1997_S_334_Marquis_Grissom

Things have picked up as of late.

After an abysmal 0-4 start to the season, the team has now won 6 of their last 8 to improve to .500.

Today we came out to a nice 5-1 lead at home against the Seattle Mariners and things looked great.

But that lead was down to 7-3 heading into the 9th.

Ken Griffey hit a two-run homer off of Paul Shuey and Jose Mesa, in his 3rd appearance in as many days since coming off the DL, allowed four straight hits upon entering the game.

And just like that the score was tied heading into the 9th.

Thankfully, Marquis Grissom was there for a walk-off homer and 40,000-plus fans left Jacobs Field feeling all was well with the world.

So Jose Mesa, who blew the save and allowed 4 of 6 batters faced to pick up hits, gets the win on the scoresheet.

But it’s a great statistic, isn’t it, folks?

It’s nice to finally pick up some wins and we’ve gone 3-1 at the Jake, so maybe we just needed some home cooking.

We’re 4 games back in the AL Central, with the Chicago White Sox leading the way at 10-2 and the Milwaukee Brewers 8-1.

Both those teams, by the way, are on 6-game win streaks right now.

We now head off to Boston to face the Red Sox (7-6) before coming back home for a big weekend series against the Brew Crew.

Among the league leaders are Matt Williams, whose .444 batting average is 4th in the AL while his 8 doubles are tops.

David Justice has 4 home runs and 17 runs batted in, each 3rd in the league.

You won’t be surprised to hear that no members of the pitching staff are found among league leaders.

Believe it or not, our 7.54 staff ERA is only third worst right now.

The lineup’s 23 home runs are tops in the league, with 7 players already having hit 2 or more.

The only real disappointment so far is Manny Ramirez, who is hitting just .244 with 0 HR and 4 RBI.

Witt’s End

ap_9412150501_wzi02enq_3m31pl6e

Another loss – this time a 7-4 final score.

We’re 0-4 and the only team that’s worse off right now are the St. Louis Cardinals and that’s only because they’ve played one game more than us.

Give us a day – we’ll catch up to you, Redbirds…

By now my family knows to just stay away from me.

Until the team manages a win, I’m desperately inconsolable.

John Hart, the general manager of the team, doesn’t know this.

Or, rather, it’s not really his job to stay away from me.

When my phone rings and I see his name show up on the caller ID, I can only anticipate the worst.

I turn the phone on and put it up to my ear.

There’s silence on both ends of the call for several seconds before John finally speaks up.

“You there, Chris?”

I swallow hard.

“Ya. Make it quick, John.”

I speak like somebody about to be executed, because I’m dramatic that way.

I’m told that it’s hard to find fault with the manager when these games haven’t even been particularly close.

It’s hard to point to a decision that a manager makes as causing any of these 4 losses when we’re allowing as many runs as we are.

Which is fine to hear, but I’m not quite the personality type to let myself off the hook for anything.

Still, John has to offer an “on the other hand…” and points out that my ways of thinking may not lend themselves well towards a veteran team of Major League ballplayers.

I definitely have plenty of opinions on the game that go against the established ways of doing things.

And if I can’t get these guys on my side, well…

In short, my job is safe.

But things need to turn around soon.

Tribe Improves By NEARLY Winning

Steve Kline has a 27.00 ERA

Steve Kline has a 27.00 ERA

April 4th, 1997 – Tonight I’m sitting in a hotel room alone, screaming into a pillow to try and keep myself from getting kicked out of the place.

We’re three games in to what was supposed to be an exciting season and this fucking team has dropped every. last. one.

My cell phone lights up several times as my wife, Gina, tries to call me from back in Cleveland.

She should probably know me better, though.

I can’t stand to face people right now.

I miss the kids back home and I’m assuming that if there was some sort of emergency that Gina would just leave me a message.

But after watching another high-scoring loss, and playing all these games on the road to start the year… I’m just not up for the company of humanity.

Tonight we have leads of 1-0, 4-2, 6-4 and 7-6.

Four separate times that we took a lead.

And we coughed it up every time.

16 hits on offense – including four by 35-year old Kevin Seitzer starting in pace of Jim Thome against a lefty tonight.

And the 7 runs are undone by the 15 hits and 8 walks surrendered by our craptastic pitching staff.

Bartolo Colon, the 24-year old Dominican, got the start and, sure, allowed just 3 runs (2 earned) in 6 innings of work.

But he also put 12 runners on base in that time.

