Monday, October 22, 2007

This WAS your ticket

There's only one Choketober

The Valley View Bridge stands 212 feet above the ground and is just over three-quarters of a mile long. The Detroit-Superior Bridge is almost as high -- 196 feet above the Cuyahoga River -- but is only 3,112 feet long as it connects downtown to the near West Side of Cleveland. Just a couple hundred feet away stands the Lorain Carnegie Bridge -- also known as the Hope Memorial Bridge -- which starts downtown just across the street from Jacobs Field on Carnegie Avenue and deposits travelers in the heart of Ohio City at West 25th Street; it stands only 93 feet above the river but is more than a mile long. Then you've got the Innerbelt Bridge and the Main Avenue Bridge, which is Ohio's longest bridge at 8,000 feet.

That's at least three miles worth of Cleveland's biggest bridges, and don't be surprised if you can't go more than a few feet on any of them without seeing someone wearing an Indians cap sidling up to the edge and looking down, down, down.

For we were up 3-1 in the ALCS and when we wake up this morning we'll have nothing to show for it. Nothing at all thanks to the Boston Red Sox outscoring the Tribe 30-5 in the final three games of the series to hand the Indians their first three-game losing streak in two months and knocking them out of the playoffs.

Nothing save memories of The Skinner, the newest image to add to the Cleveland Sports Misery Pantheon. That's in honor of third-base coach Joel Skinner, who held Kenny Lofton at third base when Franklin Gutierrez roped a ball down the third base line that banged off the facing of the stands and landed 30 feet in front of Manny Ramirez. As Lofton rounded third and headed for home, Skinner threw a stop sign up in front of the fastest man in Indians history and prevented him from scoring the tying run in the seventh inning.

Next man up, Casey Blake, immediately banged into a double play. Ball game over. Series over.

Nothing save memories of Manny Ramirez, now officially a Red Sock, throwing Lofton out at second on an ill-fated attempt at a double (even though Lofton was safe). Nothing save memories of Jonathan Papelbon striking out Travis Hafner on three pitches with two on and no outs in the eighth.

It's not Tribe time now. It's nice try time now. The time where we hear about what a great season the Indians delivered, what a valiant effort they gave, what an enjoyable run we had.

We hear it too often. Wait til next year. We're still waiting.

Everything worked in the first four games of the season. The series in a microcosm: Tim Wakefield gets in the way of a double-play grounder from Asdrubal Cabrera and turns it into an infield hit in Game 4. In Game 7, Victor Martinez's hard grounder up the middle in the fourth bounces in and out of Daisuke Matsuzaka's glove and lands at his feet -- easy out at first.

Our aces had nothing up their sleeves. C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona took losses, and then uberreliever Rafael Betancourt couldn't keep the Tribe in Game 7, giving up seven runs in the seventh and eighth. He turned Dustin Pedroia into Bucky F*king Dent in the seventh, turning a one-run deficit into a three-run deficit and getting the snowball rolling downhill.

The Indians turned not into a pumpkin but a tomato can in Game 7, as we took a punch in the stomach, a smack to the head, and an uncalled shot to the groin all in order. Down we go, crumpled in a heap, once again waiting for next year.

A next year that never comes. But tears that always do.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Byrd, poop

Indians resident Christian Paul Byrd is preparing a book in which he describes the spiritual journey that he has taken throughout his career. He talks about his struggles with pornography and players cheating, with the role of faith in the clubhouse. He writes about his funky old-school windup and how when he underwent shoulder surgery in the early part of this century he prayed for a way to stay in the game despite not having the dominant stuff of other pitchers.

In the book, Byrd also talks about the role HGH played in his career. And on the eve of Game 7 of the ALCS, the most important Cleveland Indians game in a decade, the story is exploding.

Apparently Byrd bought $25,000 of HGH and related supplies between 2002 and 2005, putting the purchase on his credit card. Byrd told he never hid his HGH use because he received it via a prescription, and Indians GM Mark Shaprio is supporting his player. Still, could the timing of this revelation be any worse? Well, if Byrd were starting today's game, it could be.

But as the 2007 season implodes around the Indians, this is a story that's not going away whether the Indians win or lose today. Eric Wedge's grinders are grinding themselves into sawdust the last couple of days. First Ryan Garko, the guy who went to Stanford, lost a war or words with the Boston himbo, Manny Ramirez.

Baseball's resident flake simply made his own fans mad when he said about a possible Red Sox loss before Game 5, "If it doesn't happen, who cares? There's always next year." Meanwhile, Mr. Stanford said before Game 6 about the Indians possibly winning, "The champagne tastes just as good on the road as it does at home." Apparently such a disparaging quote inspired the Red Sox to humiliate the Indians last night.

Now this. For all their playoff success, the Indians are only 1-3 in series-elimination games in the Jacobs Field era. The lost in five to the Mariners in the ALDS in 2001, in five to the Red Sox in the ALDS in 1999, and in seven to the Florida Marlins in the 1997 World Series. The Tribe's only elimination victory came in the 1997 ALDS against the Yankees.

Paul Byrd might have thought God worked in mysterious ways before he arrived in Cleveland. Now he's getting a first-hand look at a real mystery. And we get a close-up of just exactly what happens when you put your heart and soul into a Cleveland team.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

About that World Series berth ...

Some idiot hacked into GHCS earlier today, some fool who doesn't remember 23-7 and 12-8 Boston in the 1999 ALDS, some clown who can't recall Grady Sizemore losing a fly ball in the sun and then the Indians losing six of seven in the final week of 2005 to choke away a postseason berth to these Red Sox, some moron who can't look out the window and see the signposts that mark the Cleveland city limits.

The Craigslist fools selling World Series tickets in Cleveland -- in Cleveland?!? -- before the Indians even won their fourth game in the ALCS? Gripping harder than someone holding onto the edge of a cliff. The record crowd for no game at the Jake Saturday night? Quieter than a Kent State football crowd at homecoming. The armchair quarterbacks on message boards and around the blogosphere? Ready to commit hari-kari.

It's not like we haven't seen this before in Cleveland. After all, the Indians were the first team to ever blow a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 ALDS format when they blew it against the Red Sox in 1999. After a 23-7 loss in Game 4 behind supposed ace Bartolo Colon, Charlie Nagy couldn't hold a 5-2 lead after two innings in the fifth game, thanks mostly to a home run from Troy O'Leary. When Pedro Martinez came marching in from the Boston bullpen in the fourth inning with the game tied in that one Jacobs Field became as quiet as a wake. And it became one when Pedro shut the Tribe out the rest of the way as Boston went on to win 12-8.

That's the scenario we fear tomorrow, when Jake Westbrook faces Daisuke Matsuzaka. Dice-K might not be looking over his shoulder, but the rest of us will be, to see if Big Game Beckett is warming up in the bullpen.

It was supposed to be relatively simple for the Tribe after taking a 3-1 lead. Boston had to beat both C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona to even get to Game 7.

Guess what? It wasn't all that hard. And now we're looking at a repeat of 1999. Or 2001, the Indians last appearance in the playoffs, when they lost the final two games of the ALDS against the Seattle Mariners after holding a 2-1 lead. Or the 1998 ALCS when the Indians lost three straight against the Yankees after taking two of the first three.

Or even the 1954 World Series when the Tribe was swept by the New York Giants despite posting the best record in baseball.

It's been sunny with unseasonably warm weather in Cleveland the last few weeks. The Indians play has made it feel like another world. We'll be waking up Sunday morning remember just where it is we live.

Curse is foiled

It's over, folks.

Hanging on Grandpa's every word because he remembers watching the Indians win a World Series, something you've never done? It's over.

Reading old newsprint about a Cleveland past that included championship after championship because you can't find it in any current newspaper? It's over.

Hand-wringing about The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot -- heck, the entire city? It's over.

Tonight around 11:30 p.m. we'll be celebrating another shot at the World Series once the Tribe conquers Curt Schilling and the Boston Red Sox. And in a couple weeks we'll be watching a downtown parade as the Indians and Cleveland finally, finally, FINALLY come home with the brass ring.

FACT: the Indians are 3-0 in series when they have held a 3-2 lead (1948 World Series, 1995 and 1997 ALCS). FACT: The Red Sox are just 2-3 in series when they have trailed 3-2 (including the famous 2004 ALCS comeback from down 3-0 agains the Yankees. FACT: The Tribe's win pattern follows that of eight other best-of-sevens in all sports, and the team up 3-2 won the series seven times. FACT: Considering all sports, the Indians have a 78% chance of winning the series since they lead 3-2.

