Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Hello: Devin Brown, Cedric Simmons, Demetris Nichols.
Goodbye: David Wesley, Scot Pollard.
Last season: Fishished the regular season at 50-32. Lost 4-0 to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA finals.
Coach: Mike Brown. Career record: 100-64. Playoffs: 19-14.
After a Cavs offseason highlighted by holdouts, I am elated to begin this preview with a bit of good news. Sasha Pavlovic's limbo has ended. A three-year deal has been agreed to and so our starting two guard will be in wine and gold by Friday's game agains the Knicks. One down, one to go. Wake up, Anderson Varejao.
The signing restores much of the optimism that had been frittered away in the months since the NBA finals. Most of the national media agree: the Cavs will falter in the playoffs this year, and every fan should bow down and praise whatever benevolent god cleared the way to the finals last spring. I remind the sporting world that the Cavs beat the mighty Pistons in the conference finals, and beat them soundly. Why? Because the Cavs were better. The best team in the East, in fact.
Then came the finals.
Yes, they were overmatched by the Spurs. Yes, I was disappointed that they did little to improve this offseason. No, I do not agree with the national media. Which teams, exactly, are supposed to rival us? Who are the contenders?
The Bucks? They have Michael Redd and an untested rookie center from China. Mo Williams? Charlie Villanueva? Sorry, not scary. Don't bet on the playoffs, Milwaukee.
The Heat? Shaquille O'neal is borderline NBA ancient. He has something to prove this season and he won't. To worsen matters, Dwayne Wade has yet to even practice with a team that is resorting to Ricky Davis. Good luck.
The Knicks? Just kidding.
The Raptors? Chris Bosh is a legitimate star and worthy of his draft class. They surged at the end of last season, only to fizzle to the Nets in the first round of the playoffs, which brings us to...
The Nets? Vince Carter was manhandled by Sasha Pavlovic in the playoffs, a microcosm of what the Cavs did to the Nets. The trio of Kidd, Jefferson and Carter has never won and they never will. I'm not sure why they gave Carter all that money. Nenad Krstic's return is big for them, but not enough.
The Magic? Dwight Howard is going to be a force for many years. Jameer Nelson is a nice piece. Bringing in Rashard Lewis is an intriguing move, but then I wonder: what the hell has Rashard Lewis ever done? Soon Magic fans will be asking why ownership shelled out so much for the guy.
The Wizards? A healthy Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler make this an interesting squad. Still, the Cavs have beaten the Wiz in the playoffs two consecutive years. As I recall, Agent Zero was healthy the first time around.
The Bulls? What have the Bulls needed more than anything in the past two seasons? Low post scoring. Who have they hired to provide it? Ben Wallace and Joakim Noah. I don't get it. This is a tough team, capable of winning in the early rounds of the playoffs.
The Pistons? What in the world have they done to get better after being dismantled by the Cavs in the conference finals? I know, I know...Rodney Stuckey and Amir Johnson. Rasheed Wallace is done winning championships.
The Celtics? They have perhaps the best-balanced three-man punch in the league. Remeber, though, that these much heralded superstars have accomplished very little in their careers beside putting up big numbers. And what else do the Celts have on their roster? Junk. Still, those three guys....
And what about the Cavaliers? Let's take a stroll through the roster before I make my official prediction for this year's team.
LeBron James: James is the best player in the NBA. He scores, passes, rebounds, defends and is a leader who challenges his teammates to keep up with him. Better still, LeBron worked like a fiend on his jumpshot in the offseason. An embarrassing sweep in the NBA finals has made him hungrier. Barring injury, watch for him to win his first MVP award. He will also become the all-time leading scorer for the Cavaliers, surpassing Brad Daugherty, in only his fifth season.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas: By now I think we know Z's assets. He is a great jump shooter and one of the best offensive rebounders in the game. Critics point to his defense, although he must be competent enough for the Cavs to have had the number 1 defense in the playoffs last year. Still, Ilgauskas, a Cavalier great, is now 31 and has had 1,000 foot surgeries. His career is going to be winding down sooner than later.
Drew Gooden: In Gooden the Cavs have another excellent all-around rebounder. Coupled with Z on the offensive glass, the Cavs frontcourt gives other teams fits. With Anderson Varejao holding out for god knows how long, look for Drew to get big minutes and more shots. As an offensive player, he has been underused for years. Give him credit for never bitching about it.
Larry Hughes: No more excuses. Larry is healthy and he vows to be the slashing, scoring guard the Cavs signed two seasons ago. Even with his shortcomings he was key helping the Cavs whip the Pistons. The Cavs need 16+ points and at least 65 games from Hughes, always a struggle for him. His inability to contain Tony Parker cost the Cavs a title.
Sasha Pavlovic: I've always championed Sasha and wondered why he didn't get more minutes. Since committing to defense, he has made himself invaluable to the Cavs' success. Quick, strong and brimming with talent, Pavlovic needs now to add consistency to his game. I'm still pissed at him for holding out and missing training camp. Absurd, but whatever. Now prove you're worth the investment.
Daniel Gibson: Boobie is a born shooter, and his role will be to add instant firepower off the bench. Look for him to build on his success in the playoffs, when he burst upon the scene by racking up 31 against the Pistons in the elimination game. Strong defender who also drives to the hoop. Not a good enough passer to solve the Cavs PG problems. Without Anderson, Boobie is first off the bench. Gibson's performance will be critical to the Cavs success this season.
