Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report's Tribe fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the Indians each week throughout the season.
This week, we devise strategies for defeating Minnesota and Oakland, discuss the best and worst stadiums in the American League, and just this once, we cut Mark Shapiro a break.
I would like to thank this week's participants Dale Thomas, Scott Miles, and Jon Sladek for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we're addressing this week.
1. In my fantasy world, the Indians play the White Sox every day this season, which will no doubt lead to an AL Central pennant.
Back in the real world, we unfortunately still have to play a few more games against teams who aren't so easy for the Indians to steamroll. Still, Chicago-specific or not, the Indians are on a pretty convincing winning streak and playing .500 ball.
Do you see this as a sign that the outlook for the Tribe is far less grim than we thought, or do you think it merely means we have Chicago's number?
What stood out to you as the reason(s) the Indians were able to dispatch Chicago so easily in five of six games so far this season?
Samantha Bunten : Over the years, the White Sox have played many roles in my baseball world—rival, nemesis, embodiment of evil, just to name a few. But this season has produced my favorite role for them ever: doormat.
Do we have Chicago's number? Absolutely. The problem is, everyone else in the league has ours. As of Wednesday night, the Tribe had won five of six against Chicago and exactly one game against all their other opponents.
I've seen this team play far too well already this season to condemn them to failure, but I've also seen them play poorly enough that I don't think they're going to become some sort of worst-to-first surprise success story either. Put it this way: this team is better than I feared, but worse than I hoped. They're on the right track, but they've still got a long way to go.
As for why they were so successful, it was merely that they played good baseball. They also caught a good bit of luck. They beat Chicago several times by playing well, but they also got a few of those victories because they were lucky enough to have their opponent hand it to them.
Dale Thomas: For a few days there I was almost sucked into a "Tribe in my mind" view of our favorite ball club...until Tuesday night, bottom of the third, Tribe versus Twins, load bases, walk in run, wild pitch scores two more...
So even though we appear to have Chicago's number, it's a mystery as to why we didn't pitch ourselves into a free run sweepstakes or watch one sneak between the legs of our shortstop, or make an adventure out of a routine throw to first that sails to a new world. Just sayin'...
Scott Miles: It's pretty simple...Chicago just isn't that good of a team. Their hitting is sub-par and while their pitching is solid, it's not spectacular.
I think we just match up pretty well with them. And let's be honest, those low-scoring games could go either way. We happened to catch a few breaks as well and that certainly helped.
Jon Sladek: Chicago has offensive issues like us and we just happened to squeeze out a few more runs than them. I wouldn't start printing the playoff tickets just yet.
2. As nice as the sweep over the weekend was, The Indians have a very tough week ahead of them: three games against the torrid, division-leading Twins and then three games against the equally impressive AL West-leading Oakland A's.
If you're Manny Acta, what's your strategy for controlling the hot bats in Minnesota this week, and for getting to the lights-out pitching in Oakland this coming weekend?
Do you see the Tribe having more success in the series against Minnesota or the one against Oakland?
Samantha Bunten: The main key to success in Minnesota will be different than the main key to success in Oakland. In Minnesota, the trick will be controlling their offense. The Twins' style of offense is a scary combination of NL-style small ball and AL-style explosiveness and drama. They are one of, if not THE best team in MLB at manufacturing runs.
Our pitchers have looked good enough so far that they should be able to at least somewhat control the Twins' bats. The problem is that the Twins offensive strategy also requires a good defense in order to stop it. I hope Peralta, Marte, and LaPorta all spent the entire off-day on Monday doing fielding drills.
Over the past few years, the Oakland offense was comparable to, uh, a dead body. They're still not exactly a paragon of hitting prowess, but at least their bats look alive now. However their pitching, always stellar, is better than ever this season, so it's the Tribe bats that are going to matter in Oakland.
We've seen this team hit well enough to get to pitching like that, but the problem is that most of the season, they've looked more like that dead body. The Indians have the worst batting average in the AL.
Even if our pitching holds up well, allowing just one run to the A's semi-anemic offense won't help if our often even more anemic offense is held to zero runs. Even if our pitchers do a decent job of holding the score down, the league's best pitchers facing the league's worst hitters leaves us on the wrong end of a low-scoring game.
Dale Thomas: If I'm Manny, I want the same things I always want. Call a good game, then pitch em as called, field the fluffy infield hits and throw in the general direction of a base.
We can quiet down Minnesota hitting if our guys do what they're capable of doing. I guess I think we have a better chance against Minnesota. This is mostly based upon my unsubstantiated theory-of-the-minute that Minnesota pitching is more familiar to the Tribe, and I honestly think we should be able to light em up.
By the way, one game into the series and my theory hasn't exactly held up...I hope that doesn't mean I have to go to that place where they put the 'special' panelists.
Scott Miles: As of this writing, we just got smoked twice by the Twinkies...yeesh. So maybe whatever Acta's strategy was the first two games should change, I'm not sure. The offense has really slumped this spring and that's been a surprise.
Granted we've run into a lot of tough pitching, and Oakland has the fourth-best ERA in the league (Twins are sixth). You have to find a way to manufacture a run or two because our pitching has been surprisingly strong as well (3.78 ERA). But right now, that hasn't happened.
Jon Sladek: The whole trip scares me. I could see the Tribe going 2-7. The way they are hitting, the starters have to pitch shutouts to win now, whole bleepin' season down the drain.
