Series Preview in Blog: Cleveland Indians

This post is also published at Stick and Ball Guy’s site. Stop by and check out what SBG Nation has to say.

Minnesota Twins (11-7) v. Cleveland Indians (8-7)

The Twins return home after a 4-2 road trip to Seattle and Kansas City. The Indians are finishing a road trip that began with a sweep by the Yankees in New York as A-Rod had 3 HR and 8 RBI (that guy’s just on fire). This weekend, Cleveland rebounded by winning two out of three from the Devil Rays in Tampa. The Indians are 4-5 on the road thus far this year, the Twins are 6-4 at home.

At the somewhat pessimistically titled blog God Hates Cleveland Sports, A-Rod’s walkoff homerun (which capped a six-run ninth inning) on Thursday inspired a list of the most devastating losses for the Indians since Jacobs Field opened in 1994. Twins fans will be happy to note that #3 is the infamous Corey Koskie “chair game”.

On to the Tribe:

Indians fans provide my absolute favorite Ozzie Guillen image ever

Twins fans often debate what kind of fan reaction former Twins should get on their return to the Metrodome (see: Piersynski, A. J. and Mientkiewicz, Doug). In that same vein, when the Indians hosted the White Sox, Ozzie Guillen took issue with fans booing Jim Thome. Here’s an explanation of why one guy did it, and here’s the back story on how Thome ended up out of Cleveland.

There were also some rumblings about Cleveland’s participation in the Civil Rights Game as their mascot is seen by some to be a racist caricature. On the other side of the race issue, the Indians are looking into honoring Larry Doby in a similar fashion to the tribute to Jackie Robinson earlier this month.

The Twins will face Jeremy Sowers and Fausto Carmona, both have had one rough start this year, Sowers against the Yankees last week, but he has had two other good starts. Carmona struggled against the White Sox in the first week of the season, but handled the Yankees, allowing 2 runs in 6 innings. The rest of the rotation consists of Carsten Charles Sabathia, Paul Byrd, and Jake Westbrook.

Westbrook recently signed a three year extension worth $33 million. Coming into spring training, fans were thinking extensions for Westbrook, Hafner, and Sabathia, but it looks like negotiations have stopped for the latter two for the remainder of this season. The analysis of Westbrook’s contract, however, is just beginning. Some people like the move, while some think that this bodes ill for Sabathia staying in Cleveland. There is also a review of a Wall Street Journal article, which holds up the contract as an example of the Cleveland front office’s business strategy (wins = $$$$). While this contract may or may not be money well spent, the Indians seem to be rolling in dough, since they’re giving money away (literally).

The bullpen was the glaring weakness last year, and it has been made over this year with new faces Joe Borowski (closer), Aaron Fultz (lefty), and Roberto Hernandez. Despite these changes, some remain unconvinced. The remainder of the bullpen consists of Tom Mastny, Jason Davis, Rafael Betancourt, and Fernando Cabrera. The bullpen has allowed 20 runs in 45 innings thus far this year. No word on whether Charlie Sheen has been contacted to reprise this role.

Six of those runs came in one inning against the Yankees, when Borowski entered with a 6-2 lead in the ninth and finished with a walk-off homerun by Alex Rodriguez. Needless to say, this was a hard loss to take. Lest you think that the blame rests solely on Borowski, there was plenty to go around. (By including this link I am trying to further the rumor started within that Mark Shapiro kidnapped a platypus)

On offense, the Indians still have Travis Hafner as their DH, I doubt the Twins will employ the same shift as the Devil Rays against Hafner, but it’s something to consider. Grady Sizemore (the bio here is lots of fun), David Delucci, Trot Nixon, and Jason Michaels make up the outfield. The infield of Casey Blake, Josh Barfield, Jhonny Peralta, and Andy Marte has struggled thus far (BA ranges from .156 to .213), Ryan Garko has been decent at first base, as has Victor Martinez. The offensive struggles of those players have led to Indians fans to express their frustration in haiku.

Finally, it happened a while ago, but the big story of the early part of the season was the Indians being snowed out of Cleveland, having one series cancelled (with the Mariners), and another moved to Milwaukee (against the Angels).

The Indians succumb to an April blizzard

By all accounts, the fans in Milwaukee were very gracious hosts. Here are a couple of entries about the experience, one from some Indians fans, and one from a neutral observer.


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