Damon Jones: Disgruntled and wanting a trade, Jones is going to have to accept his role on a team that went to the finals for now. Poor guy. And just what is his role? Very small. The absence of Eric Snow will boost his minutes early in the season, so he'd better drain some jumpers and deal a few dimes. Jones is the team's worst defender.
Donyell Marshall: If Marshall doesn't produce early, he will be banished to the end of the bench for the rest of his career. Needs to hit threes and rebound if he wants to survive, and I'm not sure he's capable at this point. Aside from one brilliant game, Donyell was awful in the playoffs last year.
Eric Snow: Please retire. I can't watch you slow the offense down anymore. I can't watch you miss shots. Become a coach.
Shannon Brown: Perhaps the second most gifted athlete on the team, Brown has big problems controlling his turnovers and making shots. Not a good recipe for getting minutes. Still promising, still a project. Will get a chance though.
Ira Newble: Newble hasn't played in three years, and yet he never goes away. Solid defender. Nonentity.
Dwayne Jones: Worked his way onto the team with hustle and rebounding. Anyone remember another hustling rebounder named Scot Pollard?
Devin Brown: Brown was brought in as a Pavlovic replacement. A career 41% shooting backup journeyman guard is not what I had in mind this offseason for a title contender looking to improve.
Cedric Simmons: Since when are we loading our roster with former Hornets? Simmons has a big upside and likely won't see the light of day for a good, long while.
Demetris Nichols: Can you say D-League?
Anderson Varejao???: Make no mistake, the lack of Anderson Varejao will hurt. Not as much as giving him a ludicrous contract would hurt, though. The Cavs need his rebounding and defensive skills off the bench, because Donyell Marshall can't do it anymore.
There you have it. The core, save Anderson, is intact. The team is good, but hardly great. So, why so few changes in the offseason? Partially because so much money is tied up in Hughes, Marshall and Damon Jones. Another reason, which people don't want to hear, is that the Cavs are looking ahead to the next offseason, when they will have more flexibility.
But that core is a good core. Really good. Good enough to make another terrific playoff run. And don't count out a midseason deal to shake things up (Don't count on one, either).
Coach Mike Brown has done what he promised from day one: mold the team into a defensive powerhouse. Now he needs to take the primitive offense to another level. The preseason was dedicated to just that, so let's see how LeBron and the rest of the team react. In James, Gooden, Ilgauskas, Hughes, Gibson and Pavlovic, the Cavs have plenty of talent on offense. A more sophisticated offense should allow those talents to flourish.
So, without further ado, here is Nate's official prediction for the 2008-09 Cavaliers: 52-30, Eastern Conference champs. The Cavs may start slow, as the early part of the schedule is loaded with playoff teams, but eventually Anderson will re-sign, the offense will click and the wins will come. There is no team in the east that scares me at this point. By the end of the regular season, the Cavs will be geared up for the playoffs, where I predict they will fall to the Spurs in six games in the finals. Until a true point guard comes along, they won't make the final leap to greatness. Still, this is a team built to win in the postseason, where high-flying offenses go to die.
Can't wait. Go Cavs!
Sunday, October 28, 2007
There were other choices, too, often of the potato variety. "Fries" that were baked. Jawbreakers posing as tater tots. Hash browns? The grease from a shredded lunch line tuber was known to leach through even the sturdiest of Styrofoam trays.
Puddings, Jell-0s and fruit cups rounded out a meal that our public officials deemed satisfactory for a growing child. In short, no vitamins, a few elusive strands of protein, and ten times the recommended daily allowance of offal.
But I'm belaboring the point, aren't I? I was a brown bagger.
Actually it would be more correct in those days to call me a lunchboxer. Every couple of years I had a new model, but my first and very favorite was adorned with the helmet of every NFL franchise. Naturally, it came with a matching thermos.
Packing a lunch had its obvious advantages. There was little risk in a ham sandwich, an apple, a carrot and a juice box. PB & J. Salami and cheese. Chips. Raisins. A Handi-Snacks (I was one of many who collected those red plastic cheese spreaders). Most everything was harmless and easily traced back to the Acme supermarket in West Akron.
But the strategy was not infallible. That much became clear one fateful winter day.
The year was 1982. Ronald Reagan was president. Ketchup would soon be called a vegetable. I was seven years old and in first grade. There was no cafeteria at King School. Lunch was eaten in classrooms, which were patrolled by a pair of monitors, unholy horrors known as 6th graders.
Throughout the duration of my public schooling I tried to keep a low profile. My lunches were usually suited to that purpose. There were few surprises when I flipped open that tin lid, and that's the way I liked it. Mom reliably prepared a sandwich (crust intact), carrot and celery sticks, some form of pretzel (rod or twist, I wasn't particular), and, when I declined to buy milk at school, a juice box (always 100% juice. No Lil' Hugs, no Kool-Aid). My repast was healthy almost without exception. Oh, at times there would be a slice of leftover pizza. On rarer occasions a bag of Ruffles. Normally I knew that a good square meal was in store. Normally.
Ah, trust--such a fragile thing. So difficult to build, so easily destroyed.
