Cleveland Indians

Thursday Morning Notes: CarGo extensions stall, Indians will rely on the rotation in 2017

Carlos Gonzalez has been with the Colorado Rockies since 2009 and is set to make $20,000,000 this season in the last year of his contract. According to Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post (@markkiszla), contract negotiations have stalled.

Kiszla reports that Gonzalez has felt that there is a lack of urgency from the Rockies organization to get a longterm deal done to ensure that he stays in Colorado for the rest of his career.

Even more alarming is that Kiszla met with Rockies GM Jeff Bridich and reports that Bridich refused to even discuss the topic of Gonzalez’s contract or future with the team.

With the Rockies on the brink of becoming a serious contender and making a playoff appearance for the first time since 2009, this has to be alarming for Rockies fans.

Mike Melaragno (@MikeMelaragno22) of Burning River Baseball believes that the key to the Indians season is the team’s starting rotation. Check out his detailed report, it is a great read.

While the Indians lack the big names of the Mets, Nationals or Cubs, these guys can flat out deal. America was introduced to this impressive staff last fall, and they should continue to produce this season.

The rotation, led by the 31-year-old Kluber, is only getting better at this point. Expect the Tribe to contend again in 2017.

Also, kudos to Melaragno for a Brad Radke reference in the article. I haven’t heard that name in a while!

Flyer-Sign-Suspend (formerly FMK): Chief Wahoo, Matt Wieters and Commissioner Manfred

The “locker room talk” game (I know, you come here to escape politics)  “F#%k, Marry, Kill” will debut on Baseball on Tap this evening in a new, more politically correct form. “Flyer, Sign, Suspend” is a bit hokey, but will serve as a means to summarize a few of the main stories in baseball.

FlyerMatt Wieters, Free Agent. When Wieters was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles out of Georgia Tech n 2007, there was plenty of fanfare. The two-time All-American hit .359 over his career in Atlanta while serving as the team’s starting catcher and at times, their closer. But Wieters is still without a job, and his agent, the always personable Scott Boras, is busy concocting some story about how the market is playing perfectly into their hands.

Ken Rosenthal made a list of eight potential landing spots earlier today. Of the bunch, the Colorado Rockies seem to be the best fit. As Rosenthal noted, the team has spent a lot of money this offseason, but the Wieters could be the last piece needed to make them a serious contender.

The Rockies would be well served taking a flyer on Matt Wieters who would work well with a young pitching staff and add even more pop to the line-up. Plug Wieters in at Coors Field with Blackmon, Desmond, Story, CarGo and LeMahieu? Boras would have to like the idea of padding stats on a one year deal. If the Rockies could pony up the bucks for Wieters, they would be legitimate contenders to take down the Dodgers in the NL West.

Sign: Rob Manfred, Commissioner. Even though Commissioner Rob Manfred is pissing off baseball purists by suggesting a few new rules, I respect that he is trying. I was appalled by the suggestion of putting a runner on second to start extra innings, but I could live without seeing the pitcher and catcher play a light game of catch in the middle of an inning to put a guy on first. While not all of the ideas are worth committing to, I think the Commissioner should be applauded for having the guts to live in reality. Baseball is an entertainment business, and any common sense approaches to make the game more interesting in a world filled with gnat-like attention spans is worthy of consideration. I’m willing to let Manfred tinker in order to ensure the long-term stability of America’s pastime.

Suspend: Chief Wahoo, Cleveland Indians. The time has come. Rob Manfred met with officials from the Cleveland Indians last month to discuss the future of this offensive logo. While the team has been phasing Chief Wahoo out of focus (and will continue to do so in 2017) gradualism in this case is unacceptable. The only reason Chief Wahoo is not as controversial as the Washington Redskins of the NFL is that the team’s name does not describe a physical trait. The character is offensive, as it plays upon stereotypes related to skin color and ignorance. If the logo had played on a stereotype related to just about any other minority in this county, it would have been eliminated a long time ago.

To think that this image is not offensive to a significant portion of the population is just foolish. It is time to suspend Chief Wahoo, forever.

Game 7: The marathon turns into a one night sprint to the finish

While I was drinking my coffee this morning my wife came into the kitchen and said, “Game 7 tonight. Let’s get the fire pit going, move the projector outside, roast hot dogs, and I’ll make mac and cheese.” I love that woman.

The Indians will send Corey Kluber to the mound as he attempts to become the 14th pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball to win three games in one World Series. Kyle Hendricks, who struggled in his Game 4 start, will take the hill for the Cubs.

