Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cleveland Indians 2008 Season Preview

All right, I'm over it. Last season is history, and so is the colossal ALCS meltdown, when the Indians, leading the series 3 games to 1, bowed down and handed the pennant to the Boston Red Sox.

God DAMMIT!!!!!!!!!! How could they have lost that god damned series?? Why do my teams NEVER win? Cripes, it burns me up. 1964 and counting. 44 years sans title.

Anyway, what's done is done. At least the Tribe was competitive last year, as in 96 regular season wins. And they will competitive again this year. How do I know? Let's start with the obvious:

Starting pitching. The Indians have it in spades. The rotation is set, and as I look around the league, I see no other team with as many arms as the Tribe has heading into the spring of '08. Want me to break it down? All righty then.

C.C. Sabathia. Quite simply, he was the best pitcher in the AL last year (We'll ignore his catastrophic postseason performance for now). Look for the left hander to pick right back up where he left off, dealing fastballs, sliders and that devastating changeup en route to 15-20 victories. Note to Tribe fans: enjoy C.C. while you can, because he is gone after this season. Frankly, the team would be nuts to pay him Johan Santana money to stay.

Fausto Carmona. In Carmona the Tribe has the rare luxury of a second ace. While C.C.'s 2007 was years in the making, I can't imagine anyone predicted that Carmona would match Sabathia's 19 wins, especially after his inauspicious 1-10 rookie campaign. A hard thrower who throws nothing straight, Fausto's best weapon is his sinker. He will utilize that tantalizing pitch to the tune of 15-20 wins.

Jake Westbrook. I love Jake, and he really showed me something with his 2 masterful ALCS starts. He will allow a million base runners again this year, but armed with one of the best sinkers in the game, he will also win 12-15 games.

Paul Byrd. This to me is a big question mark. I love that Paul Byrd wins games with no stuff and tons of guts. His control is never an issue, but just a minor slip in velocity could spell the end of the 38-year-old's career. But what the hell? Fellow fluffballer Jamie Moyer is still in the game at age 45. Why not Byrd? We'll take 10-13 wins, Paul. Thank you very much.

Cliff Lee. Which Cliff Lee will the Tribe get this season? The guy who won 18 games in 2005, or the uncoachable, unwatchable Lee of the 6.29 ERA last year? I was dead wrong in my prediction that Lee had pitched his last game as an Indian. Still, Lee must know that Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers are waiting at Buffalo should he fail. If he succeeds? Look out, AL.

So, the rotation is deep, and barring injury, should anchor another run toward an AL Central crown. what about the guys who swing the bats?

They will hit. That was the mantra surrounding the Tribe last season. And hit they did not. Nay, pitching, great pitching, is what brought the Indians to within one game of the World Series (god dammit). This year, Mark Shapiro and company are looking for a bit more competence at the plate.

So, let's take a closer look at the position players:

1B Ryan Garko.
I love Ryan Garko. He's like some throwback to the days when the strongest drug a player would take was black coffee (am I imagining those days?). Still, Garko's 61 RBI were a bit of a disappointment. This year? Garko is no longer learning a position. I'm predicting a breakout season, and the Indians will be very happy with 90+ RBI from their first baseman. In the field? Ryan will never be better than average.

2B Asdrubal Cabrera. Last year I thought Mark Shapiro scored a major coup by bringing in second baseman Josh Barfield. Barfield's ineptitude at the plate opened the door for Cabrera, who will never play in the minors again. A wizard in the field, Cabrera has shown enough with the stick to have earned a spot batting second in the lineup. This is a future all-star and gold glove winner, mark my words.

SS Jhonny Peralta. By now I think we know what Jhonny has to offer: a potent bat and a below average glove. I believe a position change is in Peralta's future, but if he can post numbers like he did last year (.270, 21, 71), the team will live with his shortcomings as a middle infielder.

