Thursday, August 30, 2007

Demote the Polish Pop-gun NOW!

Another blown save, and a vultured win. This guy will be the death of this team if they make it to the post-season. I hate to think it, say it, and post it, but I'm afraid it will be so. Must the Tribe continue to tempt fate by trotting out their most incompetent pitcher to close out important wins? We're in a bloody pennant race here, damn it! Have the lessons learned in 1997 already faded from the franchise's collective memory? Not so for me, I'm afraid. I can still remember every detail of that nightmare, right down to the debilitating nausea I felt with every pitch thrown by Hoser Mesa. Yet another set of rhetorical questions: What's it going to take to finally demote this train-wreck of a closer? How many more consecutive outings in which he gives up runs? How many more times does he have to practically guarantee the lead-off man will get on base? And what's the threshold on his ERA? It's a staggering 5.60 after tonight's debacle. Does it actually have to balloon over 6.00 before we show this tool the door? Please, no more. I'm sure Blow-rowski is a very decent human being, and I actually feel a tiny shard of guilt pricking my conscience because of the frustration and hostility I'm constantly directing at him... but his closing days for this team must come to an end. Our fan base has suffered enough.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Random images

A few random images from the past couple of weeks; I've really got to get out more!

Bad-ass Vicky Martínez prepares to tee off on the Devil Rays:

Welcome back, Kenny Lofton! Still producing at 40:

Another beautiful rainbow as I cross Alligator Alley on the way to Ft. Lauderdale (I can't chew gum and walk at the same time, but snapping photos while driving at 80+mph isn't a problem -- go figure):

My new tenant, Pepe LeFrog:

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Polish Pop-gun

"Dropped once, never fired." That's the old joke about the seller's description of a Polish rifle. When it comes to the Tribe's closer, Joe Borowski, a better description might read "Throws strikes, mostly meatballs." This is why, from here on in, I'm going to have to refer to him as "The Polish Pop-gun." Yesterday's blown save was yet another example of why, even though he has miraculously racked up 34 saves, The Polish Pop-gun needs to be recalled like a cheap Mattel toy. I was at the game, and was super-excited to catch my beloved Tribe in Tropicana Field. C.C. Sabathia was going for us, we'd won the first two games of the series, and had a chance to widen our lead over the Kittens (they'd eventually lose against the Yankers). Although C.C. was masterful, going 8 solid innings and giving up just 2 runs, our suddenly anemic offense was only able to muster up 2 runs as well, so the game went into extra innings. In the top of the 10th, Asdrúbal Cabrera (one of my new faves -- crazy name, unbelievably fugly, and sporting a pair of ears that would put Dumbo to shame) scorched a solid single off Al "El Asesino" Reyes (GREAT nickname!), watched "Cool Papa" Lofton inexplicably strike out looking (Bill Simmons' nickname, not mine -- very fitting, though), took third on Tricky Trot Nixon's pinch-hit single and, after Grady Sizemore was nicked by a pitch to load the bases, scored easily from third on bad-ass Vicky Martínez's towering sacrifice fly to right (missed being a game-icing grand salami by a few feet -- Vicky just got under it). I prayed for the Pronk to come up with a two-out base-hit, because I did NOT want the Polish Pop-gun coming in to close out a one-run game, but his underachieving ass grounded out to end the inning.

If you've followed the Tribe at all this year, you know what happened next, because it's been sickeningly typical of the Polish Pop-gun's performance: he blew away the first two hitters by getting them to look at his meatball BP fastball, then nailing them with his hanging breaking pitches. How he's been able to rack up so many saves with his ridiculously below-average stuff, I'll never know... but I digress. The next hitter was the catcher, Dioner Navarro, who was batting a "scorching" .205 and had looked absolutely helpless in his first four at-bats. The Polish Pop-gun proceeded to fall behind 3-0, threw two meatball strikes, the second of which was JUST missed by Navarro, then bounced a lollipop five feet in front of the plate, effectively walking the worst hitter in the entire ballpark (yes, this included the fans). At this point, I turned to my pal Dr. Vincentstein and said, "I can't believe this arse-wipe just walked that Punch-and-Judy jackass -- the next two hitters are lefties, and lefties have eaten him up all f*cking year!" Sure enough, both Iwamura and Crawford scorched singles, and the game was tied. Long story short: we eventually ended up losing a game we coulda shoulda won in the bottom of the 12th.

The point: the starting pitching has been extremely solid (C.C. and Dr. Fausto are on fire, Westbrook is coming on strong now that he's finally begun locating his sinker, and even Byrd has shown flashes of competence), the bullpen has actually been a pleasant surprise (Betancourt and Pérez have been solid, Fultz and Mastny have been acceptable, and Lewis looks promising), and although our hitting has been pretty disappointing at times (especially the Pronk), the team is still scoring plenty of runs (bad-ass Vicky Martínez and Garko are having excellent years, Sizemore is having a deceptively productive season, and Peralta has really bounced back from his horrible sophomore slump). Hell, even the defense has been pretty solid. Be that as it may, this team will not have a successful post-season run if the Polish Pop-gun is still closing. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. No lead will be safe, the hitters will press, and hitters that press in the playoffs are easy outs. To quote Fat Bastard, "it's a vicious circle." The Polish Pop-gun must be disarmed, and he must be disarmed NOW!!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Life in Florida, continued

A few cool and a few crazy things to do & see in Florida. I’ll let you decide which is which.

