your starter to make it easier on your bullpen, but still, there were some decisions to be made.

Lineup - Chisenhall vs the Lefty

Perhaps sticking with the idea that he has a better outfielder in Chisenhall than he does in Coco Crisp, Tito goes against what would be his year-long conventional wisdom and starts Lonnie Chisenhall in right field against a left-handed pitcher. Brandon Guyer goes in left field and Rajai Davis starts in center.

Here's Chisenhall's season breakdown against left-handers, which he isn't really allowed to face, because, numbers.

.217 AVG, 19.2 K%, .294 OBP, 72 wRC+

He's hit not a single home run this year, to add to his grand total of eight in 337 career at-bats against lefties. Chisenhall's last start against a LHP? August 25th against Cole Hamels. Also the last time Josh Tomlin walked someone. Must have been a weird day all around.

Strangely though, one of those eight homers off a LHP? David Price. And when you think about it, what more of a chance does Coco Crisp really give you? In fact, Coco's 2016 wRC+ against lefties? 71. He's not even better than Chisenhall and he's had double the at-bats! Tito makes an excellent call to keep the better defender who has just as much of an opportunity to get a hit off Price. He compensates by hitting him eighth behind Guyer. Don't overlook this detail, and credit Tito with lineup construction, something he's both bucked the trend on and been regressive with in one season. THAT is impressive.

Of course, the move pays off in a big way. Not only playing Chisenhall, but the spot in the order is key as Lonnie comes up in a position against a lefty, for the second night in a row mind you, to deal a big blow early in the game. This time he comes through and it all started before the team even took the field.

B6 - Tito sticks with his lineup

Perhaps the biggest cap tip to Tito other than his Chisenhall play was keeping the guys in the lineup that night. In the sixth, despite a reliever on the mound, Tito stuck with Brandon Guyer and Guyer came up with another hit against a right-hander. Farrell would then start playing matchups bringing in Robbie Ross to face Chisenhall. This time Chiz wasn't as lucky against the lefty, but quickly Farrell would turn to Brad Ziegler to face consecutive righties Roberto Perez and Rajai Davis. Instead of Tito going to a righty for Chisenhall, he stuck with him and that let the rest of the inning unfold. Davis would hit a sac-fly off Ziegler.

T8 - Tito ready to go with the B-Squad

And when I say B-Squad, I mean that in the nicest way possible. With having pushed Allen and Miller to the limit the previous night, getting seven strong from Corey Kluber was obviously the optimal scenario. So why not get more? Tito let Kluber go out to face the bottom of the order, which is an absolutely okay thing to do with a six run lead. Step on their throats, don't worry about the possibility of Kluber on short rest, and go for the win. Unfortunately he couldn't get either out, but he had Dan Otero on stand-by. The obvious ultimate goal is to get through these two innings without having to use any big guns and Otero makes Tito look like a genius and makes just winning the game a secondary achievement. Otero strikes out Pedroia, gets a Brock Holt line out and unlike Shaw the previous night, sets up a bases-empty situation for David Ortiz by getting Betts to groundout.

T9 - Shaw, for the hell of it

He probably could have stuck with Otero, but instead of tempting fate, he lets Shaw start an inning clean and Shaw rewards him with three outs. This was an easier game to manage due to his starter's brilliance and his excellent pre-game lineup decision. Sometimes, these calls make themselves. Internal screaming died down for one game. Breathe, one more to go, but this may be the trickiest one.

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Game 3

And here we go, things have played out the way the Indians wanted, sans the rainout of Sunday's game, which would put them in a position to have to play three games in a row if the series went to five games, which obviously doesn't play well into the bullpen plans. Another reason to go for the jugular if you have the opportunity. Think they will?

Keeping with Tomlin

In actuality, Trevor Bauer would have started Game 4, which would have occurred on Monday, which is when Game 3 actually happened. In theory, could they have gone with Trevor Bauer on short rest? Sure, but the right move was to stick with Josh Tomlin. You are pretty much moving forward with the same plan you deployed in Game 1. So, even in hindsight, going with Tomlin is the right call in this situation, especially up 2-0. The reasons to do this outweigh the reasons to not do this.