It's over, folks. Juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust because they're the CLEVELAND Indians we worry about the 3-1 ALCS lead evaporating. And juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust because they're the Boston Red Sox, the only team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a baseball playoff series, we're gripping a little bit as we head back to Boston to finish the series. We're a fanbase with nothing but tough losses in our memory banks, just like a dog who was constantly beaten on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper as a puppy. So we moan and clutch and worry.

But there's nothing to worry about anymore. The Cavs made the NBA Finals just a few months ago, remember? Sure, they lost, but just to make it was a magical carpet ride, unexpected by anyone not wearing a Cavaliers jersey. And the Browns have jettisoned Charlie Frye and turned into a decent team as easily as Clark Kent throws off his glasses and becomes Superman.

Apparently God's a bit upset with Notre Dame right now, because things are going right with Cleveland sports. They've been going right for a little while now.

Now that our team is again on the brink of success it's become cliche to think they are instead on the brink of disaster. Get that World Series logo off our clothes, even though the World Series logo is on everyone's clothes. Josh Beckett's warming up for Game 7. Stephen King's ready to write a new one about this certain comeback.

Huh-uh. It's over, folks. The Indians have their best pitcher going tonight against a fallen hero of old, Curt Schilling. Only Beckett's been able to beat the Tribe so far, and he will be pinned to the bench tonight. And when the Tribe does beat the Red Sox, they'll be facing a far inferior team in the World Series.

That's right. The Indians will be prohibitive favorites in the World Series against the Colorado Rockies. But wait! Didn't the Indians already lose to an expansion team in the World Series?

It's ancient history. All Cleveland sports history is about to become ancient history. We're on the brink right now. The dam is ready to burst; get ready to be swept away in the tidal wave.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Just one more win

One win away.

One win away from the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.

One win away from the Cleveland Indians in the World Series and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals just five months apart.

One. Just one.

One win away thanks to Casey Blake's solo homer to start the fifth inning, then his RBI single to end the inning.

One win away thanks to Paul Byrd's double-pump, Paul Byrd's quick pitch from the stretch, Paul Byrd's one pitch that cracked 90 miles per hour, Paul Byrd's five-plus innings of two runs allowed.

One win away thanks to Rafael Betancourt's total dominance of the Red Sox -- two more perfect innings in ALCS Game 4.

One win away thanks to the Red Sox not allowing Dustin Pedroia to field any balls in the fifth inning. Kevin Youkilis and Tim Wakefield saw to that.

One win away thanks to yet another ALCS three-run home run from Jhonny Peralta.

One win away thanks to Kenny Lofton partying like it's 1999. And 1998. And 1996. And 1995.

One win away from telling Manny Ramirez to take his home-run pose and go home.

One win away from becoming the first team to beat both the Red Sox and Yankees in the same postseason.

Just one, just one win.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Live blogging away!

(8:55 p.m) If the Indians were really any good, Casey Blake would have grabbed Shoppach and thrown him over the dugout to make the catch. Colossus and Wolverine could have done it.

(8:51 p.m.) At this rate, Byrd's going to last three innings even if he doesn't allow any more runs. Get Roger Wholestaff ready!

(8:41 p.m.) Paul Byrd is about five seconds away from throwing an ephus pitch, and 10 seconds away from taking a seat.

(8:31 p.m.) It's kind of like those Blue Diamond Growers -- two runs an inning, that's all we ask.

(8:30 p.m.) This game is starting to resemble Game 7 of the ALCS, when the Yanks folded in the first two innings. Johnny Damon smacked a grand slam to finish New York early in that one. Someone named Victor Martinez needs to go deep right here.

(8:25 p.m.) And it looks like someone told Mike Mussina it is still August. Feels like it anyway!

(8:22 p.m.) Apparently Joe Torre should have started Mike Mussina. Problem for Torre was (a) he's getting fired after this game and (b) he couldn't have thought he'd be getting the 1997 Mike Mussina instead of the 2007 Mike Mussina.

(8:16 p.m.) Bunting is great! Especially when you get hit by the pitch. The hand is not part of the bat, though baseball urban myth says it is. Joe Torre comes out to fix the mistake of Wang.

(8:05 p.m.) Kenny Lofton runs in from 1995 to make the catch and keep the Yankees scoreless after one.

(8:02 p.m.) Byrd comes with the heat to whiff A-Fraud. At this point, Torre might last longer in The Bronx than the Yankees' third baseman.

(7:58 p.m.) And here goes Paul Byrd. Is C.C. warming up in the bullpen?

Take that, shift!

AND THE CHEERING BEGINS DOWNTOWN!! Grady Sizemore shows up and Paul Byrd is thankful. Six more of those and we'll all feel good.

The difference between last night and the first two games, according to TBS's crew: offensive adjustments by the Yankees. Real reason: Jake Westbrook was pitching.

It's Wang's first career start on three days rest. Maybe Joe Torre is the dummy. No wonder Steinbrenner wants him fired!

Secret Shoppach

Could the Indians season hinge on Kelly Shoppach's performance tonight?

Eric Wedge has opened the door to critics since the series shifted to New York. First, it was Trot Nixon in right. Since Trot had fared well against Roger Clemens prior to this series (13-for-35 career), Wedge went with his gut and trotted Nixon out. It started well with a Nixon homer, ended well with a Nixon RBI double, but in between there was an error that allowed two runs to score. Wedge came out even on the decision; Trot had no one to smack with a pie.

Tonight, Wedge plays it like a regular-season game by leaving Paul Byrd's personal catcher in. Shoppach has caught Byrd every time out since the middle of July. The problem is that this sends Ryan Garko to the bench as Victor Martinez moves to first.

The other problem is that Shoppach hit just .167 in 90 at-bats since the beginning of July. So now the Tribe has weakened its offense at a time they might just need some big bats. After all, Paul Byrd is on the mound.

We'll see how apt Wedge is to manage as if it's a regular-season game once the game starts. If Byrd is shaky, he should be replaced fairly quickly. But if Byrd does leave early, does Shoppach stay in? And if Shoppach comes out early, that hurts the Tribe's versatility later in the game.

Lining them up

One good thing for the Indians tonight -- the Yanks continue to leave Jason Giambi on the bench. Doug Mientkiewicz stays in at first base because of his defense while Giami stays on the bench because of his defense. Sure, Giambi's only 3-for-14 against Byrd in his career, but he's a whole heck of a lot more likely to go deep than is the Consonant One.

CF Grady Sizemore
2B Asdrubal Cabrera
DH Travis Hafner
1B Victor Martinez
SS Jhonny Peralta
LF Kenny Lofton
RF Franklin Gutierrez
3B Casey Blake
C Kelly Shoppach

P Paul Byrd

LF Johnny Damon
SS Derek Jeter
RF Bobby Abreu
3B Alex Rodriguez
C Jorge Posada
DH Hideki Matsui
2B Robinson Cano
CF Melky Cabrera
1B Doug Mientkiewicz

P Chien-Ming Wang

A little Byrdie will tell you

Paul Byrd is not like a box of chocolates. You pretty much know what you're going to get.

And that's got all of Cleveland ready with their collective vomit bags.

Here's what you're going to get with Paul Byrd: an ERA right around league average, lots of hits, few walks, and probably six innings. About as exciting as a loaf of bread.

Problem is if we get what we got from Paul Byrd in his one start against the Yankees on Aug. 11 -- seven runs in two IP -- or what we got from Paul Byrd following his shutout of the White Sox on Sept. 1 -- 22 ER allowed in 30 IP -- then we've got a major problem. If we get September from Paul Byrd, then we've got Game 5 back in Cleveland on Wednesday night, with all of Cleveland remembering every sports disaster we've ever had.

Only four times has a team come back from an 0-2 deficit to win a best-of-5 baseball playoff series since the wild-card era began. One of them was these Yankees, against the Oakland A's en route to the 2001 World Series title. Remember the Derek Jeter flip to home plate to nail a non-sliding Jeremy Giambi in the Yanks' 1-0 Game 3 victory? Another of them was the Red Sox, who became the first team to do when they came back against these Indians in the first round in 1999. Remember the 23-7, Game 2 victory for the Red Sox in that series?