3B Casey Blake. Blake is a great teammate. He's versatile. He's unselfish. He's the kind of guy every great team needs. Say what you want, Casey Blake is a weak link as a starting third baseman. He has power, sure, but he struggles to chase runners home. He is also very mediocre at the corner. His emergence at third is less a nod to his talent than the result of Andy Marte's utter failure to impress anyone. What this team needs is a more consistent corner infielder with Blake filling in wherever he is needed.

C Victor Martinez. As a total ballplayer, Victor has it all. He hits, fields his position and plays a great leadership roll in the clubhouse. I wouldn't trade this guy for all the tea in China. Victor has never finished higher than 7th in the MVP voting, which is a joke.

RF Franklin Gutierrez. I have no doubts about Gutierrez' abilities in the field, where he is dynamite. I have never been a fan of his long, sweeping swing. With little power in the other corner outfield spot, Gutierrez is going to have to produce. Then again, he's slotted in the nine hole as of now, so he shouldn't be feeling that much pressure, right? We'll see.

CF Grady Sizemore. While the rest of the world is falling over backward over Grady, I have to admit to being a little disappointed in his 2007 season. .277 and 155 strikeouts? Not ideal for a leadoff hitter. Then again he did get on base all the time and scored a lot of runs. And he does field his position quite well. I guess it's just that he was so much better the year before. That said, I wouldn't trade Grady for anyone in the league.

LF Jason Michaels and David Dellucci. Ugh. Tribe management ignored my demand that they sign Kenny Lofton for one more year, so we're stuck with another platoon in the outfield this year. But why, when Ben Francisco is hungry and waiting in the minors? Why, when Shin-Soo Choo will be coming back from last year's surgery? Instead we get complete mediocrity in the outfield and at the plate. Bah!

DH Travis Hafner. Hafner was crap last year. That tells you what kind of player he is, that 28 hr and 100 RBI are totally unacceptable. I fully believe that Pronk will be back in the form that made him one of the 5 best hitters in the league from 2003-05.

Bullpen. Last year, the bullpen was money, but bullpens have the annoying habit of being extremely unstable from one year to the next. Here's hoping the Tribe's pen can duplicate what it achieved in '07.

Closer Joe Borowski. All right, if there is one player on this team that makes me nervous...I honestly don't know how Borowski did it last year, by which I mean, leading the lead in saves. His 5.07 ERA wasn't pretty, and neither were all the baserunners and runs he allowed all year long. Nothing wrong with 45 saves though. Can the Tribe count on Borowski again? Hell if I know. I do know he's tough as nails and will put all he's got into every pitch.

Rafael Betancourt.
The righty setup man is the rock of the bullpen. He had a career year in '08, throwing fastball after fastball and an occasional curve. He has a tremendous arm, great control and pitches well under pressure. I don't expect him to repeat what he did last year (1.47 ERA), but he will be solid at worst.

Rafael Perez. Perez' left arm was the perfect counterpoint to Betancourt's right last year, and I can never quite figure out where in blazes he came from. A second year player who had mixed results in limited service as a rookie, Perez was utterly dominant in the regular season of '07. No way he does it again. His good arm should serve him well for many years, but the lights out, strikout machine of last year? That would be a hell of a thing.

Masa Kobayashi. And if Raffy Left should fail? Or Borowski for that matter? That's where Japanese import Kobayashi comes in. The longtime closer may well prove a bust, but more likely will prove a valuable insurance policy.

Jensen Lewis. Lewis has a big league arm and, judging by his performance in the playoffs, the guts to match. He is only 23 however, and with a mere 26 big league games under his belt, who knows what he can provide long term?

Jorge Julio. He has a great arm and was once a closer, but, aside from one sparkling season in 2002, Julio has had a rocky big league career.

Craig Breslow. Tom Mastny's atrocious spring opened the door to Breslow, and I say welcome to the club. If any Indians have a question about molecular biology, Breslow (BS from Yale) is the guy to ask. Can he pitch? His 2.86 lifetime ERA says yes. His grand total of 28.3 innings pitched in two seasons say who the hell knows?

Manned by the ever capable Eric Wedge, the Tribe will win 95 games and capture the AL Central division. Do they have the stuff to win the pennant? Will the bullpen hold up? Can Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore rebound to form? You better believe it. Bring on all comers. In fact, I'm picking the Indians to win the 2008 World Series.

