Haters gonna hate

Despite Carlos Santana's struggles, the Indians have surprised many this season. Next season, star Triple-A prospect Jimi Hendrix should be ready for the Majors. You can't stop this team.

It’s kind of a dirty little secret, but I haven’t written much on this blog this summer. Normally by this point, I’m not struggling for material because the baseball season is in full swing and I can write about the Indians. But this summer, while the Indians are giving me plenty of writing material, until now, I’ve avoided writing about them… because I don’t want to jinx it. Rest assured that I had posts planned, and I was ready to roll, except the Indians had to get off to a good start, and when you’re winning in baseball, even if you’re a fan, you don’t change anything. Anything. Seriously, I wore the same hat to work for about thirty days in a row.

But lately, the Indians have been slumping a bit so I’ve convinced myself that whatever I write here won’t affect the Indians (as I type this, they’re up 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth. If I cut this post off suddenly, you know why). And with the slump, some fans who jumped on the bandwagon just weeks ago when the Indians were rolling are ready to write the team off, even though it’s June 22nd and the team is in first place. After the break, I’ll go over what’s gone right, what’s gone wrong, and what needs to happen for the Indians improbable run to continue.

A bold prediction

Manny Acta hasn’t had a lot to smile about this season. The Indians, after winning their final two games this weekend against Toronto, are on pace for 68 wins, meaning they’re on pace to finish the season 68-94. In the year the Indians won the Central Division (a mere three seasons ago), they had 96 wins. Sounds grim, right? Maybe, maybe not. I’m about to make a prediction. It’s a prediction so bold, so out there, so crazy that you’ll have to click the jump link to see what it is.

We’re building for a better tomorrow…today!

It’s often said that you can tell how good a baseball team will be by the quarter mark of the season, or after 40 games have been played. The Cleveland Indians are now 43 games into the season, and I already declared the season over on May 18th, when they were 15-21; as of the time of this writing (Tuesday night), they’re 16-27 (although, on a happier note, they’re winning tonight). (Note: as of Thursday night, they’re 17-28.)

It’s not like the Indians were off to a promising start and the recent six game losing streak killed their hope. But the fact is, the Indians being 15-21 was, all things considered, pretty good, and maybe better than we expected. But after losing their rising star shortstop and established center fielder, the Indians lack experience both on the field and in management.

Sounds like a great time for a quarter season report card, right? Read on, after the jump.

Don’t say “it ain’t so”, you know the time is now

It’s just not their year.

The Indians lost a game to the Rays tonight in 11 innings, but worse and more importantly, they lost their starting shortstop to a broken right left forearm. My guess is, best case, Cabrera comes back around the All-Star Break.

What ended up ending Cabera’s night, week, month and half of the season was kind of a freak play. The Indians had the shift on for Hank Blalock, who hit a ground ball up the middle. As Cabrera, diving from the first base side of second base, and Peralta, diving from the third base side, the two collided. Peralta was shaken up but stayed in the game, while Cabrera had to be carted off the field.

A lot of fans are blaming Peralta for running into Cabrera. The problem is that fans also blame Peralta when he doesn’t dive for the ball. Ever since Aaron Boone left the Indians, Peralta has become the designated scapegoat for the Indians (unless you’re talking to those weirdos who think it was Casey Blake). But let’s look at the facts: over the last three years (since Boone left), Peralta’s numbers are .264/57/258. Granted, those aren’t exactly Pujolsian numbers, but Peralta hasn’t been the real problem, especially when you compare his numbers to Sizemore’s over that same time period: .262/75/245. Peralta hasn’t spent any time on the DL, and he went through a position change last season. Give the guy a break.

Despite that injury the Indians were able to take the lead thanks to some clutch hitting by Jhonny Peralta (see? SEE?), Luis Valbuena and Trevor Crowe. This is all ironic because the three scapegoats in this game are also the three Indians who managed to produce runs. Crowe’s moment came in the 8th, when a 2-out sinking line drive was hit his way in center field. Crowe came in, dove, caught the ball…and then dropped it. The tying run scored, opening the door for extra innings. Can’t really do much about that. While I don’t doubt Sizemore makes that play, there aren’t many starting center fielders besides Sizemore who DO make that play and Crowe made a solid effort, particularly indoors.