Lunch that day commenced as usual--monitors arriving, teacher departing, monitors hollering in a daily attempt to silence us. Those wretches doomed to the lunch line would vanish and return ten minutes later, trays laden with tasteless morsels. Meanwhile, the rest of us fetched lunch pails from our lockers.
Appetite peaking, I flipped open the clasp to find my lunchbox conspicuously spare. Within lay a Minute Maid orange juice (not my favorite, but satisfactory) and my thermos. Wonderful, I smirked. Two drinks. Had mom suffered an uncharacteristic lapse? Had my sister ended up with two sandwiches in her lunch? Not likely. Then it dawned on me--soup! That was the answer. Inside the thermos was a piping hot bowl of chicken soup. That would hit the spot on a wintery day. Heck, I would be the envy of the class. So what if there was no spoon to be found? It was the tiniest of oversights.
I unscrewed the lid, but was not met with a brothy waft of hot soup. I peered inside and there discerned something metallic in color. I upturned the vessel, and out slid a long bit of tinfoil. Dumbstruck, I glanced around. Had anyone noticed this bizarre circumstance? Surely they would soon.
I began to unwrap this mystery provision. My mouth became dry. So dry I resorted to my juice box. What doom hid within this silvery shell? There was only one way to know, and so I continued, quickly, as to determine my fate one way or another.
When at last I had peeled away the aluminum layers, I froze, terror-stricken, a familiar odor rising out of the folds of foil. I sat there, inert, staring at my lunch.
A hot dog.
No bun. No mustard. Damp, and, in spite of the thermos and the added precaution of foil, cold. Hopelessly cold. My lunch. Juice and a hot dog--cold.
Then it happened, what I dreaded. A glance from a neighboring desk. A double take, and then? Hey, look what he has for lunch! Like that, my world came crashing down.
Laughter erupted. Monitors, baffled as to the source, soon joined in. What was I to do? My options were few: feign a seizure or endure it. I endured. What I did not do was eat the wiener, now being passed around the room as proof positive of the rumor. Yes, it really is a hot dog! Yes, it really was in his thermos! Eww!
That afternoon my mother showed little remorse. It's all we had, she claimed, and, it's just the same as bologna. Flimsy as her excuses were, she dismissed my laments with a wave of the hand.
I feared the next day, but my attempts at staying home were rebuffed. Months passed before the furor died down, and, as far as I know, my hot dog lunch still lives in infamy within the walls of King School Elementary.
Needless to say I took responsibility for my own lunches thereafter. Such a breach of trust was beyond redemption, though my mother and I have avoided a total falling out. My precious NFL lunchbox was discarded (how could I drink from that tainted thermos again?), replaced by an inferior and all plastic Pac-Man model.
The tale is a sad one to tell, and painful to relive. Yet, I believe one must learn from experience, and pass on what one has gleaned. So please, dear reader, let my humiliation be a lesson to you: if all the fridge contains is a hot dog, send the poor child to the lunch line!
This story is 100% true. No details have been altered in its telling.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Today Genarlow is reunited with his mother and his sister. That's a beginning. Let us hope that this once college-bound honor student and standout athlete can, as much as possible, pick up where he left off.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Then the lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" And the Lord said, "What have you done? Listen; your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground!"
God is dismayed and no wonder: Cain has just wiped out 1/4 of the human population. I also find it interesting that god walks among people in the early part of the bible and interacts with them.
Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
"East of Eden" is a lovely little phrase, and I'm not the only one who seems to think so. John Steinbeck thought enough of it to make it the title of his epic novel, which, incidentally, is the greatest novel of all time. Or at least top 10.
Anyway, Cain has his jealous fit, kills Abel and is driven by god out of Eden. His fear is that, as a "fugitive and a wanderer," people may want to kill him. Of course the skeptic in me must ask at this point: what people? By my count there are only Adam, Eve and Cain. That makes three, but who's counting? And who is Cain's "wife" whom he "knew" and subsequently had a son, Enoch, with? There is no one to marry, not even Eve, who does not live in Nod. Are we meant to believe that god has created more people in the meantime? Maybe, according to the bible, but certainly not according to Christian doctrine.
There are some holes here.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
To a long, bounteous life together! To love! Hurrah!
To you, Sarah and Graham, I raise high my gin-filled glass and drink.
Pictured above: groom Graham Curtis (left) and bride Sarah Kerkian.
Monday, October 22, 2007
That said: they've done it again. Another Cleveland team has ripped my heart out and stamped it to a bloody pulp. Obviously losing a best of seven series after roaring out to an early 3-1 lead is disappointing. But in losing the final three games by a combined score of 30-5 is downright humiliating. And to the loathesome Red Sox. And to Manny Ramirez. I'd rather have needles stuck into my eyeballs.
So, here is Nate's ALCS in a nutshell.
Just getting there. A pennant would have been great, but being in the playoffs is much better, obviously, than what the Tribe did the previous 6 Octobers, which was sit at home.
Jake Westbrook. Our number 3 pitcher made two quality starts in this series. In other words, he made two more quality starts than C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona combined. In game seven, when the Tribe needed someone to dig deep, that's just what Westbrook did. After struggling through the first three innings, he was absolutely unhittable by the time he was yanked after the sixth, which never should have happened.
