Sunday, June 29, 2008

Walking with Dinosaurs!

There we were at a packed Quicken Loans Arena, some six rows back. The arena was dark and mist-filled. Ominous. The crowd buzzed with anticipation and fear, palpable fear, filled the air, for soon we would be taken back to a time when...


That's right, Walking with Dinosaurs had arrived in Cleveland. Alex and I scored a pair of tickets (thanks Lauren and Jeff) to what would surely prove an educational and terrifying trip back to the Jurassic period, some 200 million years ago. We hit the concession stands first and then made our way through the concourse toward Pangea, or rather, the arena's best impersonation of that single land mass that once comprised the earth's surface.

Places were found. Lights were dimmed as the curtain rose. The MC was blathering something about "evolution," but all I could think about as I slammed a hot dog was teeth and claws and so many tons of reptilian flesh and bone.

We heard mighty allosaurus before we ever saw it. A blood-curdling roar from the cunning hunter sent many a convoked Clevelander running for the exits. Children wailed as allosaurus reared its powerful head, jaw snapping in search of prey. And allosaurus had its animatronic day, feasting on a newborn plateosaurus, just hatched, whose mother had strayed dangerously far from the nest. Barely begun, life for this young fake dinosaur was already over. Tragedy? Hardly. Jurassic life was, and is, cruel. With predators lurking in every corner, carnivores prowling for a mechanized meal, life is tenuous at best.

And so went a night highlighted by one epic battle after another. Armored stegosaurus versus liliensternous. Gentle brachiosaurus defending her young from a ravenous pair of Utahraptors. T-rex taking on a tag-team combo of torosaurus and ankylosaurus. The spectacle of violence was unimaginable. Mayhem reigned, except during intermission. Fake meat and sinew were torn from bone. Crimson rivers trickled from lifeless corpses, gathering in ersatz pools of blood. Victims shrieked their dying laments while the roar of the victors shook the building to its very foundations. Surely no LeBron James dunk could match such a spectacle. Alex, mourning the death of a baby tyrannosaur, clung to me, inconsolable as I signaled to the vendor for a seventh beer. On went the carnage, the terror--all of it fake, and yet so real.

But like all good things, the show came to an end. The MC muttered something about life on earth being precious but delicate, but by then I was far too drunk to care. My mind was bent on other questions, like how am I going to drive home? and how long have my pants been off?

Finally, Alex gathered me up and drove us back to Akron. The world spun around me and I remember feeling happy, and so very blessed, just before blacking out. All of the prehistoric beasts we saw have long been extinct, but for one night we were, truly, walking with the dinosaurs.


This post is dedicated to Josh Shalek, who loves dinosaurs and who got to see Cat Power in concert and not me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bounced at Wimbledon

I, Novak Djokovic, winner of the 2008 Australian Open, would like to apologize to my many fans for a lackluster showing this week at Wimbledon, an event I was expected to perform well in, if not win. Instead I was dealt an ignominious straight-set defeat at the hands of wily Russian veteran, Marat Safin. Though ranked number three in the world, I played right into Safin's game plan, and never managed to take control of a match I had no business losing. That's inexcusable. What can I do now but apologize, go home and hit the practice courts? I vow to rededicate myself to the game I love and be a champion once more, but first I'm going to go see Iron Man again.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer Blockbusters: A McBone Mini-Review

Although summer is technically just three days old, the summer blockbuster is already in full swing. And what does summer mean for the local moviegoer? Excess! Though I'll probably be brain-dead by September, I'll admit that I've been giddy for months knowing what the summer lineup held in store: superheroes and more superheroes. Iron Man, Hulk, Batman, Indiana Jones, who could ask for more? Let's take it film by film.

Iron Man. I'm not going to qualify my comments by saying something like: "it's what a superhero movie should be." No, this is what a movie should be, period. Don't give me any of that genre crap here; Iron Man hovers damned close to perfection. What makes it so great? Start with the fact that the centerpiece of the film is not the action, but Robert Downey Jr. as the spoiled, wisecracking, womanizing genius Tony Stark--a performance for the ages. But can one performance carry a film, fill theaters, sell action figures, force sequels? Actually, this one might just be able to. Happily, we're treated to so much more, like a well-wrought story of transformation, a script that is terse and witty, and acting that is spot-on by everyone. Check out Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark's assistant, Pepper Potts, and Jeff Bridges as his friend and mentor, Obadiah Stane. And what about that action? Superb and exciting but never over the top. Haven't seen it yet? What the hell are you waiting for?? Not a comic book fan? Doesn't matter. Get to the cineplex. Official McBone Rating: 5.0 McBones.