After Cabrera left, Luis Valbuena played shortstop the rest of the game. While he’s a defensive wizard at second base, he leaves a lot to be desired at shortstop and his continued play there is only hurting his already fragile confidence. The play of the game came in the eleventh, with the Rays batting in their last at-bat with one out. John Jaso hit a slow chopper to in the hole towards short. Valbuena took an awkward route to the ball, looking initially like he wasn’t hustling but really he just didn’t get a very good jump on it. After gloving it, he double clutched before unloading a seed to first. Jaso was called safe. While he was actually out by a hair, the play was closer than it should have been, closer than it would have been had Cabrera or even Peralta been playing short.

Two batters later, the Rays squeezed home the run when Jamey Wright was able to glove the bunt but chucked it over the head of Marson on a do-or-die play. Game over.

Look, I want the Indians to win just as bad as anyone. And losing hurts. But this isn’t the Indians of 1995. It’s not even the Indians of 2005 or 2007. These guys are learning every game (with the exception of Valbuena at short, I guess) and there’s no question that they’re trying. And there have been some bright spots on this season so far, including the return of Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona.

But for the Indians to win this year, everything had to go right. Injuries couldn’t hurt the Indians much (no pun intended), the starting pitching had to be good, the defense had to be lockdown and the offense had to be as good as or better than last year. So far, only the starting pitching has been good. The defense, while making among the fewest errors in the league, have given up more unearned runs than most other teams in the league. And the offense…well, let’s just say that when Russell Branyan teed off for the first time against Kansas City the other night, it was the Indians’ first home run by a first baseman, catcher or left fielder. Between them.

The 2010 Indians are young and inexperienced and it shows almost nightly. And really, what other options do the Indians have? Sure, there’s Lonnie Chisenhall knocking the cover off at AAA Columbus, but as we’ve seen particularly in the last couple years, AAA success does not translate into major league success. Sure, there’s high-priced or medium-priced veterans, but the Indians are on pace to draw less fans this year than any season in the Jacobs/Progressive Field era. Baseball is a business; something has to pay the bills.

I love baseball enough that despite the karma not falling the Indians’ way this season (I blame the Cavs for that Z trade – karma like that can cross the street), I’ll keep watching. But it’s not their year.

Maybe next year.

Leaving behind that empty feeling inside

Man, it’s good to have baseball back.

We’re three games into the season and I’m already addicted again. I originally planned on going to bed around ten tonight, but ten turned into “after the seventh”. In the seventh inning, the White Sox took the lead on a two-run homer by Carlos Quentin, and I was disgusted that the Indians bullpen gave up a lead (a sign, I was sure, of things to come). This added to my disgust at the home plate umpiring throughout the rest of the game (one particular call cost the Indians a White Sox run), and I prepared to go to bed.

As I got in bed, I grabbed my iPod and started surfing around the web, catching up on the important news and not-so-important news of the day. And like an addict, I checked ESPN, and I was sure that the Indians were still losing.

The game was tied at 3-3.

I retrieved my laptop from my backpack and resumed watching the game and watched ’til the end, when Asdrubal Cabrera drove in Luis Valbuena on a go-ahead single, Grady Sizemore added an RBI double, and Chris Perez recorded his second consecutive save in routine fashion. And now, here I am, blogging about it, knowing that I’ll pay for it in the morning.

I just watched my team take two of three from the Chicago White Sox. It wasn’t the World Series; it wasn’t the Yankees; it wasn’t even a division rival that’s considered a front-runner. It was the first series of the year, an insignificant three-game stretch in a 162 game season. And yet, I’m excited.

It wasn’t that the Indians won two games; it was how they won those two games. They scrapped. They clawed. They played flawless and sometimes spectacular defense. And they recovered fully from the goose egg on Opening Day.