The Indians might very well remember it. And that memory might be what led Eric Wedge to stick with Paul Byrd as his starter today instead of going with ace C.C. Sabathia on three days' rest. In that game back in 1999, Bartolo Colon started on three days rest and didn't make it out of the second inning. By the end of three, the Indians were behind 10-2 and were one day away from watching Pedro Martinez stroll out of the bullepn and silence both Jacobs Field and the Indians' bats.

Should C.C. start today it would be only the second time in his career that he went on three days' rest. It's not something he's used to; it's not something the Tribe has practiced all year. Wedge makes his decisions and sticks to them like flypaper.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are turning to Game 1 starter Chien-Ming Wang on three days' rest. Why is the strategy good enough for the goose but not the gander? After all, this is Wang's first start on three days' rest, and he was horrible the first time around in this series.. The Yanks are desperate. Joe Torre's supposedly out the door if New York doesn't make it past this round.

So, Cleveland fans, get ready for your loaf of bread. It's good for you. But the Tribe will need a little bit more than that tonight. Remember, man can't live on bread alone.

Friday, October 05, 2007


It should be all about the Indians thrilling victory over the Yankees today, the Tribe's first playoff win since a guy named C.C. Sabathia beat the Seattle Mariners. It should be all about the grit a guy named C.C. Sabathia showed in keeping the fifth-inning door closed while the Yankees were mercilessly pounding away at it. It should be all about the Indians offensive explosion, about Kenny Lofton finding the Fountain of Youth in a Gatorade cup and about Asdrubal Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner, and Ryan Gark hitting homers.

And today Indians/Yankees Game 1 is the talk of the sports world. But the talk about the Indians/Yankees isn't focusing on the game. Instead, they're talking about LeBron James -- Akron native LeBron James, Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James -- wearing a Yankees hat to a playoff game at Jacbos Field.

LeBron was booed, and rightly so. Anyone whose ever worn a Pittsburgh Steeler or Baltimore Raven jersey in the Muni Lot before a Browns game thinks he got off easy. For this is our icon, the symbol of Cleveland's sports rebirth, a man known round the world basically jabbing a stick in the eye of Cleveland Fan.

Jim Rome's talking about it on his radio show today. ESPN's First Take television show is talking about it. They've written about it in the New York Times and Yahoo! asks
if LeBron's a traitor. They're arguing about it on blogs, on message'>message boards, and in bars.

Tribe legend Bob Feller had the best response when he said he would wear a Pistons hat and sit
right behind the Cavs bench
. He's also the kind of guy who appreciates history, the kind of guy who knows of former France president Charles De Gaulle's famous quote: "The graveyards are full of irreplaceable men."

Cleveland's been around a lot longer than LeBron James has, and it will be around a lot longer when he's gone. He might very well be leaving when his contract is up in three years, heading off to the Big Apple he apparently loves so well to play with his buddies on the New Jersey Nets. Or so the theory goes. Wearing a Yankees hat to a Jacobs Field playoff game against the Yankees does nothing to dispel that notion. And it also won't make us sad to see him go should he pull a few more stunts like this. We've lived with our sports misery for more than 40 years; don't tell us we can't keep doing it.

It's certainly not a dealbreaker in our love affair with LeBron, but it's not exactly forgetting to tell your wife that you're coming home late for work. Cleveland fans have trust issues and self-confidence issues. Even with championship-caliber basketball and baseball teams in town, we still look in the mirror and wonder if we look fat in these jerseys. (Well, all except Browns fans -- they DO look fat in these jerseys.)

Seemed that LeBron understood all this as he's done and said the right things ever since he joined the Cavs. And while he's said and done them, he's led our team to the NBA Finals. Now we've caught him out looking at other teams at our very important celebratory dinner.

This will happen when you're young and basically still a kid. LeBron doesn't turn 23 until the end of the year. He's surrounded himself with business partners he went to high school with, guys who think it's OK to speed at nearly 100 miles per hour. Guys who apparently aren't wise enough to tell LeBron he's going to take a big PR hit.

And while he's at it, he'll stain our enjoyment of a great night at Jacobs Field. Don't do it again, LeBron. We can live without you.

Yankees, go home

Awwwwww, poor Yankees. And poor Yankee fans. They might just not add to their 26 World Series championships this season.

This would be terrible for the Yankees! After all, can you imagine making the playoffs 13 straight seasons, and only having five World Series titles to show for it? And none since 2001? TRAGIC

Poor Derek Jeter. The Yankees have made the playoffs every year of his career. But he hasn't won the World Series every year of his career! Something's obviously wrong here.

And can you imagine the stress poor old Joe Torre is under? He might actually be fired for not winning every game by 10 runs. He even used some guys named Ross Ohlendorf and Jose Veras who weren't even in the postseason media guide. What is he thinking? Guy had a losing record until George Steinbrenner put him in charge of the team with the highest payroll in baseball; he must have reverted back to his losing ways using those two nobodies.

Alex Rodriguez is probably ready to pack his bags, too. The guy hits 54 home runs, and then the Indians walk him almost every time. Ten million New Yorkers probably booed their TV sets every time he headed to first base, they are so ungrateful.

Maybe Jason Giambi should go back on the juice so he can get a hit or two -- or even get into the starting lineup. Or maybe Jorge Posada should stop swinging at crappy 3-0 pitches; hey, Jorge, what happened to Yankee patience at the plate when you had the chance to walk in the tying run? Or maybe the Yankees starting pitcher should do something that doesn't get him nicknamed Chien-Mien Gong.

Yeah, it's so sad that the Yankees got their butts handed to them by the Indians. They were so bad in Game 1 of the ALDS they even embarrased our biggest star, LeBron James.

Because right now it looks like the NY on that cap is just the beginning and end of one short sentence -- "No waY".

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Yankees lose,
theeee Yaaaankeeeees lose!

Those of you waiting for 1995 to return to Jacobs Field got your wish in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees last night.

Those of you waiting for C.C. Sabathia to put together a defining performance in a clutch spot got your wish in the fifth inning last night.

Those of you waiting for the Indians offense to explode got your wish from the first inning on.

And those of you waiting for the Indians to get their first World Series championship since 1948 -- and that's all of you covered in the above and everyone else who doesn't care how they do it -- might have just witnessed the first step in the process.

In the Indians' 12-3 victory over the Yankees to start their playoff series, we got a glimpse of The Ghost of Indians Past when Kenny Lofton knocked in four runs, all after two were out. We got a glimpse of The Ghost of Indians Present when C.C. Sabathia sweated and grunted and struggled and nutted it up through five innings and 114 pitches, coming back from a bases-loaded, one-out, 3-0-count-on-Jorge Posada jam in the fifth inning to keep the Tribe ahead and watch as they went further ahead. We got a glimpse of The Ghost of Indians Future when Asdrubal Cabrera smacked a homer, the Raffies Perez and Betancourt combined for three shutout innings in relief and Jensen Lewis (can you say future closer?) broke his playoff cherry by retiring A-Rod on a pop out to start the eighth.

We even got a glimpse of a humbled LeBron James, who had to take off and hide his disgusting New York Yankees hat by the time some guy named Russ Ohrendorf was pitching in the sixth inning. That's kind of like the Pistons using Carlos Delfino to try to get past the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals. Who? Exactly.

Cleveland started the night with a bit of sabotage when a local cameraman hired as a freelancer by the Yankees' YES Network stepped on New York first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz's ankle, knocking the letters in his name around and eventually knocking him out of the game after a few innings. The camerman was fired, but he did his job. Friday night, the Indians will hire him and tell him to film only around A-Rod and Derek Jeter.

The Tribe overcame a fifth-pitch homer from Johnny Damon that was first ruled foul, then ruled fair. They overcame a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the fifth when Jorge Posada looked like he would erase the Tribe's thin 4-3 lead like it was writing on a chalkboard. C.C. gave up a run-scoring double to Bobby Abreu, then intentionally walked A-Rod and his 54 homers. Up came Posada, who took three pitches. Somehow Sabathia came back to whiff the Yankee backstop, who hit a career-high .338 during the regular season. Then Hideki Matsui popped out to Jhonny Peralta and by the slimmest of margins and fattest of pitchers, the Tribe remained ahead.

That gave the Tribe the boost they needed. Three batters into the bottom of the fifth Victor Martinez gave the Indians the two runs back with a jack into the right-field seats. Then with two outs, Good Ole Kenny Lofton -- good and old Kenny Lofton -- knocked one up the middle to score Peralta. Lofton then turned back time, stole second, and scored along with Franklin Guttierez on Casey Blake's double.