Kenny Lofton. What will it take for him to win a ring? The poor guy did his job yesterday by scoring two runs. At least he would have scored two runs if he had not been called out (he was clearly safe) trying to leg out a double, and had he not been held up at third base with a base hit still careening about the outfield.
Paul Byrd. HGH scandal notwithstanding, he pitched a gem of a game four. He and Westbrook were our two true aces in the ALCS.
Asdrubal Cabrera. I've said it about 10 times already: future star. The guy was a rookie playing out of position in the ALCS. He was about the coolest guy on the field for the Tribe.
Joe Borowski. People were having strokes before Borowski ever threw a pitch in this series. Turns out our closer (who, incidentally, led the league in saves) was the least of our worries.
Eric Wedge. He was loyal to Westbrook, Byrd and Borowski the whole way through, and that loyalty paid off. He also got the most out of Trot Nixon. I don't know what he was supposed to do about the total pitching meltdown, except stay calm, which he somehow managed to do.
The rest of the mess:
C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. Look no further than our two 19 game winners to see why the Indians lost this series. Together they started 6 games in the postseason, and only Fausto tossed a decent game (game 2 vs. Yankees).
Travis Hafner. Pronk stunk, plain and simple. After his game one homer against Josh Beckett, he did nothing. His double play groundout in the first inning of game five killed a potential rally and let Beckett off the hook. His three-pitch K in game seven against Jonathan Papelbon with no outs and two on was another deflating blow. Both plays sucked the air out of his team completely. What happened to our once fearsome slugger? I repeat what I said in an earlier post: Hafner is injured, and has been all year. There really is no other explanation as to why he can no longer pull a fastball.
Joel Skinner. Somehow, incredibly, he held Kenny Lofton at third base while Franklin Gutierrez' hit was rolling across the outfield. The Indians had seized momentum in game seven, and Skinner applied the brakes. The Tribe never recovered.
Rafael Perez. ERA of 45.00 says it better than I ever could.
The left side of the infield. Casey Blake and Jhonny Peralta played infield in game seven of the ALCS was about how I would play infield in game seven of the ALCS--booting grounders and dropping popups. Blake's misplay of Jacoby Ellsbury's grounder resulted in Dustin Pedroia's two run homer that basically put game seven, and the series, out of reach.
Rafael Betancourt in game seven. WTF???
Grady Sizemore in game five. Wait a minute...wasn't that Alex Cole? The league adjusted to Grady this season, and this series exposed major holes in his game. He has a ton of work to do in the offseason, with particular attention paid to contact hitting and playing outfield walls.
Manny Ramirez. Made an ass of himself all series long and is rewarded with a trip to the Fall Classic. Truly the Sports Gods hate Cleveland.
Diasuke Matsuzaka. Apparently paying a billion dollars for a supremely mediocre pitcher works wonders. His "gyro ball" looks like nothing more than a ineffective screwball to me. He does have a nice arm, though.
Chief Wahoo. He is still an abomination and he is still firmly affixed to the Indians organization. Until the ballclub exorcises this deplorable demon, the Tribe will never win. What, I ask, is the point in keeping him? Would anyone ever miss such a racist symbol?
Well, that's it, folks. That's about all I can stand. The bottom line is: the Tribe choked. They went up 3-1 and panicked. Boston stayed cool and prevailed. Now they get to play in the World Series. Worst of luck to them. Am I bitter? Yep. Go Rockies!
PS. Kiwi Bird: I forgive you.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Seeing the grass up close. Every blade is in place and perfectly groomed--so perfect it looks fake.
Jake Westbrook falling behind 3-0 to the most lethal hitter in the past 50 years (sorry Alex Rodriguez) and getting him to bounce into an easy, inning-ending double play. Manny Ramirez, by the way, is an imbecile.
Delicious Dormunder Gold. Jacobs Field, perhaps the greatest venue in baseball, wins bonus points for serving Great Lakes Beer.
1 million white towels waving.
Future star Asdrubal Cabrera knocking in a run like he was a ten-year vet.
Travis Hafner beating out a double play grounder, allowing the fourth and final run to score.
Rafael Betancourt mowing down the heart of the order.
Joe Borowski, 1-2-3.
Seeing it all with my old man.
One game later the Tribe has a 3-1 series lead. Time to put this team away NOW, at home and in rhythm. Do NOT let the momentum shift. The Red Sox have a history of climbing out of huge holes (remember the ALDS in 1999? The ALCS in 2005?), and they very easily could do just that.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Also on hand at game 2 was the king of ultra mellow, fluffball rock, James Taylor.
But it is Diamond's presence at Fenway Park that McBone condemns. For shame!
How willing they all are to shell out millions for primetime TV ads.
And then there are those disturbing ads where the most intense people in the universe are working out and sweating Gatorade.
Anyhow, go Tribe.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
This second round will be much, much tougher than the first. Why? Because the Red Sox are much, much better. Their lineup may pale next to the Yankees, but there is a reason why the Sox are still playing.
So, let's get right down to it.
1B: Ryan Garko vs. Kevin Youkilis. This is a matchup of nearly identical hitters. Garko has more power, but Youkilis gets on base more often. But in the field Youkilis separates himself from his opposite number. Garko proved himself a quick study in his first season as a full-time first baseman, but Youkilis made exactly zero errors this year in 135 games compared to Garko's 8. Advantage: Youkilis (slightly).
