Posted on: May 7, 2010 9:53 am
Edited on: May 7, 2010 9:56 am

3 to watch: The Ernie and Robby edition

In Detroit, 10,000 fans showed up at Comerica Park on a day when there was no game. That's what Ernie Harwell meant to people in Michigan.

In Philadelphia, players will hang a No. 36 jersey in their dugout for every game the rest of the season, in honor of a man who last played for the team before any of them were born. That's what Robin Roberts meant to the Phillies.

If you didn't know Harwell -- or especially if you did -- check out "Ernie Harwell: We'll Remember," the tribute produced by Fox Sports Detroit.

If you didn't know Roberts -- or especially if you did -- check out the fine tributes on philly.com.

And join us for this memorial edition of 3 to watch, focusing on Harwell's beloved Tigers, Roberts' beloved Phillies, and the Orioles, the one team that employed both of them:

1. When Harwell came to the Tigers in 1960, his first game was a 15-inning, 4-2 win over the Indians in Cleveland. This weekend, it's Tigers at Indians, Friday night (7:05 EDT) at Progressive Field . 15 innings, anyone? The Tigers will be wearing an "EH" patch on their uniforms, as they will for the rest of the season.

2. 15 innings? That's nothing. In Philadelphia, they still talk about the day in 1952 when the Phils played a 17-inning game against the Boston Braves -- and Roberts went the distance. What a pitching line: 17-18-6-5-3-5. And, of course, he won, improving to 23-7 on the season. We're not expecting more of the same in Braves at Phillies, Friday night (7:05 EDT) at Citizens Bank Park . But we do know that Phillies starter Jamie Moyer, like so many of his teammates, is a longtime Roberts admirer. 17 innings, anyone?

3. Harwell's first major league job was with the Dodgers, famously going to Brooklyn from the minor league Atlanta Crackers in a trade for catcher Cliff Dapper. He went from the Dodgers to the Giants in 1950, and was the television voice for Bobby Thomson's Shot Heard 'Round the World. But he had stronger ties to the Orioles, who he joined in 1954, the year they moved to Baltimore from St. Louis. Harwell left for Detroit after the 1959 season. Roberts arrived in town three years later, after he was released by the Yankees. Harwell's first Orioles team lost 100 games, and changed managers at the end of the season. Roberts' Orioles didn't lose 100, but they did release him midway through the 1965 season. Things aren't too good in Baltimore now, and with another tough series this weekend, including Orioles at Twins, Friday night (8:10 EDT) at Target Field , time could be running out on current manager Dave Trembley.

Posted on: March 9, 2010 7:04 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2010 7:06 pm

Goodbye Cactus, Hello Grapefruit

ORLANDO -- I've traded Aroldis Chapman for Stephen Strasburg, Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay, Angel Guzman for Joe Nathan, Los Sombreros in Scottsdale for Frenchy's in Clearwater, cactus for grapefruit.

After three weeks checking out the 15 teams in Arizona, I've checked out of Phoenix and touched down in Florida (and colleague Scott Miller has left Florida for the desert).

A few sights, thoughts and observations from half of spring training with half the teams:

-- Best story: It doesn't get much better than Chapman, whose name comes up in almost every Cactus League ballpark, whether the Reds are there or not. The other day in Mesa, scouts were debating whether he'd have signed for the same money if he was Dominican rather than Cuban. The consensus: Yes, he would have, because you just don't find left-handed starters who throw 100 mph.

-- Best team: The White Sox, whose road to an American League Central title got a little easier with today's news about Twins closer Joe Nathan. Other impressive teams: The Rockies, the Mariners and the Angels.

-- Worst team: The Indians, even though prospects Carlos Santana ("another Victor Martinez") and Lonnie Chisenhall are getting great reviews.

-- Player who looks the most different: With apologies to Andruw Jones and Geovany Soto, it has to be Matt Stairs, barely recognizable after losing 37 pounds. "When you get to Clearwater, tell [Shane] Victorino that I'm smaller than him," Stairs requested. And we will. Oh, and give credit to Jones and Soto, who both seem to have taken conditioning seriously over the winter.

-- Team that has the most fun: Apologies to the Rockies and the Brewers, but it's got to be the Mariners. Just the sight of Felix Hernandez serving as bat boy in the M's intrasquad game (with "BB" taped over the number on his back) was all the proof I needed.

-- Strangest sight: Walking through the abandoned White Sox clubhouse building in Tucson for the Diamondbacks' Justin Upton press conference. The Sox moved to Glendale last year, but the doors to the empty clubhouse still have Sox logos on them. Next year, all of Tucson will be a baseball ghost town, but for now, it's just half of Tucson Electric Park.

