Saturday, January 28, 2006


It's been a long time since my last post, but nothing brings me out of the woodwork faster than a trade I don't agree with.

Mumblings about a Coco Crisp trade have been ongoing since last Sunday, and finally the deal is done. When I attended the Cleveland Indians Press Tour Monday, no representative of the team (Eric Wedge, Tom Hamilton, Fernando Cabrera, Ryan Garko or Jhonny Peralta) would comment on the deal. It was an omen of bad things to come. Photos from this event are coming, once I cool off.

Despite Guillermo Mota's unimpressive physical in Cleveland earlier this week, the Indians acquired him from Boston along with catching prospect Kelly Shoppach, cash and most notably, highly-regarded third-base prospect Andy Marte. Marte adds a lot of depth to the Indians' third-base position behind Aaron Boone, and most scouts say he has star potential. Of course, they said the same thing about Alex Escobar. For all of this, the Indians lose Crisp, David Riske and Josh Bard, who was the odd man out in the race for the 2nd and 3rd-string catcher positions.

The Indians other swap in this extravaganza was sending Arthur Rhodes to the Phillies for Jason Michaels, an outfielder who may be the first option in Spring Training as the starting left fielder. Michaels doesn't look awful on paper, but he's never played a full season as a starter--platooning last year with Kenny Lofton--and he has a "colorful" off-the-field personality.

I will give you that I have doubted Shapiro before and it has turned out well. When he signed Ronnie Belliard we all thought, "Geez, who the heck is this guy?" Shapiro is the GM who has brought them back to contention, after all.

Now that I have thrown Shapiro his bone and shown "the other side," here's what I really think:

If the Indians were going to do this deal at all (and they would've been fine if they handn't) they should've left Philadelphia and Jason Michaels out of it. I would have much preferred getting Cincinnati in this deal and taking Austin Kearns. That's not just because he's a more familiar name than Micheals but because Kearns really started to play well after he was sent down to AAA last year to straighten out his swing. I have to wonder if this trade was more about "making the club better" or avoiding arbitration with Crisp. Some have said Crisp was not worth 3+ million, but I have to say I'd disagree. For an outfielder who is consistent, healthy, and "adds a spark," I don't think Coco was asking for a figure way above his market value. That, and he's 26.

Crisp hit 42 doubles last year. How many did Michaels have? 16. ESPN's scouting report describes him as "a free swinger who strikes out too much." He only played in 104 ballgames last year while Crisp played in 145. If you think Crisp's numbers are going to be replaced by Michaels, you're wrong.

Coco's presence in the clubhouse will not be replaced by this guy, either. Instead of a community leader and fan favorite, now the Tribe has a guy who gets drunk and beats up police officers. As far as baseball talent goes, Cleveland may have to wait for Franklin Gutierrez or Brad Snyder to blossom to find an adequate replacement for Coco. That won't happen this year.

But will Mota be any better than Riske? Haven't the Indians just added more question marks in their bullpen? Now, it looks like the group is Mota, Wickman, Cabrera, Miller, Rafael "Roids" Betancourt. Steve Karsay and Danny Graves may not even make the team in Spring Training. The left-handed presence is lacking. Though Cabrera impressed me earlier this week when I interviewed him and I believe he will be solid in the bullpen, it's going to take more than him to make this bullpen even a shell of the one which dominated last year.

I see Mota for Riske as probably a push and I see Rhodes for Michaels as merely a stopgap, a temporary solution for left field. The only way the Indians come out of this looking like geniuses is if:
A.) Crisp bombs in Boston
B.) Marte develops into Mike Schmidt.

The Tribe will miss Coco--in more ways than one.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Tempe, Arizona, might sit in the shadows of Phoenix, but after Ohio State's impressive 34-20 win over Notre Dame yesterday in the Fiesta Bowl--OSU's third Fiesta Bowl win in four years--the sunny skies above Sun Devil Stadium closely resemble the wintry haze over Columbus' Horseshoe; in both places, the Bucks feel right at home.

I predicted a blowout, and I didn't quite get it, but I can't say I wasn't thrilled at nearly every second of the game. I didn't expect the Ohio State big-play offense (I can say that now for the first time since Cooper was coach) to erupt like it did. Before the game, my dad, who at 63-years-young is astute as ever, said, "I think Ted Ginn is going to have a big game. He already admitted he made a mistake in focusing too much on football and too little on track. He'll be looking to avenge for his sophomore slump." OK, whatever, Dad. I hope you're right, but I'll settle for a performance where the guy doesn't fumble any punts.

Then Ted Ginn Jr. went off.