2B: Asdrubal Cabrera vs. Dustin Pedroia. Again, many similarities. Two rather obscure, but very talented and upcoming players will man second base in this series. Pedroia can wield the stick and was good for a very legitimate .317 mark this year. Also impressive are the 39 doubles he mixed in there. Cabrera had some very, very rookie looking at bats in the ALDS, but he has cemented his spot as the number two hitter for the postseason. Both players are great with the glove, but Cabrera is the second coming of Omar Vizquel. Advantage: Pedroia.
SS: Jhonny Peralta vs. Julio Lugo. These are totally different players. Lugo batted neither for power (8 hr) or average (.237) in '07. Lugo has been a better hitter in the past, but Peralta, who tortured the Yankees last week, is far superior on offense, except on the basepaths. At short? Both will butcher a play. Lugo has more range, and Peralta's limitations are well known, but the bottom line is Jhonny had more assists, putouts and double plays than Lugo did this year. Advantage: Peralta.
3B: Casey Blake vs. Mike Lowell. This is a matchup between a fairly consistant all-star and, well, Casey Blake. Lowell will give you 20 and 90 in an average year. Casey? Try 20 and 70. Let's not delude ourselves. Advantage: Lowell.
LF: Kenny Lofton vs. Manny Ramirez. Is this the mismatch that it seems? Pretty much. Still, Lofton is by far a better fielder and baserunner than Manny could ever dream of being, and those things factor into the postseason when games are tight. But Manny is Manny, and the fact is: Manny is one of the greatest hitters of all-time. Advantage: Ramirez.
CF: Grady Sizemore vs. Coco Crisp. The sickening thing here is that these players should be playing side by side in the outfield and batting 1-2 in the Tribe's order. The Coco Crisp trade remains one of the worst in Cleveland history, period. I love Coco Crisp, and part of me will never forgive Mark Shapiro (unless we win the World Series) for dealing him away prior to last season. BAH! Anyhow, Grady Sizemore can do anything Coco Crisp does, but better. Both can run, hit and field, but Grady is the uebertalent here. If Coco Crisp took steroids, he would be Grady Sizemore. Advantage: Sizemore.
RF: Franklin Gutierrez (not Trot Nixon!) vs. J.D. Drew. Here we have a slick-fielding up-and-comer versus the most overhyped baseball player of all time (or, at least until this season saw a teammate surpass him). Drew pretty much sucked this year, but he does get on base. Gutierrez, meanwhile, has looked AWFUL at the plate in this postseason, but he sure is a handsome devil. Advantage: even.
C: Victor Martinez vs. Jason Varitek. Victor Martinez is a great hitter. Jason Varitek is a good hitter. Jason Varitek is a very good fielder. Victor Martinez worked hard to make himself a very good fielder. Both call great games for their pitchers. Both are all-stars. Victor Martinez is (or at least should be) Alex Rodriguez' nearest rival for MVP. Advantage: Martinez.
DH: Travis Hafner vs. David Ortiz. Two big-time, game changing hitters, but Ortiz is the postseason hero. Both players hit for power and average. Both have great eyes at the plate. Both score runs. Still, with Hafner's off year it's gotta be...advantage: Ortiz.
No. 1 starter: C.C. Sabathia vs. Josh Beckett. Two great, great pitchers. That's about all I can say. This should be an epic matchup and my mind cramps up when I try to figure out who's better. Advantage: even (Sabathia).
No. 2 starter: Fausto Carmona vs. Curt Schilling. I don't want to hear about the stupid bloody sock. Schilling has so much experience and guts and blah, blah. How about stymieing the Yankees in your first-ever playoff start? Does that count for guts? Fausto is a better pitcher at this point. Advantage: Carmona.
No. 3 starter: Jake Westbrook vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka. Wow, a player on the Red Sox who has somehow managed to be more overhyped than J.D. Drew. Boston paid billions for this guy to put up very Jake Westbrook-type numbers in the regular season (15 wins, 4.40 ERA). Both pitchers have struggled in the postseason, but my gut is telling me that Jake prevails. Advantage: even.
No. 4 starter: Paul Byrd vs. Tim Wakefield. Two junkballers. My Indians/Yankees preview was pretty accurate except for one detail: I didn't expect Paul Byrd to ever take the mound. This is why I'm a make-believe sportswriter and not a major-league manager. What can I say? I love that Paul Byrd is all heart and no arm. I also love knuckleballs, and Tim Wakefield is the last of a dying breed. Still, one glaring statistic: Wakefield's postseason ERA is above 6. That's downright ugly. Advantage: Byrd.
Bullpen: Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt, Tom Mastny, Jensen Lewis and Aaron Fultz vs. Javier Lopez, Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima and Mike Timlin. Lopez, Okajima and Delcarmen were nasty this year. Betancourt, Perez and Lewis were better. Aaron Fultz? Let's hope not. Advantage: Indians (barely).
Closer: Joe Borowski vs. Jonathan Papelbon. Both closers had superlative years, but Papelbon was better in just about every category. Here's praying he makes very few appearances in this series. Advantage: Papelbon.