-- Best quote: A tie between Torii Hunter and Ozzie Guillen. Torii on losing to the Yankees in the playoffs: "I couldn't stand up. All I want now is the ring. Not a gold glove. Not the Hall of Fame. My satisfaction would be winning the World Series. If I get that, I'm passing out on the field." Ozzie on whether Lou Piniella will manage past 2010: "They keep paying you, why go see your family every day? We need people like Lou in this game. Lou is what . . . just 65? I thought he was 78."
Posted on: February 18, 2010 2:50 pm

Stability in Cleveland

There was a rumor in the scouting community about a year ago that Indians general manager Mark Shapiro might be on the hot seat.

It didn't take many phone calls to find out that it wasn't true. No, an Indians person said then, when Shapiro moves on from the GM job, he'll become the Indians president and Chris Antonetti will take over as the GM.

Sure enough, the Indians announced today that Shapiro will become club president at season's end, with Antonetti succeeding him as GM.

Under the Dolan family ownership, the Indians haven't kept their star players -- CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez -- but they have kept their executives. Antonetti turned down opportunities to possibly become a GM elsewhere, because there was never any doubt that this day was coming.

Overall, that front-office stability is a good thing. Most of the best organizations have had their management teams in place for a while, allowing them to develop a plan for the future and the opportunity to see it through. The Twins, where Bill Smith seamlessly succeeded Terry Ryan (as Ryan succeeded Andy MacPhail) are maybe the best example.

But you wonder how many owners would have kept the faith in Shapiro (whose eight-year record as a general manager is just 635-661) and allowed him to pick his own successor. And you wonder whether the Indians would be better off if the Dolans could find a way to free up enough money to keep their players.

It's tough in Cleveland, where the economy is terrible and the Indians are third on the pro sports pecking order behind the Browns and the LeBron-led Cavaliers. Yes, the Indians once sold out every game, but as one person familiar with Cleveland baseball said: "Cleveland's a great baseball town when the team wins every year, LeBron is in diapers and the Browns are in Baltimore."

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 31, 2009 6:49 pm
Edited on: July 31, 2009 6:58 pm

Victor's 'a good fit' in Boston

The Red Sox love Adrian Gonzalez. The Red Sox would have loved to get Roy Halladay.

The Red Sox needed Victor Martinez.

In getting Martinez from the Indians, the Sox filled their need for a bat (Boston is 10th in the league in runs since the All-Star break) and a catcher (Jason Varitek's health is a serious concern). Martinez had 67 RBIs this year for the Indians, and the Red Sox believe he can catch about as often as he did in Cleveland (51 starts behind the plate, 44 at first base this year).

"We think Victor Martinez is a great fit," general manager Theo Epstein said on a conference call. "He gives us a significant offensive boost, and he does it with some versatility. He's a good fit on our roster."

And he didn't cost the Red Sox Clay Buchholz, a pitcher they weren't anxious to part with.

The Sox did give up left-hander Nick Hagadone, who was ranked by Baseball America as their third-best prospect. Hagadone had Tommy John elbow surgery last June, but he has returned to the mound and a couple of starts ago hit 99 mph on the radar gun.

"I don't know whether he's a starter or a closer, but he's a tall left-hander with a heck of an arm," said one scout who knows him.

The Sox also parted with Justin Masterson, who they will likely try first as a starter, and Bryan Price, a pitcher who is in the lower minors.

One other note on the Martinez trade: The Indians, in a poorly-timed promotion, are giving away Victor Martinez bobbleheads at tomorrow night's game against the Tigers.
Posted on: July 30, 2009 3:05 pm
Edited on: July 30, 2009 3:06 pm

Lee and Carmona, from February to July

The Indians announced that Fausto Carmona will be recalled from the minor leagues to take Cliff Lee's spot in their rotation.

Fitting, because you could argue that Carmona's horrible season is a big part of the reason the Indians ended up trading Lee to the Phillies.

Way back in spring training, when Tribe general manager Mark Shapiro was discussing his 2009 rotation, he said it was "almost essential" that Carmona rebound from his disappointing year in 2008. Remember, Carmona was a 19-game winner in 2007, then slumped to 8-7 (with more walks than strikeouts) in '08.

As we all know now, Carmona didn't rebound. He was 2-6 with a 7.42 ERA in 12 starts, and earned himself a trip back to spring training and then a tour of Cleveland's minor-league system. The Indians are hopeful they have him headed in the right direction now, and we'll start to see, beginning with his Friday night start against the Tigers.

Anyway, the point is that Carmona was "almost essential" to the Indians' hopes of competing this year. His struggles helped lead to the team's struggles, and thus helped lead to the decision to deal Lee.

Now, Carmona takes his place.


One more Lee/Indians thought.

As many have noted, and as we suggested back in April , the Indians have traded the defending Cy Young winner in back-to-back seasons, with CC Sabathia last year and Lee this year.

Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, there's basically no chance they'll be able to make it three in three years. With Lee gone, the only Indians starter with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title is Carl Pavano. And among the 39 pitchers in the American League who qualify, he's 39th -- that's right, last -- with a 5.66 ERA.

Posted on: July 29, 2009 5:48 pm
Edited on: July 29, 2009 5:55 pm

With Lee gone, Martinez could follow

The Indians always said they were reluctant to trade Cliff Lee because they'd not only be giving up on 2009, but 2010 as well. The idea was that without Lee, the Indians wouldn't have an ace, and wouldn't have the money to go get one.

Now Lee is gone to the Phillies, and with him the Indians' 2010 hopes are realistically gone, too.

And that means the Indians could be more receptive than ever to dealing Victor Martinez, too.

The Red Sox have long been interested in Martinez. The Rays showed interest in him, as well, but many people in baseball doubt Tampa Bay's interest was ever sincere.

While the Indians will still ask a stiff price for Martinez, it's now harder to justify keeping him if they can get a decent return. Like Lee, Martinez has an affordable club option for 2010 ($7 million, in Martinez's case), and is eligible for free agency after that. Like Lee, Martinez is unlikely to sign long-term with the Indians, considering his value, the team's payroll constraints, and the availability of replacements.

The Indians acquired one catcher, Lou Marson, in the Lee deal. They received another, Carlos Santana, in last year's Casey Blake trade with the Dodgers.

Scouts say the Red Sox's farm system is weak at the upper levels, but if they want Martinez badly enough (and if they don't decide to use the same prospects to go get Roy Halladay instead), they should be able to come up with a package to make it work.

At this point, the Indians would have a hard time saying no.

Posted on: July 29, 2009 1:41 pm
Edited on: July 29, 2009 3:40 pm

Phillies get Lee, Francisco from Tribe

Frustrated in their attempts to acquire Roy Halladay, the Phillies have acquired Cliff Lee from the Indians instead, multiple sources involved in the talks told CBSSports.com.

The teams were in heavy discussions this morning, and as of early afternoon, the deal had come together, pending physicals. The Phillies, who have been searching for a right-handed bat, will also get outfielder Ben Francisco from Cleveland.

The Phillies will send pitchers Jason Knapp and Carlos Carrasco, shortstop Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson to the Indians, an American League executive told CBSSports.com's Scott Miller. Knapp, a 6-foot-5, 18-year-old right-hander currently pitching in Class A, is considered the key player in the deal.

Halladay was always the Phillies' first choice, but an asking price that began with both Kyle Drabek and J.A. Happ was deemed too high by some in the Phillies front office. Lee, who won the 2008 American League Cy Young award and is having a good follow-up season, was regarded as a reasonable backup plan.

Lee was 7-9 with a 3.14 ERA for the Indians, but he had pitched much better than his record. The Indians have been held to one run or none in six of his nine defeats.

Lee also has strong career numbers against National League opposition, going 12-2 with a 3.18 ERA in interleague play.

Like Halladay, the 30-year-old Lee can become a free agent after the 2010 season. He is making $5.75 million this year, with a $9 million club option for 2010 that will certainly be exercised.

The Indians had scouted Drabek, but he isn't in the trade. While Knapp is still in Class A, some scouts regard him even more highly than Drabek.

"He's Josh Johnson, potentially," one scout said last week.

Knapp, the Phillies' second-round draft pick in 2008, is just 2-7 with a 4.01 ERA in 17 starts for Lakewood, but his other numbers are very good. In 85 1/3 innings, he has allowed 63 hits, with 39 walks and 111 strikeouts.

Lee gives the Phillies a heavily left-handed rotation, joining with fellow lefties Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer and J.A. Happ. The Phils also have right-hander Joe Blanton, and have Pedro Martinez getting ready in the minor leagues.

Posted on: May 21, 2009 12:39 pm
Edited on: May 22, 2009 10:03 am

Tribe would deal DeRosa for bullpen help only

The Indians would indeed be open to trading Mark DeRosa, as reported earlier by Jon Heyman of SI.com . But sources said the Tribe would only deal DeRosa now if he would bring immediate bullpen help in return.

The Mets are in desperate need of infield help, with Carlos Delgado on the disabled list and Jose Reyes sidelined with a calf injury. Ed Price of Fanhouse reported that the Mets have explored a deal for DeRosa, but an official familiar with the Indians strongly doubted that the Mets would have enough pitching to tempt the Indians.

Cleveland's bullpen has a 5.84 ERA, and the Indians lead the American League with nine blown saves (in 17 chances). In the past week alone, the Tribe lost one game after leading 7-0 and another after leading 5-1. As one Indians official said, with even an average bullpen Cleveland would still be in the race in the AL Central.

As it is, the Indians are 8 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers. But the Indians aren't ready to give up just yet.

"For us to trade [DeRosa], we've got to get something that can help us now," one Indians person said. "And I don't think anybody is looking to give up pitching."
Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com