Asdrubal Cabrera is making me wonder why he hasn’t always batted leadoff. Grady Sizemore’s displacement to the number two spot is already paying off (5 RBI in three games). Michael Brantley doesn’t look intimidated, Matt LaPorta looks worlds ahead of where he was last year, Lou Marson is holding his own behind the plate. Jhonny Peralta looks more comfortable at third and has made some nice plays, and had the clutch game-tying hit tonight. Travis Hafner has a couple hits and has put some good swings on the ball. And I’m not worried about Shin Soo Choo’s slow start.

Justin Masterson’s outing tonight was, at times, dominant, and could have been better if not for the aforementioned umpiring. Fausto Carmona’s performance last night was just downright gutty. Even the bullpen looks decent, with Chris Perez anchoring the back end.

This might be the only series the Indians win all year. But I’m reminded that the last time the Indians were above .500, it was 2008 and C.C. Sabathia was still an Indian. So rather than focusing on how this start in no way proves anything, I’m going to focus on the fact that this start is certainly better than last year, and is certainly better than a lot of people expected. This team is going to surprise people.

This weekend the Indians go into Detroit, where the competition will be far stronger, and will give us a better idea of where the Indians are.

You never know. Maybe. Welcome back, baseball.

When someday never comes

Cliff LeeNormally, when I write about the Indians, I try to keep a pretty neutral voice. After all, I’m an Indians fan, but more than that I’m a baseball fan. Even if the Indians are losing I still love and enjoy the game.

But this one hurts.

As I read, listened to and watched coverage of the Cliff Lee trade to the Phillies, I was reminded of what the Indians were doing two years ago at this time. Do you remember?

  • After a disastorous start against the Red Sox, Cliff Lee stormed off the field, sarcastically tipping his hat to the crowd as he left. The Indians ended up losing 14-9 (I happened to be at that game), and he was sent to Buffalo the next day, and came back only for September call-ups.
  • On July 27, the Indians traded Single-A catcher Max Ramirez to the Rangers for former Indian Kenny Lofton. That night, he returned to a standing ovation and sparked the Indians to a 10-4 win.
  • CC Sabathia lost his 6th game on July 29, 2007, en route to a 19-7 Cy Young Season. His ERA was 3.58.

The Indians, of course, went on to the ALCS that year and were within one game of the World Series. Two years, two Cy Young winners traded, and one (soon to be two) Octobers on the golf course (i.e. not in the playoffs), the Indians are in rebuilding mode. What happened?

  • The bullpen implosion. In 2007, the bullpen was a strong point for the Indians. Rafael Perez and Rafael Betancourt did great getting the ball to Borowski in the ninth, who would either completely blow up or completely dominate, most of the time the latter. In 2009, Betancourt is on the Rockies (after a decent, but injury-plagued first half), Perez is in Columbus (oh yeah, we switched AAA teams since 2007) and Borowski is out of baseball. It’s been downhill since then.
  • Injuries. Grady Sizemore, who hadn’t missed a game in two years in 2007, has been on the disabled list once and now has a recurring elbow problem. Travis Hafner had a miserable 2008 and is now only starting to get his form back. Victor Martinez (who may be next to depart) disappointed in 2008 as well due to injuries. Jake Westbrook hasn’t pitched in the majors since June of 2008. The Indians’ stars have just had some bad luck injuries.
  • Inconsistent offense. When you roll out a different lineup for almost every game in a season, it’s usually a telltale sign that a team isn’t getting on any kind of a roll. That’s been the Indians’ case the last two years. Early last season, the pitching was phenomenal but the Indians just couldn’t score runs. They seem to go through those stretches where no one in the lineup is hitting.
  • Pressure. The Indians collapse when the pressure is on. Only when there are few expectations for the season (i.e. when they’re 15 games under .500) do they seem to play well. (Trot Nixon did a great job in 2007 of keeping the young guys loose and not putting too much pressure on themselves.)

Now what? Unfortunately, the analysis is that the Indians got a pretty good package of prospects, but they won’t be ready for a couple years. Let’s face it: right now, the only Indians starters that are starters on most other teams are Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-soo Choo, and maybe Jhonny Peralta. Everyone else (and now that Lee is gone, this includes pitchers) are probably out of their element in the majors.