Nate's official ALCS prediction: This is going to be a close series. As I said, this is a better team than the Yankees, and much better suited to win postseason games. That translates roughly to: Indians win 4-2. I believe that the Red Sox pitching is less adept than it looked against Anaheim, and that C.C. and Fausto are going to outpitch their opposite numbers. The Angels, after all, are a collection of slap happy spray hitters. Good pitching beats good hitting. The Angels had good pitching this year, but you need to have SOME hitting to advance in postseason play. Anaheim (or LA of A or whatever the hell they're called) put to rest a question I had when the Tribe faced them in the regular season: why are they so good? The answer? They weren't.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
A couple of things jumped out early for me in the narrative, the most glaring of which was: this really is a dual narrative, at the least. Very distinctive voices color this portion of the text, and they don't necessarily jibe with each other.
The first narration wastes little time explaining what happened over the course of seven days. Things were created, and in this order: 1) light 2) the sky 3) the Earth and its vegetation 4) the sun, moon and stars 5) fish and birds 6) land animals and humankind. That takes six days, followed by a seventh day of rest. Let's focus on day six, when God creates humans:
Then God said, Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness. Then, a bit later: So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them, and God blessed them.
That "them" is important. According to this passage, man and woman were created simultaneously and told to multiply. Furthermore, there is no hint of Adam or Eve or any Garden of Eden. They are neither mortal or immortal. "Them" is very unspecific in number. All we know is: there was more than one, there was at least one of each gender and they were impelled to use all that God had created beforehand.
Then comes the more famous account.
This narrative is more detailed and the order of creation is much different. Here God creates a single man from the dust and then makes a garden for him. After that come the animals, but since there is no real companion for the man, out comes the rib and, voilà, woman.
So, an immediate disconnect to start things off, and just a page apart. Two narratives, two fairly dissimilar origins of the world and human life. I suppose one could argue that the first narrative gives a broad account, while the second attempts to paint in the details of what happened, but that does not explain away other contradictions. The first narrative is so specific in laying out the order of things. To me, it's important that man and woman were created last. God created this realm and it pleased him and he thought to populate it with humans. In the second narrative, the creation of man is sandwiched in the middle and really the whole idea of seven days disappears. Here God wanted man first, and he molded the world to suit this one man.
Which are we supposed to believe? Do we choose? Or do we try to make them fit together? To me that's not possible. Obviously the rib narrative has been more widely acknowledged and embraced, but why? I imagine the way humans thrive on storytelling has something to do with it. In this narrative there are characters and events to latch on to. There are voices and there is dialogue. Adam and Eve have failings and fears just like anyone else. Here one finds real human elements and emotions where the other offers a rather cold and generic version of "humankind."
That's the best I can come up with.
More on Genesis later.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Nate's Most Valuable Player: this is a hard one (no I am not going to consider the game two bugs). There are so many names to choose from. Kenny Lofton gave us a veteran presence and led the hit parade in game one with 4 RBI. Fausto Carmona, except for one mistake pitch, was unhittable in game two. Rafael Perez gave up nothing (aside from a too-little, too-late Rodriguez homer in the seventh inning of game 4) out of the bullpen and Grady Sizemore had a .524 on-base percentage. Jhonny Peralta was an absolute monster at the plate. He hit NO home runs. He did hit .467 with a .579 OBP. Two runs, two RBI, three doubles and a stolen base. But he is edged out (barely) by Paul Byrd. No one wanted him to pitch. No one expected him to win. He did, and the Yankees are golfing.
Nate's Most Valuable Play: Perez, unlike all season, looked extremely hittable in game four. When he relieved Paul Byrd in the sixth inning, he immediately got himself into a two on, one out situation with Derek Jeter at the plate. This is perhaps the most unenviable situation that I could imagine for a major league relief pitcher. What happened? Rafael induced the Yankee Captain to ground into his third double play of the series.
As an Indians fan, there is no sweeter sight than the face of a Yankees fan, streaked with tears.
If there were any justice in the world, Rafael Betancourt, who delivered the Indians' only 1-2-3 inning in game four, would be a Cy Young candidate. Setup man: the most thankless job in baseball.
Kelly Shoppach deserves to be a starting catcher for someone. His arm is lethal and he can hit some. No doubt we have the best catching tandem in the bigs.
Asdrubal Cabrera showed some rookie tendencies at the plate: bad swings early in the count, most notably.
I loved Roger Clemens' little limp as he exited game 3. Amateur theatrics. Nice waste of 22 million, Yankees.
Jensen Lewis, rookie, showed no fear in this series. He brings nasty stuff to the plate and he trusts it. I am VERY impressed by this guy, who grew up an Indians fan.
Ryan Garko's comments about the bugs were classic and priceless. "I guess Fausto is just a little tougher." "The Yankees acted like there were bullets flying around their heads...I mean, this is the big leagues." Ryan Garko. Let's hope he's an Indian for a long, long time.
People love Derek Jeter. I HATE Derek Jeter. He played very poorly in this series. Way worse than Alex Rodriguez. (.176 BA for Jeter compared to .267 for Rodriguez).
Of course Joe Borowski made us sweat in the ninth inning of fame 4. Of course he got the save. The final out was a nasty breaking pitch to Jorge Posada, seconds after Posade hit a ball three miles down the first base line...foul.