That's Casey Blake, who has more at-bats as an Indian than anyone else on this team save Good Ole.

And after the five-run inning it was a celebration at Jacobs Field. It was the fans screaming O-H-I-O so loud they heard it in Columbus. It was Travis Hafner and Ryan Garko adding homers just because. It was rocking and rolling and partying at the Jake just like it was 1999. Or 1998. Or 1997. Or 1996. Or 1995.

Game 1 showed the Indians weren't a fluke, that their 93-win 1995 season wasn't a tease, that the Yankees are not a team to be feared simply because it says NY on their caps. No, these are the Yankees that haven't won a playoff series since 2004, the year they pulled off the biggest choke in sports history against the Boston Red Sox.

The Yankees lose, theeeeeeeeeeeeee Yankeeeeeeeeeees lose.

But even better, Indians win.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Had a good day

That was the moment that we needed the most
We kicked Raven ass and their magic is lost
The Yankees' blue skies will turn to gray
Your Cleveland sports passion is back to stay
And now the Tribe's going to march on

So the Cavs made the NBA Finals in June, the Indians are at home for the first round of the playoffs, the Browns looked like a halfway decent team in beating the Baltimore Ravens, and the Pittsburgh Steelers played like hacks and folded.

The only thing that could have made it a perfect day in Cleveland sports is if Art Modell died while the Ravens were walking off the field.

Cause we had a good day
We took Baltimore down
We sang our fight song when we scored those touchdowns
We watched our leads grow
We know it's no lie
We work up a smile when we think of the Tribe
We had a good day
The standings don't lie
The Yanks are coming to town and we really don't mind
We had a good day
We had a good day

We'll settle for a little less than perfect. The Browns, our misfit child, have grown a few inches and heard their voices deepen since the thumping they took rom the Steelers to open the season. If not for a blocked field goal against the Raiders the Browns would be tied for first in the AFC North. The last time that happened a month into the season, there wasn't an Internet around to tell you about it.

Really, was sending Charlie Frye to Seattle the solution to the entire Browns' problem? Maybe Charlie was like the guy in the disaster movie that has to die so everyone else can escape. If the Browns were Poseidon, then Charlie Frye was Captain Robert Ramsey. At least he got those propellors going before he died!

Well you need a blue sky holiday
Nobody's laughing no more at what you say
And now the Tribe's going to march on

The Browns' victory is not even the most exciting sports happening in town right now. No, Indians Playoff Week kicks off Monday evening with a rally at Gateway Plaza at 5 p.m. It's part of Rally Monday, where every city that's got a team in the playoffs rejoices. We've got Michael Stanley and the Resonators performing for us; Boston's got to settle for The Dropkick Murphys. And, hey, what's Chuck Finley doing at the Angels' rally? He's pitched in more playoff games for the Tribe than for the Angels. Plus we got Coco Crisp for him, who in turn brought us (ahem) Andy Marte.

Cause we had a good day
We took Baltimore down
We sang our fight song when we scored those touchdowns
We watched our leads grow

We know it's no lie
We work up a smile when we think of the Tribe
We had a good day
The standings don't lie
The Yanks are coming to town and we really don't mind
We had a good day
We had a good day

We had a good day!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Talking Magic Number

The Magic Number used to be a regular visitor to Jacobs Field back in the mid-1990s. We were regular countdown pros back then, as good as Dick Clark on New Year's Eve. But we haven't seen much of Magic Number lately. In 2001 the Indians won their division and enjoyed a visit from Magic Number, but since then it's been nothing but tragic numbers. Magic Number did make a cameo in 2005 but didn't make it to Jacobs Field for the final week of the season.

Now, the Magic Number is back for an extended stay. Entering tonight's game the Indians hold a 5½-game lead on the Tigers and have a Magic Number of seven. Wins tonight and tomorrow reduce that to three, with the possibility of clinching the division title by the weekend.

God Hates Cleveland Sports was fortunate enough to hook up with Magic Number to see how he enjoys life on the road and what he thinks about his return to Cleveland.

GOD HATES CLEVELAND SPORTS: Magic Number, good to see you back in town. Looks like you'll be here til the end of the week. We have to ask, where the hell have you been?
MAGIC NUMBER: Well, I do quite a bit of traveling. As you know I'm based in New York City -- season tickets at Yankee Stadium and quite a bit of time spent at Shea as well. But last couple years I've spent time in St. Louis, Boston, out on the West Coast in L.A., San Diego, and Oakland. Used to go to Atlanta all the time, but not so much anymore. Nice to be back in Cleveland, I plan on visiting The Flats this week.

GHCS: You might want to try East 4th Street, Magic Number, The Flats are over! It has been awhile since we've seen you, hasn't it?
MN: What happened to The Flats? I used to love that place The Basement. I used to hang out there with the Baseball Tonight guys all the time. Remember when Gary Miller peed out the window? Wouldn't have happened if I hadn't come to town.

GHCS: Will you be at the ballpark tonight, Magic Number?
MN: I almost didn't make it last night. I forgot how to get to The Jake. By the time I got there the ticket booths were closed. Even the scalpers were gone. I finally found an old lady who claimed she was one of Bob Feller's groupies back in the day. She was selling a ticket for bus fare back to Parma, so I got in just in time. That'll teach me to come down Euclid Avenue. Who knows what will happen tonight.

GHCS: How do people usually react when they see you?
MN: Man, it's crazy? Ever been over to that Rock Hall of yours? You know, they got The Beatles in there. It's kinda like that with me, when The Beatles first came to America. There's usually girls fainting and peeing themselves (around here they're all wearing these pink Mrs. Sizemore shirts), and guys like to come up and give you a chest bump or fist knock. Sometimes they ask for pictures. I'm always keeping myself in shape to look good for the cameras.

GHCS: Wow, you're a real rock star. Any great Cleveland memories?
MN: I really liked 1995. I mean, there I was counting myself down throughout most of August. By September 8 it was all over. Most people barely even knew I was in town. Albert Belle kept threatening to stomp me, but I could have taken him. This year is much more relaxed. If I get that pie in my face I'm gonna be really pissed off.

GHCS: I think a lot of people are still pretty upset with you for standing us up in 2005.
MN: Hey, I was here, all right. I even went to Kansas City before I came here for the final week. But when I was out there I got sun poisoning, and then when we got back to Cleveland they were like, "We'll call you when we need you." I figured I'd be down at Jacobs Field all week, but I only made it once. When Ozzie Guillen made that choke sign, I hopped on a plane and flew back home to New York.

GHCS: What do you do in the offseason?
MN: I'm always counting down the days til the next season. I'll watch a little football, but not that much. Sometimes I'll pop up during the basketball season, but since almost everyone's in the playoffs they don't need my services that much. So usually I'm just hanging out by the pool reading a book.

GHCS: Any predictions for the Tribe this week?
MN: Let me ask my brother, Magic 8-Ball. Uh, oh, you're not going to like this answer ... you did say this site's called God Hates Cleveland Sports, right? Looks like I might be needed in Detroit next week.

GHCS: How can you say that? I heard you have reservations at the Renaissance through the weekend.
MN: Plans change, kid. I've got the airlines on speed dial, know what I mean? Just think about what's going on in Chicago and Milwaukee. Thank goodness I can drive back and forth between those places.

GHCS: OK, Magic Number, good to have you in town. Thanks for stopping by!
MN: My pleasure, see you at the game tonite -- MAYBE!!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Live blogging the big series

In 1997 the Tribe began wearing their socks high in honor of Jim Thome's 27th birthday. It became a good-luck thing as the Indians grinded their way to the World Series despite a less-than-stellar record. In 1998 it was The Year of the Dye Job as Jaret Wright, Charles Nagy, Richie Sexson, and a few others went blonde to get the Indians rolling. It inspiried a trend in Cleveland and inspired the metrosexual in then-GM John Hart, who said Nagy didn't need to dye his hair because, "He's a good-looking guy. He looks like he just stepped off the cover of GQ."

Now it's The Year of the Pie Face, as Blake gets blasted by Victor Martinez after tonight's game in one has become an Indians tradition. Trot Nixon probably preserved his spot on the roster by bringing his pie-in-the-face act from Boston, and now if you're the hero of the game, you're getting a pie in the face.