Even worse news: in the article I linked above, the word out of the Indians front office is that this was a move in order to make some room in the payroll this off-season; ownership won’t be chipping in more funds to sign players. Hey, with the Indians last in the league in attendance, can you blame them? The Indians aren’t winning enough games to fill the seats, so the Indians can’t afford to pay for players to win games, and the cycle perpetuates. I’m hoping Shapiro is right, and that in 2011, the Indians will be competitive again, but if the economy doesn’t improve, I don’t think there’s much of a chance of that.

Did anyone notice the year Franklin Gutierrez is having? The Indians traded him to Seattle in the offseason for Joe Smith (who, every time I turn around, is blowing another game. Seriously, what were we thinking bolstering our bullpen with someone from the Mets, the master of bullpen collapses?), because they thought Francisco had more upside. As it turned out, Francisco is gone too, but Gutierrez is having a nice year with Seattle, hitting nearly .300. Francisco was hitting .250. It’s the Brandon Phillips syndrome: what is it with playing in Cleveland?

Well, Indians fans, all you can do is wish Lee, Francisco, Ryan Garko, Rafael Betancourt and Mark DeRosa the best and hope that at some point soon, we’ll be trade deadline buyers, not sellers.

By the way, did anyone see who is replacing Lee in the rotation? You got it, Fausto Carmona, who was 19-8 in 2007, injured last year and sent to Single A this year. My, how times have changed.

Clear head, new life ahead

I write this evening from sunny (well, it was earlier today) Columbia, South Carolina, where I’ve recently moved. Since a long, unified rant eludes me (although I’m sure I could think of something if I tried long enough) I’ll write some tidbits.

  • After winning again today, the Indians took a series from the White Sox…and are still stuck in last place. However, since it is the AL Central, they’re only 7 games out of the division lead, and still have a decent shot at making a run.

    Fausto Carmona was demoted to single-A, which I felt was a little harsh, but hey, if the guy’s only got one option left, why not? Not only could the guy not throw strikes anymore, but does anyone else remember him throwing like 96-97 in 2007, as opposed to topping out at about 94 this year? We wonder why he’s overthrowing; maybe it’s because he’s used to getting more velocity. I predict he’ll be back up in September, hopefully as a member of the rotation, but at the very least as a bullpen guy for the rest of the season.

    Travis Hafner is back from the DL, and he has a couple of hits in eight at-bats, both of them for extra bases. If the Indians are going to make a prolonged run, they’ll need Hafner healthy and driving in runs to give a some veteran leadership in a lineup that now features Trevor Crowe, Luis Valbuena, Ben Francisco and Josh Barfield. The Indians have to be hoping Grady Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera come back from their respective DL trips quickly.

    Finally, we tend to forget about Jake Westbrook but he’ll be back soon as well, and should provide some much-needed consistency to the rotation. Westbrook was signed to a three-year deal in 2007 meaning he probably won’t be tremendous trade bait, but one person who may be on the move if the Indians don’t start a run is Carl Pavano, who has defied odds and pitched well since May 1.

  • I caught a late showing of Up last night. While I don’t think it was the best Pixar movie I’ve ever seen, it was a Pixar movie in every sense and totally worth seeing. Up was Pixar’s first foray into 3D films. I didn’t see it on a particularly large screen and I sat near the back, so it was tough for me to really be immersed in the illusion anyway, but the reason Up works is not because of the 3D glasses (which are designed eerily similar to the main character’s glasses); the movie is good because of the story. No studio seems to get this as much as Pixar; that’s why they’ve never made a bad movie, that’s why 4-year olds like the movies as much as 22-year olds and as much as 56-year olds. The animation is wonderful and in every sense a treat to see, but it plays second fiddle to the tremendous story that could be told with standard 2D, non-CGI animation and still be excellent. (Also worth noting is the score, which, like most of Michael Giacchano’s work, including The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Star Trek, fits the movie perfectly and is also excellent as a standalone score.)
  • Rush’s classic rock song Fly By Night (the title of this post is borrowed from lyrics from that song) came on the radio on the way home from my first day of work on Monday. Any time a song you enjoy comes on the radio, it’s a good day. But when it’s Fly By Night, it’s a whole new level. Just sayin’.

