Cleveland Indians


CC SabathiaIndians Holding Back On Years For Sabathia

Sometimes the writing on the wall is so obvious, it hurts. The writing on this wall was so bright it served as a blinding beacon. For the past year, I have been telling anyone who would listen that the main factor that is going to prevent CC Sabathia from re-signing with the Tribe was going to be the number of years, not the number of dollars.

Well, it appears that this is exactly what is happening. It’s a story that has gone by surprisingly quietly without a lot written about it, but GM Mark Shapiro has indeed made the Indians’ proposal to Sabathia and his agent. And wouldn’t you know it, the Sabathia camp is not happy at all with the number of years being offered.

I first noticed this story a few days ago in one of the “Hey, Hoynsie” articles in the Plain Dealer. In that article, a question was asked of Paul Hoynes about the Sabathia contract,

“Q: Hey, Hoynsie: What’s up with C.C. Sabathia? Has there been a formal offer made by the Tribe? – Mark Lasher, Bangor, Pa.

A: Hey, Mark: GM Mark Shapiro confirmed that the offer has been made, but would say nothing else. The length of the contract, rather than the money involved, is expected to be a problem. Sabathia’s agents believe he’s earned a lengthy deal (five to seven years), but it’s unlikely the Indians would be willing to make that kind of commitment. It’s doubtful these negotiations will reach any kind of conclusion until the start of the regular season.”

Without any kind of disclosure about the terms of the proposal, it’s hard to comment. Over at Baseball Prospectus, John Perrotto offered a little insight into the negotiations, writing,

“Cleveland left-hander C.C. Sabathia will have a tough decision in the upcoming months, as he must decide whether to re-sign with the Indians or become a free agent at the end of the 2008 season. The Indians are expected to hold firm at an offer of four years and an option, while Sabathia–who genuinely wants to stay in Cleveland–will likely look for a contract similar to what Santana is seeking should he be traded.”

For his part, Tim Dierkes over at mlbtraderumors.com speculates what the Indians’ max offer might be,

“Realistically, I think the Indians could top out around four years, $72MM plus an option for 2013 in their offer to Sabathia. Will Sabathia make that concession, or will he go for the free market and maybe get seven years, $140MM?”

In all honesty, I’m surprised this hasn’t been written about any more than it has. I really wish we knew for certain what the Indians’ official offer really is. If the Indians are offering 4 years, and Sabathia would sign for 5 years, it seems hard to believe that gap couldn’t be bridged. Taken at face value, I would expect the Indians to eventually back down and guarantee the 5th year of the deal. It’s hard to make an argument that Sabathia hasn’t earned it. But again, we are only speculating at this point. Until we know for sure the true dollar figures involved, we can’t draw a line in the sand on this issue. Patience will be a virtue on this topic it seems.

I’ll try to keep updating this story as more is learned and as time draws on. With pitchers and catchers due to report before too long, it would be nice to see this time used to make some headway in closing the gap between the two sides. Nobody wants this cloud hanging over the team all season. It will be a major distraction and will just be bad business for everyone involved.

Jacob’s FieldProgressive Field To Open In 2008

Ok, so it’s still the same beautiful structure. But in what I can only describe as a tragically sad decision, the Cleveland Indians have sold the naming rights to Jacob’s Field to Progressive Insurance. In 2008, the Indians will play their games in….gulp….Progressive Field.

Hoynsie has the story in the Plain Dealer:

“Jacobs Field, the home of the Indians since 1994, will now be called Progressive Field.

The Indians have reached an agreement with Progressive Insurance for the naming rights of the 40,000-seat facility on the corner of Ontario Street and Carnegie Avenue, a source close to the Indians said Thursday. Progressive Insurance, a Cleveland-based company, is owned by millionaire/philanthropist Peter Lewis.

An announcement is expected to be made today. Terms of the deal were not released.”

Even though terms were not announced, expect the deal to be in the $2 million to $3 million per year range. Even though it’s really just semantics at the end of the day, I think this is a sad day in Indians’ history. Jacob’s Field, or The Jake as we fans have so lovingly called the building, has been an institution in recent Cleveland history. The name is engraved into us as a part of who we are.

I would gladly give up the name if it meant the ability to compete with the higher spending teams in baseball, but really, what is an extra $2.5 million going to do for the team? Allow them to sign more David Dellucci’s and Jason Michaels’s? Maybe bring in an aging veteran like Trot Nixon?

Well I say ‘no thank you’. The naming rights really illustrates the greedy nature of professional sports today. It’s an era where any little bump in the bottom line, no matter how small of a bump, is given credence over the history and traditions of the games we grew up loving.