Your 2007 Indians are now a team with an identity. And it won't be much longer before they're also a team with a playoff spot.

(10:44 p.m.) OWNER'S SON!!! OWNER'S SON!!! OWNER'S SON!!! OWNER'S SON!!! Casey Blake sheds the moniker as he goes deep to left and the Tribe has put an extra game of distance between themselves and the Tigers with a 6-5, 11-inning win.

(10:42 p.m.) More on Tribe relievers Bobby Howry holds the record for most games with 79. But he only pitched 73 innings that year (2005) with a 2.47 ERA. Betancourt is up to 62 games and 73 innings pitched. Sid Monge threw in 76 games in 1979 to set the record for most games for a left-handed reliever, and he went 131 innings with a 2.40 ERA and 12-10 record and 19 saves. That might very well be the best relief season by a Tribe pitcher (the 12 wins in relief is also a record), but Betancourt's not far behind. Of course we've got Jose Mesa's 1995 season on the short list, as he saved 46 games and compiled a 1.13 ERA in 64 IP.

(10:34 p.m.) Is Rafael Betancourt turning in the best season by a reliever in Indians history? His ERA before tonight was 1.52, and here's two more scoreless innings in a very clutch situation. He's up to 73 innings pitched now. He's only walked eight guys. He doesn't get the saves, but the Indians wouldn't be where they are right now without him. On to the bottom of the 11th in a tie game!

(10:31 p.m.) Yesterday we had a Madden '08-like football game between the Browns and Indians that thrilled us to the very end. Tonight we've got extra innings in a battle for first between the Tribe and Tigers. If the Cavs trade for Kobe Bryant tomorrow, God Hates Cleveland Sports is going to have to change its name.

(10:28 p.m.) Full count to Gutierrez. Might as well start Barfield here. After all, he's about ready to transfer to Northern Illinois ... And it's a strike-em-out, throw-em-out. More free baseball!

(10:26 p.m.) Zach Miner's all over the place to every hitter. Soon enough he's going to groove one ...

(10:23 p.m.) And Peralta makes it to first again with his third walk. And Josh Barfield lives? The new Herb Washington takes Peralta's spot, and they better not have put him in to stand on first, even with Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate.

(10:20 p.m.) It's Victor, perfect Jhonny P, and Gutierrez due up in the 10th. If Jhonny P lets it get that far.

(10:17 p.m.) Another long Betancourt inning, and another good result. Ordonez flies out to right and the Tribe has another chance to walk off.

(10:11 p.m.) Betancourt whiffs Granderson to start the 10th, but that stinking Placido Polanco doubles to left. This is getting scary.

(10:08 p.m.) Rick Manning tells us that this is the fourth extra-inning game between the Tigers and Indians, with the road team winning all three previous. The Tribe has come out on top twice. And now the Indians have Betancourt and Perez lined up, so they're looking good.

(10:06 p.m.) Who wants some free baseball? We're getting it tonight as playoff baseball seems to have come early to the Jake. Hafner grounds out to end the ninth as Leyland looks like a genius.

(10:05 p.m.) Perhaps Leyland's looking for a cigarette instead of a left-handed reliever.

(10:04 p.m.) Did the Tigers really throw four balls to Asdrubal so they could bring the lefty in to face Hafner? It's either the biggest screwup in baseball history or the most ballsy call ever. Leyland's frozen in the dugout and he lets his Miner leaguer face Hafner!

(10:02 p.m.) Grady goes the other way, but it's a can of corn. Asdrubal now primed to get his first head pounding with a walkoff single ...

(9:59 p.m.) Blake gets the walk, Shoppach the bunt, and now the Tribe has two shots to score the winning run from the top of the lineup. Zach Miner, would you like to play a game? Grady Sizemore or Asdrubal Cabrera -- make your choice!

(9:53 p.m.) Borowski goes the distance with Inge before getting the flyout to left. We're heading to the bottom of the ninth in a tie game with The Owner's Son due up to start it. Can he get his second walkoff of the homestand?

(9:50 p.m.) Peralta turning into Cal Ripken! A one-hopper right at him deep in the hole turns into an out at third as the pinch-runner Maybin thinks he can beat the throw to third. You can feel the Jacobs Field energy through the television. The only question now is who gets the walkoff in the bottom of the ninth.

(9:48 p.m.) Asdrubal takes an elbow to the Chief Wahoo logo on Maybin's stolen base. Josh Barfield seen putting his uniform back on!

(9:45 p.m.) Casey singles and is pinch-run for by Cameron Maybin. Leyland with a tip of the cap to expanded rosters, as Marcus Thames comes up to hit for Santiago. This looks like a homer or strikeout situation.

(9:44 p.m.) Joe Borowski inspires as much confidence as a waitress at IHOP, but at least he's facing that bottom third of the Tigers lineup. And Leyland no longer needs his defensive replacement, so Clevlan doesn't get to bat in Cleveland. Sean Casey does instead.

(9:42 p.m.) Zumaya, my Lord, Zumaya .... Zumaya, my Lord, Zumaya ... Zumaya, my Lord, Zumaya ... O, Lord, Zumaya ... Someone's laughing, Lord, at Zumaya ... Someone's laughing, Lord, at Zumaya ... Someone's laughing, Lord, at Zumaya ... O, Lord, at Zumaya ... Someone's crying, Lord, it's Zumaya ... Someone's crying, Lord, it's Zumaya ... Someone's crying, Lord, it's Zumaya ... O, Lord, it's Zumaya

(9:39 p.m.) We're basically in extra innings now, sports fans. The Tribe ties it up in the ninth on JP's second homer of the game, as he has more than made up for his early error. It's a battle of the bullpens now, and the Tribe still has almost all of its bullets in the gun. Should the Tigers lose this one, they might just pack it in for the rest of the series.

(9:37 p.m.) It must feel like the old days to Lofton, as the fans stand and chant, "Kenny, Kenny, Kenny, Kenny" with the Indians in a tie game in the late innings. No, Kenny Rogers, they're not talking to you!!

(9:34 p.m.) And we remember back to Aug. 23 when Zumaya gave up three runs in an inning against the Tribe to take the loss against the Tribe in a 10-9 game. Zumaya has given up six runs in 2 innings of work against the Indians this season. Apparently they should have left Kenny Rogers in. Tribe still not done as Franklin Gutierrez pinch-singles with two outs. Can Lofton rip one into the right field corner to give the Tribe the lead?

(9:32 p.m.) Peralta's been perfect tonight, and he stays perfect as he bombs Leyland's bomb with a jack to right. We have a tie game!!! No win for you, Kenny Rogers!!

(9:30 p.m.) Hafner might like to have that one back, as it was in his wheelhouse down and in. It's a groundout to second to advance the runners, so not a total disaster as Victor comes up to bat. Do they give him anything to hit?

(9: 28 p.m.) Hopefully Ivan Rodriguez wasn't planning on having any more kids anytime soon. Travis Hafner's foul tip just took care of any intentions Pudge might have had for the next few weeks.

(9:27 p.m.) Two on and no one out as Asdrubal slaps one through the left side! Tying run is up in Hafner, and it's going to be hard to shift him with two on and none out. Is it time for that Jacobs Field magic once again?? Here comes Leyland to tell Zumaya to quit screwing up the game.

(9:26 p.m.) Has Grady Sizemore already earned the same respect as some of the game's best? For a guy who strikes out a lot he sure has a good eye. He takes a very close 1-2 pitch from Zumaya that is called a ball, and winds up with a walk. Sizemore did the same thing in the comeback victory against the Kansas City Royals a few weeks ago that really got the Tribe rolling to where they are now.

(9:25 p.m.) Some guy names Clevlen comes in to play left; presumably he can catch a fly ball or two. But the real move is Leyland pushes the button and brings in Zumaya to face the Tribe's top three.

(9:20 p.m.) Looked like Sheffield was safe at third as The Owner's Son tagged him on the back of the calf on a steal attempt. But it goes down as a caught stealing for Shoppach since the ball beat Sheff by a mile. And the crowd gets itself into the game -- keep "Hang on Sloopy" in Columbus where it belongs!!

(9:16 p.m.) And the Tribe pulls one out of the Browns' playbook, blasting "Hang on Sloopy" over the loudspeakers to try to generate some excitement from the crowd. It works for about five seconds.

(9:14 p.m.) Remember this?