3. In every Mariner fan's worst nightmare, the now red-hot Shin-Soo Choo was traded to Cleveland by their team in 2006 for Ben Broussard (now retired and focusing on his musical career).
In reality, that's exactly what happened.
Aside from the infamous Sizemore/Lee/Phillips to Cleveland - Colon to the Expos trade, the Choo - Broussard trade is one of the few moves made by GM Mark Shapiro for which he is praised rather than reviled.
I'm in a good mood this week since we're coming off a sweep, so let's give Shapiro a break from the beating we usually give him: what other trades made by Shapiro stand out to you as moves that are working out well for the Indians now?
Samantha Bunten: I would give anything to take back the Lee and Martinez trades from last season, but I still like the Sabathia trade. LaPorta and Brantley still have a lot of maturing to do, but I believe both will play a large role in this team's success in the future. They'll never equal Sabathia in value, but the team had to trade him, and at least they got a decent return.
If Carlos Santana is anything even close to what he appears to be, then the Blake trade was the steal of the century and while far less dramatic, swapping Shoppach for Talbot looks to have been a smart move as well.
Now if Shapiro would just trade Peralta and Marte for an actual third baseman...
Dale Thomas: ummmmmmmmmm...wait! We can't use the ones you already mentioned?
Well, there was Travis! That started out good. Then there was Asdrubal. I still have faith in him after watching that pesky little stitched-up round rat zip between his legs. Just kidding. Asdrubal was a great trade! Especially since Perez retired after...what was it...15 minutes? I also think Santana is going to bring good things.
Scott Miles: You can't forget about his other trade with the Mariners that season, getting Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Freakin' Perez. The Mariners are like the Indians in the 90's, just giving away prospects like they're water.
Also, getting Travis Hafner from the Rangers for Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese stands out.
Jon Sladek: Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez? That is pretty highway robberyish. Carlos Santana for Casey Blake might end up quite lopsided.
By far his best move was finding a way to get prospects for Travis Hafner. Oops, I guess I fantasize about it so much it has started to seem like reality.
4. When the Tribe travels to Minnesota this week, they'll play in the brand new outdoor Twins' stadium, Target Field, for the first time.
No more Baggie, no more homer dome, no more pop flies lost in the roof of the so-called "House of Horrors".
Aside from the nightmare that was the Metrodome (R.I.P), what do you think is the worst ballpark in the American League to play in and why? Which one is the best?
Samantha Bunten: When considering the worst purely in terms of just the actual ballpark and facilities, there's no bigger dump than Oakland. My little league field was a better place to play a game, and it had rocks in the infield.
The blatant hostility of New York rooters makes Yankee stadium a bad place to be if you're an opposing fan. During the 2007 ALDS, I got enough beer thrown on me to get a herd of elephants drunk, and not only was I not heckling their team, I was barely even cheering for mine because I was too busy wringing beer out of my hair and trying to figure out how i was going to get out of the parking lot alive afterward.
As for the best, you do have to love the on-field aspects of Yankee stadium for that short fence in right that makes it so easy for our lefties to go yard and for their grounds crew's stellar maintenance of the playing field.
In terms of the best parks for being a spectator, Camden Yards is a great place to get that traditional ballpark feel and at the same time enjoy the comforts of a modern facility, and while I've never been to the Ballpark at Arlington, every time I watch a Rangers home game I get the feeling it's quite a party in the stands.
Dale Thomas: Best? Progressive Field, Cleveland, Ohio is best since that's where the Tribe plays plus they have that furry purple thing...Wow, that was easy.
Worst? I'm going to say the Tropicana Dome. Aren't they supposed to be playing hockey there?
Scott Miles: I always hate playing at US Cellular Field. It's such a dark, drab place. And I hate the White Sox. They call it the "cell" for a reason.
Jon Sladek: Fenway is by far the worst. Arrogant, entitled fans combined with big money team that usually beats us. All around bad experience.
5. Fun Question of the Week:
In Sunday's game against the White Sox, Tribe fans got a chance to see beloved ex-Indian Omar Vizquel back on the field in Cleveland.
Other than Vizquel, who are your favorite ex-Indians to see when they're back in town with their current team, and who are your least favorite?
Samantha Bunten: I wish the Dodgers came to town more often because Ronnie Belliard, Casey Blake, and Manny Ramirez are still three of my favorites. I'm always happy to see Victor when the Red Sox are in town too, and if the Phillies were in Cleveland I'd be sure to get to the game just to see Ben Francisco.
As for my least favorite, there's nothing I hate more than seeing Brandon Philips back in town when we play the Reds. Every year during the Cincinnati series I get mad all over again because that guy just can't seem to get through three days without making some bitter, tasteless, and infuriatingly unprofessional remark about how it was all the team and the fans' fault that he sucked when he played here. Oh please, even my vivid imagination isn't strong enough to conjure up a swing that bad.
Dale Thomas: I like to see Casey Blake because he just always looks so...well, friendly! CC Sabathia is also a fave.
Least Favorite? Milton Bradley by a landslide...at least until we trade Peralta.
Scott Miles: Omar is always tops on the list. How can you not love Omar? Jim Thome will always be one of my favorites. I've had the chance to meet him several times (he used to work out at the sports facility I worked at in Twinsburg) and he couldn't be nicer. It's too bad there are people who continue to rip on him. I'll never be able to hate on CC, either.
Jon Sladek: I root for the name on the front of the jersey. Once they leave they are dead to me. You'll find my stance tough but fair. Yes, I root for laundry over human beings.