You listening, BoSox?

I'll be at tomorrow's home opener, thanks to loyal McBoner, Jeff Fallis, who somehow provided tickets all the way from San Diego.

Destroy the White Sox!


PS: I was wrong in predicting the Tribe would go 81-81 last year. That scares me. Also, Chief Wahoo is alive and kicking, and I did once say that this team had no chance of ever winning with his racist face besmirching the franchise.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Happy 3,000, Joe!

Last night the legendary Joe Tait broadcasted his 3,000th game for the Cleveland Cavaliers, what was ultimately an agonizing, last-second defeat at the hands of the New Orleans Hornets. How apropos. After 35 years of doing play-by-play for largely horrific basketball and baseball teams (Tait also worked the booth for the Cleveland Indians for 16 losing years), Tait has arguably witnessed more ineptitude in professional sports than any commentator in history.

My earliest memories of Cleveland sports are of Indians TV broadcasts in the '80s and Tait describing myriad 8-2 losses. So what got me hooked? Clearly it wasn't the baseball.

Of course there have been some glimmers of light along the way, like a 2007 trip to the NBA finals. Listen to Joe go nuts during the Cavs' playoff upset of the Washington Bullets in 1976, known in Ohio forever as the Miracle of Richfield:

McBone salutes you, Joe, not only for your loyalty, but your uncanny knack for making crap teams exciting. May you be rewarded in the twilight of your career with a Cavaliers championship.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

McBone Takes Manhattan

As you may or, more likely, may not have noticed, McBone posts have been mysteriously sparse of late. Perhaps you were thinking that your worst fears had been realized, that the McBone well had run dry, that McBone's cutting-edge had finally been blunted against that big, bad granite slab called life.

Fear not, gentle McBoners. McBone's unique blend of social commentary, sports and anti-mayonnism is alive and well.

But even McBone needs a vacation from time to time, and so Alex and I packed our bags and deserted McBone HQ for some much-needed R&R in the Big Apple, where my erstwhile adoring wife assaulted me with a deadly weapon, opening a gash that I fear will forever mar my heretofore handsome visage.

My crime? Ogling eighteen-year-old Clare Tyson (of the New York Tysons).

But what's a little head wound (I should also mention that I got my head cut playing a little Guitar Hero against virtual guitar virtuoso, Aidan Tyson) when you're gallivanting on the grand avenues of the greatest city in the world? After a splash of peroxide, I slapped on a Band-Aid and was good to go. Alex and I gathered up the shattered pieces of our marriage and managed to spend a wonderful week in Manhattan, meeting old friends and stuffing our faces.

Renewed and refreshed, I pledge to bring to you out there in McBone Nation much more of what you have become hopelessly addicted to: that extra special, undiluted, unpasteurized, wholesome, homegrown, olde-tyme, organic, free-range and lactose-free McBone goodness.


Oozing gash compliments of Fiona Tyson, McBone Division of Hair and Makeup.

Monday, March 24, 2008

One year and 5,000 Hits Later...

McBone would like to thank each and every McBoner who has ever taken the time to check out our always cutting edge and unflinchingly left wing weblog. While 5,000 hits may be the equivalent of seven seconds to Perez Hilton, we like to think that, in a small way, we are, every single day, furthering our goal of total world domination.

Thank you, gentle McBoners, for your continuing support.

McBone is, as ever:


Cleveland sports
Gay rights
Good food
World peace
Great movies
Cat Power


George Bush
New York Yankees


Friday, March 14, 2008

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Nate Bowler: Lifetime Statistics

Born: October 3, 1975 in Akron, Ohio

Cavities: 0

Infections: 0

Broken Bones: 0

Braces: No

Glasses: No

Sprained ankles: 3

Lactose intolerance: Oh my, yes

Vegetarian, 1993-1997

Lice: 4th grade

Chicken pox: 3rd grade

Worms: No

Total girlfriends: 16

Imaginary girlfriends: 15

Wives: 1

Friends: 7 (including Mother)

Times beaten up by sister: 153

Tattoos: 0

Times thrown up: 37

High school popularity rating: 13%

Post-adolescent bed-wettings: 1

Accidental Mayonnaise Ingestions (AMIs): 7

Non-Accidental Mayonnaise Ingestions (NAMIs): 2

Foreign language fluency: Elvish

Length, Adam's apple: 3.5"

NOML Moustache championships
: 1 (2007)

Tennis championships: 1 (2008 Australian Open)


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

With Opening Day Just Around the Corner...