T4 - Coco Sac-Bunt

You know me and how I don't like to endorse a good bunt attempt, let alone a bad one. I'd maintain that the Indians need to be more aggressive and need to attempt to score more than one run, which is theoretically what the bunt is aimed to do, set you up to score at least one.

Except for this situation where it can set you up to score two with a single, which is exactly what happened. This isn't a "did he make the right call or not" type of an outlook, it's more so a look at all the decisions that were made that panned out and this one most definitely did. And I can even get behind it a little considering you have a guy like Coco Crisp, who you aren't really counting on to come up with any big hits (whoops!), that actually does have the capability of executing a bunt. Add in there's two guys on, which sets up a one out, two in scoring position situation. Again the argument is you need more than one run, which is perfectly valid and the line of thinking I fall into. But there's a few times a bunt can be justified with some sort of understanding and Tito pushed a right button here. Plus, Coco Crisp hitting into a double play has better odds of occurring than Coco Crisp jacking one over the Green Monster and spontaneous combust as he touches home plate.

B5 - Sticking with Tomlin, again

Keeping Tomlin in despite giving up a RBI double was the right call. Again, in a game where every out matters in terms of your bullpen, to get a few more from Tomlin was huge. Tomlin was also not looking like he was in any sort of danger and he had not yet gone through the lineup for a third time, so keeping with him was a good call as you would then be able to deploy Andrew Miller for the middle of the Boston lineup.

Not to mention, Josh Tomlin was pitching really really well. Perhaps one of the grittiest and gutsiest performances we've seen in quite some time.

T6 - Another Bunt? Whatever.

While I have a little understanding of the previous bunting situation mentioned, this one, didn't make sense. Here's the funny thing though. It didn't matter. Tito may have outsmarted himself a bit on this one, calling for a bunt after Jose Ramirez lead off the inning with a walk.

Was it because of the left-handed hitter in Lonnie Chisenhall? We already recapped the whole lefty-righty thing and obviously in the sixth and having mentioned the fact that Lonnie Chisenhall is probably your best defensive outfielder, perhaps this was Tito's way of keeping Chisenhall in the game but also taking the bat out of his hands in a way that made sense.

What's funny is that the bunt was rendered moot (other than mentioning that perhaps Chisenhall gets on and it's a 3-run homer) after Coco Crisp, he of "take the bat out of his hands" fame from the first time around, belts one well over the Green Monster in left. So, moral of the story is, screw bunts, hit dingers and be glad he didn't spontaneously combust.

B6 - Miller Time Part 2

So in a virtual mirroring of what Tito did in Game 1, here comes Andrew Miller at the slightest bit of trouble with the middle of the lineup, only it comes an inning later, which is obviously better. Miller has an issue though. He lets up a double and a sac-fly and a run scores, but after this, he does his job. Heck, a clean slate and there isn't a run, so maybe Miller was used a tad late. But with a three, now two run lead, and Miller pitching the seventh, you are in a good spot. Not everything is going to be perfect.

B8 - Shaw gets a clean inning, here comes Cody

Regardless of how on-point he was or wasn't, the plan in the eighth makes sense. Bryan Shaw gets a clean inning, which is what he needs. Shaw gets an out, gives up a single, but then gets another out to bring up David Ortiz, which naturally means you've seen enough of Shaw. Tito makes the call for Allen to once again get more than three outs. Allen gives up a single, which lets one of those runners score, but this looks like a dicey situation. Still, this was the plan and even if it is looking scary, you need to stick to the plan.

B9 - The plan, works, but not without an elevated heart-rate

Not much you can do in the ninth other than get Otero up in case the game gets tied. But thankfully, that never happened and despite his lack of command on his breaking stuff and the amped-up fastball that wasn't hitting the zone either, Allen gets the job done and completes Tito's brilliant bullpen work.

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So here's the question, can this work two more times?