So to the Dolan family, I say thank you for trashing one of the most special stadium names in all of baseball. And to Pete Lewis, I say good luck in getting me to give in to your millions of dollars…I refuse to call the stadium Progressive Field. And to my readers, I say get used to me using the name ‘Jacob’s Field’ or ‘The Jake’ to refer to the stadium. Make a mental note of this so you are not confused 5 years from now when I’m still talking about The Jake.

In summary, no, this is not the end of the world. We’ll get over it just like we got over the Gund changing to The Q. But for right now, it stings a little having to say goodbye to such a dear friend. And if the magic of The Jake is gone next season, we will all know who to blame and where to look…..as dumb as that sounds.

Senator TresselHere’s To Hoping The Senator Can Repeat This Image And Erase Last Year’s Image

When I started this blog, I made the very difficult decision to just stick to professional sports. It wasn’t that I loved Cleveland sports teams more than my alma mater’s sports teams. Rather, it was an issue of time. I wanted my site to focused and, for the most part, to the point. I felt my posts would suffer from the overkill of trying to write all my thoughts on Ohio State sports.

But tonight is an exception. As my beloved Buckeyes get ready to try this thing again this year, I just want to wish the team the best of luck. I give OSU the advantage in RB and OL. I give LSU the advantage at WR. QB is a toss up. I give OSU the advantage all around on defense. Sure, Dorsey is amazing, but the Buckeyes’ front four is the best in the nation.

I’ll let you decipher for yourself what this means. I’m not going to make a prediction this year. I don’t know what’s going to happen. What I can bet, though, is that there’s no way this game ends up 41-14 in favor of LSU. Go Bucks!!!

Jensen LewisIndians’ Reliever Talks All Things Christmas (Including Mariah Carey)

In case you missed it, the Cleveland Indians’ website featured a brief yet entertaining Q and A session with relief pitcher Jensen Lewis this week, in which he discussed his favorite Christmas artifacts.

Some of the highlights included Jensen professing his love for the greatest Christmas movie of all time (with all due respect to Christmas Vacation), “A Christmas Story”, as well as Jensen talking about his favorite Christmas song, which somehow turns out to be a Mariah Carey song. I don’t know, you try to figure that one out.

Anyway, it’s fun to also read about how Jensen is now able to be a better Santa now that he’s making real MLB money. Here are some highlights from the article:

MLB.com:What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

Lewis: “A Christmas Story.” I’m a huge, huge fan of that. You’ve got to watch it on Christmas Eve. It makes going to bed a little easier, knowing everybody’s happy in the end. And it was filmed in Cleveland, so there’s a little hometown flavor.

MLB.com: How about your favorite Christmas song?

Lewis: Actually, a good one — and this is going to be embarrassing — is Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

MLB.com: I don’t know what to do with that information. What’s the best present you ever received?

Lewis: Probably Sega. The first year it came out, my brother and I played the original “Sonic the Hedgehog” game in the story, and we said we’d give up the rest of our Christmas presents for that. But my dad didn’t like video games, so he said, “I don’t think we’re going to do this.” We were praying to God, “Please, please bring a Sega for us.”

We were opening all our gifts and getting down to the end, and there were no big boxes left, and we were like, “All right, Santa, we don’t believe in you anymore.” But leave it to my mom to hide something. She brought it out from under the kitchen counter or somewhere. We opened it up and played the rest of the day for 12 hours straight. I think we beat the game in one day.

MLB.com: That’s very reminiscent of the Red Rider BB Gun gift from “A Christmas Story.” Now that you’ve got some of that big league money in your pocket, what kind of gift-giver will you be this year?

Lewis: I think I’ll be able to be more flexible. I won’t be as strapped. It gives you a little more calmness. You go into the offseason knowing you’re not going to be under the gun on a Minor League salary. It will be nice. I’ll be a good Santa this Christmas.”

Cleveland Browns ChristmasWishing A Very Merry Christmas To All Ye Faithful Readers

Merry Christmas to everyone out there! Hopefully you are all able to spend the holiday season with your family, friends, and/or those you love. The Christmas Season is always a time to put sports into their proper perspective, and so I will be spending time with my family and as a result my posts will continue to be limited for most of this week.

I would like to thank everyone who has been reading this site. When I started in October, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but y’all have made this a great experience so far. Here’s to more big things in the future, here’s to the health and success of you, your families, and the Cleveland sports teams, and here’s to the Indianapolis Colts reserves!

CC Is On FireBut Who Is Going To Pay Him?

Today, there is going to most likely be a lot hysteria over the release of the Mitchell Report. As for me, I honestly couldn’t care much less about the whole steroid thing. I don’t feel like talking about it. So I decided instead to focus on the Indians’ biggest task at hand right now….signing CC Sabathia to an extension.