  • The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are an atrociously inept franchise, and they play in a stinking dome named after an even stinkier brand of orange juice… but the Tribe make it down to Tropicana Field at least once a year.
  • Sarasota is a stuffy, rich white geezer kind of town, but it does offer a plethora of cultural opportunities, including an opera company, a museum established by a circus maven, and the Burns Court Cinema, a gentrified warehouse that’s a surprisingly excellent venue for independent and foreign films. Since I discovered it accidentally a few months ago, I’ve seen a French movie (La Môme), an Italian movie (Nuovomondo), and a Swiss movie (Vitus) there. Shades of the Cleveland Film Festival!
  • Theme parks are a dime a dozen, especially in Orlando. For an unusual experience, though, you’d be hard-pressed to top this living biblical theme park and museum, located just minutes from DisneyWorld and Universal Studios.
  • Smack dab in the middle of the Everglades, Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery showcases his phenomenal photography. Butcher himself is around the gallery a lot of the time, and he sometimes leads lucky visitors on guided tours of "his backyard."
More to come when I actually get a life and am able to indulge in a little bit of R&R.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

On superstition

I’m often asked how I can be such an overly rational person, yet at the same time indulge in weird superstitious routines, especially when it comes to sports. The easy answer, of course, is that I’m schizophrenic. While there’s an unfortunate element of truth to that, the reality is a little more ridiculous: it’s because karma plays a huge part in the outcome of sports events! Don’t believe me? Allow me to elaborate why I’m convinced I may have jinxed my beloved Cleveland teams with two little anecdotes. I swear to God these are 100% true.

1. 1997 World Series Game 7, top of the ninth inning, the Tribe leading the fish 2-1, Sandy Alomar on 3rd with one out, Matt Williams due up. Jim “Polesmoker” Leyland makes a pitching change, and there’s a commercial break. A huge insurance run, not to mention a WS win and the end of nearly fifty years of misery, hang in the balance... and yours truly, in an inexplicable and inexcusable moment of shocking stupidity, picks that very moment to call the 1-800 World Series video number to order the tape. Why? I was afraid they’d run out... do you suppose my mother had any kids that lived? I’m still on hold when the game resumes, so I hang up the phone call I thought was so important just minutes before and pray for Williams to come the f*ck through. But Williams, a gutless wonder who will defect to Arizona a few weeks later, hits a routine grounder to third -- that chickenshit bastard couldn’t even lift a medium-depth fly ball, for Christ’s sake. Alomar, who was going on contact, gets easily thrown out at home. Bye-bye, insurance run. Then-manager Mike Hargrove was an absolute idiot to have Alomar running on contact with an overanxious, free-swinging piece of shit like Williams batting, but that’ll be a rant for another day. Anyway, I immediately throw the phone against the wall, shattering it to smithereens, unload about three million oaths at the top of my lungs, and smack myself in the face a few times, but the damage is done. In the bottom of the ninth, Hoser Mesa comes in looking like a deer in headlights, bearing a suspicious brown stain on his cowardly pants, and obviously not ready to close the game. He promptly gives up the lead, the game goes into extra innings, and the rest is another sad chapter in the Tribe’s history. “Wait ’til next year” is STILL the official motto of the Clevelander.

2. Early January, 2003. It’s Sunday morning, and the Brownies, having miraculously made it into the playoffs for the first time in some ten years, will battle the revolting Pukesburgh Squealers in the afternoon. Two nights before, the Buckeyes had won the National Championship. Before the Brownies game starts, I decide to e-mail my Cleveland pals with a celebratory Buckeyes / Go Brownies e-mail, so I put together a little graphic with Buckeye Brutus playing the part of Adam getting touched by God in Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” (yes, I’m aware that I’m a total geek), and adding the caption, “One Miracle Down... Three To Go.” Then I decide to get cute and add a graphic of three guys sitting and reading, replace the heads with the Tribe, Brownies and Cavs logos, then label it, “Meanwhile, in God’s Waiting Room...” So far, no damage. But then, I decide to get even more clever/creative (the demise of all graphic designers -- but at least we’re not interior decorators, like the openly gay Squealer nation), and add titles to the reading materials; for the Cavs (and remember, this is pre-LeBron), it’s “Resurrecting a Moribund Franchise.” For the Tribe, it’s “The Idiot’s Guide to Re-signing Free Agents” (dastardly and borderline retard Jim Thome had just bolted for Philly, announcing: “duuuhhh... errrr... duuhhhh... it’s not, like... about the money... duuhhhh... grrrr... duuhhh...” ... and no, I’m not bitter...); I know I should not tempt fate, and for one sane instant, I decide to leave the Brownies’ book blank, but then my obsessive-compulsive, anal retentive idiocy takes over... if the other guys are reading titled material, so should Browniedawg! Ignoring the spine-chilling shrieks from the little voice inside my head, I add “How to Stop Choking in Playoff Games” to Browniedawg’s book, save the file, and promptly e-mail it, along with an unbreakable jinx, to all my Cleveland friends. A time machine, a time machine, my kingdom for a time machine... Anyway, the Brownies jumped out to a huge lead, then played the entire fourth quarter with their collective hands firmly wrapped around their collective necks, and lost the lead for good with roughly 40 seconds left in the game. To this day, I still can’t look back and enjoy the Buckeyes championship because of the enormous Brownies collapse that occurred less than 48 hours later.

Miscellaneous addendum: my then-girlfriend, who was from Pukesburgh and a self-admittedly uninterested Squealers “fan,” tried to console me, but I still dumped her sorry ass with extreme prejudice that same day... but who’s bitter?