Still getting settled in Columbia, but hopefully I’ll have some pictures of my apartment with everything completely moved in by the next time I post. Until then, hope the weather’s well in Ohio (or wherever you’re reading this from) and hope things are well with you too.

Back to normal in Arizona


Now that Japan has beat South Korea in the final game of the World Baseball Classic, the rest of Major League Baseball can go back to preparing for the upcoming season. It seems like we’ve been in Spring Training forever, and we still have almost two weeks left (well, thirteen days). Nonetheless, it’s been a while since talking about our favorite baseball team, so here we go.

  • The pitching rotation, while inconsistent, seems to be taking shape. Cliff Lee, after a couple rocky outings, pitched a solid five innings the other day, and he seems like he’s getting into form in time for his first Opening Day start ever (which, incidentally, will be the Indians’ first Opening Day since 2001 that C.C. Sabathia didn’t start). Fausto Carmona had an injury scare, but it seems like he’ll be alright and he has had a good spring so far. Anthony Reyes, who figures to be the #3 starter, pitched well on Saturday and has had a strong spring.

    The other two slots are less certain, but my guess is that you’ll see Carl Pavano and Aaron Laffey rounding out the Indians rotation at the outset of the season, with Scott Lewis as the Indians’ #6 starter at AAA Columbus. Jeremy Sowers hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been good enough to merit a try in the rotation yet either.

    The good news for the Indians is that really, only one of those two starters needs to be good for the whole year: the Indians will get some reinforcements hopefully by the All-Star Break when Jake Westbrook comes back from Tommy John surgery (he threw off of a mound the other day, which is major progress, although he’s still at least two months away from being ready).

  • The Indians are convinced that Travis Hafner is on his way back, but it’s hard not to be worried as he posts a .143 average with no home runs. The Indians say he is driving the ball well in batting practice, and hope that will translate to the field soon. Realistically, I don’t know how much we can expect from Hafner this season, but I’d be happy thrilled with about 80-90 RBIs, 20 HR and a reasonable on-base percentage (think Kelly Shoppach numbers).
  • Mark DeRosa and Shin Soo Choo made it back from the World Baseball Classic without any injuries. This is the best news the Indians could hope for, as both of them were in it for a very long time. Rafael Perez was in the WBC as well, but he was part of the Dominican Republic team that was eliminated very early on.
  • The Indians’ bullpen hasn’t been all great. Kerry Wood has been excellent when he’s pitched (3 IP, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA), as has Rafael Perez (5 IP, 4 SO, 1.80 ERA) and Jensen Lewis (6 IP, 6 SO, 0.00 ERA). Beyond that, the numbers don’t look as good for Rafael Betancourt (5 IP, 7.20 ERA) and Masahide Kobayashi (5 IP, 14.4 ERA). I think Betancourt will be okay: he’s a pitcher that relies on spotting his fastball incredibly well, and he’s still tuning that. Kobayashi I’m a little bit more worried about, as he’s had a miserable spring the year after pitching a career high in innings. I think it’ll be up to guys like Tony Sipp, Greg Aquino, and Joe Smith to shoulder more of the load.
  • Josh Barfield’s not having the best spring at the plate, but he’s proven that he can be a good replacement to Sizemore in the outfield and can play other positions around the infield as well. If he can ever figure out how to hit consistently, Barfield will be an excellent and valuable player.
  • Indians’ outfielders Grady Sizemore, Matt LaPorta, Ben Francisco and Michael Brantley are having excellent springs at the plate. I’d be very surprised if we don’t see LaPorta sometime in July, with Dellucci being designated for assignment at some point.
  • Jhonny Peralta is killing it at the plate, with Asdrubal Cabrera having a solid spring as well. It’ll be interesting to see what happens should Josh Barfield earn more playing time.
  • Victor Martinez looks fully healthy and is swinging the bat well, with a couple of homers already this spring.