Speed Racer. This movie gets worse and worse the more I think about it. Speed Racer is kind of like being really drunk (which I've never been). You want it to end; you feel sick, but the world is spinning in beautiful colors around you. I can't hate it as much as I want to hate it, but I still want my money back. Yuck. 1.0 McBones.

The Incredible Hulk. The Hulk has been a lifelong source of fascination with me, especially the television show. Always it was the same trick: green contact lenses signal Bruce Banner's impending transformation. Extreme closeups show green muscles tearing through clothes. The Hulk scared the crap out of me when I was seven, and yet I couldn't stop watching. Now Marvel tries to improve upon Ang Lee's coolly received adaptation from 2003. I loved that Hulk. I like this one, featuring a breathtaking chase through a Brazilian favela and some competent acting by Ed Norton and Liv Tyler. What's lacking is the depth that Lee gave to his monster. And just like in the comic, the show, the Lee picture, we pretty much know the gist of what's going to happen. So why do we keep coming back to the Hulk? Because lurking beneath Banner's exterior is all that rage, and I think something about that rampaging green colossus appeals to us at a primal level. Norton & Co. deliver plenty of satisfying rage in 2008's adaptation. Of course, I had a huge grin on my face when I heard those two words uttered, a caveman-like promise of destruction: Hulk smash! 4.0 McBones.

Get Smart. I doubted Steve Carrell and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I was wrong. I doubted Carrell and Get Smart. Wrong again. And yet, I have a feeling that if someone other than Steve Carrell slipped into Maxwell Smart's shoe-phone, the jokes, so many of them of the hackneyed bathroom variety, would have fallen flat. As it is, Carrell is a comic master, one of those guys who can make you laugh without uttering a single word. Anne Hathaway is terrific as Agent 99 and Alan Arkin is an acting god and should be recognized as such. What a delight to see him as the Chief, or in any role, really. This movie, contrary to all my expectations, is funny. I'll not doubt again. Yeah, sure.

Now, I don't want to come off as some kind of chauvinistic pig or anything, but Anne Hathaway's legs are reason enough to pay the price of admission, because they are, frankly, amazing. I don't care if you are male, female, straight, gay, asexual, bisexual, trisexual, black, white, human, android or Martian--the legs are good. Damn good. Dazzling. Perfection. I'll stop.

Film: 3.5 McBones. Anne Hathaway's legs: 5.0 McBones.

The Happening. Say what you want about M. Night Shyamalan and the seeming downward spiral that has become his career--his films have, at there very cores, an inspired spark of creativity. Always they are worth seeing. Well, maybe not always, because The Happening mostly sucks. I suppose things start off well enough. People in New York City start committing suicide in droves. Why? Mark Wahlberg wants to know. So did I, for a while. Then I kind of stopped caring. So, how about the acting? Hammy as hell. Satisfying Shyamalan payoff at the end? No and no. Much of this film is downright risible (watch for the lions if you want a good chuckle), and I just don't think M.N.S. was fishing for laughs. 1.5 McBones.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. There are now officially two categories for Indy flicks. In one column you have the likes of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade, two graceful and defining action adventure movies. On the other side are Temple of Doom and Crystal Skull--enjoyable Indy that too often falls into long-winded action and silliness. Should you shell out to see Kingdom? By all means. Spielberg and Lucas deliver great fun that just never quite achieves the transcendent. The highlights? The return of Karen Allen and those giant red ants! The downfall? A whole lot of bad jokes. 3.0 McBones.