"(7:34 p.m.) Byrd must dominate the bottom three of the Tigers lineup."
Well, Timo Perez is 1-for-3 with an RBI and Ramon Santiago is 2-for-3 with two RBI. This is worse than walking the last guy in a softball lineup. And now Byrd gets himself into eighth-inning trouble and won't even make it through this inning. Aaron Fultz is in to save what he can from the burning building.

(9:12 p.m.) Wow, Paul Byrd's out for the eighth inning. He's tossed two complete games so far this year and went into the ninth in another, so you have to wonder if he's going to come back out for the ninth should he cruise here.

(9:07 p.m.) Meanwhile the Tribe's Kelly waves at a big slow bender to end the seventh, and Kenny Rogers has gone seven innings for the first time this season. Leyland's still got his nuclear weapons waiting in the bullpen.

(9:05 p.m.) STO advertises "Prelude to a Championship" next Monday night, causing a collective dropping of the stomach in Greater Cleveland. Relax -- it's not about the Indians, who haven't won anything yet. It's about Youngstown boxer Kelly Pavlik, who's going for the middleweight championship of the world on Sept. 29.

(9:02 p.m.) Lofton flies out as Mark Shapiro thanks his maker that he didn't give up anything of value for him. Lofton's hitting just .280 with a .350 OBP and .350 SLG for the Tribe. He's been caught stealing three of five times since coming over from Texas and has scored only 21 runs in 143 ABs. He had three times as many runs in just over double the ABs with the Rangers.

(9:00 p.m.) Another amazing play at second base by lanky Asdrubal Cabrera makes it eight in a row set down by Byrd. We're to stretch time as Josh Barfield has PR permanently etched by his name.

(8:56 p.m.) And Kenny Rogers has just tied Mark Langston for the all-time lead in pickoffs with 91 by nailing Jason Michaels to end the sixth inning. Michaels is left complaining that Rogers balked, just like the last 90 Kenny's picked off said.

(8:55 p.m.) Wedge is already planning his postgame remarks. "We just have to keep grinding." "Detroit is a good team." "The season's not over and we're going one game at a time." "These guys know what's at stake." "I don't know why I played Jason Michaels and didn't bunt with Casey Blake."

(8:44 p.m.) Byrd gets a couple nice plays from Lofton in left and gets the Tigers in order to finish the sixth. But the Tribe IS RUNNING OUT OF TIME!! to steal a line from Jack Bauer and Tri-C. Do you really want the Tigers to get to Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya with this lead? Something's gotta happen pretty fast if the Indians don't want this lead to drop to 3.5 ...

(8:43 p.m.) Remember when Carlos Guillen was an Indian for about a day and a half? Everyone forgets, but the Indians did trade Omar Vizquel for Guillen before the 2003 season, only to have Omar fail a physical, negating the trade. The Tigers then swooped in and acquired Guillen for Ramon Santiago -- and guess who's playing short for the Tigers tonight? What a trade for the Tigers. The Mariners have a thing about giving away shortstops. They traded Omar to the Indians way back when for Felix Fermin, and gave the Tribe Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez last season.

(8:41 p.m.) Yep, things still look a bit bleak from the Panini's Cam as well. Still 5-2 Tigers as we enter the sixth.

(8:38) And the shift burns Hafner in the fifth as the Tribe goes punchless in the fifth. I think by now Hafner would love to take the shift into a back alley and beat the crap out of it. He sure isn't doing anything against it on the field this season.

(8:36 p.m.) The Owner's Son turns a double play to get the Tribe through the fifth with no damage. That might buy Paul Byrd another inning. Believe it or not, Byrd has the most playoff experience of anyone on the Tribe roster. He pitched in two games with the Braves in the 2004 NLDS against Houston, taking a loss in 5.2 IP. He returned to the playoffs with the Angels the next season, getting hammered by the Yankees in one 3.2 inning start in the ALDS, then pitching 10.2 innings over two starts in the ALCS against the White Sox, going 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA. Only C.C. Sabathia, with one start in the 2000 playoffs, Joe Borowski, with a save in 7.2 innings with the Cubs in 2003, and Aaron Fultz (4 IP, 6.75 ERA with the Giants) have pitched in the playoffs besides Byrd.

(8:30 p.m.) The howls over Wedge's decision to not bunt with Blake have begun in earnest. But come on -- you don't expect The Owner's Son to do anything but swing for the fences, do you??

(8:27 p.m.) Blake flies out to right and then Shoppach hits into the double play. Thousands of fantasy football players look at the clock to see if Monday Night Football has started yet, especially with Byrd still on the mound.

(8:23 p.m.) Lofton gets a lucky break as Timo Perez misplays his second ball of the game. Tying run is now up as The Owner's Son steps in!

(8:20 p.m.) Peralta goes deep to center to start the fifth! He buys back the run he gave away by letting Ivan Rodriguez on base. Even Zydrunas Ilgauskas wouldn't have caught that one. Michaels follows with a rip to left, and maybe it's the Tribe's turn to tee off on Rogers.

(8:15 p.m.) You'd think Derek Anderson just showed up. Brandon Inge bunts his way into an improbable 2-5-3 double play while trying to sacrifice, and the Tribe might just escape this inning without half the fans leaving the Jake.

(8:15 p.m.) Unbelievable. Detroit's minor-league shortstop gets a bunt hit to score Rodriguez and it's 5-1 Tigers. Still two on, still two out, still a Cleveland team doing whatever it can do to give away a game when the pressure's on.

(8:13 p.m.) Wow. Timo Perez rips it to right, Jason Michaels boots to let Rodriguez go to third, another run in, it's 4-1 Tigers. Two on, none out. And that noose is being fitted for Tribe necks once again.

(8:10 p.m.) Oh, boy, the wheels on this cart are getting wobbly. Peralta boots Ivan Rodriguez's slow grounder and the Tribe doesn't even trade the run for the out. First and third with no one out and it's now 3-1.

(8:07 p.m.) Another double for Guillen as he croquet-shots one down the third base line. Guillen couldn't have rolled the ball down third with his bare hands and got better results. Byrd quickly losing his chances at sticking as the Tribe's third starter in the playoffs. He's throwing strikes and the Tigers are hitting them.

(8:05 p.m.) That's two liners right over Peralta's glove as Ordonez scorches one to left. Maybe the Tribe should sign Zydrunas Ilgauskas to play shortstop. Cal Ripken proved that tall shortstops can get it done. Heck, most people want Ja-honny off short anyway.

(8:02 p.m.) Inge gobbles it up at third to end the inning. Tigers leading 2-1. Rogers knowing when to fold 'em so far.

(8:00 p.m.) Hafner does what he couldn't do in the first inning with a man on third, smacking a single to center. That breaks a string of six straight retired by Rogers. Now team MVP Victor Martinez is up ...

(7:55 p.m.) YOU ARE RUNNING OUT OF TIME!! First Jack Bauer's catch phrase, now Tri-C's.
(7:53 p.m.) Byrd's through three innings in less pitches than it took Rogers to get through two. But Rogers has the lead, thanks mostly to Hafner's first-inning whiff with a runner at third. Kennnnnnnnny, you're my laaddddddy!!

(7:50 p.m.) Placido Polanco is the first one to go deep tonight? Note to Paul Byrd -- QUIT THROWING PITCHES DOWN THE MIDDLE TO SLAPPIES!! First he hung one to Santiago, now a floater to Polanco.

(7:45 p.m.) Contact us on our new AOL IM screen name: GodHateClevSport!

(7:40 p.m.) The Owner's Son steps in and takes a strike. No, Casey Blake's last name isn't Dolan, but why else do you think he's in the lineup every single day? He's second on the team in games and at-bats! This despite being 110th in baseball in OPS, out of 164 regulars. He's fourth among AL third basemen in OPS, which sounds pretty good until you hear there's only nine AL third basemen who are everyday players. Apparently just being able to suit up makes you valuable. Just ask Nick Punto!

(7:37 p.m.) Santiago turns back into a pumpkin when Byrd picks him off to end the inning. Just the second time Byrd's picked anyone off this season. Santiago certainly earned it.

(7:35 p.m.) And Santiago bloops one into left just over Peralta to tie the game. It's like getting burnt by the last girl in the order in your co-ed softball league.