Sure, in a five game series, this was easy to employ. With a break after two games, only needing to win three, you could maneuver your way around to set this up. With weapons like these, it makes it easy to go hunting.

A seven game series is a bit of a different animal and Tito is looking at a little bit of a different outlook if things don't go exactly how he would hope they would. Is Tito revolutionizing the way things are done in the postseason? I think "revolutionize" is a strong word, but the Indians as a whole are giving a little perspective to the world on how you CAN do things in the postseason. It's not unprecedented of course. The Royals used a deep and lethal bullpen to do some damage, but the Indians are doing things a little differently out of a situation that simply is dictating them to do so thanks in part to the injuries to Carrasco and Salazar.

Francona's bullpen usage has turned for the better since Miller's arrival, that is no secret. It's easier to make decisions when you have more options, especially good options, and even more so with options like Andrew Miller who can fill a variety of roles. I've said this repeatedly, but look how much more difficult Joe Girardi's job became when he lost Miller and Aroldis Chapman. I look back to that extra-inning game the Indians lost to New York back in July. Girardi won that game because he had that dynamic trio that got him through 5.1 innings of work. That was one less out than his starter, CC Sabathia, gave him. Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Corey Kluber accounted for 14 innings pitches in this series. Which is a shade over half of the 27 innings you need to get through in three games. Looks familiar, doesn't it?

In the postseason, I think it is pretty clear what Francona is looking to do with a depleted rotation. The Indians have already announced they intend on going with a Kluber/Bauer/Tomlin/Probably Clevinger & Pen lineup, which already presents a different dynamic of what they had in the ALDS. Because Game 5 would come immediately after Game 4, you can't really start putting Kluber & Bauer back out there after only playing three games, unless you get desperate. You can, but it probably sets them up for shorter outings and it would make more sense to throw them when they can give you more, not less. Again, it's a numbers game in terms of accumulating as many outs as possible and if things break right in the first few games, like they did in the ALDS, there's fewer outs the Indians need to concern themselves with.

Some of the other moves, not related to bullpen usage and starting rotations have been very favorable. Tito has opted to value his defense a little more (and rightfully so, especially when he stands to gain little, if anything at all with alternative moves) and not be so quick to give-in to the matchup game, which has promptly rewarded him with surprise hits, but also kept what is a more optimal roster out on the field at all times. While the Jays have a few lefties in the pen, they only have one left-handed starter in JA Happ, so we may see less of that decision making about the lineup. Still, in a longer series and with a different dynamic, it will be interesting to see how Tito approaches some of the other decisions that will likely come his way in regards to matchups and situations.

It's like that button mashing I talked about earlier. If you are just making a whole bunch of moves because you aren't sure what is going to work, you are going to get a totally random and uncontrollable result. Yeah, you could get a desired outcome, but you are removing any aspect of predictability. If you at least push the buttons in a way that you think makes the most sense, you are at least controlling your destiny, even if it may still end up losing you the game.

The way he is pushing buttons, I'm most definitely okay with Terry Francona leading the charge right now. His past issues aside, whether it was the right pieces being put in place, or Francona figuring out how to use them, things are being utilized the way they should. And here's the fun part. It's working. When you go with what makes the most sense and gives you the better percentage to win, you stand to look pretty brilliant when things do turn up your way. This is still a territory of chance and you need some luck in a MLB postseason, but it doesn't hurt to go with the moves that dictate better outcomes. And hopefully for the Indians and Francona, that outcome is another series win and a trip to the World Series.

10.05.2016

Cleveland Fan's Guide to the 2016 Postseason on the Internet


With the ALDS officially set, our four teams in the American League decided with Toronto cementing their place after dispatching Baltimore in the AL Wild Card Game, it's time to look forward to the rest of the postseason.

In my desire to further eliminate stupid ideas and make baseball fandom a better place for all, I thought it might be helpful to establish some guidelines and rules that us as Cleveland Indians fans should abide by.

Why?