The Chronicles of Narnia; Prince Caspian. Somebody please, please take this series out of the inept hands of Andrew Adamson before he kills it. C.S. Lewis deserves better. We all do. Adamson delivered mediocrity with The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. How is it that with Caspian, featuring sooo much action, I was nearly stupefied with boredom? If any redemption is to be found in this mess it is with the two charismatic female leads. Oh, and a very cool cameo by Tilda Swinton. As for the title character as portrayed by Ben Barnes? It's hard to decide what is cheesier: his haircut or his ridiculously affected accent. And where is Aslan? The defining character of the series is an afterthought when he should be ever-present, even when off screen. 1.0 McBones, godammit!

Coming soon: The Dark Knight, Wanted, Hellboy II, Kung-Fu Panda, WALL-E, The Clone Wars, Hancock.

No interest: Sex and the City.

Hell, hell no: You Don't Mess with the Zohan, The Love Guru, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Meet Dave.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

License to Drive

Yesterday my wife, Alex, achieved a milestone in her life when she successfully navigated the mean streets of Stow, Ohio and then maneuvered the McBonemobile through a perilous obstacle course consisting of five orange cones, a gauntlet of attacking monkeys and a pit of molten lead--all under the close observation of a bilious, 450 pound, sweating, grunting, flatulent and moustachioed DMV officer named Mary. Alex, though nervous, remained calm throughout. Her reward? A little plastic card granting her the right to fly solo.

At the youthful and sprightly age of 31, roughly six years after learning to ride a bike, Alex has earned her driver's license. Though starting almost from scratch, Alex overcame her transportational barrier with the help of the McBone School of Driver Education and master driver, Nate Bowler, who assembled a makeshift maneuverability practice facility using a church parking lot, some bricks, sticks, and some left over glittery blue fabric that had once been used to construct a set of fairy wings.

After months of hard work, she breezed through the test. McBone congratulates Alex for her achievement, and wishes her a lifetime of safe and happy driving.


Pictured top: Alex flaunts her license outside the DMV
Center: Nate assembles practice maneuverability facility
Bottom: Alex takes the McBonemobile out for a spin sans husband

Monday, June 16, 2008

Baseball and the Official McBone Policy on Controversial Issues.

Say all you want about football and the widespread popularity it enjoys. Baseball is the grandest game in the land. Period. End of story. Done. I could spend a few paragraphs explaining why, but that would be for a later post.

However, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that our pastime has become tainted of late. Therefore I would like to dedicate this space to all those issues in baseball that, in its history, have sparked copious and often emotional debate. I will attempt to be as comprehensive as possible in outlining the official McBone position on each subject. Hopefully, Major League Baseball is listening and will follow suit.

Steroids. Ah, the scandal du jour. Anabolic steroids, HGH and other supplements are perhaps the most grievous stain in the history of our precious sport. And what better way to highlight this than a look at the game's most sacred record, the home run? Henry Aaron hit 755 home runs the right way, through hard work, dedication and a hell of a lot of talent. Add in the pressure of playing in the face of hate and racism and you see a man worthy of holding this record. Now, after all that has come to light about baseball's arch villain, Barry Bonds, does anyone doubt who the real home run king is? McBone doesn't. The McBone Solution: Random testing and stiffer penalties for offenders. How about a lifetime ban for three-time losers? My best argument for these actions? Ken Caminiti.

The Designated Hitter. Listen, I get where the purists are coming from. I do. In fact I would label myself a partial purist when it comes to baseball, but I'll fight for the DH until my dying day. In the long history of professional baseball, pitchers have been utterly awful when asked to swing a bat. Take these athletes off the mound and what do you get? The equivalent of 110 pound weaklings trying to hit invisible bullets with a fly swatter. With a very few exceptions, the pitcher can be counted on to be as close to an automatic out as there is in the sport. What, exactly, is the point of seeing a guy wave at the ball? On the other hand, who wants to see bad fielders field? McB solution: The National League adopts the designated hitter immediately and apologizes for making us watch hopeless banjo hitters striking out for the past 35 years. Also, any pitcher who so much as looks at a bat will slapped silly by a 110 pound weakling with a fly swatter.

Spitballs. Baseball has a long and colorful history of cheating, and not all of it is necessarily bad. Doctoring a ball is a form of cheating endorsed by McBone in every form, be it by adding a foreign substance like mucous or scuffing with an emery board. The solution: take no action. Pitchers will continue to doctor at their own risk.