His 56-yard touchdown catch from Troy Smith, who was also brilliant and more on that later, completely flipped the momentum after the Irish stampeded to a touchdown on their opening drive. His 68-yard touchdown run on the reverse--along with some of the most devastating fakes I've ever seen--reminded America "Hey, I was a Heisman candidate at the beginning of the year, and I will be next year, too."

Troy Smith may have slightly tainted his early brilliance with that second-quarter fumble deep in OSU territory, but the defense bailed him out. AJ Hawk, Mike Kudla, and the rest of the defense might not have terrorized the Notre Dame offense like I said they would, but they came up with the big plays (and five sacks) when they needed them. Of course, the four-down stand set up Smith's bomb to Santonio Holmes and a lead that the Buckeyes would never relinquish.

I have to give Notre Dame and Charlie Weis credit; in fact, I will probably give them more credit than most commentators and writers have been giving them today. The play calling was good. The Irish made adjustments, they ran effective slants and draws and they didn't turn the ball over. They, however, just couldn't match the firepower Ohio State displayed. Of course, Antonio Pittman capped that explosiveness by putting the game out of reach with his 60-yard touchdown bolt down the sidelines.

It was a great moment to see the seniors get this win. They go out with a national title, three Fiesta Bowls, a win over Notre Dame and a 3-1 record against Michigan. You have to believe, though, that if this offense, this Smith-led, spectacular offense had been around at Week 2 instead of Week 6, the Scarlet and Grey would be playing USC for the national title--and probably be beating them, too. In a playoff system, I would have loved to have seen OSU take on the likes of Penn State, Texas, West Virginia (who is a lot better than people thought) and, of course, the Trojans. But let's not get greedy. You can't win the national title every year, and with all the talent returning, next year holds a lot of promise.

Craig Krenzel was a terrific, smart college quarterback. He also has a national title. For that reason, if I had to have one guy to start a big Buckeye game, he would be my choice. However, last, it became appearent to me who the most talented Ohio State quarterback in my lifetime is. If it weren't enough that Troy Smith owns Michigan, he also throws for 342 yards in his first bowl game. He also displayed his outstanding mobility in another fantastic 3rd down conversion where he eluded a pass rush, spun, and fired a completion (ca. Ann Arbor). I realize Smith made a big mistake last year, but the growth he has made as a leader is incredible. Next year, he will get that shot to do what Krenzel did, though he'll take a much different approach.

I hate to close with this, but it's a matter that needs addressing. Maurice Clarett "allegedly" robbed two people outside The Opium Lounge in downtown Columbus very early in the morning Jan. 1. What a way to begin the new year, a new year in which Mo C was certain to get a contract to play in NFL Europe. Sure, it wouldn't have been glamourous, but it would have been something. Instead, after a police manhunt, Clarett awaits trial after turning himself in. He could see ten years behind bars. Just like Art Schlichter, here is a guy who has seemingly thrown it all away. I would laugh, but it is almost too tragic. Instead, I will pray that somehow, via football or another method, Clarett will resurrect his life.

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Sunday, January 01, 2006


I haven't played up the hype of the Ohio State - Notre Dame matchup in the Fiesta Bowl because I haven't had to. If you've turned on any televised sports broadcast in Ohio over the past month, you've witnessed the buildup. Let me cut right to the chase and tell you how I see things turning out tomorrow at 5.

Notre Dame is good again. Charlie Weis has worked wonders with this team, and I'm with the experts when I talk about how good the Irish offense is. Quarterback Brady Quinn, a Dublin Coffman product, is the second-best passing quarterback in the nation (second to USC's Matt Leinart) and he's got a myriad of weapons at receiver and tight end.

However, Ohio State has got, in my opinion, just as good of an offense when it's clicking on all cylinders. Ohio State's defense is head and shoulders above Notre Dame's. I realize they allowed 21 Michigan points against Chad Henne who isn't as good as Quinn, but with a rested, rejuvenated unit, I see them getting more of a pass rush and, thus, forcing turnovers.

Here are the keys to the game for both teams:
Win the turnover and special teams war.
2. Establish the run. (This won't be easy against the Buckeyes.)
3. Keep one guy on defense always spying on Troy Smith.

Make Brady beat you. (Quinn can't win it by himself. Get good coverage on his receivers.)
2. Allow Troy Smith to play his game. (Smith made a believer out of me after the Michigan game. Give him some carries and roll him out of the pocket to take some shots downfield.)
3. Put together some long drives. (The Irish can't score if they don't have the ball.)

Prediction: Everyone sees this as a tight matchup. I disagree. Ohio State will take an early lead, and the Buckeye defense will make an early statement with a big play. I don't normally predict blowouts, but I will take Ohio State 31-7.

Make sure to read my post-game thoughts sometime on Tuesday.

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