Well, look, welcome to 2016. The last time the Indians truly had any sort of a postseason run was 2007 when they went as far as Game 7 of the ALCS. I'm not one of those people that are discrediting the Wild Card as a playoff appearance, but a one-and-done scenario after a feverish end to September doesn't exactly qualify. There was a lot of ups and downs there, and the Wild Card game in 2014 certainly had some ups and downs, but this is really the first taste of extended postseason many fans in Cleveland will have. This is a different animal with ups and downs and multiple home games and all sorts of build up, I mean, who is tired already of talking about the roster and Thursday's game and all this and that?

I certainly am tired of listening to people talk about it.

So, as I sit up on my high horse, let's carve out some guidelines as you begin to enjoy this 2016 version of the MLB postseason, featuring your Cleveland Indians.

9.29.2016

Why Being Calm is the Rational Approach for Cleveland's Final Games


Hey! You! Yeah, you out there, my fellow Cleveland Indians fan. Just one thing to really say in the aftermath of this past Monday. And I'm going to be really clear with it, as best as I can.

CALM DOWN! CHILL OUT! 

Your Cleveland Indians are 2016 American League Central Champions and I'm telling you to settle because you aren't calm. You're getting all uppity and feisty about these games and the lineups and winning and trying and effort and...my head 'esplode.

Here's a guy telling us to calm down, but he USES ALL CAPS TO DO IT? HOW CAN SOMEONE REMAIN CALM WHEN THERE'S SHOUTING!?

Damn straight I'm telling you to remain calm and using shouting to do it. You need to hear it. And if I have to bang my head on John Adams's drum for you to hear me, I will. I know that there are some of you that are new to this idea of contention, but, settle down and listen to me. We're about to witness the Indians enter a new type of territory in regards to baseball. I know you aren't quite accustomed to it, because this is a rare position to be in for this team in the past decade.

But, here's a secret. This isn't the regular season, this isn't even a pennant race down the stretch or fighting for that last playoff spot. This is a series of games played over the course of a few weeks to determine who is the best in baseball. And Paul Hoynes narrative aside, it hasn't even ended before it started.

The thing is, it doesn't always go to the actual best team in baseball. I'm looking at you Chicago. The Cubs should rightfully be the favorites to take everything and if you wanted to play your money smart, that's what you would do.

But you most definitely are not guaranteed to come out a winner on that bet. 

So, do me a favor here and dial it back a bit in regards to whatever your thinking about the Indians in regards to this final week. Don't do me a favor, rather, do yourself and your blood pressure a favor. Chill the hell out. And hey, here's a novel idea. Enjoy it! How about bask a little in the glow. I mean, the Indians are doing it. There's no shame. This is team is damn good, and there's some entitlement in enjoying that.

For those not accustomed to this type of situation, this is what happens in baseball. A team clinches a division and are guaranteed a trip to the postseason. In this day, they're guaranteed an appearance in the ALDS and five games to prove themselves. They don't have to worry about a one-game playoff. They're in! And this Indians team got in on Monday. That gives them a whole six games to play that are absolutely 100-percent inconsequential to them making/not making the postseason. 

If Tito wants to bat Mike Martinez second, start Mike Clevinger (who was probably going to start at this juncture anyway), and play Chris Gimenez at third, he absolutely can. Set aside his lineup staying up until 4 AM getting hammered to celebrate their accomplishment, you have one thing and one thing only to worry about.

The ALDS and surviving an entire month of a different kind of baseball game. This team played 156 games trying to win them all to put themselves in that spot. Some, like Francisco Lindor, haven't had much of a break, especially when you single-out Lindor specifically into having to travel for the All-Star Game and play in it.

So before the month that Lindor et al. are asked to play every single day and give their maximum amount of effort, it makes the best baseball sense that rest be given. And, oh yeah, very few players play 162 games in a full season. Where were you in May when Lindor was granted a day off? Save your gripes for fielding a lineup comprised of mostly reserves and September call-ups, Tito got them ALL a break on Tuesday and went back to a more competitive lineup on Wednesday. He'll continue to manage the rest/rust decisions from here on out, as he should.