Interleague play. Here's where my purist tendencies shine through most brightly. While I admit that I was once intrigued by the idea, interleague play, in my opinion, has done little but detract from the game. Where once a respective league held a certain mystique to the other, today that mystery has been diminished almost totally. Too, interleague play undermines long-established rivalries between league opponents. For example, the New York Yankees already made their first and only trip to Cleveland in 2008--a four game set in late April. In a 162 game season, that is absurd. Did the recent visit of the San Diego Padres to Progressive Field really raise any eyebrows? No. McB Solution: End the experiment now and never speak of it again.

Work Stoppages. Be it a strike or a holdout, work stoppages rank right up there with steroids as the game's biggest abomination. All of these bastards are rich, and us poor slobs just want to watch a ballgame. McB Solution: Any party responsible for a possible work stoppage, be it the owners, umpires or players, will be lowered into a vat of sulphuric acid. 1994--never again!

Gambling. Here is an issue that doesn't really wind me up as much as the others, but since gambling has resulted in the banishment of Pete Rose (justified, you insufferable knucklehead!) and much of the 1919 Chicago White Sox, I feel compelled to speak. Gambling should be forbidden to any party having a direct or indirect influence on the outcome of a game. This goes double for umpires, whose strike zones are already arbitrary and incomprehensible enough without having to worry about sleazeball gamblers lining their pockets. McB Solution: No change. Banished players stay banished.

Instant Replay. NO! I know I just bitched about how arbitrary the umpires seem to be, but let's keep the game as human as possible. McB Solution: Just drop the subject and deal with the mistakes.

Corked Bats. McBone heartily supports the corking of bats. McB solution: See spitballs.

Free Agency. Few could have foreseen the revolting orgy that is today's market when free agency reared its ugly head in 1975. So what are we stuck with? Take my beloved Indians as an example. In succession, I have watched our best players, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome walk away for a bigger paycheck. Can I blame them, you ask. Fucking fuck yes! And when C.C. Sabathia is shipped off this season for prospects because we can't pay him, I will blame him too. And good luck to the team that gives him the inevitable 7+ years at 20+ million per annum. But the real point of this is, Major League Baseball has the worst salary structure in all of pro sports. I don't even want to talk about Alex Rodriguez and the a-hole Texas team that invested all of its capital in one player, but I will say he is the poster child for all that is wrong with a sport in which 4 teams can afford to be competitive every year. McB Solution: Salary caps, revenue sharing and massacre Scott Boras.

The Wild Card/Playoff structure. The playoffs in baseball last one month. That is as it should be. The NBA playoffs have been lingering now for most of the Bush administration, and does anybody outside of LA or Boston even know? Baseball got it right when it arrived at its current structure, and the wild card allows two underdog teams to shine every year, even though that underdog is always, always the Red Sox or the Yankees in the AL (see above regarding free agency). McB Solution: October is as good as it gets. Change nothing.

The Length of the Season. 154 games never hurt nobody. Neither did 162. What's 8 games? Play 'em.

Speeding up the Game. One of the beauties of baseball is that the game paces itself. No clocks. No incessant late game timeouts. Measures have been taken already to make the game go faster, from limiting the duration of mound meetings to restricting how much a batter can adjust and gesticulate between pitches. None of them seem to work. McB Solution: People who are bored by baseball are hopeless. Do not cater to them. Just leave well enough alone and let the players play. HOWEVER, I am intrigued by the idea of allowing only one pickoff move per batter, not because it will speed the game up but because I'd like to see more stolen bases.

The Strike Zone. Last I checked, the official Major League strike zone was the width of the plate and from the armpits to the knees. The umpires are much more consistent in calling the plate. Most umps, however, have lowered the top of the zone to the batter's belt. You wanna speed up the game? Call the proper strike zone. Oh, but wait, that would mean more pitcher's duels and fewer runs, and we can't have that, can we? Our love of offense is what got us into this whole steroid mess in the first place. McB Solution: Change the rules, lower the zone and shut up about speeding up the game.

Artificial Turf. No.

Domes. Only retractable roofs are admissible.