Eric Wedge. Why do his players play hard for him, even in meager times? He respects them and the roles they play. His second guessers think C.C. Sabathia should have started game 4 on 3 day's rest. They believe that Kelly Shoppach should never have replaced Ryan Garko in the game 4 lineup. They think Rafael Betancourt should have pitched ninth inning of the series clincher. Wrong. Wedge has always been a player's coach. This year he has grown and proved he has the cerebral capacity to match his loyalty. The proof? We're playing for the pennant.
Listening to the network team of Chip Caray, Tony Gwynn and Bob Brenly was unbearable (Caray in particular is a hack. "AND HERE COME THE YANKEES!" he ejaculates after a leadoff single). Their desperation for the Yankees to score 100 runs in every game was so unprofessional and so typical. Case in point: try opening the MLB section of ESPN.com today. What is the headliner? No, it's not the Indians trouncing of the Yankees, it's the ever tiresome Joe Torre/ George Steinbrenner soap opera saga from hell. Way to be a tabloid, ESPN.
A post game celebration typically features fine champagne (Mumms) and bad beer (Bud Light).
The Yankees are INSANE if they part ways with Joe Torre, who has endless reserves of class and talent as a manager. That's the last Yankee compliment I will deliver here and maybe ever.
Here's hoping for a Indians-Rockies world series.
Monday, October 8, 2007
Democrats Seem Ready to Extend Wiretap Powers.
Sometimes I wonder why we continue this two party charade. I guess the greens will gain some momentum once the planet goes to hell. In the meantime we have to put up with this kind of crap.
There is nothing, NOTHING better than eliminating the Yankees. It happened in 1997. Ten years later, down they go again.
Bring on the Red Sox.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Nor do I want to discuss Trot Nixon overrunning Robinson Cano's single to right and allowing two runs to score.
Nope, don't want to even think about why Aaron Fultz was summoned as the first reliever from the bullpen.
All I want to do is puke and go to bed.
Here's hoping that Eric Wedge starts C.C. Sabathia tomorrow.
Go Tribe. Please.
Friday, October 5, 2007
Fausto Carmona pitched his guts out. So did Rafael Perez. Together they combined to toss 11 innings of 3 hit ball. That's the story of tonight's game, every bit as much as the swarm of gnats that descended upon Jacobs field sometime, and for some reason, in the middle innings.
But the bugs helped.
Give Joba Chamberlain credit. He didn't cave in. Even with gnats crawling over his neck and face, he coughed up but a single run. Andy Pettitte was just as gutsy, pitching out of jams inning after inning and surrendering not a thing. Carmona, though, aside from a hiccough of a hanging slider to Melky Cabrera, was even better. In all, he induced 19 Yankee hitters to ground out. His fastball was a buzzsaw and his sinker invisible. Still, until destiny intervened in the eighth inning, when Chamberlain uncorked a wild pitch that Grady Sizemore barely scored on, it appeared that this series would head back to the Bronx tied 1-1. After 11 bleeding-ulcer innings and one crucial act of god, Travis Hafner lined a game-winning single into center field. Ballgame. Indians win 2-1.
I can't take this.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Fine. If I have to agonize while looking at Derek Jeter's goddam face, so be it. Let's start by forgetting the fact that the Yankees swept the season series six games to zip. Please. I don't want to hear a peep about the Indians being intimidated. They won't be intimidated and they won't be swept. Regular season's over Yankee fans. Gone. Goodbye.
Let the real games begin.
This should prove to be a great series. Of course if the Yankess win, I will vomit, cry, and vomit again. God forbid.
Before I begin my position by position analysis, let's make a little payroll comparison, shall we. The Indians squeezed 96 wins out of a $56,795,867 payroll. Very gratifying. The Yankees? They spent considerably more. This season a payroll of $198,662,180 bought 94 wins. 23 million went into Jason Giambi's 13 home runs. 22 mil. was dedicated to Roger Clemens and his two September starts. How many millions are they paying Carl Pavano to never start two games in the last two years? Why exactly does GM Brian Cashman still have a job? Christ, I hate the Yankees.
It boils down to this: The Indians have great pitching and suspect hitting. The Yankees have great hitting and suspect pitching. They say good pitching beats good...well, you know how it goes. But what about fielding? It's about as even as it gets on paper. Both teams sport a .985 fielding percentage and are among the best in the league. Bullpens? The Yankees' pen has blown seven more saves all year than the Indians'.
Now, down to the minutiae...
1B: Ryan Garko vs. Doug Mientkiewicz. I'm assuming that Mientkiewicz is going to play first, which has been the Yankee's flakiest position this season. Giambi has seen time there. So has Shelley Duncan. Guys named Shelley don't scare me. So, let's say Mientkiewicz. At this position, Garko is the much better hitter, especially with Mientkiewicz not at 100%. Mientkiewicz, however, is the superior fielder. Gimme the meat. Advantage: Garko.
2B: Asdrubal Cabrera vs. Robinson Canó. Yikes. All right. Canó is a big-time hitter. He's got a big arm, but let's face it: he's a hitter and, barring any unforseen circumstances, will be a longtime star in the league. With three years under his belt, he has a world of experience compared to rookie Asdrubal Cabrera, who will also be a star, sooner than later, and at shortstop. But this is about now, and it's about second base. Canó is established and has playoff experience. Cabrera does not. Cabrera has done nothing but impress since his midseason call up, and he is the best fielder on a good fielding team. Still...Advantage: Canó.