It is an impressive list, that of the three game winners in the Fall Classic. Names like Christy Mathewson (1905), Red Faber (1917), Lew Burdette (1957), Bob Gibson (1968), Randy Johnson (2001) and Madison Bumgarner (2014) stand out.

How the Chicago Cubs adjust to Kluber will likely determine whether or not they are able to win tonight. Kluber has been sensational in his two winning efforts thus far, hurling 12 innings while only surrendering 9 hits, one earned run and one walk. Kluber’s 15 strikeouts have been a big part of his success. It will be interesting to watch how Terry Francona handles the bullpen in this do-or-die situation. Andrew Miller could be up and ready to go in the 4th if Kluber finds himself in any tight jams.

Kyle Hendricks was unusually hittable in his Game 4 start. The Indians knocked Hendricks around, giving up 6 hits over 4.1 innings pitched. He will need to be much better tonight if Joe Maddon wants to give the ball to Aroldis Chapman with a lead.

As far as predicting this one, I’m just not going there. These teams have run the marathon and they are now facing a one night sprint. I look forward to watching either city celebrate what they have waited a lifetime (or two, or three) to witness. The stars will be out (literally and figuratively) in Cleveland, but these games usually have an unsung hero making a tremendous play or blunder. Check back tomorrow for analysis. Enjoy the game.

**Photo credit to Arturo Pardavila III, check him out on Flickr!**

Francona is headed to the World Series, but what about Cooperstown?

As the Cleveland Indians prepare for what they hope will be their first World Series championship since Harry S. Truman was President, many are considering the Hall of Fame credentials of Terry Francona. We at BoT decided to take a look at Francona’s life in baseball to evaluate his worthiness.

Francona’s career in baseball started as a 22-year-old outfielder with the Montreal Expos in 1981. Over ten seasons in Major League Baseball, Francona amassed 474 hits and had a respectable .274 AVG.

Francona did some coaching in the minors and was eventually hired to be Buddy Bell’s third base coach in Detroit. At the end of the 1996 season, the 38-year-old Francona was hired to be the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, replacing Jim Fregosi.

The Phillies organization was in a free fall since their pennant winning season in 1993 and brought in the young skipper to right the ship. But Francona and the Phils floundered. Over four seasons, the Phils never finished higher than 3rd place (although the Braves and Mets were mighty good) and suffered two last place finishes. Curt Schilling, Scott Rolen and Bobby Abreu were some of the lone bright spots on a team that relied all too heavily on the likes of Robert Person, Doug Glanville and Desi Relaford. Francona was fired at the end of the 2000 season, with a record of 285-363. This version of Francona showed no signs of one that would go on to manage the Red Sox to two World Series championships.

At the end of the 2003 season, the Boston Red Sox organization was licking its proverbial wounds after a tragic Game 7 loss to the New York Yankees in the ALCS . The infamous decision by Grady Little to leave an overtired Pedro Martinez in the game led to Little’s contract going unrenewed. Theo Epstein had decided to move on, and was in search of a new skipper. Francona, who  had bounced around the American League (including a stop in Cleveland) as an assistant coach over the previous three seasons,  was hired. Epstein, according to a 2003 Associated Press article, had also considered Texas first-base coach DeMarlo Hale, Dodgers third-base coach Gene Hoffman and Anaheim bench coach, Joe Maddon.

Francona inherited a team that had averaged 94 wins over the previous two seasons. The Sox had an ace in Pedro Martinez and a legitimate slugger in Manny Ramirez. Johnny Damon was in his prime and David Ortiz was coming off of a 54 HR season. To add to this stable of talent, the organization acquired Francona’s former ace, Curt Schilling, from the Arizona Diamondbacks just a few days before his arrival. Schilling signed a three year extension shortly after arriving, leading many to speculate that he had a lot to do with Francona ending up in Boston.

Regardless of the reason, this talented team with Francona at the helm, was able to rid Boston of the 86-year championship drought on the diamond and won the World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004. This tremendous season was marked by an epic rally in the ALCS when the team trailed the Yankees three games to none. The 2004 Red Sox remain the only team to ever recover from such a deficit. Whether Francona was the manager or not, this battle-tested group with the infusion of Schilling and his championship pedigree, were poised for a championship season. The 2004 Red Sox made Francona a winner, not the other way around.

In stark contrast to the ’04 team, the 2007 World Series Champions were not as talented The starting rotation was led by Josh Beckett (who had a career year) and supported  by Daisuke Matsuzaka and a duo of 40-year-olds (Schilling and Tim Wakefield). While the team scored the 4th most runs in the majors, it was not as star-studded as the 2004 version. Names like J.D. Drew, Julio Lugo and Coco Crisp replaced Damon and Ramirez. Managers who get more from marginal players are worthy of Hall of Fame consideration, and Francona did just that.