Expansion. Baseball is really pushing it with Tampa Bay and Arizona, but especially with Tampa Bay. McB Solution: Enough already. It's not fair to take a team away, but just stop watering down the pool of talent, especially when it comes to quality pitching. No more teams!

Players who deserve to have big fat ugly asterisks tattooed to their foreheads: Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Raphael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens.

Am I forgetting anything? Please feel free to post any issues I've neglected to mention, or your own opinions regarding our great game.


Friday, June 13, 2008

The House of Cash on Wheels

There we were, Alex, Tilly and I, strolling past the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame en route to the Great Lakes Science Center when we saw it, parked on the esplanade and glimmering in the Juneday sun. Long, silver and, most of all, black.

Johnny Cash's tour bus has made its final stop in Cleveland.

As Alex is the biggest June Carter fan in the known universe, we naturally dropped six bucks for the tour. The driver swung open the door and we ascended into the bus that Johnny Cash and June Carter rode for thirty years. Four cabins replete with endless gadgetry, leather, wood, velour. A bus? Hardly. This was a very narrow rolling haven, about which Johnny wrote:

I have a home that takes me anywhere I need to go, that cradles me and comforts me, that lets me nod off in the mountains and wake up in the plains: my bus, of course. We call it Unit One. I love my bus. It really is my home too. When I make it off another plane through another airport, the sight of that big black MCI waiting by the curb sends waves of relief through me – Aah! – safety, familiarity, solitude. Peace at last. My cocoon.

And how cool it was to explore this cocoon occupied by Johnny, June and their son John Carter. Ever since I read Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie, I've held a mild fascination with miniature homes like Unit One and how people cram everyday life and as much comfort as possible into such confined spaces. Johnny spent more than half a million dollars equipping his ride with televisions, stereos, antennas, intercoms, full kitchen (complete with rotisserie) and plush blue furnishings for June's quarters. Want more? He illegally felled trees in Jamaica for the paneling in his own mostly black compartment. His table was made from wood taken from a house that served as U.S. Grant's headquarters during the Civil War. Excessive? Maybe. The way I figure, Johnny and June did a whole hell of a lot more good for the world than bad. Maybe we can forgive a little (lot of) indulgence on their part. At least I do.

Now, I don't want go all corny and say how, ooh, we could just feel the presence of Johnny and June, but there was a very definite charge inside the bus. Memory? Music? I don't know, but it seemed to me that a lot of stuff happened inside Unit One, a lot of energy accumulated, good times, bad times, three decades and hundreds of thousands of miles worth of life. The Cash/Carter house in Hendersonville, Tennessee burned down in 2007. What a blessing that Unit One survives.

So to conclude and commemorate our visit to Johnny and June's home on wheels, I would like to attach an essay that I wrote last year for a contest on No, I did not win. The theme? In 100 words or less, what does Johnny Cash mean to you? Not an easy challenge, but here's my answer:

What is Johnny Cash to me? No more and no less than he is to anyone who has ever needed a father, a brother or a friend. He’s a cellmate, a sinner, a saint. He’s an angel, an outlaw. He’s there to share a boxcar, a needle or a beer. He’s the judged, never the judge. The hanged, never the hangman. He’s the one who can see us through hell and back, because he knows just how to get there and how to come out again. And if there is a heaven, he’ll be the first to greet us there.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Separated at Birth?

For years I've noticed that, whenever I'm in public, total strangers will stop whatever they're doing and stare at me, point me out to friends, even whip out their cellphones to take a furtive snapshot or two. It used to be an uncomfortable sensation, being observed, ogled constantly by people I didn't know and wasn't likely to meet. Often I wondered, just what was wrong with me? I suffered through protracted bouts of depression and often teetered on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Then one day, while venting my frustration, I was enlightened by a buddy of mine. Dude, he said. Don't you know?

Know what?

Dude, you look just like Denzel Washington.
A quick glance in the mirror confirmed his seemingly outlandish assertion. All at once the haze of confusion was lifted. Life took on new meaning. I was no monster, no mutant, no halfpenny sideshow freak. The resemblance was uncanny--I was looking right at him, the star of "Malcolm X", "American Gangster" and TV's "St. Elsewhere." You can imagine my relief.