This is the advantage you gain in clinching your division a week early. You use that advantage. You don't squander it, especially to be "respectful" of another team's chances of making the postseason. You worry about what you need to do to win the World Series and everything else is background noise, just let it play and focus on what you have to do.

Oh, I know what argument is coming next. Just pocket it now. No? Okay fine, go ahead.

"But they still have something to play for, what about home field advantage?"

What about it? 

No really, what about it.

Look no further than this excellent piece of research from Adam Burke:

These are coin flips! It's completely 50-50. Which means, you literally cannot say it can go one way over the other. You can't, in your best Hoynes impression say "We'll the Indians don't have home field advantage, they aren't winning the ALDS!" Either "A" can happen or "B" can happen. Does that mean the Indians won't lose the first two games on the road if they end up in that situation. No, context is everything and each year and situation is different. But over the course of all these years, no one can say you definitively have the advantage by gaining home field in the first round or in the entire playoffs for that matter.

So why, at the expense of potentially losing someone to an injury or exhausting players would you fight so hard for something that comes down to you flipping a coin to determine the outcome? Why not take the true advantage of giving your players some quality rest prior to what has the potential to be a physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting month of baseball if the Indians are so lucky to play that long?

If you can make a decent argument to counter that, then I'll be all ears. But you are unlikely to convince me otherwise. What the Indians are doing in this final week is a good call. If they end up with an extra home game, great, awesome, fantastic, cool. If they don't? Hey, is Josh Tomlin starting at home in Game 3 really a bad thing compared to if he were to be starting in Game 3 in Fenway? My point, you can spin positives and negatives each way.

Yeah, you lose Game 5 advantage, but if you play well enough in Games 1-4, Game 5 becomes unnecessary, right? Again, these are all valid arguments that fall both ways.

Which is why you shouldn't be the one freaking out about not "trying" or the lack of winning this last week. The Indians earned the ability to not having to worry about winning these last few games. And save your "mentality" talk, because the focus has now shifted to worrying about winning the more important ones, and that is what this strategy sets up to do. This is the strategy the Indians are employing and it is soundly reasoned. It's backed with evidence to suggest it is logical.

So stop freaking out, calm down, settle your jitters, and hey, enjoy the aftermath of a division clinching season until the postseason starts. Hopefully it isn't nine years between this one and the next, but you never know when you may get a chance to bask in it again.

Picture: Getty Images

9.19.2016

An Open Letter to Paul Hoynes

Dear Paul,

First off, hi, how do ya do? I'm the guy you blocked in Spring Training for arguing with you about Ryan Raburn hitting right handed pitching.

I think it's safe to say that I was at the forefront of the scorched earth movement against you Sunday morning. I was surprised when people kept talking about it well after I had. It turned into Sunday afternoon, and yep, even Sunday evening, it was still going on. Thanks in large part to the Indians bringing attention to it, and players like Bauer and Kipnis sounding off, I think what you wrote went further than you ever thought it would. I've made no secret, especially this year, that I don't think you have been very good at what you do, at least in the present time. So, when I saw the latest Hoynsie tweet that led to another Hoynsie piece that irked me, I had to say something.

I've done this before. I'm not shy about it and I have no problem challenging an opinion or statement if I don't agree with it. This is no different and it doesn't matter who it is. I would expect the same sort of accountability in regards to the things that I say and if someone disagrees, they challenge back. It's up to me to go from there. That is the case with anyone, right? I mean you especially, are paid to write and apparently, to give your opinion now too. So I guess before we go further, know that when I called you out earlier in the year on Raburn, I wasn't trolling you. But I'll get back to that in a second. First, the matter at hand.

Some people with a little more cache begun to chime in and some dropped some absolute bombs on you after I had ranted. I know you didn't see any of it because of the aforementioned blocking of me. But I know you saw Trevor Bauer and Jason Kipnis both lobbing some counter-fire towards you. It was probably made worse by you not being present on Sunday at the game because of your off day. And hey, days off a precious, I'm not blaming you for a scheduled break. Bauer may be a little harsh calling you a coward, but I'm sure there was a level of disappointment for essentially you saying he wasn't good enough to win.