GM Mark Shapiro has repeatedly stated that the team hopes to come to some kind of a resolution, one way or the other, by February. Prior to the GM’s Winter Meetings, there was a lot of talk about Shapiro being close to taking their proposal to the owner for approval, and that perhaps even the extension offer would be given to CC’s representation at the meetings. That proposal never happened (although Shapiro did meet with CC’s agent in Nashville, but only loose generalities were discussed), and all has been quiet now for a quite a while on the CC contract extension front.

Perhaps everyone is waiting to see what happens with Johan Santana. There isn’t much of a comparable market for a pitcher like Sabathia. Perhaps 2 of the closest comps are San Francisco’s Barry Zito and San Diego’s Jake Peavy.

Peavy, CC’s Cy Young counterpart in the National League, just signed a 3 year, $52 million extension with the Padres. Zito, the left handed Cy Young winner from 2002, signed a 7 year, $127 million deal with the Giants last year. So how, exactly, do all these pitchers match up to each other? Check out this table:
TableAll of these numbers are actually quite close to each other, particularly in age, seasons, and ERA. CC is in the middle in terms of age and seasons, but has the highest career ERA.

So what does all this really mean? Well, in a nutshell, the biggest numbers to look at is the New Contract Value Per Year column. You can bet Santana is going to go over $20 million per year based on this market. As for CC, well, I would guess that he fits right in at about that $18 million per year range. As I’ve said all along, though, the big issue is going to be the number of years. The Indians can afford to pay CC $18 million per year. But they won’t do it for 7 seasons like the Giants did with Zito. That’s just not going to happen.

The Indians would probably prefer to do what the Padres did, and go for a 3 year extension. 3 years, $55 million would probably be about what the Indians would like to offer. The thing is, though, there’s no way CC agrees to that deal. I can’t argue with that, either. He’d be foolish to sign such a short term deal right now. CC’s value has never been higher. He’s coming off his best season, a Cy Young award winning season. His agent, if doing his job properly, is going to make sure CC maximizes his worth right now.

The Indians have two things going for them. One, CC wants to be in Cleveland. In November, he told XM Radio “I’ve been an Indian my entire career. I grew up here, and I’ve been here since I was 17 years old, so I really can’t see myself leaving the organization. My agent is meeting with the team, and hopefully they can get something done real soon.” Two, there is a little bit of risk on CC’s part if he doesn’t sign an extension with the Indians right now. Had CC been a free agent this winter, there’s absolutely no way the Indians could have re-signed him. However, by being the only team that can negotiate with him right now, the Indians are at a decided advantage. If CC has a down year this season, or if he gets injured, has to have Tommy John surgery, anything like that….If anything bad happens, he will never get more money than he could right now. On the other hand, it would be hard for his ceiling to get much higher than it is right now, no matter how well he pitches this season (what I mean by this is that it’s hard to fathom a team going over $25 million for CC, so he is close to his max value right now as it is).

So risk vs reward is leaning slightly, and I mean slightly, on the risk side. All of this adds up to a bit of a perfect storm, where compromise on both sides seems to serve each side best. If the Indians can agree to do 5 years, and if CC can agree to settle around $18 million, I think a deal could be done for 5 years, in the $88 to $95 million range.

Obviously, this is still a LOT of money for the Indians organization. But they just signed Travis Hafner to a 4 year, $52 million extension, putting him at $13 per year. If you can pay Hafner $13 million, you can pay CC $18 million. Maybe the deal will end up being closer to a 4 year, $65 to $70 million range. The point is, the money is there, the incentive is there, and the talent is there. This is a deal that just might come together yet. I can tell you one thing, I’d rather be reading about Sabathia negotiations today than Mitchell Report revelations. Oh well.

OmarWhat Do All These Numbers Really Mean?

One of the things that my Statistics professor at Ohio State always used to tell us has always really stuck with me. He always had this saying, “Beware of statistics, because once an individual has become aware of how to properly manipulate numbers, he can use them in any manner he pleases and can even prove to you that the earth is square.”

Now, I know that’s really just a load of hyperbole, but there is a point inside the saying. The point is, numbers are devious. There are literally hundreds of stastics that we can use to try to compare players in sports. What frequently happens is, people picks the numbers that prove their points, and leave the rest behind. They then pound those stats into everyone’s heads as though it were telling the whole story.

Some very, VERY smart statisticians have begun creating all sorts of metrics that they claim can be used to aid in comparisons of players across eras. They make some compelling arguments, and these numbers are a lot of fun to follow and to try to use. However, I sometimes wonder if these people aren’t just doing the same thing as has always been done…..using the stats that they deem relevant, to create these formulas. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. I think all these new comparable metrics are a useful tool in analyzing players, but I also do not think they are to be relied on in any kind of vacuum.