Today when accosted by strangers I am gracious and politely apologetic in disappointing their hopes. Naturally I'm sometimes forced to oblige them in their disbelief. I'll gladly shake hands, kiss a baby, sign a photograph that, I must agree, might as well be me.

Obviously Denzel Washington and I are two totally different people, but you might be surprised to know that we have quite a few things in common. For instance, we are both:

Male gendered.

Sudoku buffs.

Fond of lemonade.

Ham radio enthusiasts.

Academy Award winners.


So when you see me walking the streets of Akron, Ohio, do not be shy. By all means stare, point me out to friends, ogle to your heart's content. Of course I'll sign an autograph. Ask a thousand questions; I'll wink and answer and delight the whole time in knowing I'm one of the world's most attractive men.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

McBone Supports: Obama/Carter '08

Many of you are aware that I was a staunch Mike Gravel supporter in this year's election. Well, since withdrawing his candidacy from first the democratic then the libertarian ticket, I have no choice but to throw my, and McBone's support, behind Senator Barack Obama. And to be honest, McBoners, I'm feeling pretty good about it.

Now, what about a running mate? Obama/Clinton you say? Humbug! Obama/Edwards? Pish posh. I defy you to find a better ticket than this:

Yes, folks, that's Carter, as in Jimmy Carter, the Anti-Reagan, the Anti-Bush, a man of wisdom, of peace. While George W. Bush is cementing his status as McBone's Worst President of All Time, Jimmy Carter works tirelessly to maintain democracy and cure disease in developing countries.

Obama/Carter is the brainchild of partner blogger Josh Shalek, who originally endorsed a Carter/Obama ticket. All that changed about a week ago.

McBone asks: why vote for a crusty old white male and his inevitable crusty white male running mate (all republicans are, as a rule and regardless of race, gender, creed, religion or sexual orientation, crusty, old, white and male), when Barack Obama offers a more contemporary vision of the world, one more nuanced than the standard fare offered by McCain about tax cuts and fiscal responsibility? Obama is, to quote Nina Simone, young, gifted and black, and we can sure as hell use a little of that right now.

McBone is proud to sponsor Obama/Carter 'O8. We hope you'll hop on board, too.


Mad Scientist of the Obama/Carter '08 campaign

Friday, June 6, 2008

West Lafayette, Here We Come...

Almost. Actually, Alex and I just reported back to McBone HQ after spending two days in Indiana, where we were house hunting in anticipation of our five-year stay in West Lafayette. By August first we will be comfortably situated here:

This was the first and only house we looked at, a lovely one-storey affair owned by a charming professor who teaches exactly the same class (composition) at Purdue in which Alex will be earning her PhD. A bizarre and fortuitous circumstance; we hit it off at once.

Alex and I extend a special thank you to Kristen Moore, who opened her home to us for two nights, a home replete with red wine and her own special recipe, Barbie-themed cupcakes.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Cleveland Indians: Simply Pathetic.

Boy, do I look like an idiot right now. Waaaaay back in March I predicted the Indians would not only win their division over the mighty Detroit Tigers, but would win the American League pennant and, yea, the World Series, thusly ending Cleveland's 44 year title drought. Perhaps my seemingly misguided hope was influenced by last season's success in the regular season and playoffs. Perhaps I had one too many martinis.

Because, frankly, the Tribe stinks! At least that's what their 26-31 record tells me. Let's analyze just how pathetic they are.

It starts, and pretty much ends, with offense, considering the starting pitching has been basically unimpeachable. The bullpen is suspect at best, but let's face it: there haven't been many leads to hold.

Grady Sizemore. I said before I was disappointed in his season last year, when he led the league in strikeouts and batted a lackluster .277. This year? Try .254 through Monday. Grady has provided some pop (11 hr) at the leadoff spot, but he has put up way, way too many 0-5 nights to be a truly effective leadoff hitter. Singles, Grady. They're an effective weapon at the top of the order.