The Indians Twitter account threw some subtle shade your way too, and man that was funny. Keith Law, ESPN columnist mentioned it, and when defended by another writer that covers another team, gave a quick retort about you having a bit of a track record of terrible "opinions".

Here's the problem that I have, and I don't want people to get crossed up on why what you wrote is bad. It's why I'm putting this out there because I think it is important to differentiate. It's important for you to know the different reasons people are upset and not to just write it off as you "saying what you said because you believe it" and not really caring why people are upset. I sincerely hope you at least care why people are upset.

A lot of people are irate that you are "dooming" the Indians right now and being negative. I get it. The players should absolutely be fired up about it. You are counting them out, telling them their eventual postseason berth will be nothing because a few of their teammates got injured. That's your cross to bear in the clubhouse with those players that are still there, fighting and playing hard until they're aren't allowed to anymore. Probably not the smartest thing for a guy who has to get his information and quotes from those same people you just counted out, but that was your decision to print. If you want to be providing an opinion, but still be covering the team, you will have to live with it. I'm sure you know this and recognize it, you've been at this long enough, right?

That's not where I derive my issues with what you wrote. It all stems from me posing this single question: What is your job description?

Is Paul Hoynes a beat-writer covering the team on a daily basis, looked upon to provide unbiased news and factual information to the reader in an effort to inform them so that they can form their own opinion (what NEWS is supposed to be and how we are supposed to react to it)? Or is Paul Hoynes an opinion columnist, paid to provide his opinion and analysis on a situation, where he can use the facts to make his argument however he sees fit?

This certainly doesn't read like an opinion piece, even though Jordan Bastian defended you Sunday afternoon. (I'm refraining from linking to the actual piece you wrote because I don't think it deserves any more clicks, but if someone wants to find it, I'm sure they'll seek it out.)
"CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Indians won a ballgame Saturday afternoon, but their postseason dreams ended.
Write it down. On Sept. 17, the Indians were eliminated from serious postseason advancement before they even got there.
They have 14 regular season games left and they'll eventually clinch their first AL Central title in nine years. But that's where it ends, because no team can withstand the losses the Indians have suffered over the last nine days.
The Indians have no one of equal caliber to replace them.
Headed into the best-of-five AL Division Series it's going to be Kluber and Trevor Bauer. The other two starters are Josh Tomlin and rookie Mike Clevinger. That's reality and that means a quick exit in the postseason."
The headline, which reads "Sept. 17: The day Cleveland Indians' postseason dreams ended before they began" isn't misleading in the slightest, so at least there's that. You jumped right in after it and went on to definitively end the Indians postseason. Even though, this isn't factual information (the Indians haven't been eliminated from postseason advancement, as you said, they haven't even gotten there, so...what?).

Then you get even more definitive, declaring no team can withstand the losses the Indians have suffered. How can you say that without absolute certainty? If that's your opinion, pose it that way. Set aside the crux of my argument against you for a second about being an objective journalist and even if you are paid to give your opinion here...how can that be an opinion? That's not an opinion, at least the way you've written it. That reads more like someone saying something is for certain.

If it was your opinion? Perhaps it should read something like this: "The Indians are unlikely to withstand the amount of injuries they've endured and their postseason road is a mighty tough one."

Oh, but wait, it's your opinion, so you can write it however you want, right? Why am I being so stingy? Perhaps, because, even if we are going at it from an argument that this is clearly an opinion piece, you are a man who is paid to write. You put something up, pen to paper, finger to keyboard, whatever method you use, you earn your living off of.

And that is terrible writing. Point blank. How can a man that has had a long career, who continually gets praised for his longevity in the game, and for being looked up to by other writers, who is getting defended for having such, be so terrible at writing?
"They're still around: One-time prospects Adam Miller and Scott Lewis will come to camp with the minor leaguers in early March. Miller's career is in jeapordy because of repeates surgeries on his right middle finge. Lewis was taken off the 40-man at the end of last season after missing much of the year with left elbow problems."
Oh right... You did that back in like 2010. Everyone deserves a good editor, or I guess, in your case, an editor period, but, what about being your own for something as blatant as that?