...Here's Nate's All-Time Team:

LHP - Sandy Koufax
LHP - Lefty Grove
RHP - Bob Feller
RHP - Walter Johnson

Closer - Hoyt Wilhelm

C - Johnny Bench
1b - Lou Gehrig
2b - Rogers Hornsby
SS - Honus Wagner
3b - Mike Schmidt
LF - Babe Ruth
CF - Tris Speaker (pictured above)
RF - Henry Aaron
DH - Ted Williams

Talk amongst yourselves. Explanations coming soon!


Monday, March 10, 2008

The Blizzard of '08

Normally I find it hard to get worked up over the weather. I've never been a forecast checker and I don't think I've ever seen the Weather Channel. To me, weather is weather and there's not much I can do to change it (except the time I stopped the rain*). Still, the 18 inches we got over the weekend were interesting to me, partially because it snowed more in one hour than it did in the two winters Alex and I spent in France.

I had the time of my life waking up at 5:30 on Sunday to shovel our driveway so I could get to work by 7.

I was 20 minutes late.


*True story: I was walking to class once at Ohio University in the pouring rain, none too happy about the circumstances. Utterly vexed and getting drenched, I closed my eyes and imagined a sort of wedge of energy rising from me, parting the rain and, ultimately, the cruel skies above. When I opened my eyes again, the rain had stopped and a bright blue rift had been torn in the clouds. Warm sunlight poured through. Man, it seems, had vanquished nature.

I walked into class that morning in silent triumph, a shaman of sorts, a weather-lord of old.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Man Who Calls Himself Christian

I'm pretty sure if Jesus was alive today he would roundly condemn waterboarding. Not George W. Bush. No, the arch-fiend, the great hypocrite of our time, has vowed to veto a bill that would ban waterboarding as an interrogation technique.

Look, I know that all sorts of terrible things happen to detainees, and I know that a ban of waterboarding won't change that. What kills me is Bush's blatant contempt for morality and the general passivity with which we treat it. For almost eight years he has flaunted his disregard for human life. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead, and still he occupies the highest office in the land.

To the 112,500,720 people who ever voted for Bush in a presidential election: how can you sleep?


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Ohio Primary

Today I went to the ballot intending to write Mike Gravel in as my choice for democratic candidate for president. I was pretty sure that he wouldn't be on the ballot, and I was right. The depressing part was: no write-ins were allowed.

So, after months of blab on my part, I cast my vote for Barack Obama.

Let it be known, however, that I am proud of Senator Gravel for the campaign he has run, a campaign based on honesty and outrage over a war that should never have been. Mike Gravel is pro gay rights, pro environmental reform, and pro health care reform. He does not take money from special interests. He is for reaching out to our international neighbors instead of defying them. When he says he wants to end the war, he means right now.

But what truly strikes me about his candidacy is that, whether or not I agree with the former senator, he makes his stances clear. When Mike Gravel speaks, I hear no equivocation, no pandering, and no debasing himself to snatch a few more votes. I admire that, particularly in an age when much of what comes from the mouth of a politician is a gaseous cloud of obfuscation.

I know and have known that Mike never had a chance. I still think it's a shame that, when he, Hillary Clinton and Obama are the only remaining democratic candidates, he is excluded from all debates.

Still, I know that his candidacy, ultimately, is his attempt to garner recognition for his National Initiative for Democracy. Remember, it is never too late to vote for the piece of legislation that will insert the American citizen directly into the lawmaking process.

Go Gravel Go!