Still, Sizemore is only minor disappointment compared to his lodge brothers. Check out these numbers from other Tribe starters:

Travis Hafner. Ah, yes, the poster child of team's woes. The big slugger has been mired in a slump since basically April of last season. Now we understand that Hafner has a bum shoulder and has had since spring training. Why Tribe officials decided to hide that fact is beyond me, but Hafner playing through the pain just isn't working, as in a .217 BA, 4 HR, 22 RBI. Let's hope the rest he is taking restores his once mighty swing.

Ryan Garko. Again, I love Garko, and I love his swing and the way he puts the bat head on the ball. Except he doesn't. Not this season. Maybe his shoulder is gimpy too, because his numbers are very Hafner-like: .234, 4, 20. That's just awful from your number 5 hitter.

Casey Blake. His numbers are slightly obscured by his 2 home run, 7 RBI performance last night. Before last night, Blake was just as futile at the plate: .236, 4, 29. I will give Blake credit for hitting with runners in scoring position, which he has done all year. I'm grasping at straws here, aren't I?

Jhonny Peralta. Jhonny has provided some rare pop from the right side of the plate, matching Sizemore's 11, good for the team lead. Problem is: those 11 homers have produced a mere 19 RBI. His line for the season? .242, 11, 19.

David Dellucci.
Ugh. His poor play in the outfield is matched only by his horrible numbers at the plate: .229, 6, 19.

Franklin Gutierrez. This one is the least surprising to me, as I have never thought much of Franklin's swing. Still, his .247, 3, 16 in a corner outfield spot is beyond execrable.

Victor Martinez. Don't let Victor's .289 batting average fool you, particularly since he was leading the league in hitting about two weeks ago. That's just how bad he's been lately. On the year the numbers have been grim, considering he's our cleanup hitter. Take a deep breath and behold: .289, 0, 18. That's ZERO homeruns from our cleanup hitter. That's 18 RBI. Or approximately 37 less than league leader Josh Hamilton has, and we're only in June. In fact, if you add the runs produced by our 3, 4 and 5 hitters combined, they still don't match Hamilton. Damn! Hit a home run, Victor!

Asdrubal Cabrera. Yes, he's young. Yes, he's inexperienced. Yes, you can live with one light hitting middle infielder. The problem is that every single starter on the Indians hits like a backup double-A shortstop. Cabrera leads the parade to the tune of: .191, 1, 14. Simply brutal. And if that isn't bad enough, check out his on-base percentage of .288. Holy hell. Good thing he can pick it, eh, because this dude is making Josh Barfield look like Rogers Hornsby.

I could go on to the reserves, but I think I'll end the bloodbath here. The one bright spot has been Ben Francisco since being called up from Buffalo. His numbers in about half the games played are .309, 3, 15.

Hey, we can't lay this all on the hitters. As I said, the bullpen has been pretty awful too, but it's hard to look past the endless string of games in which the Indians amass one run on two hits. Or no runs on four hits. Tribe hitters rarely get on base and almost never chase home a runner in scoring position. Frustrating? Try unwatchable. I don't know what fiendish curse has been laid on Cleveland bats, making them as potent as soggy noodles, but let us pray they are exorcised before summer gets too long in the tooth.

And what is the remedy? Fire batting coach Derek Shelton? Bring in more stopgaps from the minors like Michael Aubrey? Make a big trade? Or do we stick with our guns and hope these guys can start putting some good at-bats together? The latter seems most likely to me, though it may not be such a bad thing to import some firepower from somewhere, somehow. That discussion, along with the trade deadline, is still weeks away.

Look, I really believe in the law of averages in baseball, and the season is a long one. Two months are in the book, so we can pretty much determine that this club won't be an offensive powerhouse. Still, I know these hitters, and I know their track records. We rode them to 96 wins a season ago. They are not this bad. I believe the Tribe has a chance at the central division, which nobody, least of all the Tigers (would I trade our weak hitting for their atrocious pitching? Hell no!) seems to want to run away with. Do not, however, look for the Tribe to catch fire anytime soon. If the club should rise in the standings, it will be a slow and steady climb.

Oh, and I hereby revise my prediction. I think the Cavs, not the Indians, will break the curse, and they'll do it this year. But that's for another column. As I finish this one, the Tribe is putting the finishing touches on a 12-7 loss to the Rangers.

Lousy pitchers!