So I went to this car wreck of a bullpen.

First Paul Assenmacher, the “reliable” lefty I have access to, picked up his first blown save by allowing a run in 1 innings of work, requiring 29 pitches to navigate the bottom of the 7th.

Mike Jackson did alright with a perfect 8th.

Then it was Eric Plunk’s turn to tank, giving up 3 runs in 1.2 innings of work. 5 hits allowed. Another walk. 36 pitches.

Steve Kline, the “other” lefty, faced 3 batters. To his credit, he managed to retire one of them.

The particulars of how exactly we lost aren’t even important.

I need to find a way to not think about this so much.

I’d like to say an 8.31 team ERA doesn’t affect me

I’d like to say the winning and losing doesn’t bother me.

But I’m just not cut that way.

Pitching Woes Continue, A’s Sweep Tribe

orel-hershiser-92865cc84f271641

April 3rd, 1997 – The team dropped to 0-2 after suffering a bad 7-6 loss in Oakland.

Things felt good for three and a half innings as every decision we made led to something positive.

We scored 4 in the 2nd inning thanks to some aggressive base running which led to a pair of unearned runs on Jason Giambi’s airmailed throw towards home.

And Orel Hershiser worked out of a bases loaded jam with nobody out in the bottom of the 3rd, striking out Jose Canseco and then getting Mark McGwire on a 4-6-3 double play.

But Orel allowed 5 runs on as many hits in the bottom of the 4th, allowing the A’s to tie it up.

Then Big Mac’s 3rd homer of the season already – a solo shot in the 5th – gave Oakland the lead and our offense seized up on us again.

Another rough line for our starter, as Orel (L 0-1) went 6 IP, 7 ER, 8 H, 2 BB, 3 SO.

A quartet of relievers followed up with 2 scoreless innings, though they weren’t particularly sharp either.

On the plus side, Marquis Grissom sort of become official for us, dropping memories of Kenny Lofton to the wayside with a 2-hit, 4-RBI game that included his first homer of the season.

The ageless Julio Franco went 3-for-8 in the series and Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez are each hitting .333 so far.

But the pitching…

My God, the pitching…

The season-opening West Coast roadtrip continues in Anaheim tomorrow, against the Angels who are off to a 2-0 start, winning a pair of extra-inning, one-run games against the Boston Red Sox to start the season.

Is it too much to ask to just allow, say, 4 runs in a game? This offense could churn 5 out in their sleep most nights.

But 17 runs in 2 games?

It’s too much…

The flight down south to Anaheim is a quiet one.

It’s unfortunate, being only two games into a long season, but my mood is permeating the squad already.

Maybe they lighten up along the way, I don’t know, because I pass out in an alcohol-induced coma before we’re over San Jose.

Nagy Not Good

Charles Nagy

April 2nd, 1997 – It only takes one game to provide me a good mental test this season.

Because after you lose 10-2 on Opening Day, you need to remind yourself of just how long a baseball season can be.

And getting off to an 0-1 start with 161 more games on the schedule really isn’t the end of the world.

And while we didn’t head into Oakland Coliseum today expecting to steamroll the A’s with this impressive lineup of ours, we also didn’t expect to get crushed in so lop-sided of a manner.

The game was over in the 1st inning, as Chuck Nagy allowed a solo homer to Scott Brosius with one out and a two-run blast off the bat of Mark McGwire after Jose Canseco singled and stole 2nd.

Just like that.

Four batters and we’re already down 3-0.

Ya, the “Bash Brothers” were at it already in Oakland’s first game of the 1997 season.

Big Mac even took Nagy deep again in the 3rd inning to make it a 5-0 game at that point.

Nagy’s final line: Loss (0-1), 3 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO

The new blood, Marquis Grissom, went 0-for-4 with a whiff at the top of the order. And Matt Williams was 0-for-4 playing third base.

At least David Justice had an RBI single in his first game with his new team.

And Julio Franco had a pair of hits, including a double.

But I certainly expected better than 5 lousy hits and 2 runs – no offense intended towards Ariel Prieto.

We’ll try again tomorrow.

Spoke to Sandy Alomar after the game, explaining my plan to start Pat Borders behind the plate tomorrow.

(Other than that, we’re sending out the same lineup.)

Nobody likes to sit, but Sandy’s had a few rough second halves.

Watching him hit .286 in the first half last season and just .232 in the second half has me convinced that we need to find some breaks for him.

