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Indians Indians Archive View from the Porch: Needing a Break Edition
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

HRPorchViewWith some of the Indians players running on E toward the All-Star Break, a four day respite from the daily grind of the Major League Baseball season is a welcomed sight. For Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez, they get to travel to Arizona and participate in the Midsummer Classic’s festivities. A deserving honor for two men with young children and a chance for them to celebrate their achievements with their families.

The ASB (All-Star Break) may be embraced with open arms by players around the league, but for me, it marks a long four-day stretch with no baseball to care about and nothing to do but ponder what the rest of the season holds. Generally, my days are not complete without a meaningful baseball game to watch. It becomes second nature from April to October to spend my evenings with a Coors Light in one hand and the remote in the other, with the last channel button designated to take me to my commercial filler.

Like most baseball fans, I enjoy watching the Home Run Derby. It’s a tremendously fun event, taken down a peg by the drawn out human cliché that is Chris Berman. I’m pretty sure this guy would watch the screen during a colonoscopy and yell “Back, back, back, back, gone!” as the camera tracked through his digestive system. This is of course when ESPN doesn’t think they’re being really innovative by switching to the Spanish-speaking feed broadcasting the Derby.

papihrdI watch the Derby for one reason. The reaction of the fellow players. The fact that these grown men are still fascinated by how far the fellow professionals can hit batting practice pitches. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fascinated by it. But I’m somebody who has probably never hit a ball more than 250 feet. The players sitting along the baseline, usually with their small children at their sides, wide-eyed and overwhelmed, hoot and holler like they’ve never seen it done before. To me, it epitomizes the weekend. The participants of the All-Star Game can do what they love without the daily pressures of a division race or a slump. They can be both fan and player. Their exuberance, their smiles, their love for the game shows me why they play the game. In most cases, these guys are paid exorbitant amounts of money. The All-Star festivities show us that they are still human. That’s entertaining to me.

hamiltonhrdYears down the road, I will tell my children and subsequent grandchildren about the show that Josh Hamilton put on at Yankee Stadium. I’ll tell them how I was at Scorekeepers Bar & Grill in Parma, OH for free poker night holding up hands to watch Josh Hamilton smash balls in to the third deck off his 70-something-year-old former American Legion coach. I’ll tell them about how I was at the 1997 Home Run Derby with my father and watched Jim Thome put up a giant zero in front of his home crowd. I’ll tell them about Bobby Abreu’s crazy first round at Comerica Park with his sweet left handed line drive swing.

And then, they’ll ask me about the All-Star Game. And I will have three memories. One will be Sandy Alomar’s awesome two-run home run in the ’97 ASG at Jacobs Field. Another will be Bud Selig’s most embarrassing moment as Commissioner when the 2002 ASG went in the record books as a tie. The other will be the day I found out that home field in the World Series would be decided by a (maternal expletive) exhibition game.

Think about it. Given the gigantic discrepancies between the two leagues, home field is decided by a game not really taken seriously by a decent portion of the players involved. For the most part, guys are just trying not to get embarrassed. If I’m the New York Yankees (or God willing, the Cleveland Indians!), do I really want home field in the World Series decided by Matt Wieters batting against a National League closer that he’s faced one time? What about the Phillies with Starlin Castro facing (if he were playing) Mariano Rivera?

Don’t give me this added importance BS. Does Hunter Pence really give a damn if the National League has home field advantage in the World Series? I’m going to say no by the fact that Houston is 30 games under .500 before the break. I’m sure Michael Cuddyer will be fighting his way to the bat rack to try and hit Heath Bell. What a joke. Would I be more in favor of this if Victor Martinez’s go-ahead ASG HR in 2007 would have given us home field for the World Series? Probably. But, we lost in the ALCS, so I don’t care.