All of this is to let you know upfront where I’m coming from on this. I saw something in Rob Neyer’s blog tonight that really grabbed my attention. In the post, Rob (one of my favorite baseball writers today) takes offense to an article in which a writer seemed to insinuate that Omar Vizquel is better than Ozzie Smith was. This was all done under the question of whether or not Omar is Hall Of Fame worthy. Well, Rob goes off, writing,

” I have to say, this is a new one on me. I’ve heard people suggest that Omar Vizquel is comparable to Ozzie Smith. But Dobrow is saying that Vizquel is better.

According to Win Shares and Baseball Prospectus’s WARP3, he’s not. Ozzie beats Omar in career Win Shares, 327 to 259; in WARP3 (Wins Above Replacement Player) he’s got him, 139 to 108. So it’s not close, at least according to these two reputable objective methods for evaluating a player’s overall value.

Granted, most methods suggest that Vizquel, all those Gold Gloves aside, has not been a great defensive shortstop. A good one, yes. But not a great one. But let’s say all the methods are somehow missing the truth. Let’s say Vizquel really was a great shortstop. Does that necessarily mean he was Smith’s equal?

Of course it doesn’t. Ozzie Smith defines greatness at shortstop, just as Willie Mays defined greatness in center field and Bill Mazeroski defined greatness at second base. Sure, other great center fielders and second basemen have come alone since Mays and Maz, but it does not necessarily follow that their successors were as great. Frankly, the evidence suggesting that Vizquel was as great as Ozzie simply does not exist. Or if it does, no one’s yet found it.

So let’s agree that Vizquel, at best, was a great shortstop but not as great as Smith. Does he make up for it with the bat? Was he, as Dobrow says, “considerably better offensively”?

Again, there simply isn’t any evidence to suggest that’s the case. In terms of raw batting stats, Vizquel comes out ahead with a .340 on-base percentage and .357 slugging percentage, compared to Ozzie’s .337 and .328.

But those numbers don’t account for their home ballparks or their eras. When you do that, using OPS+, Ozzie comes up 13 percent worse than league average and Vizquel 16 percent worse. And we’ve not even mentioned baserunning. Ozzie stole 548 bases in his career; Vizquel’s stolen 380 and has been caught more times than Ozzie was.”

Ok, fine, Rob doesn’t think Omar is of the same caliber as Ozzie Smith was. That’s fine, it’s his opinion. I watched Omar play every day for 11 seasons, whereas I barely remember Ozzie Smith playing, mostly because I almost NEVER saw him play except for the playoffs and All-Star games (pre-interleague play and pre-ESPN in my household). So I’m not qualified to make any kind of comparison.

But what I take exception to is Rob’s claim that, “Granted, most methods suggest that Vizquel, all those Gold Gloves aside, has not been a great defensive shortstop. A good one, yes. But not a great one.”, but he then goes on to say “Ozzie Smith defines greatness at shortstop, just as Willie Mays defined greatness in center field and Bill Mazeroski defined greatness at second base. Sure, other great center fielders and second basemen have come alone since Mays and Maz, but it does not necessarily follow that their successors were as great. Frankly, the evidence suggesting that Vizquel was as great as Ozzie simply does not exist. Or if it does, no one’s yet found it.”

Oh really, Rob? How can you go from at first trying to say that most statistical methods suggest Omar was not a great defensive players (just absurd) and then using a completely baseless claim that Ozzie “defined” greatness just Willie Mays “defined” greatness in CF. What does that even mean?? How can you hop so effortlessly from objectivity to subjectivity?  For someone like myself, Omar DOES define greatness at SS. He is easily the greatest defensive player I have ever seen with my own eyes. Does my subjective view of Omar trump your subjective view of Ozzie? No. And that’s the point. That’s why that whole paragraph was such a lousy piece of writing in terms of trying to prove ANYTHING.

The other paragraph that really bothered me was, “But those numbers don’t account for their home ballparks or their eras. When you do that, using OPS+, Ozzie comes up 13 percent worse than league average and Vizquel 16 percent worse.” Well, gee, wouldn’t you expect this in the steroid era that Vizquel played through? I don’t know for a fact that Omar was clean, but I’ve never heard anyone suggest otherwise, and I’ve never seen anything about Omar to suggest otherwise. So is it really fair to compare Omar’s reltive batting average compared to a bunch of other players who were illegally increasing their offensive production? Hardly. You could make a VERY compelling argument that Omar putting up better batting statistics than Ozzie in an era in which pitchers were juicing up to stay strong for every start is more impressive than any other comperative method.

Look, I don’t know if Omar was better than Ozzie. My only point is that we should use caution when spouting stats, figures, and opinions. You might end up trying to prove that the earth is square, on in this case, that Omar Vizquel was not a great defensive player. If you’ve ever seen Vizquel play the position, you would know precisely how ridiculous that kind of claim really is. And in this writer’s opinion, I see no reason why Omar is not Hall of Fame worthy.

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