All I can say is, I’m ready for Opening Day. Hopefully opening the season in Texas this year will let the Indians get off to a hotter start offensively without any injuries (take it slow, Victor, take it slow) and the bullpen and rotation will come around. As far as the inaugural Goodyear Spring Training is going, you can’t hope for much more (except for maybe Travis Hafner starting to hit. Please).

I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies

I’ve been meaning to blog about some of these things for a while, but never really had enough for an entire entry. Therefore, it’s back to tidbits.

  • I’ve gotten really into Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares lately. Both are reality shows with Gordon Ramsay as the host/chef/boss, but while Hell’s Kitchen is a competition like Survivor, Kitchen Nightmares, if it were on ABC, would be called Extreme Makeover: Restaurant Edition. Two reasons I like these shows: a) restaurants are a fair industry (more on that in a minute) and b) Gordon Ramsay is hypnotizing, whether he’s yelling at a competitor on Hell’s Kitchen or pouring his passion into resurrecting dead restaurants. Ramsay’s philosophy goes along with what I said in a), and it’s pretty simple: restaurants that are successful are restaurants that do things the right way. Too many industries are rewarding to companies that cut corners to earn an extra buck or maybe break some rules to avoid hassle.

    The common theme with all restaurants featured in Kitchen Nightmares is that the food isn’t good, and the food isn’t good because the kitchen isn’t stocked with fresh food or isn’t clean, and those two things occur because the chefs or owners are trying to cut corners. Inevitably, in each episode, Ramsay gets in there, cleans up the kitchen and basically just revitalizes the menu with fresh ingredients and the rest takes care of itself.

    The same is true of competitors on Hell’s Kitchen: aspiring chefs who aren’t team-oriented are gone; chefs who can’t cook are gone; chefs who lack passion are gone. Ramsay has two shows on FOX, and he uses both of them to push his brand: pour your heart, soul, and mind into it.

  • The reason I’ve gotten caught up on both of these shows is thanks to a great new website: Hulu. Mark Cuban wrote about it in July, and now that networks are catching on, Hulu is taking off. It’s not just the fact that it’s a video site with actual TV shows: it’s the fact that Hulu is a well-designed, well-executed system. Each show you watch has some commercials (only thirty seconds each, for the most part, some less), but they’re unobtrusive (as in, they don’t create popups, they don’t cover the entire page (here’s looking at you, ESPN.com), and once they’re gone you’re left to your video. The video player is executed nicely too, with all the common controls and excellent quality, and it lets you skip around however you want without loading a new commercial each time (basically, if you try to skip a commercial break, you’ll see a commercial). And unlike YouTube’s main page, which feels cluttered and disorganized, Hulu’s main page is wonderfully designed and looks awesome.

    Just for fun, here’s the Super Bowl ad:

    (Of course. As I’m trying to rave about Hulu, the Super Bowl commercial wasn’t available from Hulu. +1, YouTube.)

  • The entire Indians team is now in Goodyear, AZ preparing for the 2009 Indians season. Many analysts agree with my prediction that the Indians will win the Central, albeit cautiously. Their reasons are that the Indians rotation, after Cliff Lee, is questionable.

    I’m looking for Fausto Carmona to bounce back and emerge as the true ace of the Indians staff. Cliff Lee had an amazing season last year, but I don’t see him repeating that this year (although it’d be nice if he did). Carmona’s stuff, if he’s on, is simply electric, and he’s not yet in his prime. Cliff Lee, on the other hand, has a good fastball and an above-average curveball, but he’s not going to throw that fastball by you, so he’s more of a control specialist.

    In any case, the Indians aren’t quite sure about the rest of the rotation. Carl Pavano is a huge question mark (although I have a feeling that he’ll be someone like Paul Byrd: he won’t pitch phenomenally, but he’ll get enough run support to win). Jeremy Sowers has quite a bit to prove, but he showed signs of improvement at the end of last season. Aaron Laffey showed what he could be last year and then ran out of gas; I’m looking for him to regain that form. And that’s not even thinking about Zach Jackson, Anthony Reyes, or Scott Lewis, who all pitched last year for the Tribe with varying degrees of success. Dave Huff is being mentioned too. And don’t forget that Jake Westbrook will be back hopefully in mid-season to give the rotation a boost.