The pomp and circumstance is all well and good because every sport does and should acknowledge its All-Stars, especially guys who are attending their first ASG. They deserve to be applauded and celebrated. For the rest of baseball, it’s a chance for three or four days off before going back to the grind. For me, it’s four of the absolute longest days of the summer.

Ironically, I saw a Tweet the other day from somebody that said something to the effect of “If the NBA and NFL lock out, it will be a sad time for men everywhere because they’ll actually have to talk to their families.” While I don’t neglect my fiancé to watch baseball, at least not in my mind, I certainly am a happier person to be around when baseball is being played. Guys are entitled to a break, I understand that. I’ll probably watch the Derby and the Game for the simple fact that it’s a July weekday and none of the network TV shows I regularly watch are on and because DVR is a beautiful thing. But, like most baseball fans, I’m watching just to see the guy(s) from my team.

Some people, like TCF’s own Brian McPeek, gather around the tube with chips and a soda (or beer for the adult) and their kid(s) and watching the game. Tradition is a beautiful thing. Traditions involving sport are an even more beautiful thing. I don’t have a tradition like that, so the game is of little significance to me. I’ll just spend the three days of next week without baseball pondering hypotheticals in my mind of the second half of the Indians season.


Some of the things I will ponder...

gradyclangWhen do we remove the dead weight from the everyday lineup? Grady Sizemore is culprit number one. It’s hard to imagine the Indians going out and acquiring a Carlos Beltran because of the money he’s still owed, but what if they do go get that corner OF bat? Shin-Soo Choo is still at least 4-6 weeks away. Travis Buck has been a rather pleasant surprise this month, especially if you look at what he was doing prior to the quad injury in Cincinnati. They’re a better team with Buck over Sizemore if they get another corner OF bat.

What do they do with Matt LaPorta, who is just back from injury, but still needs a map to find most pitches? Lou Marson made this a better ballclub with his play behind the plate while LaPorta was out and Santana was at first.

How long can they continue to trot Orlando Cabrera out as the everyday second baseman? Cord Phelps came up and struggled at the dish and in the field, looking overwhelmed and overmatched. Since Phelps’s demotion, Cabrera has gone 0-for-8 and left a village, a township, and a small metropolitan city on the basepaths.

How do they survive until Alex White returns? I’m willing to give Zach McAllister another turn in the rotation, but they have two gaping holes right now with Fausto Carmona and Mitch Talbot. White might be back by late August. They don’t want to rush him, but they’re hurting at the back end of the rotation. With the Dodgers’ Hiroki Kuroda probably not answering my prayers, and a thin starting pitching market at the deadline, what do they do? We’ve seen the Jeanmar Gomez experiment and there’s a reason he’s had just four quality starts in 14 career starts. The David Huff Experience wasn’t pleasant either, though I’ve been told he added some fastball velocity. That would make him a completely different pitcher and one I’d like to see given another shot.

I don’t think I have to express the biggest question to ponder. Can this team really stay in this thing for the long haul and give themselves a chance to be playing for a division championship in late September? I’m not a doubter, I’m not a pessimist, but looking at how they’ve been winning games is shocking. Several games I’ve been in attendance this year for, including a couple against the Reds, this past Thursday’s unbelievable comeback, the other Hafner walk-off against Seattle, and probably others that I’m forgetting, they have flat-lined for five-to-seven innings and then suddenly the paddles come out and they get shocked to life. Those things just don’t happen with regularity. Yet, they have been for the Indians in 2011. How long does that continue? The bullpen mafia has been fantastic, can they keep it up as fatigue starts setting in and the strain of high leverage outings takes its toll? Can they get the rotation squared away long enough to ease the burden on the bullpen, who has thrown a ton of innings over the last month and a half.

The All-Star Break officially marks the start of the playoff chase. The Indians are in a position that they have not been in since 2007, and really, since 1999, the last time they entered the ASB in first place. After a brief rest, it’s back to work and to uncharted territory for a big bulk of our team. At least they get to have a little R&R first.

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