PS: My vote was negated by my treacherous wife, Alex, who penciled in the little oval denoting "Hillary."

Monday, March 3, 2008

Nate's Monday Sports Extravaganza!


Somewhere, possibly in Eastern Europe, Danny Ferry is sitting in his laboratory, rubbing his hands together. The Cavaliers have just conquered the visiting Chicago Bulls, with his newly acquired players contributing significantly to the victory. Ferry is laughing maniacally. The master plan is working! It's working!

Sort of.

Ok, that was stupid, but I've been looking for a way to work in a mad scientist for a long time, and well...never mind.

The point is: the Cavs showed a lot of inconsistency against the Bulls, but also some chemistry, more than we've seen since the 11 player swap over a week ago between the Cavs, Bulls, and Sonics. The game was nicely contested, as predicted, since six of the players in question would be taking sides against their former team. As per usual, the difference was LeBron James, who ended the hopes of the Chicago faithful when he drove the lane and powered home a dunk over Luol Deng. The Cavs had been eight points down. The dunk gave the home team a four point lead that might as well have been forty.

At some juncture, all or at least most of the Cavaliers roster will be healthy. Maybe even this season. Surround LeBron with his full rotation and look out: this is a team that can win a ring. I'm staying true to my prediction that the Cavaliers will prevail as the eastern conference champions. The Celtics may have acquired two wily 38 year olds, but they still don't have LBJ.

Larry Hughes yesterday stated that he would much rather have fun playing the game his way than playing in the finals out of position. While I appreciate the heights that the Cavaliers reached during Hughes' tenure, I cannot say I will miss that attitude. Good luck, Larry, and enjoy watching the playoffs this year, and probably for the rest of your career since I don't know what kind of contender would use you as a piece after that statement.


The Browns, true to form, have been very aggressive this offseason. Already we have inked Donte' Stallworth, improving a receiving corps that already featured Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow and Joe Jurevicius. The Browns now possess what may be the most fearsome quartet of receivers in the league. Couple that with a fine offensive line and our QBs must simply be salivating.

I also love the trade of a second round pick for Packers d-lineman Corey Williams. The defensive line was the Browns' most glaring flaw, as evidenced by the league's 29th rated run defense in 2007. Williams is a a nice presence on the line, a pass rusher who was good for 14 sacks in the past two seasons, and who demanded double teams much of the time.

Furthermore, at the price of mediocre defensive back Leigh Bodden, the Browns acquired d-lineman Shaun Rogers, who was also good for seven sacks last season. Best of all, he and Williams should take some attention away from linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, who is the Browns most gifted pass rusher and was constantly double teamed in a frustrating 2007.

Many folks out there are screaming for an improved secondary, but defense begins at the line. Seems like the Browns rarely made opposing quarterbacks hurry. The result was that receivers had eons to get open. More pressure on the QB will make that secondary look a lot better next season, believe me.

Really, if GM Phil Savage and coach Crennel can upgrade the defense from abysmal to mediocre, we should be talking about a playoff berth in 2008-09, even with a much more challenging schedule.

Now, concerning Derek Anderson: I'm glad the Browns got him at a reasonable price. While he is certainly keeping it warm for Brady Quinn, there is nothing, but nothing wrong with having two capable quarterbacks. Just ask any team that would settle for one.

I must say, it is refreshing to have one team in town that makes a big splash year after year in the offseason. While I am no fan of free spending, the notoriously parsimonious Indians make the Browns thrice as exciting to keep track of when free agency hits. Of course, it is generally during the regular season (when it counts) that the Browns fall flat on their collective arses, and that's been no fun at all for about as long as I care to remember.


Much has been made of Detroit's offseason acquisitions, namely Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis and Edgar Renteria. Let us not forget, however, who was the AL Central champion last year? The Tribe. And how did they get there? Pitching, an area in which Detroit is noticeably lacking.

Still, that lineup...we can only hope that Travis Hafner rebounds to be one of the scariest designated hitters I've ever seen. Last year, even with his 25 home runs and 100 RBI, he was merely pedestrian.