At least take some care in how you write, right? At least write so that people can understand how you mean it, and they can discern for themselves what are facts and what is your opinion. Don't write something as if it is fact, when it is in fact, your opinion. And take a little pride in what you do, and don't submit something that has three errors in one paragraph. No one who is getting paid to do that should ever submit something that chopped up. I take pride in what I write here. I make mistakes, no doubt, everyone does. Typos happen. But if you take pride in something, you at least proofread it to make sure you didn't make a mistake, and you surely would have caught at least one of those mistakes. I digress.

This entire letter that I'm writing to you, this is my opinion. I'm not saying you have to make it as clear as I'm making it, but not once did you even make it clear that the entire piece was your opinion. Some of those other articles you write, with "rant of the week" or whatever in the title, don't even do that. You don't need to outright say I believe this because it is my opinion (look at an Anthony Castrovince, who doesn't have to use a pronoun to make it known that he's only providing a thoughtful opinion), but let's at least make it more clear. And, important detail here, he's listed as a columnist.

Especially when this particular post is preceded with a BOX SCORE! A box score Paul! Doesn't that usually mean a game recap? A game recap with FACTUAL information that has no bias or slant to it?

Double-triple-quadruple especially when your primary role is to be a beat writer and the job of a beat writer, in most printed pieces, is to not insert their opinion, right? And that's the problem here overall and the main reason that I'm really ticked off about what you wrote. It isn't the same reason that Jason Kipnis, Trevor Bauer, and the Indians are ticked off. Yeah, it's annoying that a beat writer for the team is being negative, but, again, it's your opinion and you can be negative if that is what you believe. That's fine. I hope those guys use it as fuel to their fire. Whether another person is negative about the Tribe is not a reason for most of us as fans need to be upset. Again, your opinion, people can be negative, and you in particular just have a burden of being negative to the people you cover, so that's on you.

But...the role that Paul Hoynes is in makes this a really blurred line. A blurred line of what are we supposed to believe is fact and what is opinion? If we have a guy who routinely prints stories that are game recaps and posts containing information pertaining to the team where he tells you just the facts of what happened, how are we supposed to react when he posts something that is his opinion (especially when it isn't 100% clear and he talks in definitive statements)?

People consume what you write Paul. And have for years. You probably have avid readers. I know you have some avid followers based off some of the inane opinions people have and formulate because of the way you transmit information about this team. I don't need to tell you any of that or that you've been at it long time and a lot of people read what you say and they gain their information from you.

Not to mention, a lot of your stuff is dripping in that negativity and not so unbiased slant, even when it is supposed to be just factual information. You can't even say "the Indians signed Mike Napoli" without saying "the Indians are pinching pennies, which is why they signed a guy like Mike Napoli." How is THAT biased? The Indians sign the old, injured, and infirm is something that you said. I'm not making that up. You said that! Are the Indians pinching pennies, or is that your opinion again? If it's preceded by a quote from Chris Antonetti where he is saying "Hey, we're pinching pennies here, which is why we signed Mike Napoli" that is one thing. But is he? 

How is that objective journalism? 

How is what anything you do objective journalism when that is your job?

If Cleveland.com wants you to be putting out opinion pieces, perhaps they should remove you from the press box and give you assignments that don't require you to disseminate factual information and make it crystal clear that what you print is your opinion. You can be negative all you want then and we can all hold your feet to the fire for your opinion and argue with you in that regard. That's a different battle. I'm sure you'd block anyone for that though. You probably don't have the thick skin to be a full-fledged columnist if you can't handle me trying to point out to you that Ryan Raburn can't hit righties.

I struggle with some fans of this team, because they become misinformed very often due to stuff like this. If not misinformed, ill-informed and not equipped with more than just "pitcher wins are the key to identifying who the best pitchers are."