(7:34 p.m.) Byrd must dominate the bottom three of the Tigers lineup. Timo Perez and Ramon Santiago simply aren't major leaguers, and the Tigers should be ashamed of using both of them in this must-win game. Perez is already out on a shot to Cabrera. Santiago looks like the kid who plays right field on your Little League team so far ...

(7:33 p.m.) The early Byrd grabs the wormburner!

(7:27 p.m.) Jason Michaels gets the start over Franklin Gutierrez today. Perhaps its a Wedgie but feeling, as J-Mike is a career .300 hitter against the gambler. Tough decision to make, as Gutierrez has been the everyday right fielder since the beginning of August. And the gut decision makes us sick as Michaels grounds out to short to end the first.

(7:25 p.m.) Here comes Astroball with the first run of the series! Ivan Rodriguez forgets to catch Rogers pitch and it goes to the backstop. Rodriguez, thinking he's back playing kickball in gym class, nails Cabrera in the stomach with his throw to the plate. Unlike in kickball, Astroball is safe.

(7:23 p.m.) Kenny Rogers forgot to shave this morning. And yesterday morning. Either that or he's trying to look more like the other Kenny Rogers. Don't expect to see Rogers replacing Keith Hernandez or Walt Frazier in those Just For Men commercials anytime soon. He defines greybeard.

(7:22 p.m.) Man, Hafner's down season continues. Infield in and he can't even put wood to leather. Amazing this team's won 90 games with his rather pedestrian numbers.

(7:20 p.m.) Is Cabrera wearing one of those candy necklaces that fifth-grade girls like? That thing should be half gone by the sixth inning.

(7:15 p.m.) And Astroball Cabrera brings the excitement to the Jake, jacking one off the wall in left and racing around to third! Triple-A outfielder Timo Perez turned a fly ball into the triple by leaping a foot away from the wall. Somewhere Josh Barfield silently weeps.

(7:12 p.m.) And Grady puts away the long can of corn from Ordonez to end the scoreless top of the first. Over to The Point After, and we see a smiling Romeo Crennel!! Romeo Crennel DOES change facial expressions.

(7:10 p.m.) Byrd throws nothing but strikes, which is scary sometimes. These Tigers hit the ball hard! Granderson drilled one foul deep to right, Sheffield rips one in the hole to left. As long as they keep hitting at-em balls...

(7:04 p.m.) Contact us on our new AOL IM screen name: GodHateClevSport!

(6:56 p.m.) WOW! Optimistic Tribe fans. STO's pregame poll shows that 65% pick the Indians to win two games in the series and only 15% say the Tigers will win the series. Where have all the pessimistic Cleveland fans gone? Next you'll say the Browns are going to score 51 points in one game.

(6:53 p.m.) Tough choice at 7 p.m. Do we watch Angry Tony and the boys not be angry as they discuss the Browns on WKYC's The Point After, or do we watch the Tribe from first pitch? This is a football town -- can't wait to see the ratings for these broadcasts when it's all over.

(6:47 p.m.) Ah, new pregame "cohost" Ryan Garko alludes to Shoppach being Byrd's personal catcher. That's why Garko sits.

(6:42 p.m.) Well, Garko's hand doesn't hurt so much that he can't hold an STO microphone. Can't tell if it's swollen or not, since he's a beefy dude to begin with. How can Pawlowski not even ask Garko why he's not in the lineup, especially against a lefty??

(6:36 p.m.) STO's Al Pawlowski just said the Tigers are the hottest team in baseball right now -- 10-2 in their last 12. Boy, can the Tribe hope just to take one game??


This is it, sports fans. Tonight the Indians face the Detroit Tigers in a three-game set that goes a long way toward deciding the Tribe's postseson fate. No, even if the Tigers sweep the Tribe won't be knocked out. They won't even be knocked out of first. With a 4.5 game lead, the Indians will still be a game and a half ahead if the Tigers take all three at the Jake. But it will sure make for some queasy stomachs in Cleveland, as we'll start thinking here we go again ...

Tonight's starting lineups:

DETROIT: CF Granderson (the new Grady Sizemore?), 2B Polanco, DH Sheffield, RF Ordonez, 1B Guillen, C Rodgriguez, LF Timo Perez, SS Santiago, 3B Inge; P Rogers

CLEVELAND: CF Sizemore, 2B Cabrera, DH Hafner, 1B Martinez, SS Peralta, RF Michaels, LF Lofton, 3B Blake, C Shoppach; P Byrd

The Tigers have some problems at the bottom of their order what with career minor leaguers Timo Perez (just 98 big-league ABs the last two seasons), and Ramon Santiago (no more than 100 big-league ABs in any of the last four seasons) in front of Brandon Inge. All three are free swingers with a combined OBP of under .310. That bodes well for a strikethrower like Byrd.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Hitting the jackpot

Once again, our giant slot machine on the lake pays off.

You know how it goes. Sell out every game since the Browns return to the NFL in 1999. Lay an egg in most of them -- a 21-45 home record the testament to that. Raise fans expectations and then dump a bucket of ice water over them almost every time.

Certainly THAT'S not what's bringing 73,089 people to Cleveland Browns Stadium eight times a year. No, it's the slot machine theory. The fans are attracted to the team, they buy tickets (and t-shirts and hates and sweatshirts and beer) once attracted, and they continue to root for the team for years and years. The fans continue these activities despite loss after loss after loss.

Then there's what psychology professor Tom Creed calls the reinforcement function. That's the periodic payout which occurs unpredictably and in variable sizes. Kinda like the Browns' 51-45 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in which Derek Anderson tied the franchise single-game record with five touchdown passes. Triple 7s and a $10 million jackpot indeed.

Anyone who runs a casino can tell you why every Cleveland Browns home game has sold out since the team returned in 1999. It's certainly not the 41-89 record that Browns 2.0 have put together. It's not the procession of quarterbacks from Ty Detmer to Tim Couch to Spergeon Wynn to Doug Pederson to Kelly Holcomb to Jeff Garcia to Luke McCown to Trent Dilfer to Charlie Frye to Derek Anderson. It's not the record against Pittburgh, which has won 15 of the 17 matchups since the Browns returned to the NFL. And it's not cheap beer prices.

No, it’s the shootout that D.A. inexplicably won against Carson Palmer that brings Browns fans back. It’s things like Jamal Lewis’ 215 rushing yards and 66-yard scoring run. It’s things like Braylon Edwards’ diving 34-yard touchdown catch and 146 receiving yards. It’s things like Kellen Winslow’s 100 yards and a score through the air. It’s things like Leigh Bodden’s last-second interception to preserve the victory.

The slot machine effect was in full view at Cleveland Browns Stadium yesterday as we saw the Browns score the most points in a home game in team history. It was also the most points by a Browns team since they opened the 1989 season with a 51-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Was it real or was it just a lucky pull of the one-armed bandit? Derek Anderson wasn’t even good enough to beat out Charlie Frye in the preseason. Then, after a quarter and a half of awful football against the Steelers, Frye gets shipped to Seattle, D.A. becomes the placeholder until Brady Quinn is ready, and then …

and then, 20-of-33 completions for 328 yards and five touchdowns. This from a guy with six career touchdown passes coming into the game. And it all came after D.A. started 3-for-10 with a sack and a fumble. Similar stats got Charlie Frye fried the previous week.

So the pendulum swings the other way after a week of turmoil. We went from the optimism of a new season to the pessimism a crushing defeat by Pittsburgh brings back to the optimism a stirring victory coupled with a trip to winless Oakland. Just don’t get too excited. After all, Kelly Holcomb has two of the Browns biggest passing yardage days in the regular season and one of their biggest in the playoffs. There's a reason the slot machine rarely hits triple 7s.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oh, no, Ocho

Browns fans, your honor is at stake.

Last week, your arch-rivals from Pittsburgh came to town and left with your wives, your girlfriends, your children -- basically everything that wasn't nailed down. Heck, they basically left with your former starting quarterback.

Now Cincinnati Bengal wants what's left. He wants the Dawg Pound.

Known for his flamboyant celebrations, sometimes mohawk, and 42 career touchdowns, tell-all Chad has a special one planned for his team's game at Clevland Browns Stadium. He wants to bring the Lambeau Leap to the Dawg Pound.

"I hope I get in there," he said. "They can give me some popcorn -- throw some beers at me - whatever they want to do. I'm going to jump in the Dawg Pound. It should be fun. It would be a first."
That's right. Good ole Ocho Cinco plans to toss his No. 85-clad body INTO THE DAWG POUND if he scores a touchdown at that end of the field.