    So sure, the Indians have some question marks in their rotation, but they also have some options. (The same goes for most of the team, actually.) And as fun as it is to speculate about these things, I can’t wait for the season to start so these questions can start getting answered.

  • Isn’t Feburary a sweeps month? Why are there no new episodes of Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother or The Office until the week of March 2?
  • Video of the day:


    Probably one of the better fan videos you’ll ever see. Absolutely awesome.

Hope all is well, wherever you’re reading this from, on a cold and snowy Thursday morning.

And just like you, I’m wondering why…

I know, I know, I’m slacking in my non-baseball-related posts of late. The good news for you is that hopefully that means I’ll have quite a bit more to say than usual! (According to my calculations…)

  • …alright, so maybe there’s still some baseball stuff. But come on, we’re only a week into the season and there are some huge things happening already!
    • My favorite story thus far has been the Kansas City Royals, who are 6-2 and in the lead in the AL Central. This is a team that is perennially picked to finish last, and until a few years ago, with good reason. Lately though, the Royals are becoming less and less pathetic, and it’s my belief that if they were in the National League, they’d be a playoff team.

      And heck, they might be a playoff team this year. The 2008 Royals remind me very much of the 2004 Indians: young, inexperienced but quality pitching, a career DH who does nothing but hit (Indians: Travis Hafner, Royals: Billy Butler), and a budding franchise player who might blossom into one of the game’s all-time greats (Indians: Grady Sizemore, Royals: Alex Gordon).

    • I picked up Brian Bannister for my fantasy team a couple days ago; that kid looks like he’ll be good.

    • Another interesting story in the central is the surprisingly bad start by the Detroit Tigers. They started the year with the second highest payroll in the major leagues, and they won their first game yesterday.

      I’ve said all winter that good pitching will always beat good hitting; and if you don’t have good pitching, you better be outslugging your opponents all the time. The problem is, if your offense goes into a funk (like the Indians did last summer, like the White Sox did last year, like the Yankees did last year), and your pitching is bad (unlike the Indians, like the White Sox and Yankees of ’07), you’re not going to win many games. Not only that, but the Tigers opened the season against the aforementioned Kansas City and Chicago, both of whom are off to hot starts.

      I fully expect the Tigers to win a lot of games this year, but I don’t think they’ll get out of the first round of the playoffs.

    • Actually, a lot of teams predicted to do bad are off to great starts, including the Baltimore Orioles (who I expect to regress pretty soon) and the St. Louis Cardinals. I read a book last summer about Tony LaRussa, manager of the Cardinals, and I refuse to believe he’ll have a bad team. They may not win the division or make the playoffs (although anything is possible in the NL Central), but they’ll win some games.
    • The Red Sox and Yankees revive their rivalry tomorrow night at Fenway Park. Count me interested. It’s always fun to watch these teams play because their fans are so obnoxious and when two teams of obnoxious fans get together, hilarity ensues. Plus, they’re two great teams with two great offenses and watching them play will feel a lot like postseason baseball. Unfortunately it appears ESPN will be covering the Cavaliers and the Bulls tomorrow night.
    • The Indians have signed Fausto Carmona to a 7 year contract for up to $43 million, with $15 million and 4 years guaranteed. Fantastic move by the Indians, especially with C.C.’s free agency looming near. Carmona was dynamite last year and I have no reason to think he’ll be any worse this year. You might not find a cheaper Cy Young candidate in baseball.
  • And in non-baseball related news, The Office is back tonight! I have some theories about the rest of the season, which I might post tomorrow after they’re all proven wrong tonight. It’s really weird actually being excited to watch tonight, because I kind of got used to it not being on.
  • Has anyone visited MikeHuckabee.com recently?
  • I would write a quote of the day, but I can’t do this one justice by just writing it, so enjoy:

Hope everyone’s enjoying the weather, and enjoy The Office tonight!