I went to school for the craft that you are completely butchering. I learned a lot about what a credible journalist should and shouldn't do. I learned about objectivity and what your role is as a journalist. Paul Hoynes is a journalist, at least in this role that we are to believe you fill. Terry Pluto seems like a columnist, which takes on a whole new meaning and expectations. Terry isn't interacting with the team on a daily basis, he is an onlooker from afar. He's paid to give his opinion and we know it is his opinion more times than not, even when he isn't giving his opinion.

I stopped chasing the dream of being a columnist because the foot in the door is that of being a journalist. Someone like a Castrovince, who started out as a journalist, covering the team and doing excellent at it, gets there with a lot of hard work. He has transitioned into a role where he is looked at as someone who provides opinion and thought or he does special interest stories. We know when he's dealing with facts and using them to make an argument, even if he doesn't use a pronoun.

You don't use pronouns because you shouldn't be. So when you don't, but should, can you blame someone for being upset?

And here's another part of it, to bring back up that time during spring training when you blocked me on Twitter. You said that "Yes, Raburn can hit righties." To which I said, in a very snarky way (to wit, wasn't your comment snarky towards Tito?), that I was glad you could say that off one at-bat. While snarky, true, isn't it? How can you say that off one at-bat in spring training? So when I pressed it a bit further and pointed out that Raburn is indeed a very poor hitter against right handed pitching, you countered with the point that he didn't get to face them a lot. The snark was off at this point. After being shown a few charts, where your definitive "never faced a right-hander" statement was proven incorrect, you blocked me.

Did you block me because I was annoying? Maybe, probably. I've been annoying to Jensen Lewis for half of this 2016 season, if anyone should have blocked me, it should be him. But has he? No. In the case with you, I was simply trying to understand and argue the point that you made.

But, it's okay, you can do it, and I can't call you out on it, because you're a "legend" who has been at it forever. I'll take my place on the internet and let you continue to misinform a large contingent of fans. It's fine. this is fine, everything is fine. I'll take my place as a troll on Twitter because my opinion differs from that of someone who has any sort of clout. You treat me like a troll, perhaps I should at least live up to the status.

Why does this bother me so much? Because it takes away from guys who do a really good job and who deserve more recognition for it. Colleagues of yours. People that look up to YOU as a writer who has been at this for a long time. Someone who is covering a team and covering a sport that kids growing up kill to cover. It takes away the opportunity to do something that they take pride in because this you are sitting around, collecting a paycheck for it, and not giving two shits about what he puts out there. Can I definitively say that? No, but it's my opinion and it's the feeling I get when I read some of the stuff you write.

I wanted to do what you're doing now. 20-year-old Nino would kill for your job, even though now I'm happy with what I'm doing and content living out my writing passion in increments and when I feel like it, not because I'm on deadline. Hey, I didn't actually end up wanting to do what you are doing as a job. I did it for a bit and decided it wasn't fulfilling my passion. If it's not for you, perhaps you should stop doing it. But to see you doing such a poor job at something that I see others trying to do kills me. I just want someone to take pride in what they are doing, and if they can't, step aside and let someone who will take pride in it do it.

This is why I'm upset. This is why a few others are upset. I know a large portion are upset at you for being negative, and that's their deal. The players and team should definitely be pissed at you, and as I've said, that's the battle you've created for yourself. But fans should really be upset at the fact that you are teetering this line of being objective and not-objective and I'm not really sure where you are supposed to fall. Give us some sort of direction and then maybe half the problem here is fixed.

I know you think I'm a troll, but really, I'm not. I'm a passionate Indians fan who really likes good writing and cares about how the rest of his fellow-fans are informed. We all deserve to be informed and given the information at face value so that we can form our opinions. You don't have to be into sabermetrics or anything like that. You don't have to be advanced, you just have to do the job that we are assuming you are being paid to do and to do it objectively.

Thanks for reading what I had to write. As you may be able to tell, it's all my opinion.

-Nino

8.22.2016

High & Low of Indians Vs Blue Jays 8/19-8/21: Party Like A Rock Star



One of the best teams in the AL, the AL East leading Blue Jays. The Indians won the series. They're seven up on the Tigers. It's almost the end of August.

If you didn't think this was serious, you better now.