The Dawg Pound. That sacred place where true Browns fans congregate to dress like extras from The Hills Have Eyes 2, root on their Browns, get drunk, scream obscenities, fight, and pee without actually going to the bathroom.

The Dawg Pound. The true representation of Cleveland football. The true identity of the Cleveland Browns, harkening back to Frank Minnifield and Hanford Dixon. It's where Big Dawg John Thompson became a minor celebrity, where Bone Lady holds court, where Charlie's Fryes root on their favorite quarterback.

It's what makes Cleveland Browns football Cleveland Browns football. Just say Dawg Pound within earshot of football fans, and they'll know exactly what you're talking about. Well, unless they're wearing a Michael Vick jersey.

And now Chad Johnson wants to invade.

Look, Browns fans, five straight double-digit losses to Pittsburgh are humiliating. Seven straight losses within the division are humiliating. Appointing Charlie Frye your starting quarterback and then trading him after he plays for a quarter and a half is humiliating. Right now, just being a Cleveland Browns fan is humiliating.

But right now it's time to draw the line. Do whatever is needed to keep Chad Johnson from leaping into the Dawg Pound. It's up to you, Browns fans, because Browns players don't seem capable. Put a brick wall up in front of the Pound, raise a giant net, dig a moat between the end zone and the stands, bring a few guard dawgs from home to guard you. Do whatever it takes to keep Chad Johnson from taking away the last thing we have to be proud of.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A little Byrd-ie told me

You get the feeling that in this town, if the Browns announced they had done nothing, absolutley nothing, for the day, it would be bigger news than an Indians pennant race. So you can imagine what happens when they become the first team in history to trade the quarterback who started their first game before they even played their second game.

Yes, news of the Indians reducing their magic number to 11 -- lowest in baseball, by the way -- reaches us in whispers while sky-is-falling rhetoric about the Browns and ex-quarterback Charlie Frye hits us from all angles. Yes, the Indians won 8-3 last night, right about the time that Charlie Frye was boarding a plane for Seattle, probably never to be seen again.

If you believe the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Frye will be the third quarterback on a team that saw fit to go into the season with just two of them. The incumbent, Matt Hasselbeck, won't be taking a seat on the bench anytime soon. And he won't be moving backup quarterback Seneca Wallace to wide receiver,either.

So while Patrick McManamon is stunned and baffled, while Terry Pluto tries to figure out just what the heck the Browns are doing, while Angry Tony looks ahead to Plan C, and while fans in the blogosphere call for the heads of everyone from Rover Cleveland to Art Modell, we'll just keep focusing on the Indians who just keep focusing on winning. Last night's 8-3 victory over the White Sox behind unsung hero Paul Byrd gives the Tribe 17 wins in their last 21 games. Their 6.5 game lead over the Detroit Tigers is the second-largest of any division leader. And perhaps we've got some security through 2012, since the last-place Chicago White Sox decided yesterday that Ozzie Guillen's the man to run the show for the next half-decade.

Everywhere else they can decry the Charlie Frye trade. Here, we'll just keep counting down to 94 wins.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Frye no longer the guy

Go west, young man, the Browns have told Charlie Frye. The geniuses in charge of the Browns have decided a guy they cut a week ago (Ken Dorsey) is better than the guy that chose to start the first game (Charlie Frye).

Early rumors had the Browns talking trade with the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons before striking a deal with the Seattle Seahawks. Apparently the Giants laughed and hung up the phone while the Falcons said they'd rather wait for Michael Vick to get out of jail.

Maybe the Browns should have sent Charlie to Cincinnati, then dispatched someone to Bengals practice with a club to try out on Carson Palmer's reconstructed knee.

Apparently the Browns will receive a sixth-round draft pick from the Seahawks. This came as a surprise to Phil Savage, who was willing to accept three Venti Pumpkin Spice lattes and free shipping on all books about football coaching ordered through

Meanwhile, Browns fans vent their frustrations with the current regime on message boards all over the Internet.
Bringing Dorsey back

We've come a long way from Bernie Bernie and The 12 Days of Browns Christmas. Now Browns fans are stuck with the Ken Dorsey Fight Song. (Sorry, Justin Timberlake.):

They're bringing Dorsey back
Them other QBs can't avoid a sack
Ken's a special type of quarterback
Turn us around and pick up the slack.

Take em' to the end zone!


Ken Dorsey
Avoid the tacklers
Baby you amaze
Whip up on the Bengals when they misbehave
Derek and Charlie can't make us feel this way

Take em' to the playoffs!


Come here, Ken
Go ahead, be gone with it
Come on, quarterback
Go ahead, be gone with it
Go ahead, be gone with it
Drinks on me
Go ahead, be gone with it
Let me see what you're working with
Go ahead, be gone with it
Look at those tight ends!
Go ahead, be gone with it
You make me smile
Go ahead, be gone with it
Go ahead child
Go ahead, be gone with it
And get your touchdown on
Go ahead, be gone with it
Get your touchdown on
Go ahead, be gone with it

Get your sexy on

They're bringing Dorsey back
Them other QBs don't know how to act
Come on, Ken, make up for the things they lack
Cause we're burning up I gotta get it fast
Take em' to the end zone



They're bringing Dorsey back
Tell Charlie Frye to get his bag packed
Now all you Steelers better watch your back
Cause he'll burn it up for us and that's a fact
Take em' to the playoffs!

Want Frye with that?

In what has quickly become the biggest disaster in Cleveland sports since Art Modell boarded a plane on a Baltimore tarmac, the Browns are working on trading Charlie Frye -- or just flat out cutting him.

Callers to WKNR suggested trading him to IHOP for a $20 gift certificate, or to Tyson Chicken so he could run the assembly line.

Now, while this isn't Bill Belichick releasing fan favorite Bernie Kosar for "diminished skills", it's certainly another black mark on a once-proud franchise. A quarter and a half against your arch-rival was all you needed to see to know that Charlie Frye couldn't get it done? The 18 other games Charlie started in his career didn't give you enough evidence? If Browns brass didn't think poorly enough of Charlie Frye to dump him in the offseason, why in the world do it now when every other team has seen that he still sucks? And while most fans will miss Charlie as much as they miss a cold, the fact remains that this is to whom the Browns decided to hitch their wagon.

Rumors abound that Charlie could go to the New York Giants, who may or may not be in the market for a quarterback thanks to Eli Manning's shoulder injury. And then there's that team in Atlanta, whose former quarterback specialized in killing dogs (not Dawgs). Perhaps that is Charlie's new destination.

If neither of those works out, the Browns will flat out cut their starting quarterback.

In any case, this is a colossol blunder that should cost the entire Browns front office and coaching staff their jobs. They've taken the most important position on the team and turned it into a joke. Obviously Phil Savage wasn't smart enough from the beginning to realize that his team couldn't win with Charlie Frye. And having Frye (and stiff backup Derek Anderson) forced on him has made Romeo Crennel look like he's constantly constipated.

You can bet they're celebrating in Dallas, where the odds of hearing, "With the first pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select Darren McFadden, running back, Arkansas" just got that much better.
The morning roundup

And you thought the Browns were providing plenty of material before they brought Ken Dorsey back into town. The Plain Dealer provided the headline that will sum up the Browns season even though there's 15 more games to play: What Are They Doing Now? The only thing missing was three more question marks. Ken Dorsey to the rescue!

Now rumors abound that Charlie Frye will be released. is the only place putting the kibosh on that one. The site also says Dorsey actually LIVES in Berea. Poor guy.

Still, the Browns have plenty of other unanswered questions, like exactly who is going to start Sunday's game, says Marla Ridenour. And who will be cut if Dorsey rejoins the team. And, as Patrick McManamon wonders, why is the defense so lousy?

Bud Shaw says the Browns owe their fans, especially the guy who has spent 11 grand watching them suck for the past few years.

Only in Cleveland could a horrible football team lose a game horrible to the team that always treats it like an ant at a picnic and have it overshadow a first-place baseball team. The Tribe won once again, enduring a near 2½-hour rain delay to beat the White Sox 6-2 in a game that ended after Monday Night Football. Their magic number is now 14.

Despite all this, it's nothing compared to what would have been on GHCS had the Internet been around 25 years ago. We're reminded of that with the passing of Ted Stepien, former Cavs owner, to whom Bob Dolgan and Bob Finnan pay tribute today.