I was a big fan of Borders watching him catch for those World Series teams in Toronto just before the strike shut us down in ’94.

The ever-present chaw in his cheek…

The guy kinda’ screams ballplayer to me.

Not saying I expect .300 with 20 homers from the guy. But it’s nice to have him there to spell Sandy from time to time.

I’m sending Orel Hershiser out there to face Willie Adams.

I’ll be honest.

I’ve never even heard of Willie Adams…

On Eve of Opening Day, Checking In On Old Mates

The Chicago White Sox sluggers, Albert Belle (L) and Frank Thomas (R), will give us fits this season.

The Chicago White Sox sluggers, Albert Belle (L) and Frank Thomas (R), will give us fits this season.

April 1st, 1997 — There are 22 teams who are beginning play today.

Unfortunately, we aren’t one of those teams.

The team is ready to go and can’t wait to get started.

Two years removed from a pennant and with a roster that has won at least 99 games each of the last two seasons, we’re eager to see what we’re made of.

I need to scratch that baseball itch, however, so I find time to get away and watch the Chicago White Sox defeat the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-3.

Chicago may be our toughest competitor in the division this season.

And they’re carrying Albert Belle on their roster this season, after all.

Belle hit 50 homers for us in ’95 and 48 more last season, but there are economics to consider in this game and, well…

He’s not around anymore.

He looks fantastic today, going 4-for-5 with a homer.

Right in front of him in the lineup is Frank Thomas, who also homers while racking up a 3-hit day.

You put those two in the heart of the lineup and it strikes some fear into an opponent.

Scouting Report: Pray.

One other noticeable face that’s absent from this team is longtime center-fielder, Kenny Lofton.

Sure, we were able to swap him for Marquis Grissom and David Justice, and that’s a nice trade.

But still… Kenny was one of the faces of this team for so long and it’s odd to see him elsewhere.

I heard on SportsCenter tonight that he had a nice debut for the Braves, going 2-for-4 atop the lineup, though his team fell 6-2.

Still, I’ve got to stop looking back.

We kick things off tomorrow in Oakland, part of an 8-game trip out West to start the season.

Which is fine.

The early April weather in Cleveland doesn’t give one much to be excited about.

The best you can hope for is a lack of flurries.

We’ve been dealt a bit of a blow to start the season, as Jose Mesa is being placed on the disabled list.

He’s good to return on April 11th, however, which just happens to be our first home game.

So the final 25-man roster looks like this.

Catchers (2): Sandy Alomar, Pat Borders
Infielders (6): Tony Fernandez#, Julio Franco, Kevin Seitzer, Jim Thome*, Omar Vizquel#, Matt Williams
Outfielders (6): Chad Curtis, Brian Giles*, Marquis Grissom, David Justice*, Kevin Mitchell, Manny Ramirez
Starting Pitchers (5): Bartolo Colon, Orel Hershiser, Jack McDowell, Charles Nagy, Chad Ogea
Relief Pitchers (6): Paul Assenmacher*, Mike Jackson, Steve Kline*, Albie Lopez, Eric Plunk, Paul Shuey

Charles Nagy will get the first start of the season, up against Ariel Prieto, who looked pretty good in his first full season for the A’s last year.

The lineup goes Grissom-cf, Vizquel-ss, Thome-1b, Williams-3b, Justice-lf, Ramirez-rf, Franco-2b, Mitchell-dh, Alomar-c.

Let’s get started.

 

Setting the Stage

Cleveland Indians LogoIt’s March 31st, 1997.

And tomorrow is two of the most exciting words in the life of a baseball fan – Opening Day.

The Cleveland Indians are coming off 100- and 99-win seasons in 1995 and 1996, respectively.

The ’95 season resulted in the team’s first pennant in 41 years.

So to say expectations are high for this ’97 squad is an understatement.

There are some new faces.

After 10 years with the San Francisco Giants, 31-year old Matt Williams is here to play third base.

Another veteran, 35-year old shortstop Tony Fernandez, is here.

Gone is longtime center fielder Kenny Lofton, but returned in his place from a trade with the Atlanta Braves are Marquis Grissom and David Justice.

Again, two more players over the age of 30.

Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel and Sandy Alomar are still here.

Charles Nagy, Orel Hershiser, Bartolo Colon, Chad Ogea and Jack McDowell are set up for the rotation.

Jose Mesa is the closer.

As stated previously, there are some high expectations here.

Nothing to do now but see how it all plays out.