Not only did the offense over perform that year, but he guided his team through the season with a bullpen that included Hideki Okajima, Mike Timlin, Kyle Snyder, Javier Lopez and then closer Jonathan Papelbon. This team won the AL East, swept the Angels in the ALDS and beat the Indians in seven in the ALCS. An impressive season from a team that was not dominant on paper.

Francona’s tenure in Boston ended with two consecutive third place finishes. The 2010 and 2011 each finished seven games out of first place, and the two sides decided to part ways.

The Cleveland Indians hired Francona in 2013 and the team went on to win 92 games. Franconca was selected as the AL Manager of the Year as the team improved on their 68-94 record from the year before.

The 2016 Cleveland Indians have dominated the postseason. After sweeping the Red Sox, the Indians beat the Blue Jays in five. The team is powered by two sluggers, Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana, who had 34 HR’s a piece in the regular season. The team also led the American League in stolen bases, fueled by a quartet of burners. Fransisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez each have more than 15 steals, while a rejuvenated Rajai Davis has 43.

The completeness of the roster extends to the pitching mound. The Cleveland starting rotation, led by ace Corey Kluber, finished with a collective WAR of 8.9, good enough for best in the American League. Combine a strong  starting staff with shutdown relievers Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, and the Indians are a manager’s dream. Above average at nearly every position.

This consistency from a group of average to above average players is a credit to Terry Francona. Baseball fans, especially those in Boston and Cleveland, have been able to watch Francona blossom from a sub .500 manager to one with a strong championship pedigree.

At some point in the next decade or so, the Veterans Committee will receive Francona’s resume for consideration for baseball’s greatest honor, a plaque in the Hall of Fame. Had it not been for the the Grady Little calamity and a loaded ’04 Red Sox roster, it is uncertain that Francona would have had the opportunity to enter this discussion. But he seized the opportunity, and will eventually end up in Cooperstown because of his success with the ’07 Red Sox and his tenure in Cleveland.

Check back soon for a World Series preview, Baseball on Tap’s choice of beer for the Fall Classic, brewery features and…a new logo!



Scratch that: Lucroy vetoes deal to the Tribe

I guess this is why you don’t jump the gun and declare a team the AL favorite before a deal is official.

ESPN’s Jim Bowden has confirmed that All-Star catcher Jonathon Lucroy has vetoed the proposed deal to the Cleveland Indians. This is a major setback for the Tribe as it had appeared they were building a team that could content deep into October. More to come on this story.

The Brewers have had a crazy two years when it comes to the trade deadline. Last year, the Mets and Brewers had a deal in place that would have sent Carlos Gomez to the Mets but after a failed physical, the deal was off, which made Wilmer Flores VERY happy.

(UPDATE: WHEN YOU PUBLISH TOO SOON)The Way Too Early Deadline Winners: Tito Francona and the Indians are AL Favorites

Pending physicals, the abolition of a trade-clause and other legal nonsense, the Cleveland Indians will acquire an all-star catcher and shutdown reliever, (as reported by FOX Sports Ken Rosenthal) all in the span of 12 hours. Andrew Miller and Jonathon Lucroy are (unofficially) headed to the Indians.

Analysis: The Indians must now be considered the favorite in the American League to reach the World Series. The Indians have top-tier pitching (best team ERA in the AL) and a potent offense (7th in runs scored throughout MLB).

The addition of Jonathon Lucroy addresses one of the weakest areas on the team at the catching position. Indians catchers have scuffled all year and now they get one of the best in the game. Lucroy is hitting an even .300 this season with 13 homers and earned his 2nd all-star nomination in July. Lucroy is regularly credited as one of the best catchers to work with by his pitchers. A gritty, versatile player (who played in 153 games between catcher and first base in 2014) is the perfect addition for the Indians. Lucroy is under team control through the 2017 season.

AND Andrew Miller? The Indians bullpen ranks 10th in the MLB in ERA and has been led by closer Cody Allen. Although Allen has been solid (20 saves and only 2 blown saves) the rest of the bullpen is rather pedestrian. Miller, the 6’7″ lefty, brings with him a 15.3 k’s per nine strikeout rate and a 0.77 WHIP. Miller will be under team control though the 2018 season.

The acquisition of Miller will give Manager Terry Francona a steady, go to guy late in games as the Indians seek to nail down the AL Central and ultimately the pennant.