SS: Jhonny Peralta vs. Derek Jeter. This is a huge mismatch. I hate Derek Jeter, but he is a great hitter and an able, if slightly overrated fielder. Peralta is a good hitter and in the field, well let's just say he doesn't embarrass himself. Advantage: Jeter.
3B: Casey Blake vs. Alex Rodriguez. This is the biggest mismatch of the series. Rodriguez is a top five player of his era. He is a monster in every way (though no Brooks Robinson with the glove). Casey Blake? Everyone loves him and I get it--Blake plays hard. He's a great guy. He's competant at the plate and at many positions in the field. He was an integral part of this team's 96 wins. One could argue, however, that Rodriguez is the greatest player of all time. Blake doesn't normally even enter into the discussion. Advantage: Rodriguez. No, I won't call him A-Rod. Piss off.
LF: Kenny Lofton vs. Johnny Damon. Message to Eric Wedge: I don't want to see Jason Michaels ever in this series. Thank you. Johnny Damon is among the more annoying players in recent history. That said, he's awfully pesky. When he's good, he's very good. When he's at his best, he's no Kenny Lofton. Lofton is eight years older than Damon, but he still hits, runs and fields every bit as well and, this year, better. Advantage: Lofton.
CF: Grady Sizemore vs. Melky Cabrera. This is a giant advantage for the Indians. At bat, Cabrera is weak. He doesn't get on base much, doesn't hit for power and doesn't run. Grady does all of these exceptionally well even in an off year like this one has been. Both center fielders are young, but Sizemore is much further along at this point. Advantage: Sizemore.
RF: Franklin Gutierrez vs. Bobby Abreu. Abreu shook off a long slump and compiled over 100 RBI yet again. While his HRs and batting average were down from his usual, he is a major cog in this ferocious lineup. Gutierrez is a promising rookie with a long swing and some flaws as a hitter. There is no doubt he's a better option than Trot Nixon, but his playoff experience is zero and nil. In the field, though, he is much better than Abreu. Advantage: Abreu.
C: Victor Martinez vs. Jorge Posada. Though he plays for the biggest market there is, Posada seems to somehow have been underrated in his day. He's still a great hitter (.338, 20, 90 in '07!) and in the field he's no slouch. But we have a great hitting catcher of our own (.301, 25, 114), whose fielding has improved by leaps and bounds in this, a completely healthy 2007. Very close call, but if I'm picking a starting catcher, someone who is a great team leader, who knows how to handle a pitching staff as well as any in the league, who has a handshake for every occasion, it's gotta be...advantage: Martinez.
DH: Travis Hafner vs. Hideki Matsui. Matsui's bum knee relegates him to a DH role. That is no bad thing for the Yankees. They didn't call him Godzilla for nothing in Japan, and when the Yankees shelled out for his services, he repaid them in kind. His best season, however, is only slightly better than Travis Hafners' worst. In spite of a season long slump, I'll take one of the best hitters in the game as my DH. Advantage: Hafner.
No. 1 starter: C.C. Sabathia vs. Chien Ming-Wang. This is a duel between 19 game winners, but let's be realistic. If C.C. had Wang's run support, he would have won 23-25 games this year. Ever since he decided he was the Indians designated badass, I would choose Sabathia over any other pitcher in the league to start a playoff series. Advantage: Sabathia.
No. 2 starter: Fausto Carmona vs. Andy Pettitte. This is a more even matchup. Pettitte isn't what he once was. That's what the media keep saying, but it seems to me that a 15+ game winner with a 4.00 era is exactly what he has always been in an average year. And he's still a great competitor. Fausto is one of the more electric young pitchers in the game, having just won the ERA title and 19 games in just his second year in the league. Pettitte NEVER had a year like Fausto just had. This is a matchup of experience vs. arm. I'll take Fausto's arm with the confidence that Victor can keep him calm on the mound. Advantage: Carmona.
No. 3 starter: Jake Westbrook vs. (presumably) Roger Clemens. Roger Clemens. He's pitched 2 games and ten innings since September 1st. No doubt he will shut the Tribe out. I love Jake Westbrook, and let's hope his sinker is sinking on October 7th. Otherwise, Clemens and his 45 year old arm will somehow prevail. If he even pitches. 22 million for 18 games. Nice fucking team. Assholes. Advantage: Clemens.
Long relief/additional starter: Paul Byrd vs. Mike Mussina. Mussina has had an AWFUL year. Byrd was reliably competent, just what the Tribe signed him for. If these guys pitch, that means a starter has melted down. Advantage: Byrd.
Bullpen: Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt, Aaron Fultz, Jensen Lewis, Tom Mastny, etc. vs. Luis Vizcaino, Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Myers, Bryan Bruney, Scott Proctor, etc. Perez and Betancourt are the ones that count, and they are worth the Yankee's pen put together. Advantage: Indians.
Closer: Joe Borowski vs. Mariano Rivera. I don't care if Rivera has had an off year. I don't care how old he is. He's one of the best closers of all time, and he's closed some of the biggest games. Borowski is walking heartburn. Advantage: Rivera.
Nate's official prediction: The Tribe has too much pitching. Fuck the Yankees. I hate them so very, very much. Indians win 3-1.